Friday, November 17, 2017

Choosing the Correct Flashlight Beam

Editors Note: Here is a great guest post on flash light beams, a much overlooked aspect of flashlights.

What's the Better Hiking and Camping Flashlight Beam: Spot or Flood? Picture this, you're preparing to go on a hiking trip with your kids and packing your gear. You've got your tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils and have space for just one flashlight. What do you choose, a flood beam flashlight which is ideal for shorter distances, or a spot beam which is good for longer distances? Tom Williams with recently found out. In my experience, choosing the right type of flashlight beam pattern can be the difference between a great hiking experience and a nightmare. But one is not always better than the other. The better choice actually depends on a few factors which I have detailed below.

Geography and Topography

If you live in the Northeast you are likely to spend time camping in the woods, but if you live in the Southwest you are more likely to spend a day or night in the desert. Each of these topographies has different elements which make the need for the proper flashlight beam critical. Areas that are heavily wooded like the Appalachian Mountains, Canada, and Maine are best navigated with a flood beam flashlight. Due to the number of obstacles (like trees and hills) in front of the flashlight user, a spot beam flashlight would be prevented from effectively viewing items in the distance. In wooded areas you really only need about 20-30 yards of light output to cover the visible foreground between trees. Areas with less elevation changes or obstacles like the desert are best navigated with a spot beam light. The lack of obstacles around the camper means you need more time to see potential hazards in the distance. A spot beam flashlight will give you about 75-125 yards of distance which is enough for most terrains.


There is normally a connection between the size and weight of a flashlight, and the light pattern output. Generally, flood beam flashlights are larger in size but not always in weight. To create a wide flood beam pattern, you need a large reflector and lens to scatter the light over the most ground as possible which means larger flashlight designs. Conversely, a spot beam pattern needs a smaller reflector with steep angles to keep the light output tight. This means spot flashlights are usually smaller in overall size, both lenght and diameter.


Weight also has a similar connection to the beam pattern. Generally, spot beam flashlights require more battery power to cover longer distances. More batteries means more weight. Flood flashlights while larger, tend to require fewer or smaller batteries which means lower weight.

Flood vs Spot Decision Guide

If you are still unsure which flashlight beam is better for your trip, use this simple guide.

- Use a Flood Beam to get more ground coverage. If size and weight are of concern, use a combination beam which lowers size and weight but lowers ground coverage.

- Use a Spot Beam to get greater distance. As you can see, choosing the right flashlight style for your hiking or camping trip is not as simple as just filling a spot in your pack. You need to be aware of the topography, terrain, and geography of the path you are following as well as the space you have to spare and weight you want to carry.

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