Saturday, June 30, 2012

Arc Flashlight: The Best Tool I Own

Goes with me everywhere. Always works. Made in Arizona.

On my recent "what tools I carry" post, I left this out in order to save the best for last. This is an Arc AAA Premium flashlight. It runs on one AAA battery, has lived on my key chain for about seven years, and always works. The design criteria stated on the ARC web site sum it up nicely (here summarized even further): small, sufficient run time, uses a common battery, at least as durable as the person carrying it.

For bicycle usages, I have found it most useful for looking for things in the dark, and for performing repairs in dark locations. It could, in a pinch, with no alternatives, be used as an adequate "be seen" light, but that's not its strong point. I also carry a backup light better suited to seeing than this, when I ride. The strong point of the Arc AAA are that it achieves exactly the stated design goals above.

Some background. Way back when I taught in China, frequent power outages left me stumbling through dark and unfamiliar buildings on a regular basis. A flashlight is a logical solution, but on analysis, what I really needed is one which met the design criteria stated above. One which I would have with me when I needed it. This really hit home one time I was trying to negotiate my way down a pitch black stairway, and found my foot hanging over empty space instead of the next step. It turned out that the construction crew had ceased stair construction in mid-flight. It was fortunate that I was being extremely cautious. It was a looooong way to reliable medical care from there.

So to describe its brightness as accurately as I can, it is the ideal brightness for negotiating a pitch black staircase in a building under construction in China. 

Since then, I have also had countless needs to look around inside dark computer cases, dark drawers, closets, and so on. The Arc AAA-P is perfect for all of these applications. It does not solve all lighting needs, nor was it intended to do so. Rather, it was designed to solve a specific, important set of problems, which it does well. Small, durable, common battery, good run time (including a current regulator), sufficient brightness for its tasks.

Always works, has never let me down. Knurled and anodized, rounded to fit in pocket, key chain attachment.

Since this flashlight is built in Phoenix, it also has local appeal for me, in addition to being made in the USA like the multi-tools in the previous post. When I bought this, I actually drove over to the shop to pick it up. If I ever had a problem with it, or needed spare parts, I am confident, based on the lifetime guarantee as well as the seller's reputation, that I could go back there again and receive fair treatment. The maker is also the seller. This paragraph alone is a strong motivation for me to purchase this product. 

If you go to the web site I linked above, you may think that these are expensive. I understand that response, particularly since there are now many other flashlight choices available to address a wide variety of needs. But from a cost perspective, I figure this has cost me about 2 cents a day to carry, and has worked every single time I needed it. I also reckon the cost of failure into my buying decisions, and weight it heavily. In my flashlight usage history, I have had many, many cheap lights totally fail to function for reasons other than dead batteries, some in annoying or even potentially dangerous situations. A tool that fails when you need it is a complete waste of money. A tool that works when you need it offers a value that ought to be considered in the purchase decision. I use this light a lot more often than I would expect, and it has never let me down. Here's a very thorough review: Flashlight Reviews Arc AAA

I bought this myself. See my notice if you have any questions.


  1. I use my Cateye HL EL 530 in much the same way. It uses 4 rechargeable AA batteries.

  2. No doubt a flashlight is handy. I have a PlanetBike light/blinker. It's surely not as sturdy as your light, but it's definitely illuminated the road ahead, not to mention the recesses of my pannier when i'm searching for anything within its black depths.

  3. I'm now feeling completely creeped-out but your China stairway experience.

    I can see why that would motivate you always to carry what we British people call a torch.

    1. Invisible, it affected me enough that I typically have two or three torches with me when I ride my bike, including this one.


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