REVISED 2: FR - Surefire L1 LumaMax Flashlight - Steve
- Hi Tom -
I'm reposting this since I noted you were switching computers, and I
also added some additional information (I forgot I'd actually had this
thing out for five nights of backpacking already in addition to all
the other use).
Here you go:
Field Report: Surefire L1 LumaMax® Flashlight
June 27 , 2006
Name: Steve Nelson
Email address: nazdarovye at y..oo dot com
City, State, Country: San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
As an interface design and usability consultant by trade, I'm always
excited by analyzing and improving designs and processes; backpacking
provides a fertile and fun arena for that. I have been backpacking
since I was a kid growing up in upstate New York: we backpacked and
canoe-camped in all seasons, throughout the Adirondacks and nearby
areas, ranging as far as La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve, Quebec. As an
adult, I've backpacked and hiked extensively in California, but also
have taken trips throughout the West, from New Mexico to British
Columbia, and return often to the Adirondacks.
I made the transition to lightweight and ultralight backpacking over
the past two years. I like moving fast, and lightening the load
facilitates that. I also enjoy urban strolls, cross-country skiing,
snowshoeing, kayaking, and aviation in addition to hiking and
backpacking, so my gear gets exposed to a wide variety of uses and
L1 LumaMax Flashlight
Year of Manufacture:
2.9 oz (82 gm) stated on web site
2.7 oz (77 gm) without battery; 3.3 oz (94 gm) with SF123A battery;
3.85 oz (109 gm) with battery and lanyard
4.6 in (11.7 cm) stated online
5 in (12.7 cm) long (end of bezel to end of tailcap button) by 1.125
in (2.9 cm) max diameter
White (also available in Red, Green and Blue)
The Surefire L1 LumaMax Flashlight is a metal-bodied flashlight
utilizing a single lithium 123A cell to drive a Luxeon 3W LED. It
features a combination tail switch with a two-stage rubberized
pushbutton (for momentary use of the two brightness levels) as well as
a twisting action that allows the light to be locked off, set to
respond to the pushbutton, or turned on full-time at either of its
brightness levels. I provided more background details, description and
pictures in my initial report, which you may wish to reference. This
report gives results from my first two months of field use of the
I've now used the L1 LumaMax flashlight almost daily for over two
months. This includes two overnight snow camping trips and a four-day
Spring backpacking trip, day hikes, use around the house, and use on
nighttime drives and for a hotel stay at a remote spot up the coast.
Locations have been throughout Northern California, from the coast to
the Sierra Nevada, with elevations from Sea Level to over 9,000 ft
(2,750 m). Weather conditions have ranged from clear to extremely
windy to rainy and snowy, with temperatures from 24-101° F (-4-38° C).
I've stored the flashlight in the lid of several backpacks, inside a
hip pack, in my pocket, in tent pockets, hanging from my neck by its
lanyard, and even rattling around in a drawer when I'm not actively
using it. I've definitely not babied it.
I've used the LumaMax by holding it in my hand, clipping it to a head
band, hanging it from my neck, and hanging it from the inside of two
So far this light has done everything I've asked of it and been a
completely reliable companion on my trips and hikes and other
activities. I find the dual pushbutton/twist tailcap switch to be a
fine design, letting me quickly activate the light for momentary use
at either of its brightness levels, easily set it to stay on for
extended use, and lock it off for carrying it inside pockets and
packs. The switch is easy to use even when I'm wearing gloves or
mittens, or when my hands are cold.
The light output is goodthe two levels are usefully distinct, and I
find the low level good enough for most of my tasks around camp,
including walking. The bright light is good for picking out items a
little further away, spotting animals, and for fast walking or jogging.
The beam is a bit more focused than I would like for most backpacking
usesI prefer a slightly wider spread for fast walking, though waving
the beam back and forth is an easy way to compensate for this. There
are also rings of light outside the main beam, apparently due to the
way the lens is molded; I find these distracting, but not a real
problem. After hearing how a fellow tester used a plastic cap to
create a diffuser for the beam, I did the same. I found that the
translucent cap from a .5 L (16.9 oz) bottle of a certain brand of
water slips relatively easily over the head of the flashlight, stays
in place well, and softens and disperses the beam in a useful way.
I've hung the flashlight from the apex of both a Big Sky International
and Hilleberg tent to test use as a camp light (the lanyard and clip
make this easy). The low setting provides a good, bright, but too
focused beam for this purpose. However, sticking the plastic cap on
the flashlight created an excellent spread pattern and light level for
use in the tents. I find this diffused low beam superior to the stock
beam for general use around camp (cooking, cleaning, packing) as well.
I also purchased the Surefire Red Filter for this light, and while it
reduces the intensity of the beam slightly, it doesn't diffuse it as
much as the plastic cap, and so I find it more useful for map reading
or other tasks when I want to preserve night vision, but not for
The L1 LumaMax is generally comfortable to carry and use. The knurled
metal finish makes it easy to hold on to, and the lanyard is a great
feature both for security and for keeping the light close at hand (the
multiple cord locks help adjust the lanyard for use hanging on my
neck, from my wrist, or girth hitched to other items). I also tried
clipping the LumaMax onto my Tilley hat (too heavy for its floppy
brim, alas), and to a third-party headband meant for another
flashlight. The latter worked fine, though I found it a rather
inelegant solution (the clip on the LumaMax is a bit tight, and it was
difficult to wedge it into this particular headband's webbing). I have
found the weight of the L1 LumaMax to be inconsequentialit weighs a
bit more than other lights I generally have used for backpacking, but
not markedly so, and I find that the extra benefits of the lanyard,
durable metal casing, flexible switch and light outputs are worth the
extra ounce or two (few dozen grams).
Durability has been outstanding. I see essentially no wear on the
light or any of the L1 LumaMax's components, despite almost daily use
and my simply tossing the flashlight into pack pockets, pants pockets,
and containers around the house and in the car. I also did a bit of
torture testing of the light on one of my snow camping trips: I turned
the light on at its low setting, dropped it in a hole in the snow, and
covered it up. After about 15 minutes, I retrieved it from the snow,
and found it was still going strong, with no apparent ill effects
whatsoever. I've set this flashlight in snow, on wet ground, on rock,
and on other natural surfaces often throughout this test period, and
yet it looks and works essentially like it did when I first received it.
I have conducted the entire two months of use on a single battery! So
far this has entailed something over 6 hours of actual run time, with
90% of that at the lower output level. I wanted to see how long I
could go with a single battery in my regular usage patternsand I must
say I'm quite pleased with the results. After this usage, the light
levels appear approximately the same to my eye as they did at the
start of the test. (With this casual test out of the way, I'm going to
do more structured testing for my long-term report where I start with
a fresh battery, then run the light all the way down and measure times
Long-Term Test Conditions
My outdoor recreation for the upcoming four months will take place
mainly in California and Oregon, with a few trips to the east coast
and one-off trips to Hawaii and Belize. The majority of my backpacking
trips will take place in the Central and Northern Sierra Nevada
(Yosemite, Mt. Shasta, Lassen Peak, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and several
trips in the Tahoe and Donner Pass areas). I day hike extensively
wherever I am, will bring the Surefire L1 on all such hikes, as well
as use it around the house and while traveling.
Altitudes will range from sea level through at least 12,000 ft (3,660
m), and temperatures generally from the 80s F (27+ C) down to freezing
or colder, if I get lucky. Weather conditions will include rainy,
windy and sunny Sierra Nevada winter climes; moderate coastal
California weather, and possibly summer tropical Hawaiian and
Conditions will vary from coastal and conifer forests (Sierra Nevada)
to wider-open winter landscapes and open rocky mountain and coastal
areas (plus a jungle or two). I'll be using a number of shelter
styles, from traditional tents to tarps to hammocks, and also will be
staying occasionally in hotels or lodges.
Long-Term Test Plan
I'll be continuing to use the L1 LumaMax for all of my outdoor
activities over the coming four months. Night-time tasks will include
walking, hiking and jogging, sometimes with trekking poles; chores and
cooking around camp; use inside a tent or other shelter for task
lighting, reading and general illumination; and more focused
occasional tasks such as gear repair, stove maintenance, tick checks,
removal of splinters, unloading or packing the car for trips, and gear
I'm also curious to see how far I can comfortably use the L1 outside
of traditional hand-held mode. Will the clip hold tight on various hat
brims and other surfaces? Is it adjustable? Is the flashlight light
enough in weight to be comfortable when worn, and its clip able to
hold tight to the inside of a tent or other shelter?
Also, while I can't exactly plan this particular usage, I wonder if
the L1 will be superior for use in a wilderness medical situation. I
obtained WFR certification a year ago and, for larger group trips,
bring a medical kit in which I always include an LED light. The
bright, even light of the L1 could be quite helpful in examining and
treating injuries, and I will test this if the situation arises.
Finally, while these are not backpacking per se, I'll also use the L1
for canoe camping and car camping, and any other outdoor activities I
can come up with that could help provide additional insight and
information to readers. In addition, I will conduct run-time and light
intensity tests with fresh batteries, taking photographs of the beam
at intervals until the light completely runs out.
Qualitative points I'll be considering during all of the above include:
How durable is it? What does "weatherproof" really mean?
Is it easy to turn on and off in the field, including while wearing
mittens or gloves?
Is it comfortable to hold and use, including for long periods of time?
Are the brightness levels distinct and useful out in the field? In
particular, is the low light level low enough for comfortable use
inside a tent at night, and the bright light level good for long-range
use on the trail? Is either light level good for hiking at night?
How do various temperatures and weather conditions affect its
operation and level of illumination?
How useful and flexible is the "clip-on" feature? Does it work only on
stiff-brimmed caps, or will it also work with my Tilley, winter
headgear, and a mountaineering helmet?
How useful and effective is the lanyard?
Is it easy to maintain the flashlight in the field (change batteries,
or clean out grit or water, should they get inside)?
As always, I'll take pictures to document the product and my use of it
in the field. I'll also take pictures and measurements of the beam and
beam spread for my Field Report. In addition, I'll do at least one
quantitative run test, where I measure the battery life in the field
(ideally in colder weather).
I've purchased the F05 Red Filter accessory from Surefire, and will
continue test that for low-level light use in addition to using the
basic low-beam white LED and the home-made diffuser.
The Surefire L1 LumaMax is a bombproof-feeling, thoughtfully-designed
flashlight with a two-level, tightly-focused beam. My first
impressions are generally very positive and I look forward to taking
it into the field.
Things I like:
High quality fit, finish, features
Well-chosen low and high beam settings
Flexible yet easy-to-use controls for on/off/brightness
Lanyard and battery are included; the flashlight is ready to go right
out of the box
Very durable and reliable
Things I don't like:
Beam somewhat too focused for the majority of my backpacking and
Slight ring/halo around beam
Thanks to BackpackGearTest and Surefire for giving me the opportunity
to participate in this test.