Especially during outdoor activities, it is unavoidable that the flashlight comes into contact with rain or moisture. Rugged, waterproof flashlights such as so-called tactical flashlights are ideal for these operational scenarios. They perform reliably even under the most adverse conditions and are extremely durable.
High-quality flashlights are equipped with powerful LED light-emitting diodes and offer long operating times thanks to low energy consumption. They allow reading maps, recognizing people or objects, and orientation indoors and outdoors even in absolute darkness. Depending on the type, they have up to several thousand lumens of luminosity and achieve luminous ranges of several hundred meters. As far as the waterproofing of the lamps is concerned, different levels of waterproofing are provided for the various uses.
Advantages of a waterproof flashlight with LED technology compared to flashlights with conventional light sources
For many decades, flashlights were usually equipped with incandescent bulbs or halogen lamps as illuminants. In the meantime, LED technology has conquered the world of flashlights, because light-emitting diodes offer numerous advantages over conventional light sources. LEDs require only a fraction of the energy of an incandescent bulb or halogen lamp at comparable luminous intensities. They can be operated with batteries or rechargeable batteries over long periods of time, helping to save costs and protect the environment.
In addition, light-emitting diodes have a very long service life. While it was common for bulbs with filaments to fail after a certain period of operation and have to be replaced, LEDs are extremely durable. For a waterproof flashlight, this is an added advantage, as replacing a bulb can compromise waterproofing. The small yet powerful light-emitting diodes enable compact waterproof flashlights with high light output and long beam distances. Since an LED does not have a sensitive filament, it is insensitive to impacts and does not fail after a fall on a hard surface like some incandescent bulbs.
What does waterproof actually mean?
Strictly by definition, waterproof means the ability or property of a material or device to prevent the ingress of water. In the case of flashlights, this is particularly important because they are electrical devices with sensitive technology. Moisture penetration can impair the flashlight's functionality or lead to complete destruction of the device. Anyone who relies on a flashlight that works reliably in all weather conditions needs a waterproof flashlight.
However, not all flashlights are waterproof. Depending on the use of a flashlight, a certain waterproofness is required. Depending on the waterproof rating, a flashlight will survive splashing water, rain or complete submersion in water without damage.
The meaning of the individual IPX levels
To indicate how well devices are protected against the ingress of water or foreign bodies, the so-called IP protection classes have been defined. IP stands for International Protection and is a standardized value that is valid worldwide. The designations for the protection classes consist of the abbreviation IP and two subsequent digits.
The first digit stands for protection against contact and foreign bodies, the second digit for water protection. If only one of the two digits is significant, the other is assigned an X. This results in the various IPX levels for waterproof flashlights, such as IPX4, IPX6, IPX7 or IPX8. The individual digits mean in detail:
- IPX0 - no protection against water
- IPX1 - protection against dripping water
- IPX2 - protection against falling dripping water at housing inclinations up to 15 degrees
- IPX3 - protection against falling spray water up to a direction of 60 degrees from vertical
- IPX4 - protection against splashing water from all sides
- IPX5 - protection against water jets from any angle (for example, coming out of a nozzle)
- IPX7 - protection against temporary (short) immersion in water (specified depth and length, for example, one meter and 30 minutes)
- IPX8 - protection against permanent submersion (the exact conditions are specified by the manufacturer and are, for example, up to a depth of two meters and 30 minutes)
- IPX9 - protection against water from high-pressure or steam jet cleaners
The different IPX levels in relation to waterproof flashlights
Typically, the IPX levels of waterproof flashlights vary between IPX4 and IPX8. If a flashlight meets the IPX4 standard, it means that it only offers minimal protection against splashing water. These flashlights are unsuitable for use in the rain. An IPX6 flashlight may be used sometimes in the rain and should meet the minimum requirements for campers or hikers. However, prolonged use in heavy rain or even immersion in water should be avoided.
A waterproof flashlight with IPX7 protection rating, for example, can be submerged in a puddle and survive this undamaged if it is immediately picked up again. IPX8 flashlights can be submerged in water up to two meters and survive up to 30 minutes without damage. Such a flashlight can fall into a stream while hiking, for example, and still work afterwards. If you want to play it safe and use the flashlight in the most adverse conditions or extreme outdoor activities, choose a device with level IPX8.
Wear and tear due to use also reduces the water resistance of a flashlight
It is important to know that the IPX level is a theoretical value when buying the product. If a flashlight is used intensively and is exposed to shocks, mechanical stresses and wear and tear, the water resistance will suffer. A dent in an inconvenient place or a poor seal may result in water penetration despite the IPX waterproof rating. The longer a flashlight is in use, the more likely these waterproof impairments are to occur.
Waterproof flashlights are not dive lights!
Even if a waterproof flashlight is IPX8 rated and still functions when submerged in water, it should never be used as a dive light. Proper diving lamps are designed for permanent use under water and are absolutely waterproof at water depths greater than two meters. Dive lights can still withstand water pressure at depths of 10, 20 and 30 meters or greater, depending on the type. Waterproof flashlights such as a tactical flashlight, on the other hand, are completely unsuitable for this type of use.
Further selection criteria for a good waterproof flashlight
In addition to IPX levels, there are many other criteria to consider when selecting a good waterproof flashlight. Important selection criteria are for example:
- High luminosity in lumens
- Large luminous range or large illumination area
- Focusability of the light cone
- Adjustability of different brightness levels and light modes such as flashing light
- Operation with batteries and / or rechargeable batteries
- Long burn time
- Compact dimensions and robust housing
- Low weight