Need a longrun time tactical flashlight

I need a long run time, lower lumen, tactical flashlight for my bicycle helmet with a powerful enough strobe for high visibility to motorists day or night.

Would prefer one with AA or AAA power.

Thank you for any suggestions.

This is a great forum.

Welcome to BLF, raldler.

Enjoy your time here.

Welcome to BLF and welcome to "The Quest" ...for the best bike light.

I've been on this quest for newly 5 years and have found some very nice budget solutions.

Today, you have more choices than you probably want but there is hope.

1st of all, reconsider your choice of batteries. Although I respect your request, runtime and energy density go hand in hand when it comes to flashlights. Although it is easy to buy 3x AAA/18650 combinations, the 18650 will double your runtime. Since the option exists, I would have to say this is a good place to start.

You have 3 choices, basically... Cree Q5 (XR-E), R5 (XP-G), or T6 (XM-L). Each have their own plus's but if AAA is your battery choice, it pretty much limits you to the 1st one, XR-E commonly refered to as a Q5.

Just for reference:

1. XR-E are the default workhorse of bright LED flashlights. They can put out almost 300 lumens, 200 is more reasonable. Budget versions are very sensitive to battery sag as they will dim as battery life diminishes. These emitters are known to put out a very bright spot but little spill (which is useful for bikes).

2. XP-G wil another 50% brighter and very usable spill. They normally come in 18650 or 2x 16340 formats and they are considered quite bright. Budget XP-G lights still exhibit sag in the middle of the battry life.

3. XM-L are -bright- when driven hard. These are rarely AA/AAA driven. They are great emitters for almost any power level. They have great spill and even at 1 amp, they put out a lot of light, more than the rest. These are designed for 10 watts of power which is way more than most cyclists need. The nice thing about budget XM-L is that at lower power, they remain steady until nearly the end of the battery life.

Flashlights are typically designed to put out a very bright beam that will throw as far as possible. This is commonly done with reflectors. However, being seen on a bike means you would do better with a wide cone of light rather than a deep peering beam simply because the drivers wold have to aligned with you to see it. Unless you go with the power sucking XM-L at 800 lumens, the second best option would be a zoom style lens. Even the Q5 with little spill becomes and very wide bright beam. These lights are cheap and typically draw 1 amp or less. These are also the lights that have 3x AAA/18650 options. They are all over ebay.

So I will leave you with 2 ideas... one, a very nice bright bike light kit for a great deal:

XM-L bike light

AAA/18650 zoomable light

Make on offer on the second one and you can probably get it for $10. I've bought from this seller multiple times.

Also don't miss out on the "18650" thread. Great offer for 18650 batteries in case you decide you want 4-6 hour runtimes on the zoomies. $17.50 +shipping for 10 quality cells.

Hope this helps and feel free to ask questions.

If you must use AA batts , I have used this ...

It has infinitely variable output + strobe ...

Thank you and Best Wishes.

Thank you for all the valuable information.

Very helpful.

Also glad you pointed out the importance of spill for cyclists. Something I had not considered but essential as to enhance visibility for a cyclist.

Up to now I have used a Photon Freedom Fusion 6 Led headlamp (the last few months mounted it on my helmet instead of wearing it) and it served me well for over 4 years of heavy use as I ride my bike 5 to 7 days a week up here in Seattle mostly in early morning darkness year round. But last week the switch died and decided I would look into into a tactical flashlight as a replacement. And the Photon was rather heavy and not much good illuminating my route(s) as I ride in the city and rely on streetlights for visibilty.But it was good as a "to be seen light".

I am not at all familiar with today's leading edge battery technology (18650, R 123) as I have used nimh rechargeable AA and AAA's exclusively.

That's why I mentioned preferring AA and AAA for power in a tactical flashlight.

But I must get myself into the real world and look more into 18650 and will, as you suggested, check out the thread.

Appreciate your recommendations of the 2 lights.

I have ordered the Cree Q5 LED Zoomable 300lm flashlight as I do like the option of either 3 AAA's or the 18650 and the zoom feature.

Do most tactical flashlight owners use regular 18650 or the rechargeable kind? And what in the world are the protected types?

Also I read about the chargers for those batteries seem to require more attention than smart AA and AAA chargers that you can walk away from without worrying about a fire. I am a bit nervous about that aspect of 18650 batteries and probably don't have all the information so I am likely not making an intelligent evaluaton .As you pointed out they are much more powerful than the AAA's.....but ..anyway again thank you for your help.

I'm glad I found this forum.

Thank you for flashlight suggestion.

Best Wishes.

Protected cells have a small circuit board that limits output current and over-voltage and under-voltage conditions. Li-Ion doesn't like going below 2.75V or over 4.25V. The protection circuit makes the batteries a little longer and in many cases, bigger in diameter although most flashlights can accomodate this.

Chargers are a genuine concern. Even a quality charger needs to be characterized in order to trust it. It is never recommended to leave Li-Ion battery charging unattended. With a bit of searching and posting, you will get a quick feel for what chargers are reputable and which are not. The NiMH 3x AAA batteries is a good solution until you feel the need for more runtime.

I think there are many preferences when it comes to flashlight users. Some like the smallness of AA/AAA lights and some like the short lights that use the 1x CR123 batteries. Any of these battery formats are available in 3.7V Li-Ion. The 18650 format was born out of the laptop computer industry and will deliver the power needed for the emitters using higher wattage in the 10-15W range. To make the runtime acceptable to most users, the 18650 has become the standard for many very powerful flashlights including most high power bike light kits.

Yeah I think I will start out with the AAA's then try out the 18650.

Thanks for explaining the protected type of 18650.

I am learning.