Renogy's rechargeable flashlight incorporates a host of useful features, including the ability to function as a backup battery for phones and other gadgets.
LED bulbs have been making a huge impact over the last few years, and not just for residential and commercial lighting, but also for portable lighting, and if you've taken a look at the impulse buy section of hardware stores lately, you've probably seen a selection of LED flashlights and worklights for sale, and often at bargain prices. LED bulbs offer incredibly bright illumination with low power draw, which makes them perfect for flashlights, and when coupled with the latest in lithium ion battery technology, the resulting devices can make excellent emergency kit items, whether for the glovebox or the bugout bag. If you're looking for a flashlight that can be stashed away for months without losing its charge, and can be knocked around a bit without breaking the bulb, then an LED flashlight powered by lithium-ion batteries is a good investment.
Renogy, the company behind the solar briefcase and other solar products, recently sent me its E.LUMEN flashlight, which is not only a rechargeable LED light, but which also integrates solar cells for off-grid charging and offers both direct and task lighting, as well as emergency strobe lighting. I spent some time putting it through its paces, and although I've got a few minor issues with it, I found it to be a robust and well thought out tool worthy of a place in any vehicle or emergency preparedness kit.
The E.LUMEN is an aluminum-bodied flashlight measuring about 8" long and weighing in at .68 lb, which is powered by a 3.7V, 2000mAh lithium ion battery (18650) that can be charged via either a micro USB port or the solar cells which are embedded on one side of the handle. The end cap, which also contains a very basic compass, unscrews to reveal the micro USB input port for charging its battery, as well as the USB output port, which can be used to charge portable electronic devices.
The charging speed on the E.LUMEN itself is rather slow, with the micro USB delivering electricity to the internal battery at 5V, .55A (for a full charge time of 6 hours), but the USB port offers a fairly standard 5V, 1A charging rate, and could be useful to revive a dying phone battery. The integrated solar cells can also be used to charge the flashlight, but take about 30 hours of sunlight to go from zero to full, so it seems like more of a backup or off-grid charging method, and charging it via a portable solar panel through the micro USB port would be quicker.
The head of the flashlight has several useful features, not the least of which is the bright 3W 200 lumen LED bulb that can throw light up to 200 meters away, including two flat sections that prevent it from rolling, a glass breaking point and a seatbelt cutter (for emergency exits from a vehicle), and a strong magnet that can hold the light in a tasklight position.
On the side of the flashlight, in the same section as the solar cells, are white and red LEDs that can be used for wider local illumination or for signaling, with the 2W 150 lumen white lights functioning at bright, dim, or strobe settings, and the red LEDs functioning in either fast or slow strobe mode. A single on/off switch toggles between the headlight and side light, as well as the different levels of lighting for each, and while it's convenient to have one switch for all the functions, it takes a bit of effort to get used to the way it works (and can be surprising when you're expecting the headlight to come on but instead you get a red strobe light). The E.LUMEN also has an adjustable wrist strap on the end cap, which is handy when carrying multiple objects in your arms, and can be ordered with an optional mounting bracket for attaching to bicycle handlebars.
After a few weeks of using this LED flashlight to light up the night to see what my dogs are barking at, to do a minor late-night car repair, to search under furniture for lost toys, and to inspect the crawl space under my house, I've come to appreciate the rugged nature of its construction as well as how bright its bulbs are. It feels good in the hand, thanks to the diamond-shaped knurling on its body, and it's not nearly as heavy as my go-to Maglite flashlight (which just eats up batteries). I like the fact that it's got a big burly head on it, which looks to be able to stand up to some use and abuse, and while the glass breaker isn't quite zombie-smashing size, I think the E.LUMEN could be a decent self-defense option in a pinch. On the other hand, the covering for the solar cells is plastic, which is probably the weakest part of this light and prone to breakage if dropped a fair distance, but both the end cap and head are wider in diameter than the handle, so perhaps they would offer some protection in falls.
Here's a video overview of the E.LUMEN:
[Disclosure: Renogy sent me a review model of this product, but all opinions, errors, or omissions in this post are mine alone.]