Hog Blog Gear Review – Olympia RG850 Flashlight
June 24, 2014
One of the most underrated tools in the outdoorsman’s bag is the flashlight. If you asked 50 hunters to come up with a list of “must have” items for the hunter’s pack, it’s a fair bet 25 of them will completely overlook the flashlight. I don’t think that’s because folks don’t think it’s an important tool, but because it’s so ubiquitous they just tend to take it for granted. For my part, any time I’m more than an hour or two from the truck, I like to have at least two flashlights, as well as spare batteries. But even when I’m hunting within sight of the house, I seldom get into the stand without a light in my pocket.
It’s not because I’m scared of the dark. I’m not.
And it’s not so much because I can’t find my way out of the woods at night without a light. The truth is that I prefer to hike without a light in the dark whenever there’s the faintest bit of ambient light. It’s easier on my eyes and gives me a good bit more peripheral vision. But sometimes, especially in thick cover or cloudy, moonless nights, it’s just so dark that it’s unsafe to try to navigate the brush, rocks, and ravines without some light to guide the way.
More important to me, though, is the availability of a good light to find game after the shot. I don’t care how good your night vision might be, it’s not good enough to let you follow a blood trail in the dark. Without a light, you can’t read the sign to see if the animal is wandering, dragging a limb, or hiding in a thick pile of brush just off the trail. And for this kind of work, the brighter and cleaner the beam, the better off you are.
Flashlights have evolved drastically, even in my own lifetime. Modern lights with concentrated power and LED bulbs are simply miles ahead of the old aluminum-cased, glass lensed, torches we used to use. They’ve not only gained power, but they’ve grown smaller as well to be more compact and portable. I’ve got three-ounce headlamps that put out more light than my old 6-volt Boy Scout lantern ever dreamed of, and palm-sized handhelds that rival the old Q-beam spotlight for intensity and range.
In a lot of ways, we have the tactical market to thank for turning out some pretty amazing flashlights. The requirements of the battlefield or law enforcement situations mean that these lights are strong, weatherproof, and durable. They are bright enough to disable a close-up opponent or to light up the field for a couple hundred yards.
The folks at Olympia Products have pulled all of these advances together to create the RG850 flashlight. I was fortunate enough to receive one of these lights for review recently, and while there are still some things that only time will tell, my initial impressions have been pretty favorable. Let’s look at a few key criteria:
- Brightness – The RG850 is named for the 850 lumens it produces at full power. Now I don’t have a testing lab or any of that fancy equipment to verify that I’m really getting that sort of output, but I can tell you that this light is one of the brightest handhelds I’ve ever used. I also realize that lumens aren’t the only measure of light quality. There are other aspects, such as color and clarity that determine the value of a flashlight’s beam. I’m not the kind of expert who could provide an empirical analysis, but with my own eyes I can definitively say that this light is more than enough to light up a blood trail… even on medium power (there are three power levels and two blink modes). I flashed it out across the pasture on a recent cloudy night and was easily able to see jackrabbits over 100 yards away… not just their eyes, but the entire rabbit.
- Size – With the battery in place and the wrist lanyard attached, the RG850 weighs in at six ounces on my kitchen scale. Considering the heavy-duty construction of this light, I think that’s plenty reasonable. There are lighter flashlights on the market, but this one seems to be on par with most others in this class. I wouldn’t want to hold this one in my teeth for an extended period (e.g. field dressing a hog in the dark), but it certainly isn’t any burden to carry in my hand or drop in the pack.
- Durability – I haven’t tried driving nails with the RG850, and I haven’t backed the truck over it or dropped it in the river. They only sent one to review, and I’d hate to destroy it because I like it so much. At the same time, just based on the feel and the specs, the light is tough enough to meet with any hunter’s demands. The moving sections (the lens cap and tail cap) are waterproofed with O-rings, and the packaging even comes with spares in case you need them. I have dropped the unit a couple of times, but most modern lights can withstand that sort of abuse anyway. The specs say the unit is waterproof to two meters, so I probably wouldn’t use this as a dive light, but at the same time, that should be more than sufficient for the occasional dunk in the duck marsh or mountain stream.
- Battery life – One of the drawbacks to the super-powered flashlights is the intense drain on batteries. The RG850 is supposed to give a little over an hour of service at its highest setting. At the medium setting (appx. 360 lumens), it should provide about three hours of light. On the lowest setting, which provides about 20 lumens (enough to keep you from running into trees on a dark trail), you should expect about 65 hours. Of course, all of these averages are going to be impacted by how you use the light… either sporadically flashing it to see specific things or continuous use. I haven’t used it long enough to run it down yet, but I see no reason to doubt the advertised numbers. The cool thing is, though, that the RG850 is rechargeable. Even cooler is that you can recharge it from anything with a USB port. The package includes a USB cable and an adaptor for 110v household outlets, but if you have a USB port in your vehicle, or a cigarette lighter plug with a USB port, you can charge the flashlight in your vehicle. Of course you could also use any of the solar charging solutions on the market as well, if you’re way out past where the powerlines end.
The downside to being rechargeable, of course, is that you can’t replace the battery with a standard AA. It comes with an 18650 NiMH battery, and I suppose you could pick up a spare to keep in your pack, but in general, the fact that you need a recharging source suggests that the RG850 is best suited for work closer to home. On an extended, backcountry trip I believe I would choose to carry a couple of old-fashioned, battery-powered lights instead.
- Cost – I list this last, although it is certainly a priority to a lot of people. The RG850 has a suggested retail price of $89.99 (actual store prices will vary… often a bit lower). For a light of this quality, that’s not cheap, but it certainly doesn’t put it in the neighborhood of the Surefires or some other high-end tactical lights. Still, 90 bucks is a lot of money for a flashlight. Is it worth it? I can’t honestly answer that just now. Give me a year or so to put this thing through normal use, and if it’s still holding up, then we’ll talk about value.
Overall, in case you didn’t gather, I’m pretty pleased with this light. It’s found a pretty regular spot in my bedside table where it’s close at hand for any nighttime emergency… or if I want to light up the rabbits in the pasture and thin their numbers on a dark night. I haven’t used it on a blood trail yet, of course, but I have no doubt it will serve that purpose very well. It is a little pricey, but it’s very competitive with other lights in the same niche. If that’s the sort of thing you’re in the market for, I’d definitely give it a look.