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  Show - Winter
Photon II Micro-Light

By Jeff Porcaro

Photon Imagine that you are in the backcountry. Reaching camp you pitch your tent and stoke up the stove for a warm dinner. The night sneaks over you, engulfing you in ever-deepening inky darkness, but in your hunger you don't notice. Snarfing down your Turkey Tetrazinni and Raspberry Crumble, you head for the comfort and security of your nylon shelter to retrieve your headlamp. Peering in your cavernous black-lined pack, you realize that you waited too long. In the blackness, your eyes are about as useful as that hang nail on your right thumb. You are forced to search for your headlamp using only your sense of touch.

Maybe you don't have to image this--not if you've had this annoying experience. Often, the moment you need a light source it is not nearby. Enter the Photon II. The Photon II is a small LED light that has a rugged glass-filled polyurethane case that is virtually indestructible. This light is as small as a quarter and weighs just 5.5 grams.

Its light is bright enough to illuminate up to 20 feet ahead, depending on the color of the LED, and can be seen from up to a mile away. This is a great backup light that can be carried on your person for quick access.

The Photon II light comes in a range of colors including Red, Orange, Yellow, Turquoise, Infrared, Green, Blue, and White. The white and blue lights are brighter than the rest, but they also deplete the batteries in about 12 hours of continuous use. I have had my Blue Photon II for about 6 months and have had it on my key ring. With consistent use the light is still very bright. The other colored lights use less battery power and most lasting up to 5 days of continuous use, and the Green light lasting up to 7 Days.

The Photon outputs enough light to work in your tent or read. We also found the light to be physically tough. The durable case has been (accidentally) run through the washing machine and dropped repeatedly without ill effects.

The beam provides adequate light for walking at night, lighting the trail out about 10 feet ahead, making it especially useful for navigating from your tent to the outhouse. We also used the Blue light to run GPS training at night for a group of local scouts. The light is not harsh on your eyes, so it doesn't reduce your night vision as much as a white light would. It can clip on your key ring, or with an optional lanyard clip to your clothes. The light also performed well in cold temperatures.

The Photon II is great for both emergency lighting and quick access. Some minimalists might also consider the Photon as their primary light source for backcountry trips. I consider this light to be a great addition to any gear list. This is also a great gift idea for the gearhead who has everything. Everyone could use one of these lights on their key ring.

The suggested retail price is $16 - $28 (US) depending on color, model, and style.

Jeff Porcaro is a Contributing Editor and co-founder at He specializes in stoves, GPS navigation, mountaineering, and trips to Utah's remote backcountry.

For more information, contact: at (541) 484-6898 or on the Internet at
Essential Gear, Inc (800) 582-3861

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