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Fenix TK15 Torch – A review

Well when you talk about Survival as I do so often, this piece of kit truly sheds some light on the subject…

A few days ago I acquired a torch with a difference, the Fenix TK15. The moment I received it I realised this really was no ordinary torch. Well of course it does all the things that normal torches do however, the Fenix TK15 is a class above the rest and a lot brighter than the average torch.

First impressions
First thing that I noticed was that the torch was heavier than I thought it would be. Of course I wasn’t expecting it to fit on a key ring, but it is the right size for a belt torch and that is exactly what it was. It sat nicely in my hand and felt just right as regards to weight, size and texture. I must admit… it looks quite good too.

The packaging was minimal it merely consisted of a plastic tray within which lie the Fenix TK15, instruction sheet, a holster, a lanyard and some spare seals.

Functionality
Well, normally there isn’t much to say about using a torch. Press a button and then there is light. However, with the Fenix TK15 there is not one button but two; OK so two buttons doesn’t sound like much of an improvement on the average torch but I can assure you its makes it a much better device. This is due to the fact that the first button, which is situated in the tail of the torch is simply powering on and off. The button has two roles, constant and intermittent. When partially pressed (by around about 3mm in) it lights the LED and can be used to send morse code or simply signal flashes. Pressing it fully (about 6mm) switches the light on with a constant beam. Press it again to turn it off. The travel is such that you can use the flash without worrying about locking it on accidentally.

The second button is situated perfectly for the thumb. This is again a press button and cycles through the light modes available at each press. Which are as follows…

  • Low – 5 Lumens
  • Mid – 47 Lumens
  • High – 143 Lumens
  • Turbo – 337 Lumens

Pressing and holding the button for two seconds places the torch in strobe mode where it emits a strobe at 337 Lumens which alternates between fast and slow every six seconds.

Each time the torch is turned on it is set to the same intensity it was in before it was turned off. This does not apply if you were using the strobe setting. In that case you start in the mode you were in before you activated the strobe.

Light
The light source is a single LED and projects the bright white light we associate with LED bulbs. No surprises there. However, what did surprise me was how bright 337 Lumens actually is. The torch on its mid setting was projecting a beam that was comparable in brightness to an ordinary torch whilst its highest setting was significantly brighter and even visible in the daylight. Now obviously torches are mainly used when it is dark and the Fenix TK15 certainly shone in this test. On turbo mode it threw a light beam well over 200 yards down the road while the strobe was visible and attracted the eye over four hundred yards away. It was so bright I had to shield my eyes walking back to it for most of the way.

I found that even when set on the lowest setting, I could easily walk around my house and the garden after dark with no visibility issues at all. Upping the intensity to mid when I wanted to increase the visibilty to light the subject that bit more.

High mode would be required if you were out and about in fields and caverns and turbo mode only if you were searching for something; it would enable you to see for far greater distances. It would make you visible for miles much like a flare so you could be located in an emergency.

I would equate the low mode to a normal small torch that you could carry around with you whilst the mid to high mode would be a larger torch which certainly would not fit into your pocket like the Fenix TK15. I’ve not seen any cheap torches with an output anywhere near that of the Fenix TK15’s turbo mode.

The projected cone of light remained constant only the intensity increased when the button was pressed. The beam was focused at the selected intensity on an area about 4ft radius with bleed which spanned about 20ft across at 15 yards. The beam on turbo, although not fully focused was sufficient to visibly light the number plates on cars about 200 yards away and was visibly reflected by car mirrors at that same distance.

Durability
Well, we need tough torches for survival and the Fenix TK15 has a tough specification. It can work underwater to 2m. The torch is also resistant to damage when dropped from a height of 1.5m. The kids are good testers when it comes to toughness and it passed that test easy enough. No damage to the torch at all… not even cosmetic. Now, I happen to go swimming every Saturday so I took the torch with me this time. Chlorine isn’t exactly in the spec but it isn’t like it is acid either. In my times out hunting I’ve been soaked for hours and occasionally fall in water while travelling. A good soak in the swimming pool should be a good test. I was in the water for 90 minutes all told. I tested the torch every now and again whilst in the water and it worked fine. It was a good pickup item for diving for and was undamaged bouncing down the water slide. I washed the chlorine off in the shower and when I got home I opened it up to see if there was any water in it at all. There was none.

Power
The torch came with two Duracell CR123A batteries in it. These can be bought at many stores that sell cameras as well as some supermarkets but are unlikely to be in your local newsagent.

The run time for the TK15 is defined as;

  • Low – 5 Lumens – 142 Hr
  • Mid – 47 Lumens – 23 Hr
  • High – 143 Lumens – 6 Hr 25m
  • Turbo – 337 Lumens – 1 Hr 50m

There was no defined run time for the strobe and I didn’t really want to spend too much time on it. I guessing it would be over 4 hours run time but having not tested it, I can’t say for certain.

Attachments
The belt clip was nice and tight and sat securely on my jeans pocket without slipping yet pulled out easily when required. There was a hole in the end for the lanyard, supplied, which I fitted and although I don’t use lanyards myself much I like the option. I noticed it also had a grip on the shaft to hold the clip in place which I could see being used to fasten the torch to the U bracket on a weapon. There was also a nice holster which had a hook for a carabiner and two good solid loops for a belt; one for an ordinary belt sewn solidly in place and the other using velcro which you could put on the straps of a backpack or similar. The holster had a velcro cover to secure the torch while in the holster. Well thought out for all eventualities.

Concerns
The only problem I have with this torch is that the batteries are not standard. In normal use there is no real concern but in a survival situation I would have difficulty getting these batteries and even though they last an impressive 142 Hrs… they will eventually run out.

I would like to see a battery pack with a solar recharger as an optional extra for anything I’m considering for a survival situation but to be fair few items have this, so it is not specific to this torch. Battery technology is not yet at the place that we need it to be. There is a rechargable option for the torch which would be worth considering.

Conclusion
An excellent torch and one I can recommend. I was extremely impressed by its performance and the way it worked. A true survival torch being tough, waterproof and solid, having a multitude of uses due to its different settings and an excellent range. Well worth getting one for your personal survival kit and your car survival kit. The Fenix TK15 can be found here and similar torches here. The Fenix TK15 is not cheap but you are paying for a good solid reliable torch. One that will be there when you need it. Ordinary torches break easily and do not like being immersed in any liquid. The Fenix TK15 is built to last. I would recommend you buy a recharger as well, if available, and some spare batteries, a good quality CR123A will last over 10 years with a 1% discharge rate if not stored in a device. That means that in 10 years they will still have 90% of the charge left. I would suggest replacement every few years though because of the less than optimum storage conditions they will be kept in while you transport them around.

11 comments to Fenix TK15 Torch – A review

  • Skvez

    I was interested until you mentioned the ‘odd’ battery.

    If it doesn’t use AAA or AA (and capable of using the slightly lower Voltage from NiMh AAA and AA) I don’t want to know about it.
    You could stockpile loads of batteries for this unit but that’s a shame.

    Better having standard rechargeable batteries that can be exchanged than a custom pack and a custom charger. It’s also nice to know you can dip into your supply of primary AAA and AA if for some reason you’ve been unable to re-charge the rechargeables or you discover you need more than 2 hours on the top setting one night to try and find the child that’s got lost while delirious with fever. You can’t do this with a unit and custom battery.

    The problem with LED torches is a white LED requires just over 3V which in practice means 3 * 1.2V NiMh cells which is a lot to fit into a small torch handle, although I have seen 3 AAA can fit into a chubby handle in a triangle formation (rather than in a line).

    £70 for a torch!?
    I’ll rather spend it on a variety of hand wound torches (no battery concerns) and Maglights (which are at least splash-proof) for when you need silence or can’t afford to wind them every few minutes and the NiMh batteries and charger (for the non hand-wound ones).

  • Skean Dhude

    Skvez,

    I understand what you are saying but I still think it is a great torch. To take your points one at a time;

    I agree about the AA or AAA but I suspect they would not last anywhere near as long in this torch. Plus although you could stockpile AA or AAAs entropy rules and they will all run out eventually.

    Currently, we are not in a survival situation, so carrying several spares even if you had a recharger would make sense. The recharger for normal use and the spares for emergencies as you suggest. There is even an option for two batteries and a car recharger kit and as many rechargable batteries as you need to ensure two or three fully charged at all times. Personally, I would go with two rechargeable and two sets of CR123As as rechargeables seem to lose charge quicly even when not used.

    I have seen and tried several torches and the only one I have left working is my Maglite which I have had for so long I can’t remember when I bought it. The others broke or failed for several trivial reasons. The bright ones eat batteries as snacks. I see this one being as durable as the Maglite but with a much stronger beam.

    Sure it is £70 but when you consider that you want an emergency torch you want it to work well with no issues then this would do. Sure you could get buy with a £5 wind up one from B&Q but when you are out looking for that child and accidentally drop it in the water where it stops working then you may consider the money you saved not to be worth it. The Maglights although good are heavy and bulky at this brightness.

    But as I like to say we each have differing requirements and draw the line at different places on each decision. I for example would never spend money on an iPhone but they are very popular. To each their own.

  • Skean Dhude

    Oh forgot to mention. I actually do have a couple of basic torches and wind up torches. The basic ones are just basic and run on AA or AAAs. Not very powerful but OK for looking in the fusebox when the power goes. The wind ups are pains but I consider them my last ditch fall back.

  • moosedog

    How disorientating is the strobe? I was thinking of getting an “M” series LED Lenser just for that one purpose, or “Tactical Defense Mode” as they call (and spell) it. Having read how disorientating & vertigo inducing a torch rapidly turned on & off is to prevent giving the enemy a target to shoot at I thought the strobe mode would be easier and probably more effective.

  • Skean Dhude

    Moosedog,

    I found it was fine holding the torch pointing away but when I was walking back to it then it was a bit disorientating. I didn’t use strobe mode that much and so I didn’t put any weight behind how disorientating it could be. It isn’t sold as that in any of the literature either.

    Personally I thought it was an emergency feature and that is how I would use it. Although I think it would disorientate an intruder I wouldn’t rely on it with an armed one. They might shoot just to get rid of the light.

    One thing you can be sure of though to go from low to strobe, one press, would certainly destroy their night vision. If you kept your eyes closed and head averted you would be fine.

    Perhaps this is a marketing feature they should include on the literature. It is after all a tactical torch.

  • Skvez

    @moosedog
    Have you been watching ‘kick ass’?
    I considering building a high power LED strobe after watching that film for just what you describe. If you used a primary colour LED (rather than white) and had goggles with a good quality colour filter in another colour you would be totally immune to the effects of the strobe (* evil smile *).

  • moosedog

    I’ve not heard of that film/programme Skvez, though it sounds like one I’d enjoy! I read quite a lot on the web and came across an article by a US police officer who described chasing suspects in the dark and deploying his torch momentarily so the suspect wouldn’t know where to shoot. Apparently in training the “suspects” reported feeling disorientated & dizzy, so when I saw that the “M” series Lensers have a strobe I thought it would be useful. Anything to gain even a little advantage is beneficial. As to the colour filter I recently bought a Gerber Recon when the price dropped for 24 hours on Amazon, though it’s not really powerful enough to use offensively. Great for preserving night vision though.

  • Skean Dhude

    Well I would guess we need to put this torch in with weapons now.

    Although there is another torch from Fenix, the TK35, with a much higher light output, 820 Lumens, on strobe. More than twice that of the TK15. I thought that was bright enough. I would be concerned though with causing permanent damage with this light intensity.

    I’ll set up my perimeter security based on these strobes now. I might even test if the different colours make a difference in levels of disorientation. The reason being is I’ve been to clubs with strobes and don’t remember getting that disorientated.

  • Parker

    Just where is the facebook like button ?

  • Skean Dhude

    Parker,

    Sorry, not got one as I don’t use facebook.

  • I got the Fenix LD20. Takes two AA batteries and puts out 180 lumens on full. I use eneloop batteries which keep their charge for longer. It’s much brighter than a mini maglite AA and gives a better beam.

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