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TerraLUX Lightstar 80 Penlight

What is it with men and our fascination with flashlights? For as long as I can remember, I have loved playing with flashlights.  As a kid I went ‘caving’ under the blankets of my bed, searching for lost treasures, goofed around in the fruit cellar of our basement with my father’s mining cap lamp (and learned about acid burns as well), and of course carried the huge battery powered lantern flashlights outside in the dead of night to chase all sorts of night animals (and learned that tomato soup does not effectively remove skunk urine).

Now here I am, with kids of my own.  Yet I own more flashlights than I could ever possibly use in my remaining lifetime. I have found comfort that I’m not alone in this odd obsession. My father-in-law has a section of his work shelves in the garage teaming with light upon light.  Even Woods  Monkey’s own Executive Editor has more tactical lights than his whole precinct (and we invented a wonderful game with them called ‘Blind the Wife’).  So when I was given the TerraLUX Lightstar 80 Penlight to review, my addiction was once again fed.

As the name implies, this is an energy efficient LED penlight.  But as of now, gone are the days of the bluish, harsh lighting.  In geek-speak, normal LEDs put out light around 5200 Kelvin, which is a pretty high excitation temperature.  (EDITOR’S NOTE: He’s making my brain hurt too) The effects of this are to wash out subtle color changes, but provide a high contrast.  So while normal LED flashlights are great at helping you avoid tent ropes on your way to the outhouse, they aren’t very good at helping you see the difference between the red and green wires when fixing the coil wires on your truck (which breaks down at night, in the rain, out of cell coverage, when you’re already late…).  The folks at TerraLUX may have been broken down with me that night, and responded with the Lightstar 80.  This little beauty comes equipped with an LED light source that pushes out light at a chilly 3500 Kelvin.  That is similar to natural light, and has what the industry refers to as a high Color Rendering Index (CRI).  What all of that technical babble amounts to, is an energy efficient LED light that illuminates like an incandescent bulb, but without the finger-blistering heat.  Powered by 2 AAA batteries, the Lightstar 80 has an output of 80 lumens (hey, I get the name now), and is rated for a 5 hour runtime. 

The overall dimensions are just right to fit into a pocket or pack sleeve too.  The milled aircraft grade aluminum body is around 5 ½ inches long and a bit over ½ an inch at the widest.  TerraLUX didn’t scrimp on the manufacture of the body either.  Coming in at a hefty 2 ¼ ounces (with batteries), the machined aluminum body had a good, solid feel in the hand.  O-ring fittings over all of the thread points also make it nice and water resistant.  Also included with the light is a tight steel pocket clip that can be detached and reversed.  This allows you to attach the light on the bill of a ball cap, making a quick hands free light, good for night time excursions. 

But the feature that captured my attention was the rubber end switch and a wide rubber ring a bit down from the back end of the light.  For someone who has balanced flashlights while working on delicate tasks, the purpose of this configuration was obvious – a bite ring.  Now I know what you’re thinking – you’re not supposed to hold flashlights in your teeth.  But realistically, when you are performing a task that takes both hands and needs close up work (like trying to tie that stupid little fly hook in the pre-dawn grey), you just have to hold the light somewhere.  And until science finds a way to graft another arm on to me (mechanical or organic, I’m not too picky), holding the light in your mouth is going to happen.  Well with the Lightstar 80’s bite ring, not only can you hold it in your mouth, you can do so much more safely and with added stability.  The soft rubber ring is pretty thick, so you can bite down with enough force to keep the light steady.  I tried this out while rewiring the back of my entertainment center.  And with the full spectrum lighting, I was easily able to identify the correct color wires.  Finally, the most interesting thing about the added bite ring is that, while held in the mouth and with a little practice, you can actually depress the rear switch to turn the light on and off. 

TerraLUX values the light with an MSRP of $29.99, but if you dig around online, you can find them in the $22 price range.  In my opinion, a fantastic deal for what may arguably be the most useful light in my ever growing collection. So you might wonder what tasks I intend to put this little beauty too, now that I have it.  Well, a few days after I completed my evaluation of the TerraLUX Lightstar 80, my cousin came over for a visit.  Being newly married and an outdoorsman, he was looking forward to going camping with his wife.  Remembering how tight finances are for the newly married, I thought that this light would find a good home with them.  After he played with it for a while (yes, I cleaned the bite ring and switch prior), he looked at me and said “I never get tired of playing with flashlights!” 

Yeah man, I know what you mean.


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