Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hausbell Cree and Harbor Freight Flashlights

One of the most important items in a survival kit is a good light. Sometimes, you don’t need the blinding power of modern LED tactical lights, just a handy flashlight to help you navigate in the dark, find the keys you dropped, or light up a noise in the yard.

For around the house use I have picked up a bunch of the small, AAA-powered 9-LED flashlights from Harbor Freight. I always get HF coupons in the mail, paper, or the American Rifleman, and there’s usually one for a free light with any purchase. I don’t think I’ve paid for any of the at least six HF flashlights that I have.

That said, the HF lights are cheap, as in chintzy. They use three AAA cells rather than AAs, which I’ve tried to standardize on. The size is very handy, though, so I decided to try the similar AA-powered Cree LED lights from China available from places like Deal Extreme or Amazon.

Also, one of my friends who uses flashlights more than I do gave up on the HF lights after several of them failed, and switched over to the little Cree single AA cell lights.

The first order I placed was for 4 of the lights from an Amazon seller shipping from China. I waited a week past the expected delivery date without them showing, then got a refund from Amazon. I then ordered a pair from a supplier based in the US, Hausbell. They came in two days via Amazon Prime Sunday delivery. In the first picture I have one of the HF lights, one of the Hausbells, and my Victorinox Pioneer Farmer SAK for scale (it is 3.5” long).


(The small blue light attached to the knife is by eGear. I bought it at REI for about ten bucks. It’s come in handy on numerous occasions and I hardly notice carrying it.)

The specs provided by the importer are 7W, 300 Lumen output. It’s supposed to be waterproof. Powered is provided by a single AA cell.

The Hausbell light feels more substantial in the hand than the HF light. The HF light has a small loop attached to it, while the Hausbell has a pocket clip. I wanted to see if the Hausbell would work as a headlamp, so I attache it to the brim of my cap, but it’s too heavy. If it was a little lighter I’d reattach the clip pointing the other way (after drilling and tapping two hole) but I’m not going to bother.

Both lights have tailcap switches but the Hausbell’s is recessed to prevent it from being activated by accident. This also allows the Hausbell to stand on end, while the HF light has to lean on something.


This shows the one Cree  LED emitter of the Hausbell and the nine of the HF light. I don’t have a good pic but the light color of the Hausbell is a bit nicer, with less of a blue tint than the HF’s.


You can change the focus of the Cree LED by moving the bezel in or out. When in, the light is more of a flood. Extended, it’s a narrower beam and when shone on a surface you actually see the outline of the emitter. The HF beam is not adjustable.

The Hausbell is much brighter than the HF light. The latter is good for use up close, but doesn’t throw very far. In flood mode the Hausbell will light up most of my suburban backyard, and when focused down it will cast a beam at least 75 yards.

A few different versions of the Cree-based lights are available. E.g., different case colors, multi-mode units, and some come packaged with # 14500 cells and a recharger. There are also mounts that will clamp the Cree lights to a bicycle handlebar, making it into an inexpensive but reasonably powerful headlight.

As part of my effort to lose weight and get in better shape, I’ve been walking laps of my neighborhood after dinner. I’ve been carrying either a Rayovac, HF, or Fenix light. The Rayovac and the Fenix are both longer and heavier than the Hausbell. I’m switching to the new light. It’s more than bright enough and easier to carry in my pocket.

Both lights are useful. The Hausbell is more substantial and better made. The HF light weighs a little less, and can be picked up for free with a coupon if you’re buying something at Harbor Freight. The HF lights are good for around the house and for giving to kids or other people who tend to lose things. They are almost disposable. In contrast, the Hausbell feels like a solid unit that will give years of service, and comes at low cost.

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