This article was originally published in Issue 2 of our magazine.

We all know that having instant access to a bright stream of light anytime you need it can not only be incredibly useful, but also in some situations, it can even be a potential lifesaver. Many of us may rely on a trusty flashlight that we've had for years to light up dark areas and some of us even lean on a flashlight app on our smart phones when in a pinch. While the reasons you'd want light in low- or no-light spaces are obvious, it isn't always obvious that your all-important choice of light implement can end up tying up another crucial tool of yours, such as your hands.

If you've ever explored the crevices of your truck's undercarriage or the dark corners of your basement, you've probably run into a situation where you find yourself biting down on a flashlight, precariously aiming its beam with your teeth while working with your two hands. You don't need us to tell you that isn't an ideal situation to be in. In a disaster scenario where you need both of your hands to get someone or even yourself out of danger, the need to have your hands freed up is multiplied exponentially.

In addition to handheld lights, hands-free lights should be a part of everyone's disaster preparedness kit. The most common hands-free-style lights are ones that are worn on the head. Out of your hands and constantly pointed in the direction that you are looking, headband-mounted lights are great when you need to see what you are doing or where you are going while keeping your hands available for any job. Those aren't the only options, however. Other lights that do not tie up your hands include glove- and baseball cap-mounted, as well as clip-on and magnetic lights.

Hands-free lights vary not only in method of attachment, but intended purpose, as well. Some are made with high-powered lamps that can penetrate deep into the darkness, while others are made to flood a large workspace. Since you may not always need the surface of the sun at the push of a button, some lights are made to dimly light up one's personal space for reading or map navigation without the blinding effect. With so many options, we recommend not having only one type of hands-free light available to you. Let's take a closer look at some of the different offerings that are currently out in the marketplace.

Guide to Hands-Free Lighting

  • Coleman Mini LED EPOD Lights

    Make & Model - Coleman Mini LED EPOD Lights
    Weight - 1.1 oz for one
    Battery Type - CR2032 (2)
    Lumen Rating - 16
    Average Runtime - 10 hr
    Range - 16 ft
    MSRP - $15 (pack of 2)
    URL - http://www.coleman.comv
    Notes - The Mini LED EPODs typically come two in a pack (we've seen more) and are a great low-cost way to get a little bit of light wherever you need it. With their three attachment points, you can hang, clip, or stick them via a magnet all over the house to have them handy at a moment's notice. Safer than candles, the LEDs provide sufficient light to get what you need done.
    Features - Can be hung with attached band
    Belt clip
    Magnet-backed


    The Mini LED EPODs typically come two in a pack (we've seen more) and are a great low-cost way to get a little bit of light wherever you need it.

  • Dorcy 41-2097 134 Lumen Headlight Spot Beam

    Make & Model - Dorcy 41-2097 134 Lumen Headlight Spot Beam
    Weight - 2.9 oz
    Battery Type - AAA (3)
    Lumen Rating - high 134
    Average Runtime - low
    Range - 387 ft
    MSRP - $24.99
    URL - http://www.dorcy.com
    Notes - The 41-2097 incorporates a lightweight plastic housing with a single activation pushbutton switch. Push the button three times to rotate through high, low, and strobe modes. The spot light beam is adjustable down almost 90 degrees and lights up areas well past 300 feet.
    Features - High, low, and strobe light modes
    Spot beam lens
    Light head rotates down 80 degrees


    The Dorcy 41-2097 incorporates a lightweight plastic housing with a single activation pushbutton switch. Push the button three times to rotate through high, low, and strobe modes.

  • Energizer Micro Sport

    Make & Model - Energizer Micro Sport
    Weight - 1.7 oz
    Battery Type - AAA (2), CR2032 (1)
    Lumen Rating - low 18 / high 37
    Average Runtime - low 9 hr / high 3.5 hr
    Range - not listed
    MSRP - $23.99
    URL - http://www.energizer.com
    Notes - If you need to be visible, the Micro Sport's Safety Flasher is right up your alley. The Safety Flasher can be mounted anywhere across the headband and is activated by a button at the top of the housing. The main light is powered by two AAA batteries, which make it pretty bright. Disadvantages are that the headlamp is not independently adjustable for elevation, meaning that you need to adjust the placement of the headband to point the beam where you want it. Also, a CR2032 battery powers the Safety Flasher, which is not as common as the ubiquitous AAA.
    Features - Three lighting modes
    Safety Flasher blinks red and mounts at the back of the head
    Safety Flasher has a 95hr runtime


    If you need to be visible, the Micro Sport's Safety Flasher is right up your alley. The Safety Flasher can be mounted anywhere across the headband and is activated by a button at the top of the housing.

  • ExtremeBeam OSR-800 Headlamp

    Make & Model - ExtremeBeam OSR-800 Headlamp
    Weight - 3.9 oz
    Battery Type - AAA (3)
    Lumen Rating - 180
    Average Runtime - 24 hr
    Range - 550 ft
    MSRP - $29.95
    URL - http://www.extremebeam.com
    Notes - The OSR-800 looks big, because frankly, it is big. The housing is enormous when compared to some of the other models featured in this guide. That being said, we found the OSR-800 to be fairly balanced, and the included three-strap headband kept it in place well. Unique to this model is a telescoping lens housing that allows you to focus the light beam from flood to spotlight. We tried the spotlight at night outdoors and can tell you that the spotlight goes quite some distance; we estimate the usable beam of light is around 500 feet out—not too shabby for a hands-free light.
    Features - Four modes, including SOS flashing
    Beam is adjustable for focused or wide-spread light
    Lamp head swivels downward as much as 90 degrees


    The ExtremeBeam OSR-800 headlamp is fairly balanced, and the included three-strap headband kept it in place well. And the housing is enormous when compared to some of the other models

  • Gerber Myth Hands Free Light

    Make & Model - Gerber Myth Hands Free Light
    Weight - 1.4 oz
    Battery Type - AAA (1)
    Lumen Rating - 25
    Average Runtime - 5 hr
    Range - 82 ft
    MSRP - $27
    URL - http://www.gerbergear.com
    Notes - With two brightness settings controlled by a single button, the Myth Hands Free Light is easy to use and built so that it feels like it can take some abuse. The rotating light head is easy to point up and down to adjust just where you want the light to aim. The light is bright and makes working and cooking in darkness a breeze. It is also suitable for lighting up a small area in front of you if you're on the move. A single, commonly found AAA battery powers it, which is a plus.
    Features - High and low light output modes
    Headlamp width 2.13 in
    White LED light


    With two brightness settings controlled by a single button, the Myth Hands Free Light is easy to use and built so that it feels like it can take some abuse.

  • Mammut T-Trail + Ambient Light Dry Bag

    Make & Model - Mammut T-Trail + Ambient Light Dry Bag
    Weight - 2.5 oz
    Battery Type - AAA (3)
    Lumen Rating - 60
    Average Runtime - low 80 hr / high 20 hr
    Range - 98 ft
    MSRP - $49.95
    URL - http://www.mammut.ch
    Notes - The T-Trail features a long runtime and a rotating light head that can move down 45 degrees for ease of adjustment. A standout feature of this light is the accessory it comes with. The Ambient Light Dry Bag is used in conjunction with the head-mounted lamp to diffuse light to create a soft wide area light. When deployed, the bag and light combo can be used to cook or read with. When not in use, the dry bag can be stowed away or even used as a waterproof storage bag.
    Features - Four LED lamp
    Flood light pattern
    Ambient light dry bag


    The T-Trail features a long runtime and a rotating light head that can move down 45 degrees for ease of adjustment. A standout feature of this light is the accessory it comes with...

  • Mechanix Wear The Original Glove Light

    Make & Model - Mechanix Wear The Original Glove Light
    Weight - 4.5 oz
    Sizes - Small to XX-Large
    Battery Type - AAAA (2)
    MCD Rating - 25,000
    Average Runtime - 14 hr
    Range - not listed
    MSRP - $39.99
    URL - http://www.mechanix.com
    Notes - Mechanix is already known the world over for its industry-leading work gloves. It was only a matter of time when it paired them up with a light to help get things done in the dark. The Original Glove Light comes with a rubberized single, 8mm LED light unit that can be transferred from either glove. Mounted via hook-and-loop fasteners, the light unit is easily activated with gloved hands by pressing on its top-positioned power button. When trying the gloves out, we found that the light being on the back of the hand to be useful, while having its drawback, as well. While tinkering with a small repair job, we found that the light cannot directly cover the space where your fingers work. The ambient light it gave off helped, but not as much as direct lighting would have. The light is a good secondary hands-free light; the fact that it is attached to protective gloves is a huge bonus.
    Features - 8mm white LED
    Detachable light is repositionable to either glove
    Machine-washable glove is made of spandex, synthetic leather, and thermal plastic rubber


    The Original Glove Light comes with a rubberized single, 8mm LED light unit that can be transferred from either glove. Mounted via hook-and-loop fasteners, the light unit is easily activated with gloved hands by pressing on its top-positioned power button.

  • Olight H15 Wave LED Headlamp

    Make & Model - Olight H15 Wave LED Headlamp
    Weight - 3.31 oz
    Battery Type - AAA (4)
    Lumen Rating - low 4.2 / high 150
    Average Runtime - low 72 hr / high 3 hr
    Range - 213 ft
    MSRP - $39.95
    URL - http://www.olightusa.com
    Notes - The H15 Wave gets major points for ingenuity and keeping within the hands-free theme. It is equipped with an IR sensor that senses the wave of your hand in front of the unit, which activates and even adjusts the light. One quick wave at about 3 to 4 inches in front of the unit will turn the light on. Another quick wave will dim the light. Any motion beyond that range doesn't affect the light's function. That's great for when you really need to activate and adjust light with a quick wave, but we discovered that when we did use that feature, the light splash back from our hand routinely blinded us. We also found the different light controls to be confusing to operate, and sometimes our hands would inadvertently activate or change the light function, which was an annoyance. The overall size of the unit, including the rear-mounted battery pack (which features a dim red light for safety), is pretty hefty, but the three-strap headband made it comfortable to wear. The unit's light quality was excellent, however.
    Features - Two light sources, one CREE XM-L white LED and two red LEDs
    Light can be activated at the wave of your hand
    Swivel light diffuser lens
    Lamp head swivels downward as much as 75 degrees


    The H15 Wave gets major points for ingenuity and keeping within the hands-free theme. It is equipped with an IR sensor that senses the wave of your hand in front of the unit, which activates and even adjusts the light.

  • Petzl Strix VL

    Make & Model - Petzl Strix VL
    Weight - 4.4 oz
    Battery Type - AA (1)
    Lumen Rating - 40
    Average Runtime - low 65 hr / high 4.5 hr
    Range - 131 ft
    MSRP - $89.95
    URL - http://www.petzl-tactical.com
    Notes - Specifically made for military operations, the Strix VL would fit right in with the rest of your doomsday gear. It's built to last and features a body that rotates 180 degrees horizontally and a light head that rotates 120 degrees vertically, giving you unprecedented viewing adjustments and mounting options. The light can attach to the included headband or even directly to a rail on a military-style helmet if you've got one.
    Features - Dual rotating adjustments
    White, red, green, and blue lights
    Highly impact-, crush-, water-, dust-resistant


    Specifically made for military operations, the Strix VL would fit right in with the rest of your doomsday gear. It's built to last and features a body that rotates 180 degrees horizontally and a light head that rotates 120 degrees vertically.

  • Spark SD-52NW

    Make & Model - Spark SD-52NW
    Weight - 4.23 oz
    Battery Type - AA (2)
    Lumen Rating - low 0.5 / high 280
    Average Runtime - low 50 days / high 1.5 hr
    Range - not listed
    MSRP - $89
    URL - http://www.spark-light.com
    Notes - The SD-52NW features a neutral white light that is easy on the eyes, even in its brightest mode. The maximum lumen rating is listed at 280, although it doesn't seem nearly that bright. It could be because the light is made to cover a wide area in front of the user and not a focused sharp beam. The aluminum body is heavy, but the three-strap headband keeps it in place. A feature we really like is the reverse polarity protected circuit. That means that no matter how you install the AA batteries, the light will not short. For proper operation, you only need to install the two batteries in opposite directions in either terminal, one with the positive terminal in first and the other with the negative terminal first. This way, you can replace batteries in complete darkness going by feel only without worrying about shorting the unit. That's a definite plus.
    Features - Reverse polarity protected circuit
    Hard anodized aluminum body
    Single-button operation
    Optional pocket clip and magnet mounts included


    The SD-52NW features a neutral white light that is easy on the eyes, even in its brightest mode. The maximum lumen rating is listed at 280, although it doesn't seem nearly that bright.

  • Specialized Tactical Systems NavLight (Magnet/Hook Mount model shown, various models available)

    Make & Model - Specialized Tactical Systems NavLight (Magnet/Hook Mount model shown, various models available)
    Weight - 0.42 oz
    Battery Type - 2016 (2) or 2032 (1) depending on light color
    Lumen Rating - 0-5 variable
    Average Runtime - 12-120 hr, depending on light color
    Range - not listed
    MSRP - $44.99 ($46.74 for the IR model)
    URL - http://www.specializedtactical.com
    Notes - Very small and weighing less than ½ ounce, the motto "Just Enough Light" used by the manufacturer describes this light perfectly. The NavLight is adjustable from 0 to 5 lumens and is backed with a hook-and-loop fastener, as well as a magnet. Available in blue, white, red, green, and even infrared for those with night vision devices, the NavLight gives you just enough light to do what you need to do. The red and IR versions give you an outstanding 120 hours of runtime.
    Features - Five light colors available, including blue, white, red, green, and infrared
    Dims and brightens between 0 and 5 lumens
    Constant on and multiple blinking beacon modes
    Hook-and-loop back will interface with Velcro-style loop surfaces
    Magnet-backed


    Very small and weighing less than ½ ounce, the motto "Just Enough Light" used by the manufacturer describes this light perfectly. The NavLight is adjustable from 0 to 5 lumens and is backed with a hook-and-loop fastener, as well as a magnet.

  • Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II

    Make & Model - Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II
    Weight - 2.4 oz
    Battery Type - CR123A (1) or AA (1)
    Lumen Rating - 55 (CR123A) / 47 (AA)
    Average Runtime - low 70 hr / high 6 hr (CR123A); low 40 hr / high 2 hr (AA)
    Range - 226 ft
    MSRP - $131.84
    URL - http://www.streamlight.com
    Notes - Chunky and ultra rugged, you can tell that the Sidewinder Compact II was made with the military in mind. It comes with a headband, as well as a helmet mount and belt clip, and features not only a white main lamp, but also red, blue, and infrared (IR) reading navigation lights. This unit runs best on a CR123A-type battery, which isn't as common as other batteries, but something we really like is that it can also run on a common AA battery. When mounted to the headband, the unit clips in and isn't mounted solidly, which makes it slightly shift laterally within its mount. Surprisingly, however, the shifting isn't very noticeable when the light is being worn. The light can be switched from white to red to blue to IR with the twist of a knob, while the activation of the light is made with a pushbutton switch.
    Features - Five light sources, including one main white C4 LED lamp and red, white, blue, and infrared LED task lights
    Headstrap, helmet, and belt clip mounting
    Lamp head swivels 185 degrees
    On/Off/Dimming/Strobe and LED selection functions


    Chunky and ultra rugged, you can tell that the Sidewinder Compact II was made with the military in mind. It comes with a headband, as well as a helmet mount and belt clip.

  • SureFire 2211

    Make & Model - SureFire 2211
    Weight - 3.7 oz
    Battery Type - Li-ion (Rechargable)
    Lumen Rating - low 15 / high 200
    Average Runtime - low 13 hr / high 1.25 hr
    Range - not listed
    MSRP - $495
    URL - http://www.surefire.com
    Notes - At 500 bones, this wrist-worn light is clearly not for everyone. Developed for law enforcement, the 2211 is made for officers that need to deal with people and equipment that demand both hands to be free and to move. The maximum 200-lumen light is absolutely blinding and great for highlighting large, dark areas. Since the light sits on top of the wrist like a watch does, it cannot light up areas that your hands may be working in, however. We did find flipping it around and wearing it on the inside your wrist works pretty well. We like the rechargeable battery since it will save you money on batteries, but in a power outage, you'll be hard-pressed to find a working outlet to charge it with. Aside from the cost and those shortcomings, the 2211 is a solid piece of kit.
    Features - Ambidextrous pushbutton switches
    USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery
    Aluminum housing and nylon wristband


    Developed for law enforcement, the 2211 is made for officers that need to deal with people and equipment that demand both hands to be free and to move. The maximum 200-lumen light is absolutely blinding and great for highlighting large, dark areas.

  • SureFire HL1-C-TN Helmet Light (older version pictured, multiple models available)

    Make & Model - SureFire HL1-C-TN Helmet Light (older version pictured, multiple models available)
    Weight - 3.1 oz
    Battery Type - CR123A (1)
    Lumen Rating - 19.2
    Average Runtime - white low 48 hr / white high 6 hr; color low 96 hr; color high 20 hr
    Range - not listed
    MSRP - $190
    URL - http://www.surefire.com
    Notes - The HL-1 comes in four different models, the colored LED lights being the only difference between them. The unit is currently in use with military units worldwide, so you know that it can withstand the abuses of a disaster scenario. The light isn't made to light up a large area; rather, it is made for the immediate workspace in front of you. There are two toggle switches that allow you to set the lights to your preferred settings and a single pushbutton switch to activate the lights. The HL-1 comes with a helmet mount, but we find it most useful when incorporated with the TangoDown Ball Cap Mount.
    Features - Three light sources, three main white LEDs, two colored secondary LEDs, and one blinking infrared LED that serves as a personal Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) beacon
    Colored LEDs available in red (shown), blue, yellow-green, and infrared
    Two toggle and one pressure switch for customizable light output
    Quick-detach helmet mount included


    The HL-1 comes in four different models, the colored LED lights being the only difference between them. The unit is currently in use with military units worldwide, so you know that it can withstand the abuses of a disaster scenario.

  • SureFire Minimus (shown, multiple models available)

    Make & Model - SureFire Minimus (shown, multiple models available)
    Weight - 3.3 oz
    Battery Type - CR123A (1)
    Lumen Rating - 1 to 100, variable
    Average Runtime - low 50 hr / high 1.5 hr
    Range - 137 ft
    MSRP - $149
    URL - http://www.surefire.com
    Notes - The Minimus features a Mil-spec hard-anodized aluminum body, which feels solid and ready for extreme duty. The light features a proprietary refractive optic that produces a smooth, wide beam optimized for your field of vision. At its brightest setting, it is more than capable of lighting up a large swath of area. To adjust lighting direction, the light can be vertically adjusted by the simple twist of the tubular body. Turning the light on, however, is a two-handed affair because turning the knob to power the light on inadvertently turns the entire body of the light, as well. You must hold the body in place, while turning the knob to keep the light's body from shifting position.
    Features - Variable light-output dial controls light levels from 1 to 100 lumens
    Light housing rotates horizontally 360 degrees
    Comes with snap-on red filter to preserve night vision
    Built-in SOS beacon


    The Minimus features a Mil-spec hard-anodized aluminum body, which feels solid and ready for extreme duty. The light features a proprietary refractive optic that produces a smooth, wide beam optimized for your field of vision.

  • TangoDown Ball Cap Mount for SureFire Helmet Light SFHL-001

    Make & Model - TangoDown Ball Cap Mount for SureFire Helmet Light SFHL-001
    Colorway - Flat Dark Earth (shown), Black, Foliage Green
    MSRP - $15.86
    URL - http://www.tangodown.com
    Notes - The TangoDown Ball Cap Mount is made specifically to interface with the SureFire HL-1 series of lights. The mount can be mounted to any thing you can get a screw through, so the uses are only limited to your imagination. We've seen them on backpack straps and even car sunvisors. Best of all, if your cap is done, just move the mount to a new cap and keep on keeping on.
    Features - Attachable to any surface you can drive screws through, in this case, baseball cap visors
    Compatible with all SureFire Helmet Lights models HL1-A through D-TN


    The TangoDown Ball Cap Mount is made specifically to interface with the SureFire HL-1 series of lights. The mount can be mounted to any thing you can get a screw through, so the uses are only limited to your imagination.


Prepare Now:

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