There are plenty of recommendations savvy folks could make here, but I’ve got one flashlight in particular I’d recommend for both everyday carry and especially for a get home bag.
I’ll get into my reasons for recommending the Nitecore MT2A below.
At first glance the idea of a 2x AA flashlight may not be appealing with all the lithium ion flashlights available now that are far brighter as well as smaller.
“Isn’t a AA flashlight kind of passe at this point?” one might ask.
Disadvantages of Lithium Ion (18650 or 21700)
Sure, li-ion generates more voltage and can push much higher lumens at similar runtimes than an AA flashlight. But as I see it, li-ion flashlights have two distinct disadvantages for EDC and get home bags.
- Li-ion has a much narrower effective operating temperature range. (Ideally 10-30° C, or 50-86°F.) Go above that range and the battery becomes dangerous. Go below it and the battery quickly loses voltage and becomes useless.
- Most li-ion flashlights require a specialized charger to recharge. Even if the flashlight has a USB-C port on it for recharging, it still takes several hours to recharge and is not feasible for EDC while out and about, and is probably impossible to charge in a “get home” situation.
Why do these things matter so much for EDC or “get home” situations?
You Can’t Control The Weather: AA Battery Temp Flexibility
AA batteries operate in a wider temperature range — ESPECIALLY if you’re using a NiMH or Lithium (not ion) AA battery.
A nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery can operate down to -30°C or as high as 45°C before it loses significant voltage. (That’s -22°F to 113°F.) On the cold end, that’s a 40°C difference from a lithium ion battery.
If the weather is freezing cold like right now (as of writing this) and you’re in a “get home” scenario, your pack is cold and so is everything in it while you make your way to wherever you’re headed.
If you’ve been walking for awhile during the day, by the time it starts to get dark where you’d be reaching for your flashlight, a li-ion light may be cold enough to have a short runtime or weak beam output. All that extra power may for naught.
Personally, I would much rather have a flashlight like the MT2A that peaks at 345 lumens but will actually work in harsh conditions when I need it most. A flashlight with a theoretical max lumens of 1500+ but is practically dead in the cold is of little value to me.
To avoid this issue, you’d have to wear a li-ion flashlight (with a battery like an 18650 or 21700) on your person, in a pocket or inside your shirt to use your body heat to keep its temp within operating range.
Once you have the light out and in your hand during freezing temps, you’re now reliant on your hand warmth and the heat the light generates to keep it within tolerances.
Same detriment goes for carrying spare batteries. Secondary li-ion batteries in your pack have the same temperature concerns, whereas spare NiMH batteries would be far less so.
AA Battery Availability Can’t Be Overstated
I know, this is a point often made about AA flashlights. But consider our two primary use case scenarios: EDC and get home bags.
If it’s a pocket flashlight or one that goes into an EDC bag, you may not know exactly when the battery will poop out if it’s a light you use daily.
Unless you also want to bring a charger with you and sit somewhere for awhile when that happens (for a li-ion light), it’s much easier to ask someone for a spare AA battery or two. If they have a bunch they will likely let you bum a couple.
It’s comparatively unlikely that even if someone nearby has a spare 18650 type battery that they’ll let you have/borrow it.
And if you can’t ask someone for a spare AA, most grocery stores, drug stores, and hardware stores carry them.
Even if you’d primarily been using NiMH rechargeable AA’s, you can easily stow those in your pack and use new alkaline AA’s temporarily while out and about.
In an emergency situation where you’re trying to evade an area or safely get home, these same considerations are just as useful.
Ok, So Why The Nitecore MT2A For An EDC or Get Home Bag?
I think the Nitecore light checks the boxes in a very useful variety of considerations:
- Price: It can generally be found for ~$35. For a light with 5 modes, durable design, and very usable lumens that’s a tremendous value.
- Longevity and Brightness: This light has a low mode that can give you 17 lumens of usable light for up to 50 hours, or basically two entire days. It also has a bright 345 lumen mode that can roll for over 2 hours of high-need scenarios.
- Tactical tail switch and bezel twist to go straight into Turbo or Strobe mode (messing around trying to get to either of these modes in a tense situation is bad)
- Battery flexibility: Use alkaline AA batteries found everywhere or NiMH for EDC recharging and cost savings (and better run times).
I’ve owned cheaper lights, and I’ve owned $100+ flashlights over the years. This kind of flexibility for the money I’ve only encountered on a couple lights.
What kind of light do you use for your get home bag?
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