Stupid Square Battery Flashlights

How come those big “floating” flashlights that take the giant squarish batteries go bad so fast? They quit working and you go to buy a new battery and it costs the same (if not more) as buying a whole new flashlight, so you buy the new flashlight and it goes bad. I like to take 'em on a night paddle because you can set them on the bottom of the boat and they don’t roll around and – when they are working – they are quite bright for doing the “here-I-am, don’t-hit-me” thing with any powerboats in the area. Anyone with explanations or suggestions? I bring this up because I went on a moonlight paddle last night, could only find one flashlight that worked, and it was rather dim.

Because they are designed to be manufactured as cheaply as possible. There are no other design objectives.

feel your frustration
Headlights are very useful, but I would stick to the ones that take standard size batteries.

Now, if you want to use what you have, look into “rechargeable lantern spring batteries” - will ease your pain quite a bit.

Here is one example:

Stupid “expensive” batteries

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 9:07 AM EST –

Most boaters use rechargeable or plug-in big lights because of exactly the problem you describe $$. In the last 15 years or so, the lamp / bulb technology has changed and you can get very bright inexpensive waterproof flashlights cheap. You can also get big square lights that take 4 D cells and you can buy rechargeable batteries and chargers for not much money too. Most night / evening paddlers use many smaller lights rather than one big one. I have a rubber, 4 D cell long waterproof flashlight, that I bought at Wallmart for around $12.

Here's one that floats

they run out because they have high watt

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 12:36 PM EST –

bulbs. If you replaced that cheap 4 watt incandescent with a .5-1 watt it will last longer. It's not the fault of the battery. Those cheap lantern flashlights actually burn a long time given the drain on them. If you replaced the cheap incandescent with a cheap incandescent of lower wattage you'll have a longer life battery. If you replaced the cheap incandescent with an expensive LED replacement you'll have a longer life battery. If you replaced the cheap maganese battery with an expensive alkaline battery it will last longer.

If you don't turn the light on for hours on end you'll have a longer life battery.

You can't get cheap, waterproof, bright, long battery life without compromising something. If you like the size of flashlight go find a 6v 1 watt Krypton bulb.

Here, $25 replacement LED bulb

or spend $20 for LED flashlights that burn longer but aren't as bright as the lantern or burn just as bright and longer but cost much more.

multiple Watts of light that will burn for HOURS, whether it's incandescent or LED sourced requires lots of batteries. If you're willing to use the light infrequently you can have long life and bright.

This flashlight is MUCH more expensive, around $80, but it's brighter than the cheap lantern battery flashlights and will burn brighter for longer.
4c cells

this 4AA cell LED light costs around $35 and isn't as bright as the cheap lantern batteries but will last longer, especially if you spend buckets of money on lithium batteries or rechargable batteries.

there are smaller flashlights that use 4AA batteries and aren't as bright.

Somewhere there's probably a two D cell waterproof flashlight for $25. The hard part is finding a waterproof one. If it's one watt it'll burn a little longer than the lantern lights. Basically cheap lantern batteries use cheap batteries and all of them use high wattage bulbs. I haven't found a low wattage pr bulb. Nearly all of them are .5a-.8a which will drain any battery quickly.

I went through this same thing before LED lights but the same formula holds, if you want bright and long life it'll take a big battery. If you want affordable you won't have a long life and bright. If you want affordable and bright it won't be long life battery. If you want affordable and long life battery it won't be bright.

I haven’t had that problem

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 1:03 PM EST –

I have three of those lights (with standard "old-fashioned" bulbs), and the only time I've had a battery go dead unexpectedly is when the light accidently gets turned on during storage. One of these lights has a switch that is very easily engaged with a light bump, and several times I've had the battery in that light go dead for that reason.

Another of those lights only sees occassional use, and it's still very bright though it has the same battery as when I bought it, which was in about 1992!

As one other example, I have an old depth sounder for fishing that uses two of those square batteries. Last time I used that depth sounder, the batteries were roughly 10 years old, and the unit worked fine.

Maybe you have an "extra cheap" version with a switch that doesn't completely disconnect?


– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 3:16 PM EST –

I've had good luck using these to upgrade standard D-cell flashlights. They'd probably be fine with a 6v lantern battery.

I don't see much point in buying an incandescent flashlight if you're going to use it frequently -- the efficiency gains with LEDs will give you more light, longer battery life, or both.

square flashlights
wow I haven’t used one of those since I was a boyscout, but I guess I still seem them in stores here and there. Besides being cheap, waterproof, and not prone to rolling, why not use LEDs like others have suggested? I use a 1.5 watt single LED headlamp that is easily brighter than that old incandescent bulb with more efficient power drain at a fraction of the weight. That’s like comparing a clunky old 1980’s Walkman tape player to say an iPod nano - a quantum leap of technology in so many ways…

I have a more modern version
that has a module inside that you fill up with 8 c-cells configured to put out 6 volts. You can use rechargables if you want. It also has an LED battery life indicator that goes from green to yellow to red. It’s sold at Sears under the Craftsman name.

that’s the one
I thought there was one cheaper than $20. So you’ve used these? I think big honking 6v lantern flashlights are great. With a 1watt bulb it should burn a lot longer with less dimming than the 3-4watt incandescents.

So far, so good

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 4:45 PM EST –

They've given new life to a couple of 2-D lights that were gathering dust. I even tried one in a 2-AA Winnie-the-Pooh flashlight -- haven't measured the run time, but it's a lot brighter.

My everyday carry light is a 2AA Fenix with Eneloop rechargeables. It's an amazing amount of light in a small package.

Serious flashlight enthusiasts are at:

Try one of these

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 7:07 PM EST –

Signaling other boats
Lots of interesting responses here, thanks for the information. Several people suggested headlamps. I don’t like paddling with a headlamp; I think it narrows your field of vision. I especially hate paddling with someone wearing one who has it on then turns to talk to you and destroys your night vision.

I basically have the flashlight sitting in the boat, easily accessible, so – if a power boat comes near – I can signal the other boat to make them aware of my presence. They are also handy when you’re done paddling and need extra light while loading the boat on the vehicle. I may try finding a replacement lightbulb. I think burned out bulbs may be as much a problem or more than the battery issue.

get the LED replacement bulb
it won’t (or shouldn’t) burn out