Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Thrunite Ti5 NW 1xAAA LED Flashlight

Lately I've been on a small flashlight buying binge. Over the holidays I took advantage of a number of good sales, and I'm still trying to catch up to all the reviews from that stuff.

My quest for the perfect EDC (every day carry) flashlight has seen some near misses like the Thrunite Ti4 and Lumintop Tool, both of which were close to being my perfect EDC. The Ti4 is awesome but just a bit too big most of the time, and the Tool is also awesome, but it has low frequency PWM which gives me a headache when I use it on low. So, the search continues.

This Thrunite Ti5 NW was purchased through Amazon. It was out of stock for a long time on Amazon, but I'm glad I waited for it to come back in stock. It's not hard to find direct-from-China or eBay as well.

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product Link
Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product Link

Product Description


This is a multi-mode, 1xAAA LED Flashight which uses the latest Cree XP-G2 LED emitter. It has a forward switch, and a solid, rugged pocket carry clip. Mine is the neutral white (NW) edition, which has more of a warm than neutral tint.

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - EDC Friends

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - EDC Friends 2
Shown with a Victorinox Executive, Leatherman Squirt, MTech MT20-30 tiny fixed blade and Smith&Wesson self defense pen


Official Specs (From Thrunite)


  • LED: CREE XP-G2 R5 LED with a lifespan of 20+ years of run time.
  • Output & Runtime (Tested with 1*NiMH/900mAh)

    -Firefly (0.03 lumens /120 hours)
    -Low (10 lumens /6.5 hours)
    -High (100 lumens /30 minutes)-Strobe (100 lumens /1 hour).
  • Neutral White output will be 15% less than Cool White. 
  • Working voltage: DC 0.9V-3 V. 
  • Battery: 1 x AAA battery (not included).
  • Peak Beam Intensity: 460 cd.
  • Beam Distance: 43 meters.
  • Waterproof: IPX-8 (2M).
  • Impact Resistance: 1.5M.
  • Material: Aircraft grade aluminum alloy body structure with premium type III hard anodized anti-abrasive finish.
  • Reflector: Orange peel reflector gives perfect flood. 
  • Weight: 20g (without battery).
  • Dimension: 90mm(length)*14mm(head diameter). 
  • Working temperature: -40℃ to 40℃. 
  • Accessories: 2 x Spare O-ring.

Initial Impressions


Right out of the box there was some grit or something on the tail switch, and I couldn't get the light to come on. But I worked the switch and cycled it a few times, and whatever was causing the problem worked itself out.

I was surprised to see that it has a forward, momentary-on tail switch, often called a "tactical switch." I'm not normally a huge fan of forward switches where the single switch also cycles between modes, but I like the switch enough for it not to be an issue.

Once I got used to the switch, I knew that this was my new EDC flashlight, and it hasn't left my pocket since the day I got it.

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 1

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 2

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 3

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 1
Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 5

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 6


Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 7

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 8

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Product View 9


Build Quality


Overall this seems like a well built flashlight. I had an issue with the tail switch out of the box, but it's been working fine for the couple months I've been carrying it. The machining and anodizing are spot on, and I even give it points for the above average pocket clip. The Ti5 is well designed and well executed. Hopefully the weirdness with the switch out of the box was an aberration.

Fit And Finish


My review sample Ti5 has a very good fit and finish. It ticks all the boxes like having a centered emitter, well-cut threads, lubed o-rings, etc. I can't find anything specifically wrong with the finish, which is good, but it just seems a little cheap looking in a way I can't describe. Maybe it's just ugly and that's what it is...Some people think my precious Spyderco pocket knives are ugly.



LED Emitter


The LED is the heart of the flashlight, and this one has a warm-tinted version of the Cree XP-G2 emitter. It's powerful, efficient, and with a pleasing tint. It's perfectly centered in the reflector, and paired with an efficient, constant-current circuit. There's not much not to like about the LED and its circuitry. I think the dome looking off center is a trick of the light.

The XP-G2 is a medium die size emitter, though, so all it's going to put out with a tiny reflector is a solid wall of floody light. In a large flashlight, this emitter can put out a pencil beam that can throw light for a mile or more. But it's just an over-sized light bulb for the Ti5, and it does its job well as long as you understand what you are getting.

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Emitter Closeup
The LED is centered but the dome looks off center

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Circuit Closeup

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Head Closeup 2Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Head Closeup 1



Beam & Tint


As I said above, the beam is almost pure flood, which is ideal for EDC. 100 lumens of  flood makes this perfect for EDC tasks around the house like looking under the sink or behind a box in the garage.

My sample is the neutral white (NW) version. It's more warm than neutral, having an almost identical tint with its larger cousin the Ti4 NW. Warmer tints are ideal for distinguishing between different colors such as wires, while cooler tints have higher output.

Output


Thrunite claims 100 lumens on high. I don't have an integrated light sphere to hold them to that number, but I own a lot of flashlights, and there's no reason for me to think the Ti5 doesn't output at least that much. It's certainly on the high end of output I've seen on a simple AAA Eneloop.

Modes


The Ti5 features three modes and a hidden strobe mode.

The mode order is Low-->Medium-->High and you can access the strobe mode by simply cycling twice through all the modes.


Mode Lumens (stated) Runtime (stated)
Moonlight .3 120 hours
Low 10 6 1/2 hours
High 100 1/2 hour
Strobe 100 1 hour

Circuitry


I've always preferred constant-current circuits without PWM like some manufacturers use. Not only does PWM give me a headache, it ruins the efficiency and makes a flashlight unsuitable for survival purposes in my opinion. So, I'm always a happy camper to see a high quality circuit like this.

Tail Switch


As I've always said, a single switch flashlight with a momentary switch is a bit awkward, because you have to cycle to the mode you want before you engage the switch to keep the flashlight on with your selected mode. It takes some getting used to, and I recently showed it to a neighbor who was instantly frustrated with it because the first thing he did was engage the switch, which turned it on moonlight, and he didn't think it was on and handed it back to me, proclaiming that it no longer worked.

But for an enthusiast like me, and getting used to the switch, I like it. When I want to turn it on for any length of time, I quickly cycle to the mode I want, and then engage the switch. It's fast, and painless.

The switch itself has a good feel. I love the Ti4 but hate the reverse, short-travel tail switch. This is definitely an improvement over the Ti4 clicky switch, all awkwardness aside. I'd have to give the edge to the Ti5.

Carry Clip


Sometimes I feel like a broken record, where I love the flashlight but hate the cheap, half-attempt they made at creating a pocket clip. I wish this was a true "deep carry" clip, but it's still good because it's attached by being sandwiched between the tail switch and the body. I've lost several flashlights where the clip detached and sent both the clip and the flashlight ... wherever they went...

It's a great clip overall, and it shows that Thrunite is paying attention to its customers.


Usability


While I think the electronic switch provides a superior user interface, the tail switch provides a more convenient and tactile experience. There's no fishing for the button in the dark. However, the trade-off is that mode switching with a tail switch can be clumsy.

That said, the usability of the Ti5 became excellent once I got used to mode switching with the small, forward switch. I run an Eneloop Pro AAA battery in mine, and it's a winning combination.

But where it really scores in the usability department for me is the creamy, warm tint.


Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - In Hand 1

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - In Hand 2

Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - Next To Ruler
Thrunite Ti5 LED EDC Flashlight - On Scale


Conclusions


The switch isn't perfect, and the user interface is a little awkward, but everything else is almost perfect for what I want in an EDC flashlight: it's compact, powerful, with good output and mode spacing, and if you get the NW version, a beautiful tint. It has an efficient, constant-current circuit that I like to see for survival bags / gear.

My Ti5 has hardly left my pocket since I got it, but it burns through batteries quickly even using high end Eneloop Pro cells. If I'm going to be away from home for more than a couple hours, then I grab its larger cousin the Ti4. But for around the house and most EDC tasks, this is a superb flashlight.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Understanding LED Flashlights


While there are entire flashlight communities like the Budget Light Forum, most people don't understand the newer LED technology, and many older people still remember the dim incandescent models with old, leaky alkaline batteries inside.

There are even several flashlight scams that prey on people who don't understand just how far LED flashlights and lighting technology in general have evolved. The technology has come a long way in the last 5 years alone. Modern Cree LEDs are a powerful combination when paired with lithium-ion batteries, and newer designs are getting better and better at squeezing that kind of performance from common battery formats like AA and AAA, especially with multiple cells.

The goal with this article is to help the beginner understand modern LED flashlights and be knowledgeable enough to make an informed choice when shopping for them. Because knowledge is power.






Industry Landscape


Most modern flashlights are built in China. There are many manufacturers that like to give the appearance that their flashlights are made somewhere other than China, but there are very few companies which make these products.

Surefire is one of those companies who make their products in the USA, and they are also used by many military and police forces around the world. They have a reputation for quality, but they also have a reputation for using older, more conservative designs, and for being a bit overpriced.

It's true many of the Chinese manufacturers specialize in ultra-cheap models, though even those models have a following. But the bigger Chinese brands like Fenix, Nitecore, Olight and others are considered by most enthusiasts to be the superior flashlights, especially for the money.This is due mostly to the constant innovation that these huge Chinese factories need to do to just compete with each other.

So, the first thing to understand about flashlights is that they're basically all made in China. And the people who swear by the few USA brands are usually military people or police officers who have never used anything else. Again, they are good products, but most of the innovation is coming from overseas, and most flashlight enthusiasts either make their own or buy Chinese products.

All About The Emitter




The LED emitter is at the heart of every modern flashlight. It's what old people used to call a "light bulb" of the flashlight. Some flashlights like my Lumintop PS03 have multiple emitters, putting out enough light for a UFO encounter.

There are many producers of LED emitters, but most people consider Cree to be the best producers of LED emitters for flashlights. And therein lies the irony: all those Chinese brands have to import their LEDs from the USA, because Cree is a USA company.

In the last few months, the Chinese have been getting better at making counterfeit Cree LEDs, so the landscape becomes more complicated for the budget sector. Name brand Chinese flashlights generally will have genuine emitters, though. And there's the second irony: the Chinese fakes hurt the legitimate Chinese makers.

Common Flashlight Emitters:


Brand Model Die Size Notes
Cree XM-L Large Powerful, previous generation
Cree XM-L2 Large Powerful, efficient, current generation
Cree XP-G Medium Good output, efficient, previous generation
Cree XP-G2 Medium Good output, very efficient, current generation. Most modern flashlights use this model
Cree XP-E Small Good throw (distance), two generations behind
Cree XP-E2 Small Good throw, efficient, current generation
Cree XP-L Huge Very high output, current generation



The Power


LED technology is currently far ahead of battery technology, even with high-tech lithium-ion batteries that power our phones, tablets and other electronics. None of these devices draw anywhere near the power that an LED (or group of LEDs) flashlight can draw, especially over time.

Because of this fact, flashlights that can take a single AA or AAA flashlight are not anywhere near as powerful as a light taking more than one cell, especially more than one lithium-ion cell.

The thing about lithium-ion cells is not so much that they have more power than their common chemistry cousins like NiMH and alkaline--they don't--it's more that they can sustain a higher current draw, giving more of their power to the LED more quickly than the other chemistries. This means that the highest output will almost always be with lithium-ion, though some of the 4xAA flashlights do pretty well in the output department.

Common Flashight Batteries:


Format Chemistry Capacity Rechargeable? Holds Charge
AAA Alkaline Low No 5 years
AAA Lithium Primary Low No 10 years
AAA NiMH Low Yes 6 months
AAA NIMH LSD Low Yes 5 years
AAA (10440) lithium-ion Low Yes 6 months
AA Alkaline Medium No 5 years
AA Lithium Primary Medium No 10 years
AA NiMH Medium Yes 6 months
AA NiMH LSD Medium Yes 5 years
AA (14500) lithium-ion Medium Yes 6 months
18350 lithium-ion Large Yes 6 months
18650 lithium-ion Large Yes 6 months
2650 lithium-ion Huge Yes 6 months





User Interface


There are actually models with a touch screen, but most flashlights will have a single "clicky" switch at the tail of the unit, called a ... wait for it .. tail switch. Some flashlights have one or two electronic switches on the side of the unit, and some even have two-position electronic switches commonly found on high end digital cameras. Some flashlights also can have control rings where you can twist to adjust the brightness. There's a whole lot of variety in the marketplace.

Whatever the user interface is, the goal is to let you cycle between the various modes of brightness, as well as special "disco" modes like strobe, S.O.S. and beacon modes.




Flashlight Switch Types:


Feature Description
Tactical Switch A momentary-on, mechanical switch. Also called a "forward clicky" because you can activate the flashlight without clicking it on and having to unclick it off. Light comes out as long as you are pressing the button slightly, or you could press it all the way and engage the switch. Flashlights with a forward clicky will usually have a second switch to change modes, as it's a little awkward having to select a mode before you engage the switch.
Reverse Switch Also called a "reverse clicky" because you have to fully engage the switch for light to come out. And to turn the light off, you have to fully engage the switch again. Flashlights with a simple user interface often use reverse clickys because a full click turns the light on an off, where a half click cycles between the modes. It's more simple and intuitive, though you lose the advantage of the forward switch.
Electronic Switch This is a different type of switch normally found on phones, cameras and game controllers. Because these types of switches aren't really mechanical, they can go a huge number of cycles--up to around a million--before they wear out. Some flashlights will even have more than one electronic switch to give a richer user experience. So it's usually a much more rugged switch.

Modes


The mode features and output levels will usually make or break the flashlight for you. Everyone likes something different, so it pays to do your research and choose with that is most useful for how you use it.

Common Flashlight Modes:



Mode Notes
Moonlight Usually a "sub-lumen" mode that is barely visible to the eyes, and can only be seen with dark-adjusted vision. Very useful for checking on sick children without waking them up, and in survival situations where you can get extreme run times with this mode.
Low The flashlight's lowest output mode, specific to the flashlight make/model.
Medium A good flashlight will have good "mode spacing" between output modes, so this flashlight-specific mode is usually the most important mode since it falls between the other modes.
High This mode is normally the highest output mode the flashlight can reasonably sustain. Most high end flashlights shoot for about an hour on high. There are other factors, like heat.
Turbo Some modern flashlights can temporarily provide a ridiculous output for a certain amount of time. Many flashlights will only give you about 5 minutes of turbo before the unit shuts off based on time, heat or battery drain.
Strobe Some flashlights, even the super cheap ones, have a strobe mode that I can only describe as epilepsy-inducing. Sometimes called a "tactical strobe" and other names, it's always the same effect. Some of the higher end tactical flashlights can actually vary the frequency to make the effect more disorienting, these modes are overrated for a self defense situation. At best, I think it could give you about a second, which could be huge, but you're not going to subdue your attacker with a flashlight--other than maybe hitting him with it.

NOTE: This mode is sometimes a "hidden mode" accessible in numerous ways depending on the model
S.O.S. It's the universal Morse code sequence for "Help". Early versions of the cheap Chinese versions actually output SOO instead of SOS in Morse code. Personally I consider this a worthless mode.

NOTE: This mode is sometimes a "hidden mode" accessible in numerous ways depending on the model
Beacon Done right, beacon is a genuinely useful mode for survival. It's basically a periodic pulse, designed to be easy to see from a distance, but also designed to conserve the battery's life and prolong the beacon. This another potentially hidden or programmable mode.
Colors Some high end flashlights contain more than one color LED, and it will have modes that use for example red and blue LEDs alone and together in various "cop modes" which would only be useful if you are a cop. Though the red LEDs do have a tactical value for hunting, military, etc.



Carry Clips 


 Some flashlights come with attached clips, allowing you to easily clip the flashlight to your backpack, bag or pocket. Clips where the entire flashlight rides in your pocket are called "deep carry" clips, and are the preferred method of carrying a flashlight by enthusiasts.



Above you can see and example of a well made deep carry clip


Lanyards


Some people carry their flashlights with string or paracord tied to a hole in the flashlight's tail, and this is called a lanyard. Some people make very artistic and complex lanyards just from tying the paracord a certain way. There's a whole art form around it.

Flood & Throw


When a flashlight's beam is narrow, with a small "hot spot" it's said to have "throw" which refers to the distance you can see with that flashlight. Output factors into the throw, but it's usually a combination of the LED die size and the size of a reflector, which is why large die size LEDs like the XM-L2 can project light close to a mile by having a huge reflector, but yet have a floody output in compact lights.

When a flashlight just puts out a wall of light, it's said to have "flood" which is generally more useful to every day carry (EDC) tasks such as looking under the hood of a car or a dark room. Many flashlight models have a balance of throw and flood, giving you the best of both worlds.

Whether you want flood or throw depends on your needs and how much you're looking to spend. Some "floody" flashlights can produce a decent amount of throw just through pure, brute force output. This is why many people like me prefer a "soda can" flashlight with multiple, floody emitters with hardly any reflector. These are compact beast-mode flashlights. But there are whole enthusiast communities dedicated to pushing the distance a flashlight can project light to.



Circuitry


The electronic circuitry of a flashlight is under the hood--behind the scenes where you can't see it. Some of the higher end circuits have current-regulated output that will give you a constant brightness for as long as you have the battery power.

Some cheaper circuits skimp, and use low frequency PWM which regulate the output by flashing the light on high almost like a strobe mode. Some people like me are very sensitive to this--it makes me queasy--and some people don't even notice it. Some flashlights use high frequency PWM to make the tint more pleasing, without any of the negative side effects from being low frequency. But PWM in any form drastically affects the efficiency, and thus the run time, of the flashlight.

Because I come from an outdoorsy family full of preppers and outdoorsman, ideally I stick to constant current flashlights that would let me eek out every last minute of run time in an emergency or survival situation.



Other Considerations


There's an incredible amount of innovation going on with flashlights right now. Some of the best "modders" are in the USA and Europe, but it's mostly only the Chinese manufacturers listening to these communities.

Flashlight Apps


Most phones and tablets contain a cheap Chinese LED, which is inferior to the USA made Cree LEDs, but light is light, and your phone or tablet probably has a decent battery, making it a decent flashlight substitute. The best flashlight is the one you have with you.

What the app basically does is just turn on the phone's camera LED that it uses to take photos. Most devices allow the LED (if one is even present) to be turned on and off with software. Some devices allow a brightness control with the LED, and some apps can even control the brightness using a crude form of PWM by make the LED flicker.

However, not having a regulated output makes these lights less effective for emergency or survival purposes. It's much better than nothing, but not as good as a real flashlight. The light from these camera LED emitters is also pure flood, which isn't useful for example to look for a lost child in the woods. But used within its capabilities, there's no reason everyone shouldn't have a free flashlight app installed if their device has an LED for the camera.

Where To Buy


I live in the USA, so I can't speak for the best place to buy a flashlight in your part of the world. Certainly anyone in the world can order them straight from China and potentially save big. But buying direct can be a mixed bag with the shipping times and the language barrier. When everything goes right, you get your product 30-60 days after you order it, and save at least 50% if you do it right. But when it goes wrong, suddenly the person on the other end doesn't understand what you are saying, and the return process can take months and make you want to pull your own hair out. Since I always considered shopping on the Internet to be a full contact sport, I often order directly from China. Certainly nothing I'm in a hurry for.

Most of the time I order from Amazon.I have a Prime account which gives me free 2 day delivery and most of the time they have the best price of any USA seller. But I don't just collect flashlights. Pocket knives can be had from some of the same Chinese sellers of flashlights, and Amazon is also a good source, but some of the Spyderco pocket knives I collect are best purchased from a smaller dealer or locally.

Even if you buy somewhere else, it's always good to read some of the better reviews on Amazon, as well as any reviews you can find on blogs like mine, as well as flashlight communities like BLF. It pays to do your homework!



Some Of My Flashlight Reviews


Here's a random list of my own flashlight reviews. If you value my work and think I did a good job, it really helps to purchase an item from my Amazon links. I get a small commission from anything bought through my links. Most of the Amazon links you will find on my blog are from products I purchased with my own money to review and help people get the most out of their outdoor gear. And if I didn't do a good job, then I'm always open to constructive criticism ... let me have it!



Make And Model Format # Cells Notes
Thrunite Ti5 AAA 1 I'm working on the review now!
Thrunite Ti4 AAA 2 Available in cool white (CW) and neutral white (NW)
Nitecore MT06 AA 2 Good throw, blue-ish tint, PWM
Lumintop Tool AAA 1 Compact, good build quality
Streamlight Microstream AAA 1 Rugged, forward switch
Pelican 1910 AAA 1 Rugged, forward switch
Thrunite Ti3 AAA 1 Good mode spacing, good circuit, good output--great all around.
Fenix LD01 AAA 1 Outdated but still a stalwart.
Fenix E12 AA 1 Superb quality
Nitecore MT1A AA 1 Clunky interface but decent flashlight
Sunwayman D40A AA 4 Good throw and great output. It's always on my shelf with 4 Eneloops in it.
Nitecore EA4 AA 4 There's a new version of this one that is much better. But I gave mine to my sister and she loves it.
Nitecore SRT3 AA / 16340 1 Can basically take any battery that fits in the tube with the included AA extender.
Sunwayman V11R AA / 16340 1 Small, compact and uses a control ring to adjust the brightness. Also on my shelf at all times. Mine is over 3 years old and still going strong. But you have to buy the AA extender separately to be able to run different types of batteries like the SRT3.
Lumintop PS03 18650 4 With 3 XM-L2 emitters, it's a beast that puts out a wall of light!



Saturday, February 20, 2016

Flashlight Scam: T2000 Tactical Flashlight

My articles exposing this scam and the threads on Budget Light Forum must be having an effect, because this scam is mutating faster than the Ebola virus. I've covered this scam in great detail, even though it seems like a losing battle.

The gist of the T2000 Tactical Flashlight scam is the same as the others: Sell you a $6 flashlight for $75 by convincing people --usually older, non-technically-savvy people-- that this is an incredible breakthrough in technology that you're getting for a steal.

Whether it goes by the Lightstrike 360, Shadowhawk X800, G700 or others, you can be sure the same two sock puppet twitter posts will be calling it the "brightest flashlight ever." Funny how the same twitter post applies to half a dozen brands!

The T2000 scam looks to be a slightly different version of the cheap Chinese flashlight they are normally pushing. Both are decent flashlights given their cheap prices.

The ad normally starts with a claim that it's the brightest ever, or used by the military, or it can blind a bear, or some other ridiculous claim. But they all follow a common theme.


If you click on the ad, enter the same two sock puppets! You can find Marky Johns on virtually every single one of these scam pages, with his "no big deal" post.


Wait, which product did you get?


The "review" page you get from clicking on the ad make ridiculous claims, like

"The T2000 Tactical Flashlight is currently the most popular tactical flashlight of choice for most Americans due to it's powerfully disorienting "strobe mode" that allows the user to flash a blinding strobe light into the attackers eyes, leaving them "disoriented beyond belief."
Wait, but I thought it was the other version that was the most popular. Oops. They mostly copy and paste the claims, though they change it just enough to try to fool Google into thinking it's unique content.

The "review" then gives it 5 stars, before you scroll to the bottom and see:

THIS IS AN ADVERTORIAL AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE
There are so many versions of this same scam, it's getting hard to keep track of them. But I'm all in now. Otherwise it'll keep mutating into something much harder to identify as a scam. My blog makes pennies and these guys probably make millions, so it's almost a losing battle staying on top of it.

I've put together a guide for understanding LED flashlights which might be helpful to understanding the complex world of LED flashlights, written by me, a "flashaholic."

Friday, February 19, 2016

So, You Want To Be A Review Blogger

The subject of blogging comes up once in a while on the discussion forums that I frequent. People ask how to get started as a review blogger. So, I wanted to do an article on the subject and try to put down some of my thoughts on blogging and being a review blogger.



1. Don't Do It For The Money Or Page Views


There are not a lot of review blogs for any subject that make much money or see tons of traffic. The highest paid reviewers usually work for large media organizations that can drive traffic to their reviews and strike their own deals with manufacturers and retailers. Most people don't get into blogging to work for a media-mega-corporation. At least I didn't.

Promoting your blog is a complex subject that I won't get into with this article, but getting started from scratch is usually a slow process if you want a legitimate blog. The only real shortcuts are shady, and so, to do it right, you want to have an organic process.

The page views will come in time if you focus on creating awesome content and promoting it without being a spammy douche bag. Focus maybe 90% on the content and 10% on promotion. You're maximizing your efforts when you focus on great content and let Google do its thing and award you with high search rankings. Google is very good at separating the gems from the rubbish. Being too focused SEO and obsessed with page views can have the opposite effect. Most of the Internet is noise, and your good content will stand out, and people will find it.

2. Be A Decent Writer


Some people just have a knack for expressing themselves with language, and some don't. I don't know where talent and creativity come from, but some people don't have it. Most of the bloggers I know are blessed / cursed with expressive personalities. The words just come out. You will generally know if you fit into this category, otherwise you will find out fairly quickly if blogging isn't for you.

However, this doesn't mean you should use your words as a barrier to keep people at arm's length. Blogging isn't an exercise in being clever. The Queen doesn't read your blog, so being a decent writer to me isn't about writing something your English professor would be proud of. Being a decent writer is about writing something that people actually want to read, and come away knowing more than when they started.

Most of traditional journalism requires reporting the facts, with the writer not being part of the story. But blogging and especially review blogging involves being part of the story. As a reviewer, I will of course provide most of the technical details and specifications of the product, but the reader can get that anywhere. What someone wants to know is what me, a dude with hundreds of pocket knives, thinks about this pocket knife. They can get the weights and measures from the manufacturer, though I like to sill do my own measurements to keep the manufacturers honest.

So, being a blogger usually involves having a casual writing style to build rapport with the readers, who share a passion for the subject matter, which in my case is outdoor gear. I'm not a journalist. I'm just a regular guy who likes talking about outdoor gear.



3. Be A Decent Photographer


I have been pretty much unable to shut up straight out of the womb. Words have always come easily to me, photography not so much. Being a software engineer by trade, the camera seemed pretty much straightforward. It's just an eyeball in a box with a computer connected to it.

But like software engineering, photography is a weird mixture of art and science. In fact, I think the two disciplines are very much alike in the sense that both have huge learning curves.

Just like writing, having a basic knack for photography is a prerequisite. You can have a complete mastery over your camera and retouching abilities but none of that matters if you don't have an eye for it. Without that "artsy eye" you are basically just a technician and not a content creator. The camera only sees what you see.

For me, knowing that I had an eye for it was a slim consolation for the huge learning curve. My Canon SL1 has recently rolled the counter over for the 8th time, meaning just this camera alone has taken 80,000 photos! My work is usually well received by "real" photographers, but some days I setup the tripod and turn on the camera, and feel like a beginner.

4. Come Up With Your Own Methodology


Don't just copy the reviewers that you like. Come up with a methodology unique to you and your reviewing style. Structure your reviews and try to keep a similar structure as time goes on. You can refine your methodology as you go, and eventually your reviews will stabilize into some kind of routine. Once that happens, they go much faster.

Before you do your first review, you should be able to visualize things like format, layout, photos, etc.

5. Don't Be A Whore


I struggled with a better and more politically correct way to say that, but couldn't think of anything that didn't seem watered down.

People tell me all the time "wow, I want to be a blogger and get free stuff" like what I do is all about getting stuff. I'm not in it for the stuff, and I don't think anyone who is will last in the long run, mostly because of the work involved.

Let's say on the upper end, that someone sends me a product worth $100. Most of the time it's closer to $10, but I'll use $100 for my example. Most of my reviews take 8 to 10 hours to do it right, and most of the time I can't or won't cut corners to do a decent review.

Assuming I reviewed high end products 40 hours a week, I would be making about minimum wage.

The reality is that I spend mostly my own money, and the few bucks my blog makes from products (which are usually given away) and ad / affiliate revenue gets put back into the blog. Putting the little bit of money I make back into the blog allows me to review more products.

Even if you run your review blog as a business, you still want to avoid selling yourself short. That's the most important advice I can give to any new blogger: don't sell yourself short!. Even as a purely business decision, your integrity is worth more in the long run than a few bucks of swag in the short term!

So, as a review blogger, your integrity is the most important thing you have. I see new reviewers getting a free $10 flashlight and it already sounds like they're an employee of the company. It's hard not to think "wow man, you just sold your soul for $6.99."

6. Keep At It


Since I started this blog, almost everything in my life has changed. But through it all, I'm like Johnny Appleseed, spreading around outdoor gear like flashlights, pocket knives, sunglasses, etc., and haven't lost any interest in blogging. Though I have taken a couple month-long breaks.

As a blogger, you'll face lots of hurdles, some related to blogging and some related to your life. The solution for any obstacle is to just work through it. The words don't come out? Tough it out. Your camera won't co-operate? Tough it out. Whatever is thrown your way, work through it and keep blogging!









Thursday, February 18, 2016

Photo Review: Spyderco HAP40 Endura

About halfway through Spyderco's sprint runs of the HAP40 Japanese FRN models, it's fair to say that HAP40 is hot. The HAP40 Endura was the first HAP40 knife I held in my hands, but for whatever reason, it's taken me longer to get the photos ready. I also struggled with the photos. The burnt orange color seems to defy capturing it accurately with a camera.

So, I just decided to dump these photos and maybe do a second photo session at some later point in time. Photos of the Stretch came out much better, and I'm learning to work with that weird burnt orange color. It's a great color other than being harder to photograph.



Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 1

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 2

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 3


Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 4

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 5


Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 6

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 7

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 8Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 9

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 10

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 11

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Product View 12

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Blade View 1

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Blade View 2

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Blade View 3Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Blade View 4


Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 1

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 2

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 3

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 4

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 5

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 6

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 7

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - With Delica 8

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Triplets 1

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Triplets 2

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Comparison 1

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - Comparison 2

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - In Hand 1

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - In Hand 2

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - In Hand 3

Spyderco HAP40 Endura - In Hand 4