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Responsible preparation for urban emergencies or disasters in a major city requires thoughtful consideration of the illumination tools you will use. From an every-day carry (EDC) perspective, your ability to draw attention to your location can have critical consequences. The flashlight or signal light you choose must be durable, lightweight, simple to use, and most importantly, bright enough to alert your colleagues, search and rescue personnel, or law enforcement to your location.
Nitecore entered the illumination device and battery charger market in 2007 and produces a wide range of popular LED headlamps, weapon lights, flashlights, and power supplies.
The company got the attention of the biking and trekking communities in 2018 when it introduced the NU05 signal light, a miniaturized strobe light which punches well above its weight class with its low-profile dimensions (1.16” x 1.19” x .64” and 0.37 ounces) and MOLLE compatibility. It’s a great signal light for strapping to the pig snout on a backpack via the MOLLE-compatible clip that’s molded to the light’s transparent housing, or for attaching to a bike stem to alert vehicles of your presence. The clip is thoughtfully-designed and also allows the light to be attached to just about any piece of survival gear with a zip tie. If you are completely down on your luck, a re-purposed bread bag twist tie would do just fine.
As soon as I heard of the NU05’s USB-rechargeable red/white strobing and steady white light capability, I purchased the light and headlamp kit (essentially an adjustable elastic strap), charged it up in under two hours, and attached it to the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) webbing on my go-bag.
Nitecore subsequently advanced the technology with its June 2019 release of the NU05 LE (Law Enforcement) model. This variant expands the basic NU05’s capability as a safety strobe by utilizing four independent colors (green, blue, red, white) and an alternating red-blue emergency cycle. Nitecore graciously provided a test and evaluation sample of this new model for a thorough shakedown.
Both lights ship with a 3-foot length micro-USB cable that plugs into the impact-resistant housing through a weatherproof, covered port, allowing the 3.7v 120mAh Li-ion battery to reach a full charge in approximately 1.5 hrs. That full charge gives the unit an advertised “standby” life of 12 months, so it can be stored until needed, a critical element to any EDC item.
Once initiated, the LE version’s LEDs produce a varied lumen level (12 lumens for red, 17 for green, 2 for blue, and a maximum of 20 lumens for the white LED), with a frequency of about one second between flashes. The red-blue cycle strobes at a half-second interval. Maximum runtime in single LED mode is listed at 18 hours for white and 15 hours for all other colors, with 18 hours for the red-blue cycle.
The basic NU05 uses a special “blip” sequence to indicate the available power level in the unit, and utilizes the two paired red and two paired white LEDs to strobe with a slow blink, rapid blink, or illuminate with steady white light. It is suitable for those emergency situations when you’ve become lost or separated from the rest of your party and do not need to remain covert.
Although the white LED lockout function of the basic NU05 only allows the two white LEDs to operate for a maximum of 20 hours, they do so at an impressive 35 lumens. This provides enough light to change a tire, track down and retrieve recently-shot game, navigate an unlit stairwell, or complete a number of similar critical tasks.
The use of a green LED and unique emergency red-blue LED strobe cycle in the LE version are what really distinguish it from competitor lights of similar size and weight. In urban environments that contain a significant amount of red/white/blue artificial light cluttering the visual spectrum from streetlights, car headlamps and digital marketing, the green strobe stands out. When the red-blue emergency strobing cycle is activated, the device emits a very-distinct repeating signal that is immediately distinguishable from other light sources. You won’t be mistaken for the light bar on a police vehicle, but you will be highly visible.
It is important to note that the LE version ships with an additional mounting bracket designed to affix the strobe to the curved surface of a helmet. Users can attach a piece of loop Velcro to their helmet of choice and secure the light by the bracket’s hook Velcro. If the light is attached by just the integrated clip to the PALS webbing of a vest or pack, it should be backed up with a zip tie to guard against inadvertent knocks when donning or doffing your equipment.
A central push button switch allows the user to cycle through the four single-color strobing functions and fifth emergency cycle. Mode memory resumes strobing in the color which was in operation when the unit was turned off. There is no steady lockout mode similar to the original NU05; strobing is the only capability.
I found the push buttons of both models to require a surprising amount of pressure to cycle through the modes. It was a bit difficult manipulating it with gloved fingers until I got the hang of the process. It's also not easy to switch through the various modes if you have the light affixed to your helmet or backpack, but the mode memory will at least get you back to the last cycle in use before the light was put into standby mode. The light was designed to be turned on and left in a designated mode until deliberately turned off.
In a way this is a good thing, as you do not want an accidental discharge of light when your strobe experiences rough handling or rubs up against debris or brush.
These were never designed to be a long-duration emergency solution on par with an S&S Precision Manta strobe. However, they can be attached to a number of surfaces and very small items, making them flexible and ready for use at a moment’s notice, and at a fraction of the price. Emergency equipment is of no use if it isn’t at hand when you need it, and the NU05 series of lights provides that capability.
Both the NU05 headlamp kit and LE version with tactical mount retail at Amazon.com for $19.95. Their low price could allow for the prepared individual to outfit every go bag, vehicle, bicycle and even key fob if desired, adding an extra measure of security and safety without breaking the bank.