By: Mary and Dr. Jim Clary
In the past few years there has been an “explosion” of flashlights on the market. In fact, most of them appear to have come from the same factory. They range in quality from good to really, really bad. The big box stores have an entire wall of flashlights in all price ranges, and some branded with familiar names in the industry. The question facing all of us is: Which brand is the best from the standpoint of construction, reliability, versatility and price?
As with most of you, our readers, we have tried a lot and have drawers full of failures and marginal units. Over the past ten years we have come to rely on two companies for great torches. Olympia and COAST. Both were founded about a hundred years ago. You don't stay in business that long without doing something right. Unfortunately, Giant International, Ltd. decided to shut down Olympia a couple of years ago and that left only COAST, as the absolute best manufacturer of flashlights on the market.
Now, before you get too defensive about some of the other brands which might be your personal favorites, hear us out. And, you are right, they are pretty good.... but, we want the absolute best that can be engineered and produced as a reasonable price point for outdoorsmen. That is why COAST is our choice.
To better provide an answer as to why COAST is our choice we have to go back in time, a little over one hundred years ago: “In 1919, when Henry W. Brands moved west from Illinois, he set out on a path of discovery our company has never left since. Practical meets professional. Henry arrived in the rugged Pacific Northwest as a hardware salesman but quickly realized some of the tools in the back of his Model T weren’t suited to his new home. Fishermen on the Oregon Coast told him they needed a stronger, sharper knife to fillet the 50-pound Chinook salmon still common then. So Henry went back to Portland, designed a better knife with a metal cleaning scoop on the back end of the handle, and returned to the dock with a knife that became so popular he couldn’t keep up with demand. It was COAST’s first innovation.“ This knife had a stiffer thicker blade and with the scoop, one could slice, clean and filet a salmon with one tool”. And, YES,we have one and it is NOT for sale.
During their hundred-year history, COAST has continuously developed new products to fill the needs of professionals, from the scribner’s knife that helped timbermen mark trees to their multi-tools for tradesmen in the field. Early on, they were a leader in applying CREE LED technology to their optical products, producing high-intensity headlamps for oil rig workers and compact flashlights for police officers. And, as one would expect, they also developed a wide range of lights for outdoorsmen, like us, to make our adventures more fun and safer.
The COAST Polysteel 600 and 1000 series flashlights are absolutely the best on the market for the price. They are virtually unbreakable, meeting IPX8 and ANSI FL 1 standards. The IPX8 standard requires that the light be watertight (waterproof) at depths of three meters. The ANSI FL1 standard requires that the light withstand repeated three meter drops on hard surfaces and still function.
When we heard that COAST had introduced a new light, the SX300R, we ordered two for testing. One we sent with our archaeologist daughter on an eight-day survey in the Arizona mountains, and the second we decided to test around our place at night when we check on the critters (horses, donkeys, goats and a llama).
The secret to the high-intensity light output in this light is the placement of the LED units. Rather than mounting them on the surface of the unit, they use a C.O.B. (chip on board) technique which essentially places over 300 LEDs over the same area that 40 normally utilize in other lights.
By using C.O.B. technology, they increase the LED output by over 15 times. THAT is the key to the high lumen output of this COAST flashlight. Is it expensive to utilize C.O.B.s? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes, it sure is. As a result of the COB, the lumen output of this unit exceeds 850 lumens.
If the output of the SX300R wasn't enough to peak your interest, its opening up into an area light will. Slide the chassis open and you have a fantastic area lantern. That feature coupled with the very strong magnet on the butt end of the flashlight allows one to illuminate just about anything .. anywhere. Our daughter's significant other was able to use the light under a tractor on severely grease and dirt covered metal and was very impressed with the strength of the magnet.
To complete their design of this new flashlight/area lantern, COAST added in a rechargeable battery pack AND an emergency pack for regular triple A batteries. There is more, but rather than get too wordy, we will just list them in the specs below.
Battery Types: Li-Ion or 4 x AAA batteries
Beam Distance (high): 754 feet / 230 meters
Light Output – 850 lumens
Runtime - 2 hours 30 minute
Beam Distance (low): 252 feet / 77 meters
Light Output – 95 lumens
Runtime – 7 hours 15 minutes
Beam Distance (medium): 413 feet / 126 meters
Light Output – 255 lumens
Runtime – 4 hours 30 minutes
Twist Focus: Flood beam to spot beam (no halo effects or hot spots)
Magnetic Tail Cap: For storage or hands-free use
Dual Color Area Light Red, white and flashing red modes
Length: 6.7 inches / 17 centimeters
Weight: 10.93 ounces / 310 grams
Li-Ion and 4 x AAA batteries
USB charging cord
AC and DC adapter
This light does it all. It is ideal in size and function for outdoorsmen, first responders or for just having around the house. And, if all of the above has not convinced you to get one..... it has the COAST lifetime warranty. With this light, you won't need any others.