My name is coyote and I’m a flashaholic....

    All my life I’ve had a weakness for flashlights.  As a kid I used them for exploring basements and caves, for reading comics under the covers, for signaling friends across the street at night. I owned a couple of big heavy lantern battery lights for their brightness and a few D-cell flashlights like the old angle-headed military models. These were state of the art at the time and what  I’d reach for when I knew I really needed a flashlight. Unfortunately, they were never very handy. They were just too big and heavy to carry around.

    I had to have something I could keep with me all the time.  I was drawn to smaller AA battery penlights and tiny key-chain lights. But they were poorly made of tin and plastic, and so dim they were almost useless.  Still, I always carried one to use in a pinch.

    In the 60's penlight quality began to improve when the use of aluminum and unbreakable plastics became more widespread. The new penlights made of these materials were waterproof and somewhat brighter than what I was used too. At last, a pocket flashlight that was more than a toy. It was a tool!

    Unfortunately, they weren’t bright enough and were too big to fit comfortably in my pocket. I tried wearing them in pouches on my belt, but this didn’t work that well either. More often than not the flashlight I wanted to carry all the time ended up in the glove-box or kitchen drawer. I began to think I might as well go back the a big, clunky D-cell.

    But I couldn’t give up on my quest for the perfect pocket light. Over the next twenty years I purchased dozen of flashlights, as better, brighter and smaller models became available. Some were almost small enough to carry in my pocket all day everyday. Still, there were problems. The increased brightness meant decreased battery run times and shorter bulb life, which meant in addition to the flashlight, I now had to carry spare batteries and spare bulbs.

    A few years ago everything changed. Colored LED flashlights arrived with the promise of extended battery life and bulbs that would never burn out. I paid a few dollars for a tiny Chinese-made squeeze version. To use it, all I had to do was squeeze the plastic body and the teeny little red LED would light up. Perfect! Well, not really. My fingers got tired of squeezing. I tried biting on it but my jaw quickly tired too. Besides, the LED was so dull that I could only use it for reading if I held it directly over each individual word.  The red light caused all colors to look the same – a real problem when trying to read road or topographical maps. I loved the concept of this tiny, efficient light, but it left me less than satisfied.

    Then, not long after the colored LED was released,  a company came out with a 3 inch long aluminum tube model that used a single AA battery and had a white LED. They claimed it would run for 40 hours on a single battery! It wasn’t cheap at $25, but I happily shelled out the cash.

    This was a paradigm shift. Finally, a bright white light I could carry in my pocket. I loved it. But it had its problems. The battery did last 40 hours, but the light didn’t remain bright the entire time.  Gradually it would grow dimmer and dimmer so that as it neared the end of its life the light was visible only if you aimed it at your eye. And it wasn’t all that white either. More of an sickly blue-purple.  Yes, it was brighter than the old red squeeze job, but not as bright as a full-size filament-bulb flashlight. Although it was reasonably well made, the black paint finish quickly wore off.

    Just a few months later the same company brought out yet another version. For a few dollars more, they promised it would be  twice as bright.  So I ordered one. It was brighter, but the battery run time was a quarter of the original version. It had a green anodized finish, which was very nice until it too wore off.

    I had too much invested now to give up my search, so I typed “LED flashlights” into google and discovered CandlePower Forums (CPF), a place where flashlight freaks can share stories and reviews. Finally, I had hope. It wasn’t long before I heard of an exciting new company making a two different lights. A super bright LED with a lithium battery that sold for $100 and a less expensive AAA model similar to, but brighter than, the green anodized model I had recently acquired.  I couldn’t see how anyone could spend $100 for a flashlight.

    So I ordered the cheaper AAA. The boutique company making them consisted of  an owner/designer and a few part time employees. Production depended on getting the necessary internal parts and having the bodies machined to custom specs. Delivery was sporadic. I waited almost a year to get to that AAA. But it was worth it. Smaller than “greenie”, a little bit brighter LED, a harder Type 3 anodized finish and superb workmanship. I started thinking, if this light was that good, what was the expensive one like?

    So I ordered one. Wow!!! It was ten times as bright! No wonder it cost so much. It was worth it. It would run in a single hi-tech battery for almost 3 hours and I never had to worry about the “bulb” burning out. It wasn’t perfect, mind you: it still had a bluish beam and it still wasn’t as bright as my Xenon filament flashlights.

    Soon I heard other CPF’ers talking about a new LED emitter design that had just come out. Some of them who understood electronics ran tests. A couple of truly dedicated folks even modified existing flashlights to use the new LEDs. These “mods” proved that the latest LEDs were whiter and brighter than any previous versions. A short time later the boutique manufacturer came out with an improved version of my $100 light, using the newest LEDs.  Of course, more expensive components cost more and that has to be passed on. Hey, $150 isn’t all that much for a great flashlight.

    So I ordered one. It was worth the price. Much whiter and brighter. I was happy at last.

    Then they discovered that putting different lenses in front of the LED would create a bright center spot. Everyone knows how important the center spot is. It wasn’t much more expensive than my last purchase.

    So I order one. It was worth it.  It was my brightest light yet.

    By this time I was online daily, learning about all the many other high tech concepts being discovered.  I became a full pledged CPFer. One of 4000 members world-wide, but only  a couple hundred are like me and into everyday carry (EDC) LEDs.  I soon found myself reading only the “Custom and Modified” postings. I spent days researching the technology and learning the lexicon of “modders.”

    I started talking to friends and family about  how each and every LED is graded for color, brightness and efficiency. I memorized LED bin codes and expounded about the  run times of different “sandwiches,” which are handmade electronic circuit boards epoxied together with an LED on top.  Those close to me began to worry that I was becoming too consumed.

    But it wasn’t a problem. I found other people I could relate to, people just like myself. I was even able to get a couple of close buddies into EDC flashlights too. We email each other. We meet now and then in dark rooms so we can compare our lights. This has led me into even smaller, brighter custom-made models. These are  produced in very limited editions by lone designer/makers, often built in a garage or on their kitchen table. All are so small and so cute, yet very powerful and  brighter than most filament flashlights. 

    Soon I began modifying the lights myself. I bought the necessary tools and numerous sandwiches, which modders call “sammiches.” I purchased lots of different “cans,” empty flashlight shells I could fill myself. I even changed my home-page to CPF. I bought a special case to carry all my flashlights, so I can show them off. It was all in fun.

    So I kept ordering. But somehow I had to pay for all this, which led me to dealing.  I had to start selling flashlights to support my habit. Friends were nice enough to buy one or two, just to help out.  After a while though, even those who loved me pleaded with me to stop or at least slow down. They said I was breaking up my family and I wouldn’t even be able to hold down a job. I personally don’t think I’m that bad off. I’m not hurting anyone. All I want is to be able to upgrade to the newest, brightest model available now and then. Is that so bad?   

    But I guess this is where I started – My name is coyote and I’m a flashaholic...