Why Five Lights?

The topic of urbex equipment is often a subject of debate. Some explorers prep like they are going on a moon shot while others will show up empty-handed in shorts and flip flops. Every aspect of explorer equipment is debatable with one exception: Light. This short article is meant to help get your mind right about one of the most valuable tools in all of exploring and survival.

Exploring can be very dangerous. The number one way to stay safe is to be able to see. So let’s talk about lights. These days nearly every flashlight you’ll find is an LED light. These lights are available everywhere and at every price point but it is important to select a light that is reliable and durable. Your exploring light must be waterproof (not water-resistant, see here) and shockproof. Variable brightness is a nice feature to have since it allows you to extend the total run time of the light by using a lower setting. A lot of exploring happens in low light so having very low lumen settings or an optional red light setting can be useful as well. Although flashlights are sold with “lumens” as the primary factor, anything more than 100 lumens is wasted in most situations. Remember, a brighter light will always burn shorter. In a survival situation you may need your light to last for days. Expect to spend at least $25 for a quality metal flashlight. We recommend brands like Fenix, Quark, and 4Sevens.

Typical exploring flashlights will use AAA, AA, or CR123 batteries and you should always carry spare batteries stored in a ziplock bag. Before I explore, the batteries in every single light are thrown away and replaced. Some explorers are quite happy to run lights dry and depend on spare batteries. Personally, I want to live so every light gets new batteries every time and each light is function tested. Does the light stay on when clicked? Does the light stay on when shaken or bumped? Any failure of these test should be addressed.

But you’re really reading because you want to know why anyone would carry five flashlights. Let’s talk them through one at a time.

  • Light one is easy to understand. This is your main light and can be a headlamp or handheld.
  • Light two is your backup. There is an old saying, “Two is one and one is none” that is why we have light two. So this is a duplicate of light one.
  • Light three is your backup’s backup. Sounds silly at first but think about being deep underground or in an elevator shaft at 2am with a twisted ankle. Your backup light isn’t working for some reason. This really happens. You may develop strong feelings for light three.
  • Light four! This light is to give to that jerk who didn’t bring any lights. Later you might need to push that person down so the lion eats them while you escape. But you will want this person to have a light so the lion can see and catch them easily.
  • Light five is stored away from the other lights, ideally in your pants pocket. This light is for the situation where you are unexpectedly separated from your gear. Don’t think this can happen? Maybe you should consider a safer hobby.

Exploring can be dangerous. Take 5 lights with you, give one to your friend, feed your friend to a lion, then post your photos on Flickr. To buy some cool lights, check out Fenix and Foursevens.