Like in other lighting applications, LED flashlights came to market somewhat unannounced and in some ways, without appreciation. Frankly, we didn’t give the LED-equipped flashlight a second thought until we used the bunch for this review, where we quickly recognized a handful of benefits compared to their nearly extinct incandescent predecessors.
For one, LED lamps have a long life expectancy. They won’t last forever, but they’ll surely outlast an incandescent lamp. Additionally, LED technology allows for multiple lamp colors to be incorporated in a single flashlight. As we discovered, models with integral red and white LED lighting are far more convenient than the plastic colored lenses we used to fit over yellow incandescent lamps. While red is arguably best for preserving night vision, many of the pilots who tried our samples preferred their white LED lighting. It’s nice to have an option at the push of a button.
Another advantage is reduced power draw, which translates to increased battery endurance, although this is highly dependant on the number of LEDs the batteries have to power. But, having the capability to switch off some of the LEDs serves two purposes—saving power and dialing back the brightness—which is imperative in maintaining night vision.
As proven with LED landing and taxi lights, flashlights with LEDs can survive more abuse, including vibration and drops. Drop an incandescent flashlight to the pavement from the cowling and you could be replacing the lamp in all but the most rugged models. That’s one area we’ll be looking at during our long-term evaluation. We won’t be gentle.
Last, LEDs are ideal for use in cold temperatures. Preflighting in single digit temps? All of the LEDs in Sporty’s 100 LED flashlight, shown above, will fire immediately. But if you’re looking for some heat to warm your fingers, you won’t find much in an LED lamp. They simply run much cooler than incandescent.