I’ve always had a bit of a thing for torches. In recent years, I’ve taken quite a liking to ‘tactical’ style torches, which tend to have great build quality and good design, and can be really bright for their size and weight. I’ve had a couple of really good ones from Fenix, and they make great torches. These tactical torches have one ‘feature’ that makes them a bit awkward for my use: the button.
In cop shows and films with FBI agents raiding buildings, they’re often rushing through dark places with guns and torches. Generally, they have the gun in one hand, resting on the hand that’s holding the torch. In this use, the best place for the button is on the back end of the torch, to operate with the thumb.
I’m not with the FBI. I don’t often find myself searching dark buildings with a gun and a torch.
I’m more likely to be heading to the toilet at night, and want to make sure I don’t step in anything the cat has deposited. Or I may be heading upstairs with bags of shopping, after dark. Operating a button on the back of the torch isn’t very convenient when holding it casually in one hand. A button in the side, in the usual place for a ‘normal’ torch, is much more convenient.
The other important factor to me is because of the first use mentioned – when I just need to see my way at night, I don’t need (or want) much light. Too much light just damages your night vision, so you can’t see again when you turn the light off. I also find it wakes my brain up a bit further, making it harder to get back to sleep. A lot of torches have very bright modes, but relatively few have very dim modes.
I did quite a bit of reading on my favourite site for such things, Heinnie Haynes, and finally decided on the O-Light S10 Baton. Come to think of it, the title of this post may have spoiled the suspense a little.
The features I especially like:
- The brightest mode is really bright (320 lumens), for such a small torch. I have one brighter torch, but it’s much bigger and heavier, and uses an awkward rechargeable battery.
- The dimmest mode is really dim (0.5 lumens). Again, I have one that can go dimmer, but it’s just about right. It’s enough to see where I’m going when my eyes are used to the dark, but not much brighter than it needs to be.
- There are enough other modes to cope with most things, and they’re spread out quite nicely. Again, I have another torch with more modes, but using them all starts to get complicated. This is simple and quick to use.
- Build quality seems really good. I’ve had it for around 8 months now, carried every day, and it’s only showing a few minor scratches.
- Opinion seems varied on the pocket clip, but it works well for me, clipping to to my jeans pockets.
- The control system is quite straightforward. If you haven’t used ‘tactical’ style torches before, that may sound like an odd thing to say, but when a torch has multiple light levels, and often SOS and/or strobe modes, it can get quite complicated to operate all the features with just one button. This uses a short ‘click’ to switch on and off, and a longer click to switch between three light levels when it’s on. A longer click when it’s off will switch it on at an even lower level. It’s very handy to always have the lowest level available directly from off. At night, you don’t want to have to switch a torch on at a bright level, then switch down; because by time you’ve switched it down again, the damage to your night vision is done, you’re blinded, and the low level is no good to you any more.
- The tail cap is magnetic. This is a great feature that I’m surprised isn’t available on more torches. If it’s inconvenient for you because it keeps grabbing your keys, the magnet is removable. It can be quite useful, though, letting you attach it quite firmly to fridges, radiators, railings, cars, etc.
- Possibly the greatest feature of all, and one I now can’t see why all torches don’t have: two parts of the torch are made from glow-in-the-dark rubber. Need the torch in the dark? It’s the glowing dot beside you. It isn’t bright, but it’s enough to find it in the dark as long as you know roughly where you left it. Less fumbling around on the table by the bed. The two parts are:
- The button – this is really quite a dim glow, but keeps glowing for quite a long time. It seems to last through the night.
- A rubber ring around the front of the torch, set around the ‘glass’. This glows brighter, but doesn’t last for long. It’s perfect to see it again after you’ve just been using it, but doesn’t last long enough to find it hours later. It does get ‘recharged’ every time you use the torch, though.
I gather there’s a newer version of this torch out now, which adds a couple of extra features that would be handy, but also changes the button from white to blue, which doesn’t look quite as good to me. I don’t think the new one glows either. Presumably theres a reason for the change, so maybe the glowy rubber tends to wear out – mind hasn’t yet, but maybe it will.
A Bit About Batteries
The S10 uses one CR123 battery. That’s a feature I like, but might be a deal-breaker for other people. I’m happy to buy torch batteries online specially for it, while other people don’t want their torch to use batteries they can’t pick up at the supermarket. CR123s have some advantages:
- They’re small and lightweight for the power they contain – shorter and fatter than an AA battery, but they weigh less and hold more power.
- They have a long shelf life, so you can buy a few, and keep them in. I’ve never seen one leak, so they’re much safer to leave in things, or have in storage.
- They aren’t the cheapest batteries around, but they’re quite reasonable if you buy online. They’re specialist enough that most physical shops either won’t have them or will charge a lot, though.
I haven’t found much to dislike about the S10 Baton:
- The clip isn’t perfect. There’s a kind of ‘step’ partway up, where it actually attaches to the torch. I haven’t found it too awkward, but some people have found it gets in the way and makes the clip unusable. It probably depends how thick the thing you’re clipping it to is, but it works ok on the pocket of my jeans. Moving the clip around, even just rotating it when using the torch, can mark the anodised surface, scratching through the black. I don’t mind my torches and tools looking a bit ‘used’, so it doesn’t bother me much, but the design of the clip could probably be better.
- The CR123 battery will be too much trouble for some people. If it’s a problem for you, there’s the S15 Baton, which uses an AA battery instead.
There’s a newer version out now, called the S10-L2. It’s increased the light output to 400 lumens on the brightest setting. The side button is now blue, and I’m not sure if it still glows in the dark – it appears not to from this review on CandlePowerForums. The comments give some comparisons with the one I have, and some comments on the light colour – some people have found it a bit green-tinted, though I haven’t noticed.
- If you’re in the UK, and you want one, I’d go to Heinnie – I’ve always found them good and reliable