Things to Know Before Buying an LED Torch
A reliable, durable torch is an essential tool, whether it’s kept at home in the case of a power cut or kept on hand for nightly dog walks. A bright LED torch can bring a big sense of security for some people, so it’s worth getting one you can trust.
The best LED torches tend to be brighter than traditional torches. Plus, as they’re more energy efficient, they’re a more popular choice. LED torches are available in a range of sizes and offer lots of features that might suit you.
So, if you’re considering purchasing an LED torch but you’re not sure what to look out for, here are some things to consider:
Torch Brightness and Lumens
A torch’s brightness is usually measured in lumens, and LED torches tend to be very bright. In general, the higher the lumens, the brighter the torch and the longer its range.
That said, some torches use specially developed technology, such as the Ledlenser Professional LED Torch. This model only produces 450 lumens yet incorporates ‘Smart Light Technology’ so its beam can reach up to 420m.
As you can see, lumens can be a helpful indicator of a torch’s potential, but they may not tell the whole story. It also depends what filters and technologies are involved. Therefore, don’t feel pressured to spend lots of money on a torch with a high lumen count, as reviews on other products might indicate cheaper models that are just as effective.
For everyday use, such as camping or searching for things in the shed, 450 lumens should suffice. Higher lumen torches are helpful if you live rurally, and some of my recommendations can produce up to 4000 lumens!
Some torches come with blinking, strobe and SOS modes which are handy for attracting attention in an emergency.
The higher the lumens and power output of the torch, the quicker the battery will drain. This will be an important factor depending on your intended usage – torches for long hikes will be different to torches for home use.
Batteries and Battery Life
Torches either come with built-in rechargeable batteries, removable rechargeable batteries or disposable batteries.
Torches with built-in batteries are very handy. Often these torches can be charged with a micro-USB, so they can even be charged in your car! These torches remove the necessity to rely on having spare batteries around, but the downside is they require charging. Plus, you may need to replace the entire torch if the battery fails.
Torches that use disposable batteries are generally the cheapest to buy, and the output is relatively even, up to when the batteries run out of juice. They usually have a good run time (although there’s always the risk someone will remove the batteries to use for another device!).
Buying disposable batteries can be expensive, and they are not the most environmentally friendly choice because they release chemicals when they’re disposed.
Rechargeable torches could prove cost-effective in the long run, when you think of all the batteries you’d need to buy otherwise.
Some torches have an eco-mode which will prolong battery life. When manufacturers advertise the battery-life-potential of their torches, the figures shown usually refer to the torch being used on its eco or lowest-power setting. Regardless, it’s a good reference to have.
The Importance of Durability and Weatherproofing
If you’re going to use your torch on camping or hiking trips, durability and weather resistance are key. Even for nightly dog walkers, sometimes you’ll be caught out in the rain, and you’ll need your torch to be resilient.
Remember that ‘water resistant’ and ‘waterproof’ mean different things:
A water-resistant torch can withstand splashes and a short amount of time in light rain.
A fully waterproof torch can withstand being submerged in between 1 and 2m of water. It can be used in heavier downpours. If you’re camping outside in the UK summer (a season not known for its reliably dry weather…) you might benefit from having a waterproof torch. These do come with a higher price tag though.
The torch’s IP rating will indicate how waterproof it is – it’s worth running the IP rating through Google before purchasing a torch, to check exactly what type of weatherproofing you’ll be getting.
Here’s a guide to IP ratings:
IP ratings often have two numbers after the ‘IP’ – the first number indicates the product’s protection from solids and the second from liquids. Here I’m just going to show you liquids, as this is most relevant to LED torches. Here are the most used IP ratings and what they mean…
0 – Not protected
1 – Protected from dripping water
4 – Protected from splashing water
5 – Protected from water jets
7 – Protected from immersion of up to 1m
8 – Protected from immersion beyond 1m
Your torch should also be able to withstand the odd knock and bump. The more durable models will have an aluminium body.
Finding the Best Size and Weight for You
LED torches are available in a range of sizes and weights.
If you’re going to be carrying your torch in a backpack, the best LED torch for you might be a lightweight model. Some models even come with belt clips which can be great for camping and hiking, as they’ll attach to your belt to be used hands-free. This should eliminate any worries about your torch being cumbersome to carry.
If you’re keeping your torch at home in the event of a power cut, a powerful and larger model is a great option – it’s less likely to get misplaced and will come to the rescue in a whole host of scenarios!
Practicality and Usability
If you’re going to be using your torch with gloves on, or in wet conditions, there are a couple of things to look out for.
A larger power button will make the torch much easier to use. This is true of general use, but especially if you’re wearing gloves.
A button that is relatively large and pronounced will make your life a lot easier. It will make it easier to turn the torch on in the dark (because you can feel the switch), and more convenient to click through the different modes.
Some of even the best LED torches have a clicking system to navigate through different light modes. It can take a while to find the mode you want, so I’d recommend getting used to how it works before you take it outside to use in the wilderness. You don’t want to be caught in an emergency where you’re fumbling about with the buttons.
Checking the type of grip that the torch has is also worthwhile. If you’ll be using it in rainy conditions, a rubber or textured shaft will make the torch less slippery and easier to use. A textured torch will also be less likely to roll off a surface and break.
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LED Torch FAQs
Do I need an LED torch with blinking, strobe and SOS modes?
These are useful features to have if you’ll be using your LED torch on outdoor adventures. A blinking or strobe light helps vehicles to see you easily if you are walking by the roadside. The SOS mode uses Morse code – three short flashes, three long flashes, three short flashes – to signal for help in the event that you get into trouble.
Even if your torch doesn’t have these modes, you can still recreate a blinking or SOS signal by flicking the torch on and off by yourself. This would obviously only be possible if you weren’t in immediate danger but it’s good to know that you could improvise if your budget is tight.
What is the brightest LED torch available?
The brightest LED torch available has 100,000 lumens – lots of torches are reportedly brighter than car headlights! But, for everyday use, you won’t need a torch with more than 400 lumens.
Can LED torches damage eyes?
Staring at a bright LED torch is very uncomfortable, but providing you have the appropriate brightness for the task at hand, it’s unlikely to do too much damage. A torch that’s too bright can temporarily damage your vision, especially in very dark conditions.
When using your LED torch outdoors, you’re much more likely to damage other people’s eyes than your own. If you pass another dog walker, cyclist or driver, you could dazzle them temporarily – much like a car with its full beam on. To avoid this, aim the beam towards the floor rather than eye level.
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