SHEDDING LIGHT ON IT WITH STREAMLIGHT
Considering all the things I insist on carrying on a daily basis, the item I probably use more often than any other is a flashlight. I always carry a flashlight, a real one. I don’t use my Zippo lighter as a flashlight as they do in the movies, and I rarely use the light on the back of my smartphone, as I’m lucky enough not have the phone permanently glued to my hand yet.
There’s no doubt this carry habit when it comes to flashlights is the result of my years as a police officer when I worked more nights than not. Although I’m no longer in uniform, I still find times day and night when I seem to need a light.
I retrieve the light from my pocket whenever I need to spot something in a cluttered junk drawer. I also need a light when I dare to explore the dark recesses of a closet, the basement or the garage at my house.
Did I just drop something under my car seat? I’ll probably need a light to find it. Because I’m still armed most of the time, I need a light I can use with my firearm so that there are no mistakes when things go bump in the night.
But just as the particular firearm, knife and other EDC item might change depending on what I can foresee for the day ahead, so too does my choice of light change from time to time. That’s possible because these days there is no shortage of good lights that are smaller, brighter and have longer runtimes than anything I used as a cop years ago.
While there are great lights being offered by several companies, one brand seems to pop up more often than any other when I pick up a light, and that’s Streamlight. Most recently, I’ve been trying out the company’s new ProTac 2.0 Headlamp.
LOOK MA, NO HANDS
Days when I’m trapped in a town, city or other area ruined beyond hope by mankind, I normally carry a small handheld light in a pocket. Off pavement, however, my choice is often a headlamp. Having my hands free on the trail or in camp is a big benefit. The ability to have both hands free comes in handy around the house, too, when I need to light up something I’m struggling to assemble or repair.
The Streamlight ProTac 2.0 Headlamp is one powerhouse of a light. In its default setting, it offers three brightness settings—high, medium and low—with the highest blasting an incredible 2,000 lumens of light. Still impressive are the medium setting at 650 lumens and the low setting at 110 lumens.
The runtimes are impressive, too, at 2.5 hours, 4.5 hours and 25 hours, respectively, for those three brightness settings. Those runtimes are possible thanks to Streamlight’s new SL-B50 Lithium-Ion USB-C rechargeable battery that stores 4,900mAh of energy.
A sliding sleeve on the light gives you access to a USB-C charging port so that you can charge the light without removing the battery. However, there is a charging port in the battery itself, so if you picked up an extra battery, you could use your light with one battery while charging the other. There are LED status lights to indicate charging status, including red for charging and green for fully charged. A USB-C charge cord is included.
This light features the company’s Ten-Tap programmable system. Tap the light switch 10 times and you can switch the sequence from the default high-medium-low to high-only to low-high. I’ll keep mine in the default mode. I like having the highest mode first should I need to identify a threat in a hurry. But I know I’ll use the lowest mode most often, which provides more than enough light for most uses while saving as much of the battery power as possible for when I really need the maximum brightness.
The ProTac 2.0 Headlamp features a sturdy aluminum body with a black anodized finish. The light rotates up and down within the headband bracket, so you can direct the light right where you need it. The light comes with both an adjustable elastic head strap that fits comfortably over the head, and a rubber hard-hat strap to keep the light firmly in place.
“The Streamlight ProTac 2.0 Headlamp…offers three brightness settings…with the highest blasting an incredible 2,000 lumens of light.”
Providing that amazing 2,000 lumens of light comes at a price. For one, in the brightest mode, the LED lamp gets quite warm. The other thing is that this light is a beast. It weighs 10.48 ounces with the battery installed. It measures nearly 5 inches wide and more than 2.5 inches thick. The head diameter is 1.46 inches.
When I first put it on, my initial reaction was that it was simply too big and too heavy. But I became used to it in short order and it really was quite comfortable. The headband does a good job of distributing the weight and keeping the light stable.
What all this means is that this light won’t be the EDC choice for everyone. I don’t think it was intended to be. But first responders, those on search and rescue teams, construction and industrial workers—anyone who needs a super-bright light—might very well find this headlamp’s high performance to be just what they need.
And while it might be too heavy for ultralight backpackers, it certainly will light up a poorly marked trail at night and will help to reassure you that the rustling in the bushes isn’t a bear.
The MSRP of this light is $195 and it comes with Streamlight’s Limited Lifetime Warranty.
I will certainly get lots of good use out of this headlamp, but I’m not turning my back on the other Streamlight products I’ve come to trust over the years. For headlamps, I regularly use the rechargeable Enduro Pro USB, the regular AAA Enduro Pro and the Bandit Pro.
Among my favorite Streamlight handheld lights for everyday carry are the Microstream USB, Macrostream USB, ProTac 90, Pocket Mate and the Wedge. The Microstream USB is about the size of my pinky finger. There are two brightness levels (250 and 50 lumens) and it’s my go-to light for EDC whenever I don’t need something more specialized.
I have a tiny Pocket Mate on each of my key chains so that I always have one available as a backup light. The ProTac 90 is a small light with right-angle head and pocket clip. It features the versatility of being able to use either a CR-123 battery or an AA.
Like the knives we carry, no one flashlight is best for all purposes. But this selection of Streamlight products gives you plenty of options when you need to master the darkness.
A version of this article first appeared in the March/April 2023 print issue of Knives Illustrated.