Let There Be Light

The good old-fashioned flashlight is still a reliable workhorse in dark places, but innovative new light-makers on the market outshine that basic tool in a variety of situations. Whether illuminating maps, a writing pad or a campsite, or signaling an auto emergency, the battery-powered items below are bright ideas for those on the go. Prices do not include shipping and handling:

Eveready, a household name in batteries, has devised a handy double-duty light that functions both as a flashlight and a lantern. Collapsed to a height of five inches, the sturdy yellow plastic light is a spotlight, like any other flashlight. Slide the flash head down away from the body and the clear plastic cylindrical shaft in between becomes a 6 1/2-inch-high lantern, illuminating 360 degrees. The Duolight takes four AA batteries (included), and has an extra bright krypton bulb and a wrist strap. On a recent camping trip I found the Duolight a welcome addition to my gear. I particularly liked its lantern function in my tent, but it also works well on a dining table or as a night light. And at just seven ounces, it adds little weight even to an overloaded backpack.

Duolight (No. 7310) is $17.50 from TravelSmith, a mail order company; (800) 950-1600. *

Sometimes the most ingenious inventions are the simplest. Such is the case with the neat new Lightman Emergency Strobe Light developed by a Connecticut company called Visibility Systems. The small battery-powered triangular strobe light (3 1/2 inches on each side) turns on with the press of a button, is visible for up to three miles and flashes a strong beam 80 times per minute. Powered by two AA batteries (not included), the light lasts three to seven hours, depending on temperature and whether regular or long-lasting lithium batteries are used.


Originally designed for highway emergencies, the four-ounce Lightman is also a valuable safety light for cyclists, joggers, boaters and hikers. Four included attachments (a magnet, suction cup, visor clip and plastic eyelet) can be screwed into the back of the light for easy mounting in a variety of situations. I keep a Lightman in my glove compartment at all times and take one along whenever and wherever I expect to be walking in the dark. One caveat: Check the battery periodically to make sure the beam remains strong, and keep some spare batteries in hand as an added precaution.

Lightman Emergency Strobe Light (No. 183376) is $29, including four attachments and two interchangeable lenses (amber and clear) from Brookstone stores and mail order sales; (800) 351-7222. *

I never know when or where I’ll need to jot down a few notes, so I paid particular attention to a theater critic sitting next to me at a play, who was feverishly scribbling on a small pad of paper, with his pen providing its own illumination. I asked him for his source, and now I too have a lighted pen, which I’ve found invaluable in all sorts of situations. Whether writing in a darkened car, airplane, movie house or bedroom, I found the Nitewriter to provide a bright, yet discreet, beam of light. I’ve even used the pen as a tiny flashlight to light my way to hotel room bathrooms in the dark. The Nitewriter is the size of a thick pen and lights when the cap is placed over the non-writing end, activating a tiny switch. Two AAA batteries and an extra pen tip cartridge are included.

Nitewriter Pen (No. BA704) in black or white is $7.85 from Magellan’s; (800) 962-4943. Package of five pen-tip refills (No. BA704R) is $3.50. *


For shedding light on maps, menus, books and bus schedules, among other things, I’ve found a nifty magnifying glass/light that when collapsed is about the size of a face powder compact. Press the two buttons on the side of the plastic case and out pops a two-inch square 2X magnifying glass lighted by a tiny bulb that is powered by two AAA batteries (not included).

Magnifying Glass/Light (No. 703181) is $9.98 from Just Between us, a division of the Miles Kimball mail-order company; (800) 546-2255. *

A variation on the above, but even more compact, is the Skinny Little Lumifier, from Zelco, a New York manufacturer of travel products. Measuring a diminutive 3 inches by 1 1/4 inches, the fold-out lens magnifies up to 2 1/2 times and is lighted by a bright red beam designed to be easy on the eyes. The Lumifier comes with a lifetime LED bulb and a replaceable lithium battery that the manufacturer says will last up to five years. Also included are a neck cord and key ring. I found the red light a bit disconcerting at first and did not like the fact that the power button had to remain compressed for the light to stay on. But I liked the fact that the Lumifier is small enough to keep on my key chain or hang around my neck by the cord.

The Skinny Little Lumifier is $16.95 from Zelco; (800) 431-2486.



Gear & Gadgets appears the first week of every month.