Good light and great customer service

We had a power outage just over a week ago, and when I got my new “emergency” light out of the bucket, it didn’t work. It left me far less than happy because it had only been received back around the first of August. I had tried it out, charged it up fully, and put away for emergencies… seemed like what it was for.

I contacted customer service of both the distributor and the manufacturer with my complaint. Within the first 24 hours I had a response. They asked for a video, so I showed them one of me pushing the button and the unit not turning on. They replacement was authorized that same day, shipped as two day priority, and arrived Friday. I thought that was pretty good turnaround for two companies based out of southern China. Fortunately they had a US distribution warehouse in LA.

Who & What:

 

<< the Photo is a link       [BW provide a really nice presentation… You get a lot more information there than I could possibly put on this post]

Mine came from BangGood and they were the ones who ended up making good on the replacement.

Two of the features that most appealed to me in this unit were that it could be used as a power bank for charging up electronics, and that it had a red light mode to preserve your night vision. That extra utility helped make it appealing, not only as an emergency light, but also as something to take hammocking. The power button is a large, ball-point pen style clicky on one end. It is water proof/ covered by a glow-in-the-dark rubberized cap. [In my experience, by the time it is full dark and you need the light, the glow-in-the-dark cap has glowed out during twilight and can no longer be seen. You can punch it right back up with a quick exposure to a pocket flashlight though]. The other end of the cylinder is a tightly fitting, screw down cap that covers the charging port and power bank outlets. The power button end has a nice stainless steel bale for clipping on a carabiner, or to run a piece of line through to suspend the light from a branch.

The only “cons” to the BW-LT5 is that it is a bit heavy at 4.5 ounces [128gm] and the light source is directional… just one side of the device illuminates. I think I would’ve preferred full 360° lighting myself. [EDIT: an additional minor downside to this unit is that the clicky switch has to be cycled through all five modes to turn the device off.]

The original unit failed in that it would flash the four blue light pulses which supposedly indicated a full charge. However it would only do this when plugged into a USB outlet, and even then would neither turn on as a the light or provide charge-out as a power bank. The new unit works flawlessly. The failure of the original is actually puzzling because these things are built as solidly as the proverbial brick outhouse. I really don’t anticipate the replacement unit also failing.

Despite the inconvenience of the original device having failed, at the current [BangGood] price of just under $13 US, I still think the Blitz Wolf LT-5 is an incredibly good deal.

[you can buy these units on Amazon but the cost is nearly $30, and since BangGood ships from youthe US anyway and obviously stands behind their products, buying from them seems to be a 90%/50% deal].

 

This is probably an appropriate place to throw in an update as well. All the way back in August 2014 I posted about receiving a damaged SingFire LED Solar Powered Camping Lantern

[you can read the original post here ]

It too had been intended as an emergency light in case of power outages. As I indicated at the time, after a bunch of hassle I was able to make it function, but it has never worked quite right. You sometimes have to jikky with the knob to get it to even turn on, and the variable illumination control is pretty variable in its performance.

This came from my original go-to Chinese outlet in Sham Shui Po, DX [or Deal Extreme].

I’m happy to say that they also stood by their product, and while it took a couple of months for a second delivery, they did replace the unit with a brand-new one that worked right out of the box and still functions perfectly. I was even allowed to keep the original because of the ridiculous cost of reverse shipping.

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Both the original and the replacement can take on a full charge in about 4 to 6 hours out the sunlight. They seem to give a bit more than four hours when run at medium to high. I do not actually keep the four AA batteries in the units as backup power. My battery drawer is right here at hand if the solar charge should give out too quickly. The batteries add quite a bit of weight, and I’m always concerned that they might corrode from disuse and damage the light between emergencies.

As I noted originally, this lamp is far too large for backpacking but gives a very nice illumination in a campground site. I’m one of those people who absolutely loath it when one of my campground neighbors turns on their Coleman SuperNova Klieglight that casts harsh shadows at 100 yards. The SingFire Lantern is bright enough for most purposes, and still allows you to be a good neighbor. It gets a recommendation because the replacement unit works so nicely. The link above shows that it comes in the slightly changed form now, but the price point is still about what I paid…. under $20US. However, if you only want one of these lights, buy the BlitzWolf since it gives comparable illumination, is backpack friendly, and also doubles as a power bank.

Let There Be Light!

I have always found it handy to keep a small flashlight in my pocket as part of my EDC [Every Day Carry]. When you do so, you find yourself reaching for it many times daily. That tiny screw you just dropped on the carpet, forgetting to have turned on the back porch light when you come home in the dark, making sure you don’t stumble over a resting cat when you enter a dark room… the list is endless, and the benefits immense.

My own preference is for a light powered by AAA batteries. Their size makes it proportionately smaller than those with the AA’s, and since I also carry a small multitool, a lighter and a pipe-tool, I don’t like the feeling of an overloaded pocket. For several years now I have carried an MX Power ML-108 with a Cree Q3-WC emitter [on LED flashlights the bulb and it’s accompanying electronics are unitary… that together is the emitter]. The ML-108 is rated at 150 lms, which is fairly standard on a AAA, and a fully charged battery will give me daily use for the better part of  a month. MX Power [along with SingFire, UltraFire and Raysoon] is one of the Chinese manufacturers of low-cost, but surprisingly well-made flashlights and they are all marketed by DX.com.  Sadly, as you will see if you have clicked the link, the ML – 108 is no longer available. On DX, when things are shown as temporarily out of stock, it generally means you will not find the same item again. It makes me grateful that I had bought a couple of extras. At the price, they were just add-ons to my next purchase; ones that I could keep or give away as gifts.

As you can see in the photo below, my old daily MX has banged around a lot over the years. So, I was thrilled when I saw that UltraFire was introducing a new AAA light that was even smaller, and it came in the new burnt-orange anodized color that makes it easier to see if it’s set down… especially outdoors. I pretty quickly talked myself into getting one. and my new UltraFire SA-1 came in the mail today.

IMG_3242

Other than the size and shape, the major difference between the two units is that the SA-1 twists on/off by turning the front inch or so of the tube, while the ML – 108 has what’s called a “rear clicky”… a click-on/off push button with a rubberized cap on the rear-end. The milling and fit of the “Aircraft grade aluminum” parts on the SA-1 is first rate. There is a soft, silicon O-ring underneath the twisty head to keep it watertight, if not waterproof and the diamondcut knurling provides a secure finger grip as well as one-handed use of the twisty head. While the photo does not make it clear, the anodizing is not actually as a bright orange as it might appear. Rather, it is a burnt orange or copper color. It makes for a nice alternative after the years of black and silver anodizations on most lights and tools.

Just like the MX, the SA-1 is a 150 lm light and AAA powered. However it uses the newer XP-G R5 emitter. The difference between the two versions of the emitter does mean that the two lights cast very different illumination pools. Here they are side-by-side, each with a freshly charged Eneloop AAA battery.

IMG_3244

If you are unfamiliar with the newer generation of small LED lights, the illumination that they provide is truly astounding. This is not your father’s Ray-O-Vac D-cell. My tiny little ML –108 will spotlight the side of my barn 50 yards away. Since I haven’t had a chance to use the SA-1 at night yet, the jury is still pretty much out. I anticipate that it will light up the wall of the barn, but without the spotlighting focus. I expect something much more diffuse. However, even though it may be more widely spread out, it is still a remarkably bright illumination pool for a light not much larger than its own battery.

IMG_3243

 

While I am in no way dissatisfied with the service I have gotten from the ML– 108, the real selling point with SA-1 was the smaller form factor…. and, besides, the orange color was really cool! I was perfectly fine with the trade-off in the location of the switch, but less so with the lanyard attachment point on the butt of the SA-1. The MX will “tail-stand” and toss back a great reflective illumination from a ceiling or the overhead foliage. Because of the lanyard loop, the SA-1 will have to be poked into the dirt, or will need to lean against something in order to cast the light upward.

So far so good. The SA-1 makes it on lighting efficiency. A big win on the smaller size. Nice, bright color. Fit and finish is great. All at a cost of just over $10… so it meets my criteria of getting the 90% usability for way, way less than 50% of the cost of lots of other name-brand flashlights.

So? What’s not to like?

Well… One great big, glaring, unfortunate design flaw means that this nice little light probably won’t get carried in my pocket all that often. [or at least not until my ML 108 actually dies on me]

The problem was immediately obvious to me as soon as I inserted a battery. I twisted the front of the light to turn it on, twisted it enough in the opposite direction to turn the light off, only to find that just the slight pressure of my index finger against the front of the light would cause it to come on without twisting at all. Unless I rotated it back at least a full half-turn of the circumference, the smallest sideways pressure would cause it to blink back on. The possibility of it lighting up the inside of your pocket unbeknownst to you, as you move through your daily grind, is all too predictable… and a drained out battery just when you need the light is just what you don’t need. I’m sure I could get used to that massive effort of adding the extra quarter turn to assure that my pocket didn’t have that “refrigerator glow”, but I find it annoying that, on an item as nicely made in all other respects as this one is, it would have such a quickly obvious defect. However, and especially, because I use the extremely long-lived Eneloop rechargeable AAA’s, I will probably give it a try out to see how long the battery actually lasts in comparison with the ML – 108… and I’ll keep watching my pocket for the telltale glow.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained… Hey, it’s paid for!  I’m certainly not going to send it back for a fairly trifling irritation, However, I probably won’t be buying anymore backup units of this light.

 

 

Mini Multi-Tools WITH a Light! Wowie-zowie!

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 8.37.22 PM cabelasMiniMulti Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 8.40.37 PM

[>Seeing a pricepoint spread like this does not give you much confidence in the product represented. $.99 to $15 for nearly identical tools is quite a bit of range. I was pleased to see that Cabela’s themselves have removed the “mini multitool with light” from their offerings. As I recall, they were asking $19.99 retail in the stores.<]

Just to start off, I need to say that I was prejudiced against these next three tools from the moment I saw them in the photograph on eBay. They were just going to be part of the crap I bought in the hopes that some of the other pieces were worthwhile.
To me they were the classic POC. I knew that I had seen them hanging in a blister pack down at Cabelas in a version that was ridiculously priced just because it carries a Cabelas’s logo. I also knew that I could get them direct from Hong Kong, with free shipping, for a fraction of that price. In fact, they were the sort of thing that I expected to find down at the Dollar Store sooner or later… and wouldn’t have bought even then. Regardless of the source, every picture I had seen of them indicated to me that they were cheap, shoddily made, and worthless.

MiniZ2
These are the three that were included in my TSA lot. What I found out once I actually had them in my hand, was that they come in quite a variety of crappinesses. The truly frustrating part is that each of the three units mixes some really crappy features with others that aren’t that bad at all. And a further frustration is the handles on all three are force riveted, unlike some of the other mini tools that actually feature screw-together “rivets”… so no “mix-and-match” hacking to try to salvage some value.
The most surprising part was that each of them does feature pliers that are quite decent. They are nearly as good as the ones on my $30 Leatherman P4. Reasonably heavy-duty, needle-nose jaws, with overlapping wire cutters, and no wiggle or play. The pliers are so similar to each other that my suspicion is that the Chinese factories that produce these individual multi-tools may very well outsource the plier jaws from a single supplier.

Each of them includes the same basic form factor  and tool features:  The pliers, a small “pocketknife” blade, a serrated  “saw” blade, a skinny Philips head screwdriver, and a standard screwdriver blade with bottle-opener combo. They each also feature a miniature LED light that turns on and off by screwing and unscrewing the bulb-end.

The biggest differences were in the blades and the quality of the miniature lights.

The unit on the left is a complete Loser… We will capitalize it this time… it deserves it. The knife blade is dull and the light was DOA. It is so badly threaded and fitted that when you unscrew the tip to turn it off there is very little pressure against the batteries, and a couple of them had turned over and shorted out. It is also the only one of the three that I received where the blades are not accessible without unfolding the pliers.

The one at the bottom is marginally better. The knife blade is hollow ground, and was already razor-sharp. The teeth on the serrated blade we’re also much more aggressive. The screwdrivers were identical to the first one, giving rise again to the idea that some of the parts maybe sourced from a single supplier regardless of who assembled it, or how it’s branded. Where this one falls down is in the clunky flashlight. It’s so large in diameter that it doesn’t even fold flush into the handle. However, it provides the best illumination of the three.

Finally, the black multitool at the top features the same aggressive serrated blade, and has my favorite light of the three, but falls down by providing a cheapo blade that lands someplace between those in the other two units. It did take a reasonably sharp edge off of the diamond stone, but I don’t count on it holding it for very long.

It also should be noted that all three of these use the nonstandard AG 13 batteries for the little lights. When the batteries provided burn out, these will be hard to find and expensive to replace. I suspect you will pay more for the batteries than you would’ve for one of these multi-tools at retail.

The verdict?: With my cost of only $2 a piece, these are not too bad. If you paid the $5-$20 at retail or discount, you would feel severely disappointed. That said, if you just need a tool to toss the desk drawer and have handy for opening packages or tightening up the screws on your computer case, this might be just your thing… At the lower end the price scale we’re still not approaching the cost of a of even one of smaller multitools from Leatherman, SOG, or Gerber. These blades ought to hold an edge long enough to be minimally useful, and having any kind of light handy when you need to find something you’ve dropped under the furniture is not a bad thing. However, the clunky form factor means that these would be fairly uncomfortable in your pocket. For my part, I will drop these into a couple of little pocket emergency kits to give away to kids or put them in a Geocache. They are certainly nice enough that if you got one for free or found it in a Geocache you wouldn’t be disappointed

Check back in the next couple of days, when I get around to the review of the four remaining units from my TSA purchase, you will see that there are indeed some mini multi-tools that can satisfy my 50/90 criteria that would be a far better use of your money when paying retail instead of buying some of these TSA confiscations.

 

 

 

When the lights go out all over the world…

When the lights go out all over the world...

Last evening, just as I stuck the toothbrush in my mouth getting ready to go to bed, the lights went out. I didn’t even have to glance out the window to see it wasn’t just me. My peripheral vision had let me see everything else on the hillside across the valley blink out.

I could’ve lit a candle of course.
But just the other day I had taken one of those solar walkway lights that I got at the dollar store and stuck the top part into a small, opaque jar just secured with the strip of electrical tape. It was like a two-minute job.
I figured it for out on the porch railing. I like to preserve my night vision, but I don’t want to trip over anything, like the catz, in the dark and I found the sharp point of light from the path stake LED a little of obnoxious.
Anyway, last evening I ran downstairs and brought it up to the bedroom. Works wizard. Plenty of light to see what I was doing, but not nearly bright enough to be a distraction falling asleep.
It was still glowing this morning, not much diminished, at 5:30 AM.
It seems like if I can find a convenient way to mount this high up on the top of the pack where it could get a charge, it would be a nice little addition out in the woods of an evening. It has a very soft, but quite satisfactory glow. And it doesn’t weigh more than an ounce or two.

I’ll get together a quick little instructable, and put it up here.