Flashlights have been around a long time, and have made incredible leaps in capability. While we’re not yielding torches of pitchwood and tar around in the woods anymore, sometimes it seems that way with the massive, three pound D-cell flashlights some folks still cling to. In this review, Woods Monkey takes a look at the Olight M18 Maverick, a powerful, pocketable light destined to put those other torches away for good.
First off, I’m not a flashlight junkie. I have a few, and enjoy them, but I’m not one of those guys that will endlessly debate the benefits of a particular type of reflector finish over another. I want the light to work, well, and be easy to use. Likewise, I don’t want to have to learn Morse code at 25 words per minute just to get the thing to the setting I want. Simplicity and functionality are key for me, and here is exactly where the Olight M18 Maverick (M18 from here on out) has really impressed me.
The M18 is a 2 cell sized LED light, designed for everyday carry without being too heavy or bulky. You might be one of those guys that like everything built like a tank, but we all know that stuff with an extra pound of metal around the midsection gets left at home. The M18 is made almost entirely of aluminum, with a stainless steel bezel and steel pocket clip. This keeps the weight down, and coming in at only 2.17oz’s sans the batteries, this is a very light.. er… light. With a diameter of 0.9” and an overall length of just 5”, you’ll actually carry the M18, which means you’ll have it with you when you need it. Because, after all, that’s the whole idea!
The M18 is a slim light, that will operate off two CR123 batteries, or one 18650 batteries. The CR123’s have long since become the standard for a lithium battery that will last long in the cold, have an incredible shelf life, and put out enough power for face-melting light beams. The 18650’s are a rechargeable battery, and with a little searching, I was able to find multiple online retailers that sell two-packs of these, with the charger, for about ten bucks. Not too bad an investment to keep a light up and running all the time. I ran my M18 entirely off of Energizer CR123’s for this review since I stay well stocked with them. Those batteries power my weapon lights, as well as several other lights and electronics I have around the house, so buying them in 12 packs is pretty normal for me. Doing this, I can keep them around for about $1.50 apiece.
The Olight M18 has three different brightness settings, and a strobe. Whoa! Weren’t we just talking about keeping things simple? Yep, we were, and the M18 keeps things very simple because of how you access each of those modes. The M18 has a clicky-style tail switch, something most folks are familiar with now. But what makes things so simple, is the M18 also has a small, side mounted switch that lets you select you favorite output, then put that at the beginning of the rotation when you activate the rear switch. It’s seems more complicated than it is. For example, if you want the low setting to come on first, you fully turn on the rear switch. Then, you press the side switch until the low setting is being used. Then turn the light off with the rear switch. That’s it. Now, when you slightly depress, or fully click on the rear switch, you’ll have the low setting. A second, rather quick press gives you the high setting, and a third gives you the strobe. Within a couple minutes of tossing batteries in the light for the first time, I had it figured out. Easy peasy.
The setting modes and run times are awesome as well. I admit, I’m just as impressed as the next guy with a light that can call in our caped super hero, but the setting that I’m going to use 90% of the time is low. And frankly, most low settings just aren’t low enough. Too much light ruins night vision, causes a lot of ‘splash back’ making your eyes fatigue quickly, and in the case of hunting or tactical environments, can give away your location. Even on a more simple level, too much light just plain annoys me when all I’m trying to do is find my GPS in the bottom of my hunting pack. On low, the M18 puts out 5 lumens for 120 hours. That’s the perfect amount, in my opinion, for a very long time. Medium comes in at 100 lumens for 9 hours, and high sends a blistering 500 lumens for two hours out of the Cree LED. 500 is just incredible, and in playing with the light, I’ve been able to light up trees well over 100 yards from my front door. I’ve found the high setting to be so high, that using it in any tight space (like when I had to repair my clutch linkage on my Bronco after having been embarrassingly towed to a buddy’s shop by a Toyota!) resulted in my immediate reaction of “holy crap that thing is bright.” It is. I’m not sure what you’d need 500 lumens for, but it’s downright cool to have ’em all. Honestly, I’ve found myself playing with the high mode just for the pure fun factor.
The light is pretty durable, too. For about a month I’ve carried the M18 clipped inside the left front pocket of my pants. This pocket also get my keys, Swiss army knife, change, and whatever else I happen to drop in there. Having been beaten up for a month, the M18’s anodized finish has held up extremely well. Close inspection reveals only two or three small scratches, which no doubt came from me crawling around on concrete under something. Also, I’ve also carried the light every day now for my work as the fuzz. I work night shift, and I’m required to carry an issued light. It’s a very quality light, but it’s over 5 times the weight, double the price, and can’t do anything the M18 doesn’t do just as well or better! Carried clipped inside my left cargo pocket of my uniform pants, I’ve used the M18 for everything from navigating at night near a creek looking for an overturned kayaker, to searching vehicles and just simply illuminating my note pad. I haven’t found anything the M18 doesn’t do well. I even used it with gloves on and was happy with the result.
The pocket clip holds the light in a bezel up arrangement. The clip has been very secure, but it is really the only negative that I’ve found with the M18. It may seem picky, but the little retention divot pressed into the clip about a half-inch down from the top hangs up on thicker clothes. I had a heck of a time getting the M18 to clip onto my heavy Carhartt’s. In reality, it only takes an extra second, but I did find it tougher to get onto thick pants, or pants with a thicker seam/edge around the pockets. I never had a problem with the clip being too loose, so for a minor fuss, it’s not too bad. Also, and this was a worry of mine, the light only activated accidentally once, and then for only a minute or so. My wife and I were at a movie, and when I got up to walk out, the light clicked on. About ten steps later I realized it and shut it off, so not really a big deal. If I were to be carrying the M18 in a backpack or gear bag, I’d ‘lock out’ the tail switch by unscrewing it about a half-turn. This will guarantee the light will not activate accidentally. The bezel up arrangement of the M18 is a benefit in this area, since you know when it’s on or off with just a glance.
What really wins it for me with the Olight M18 is the total package of all the design features. Available online for under $60 at places like Going Gear, who provided our review light, you get a light that can do it all. It can be your nightstand light next to your home defense pistol, it’ll find your gear in your tent without blind you senselessly, and it’ll run for enough time that you don’t have to constantly worry about your battery level. The Olight M18 Maverick is even better because it carries easily, so not only will it serve you well, but it’ll be reliably present and ready to go. If you’re in the market for a quality light that’ll serve most any role, check out the Olight M18 Maverick. It’s what I’ll be carrying.