An everyday flashlight that makes excellent trekking companion - Fenix LD09 review

An everyday flashlight that makes excellent trekking companion - Fenix LD09 review

Introduction

As an outdoorsman, I’ve always been fascinated by knives and flashlights. When it comes to flashlights, I have owned a Maglite in the Pre-LED era. After LEDs arrived on the scene, my brand of choice has been Nightcore’s Tiny Monster or TM series. This year, I was looking for a flashlight to use as my daily driver. Since I live in the Himalayan wilderness, I use a flashlight daily. Therefore, I had strict selection criteria for an Every Day Carry (EDC) flashlight

  • AA / AAA battery compatibility. AA / AAA batteries are interchangeable across devices and can be found virtually anywhere. I already own a set of rechargeable AA and AAA Panasonic Eneloop batteries. Good quality rechargeable batteries have a far lower ecological footprint than non-reusable batteries.
  • Small and lightweight. I own a big daddy 3 D battery Maglite, that doubles as a baton and weighs 734 grammes. I wanted something that would be unintrusive and pocket-friendly.
  • A 100-metre white beam. The flashlight must be able to illuminate 100 metres and be bright and white enough to dazzle dogs and foxes that I often encounter on my daily walks.
  • A 24-hour low power mode. Useful when car camping or if there is a multi-day power outage.
  • Robust and water-resistant. I do not mollycoddle my gear. I buy quality gear and I expect it to perform in adverse situations, especially during a rainstorm or in sub-zero temperatures.
  • Reliability. So I don’t need to carry another flashlight as a backup to my EDC. Kind of beats the purpose of having an EDC flashlight in the first place.

My other Maglite flashlight. Excellent as a baton, but a little unwieldy for EDC at 734 grammes.

Purchase

Looking at various options I happened to come across Fenix LD09 which was available at Lightorati Clearance Sale for Rs 2000 (including shipping). The LD09 retails on Amazon.com for $36.50 and Indian websites normally charge a 35 - 300% markup on foreign goods. Since Rs. 2000 was about the same price as its US cousin, it was a sweet deal.

Lightorati is based in Hyderabad. They are self-confessed flashaholics and deal primarily in flashlights. What I like about their business is a 15-Day Moneyback Guarantee (No Questions Asked policy) and Guaranteed Lifetime Support policy.

Fenix has a good fan following on CandlePowerForums (yes there is a forum dedicated to torches & flashlights) and the Fenix LD09 had favourable reviews on Amazon and CandlePowerForums. True that it was a pre-2015 model, but it ticked all the right boxes for my selection criteria. The LD09 was with me within 3 days of placing the order. 

Specifications

Fenix describes the LD09 as - 

The LD09 is an incredible every day carry flashlight built to be tough, powerful, and elegant. Its high-quality materials, advanced technology, and simple design make it a favorite among hikers, campers, tactical users, and those who know the importance of being prepared at all times. At only 3.7 inches in length, this light comfortably fits in your pocket all day long.

Features

  • Cree XP-E2 LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
  • Uses one AA (Ni-MH, Alkaline) battery
  • Three output modes:
    • High: 130 Lumens (1 hour 30 minutes with Ni-MH battery; 56 minutes with Alkaline battery)
    • Mid: 55 Lumens (5 hours with Ni-MH battery; 3 hours with Alkaline battery)
    • Low: 8 Lumens (40 hours with Ni-MH battery; 50 hours with Alkaline battery)
    • SOS Mode: 55 Lumens
  • Digitally regulated output - maintains constant brightness
  • Reverse polarity protection, to protect from improper battery installation
  • Waterproof to IPX–8 rating, under water to 6.5 feet/2 meters for 30 minutes
  • Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
  • Dimensions: 92mm (Length) x19mm (Diameter)
  • Weight: 33 grammes (Excluding battery)

Usage and Field Test

In the past six months, I have used the LD09 daily. In fact, I was so enamoured by it that I decided to carry it on my triple trek from Utrala to Hadsar over Jalsu Pass, Kalah Pass and through ManiMahesh. This was the first time I was carrying a flashlight in addition to my usual Black Diamond headlamp. So what motivated me to do this?

One, there is the weight. The Fenix LD09 weighs 35 grammes with the belt clip (without the battery) which is extremely lightweight. To give you an indication how lightweight that is, a rechargeable AA battery weighs 30 grammes. Therefore, it is not a major drag even for someone as 'weight paranoid' as me.

Fenix LD09 with belt clip weighs in at 35 grammes

One Eneloop Pro AA battery is 30 grammes

Two, the LD09 is not a competitor to the headlamp but complements it. A trekking headlamp like the Black Diamond Storm that I own has a broader spread of light which is great for general illumination and walking. However, the LD09 has a more focused central beam that a) carries further and b) dazzles animals.

I found this out when two foxes were trying to get in the doorless hall at Shankhpal last month. Instinctively I grabbed my flashlight and shone it in their eyes. This dazzled them and they stood still, till I had the time to reach my trekking pole and shoo them away. With shorter days in winters, this two light strategy with a combination of wider and narrower spread gives me the ability to walk after dark. Plus, it gives me redundancy for illumination which I prefer to have on overnight winter treks.

The Fenix LD09 lights up this shack for a night photo at Shankhpal

TOP TIP: You can install the provided belt clip backwards and use it as a headlamp by clipping it to your cap.

Three, there’s the build quality and accessories. The flashlight is made of aircraft grade aluminium. It comes with a knurled grip and an anti-roll design. The glass is toughened and recessed. In addition, it sports an IPX8 rating, which means it can be submerged in 2 metres of water for about 30 minutes. Out of the box, the LD09 comes with a nylon sheath, a belt clip, spare ‘O’ ring and a lanyard. All of these accessories are useful and thoughtful.

Thoughtful touches and accessories.

Four, battery life. If you have to buy rechargeable batteries look no further than Panasonic Eneloop Pros. It is an investment that pays itself many times over.  Buy Eneloop Pro AA batteries on Amazon India. On this flashlight, I clocked 42 hours and 23 minutes of continuous runtime at the lowest power setting. This is mind boggling, considering it is powered by a single AA rechargeable battery. In fact, during our normal trek usage, a single Eneloop Pro AA battery lasts us a week.

Fenix LD09 light throw. Note the double circle beam pattern. The inner circle is a spot beam while the outer circle is for general illumination. Excellent!

Finally, it doubles as an emergency beacon with its built-in SOS mode. Since I am an Indian national the chances of getting rescued in the Himalayas are quite remote. Yet, the ability to be able to signal after dark or provide a beacon for the rescue team to reach you is a nice touch.

SOS mode built in via tail switch

Summary

A lot of people may baulk at the thought of a Rs. 2000 flashlight. They may feel that a simple flashlight available at most shops serves the purpose. Yet, a well-built instrument is functional and it is also a pleasure to hold and deploy. This is especially true about the Fenix LD09. It is neither the cheapest or the most expensive EDC flashlight out there. Nevertheless, it punches above its weight in terms of build quality, battery life and perceived value for money. An excellent value for the discerning trekker.

Pros

  • Lightweight at 35 grammes
  • Excellent build - IPX8
  • Comes with thoughtful accessories
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Can’t reliably stand on its tail. Thus, candlelight operation is limited
  • No memory. Restarts every time in mid output mode
  • Lumens are never enough, and we wish the LD09 was brighter

Fenix LD09 size in hand.


Important Note

The LD09 model updated in 2015. The 2015 edition is brighter at 220 lumens and supports Fenix’s 14500 rechargeable Li-ion battery. However, it is also more expensive. Rs. 2998 on Amazon India (as on 1 December 2016). Nevertheless, Fenix E12 uses the same internals as the older LD09 and is available on Amazon India for Rs. 1999 (as on 1 December 2016). The E12 however, does not come with a belt clip, which we reckon is an extremely useful accessory. Therefore, grab your clearance stock from Lightorati while it lasts. 


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