By Contributing Editor Steve Casimiro, editor of Adventure Journal. See more of Casimiro's gear recommendations in our must-have Spring/Summer 2011 gear gallery >>
One Christmas back in the ’90s, my dad gave me a spotlight, the kind that plugs into your vehicle’s lighter. The light was massive, eight inches across, and on a road trip through Baja, searching for a place to camp one night, we nicknamed it Big Tony after my pop. Alas, Big Tony—the light, not the man—was bright but not durable. It broke before too many years’ service. Despite having more headlamps than anyone in all of coal country, I’ve been spotlight-less for the better part of the new millennium.
But then I discovered Surefire’s M3LT ($550) and whoa, nelly. This “combat light” pumps out a shockingly bright 400 lumens. On a trip last week through Utah’s canyon country, I used it repeatedly to suss out camp spots, search for the trail ahead, and illuminate the North Rim of the Grand Canyon way over in Arizona. Indeed, the M3LT is so bright, you could easily use it for self-defense—just point and click and that attacking grizzly would be blinded. I’m not kidding.
Made of sculpted aluminum, the light is cool to the touch and fits perfectly in your hand whether you’re wearing gloves or not. It’s just under nine inches long and weighs less than 11 ounces. There are two settings—the 70 lumen output gets you 8.5 hours of burn time, the 400 goes for 1.7 hours (not bad, considering the firepower). Its output is driven by a four-die LED focused with a Fresnel lens.
The M3LT looks, feels, and performs like an American badass—macho to the core. And while the stiff cost might weed out the casual user, for more intensive purposes such as search and rescue, it’s hard to imagine finding a more powerful light in a small package. Big Tony approves.