Friday, December 4, 2009

A year older....

Talking about a birthday really wouldn't have much to do with the great outdoors. But I received a couple of really nice gifts that I'd like to review for those who follow this blog. Again, as always, I don't get paid for writing this stuff - these are just my general thoughts and impressions on the gear I use and/or buy for myself or otherwise receive.

The focus of this post is the Streamlight MicroStream flashlight. It's a little sucker, about 2.5 inches long, black, anodized aluminum body with a pocket clip and a tailcap switch. At first I was a little concerned the light output would be sub-par for such a little light. Right now a Maglite Solitaire rides on my keychain and even with fresh batteries it's output is barely adequate for doing or seeing anything in the dark.

This MicroStream is like a blowtorch compared with the faint ember-like output of the Solitaire. With just a single AAA battery (like the Solitaire) it lights up even the darkest spaces. The tailcap switch makes it easy to manipulate with gloved hands, and it can be used in a temporary on-off fashion, or with a little more effort, clicked all the way to the 'on' position. This is much easier than trying to work the bezel switch on the Solitaire, which requires the use of two hands (one to steady the body of the light and one to twist the bezel).

I was a little worried about its overall size as well, as little things get lost easily around here, and although it arrives with a lanyard and a split ring, this particular unit has nowhere to attach the lanyard or split ring. This is either some sort of manufacturing oversight or a design flaw. But, the pocket clip (which can be removed with a little effort) makes up for this. I keep the MicroStream clipped to the inside of my front pocket, next to my wallet. I just have to get used to it being there so as to not knock it out of the way and lose it.

Bear in mind that this form of 'carry' is just for every day use. When out in the woods a flashlight is invaluable for any number of uses - inspecting the bore or action of a firearm; reading your compass or GPS in the wee hours of the morning before sunrise; looking around in your truck for whatever random item it is you can't find with the aid of the pitiful dome lights the car manufacturers clearly install as a joke; making your way back to the trailhead after sunset, or any other time you might need a little extra light in a compact package. Its size means I can stuff the light in any number of smaller clothing or pack pockets.

The light shines bright enough to make a decent tent light when turning in for the night or getting up to start the morning. While not a dedicated hanging light, the beam pattern is just wide enough to make it useful for throwing light into a gear bag, duffel or backpack to find that spare set of wool socks you Just Know You're Going To Need later on.

Overall, I call this little gem a win-win in terms of size, price and features. The only downside I have is that there is no provision (that I can find) for a red lens filter. Short of being some sort of mall ninja, a red lens is really useful at night so you don't blast your night vision all to hell and back. By stimulating the retina less than white light, the red illumination preserves your night vision and also shocks the eye less, allowing you to focus on the task at hand and not worrying about visual adjustments. Aside from the lack of a way to securely attach the lanyard and the lack of a lens filter kit, I'll give this thing 4 out of 5 (antler) points!

Next up (and with better pictures) will be the new hearing protectors I received. I think a proper review requires some range time, so let me get that out of the way (oh darn) and report back!

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