Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Fenix E12 [1xAA EDC Flashlight]

The Fenix E11 was one model I never got around to buying. Lots of folks have talked about how good it is, so when I saw there was a new model E12 that had the new Cree XP-E2 emitter in it, I jumped on it and purchased it from Amazon for about 27 bucks. For whatever reason the last couple orders have arrived a day late. I mentioned it to the missus who said "oooh poor baby is going to run out of flashlights before tomorrow." Ok, point taken.

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Link


Product Description


This is a compact, three mode flashlight which runs on a single AA battery. It's also one of the few lights I've seen with the newer XP-E2 emitter in it. Most of the new ones are coming out with the XP-G2 or XM-L2 emitters. That coupled with the TIR optics make this an interesting model indeed. The rest is fairly typical such as black anodized finish, the low profile reverse switch, scalloped tail and agressive knurling on the body.

NOTE: The seller I bought this sample from includes two free AA alkaline batteries with the light.

Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • Uses Cree XP-E2 LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
  • Broad beam lens. Provides soft, even beam for close-up illumination
  • Output Modes:
  • High - 130 Lumens (1 hour 30 minutes)
  • Mid - 50 Lumens (6 hours 30 minutes)
  • Low - 8 Lumens (40 hours)
  • Uses one AA (Ni-MH, Alkaline) battery
  • Digitally-regulated output--maintains constant brightness
  • Reverse polarity protection guards against improper battery installation
  • Slightly recessed switch to prevent accidental activation
  • Able to tail stand
  • Tail tap switch for on/off and output selection
  • Made of durable aircraft grade aluminum
  • Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
  • High-efficiency total reflection lens
  • Waterproof to IPX-8 waterproof rating (underwater 2 meters for 30 minutes)
Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight With Friends
Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 1

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 2

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 3

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 4

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 6

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 7

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 8

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 9

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Product Image 11

Initial Impressions


Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight View Of TIR OpticGrrr I hate the retail blister packaging. That's fine, you want to foil shoplifters, I get it. But Amazon has made great strides in their "frustration free packaging" and I guess I'm pretty spoiled on it lately. Inside the packaging it also comes with an alkaline battery, so that's 3 free batteries I got with it. 

The light itself is impressive. I've read reports about the TIR optics not being aligned and giving some units a wonky, inefficient beam pattern, but mine seems perfect. This is my first TIR light and the beam looks nice, but honestly I can't see the fuss. 

Putting a battery in it and clicking through the three modes, they seem well spaced and I like the feel of the switch. It's also a little more compact than I was expecting. One thing I immediately liked was that it starts on low. I know it's like arguing religion among flashlight enthusiasts, but I much prefer the ability not to blind myself or others by blasting their dark-adjusted eyes with ridiculous lumens. At least not for an EDC type light.

Build Quality


Fenix has a good reputation and it's well deserved. I'm not normally a huge fan of their products as they tend to use older, more conservative designs, but this model melds their build quality with the latest XP-E2 emitter. This is a well put together flashlight. I may even have to stop ranting that these companies are putting everything into their pricier models and ignoring the budget every day carry models. 

Fit and Finish


Overall, excellent. About the only thing I can find wrong is the Fenix logo hits the very bottom of the little machined logo area and the print is kind of dull. So all I can find wrong is the logo. Everything else seems flawless: centered emitter and optic, well machined and greased threads, and not a scratch, nick or scuff anywhere to be seen. The reverse tail switch looks and feels solid.

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Button 1Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Button 2


Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Closeup of Reverse Polarity Protection
Reverse Polarity Protection
Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Closeup of Threads


Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Closeup of Centered Emitter

Clip


The E12 unfortunately does not come with a clip. I wasn't originally a huge fan of clips so I can live without them now, but it would've been nice. However, it does look like an aftermarket clip could be attached a couple of different ways: either via the lanyard holes or it looks like there's a beveled part of the tail for a snap on clip. I think the snap on kind might be the easiest to find, so I am on the lookout for one.

Modes

There are three modes accessible by half-pressing the tail switch to cycle between low, medium and high modes. The unit always starts on low. There are no so-called "disco modes" such strobe or beacon. I normally don't mind those extra modes as long as they are hidden, but it doesn't bother me not to have them.

Photo below taken at ISO 100 F/5.0 1/30
Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Animated Modes


PWM


I can detect no trace of PWM on any of the three modes using the cell phone camera technique. Not surprising since Fenix is well know for high quality constant current circuits. Normally constant current drivers suffer from poor tint, but this model certainly does not have that problem. Maybe it's the smaller die XP-E2. 

Beam


I've read reports about LEDs being off-center and the TIR optics piece not being fitted right, but mine has a perfect beam. It's not nearly as tight as I thought it would be, but that's OK.

Run Times

All tests performed with a 2nd generation Sanyo Eneloop AA NiMH battery hot off the charger.

High: 2 hours
  • Lost regulation at about an hour even and started coasting down
  • Hit sub-lumen output at about 1:45 mark
Medium: 6 1/2 hours+

  • Run time for medium right on spec
  • Took my eye off it and when I looked back at the 7 hour mark, it was flashing pulses about 1/2 seconds apart.


Usability


This model is compact, light and reasonably powerful, making it a good EDC light. It hits all the check boxes, like the ability to tail stand and start on low mode. It also has a smooth, floody beam you'd want for an EDC light. 

Conclusions


This and the Thrunite T10S are what I'm usually carrying. If it's going to get beat up, I take the stainless steel T10S along, and when I want the light weight, I take the E12. It's very compact for a 1xAA clicky and I think overall it's a great EDC type flashlight. The only thing it's missing is a good clip.

I'm also a big fan of constant current drivers like the E12 uses. Most people only use flashlights in an emergency, and when the sh*t hits the fan, you want an efficient circuit to give you every bit of run time possible. 

This may well be a model that gets gifted this year--we'll see. I ordered a couple SolarStorm SC01 models with the electronic switch too. The E12 is a well built light that's a bargain for the 27 bucks I paid for mine. Whether I gift them or not, I'll definitely be using mine, and it won't be going into the "bag of shame" which is soon to be the "roll of shame".

Gallery

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Packaging 1

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Packaging 3

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Packaging 4

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight Next To Ruler
It's compact for a 1xAA clicky flashlight

Fenix E12 1xAA EDC Flashlight On Scale
Shown with 2nd generation Sanyo Eneloop battery--it's decently light


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Kershaw Brawler [EDC Pocket Knife]

Last year we gave my son in law a Kershaw Brawler and the wife of all people became infatuated with it. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis and it's hard for her to open and close a normal pocket knife. When I was wrapping presents, the wife took it out of the box and said "I want one of these" and so a couple months later I got around to ordering her one from Amazon and I got a Kershaw Cryo for myself.


Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife With Cryo 1Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife With Cryo 2


Product Description


This is a typical Kershaw assisted "flipper" featuring their proprietary SpeedSafe assisted opening technology, a black-coated tanto blade and fiberglass reinforced nylon handle. The rest is fairly typical: liner lock, Chinese steel. The Brawler also features a removable clip which can be configured for tip-up or tip-down carry.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • Steel: 8Cr13MoV, Black oxide coating
  • Handle: Glass-filled nylon
  • Blade Length: 3 1/4 inches; Closed Length: 4 1/8 inches
  • Quad carry pocket clip
  • Speed safe and flipper opening systems; Liner lock locking system
Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 1

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 2

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 3

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 4



Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 5

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 6

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Product Image 7

First Impressions


Unboxing the Brawler and Cryo at the same time, it was clear that this was the better knife. It's not a frame lock, and it's not an aggressive, solid chunk of metal like the Cryo. But the machining and overall fit and finish was very good, and put the Cryo to shame. The assisted opening is a little tight out the box--a little tighter than my son in law's version. We also noticed that his earlier browser had a slightly different shape to the handle; they must have corrected something for my wife's version.

Out of the box the wife just loved it, and I had to beg her to cough it up long enough to snap some photos of it and look it over. 

Fit and Finish


The fit and finish on this Brawler is comparable to my USA made Skyline. Maybe even a little better. The blade is well centered and the FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) handle looks fantastic. It came with a good edge, though Kershaw always seems to over-grind the tip. No scratches, scuffs, tool marks, nicks--anything wrong with the finish on the handle and blade.

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Showing Centered Blade


Blade


The blade is made of 8Cr13MoV which is a decent Chinese steel. Kershaw says it has a "black oxide" coating whatever the heck that is. I'm not a big fan of this type of blade coating but it does make the blade more corrosion resistant. It should last several lifetimes sitting in a desk drawer.

The blade shape is a typical tanto which probably makes it better suited to self defense than as an EDC blade. This style blade can have its productive uses, though. A tanto is better suited to prying than say a drop point, but I wouldn't ever pry with a knife anyway. The missus uses her Brawler to open mail and this style blade is completely sufficient for the task.

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Blade 1
Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Blade Tip

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Top Of Blade

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Blade 2


Handle


I've always been a big fan of nylon/fiberglass style handles because they are really rigid, strong and extremely light weight. The Spyderco knives like the Delica, Endura and Dragonfly with this type of handle are very popular and well regarded, so I'm always happy to see a new knife with an FRN handle like this one. 

The texturing on the handle is light but plenty sufficient. This is not a slippery knife like the Cryo.


Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Handle

Clip


Like most Kershaw flippers, the Brawler comes with a removable clip which can be configured for tip-up or tip-down carry. And like other Kershaws, the clip comes configured from the factory for tip-down carry, which I've always found curious because most enthusiasts prefer tip-up carry for faster deployment.

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Clip 1

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Clip 2

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Clip 3


Lockup


The Brawler uses a typical liner lock. The liner looks thinner than it seems like it should be, but it's probably just fine since the steel liner is clad with the rigid nylon fiberglass scales. The deployment and lockup on this model is smooth as silk. That's what a well centered blade gives you out of the box. After a couple hundred cycles on the lockup it's still a little tighter to deploy than I would like, but it still has a good feel to it, and the wife has no problem opening it with her arthritis. The son in law offered to trade her for his, but she says that hers feels more solid.


Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Lockup 1
Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Lockup 2

Usability


I can always tell when the mail comes. I hear the solid *click* sound of her Brawler opening. It's very strange hearing that coming from my wife's desk. The other day it dawned on me that I've given her a switch blade and a stun gun, so I should probably be nice to her.

My son in law still loves his Brawler. I don't think I've seen him without the telltale clip of his brawler. Where the Skyline is more of a gentleman's folder and my personal favorite, the Brawler is more aggressive looking and something a younger guy would be more inclined to carry.

Conclusions


The must be a good knife because the two people I've given one two frown when I ask them to borrow their Brawler. It's a bit too weapon-looking for my taste, but it does have a really clean look and it's well built. Kershaw knows their flippers, and this is a great model.

Gallery


Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Spine


Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Close Up Of Kershaw Logo

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Another Closeup Of Lockup
Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife On Scale

Kershaw Brawler Pocket Knife Next To Ruler



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Goodies for The Go Bag

Lately I've been adding more things to my disaster bag. It's getting nerdier with items like the Nitecore HC50 headlamp and pack of 10 year shelf life CR123A batteries, but it's the basics that I've focused on: food, water, shelter and warmth.

Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Filter

It's a fresh water filter. I still need a backpacking filter so I could drink toxic sludge, but this with the combination of water purification tablets is a nice start.


I saved a little bulk by moving it all to a ziploc small plastic bag. It's much easier to pack this way.



Fleece Blanket

Coleman Stratus Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner

Coleman calls this a fleece sleeping bag, or sleeping bag liner, but it's really a thin fleece blanket with zippers. For some people this would be a luxury item, but the missus and I aren't in the greatest health. This item should give a little extra oomph to the mylar emergency blankets and emergency bvivy that are already in the bag.


Right now I have it strapped to the top until I can either stuff it into the main compartment or stuff it into a compression bag and try to stuff that in. But it's probably fine where it is if it comes to that. It doesn't change the fit of the pack.


Compact Absorbent Towel

PackTowl Camp Towel

Warm and dry kind of go together, so it seemed logical to get one of these super-absorbent backpacking towels for the disaster bag. They absorb about 10 times their weight in water and wring out almost completely dry. I try to imagine likely disaster scenarios that would have us on living out of a backpack like this, and being cold and wet seems like a reasonably-likely scenario. The missus and I aren't what most would consider to be tiny people, so I got the large size. Holding it my hand, it's much lighter than I thought it would be.



Marker Light

Lambda Light Nano Marker

This is a nice little gadget. The manufacturer claims that the batch I bought mine from is the last batch they will ever make, so I'm lucky to have these. At only a few grams in weight, it can be seen for hundreds of yards with dark adjusted eyes. It's supposed to last a year on two SR48 batteries so I'm excited to have one on my disaster bag, which you can see above if you look closely enough.


The heavier brass one is on my laptop bag, which doesn't care about the few extra grams of weight.