The Importance of Illumination – Toby Cowern

In the September issue of this magazine, I began to discuss details of Everyday Carry Items (EDC) We started with the premise of a ‘layered’ EDC system, distributing items between pockets, small containers and bags etc depending on their importance and access requirements.

I, like many, am constantly reviewing, revising and amending my EDC, not least of which because of the amount I travel but also due to the extreme environmental fluctuations we have here in the far north of Scandinavia! With the long lazy summer days firmly behind us, the dismal vestiges of late autumn will soon break to a dark and cold winter, not only here, but in many other regions as well. Even if you are not entering a winter phase, it cannot be lost on us, as sure as the sun rises it sets, and dealing with the dark is a topic often overlooked in defensive circles. In this article I’m going to briefly but comprehensively take you through some of the considerations when it comes to the Importance of Illumination and some EDC options.

As a serious minimalist when it comes to equipment carry, to the extent I am very rarely subscribed to the ‘multiple redundancy carry’ mindset often espoused  (I do genuinely have my reasons) a review of my Level 1 and 2 EDC (On my body or within arms reach) reveals 4 separate illumination devices(!) This may seem extreme, so what am I carrying and why?

For an overview I am carrying, in order:

  • A small red LED light on a paracord neck chain. (Left of Picture)
  • A small blue LED light on my keychain. (Centre Left of Picture)
  • A Tactical Flashlight (Eagletac P20C2) in my pocket (Centre Right of Picture)
  • A (Petzl brand) Headtorch in my small ‘Manbag’ (Right of Picture)

Importance of Illumination pic.1

Before I continue, I want to highlight a twofold advantage of this approach. Not only does this EDC offer a good, robust and resilient approach to many issues, both small and large, but it has proved, to date, to be one of the best ‘conversion strategies’ I have had in terms of spousal/family type ‘buy in’, not only for my family but for students of mine as well. While this is a significant issue of its own that I will write about further in a separate article, it definitely is worth mentioning here at this time!

So why am I carrying this? This I’ll answer by item, but in reverse order:

The Headtorch – Not only in my capacity as a professional outdoorsman, but on numerous occasions throughout my regular daily activity, I will need to illuminate a specific area AND want to keep my hands free. While deepthroating a maglite is eminently doable, I can’t say it enables one to focus well on any given task. That, combined with the fact this action, when performed at extreme low temperatures will result in your mouth being frozen to the flashlight for ‘some time’, normally ensures alternatives should be sought (I reserve the right to provide no further detail on this particular ‘fact finding story’, thank you very much) However you get to this end result, we can be happy with the idea that being able to provide light and keep our hands free is often a very good thing. From writing notes, changing a tyre by the roadside, tying and untying knots, using tools, sharpening knives, or fiddling in the fuse box to fix the ‘blackout’ and much, much more not having one hand ‘occupied’ holding a light is a tremendous bonus.

One other, slight aside, but VERY useful tip on the headtorch. Look at the picture again. You see on the right hand side of the torch pictured the ‘battery box’? You see between the battery box and the light itself a small green colored object? This is a complete set of spare batteries secured to the strap of the headtorch with cloth tape. More on this a little later, but this tip has helped me more times than I can now count!

The Tactical Flashlight – For those of us living under heavy legal restrictions ‘weapon carry’ is exceptionally problematic. Even small folding knives in some countries will be dealt with in the most draconian way. A tactical flashlight has travelled with me through numerous countries, multiple security checkpoints, including American airports, and has never once been questioned or raised concerns. As well as offering a good, solid, white light source, useful for a wide variety of things. The strobe effect, hardened metal body, size and shape of this tool do give it some valuable ‘weapon level’ features. A lot of this tools power lies in its ‘pre-emptive’ ability. A good bright, light shone to the face is, at worst, distracting, can buy time and distance if used properly and can be used to conceal a whole bunch of other movement if you need it to. This is if you use the light when when directly facing a threat, but the ability to search an area more thoroughly (especially indoors) indicate or mask your location and clearly indicate your ability to see something are all additional and valuable uses. Even if living in a permissive environment where additional weapons carry is allowed, I still carry a tactical flashlight (as do many others I know) because of the advantages it offers.

The LED Keychain Light – In the first instance this is most useful when trying to find the right key and access locks. Having a light, right there on your keychain, prevents a whole lot of ‘fumbling around in the dark’. We are aware approaching our residences and vehicles is a time of particular risk, so minimizing any ‘faff’ time in these areas is highly desirable. I particularly like a ‘non white’ light here so it is not overly conspicuous and is not compromising my eyes adjustment to the dark as much. In this regard red or green light is preferable, but I am using blue for now for a specific, but separate reason.

The LED Neck Chain Light – Having a small, discreet, easy to access light source is very useful. I typically use this light for signaling short distances at night when I want to remain quiet, or if I have a quick job I need to complete and do not need or cannot access my headtorch. You will see from the close up picture this LED light not only works by being squeezed (typically between finger and thumb) but also has an on/off switch.

Importance of Illumination Pic.2

So it is simple and easy to switch ‘on’ and be held lightly between the teeth to illuminate an area immediately to your front but also keep the hands free. Why not use the headtorch? It’s a good question, and I’ll tell you a little, frequently occurring experience of mine. I’m using my headtorch very often, now ask yourself, when are the batteries most likely to ‘die’?  Why when it’s in use of course, is the obvious answer! Now think, is it typically light or dark when using it? Hmmm, dark… And herein is the problem. Changing torch batteries in the dark is not the easiest of things, so with this set up, a battery change becomes easy, especially when I know exactly where the spare batteries are (Taped to the torch strap, remember!?!) As and when my illumination device fails, I use the small LED light that is immediately available to complete a quick and easy battery change. The same method could be used for any number of similar, small tasks.

I mentioned earlier the ‘spousal conversion’ benefits of this EDC setup. To touch on that again, briefly. Many of us committed to learning and training for conflict, face varying levels of resistance or concern from our families and frequently little ‘buy in’ from our spouses. This may be a general lack of interest to an active vilification of our lifestyle choices (“What do you need another (insert defensive tool name here) for, you already have so many???” is a frequent refrain heard by many)

While I will address this more in a separate article, I’ve found illumination devices a great ‘start point’ in getting greater understanding in families as to some of the benefits in EDC, and with these type of ‘small wins’ the stepping stones to greater acceptance and involvement are paved. I typically ‘gift’ these small LED lights to friends and family (especially kids), and often will actively put them on the keychain for them, so they ‘have it right there’. To date, no one has ever failed to understand the value in doing so. For a few this has then led the conversation to, ‘what would you do if you need a better, slightly more powerful light source, for instance in a blackout or if you had to quickly step out the house, for example to check something?’ Again, this logical progression makes sense to many and can quickly lead to the purchase (or gifting) of a tactical flashlight, especially given there are many excellent priced ‘entry level’ models now on the market.

Once they have become a proud owner of a tactical flashlight, almost everyone I know has enjoyed and been fascinated by it features and potential additional uses and most are very satisfied at the idea of carrying something that has ‘more than one use’. From this point, often, more ‘small steps’ can be taken in a positive direction. A number of people within a short time of owning a tactical flashlight have come back with some story of how it proved to be ‘so useful’ in some sort of situation they have faced, and this is one of those great occurrences that can lead to even more productive conversation and understanding of some of the benefits not only of EDC but development of a well rounded ‘resilient mindset’.

I’ve highlighted the main uses for my illumination devices and the details of my EDC here, but remember the possibilities are limited only by your imagination! I’ve left LED lights on and ‘discarded’ too lure students into ambushes, attached them to foliage for navigational way points, performed an impromptu shadow puppet show to calm a child after first aid treatment and seen the slickest deployment of CS gas ever, masked by a flashlight. As always, we should be challenging our equipment and our minds to perform above and beyond our expectations.

If you have a great story too share with regards to your use of an illumination devices be sure to post it in our Conflict Manager FB group, as we love hearing from our readers and learning from their experiences!

 

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