Are models like the Surefire P1R Peacekeeper worth the extra money?
For most of us, the decision of whether to plump for quality over value for money can be a difficult one. We want to buy the best possible item, but equally we don’t want to waste money. There’s a sweet spot there somewhere, representing the ideal intersection of usability versus cost, but it’s often hard to find.
The problem with this decision is that although it seems like a straightforward choice, it’s actually a lot more emotional than that. Yes, in theory, you run your eyes down the feature list for a product and decide whether it’s worth the money the retailer is asking. But in practice, the decision is a whole lot more emotional than that.
We WANT nice things. We LIKE nice things. Nice things often make us feel good about ourselves. So, we can’t help it – we spend too much money on things we genuinely don’t need and we forget to look for the better value.
But there’s a flipside too. As a general rule, if there’s a product you’re using regularly, buy better quality will save you money in the long run. One good pair of boots, properly maintained, will last longer than several cheap pairs of boots, and the same goes for flashlights. So the question as to whether an expensive flashlight will prove a good buy ultimately comes down to how you’re going to make use of it and whether you can justify the initial expense. There are a few points to consider that might help you to decide.
When to buy an expensive flashlight
You carry it around with you all the time or as part of your job
This is a total no-brainer, to be honest. If you’re carrying a flashlight (and using it) on a regular basis, you should be considering it as a professional tool, and therefore you need to spend an appropriate amount of money on it. For many people in this situation, having a flashlight that works reliably can literally be the difference between life and death. Why on earth would you try to save a few bucks? Spec out what you need, and buy the best you can afford. You won’t regret it.
You have a specific use that demands high performance in multiple areas
For example, let’s say your hobby is hill-walking. Here, you need a tough unit that can stand up to knocks and drops. It’ll need to be waterproof, for those times when you find yourself caught in a sudden downpour or having to cross a swollen river. And you may need the light to operate anything from a firefly mode for reading a map to a full-on 1,000-lumens SOS mode if something bad happens. Again, having the right flashlight could save your life and should be considered a vital part of your safety equipment.
You need the best possible combination of consistent power output versus battery life
A more expensive flashlight will likely have better circuitry to manage power output and squeeze every last drop of energy from its power source. Many cheaper lights will boast a high maximum power rating, but you’ll find that it only lasts a few minutes before starting to dim. With a regulated circuit, you’ll get a consistent and steady light.
It’s part of your emergency kit
If you live in an area where you face the possibility of extreme weather and have sensibly assembled a home emergency kit, a flashlight will have an important role to play. Spend a few extra bucks, make sure you’ve a reliable brand that won’t let you down when you come to use it, and stock some extra batteries too. And check the battery expiry dates every now and again. Don’t make the mistake of spending money on the flashlight and then having no juice when you need it.
Warranty is important to you
Most of the premier brands offer lifetime limited warranties. Generally, this means that outside the normal warranty period, they’ll fix your flashlight for free, but you have to pay the cost of any replacement parts.
When NOT to buy an expensive flashlight
You just want a handy what-if flashlight to have around the house
You’re not sure why you might need one, but you want to have a flashlight nearby in case the fuse trips in your circuit breaker or the dog gets lost when you let it out before bedtime. You don’t need to go top-of-the-line for this use case.
You don’t understand all the different modes and options
If you’re looking at the spec sheet and don’t understand what the different modes are or why you might need them, the chances are that you’ll never use them and can save your money.
You’re constantly picking it up and putting it down in a shared environment
The sad reality is that nice things have an unfortunate tendency to go missing when we use them among other people. It’s fine if you’ve a small flashlight that goes back in your pocket each time after use, but if you’re leaving the light on a workbench or anywhere that the public can get at it, be prepared for it to disappear. (Some people go for the camouflage technique of ‘roughing up’ their flashlight, or engraving their name on it, but these methods are far from foolproof).
You want to have a flashlight EVERYWHERE but can’t be bothered to carry one with you
You know the kind of scenario: it’d be handy to have a flashlight in the car, in the garage, near the fuse box, under the kitchen sink, beside the front door, etc, etc. You want to have access to a flashlight, but you don’t want to be bothered going to look for one. So simply buy multiple cheap flashlights and leave them everywhere you might need them. The best flashlight is the one you have with you, so there’s no point having an expensive light hidden away in a drawer if you’re not going to go and get it when you need it.
You’re really clumsy or forgetful
If you’re the kind of person who keeps losing things, then possibly an expensive light isn’t the way to go. There are actually a couple of schools of thought here. One is to stick to cheap possessions because you’re just going to end up replacing them all the time. The second is that maybe you’re losing things because you don’t value what you have enough to take care of it, and that if you invest in something good then you’ll give it the care and attention it deserves. Only you can tell what camp you fall into.