Either, a flashlight is simply the American name for a torch which is widely used in the United Kingdom and countries that were colonised by Britain. Torch originates from the French word ‘torche’ which originally described a baton with a flame, not unlike the iconic Olympic flame.
Nowadays even a smartphone has a torch but excessive use runs the phone’s battery down rapidly and the light is only sufficient for emergency use.
There are numerous torches available from cheap functional torches to extremely high tech torches with dazzling light.
A torch has become an integral part of one’s every day carry as well as being a basic item carried in your car or bakkie.
Its prime function is much like your pocket knife and that is to be there when you need it. A small key-chain torch is useful to carry around but is limited in terms of light so I opt for a torch that I can simply slip into a front trouser pocket held in place by a pocket clip, this makes it readily available when you need it. Just be sure that you remove it before dropping the trousers into the wash. Larger torches are less easily misplaced which is useful at home or in a car when needing to locate the torch in the dark, smaller torches are always better when hiking or backpacking being lighter and taking up less space. The size and type of torch will also impact on battery life and the running time of the torch.
Modern technology has seen newer heads, emitters and reflectors and smaller optics, this has led to the size of the battery determining the size of the torch.
Power today still relies on the standard batteries such as AAA’s, AA’s or D Cells but many torches now come with rechargeable high-discharge batteries such as the 18650 variants or even rechargeable torches. It is worth looking into the options as some of the newer torches even act as emergency power packs for recharging cellphones in an emergency. Old school batteries are cheap and readily available yet not environmentally friendly unless disposed of properly for recycling. The downside of rechargeable torches is that fact that it is one additional charger that you have to travel with adding to the list of chargers that you already take for a phone and camera.
The high-discharge batteries also produce more powerful light which is measured in lumens. I have used torches powered by the popular CR 123 cells often used by cameras but I have found then expensive with a limited lifespan.
Torches typically come with a twist cap or button to switch them on and off, twist caps are less likely to switch themselves on in a pocket or bag but they do require a two-handed operation. Buttons are generally fitted into the barrel of the torch or the tail cap, tail cap buttons are great for use with an overhand grip and may be exposed or shrouded which allow you to stand the torch on its cap. Unlike the older popular torches such as the “Maglite” brand new torches offer the option to cycle the light through various levels of brightness as well as having a strobe function used in tactical work or signalling. Over the years I have acquired a variety of torches some of which use the old style of battery and some of which use rechargeable batteries or even charge via a USB port, they all tend to have a common purpose yet one of the older torches has an adaptor that converts it into a lantern, especially useful during load shedding at night. A small torch in the range of around 500 lumens is a useful addition to a camera bag when travelling as well as giving you the ability to “paint” features with light when taking photos of stars. As with buying a knife, it is worth doing your homework carefully before buying a torch as the better torches are expensive, so it’s worthwhile to look into the specification and functionality before making your purchase.