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Your preferred form factor for hiking lights?

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  • Your preferred form factor for hiking lights?

    It's no surprise that we all have different tastes, and that this would also apply to our hiking mannerisms. That also applies to how we hold our flashlights, for several reasons, such as not leaving shadows in our field of view, keeping other people from being dazzled by our beams, or having both hands free. For example:

    • An overhand ("saber") grip, with the bezel protruding from the thumb's side of the hand, looks very unassuming and keeps the beam away from eye level and from possibly blinding passers-by. The disadvantages are that your field of view is dominated by shadows, looking upwards requires a change in the grip, and torches with tailcap switches force you to either use both hands or go through a good one-handed fumble to operate.

    • An underhand ("icepick" or reverse) grip, is the exact contrary: it makes virtually all shadows disappear from your vision and can be maneuvered easily for you to see in any direction your neck can bend to, with the downsides that the light can bother others and your stance looks quite aggressive. Plus, since you hold the torch high up seated on your wrist, your fingers don't get tired, but the same can't be said of your arm, and if the torch doesn't have an on/off switch at the tail, button activation often depends on the pinky finger, an act that demands some dexterity and often a learning curve to acquire it.

    • One of the most common ways to have a flashlight while hiking is to put it on your head, be it a dedicated headlamp or a regular one clipped to your hat (such as any of the Archers v2 or the Ti3). That has mostly the same "no shadows" advantage of the reverse grip, and the disadvantages to other people's retinas, but it leaves both your hands free at the cost of the weight on your forehead, and if you sweat a lot, it can get very uncomfortable very quickly, and that's not touching how stinky the straps or hat can get...

    • The one grip I know of that I see the least is the angle-head torch pinned to the hiker's chest. This stays between the reverse and the overhand grips in the matter of beam height (so, with floodier lights, it can bother others), and like the headlamp, it leaves both hands free, except without the weight on the coconut and all the sweating. The downsides are that it only points to your front and you have to look down if you want to do something that needs illumination, and good angle-head torches are rare on the market compared to rigid linear ones.

    This is as far as I (not an expert on hiking by any means) know. Do you have a different grip or attachment mode of your flashlight while you hike for the best practicality, or do you have something different to say on the matter? Feel free to post it on the comments below!
    Last edited by Editor Beetle; 09-29-2015, 04:07 PM.

  • #2
    Just to drop my own two cents as OP: my hold factor really depends on the light's ergonomy.

    • For tail-switch flashlights in a size that fits my hand well – the Archer 2A v2 and the TN12 2014 –, reverse grip is the way to go. It just comes naturally when you're not in the dark for long periods of time, like it is in my routine, and when I pull them out it's usually to examine something up close, a situation where shadows are a big bother.
    • Twisties like the Ti3 and the Fenix E01, and small side-switch lights like the Olight S10R Baton, stay on the sabre grip, no discussion. To twist a light with anything but the thumb and index fingers is a self-imposed torture, and they're all far too short to protrude past the flesh of my palm, which obstructs the beam.
    • shorter tail-switch torches like the Fenix E11 receive a different treatment: I hold them between my index and middle fingers, like a cigar. I didn't mention that one because it's not a viable long-term grip, it tires the fingers out too easily.
    • The classic D-cell Maglites can go either saber or icepick, depending on the distance to what I'm focusing on. Up close, icepick reigns, while farther away means either goes.

    ◘ As a corollary: I've taken to clipping the Archer and the Ti3 to the brim of my EDC baseball cap whenever I need both hands for a task. The Ti3 is almost unnoticeable, while the Archer weighs a fair bit but its center of gravity is close to the base of the brim and its tail end actually rests on the side of my head, so both are very comfortable. Can't say much about the S10R, since I've passed it on to be my mother's flashlight, but the few times I tried to hat-lamp it before that, it weighed too much for how far ahead its center of gravity sits on the brim, a condition known as "hat-tipper" in some circles.
    Last edited by Editor Beetle; 12-08-2015, 12:25 PM.