I read A LOT of flashlight reviews. Like the “Geico” people say…. it’s what I do! Anyway, I continue to be astounded by the number of reviews I read, by people who have bought generic flashlights on the internet, only to later be sorry. Reports that they’ve broken (or simply stopped working) within a fairly short period of time is quite common.
HOW MANY TIMES CAN I SAY …. I TOLD YOU SO!!??
What is a “Generic” Flashlight?
This definition might vary, depending on who you ask. So, what follows, is MY definition. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s the ONLY definition you can take to the bank! I am going to be gloriously self-absorbed with my opinion on this, because I am right!
A generic flashlight is one which is basically “cloned” from a ‘master’ design. In essence, ONE type of flashlight is produced…. by the millions, then sold… IN BULK… to a whole bunch of different distributors. THEY in turn, laser, print, stencil or litho, THEIR name onto the light and call it “their own”.
The image below is a perfect example of such a flashlight. I KNOW you’ve seen these before!
These are dirt cheap flashlights, with the cheapest components. Sometimes, they even lie about the type of LED it has! Because you know what? I don’t even think they KNOW which LED in has! How COULD they? After all, THEY didn’t manufacture it! All they did was BUY about 100,000 of them for about .50 cents each! Then sell them for $15 each! Nice markup huh?
The Buyers of Generic Flashlights
For some inane reason, consumers who seek a new, possibly first-time LED flashlight, seem to latch-on to THESE particular types of lights — which I might add, are a DIME-A-DOZEN on the Internet.
I ask the question facetiously, because I know the answer.
They latch-on to these PARTICULAR types of flashlights for several reasons. The main one being that if you perform an internet search for an LED flashlight… these seem to come up in droves! And because of that, merchants like Amazon have sold THOUSANDS of them! Hence, many of these lights have had over one thousand reviews. That in itself, is enough to convince a prospective buyer to get one, or two, or three. There’s power in numbers… and that’s what seems important to most people.
You also have to realize that these buyers are NOT “seasoned” flashlight owners. They’re very inexperienced when it comes to these products! They buy them solely based on what OTHER inexperienced owners have said about them!! I have never been more serious about placing “labels” on people, as I am about this. In its simplest form, it’s the blind, leading the blind!
For an example of this, just mosey over to the “questions” area of each product. Some (potential) buyers, who actually ask the occasional intelligent question, are usually answered by current owners, who don’t even UNDERSTAND the question! They’ll post an answer, which has NOTHING to do with the question! Or, they’ll simply answer by saying, “I don’t know”. This is what I mean by ‘the blind leading the blind’. Questions that are easily answered by owners, are usually stupid. Yes I know… we’re taught that there are NO stupid questions… but in these cases, there are.
When these potential buyers go searching for a flashlight, they do NO research OTHER than reading Amazon reviews of the products, again, of which 90%, are written by people who are just as inept ABOUT the products as they are! Do you understand how this can lead to issues?
I’m sorry if I appear cruel towards these folks. This article makes no excuses. I’m just telling it the way it is!
And Then They Break
If you read enough online customer reviews, you’ll notice that about 20% of those who buy generic flashlights, usually end up regretting it. And that’s only from those buyers who REPORT their problems. Others who left a five-star review, maybe six months ago, could be experiencing issues now, but fail to update the review.
Breakage of these lights is typical. Failures include the rear switch not engaging the light. The tension which aids the “head” in moving backwards and forwards (because these are “focusing beam” lights) becomes loose. The lens falls of, and often becomes lost. They drop it, and it ceases to work. It gets wet, and then ceases to work. It just STOPS working for no apparent reason!.. etc… etc… These unfortunate incidences can occur anytime, but are usually within the first two weeks, to six months of ownership. If bought from Amazon, most merchants won’t offer replacements after 30 days. Some claim a “lifetime guarantee” then fail to respond to inquiries. The only recourse at that point, is to toss it out.
Those that are sold in a “kit” which include one or more 18650 batteries and a charger, are just as bad.
The batteries are not circuit protected, and are low in capacity. The chargers use an extremely low current and take almost a full day to complete. And because the batteries have no protection, they can easily be overcharged on the cheap charger! They can also be over-discharged when used in the light!! This wears the battery down, so that it begins to HOLD a charge, less and less… and ultimately becomes useless!
So, here’s a list (in no particular order of dreadfulness) of the most “popular” generic flashlight “brands”. Remember, you assume all responsibilities when purchasing any of these. They are NOT guaranteed to work, either out of the box, or after several hours, days, weeks or months, of either light, moderate or heavy use.
- PEAK PLUS
- GEAR LIGHT
- ON THE WAY
This is just the tip of the iceberg! There are many more, and new ones pop up frequently. Naturally the ones with the most reviews get purchased first, so the more recently released ones often take awhile to get up to speed.
I linked a few of them, so examples of what I’m talking about can be seen.
Models will also vary. The two “types” that show up often are “A100” and “E6”.
In the somewhat snobbish flashlight world that I live, it’s my opinion that the people who buy ultra-cheap, generic flashlights are fools, and make several mistakes while deciding which one to buy.
Their first mistake is trust. They can’t imagine that what they’re about to buy is overpriced junk. They do NOT seek the advice of “experts” in the field. True, they may not know where to FIND an expert! But in these times of Google, you CAN find just about any expert you want.
Most Amazon reviews are written by people for whom have never owned an LED flashlight before. The only ones written that speak negatively of the product, are from owners who already HAVE a better quality light to compare it to. Why did they buy the generic in the first place? Simple; they TOO were drawn-in by the cheap price, the (pre-breakage) five-star reviews, and the deceptive information stated on the product page.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Finding a reliable, good performing flashlight doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Obviously it’s easier when the cheapest one pops up first. But try not to take the bait.
The products discussed in this post, don’t identify as “generic”, but since they’re basically all the same, that’s what they are. All I suggest, is to look beyond that. Read a few of my reviews; and become familiar with NON-generic brands. Visit a flashlight board such as Candlepowerforums, and see what real flashlight people recommend!
Buying generic flashlights is not spending money wisely. GIVING someone a generic flashlight as a gift, is even worse! Ask yourself; do YOU enjoy being GIVEN something that ultimately BREAKS? Before you buy a flashlight for someone, read this!
Remember, generic flashlights are bad news, AND, you get what you pay for!!