I’ve already written about my recent trip to Northern Minnesota and my great success with Wiley X Sunglasses and a BlackHawk Sling Backpack. Today I want to cover lighting. The number one thing I wanted to bring along for my trip was a flashlight, and I asked around for a new model that might be fun to try out. The Streamlight ProTac Flashlight is one of the latest flashlights to hit our stores, and it looked pretty good based on the description. Small, lightweight, powerful and uses easy to find CR123A Batteries, the ProTac was a good option for some light camping and hiking.
It was immediately apparent when I first picked up the ProTac that this was a strong flashlight. This feeling didn’t come from the weight, but rather the tough aluminum housing. I don’t see the ProTac as a terribly useful weapon, it’s size and weight may prevent it from inflicting much damage if it came to that, but I didn’t feel the least bit apprehensive about it falling apart or breaking easily. I don’t go on vacation to worry about my gear, so I always look for durabilty first. The ProTac had that covered.
My first chance to use the ProTac was actually on the first day. The drive from Chicago to Hackensack, MN takes about 11 hours, and I left right after work on a Friday. Fortunately, I didn’t hit much traffic, but it’s still 565 miles, so I didn’t get there until after 1am. This trip was actually my first time alone at the cabin. I’ve always visited with my dad in the past, but he passed away in April so I was on my own.
I couldn’t find the key before leaving Illinois, so I was hoping a cousin would be at the cabin to let me in. No luck. I pulled up to a dark cabin and no cars in the driveway. Those of you who’ve camped or hunted far from major cities already know this, but for those NOT in the know, it gets really dark when you’re far from a town. Hackensack has a population of about 300, and that’s 7 miles away. There were a few stars out, but the moon was too low to clear the tree cover.
It was dark. Very dark. I don’t care how manly you are, when you’re alone in the middle of the woods with no one around and it’s pitch black, it’s a little scary. I’ve been running around these woods since I was old enough to chase my older brother, and I know almost every tree and trail within walking distance. Still, I felt a bit spooked. While I’ve seen plenty of wildlife in these woods, it’s the wildlife I’ve heard that grips my heart with cold fingers. When I was young, under 10 years old, I heard a mountain lion kill a animal while I lay in bed. I don’t know for sure what was killed, but it was likely a deer based on the horrible cries it produced.
Staring into the blackness that cry came back to me. My way into the cabin is through a side window that’s usually kept unlatched in the summer for cases like mine. All that’s necessary to get in is to remove the screen, slide the windows open and hop up. I’ve done this a few times over the years, but never at night. Never alone.
What made this worse is that my car lights would not shine on the window, as it’s on the opposite side of the cabin. I’d have to walk all the way around in the dark. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.
I grabbed the Streamlight ProTac Flashlight. I’d read about the 600 lumens of light it outputs, and that impressed me, but you can’t really gauge that kind of light if you haven’t seen it in the dark. Not ‘pretty dark’ or ‘fairly dark.’ Dark. I pressed the tail cap and it was like turning on the sun. The treeline immediately lit up.
Considering how lightweight the ProTac is, this is insane. The light fit in the palm of my hand. The size proved especially helpful for getting through the window, as I needed both hands to take down the screen and was able to hold the light in my mouth. I didn’t love the feel of aluminum on my teeth, but the weight wasn’t a bother at all. I was in the cabin in a heartbeat. The rooms were even darker than outside, but I had the lights on and was unpacking my car in next to no time. This was a very impressive first showing for the ProTac.
I didn’t just use the flashlight once though. I’m always looking for a bit more light on these trips. Or, at least, I USED to always look for more light. When starting a bonfire or lighting off fireworks it’s helpful to have a flashlight handy. The ProTac proved more than capable in every setting. Finding the wick on a bottle rocket was super easy, and it was nice to have the momentary on tail cap switch that could be turned on and off in the blink of an eye.
We have a wood-burning sauna built into the boathouse, which is great, but it’s super old-fashioned. There’s no light in there, so when I wanted to take a night sauna (which is just about the single most relaxing experience EVER) it was really helpful to have a flashlight I could set down on the ground next to the stove that wouldn’t roll away. The design of the ProTac’s body makes it steady on a lot of surfaces. I could load the stove just the way I want for a roaring fire and deep-penetrating sauna.
I’ll have a full post on this later, but this Streamlight Flashlight also came in handy when setting up the Celestron Ultima 80 Spotting Scope I took along. A clear night gave me a perfect chance to let some of my cousins’ kids take a look through the scope, and I set it up on the end of the dock for a perfect view of the moon. There’s no light out there so I used the ProTac to help me see the various parts of the tripod and spotting scope mount as I set it up. The Celestron Ultima 80 is pretty easy to use, so it probably wouldn’t have been hard regardless, but I was scared I’d drop it in the water so having the light there to guide me was great.
The last time I used the ProTac was my favorite. I was sitting by a bonfire one night with my cousin and three of her four kids. We were having a grand time and as it got later the kids slowly but surely drifted off to bed. All of them except for Zach. Zach is the youngest, and he was sitting next to me. I think he wanted to prove he could stay up late, but he started dozing off in his chair so his mom suggested he go to bed.
I’m quite a bit younger than my cousins and only have an older brother, so I know how it feels to be the little guy. When his mom told him to go up to the cabin, the look in his eyes as he looked down the path reminded me of how I used to feel when my dad would tell me to go to bed. The walk isn’t far, but between the warm light of the fire and the comforting protection of the cabin there’s a stretch of about 20 yards with essentially no light. When I was Zach’s age I’d walk very calmly for the first few feet of that dark stretch, but I couldn’t make it halfway without breaking into a full sprint. Not only would I run to the door, I’d also close it behind me and look at every window and sit in a central chair for a minute until I calmed down.
I said I needed to use the restroom and asked Zach if he’d mind walking up with me. I carried some marshmallow bags and garbage up and handed Zach the ProTac. After turning it on it was as if he’d never been afraid at all! Instead of running to the cabin he ran over to the treeline to look around. If I hadn’t called him to help me open the door I think he’d have run straight into the woods to catch a bear!
Once inside, he handed me the flashlight and ran into the kid’s room. Just as I was heading back outside toward the bonfire, I heard Zach telling his older brother and sisters that he got to play with the ProTac Flashlight and it was “really cool!”
I had a very successful trip to Northern Minnesota, and the Streamlight ProTac Flashlight performed extremely well in many circumstances. I didn’t actually run into a situation where it received any real damage, and I didn’t test its waterproofing, but the power of the flashlight proved to be more than enough, especially when you consider how lightweight and compact it is. The pouch it comes with was nice, and attached to the BlackHawk Sling Backpack easily to keep it close at hand. For its size and power, I don’t think you can beat the Streamlight ProTac Flashlight. I give it two thumbs up!