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Bringing Flashlight testing out of the darkness


The Editors over at OutdoorGearLab have an interesting article about Headlamp beam distance and battery run-time that we think is something everyone should read.   It can get a little nerdy (which I like) so be warned.  They do, however, offer an easy to understand explanation of the problem and how to tell if the headlamp you are buying is following the rules.

Most of this relates to the ANSI FL1 standard was ratified in 2009 when a group of 14 industry companies agreed that a consistent way to test flashlights was needed.   With the help of ANSI (American  National Standards Institute) and NEMA (National Electronics Manufacturers Association), they developed a standard that includes six measures.   Each measure is clearly defined, has a test procedure specified, and has an icon that manufacturers can use on their packaging for product claims of performance.

Its important to note that the standard ratification included 3 groups: 1) manufacturers, 2) users, and 3) general interests and one group couldn’t comprise more than 50% of the total ratifying vote. This wasn’t only flashlight companies creating a standard that made them look good.

The 6 measures include:ANSI FL1 Icons

  • Light Output
  • Runtime
  • Beam Distance
  • Peak Beam Intensity
  • Enclosure Protection Against Water Penetration
  • Impact Resistance

The problem is that some companies decided to play by different rules.    They claimed that the battery runtime measures were too strict.   They decided to use something called the “Moonlight Standard”.   Everyone should read this part of the Outdoorgearlab article if nothing else.   It makes complete sense and makes me wonder if the companies selling these flashlights (not following the standard)  have ever tried to hike with one at night over rough terrain.     The other issue Outdoorgearlab brings up is your typical marketing magic of showing association without actually making one.    Often, you will see battery life and beam distance listed side by side, and many consumers will make the connection that they will get 100 hours of a full-strength beam shining 100ft which they will not.    This is explained well in the Outdoorgearlab article.

I will point out that we were alerted to this article by our Energizer rep because they are one of the companies following the ANSI FL1 standard to the letter.   This is part of the email we received from our rep:

“As an Energizer representative, I want to ensure you that all Energizer headlights are tested using the ANSI industry standard, which states that a light’s runtime claim will be a result of the continuous time lapsed from the initial light output to when the light output is at 10% of the initial light output.”

If others aren’t playing by the same rules, we aren’t seeing “apples to apples” when shopping for flashlights and people should be informed.

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I won’t spoil everything here, you can read it on the OutdoorGearLab site.    Great article and I’d highly recommend the read if you are in the market for a flashlight.    They have a great review of headlamps as well.


A few other resources if you really want to nerd out about light and light testing:


The 14 companies that comprised the committee that helped develop the ANSI FL1 standard were:

  • Dorcy International Columbus, OH
  • Princeton Tec Bordentown, NJ
  • Coast Portland, OR
  • Surefire, LLC Fountain Valley, CA
  • Golight Culbertson, NE4
  • Petzl Clearfield, UT
  • The Brinkman Corporation Dallas, TX
  • Energizer Holdings Westlake, OH
  • ASP Inc. Appleton. WI
  • Streamlight, Inc. Eagleville, PA
  • Cat Eye Co., Inc. Boulder, CO
  • Black Diamond Salt Lake City, UT
  • The Coleman Company Inc. Wichita, KS
  • Duracell, Inc. Bethel, CT

I would recommend checking the company websites and/or product packaging to see if they are still following ANSI FL1.