Throughout my life, I honestly can’t count the number of flashlights I’ve owned, from tiny, extremely cheap little things to the mini Maglight that came with my Leatherman to, well, my smartphone. With only a few exceptions, they’ve just basically been flashlights – a metal or plastic tube filled with batteries that you point at dark places to make them light (or, in the case of the cheap flashlights, make them slightly less dark.)
I was thus somewhat intrigued by the marketing behind the DanForce G1 Pro, which billed itself as being not only the “world’s first modular flashlight”, but also “the last flashlight you’ll ever need.” So when they offered to send a sample for review, I figured I’d give it a shot.
The G1 is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, although they have already reached and long-since exceeded their goal.
The first thing to note: the DanForce is definitely the first flashlight I’ve had that came in packaging that would make Steve Jobs proud. A surprisingly big, very nicely designed outer shell slid off a sleek black inner box. Opening that revealed the G1’s first main feature: it comes in its own, custom-designed case. The case can definitely take a beating and protect its contents. It also has an attached carabiner so that it can be hooked to your other gear.
Everything inside is surrounded by heavy foam to keep it all in place and provide extra layers of protection.
A version of the light DanForth sent me contained:
- G1 main body
- Orange head
- Tactical head
- Body extension
- Tail switch
- Compass cap
- Power bank cap
- 2 lithium-ion batteries
- USB charging cable
- Red lens
- Green lens
- Snap cord
- Safety rope
- Neck strap
- Bike mount
It’s worth going through each of these in detail.
G1 Main Body
This is the flashlight itself. Without any attachments, it measures just barely under 6 inches. The top is of course the LED light and an adjustable focus lens. Just below that is a “jagged” ring which unscrews to reveal a MicroUSB slot for charging the batteries and indicator LEDs. The remainder is the handle/battery compartment.
Orange Head and Tactical Head
The light includes two interchangable heads for the light, both of which are basically designed to protect the lens. The orange head is a flat cylinder, while the tactical head is black with ridges that make it look a bit like a crown.
A quick confession: I’m neither law enforcement nor military, and I’m not into self defense stuff at all, so I had to look up the purpose of the tactical head online. For those in similar situations, the idea is that the flashlight itself can be used for self-defense. If you’re being attacked, you could temporarily blind your attacker with the light and then hit them with the flashlight body, both of which should allow you to escape. But while hitting an attacker with a solid metal tube is going to hurt, hitting them with the tactical head is going to hurt and probably draw blood.
The body extension does what it says – it takes the flashlight from “short mode” at just over 6 inches (once you add the head of your choice and the tail switch) to “long mode”, about 10.5 inches. Partially, this is another self defense piece – a longer flashlight is going to be easier to hit that attacker with than a shorter one. But it also allows you to put in a second battery, which both extends the battery life and makes the whole thing brighter (more on both of those in a moment.)
The cap on the flashlight, which like basically every other flashlight closes off the battery compartment and completes the circuit to make everything work goes beyond the basics. The cap has a nice orange ring that not only makes it easy to see where the body ends and the cap begins so you know where to hold it while you unscrew it, but also makes the flashlight stand out a bit, hopefully to make it easier to find in a dark tent or on the ground. It also includes a clip so that you can attach the light to your belt, a slot to attach the safety wire, and of course the switch itself to turn the light on and off.
But here again we get a nice design feature: the light can be set to one of six modes but lightly pressing the button rather than pressing it all the way, which simply turns the thing on and off. The first four modes change the brightness (and, of course, battery life) from high to medium to low to “ECO”, or very low. After that, there’s a very fast strobe, followed by a pretty cool SOS mode that sets the light to three short, three long, and three short flashes to signal for help.
Compass Cap and Power Bank Cap
If you aren’t using the body extension on the light, you can use it as a power bank to charge your phone or other devices. Simply slide a battery in and attach the compass cap to one end and the power bank cap to the other. Like all small compasses encased in metal, the compass cap isn’t going to be something you’ll want to use to win an orienteering course challenge, but for figuring out basically which way is north, it would do in a pinch. The power bank cap has a compartment sealed by a bright orange rubber cap with both a standard and a MicroUSB port.
One note: because the flashlight’s power switch is on the tail switch, you cannot attach the compass to the flashlight itself, even though the threads are there to do it, because you will not be able to turn the light on. But that’s really OK, since you obviously wouldn’t be able to read the compass in the dark anyway.
Another unique feature: I’m fairly certain that this is the first flashlight I’ve owned that didn’t use standard AAA or D batteries. Instead, it comes with two of its own rechargable lithium ion cells. Each battery has a capacity of 3200mAh and provides 3.7 volts of power. I haven’t tested them fully myself, but according to the manual, in “short mode” the batteries should last 4 hours at maximum power, and 6-7 hours with the body extension added. Obviously, using the light in other modes or as a power bank would change these estimates.
The batteries can be charged directly in the flight by unscrewing the jagged ring and attaching a normal MicroUSB cord, but the manual stresses that this should only be done in “short mode”, charging a single battery. The battery can also be charged from the power bank, or either or both batteries can be removed from the light and placed on the included charger, which plugs into any USB power source.
Another cool add-on is the lantern, which is nothing more than a white plastic dome. It fits snuggly over the end of the light and nicely diffuses it, effectively providing soft, indirect light to a tent or other small area.
Green and Red Filters
The red filter is something I’m familiar with thanks to a lifetime of stargazing. Red light does not mess up your night vision as quickly as normal white light, so placing the red filter over the light allows you to read star maps or other items and then still look right back up at the sky.
The green filter was something else I had to look up, because I’m also not a hunter. Apparently, green light won’t attract the attention of animals and so is used by hunters. So that’s two new things I learned while writing up this review.
The rest of the accessories are fairly straight-forward, and mostly revolve around carrying the light: there’s a snap cord that allows the other straps to connect to the light, and either a short “safety rope” to attach the light to your wrist or other smaller object and a neck strap. Either is interchangeable thanks to the plastic snap on the snap cord.
The model I was sent also includes a bike mount to allow you to use the flashlight as a light on your bike, but it’s worth the reminder that this flashlight is pretty expensive, so be sure to not leave it on the bike when you park. The Kickstarter campaign also offers a weapon mount for the light.
So how much does all of this cost? Less than I thought, honestly. A pledge of $69 will get you the kit I’m describing here. Higher pledges add extras like the weapon mount. According to the Kickstarter page, the normal package will retail for $89.
Is It Worth It?
This is always the tough part. From what I’ve seen of the flashlight so far, it certainly seems like it would be a worthwhile investment if you spend time outdoors at night, whether it’s hunting or camping or night hiking or whatever you’re doing. And if you’re inclined to carry a flashlight for protection, this one again seems to fit the bill.
I’m only hedging my bets here a bit because I haven’t had a chance to really run the light through its paces. I’m looking forward to taking it on my next Scouting campout (at least partially because I will definitely have the coolest flashlight), but unfortunately we aren’t going camping until after the Kickstarter campaign ends.
The main reason I’ve gone through so many flashlights in my life is that while I’ve always recognized the need for a good flashlight, particularly when camping, I also haven’t ever been willing to pay for one; instead, I’ve always just picked up a $25 one at Target. I strongly suspect, however, that this light will change that and will be something I’ll have for a long time. It’s clearly durable, being made of solid aluminum, and it’s dust and water resistant IPX4 rated.
If you want one of your own, you will want to hurry, though, as the Kickstarter campaign ends on October 5.
Note: I received a free review sample, but the opinions offered are my own.