30 November 2008
Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).
It’s hard to come up with exciting products these days, products with that Wow Factor, products that make you feel like a kid again; like seeing a new line of toys on the TV on a Saturday morning. These days products have got so good; due to improvements in design, technology, manufacturing, plus a real understanding of what products people want, that it seems that everything great that could be invented has been.
This isn’t a great state of affairs if you write gear reviews, after all, no one wants to hear “it’s all great”. Making choices between what gear to buy these days isn’t about what’s bad and what’s good (all the manufactures of bad gear have gone bust), it’s about what’s great and what’s better, often no more than a case of splitting hairs.
Thankfully the new Petzl E+lite restores my faith that genuinely new, exciting and groundbreaking products can appear on the market, a gift from God for the gear reviewer.
First off the E+lite is tiny, designed as a back-up and emergency light source. Now I’ve had a couple of similar micro torches in the past, but none of them was good enough for anything beyond looking for locks in car doors, and where far too flimsy to trust for anything beyond that.
The E+lite is different, it’s fully functioning (it looks like it‘s been through Willy Wonkers shrinking device), high power torch that takes the emergency light to new levels, and blasts every other product out of the water.
The torch comes in a tough plastic box the size of a small mobile phone (featuring a slot for sliding on a belt, or for attaching a cord so you can clip it on your harness), which it’s designed to live in in the lid of your rucksack until needed. This is a great idea, as it keeps the torch safe from being easily lost or switched on. There is room inside to take several spare batteries if need be, but I’d probably tape two spare batteries on the outside instead (at the level of the P in Petzl so you can still open it easily).
The torch itself is a marvel of microengineering and design and is a great example of what Petzl do so well. The unit comprises the torch itself, a mounting plate and a headband.
The main light source is 3 LED formed up in a tight triangle, with a 4th smaller red LED in the centre. These are all recessed so as avoid scratches.
The torch is operated via a rotating switch, with the setting going in the following order:
Lock (The switch is flush with the body of the torch) Off Economic beam (white) Maximum beam (white) Flash (white) Red flash Red beam Off
Operation of the torch is easy with anything but mitts on, and pushing it fully in either direction will turn it off.
The rear of the body contains a battery cover, which can be opened with another battery or a coin. The battery is a small circular disk watch battery, which can be easily bought anywhere.
The body of the torch is no bigger than a medium-sized watch (smaller than the classic Altimeter watch).
The torch is mounted onto the plate via a ball socket, which means the unit can easily be swivelled, or removed entirely if you really want to save weight. The mount also features a wire clip, which allows the torch to be attached to pockets or material securely.
The strap is made from thin elastic (it’s removable) and features a small red cord lock buckle. This is secure when worn on the head, and can be worn under a helmet easily. The elastic is narrow enough that it can easily be worn around the neck, wrist, even the waist (a good trick for winter/nigh time climbers is wearing such a torch on you’re ankles!).
This torch isn’t just a Wow product in looks, it’s also a Wow product in function, as switching it on in the dark always achieved the above response. I don’t know how Petzl have done it, but the LED really burns bright, and it’s possible to run, climb and navigate easily for several hours on full beam, something I’d have thought impossible with such a small torch. Of course, most people will run it on the economic setting most of the time, switching up to full power when required (trying to make out more detail). The red light is very small, and so is designed for close-in work, such as map reading, calling in the artillery etc!
The two strobe lights are also very effective and can be seen over a very long distance, making this a valuable safety tool, along with your bothy bag and mobile phone. The red LED is less effective but would be perfect for marking gear at the bottom of a route for example, or for attachment to the rucksack for night navigation.
The E+lite is designed as an emergency light source, buried away and forgotten until needed, and I can think of many occasions when this would have come in handy when I or my partner have forgotten, lost or found our head torches broken. The battery will last 10 years when sealed inside the case, and I think this is a great idea.
Of course, Petzl must know that there are tons of people out there clambering for big savings in weight, from alpinists, runners, and backpackers, who would probably put up with a lack of power in exchange for a torch that’s a third lighter than most lightweight fanatics current torches (Tikka plus), and I think that, unlike other micro torches, the E+lite is actually up to the job for short term night-time missions, maybe not for the leader if the terrain needs lots of light, but definitely for the second. Headtorches are also easily dropped or smashed, meaning having a back up gives you that extra margin to keep on trucking.
Personally, I’ve used the torch a lot for climbing where there is a slight chance of a night time descent (even just walking down from a crag), and I find it easy to carry it placed around my neck (medalion style) or on my wrist like a watch, far more comfortable than the wider banded Tikka style torches.
How groundbreaking is it? Well, I call it a ‘Party’ product, meaning it’s the type of gadget that you can pull out your pocket and people will start fighting over it, and ask where they can buy one (even those who have no need for it). Most of all the E+lite gives me at least a feeling I don’t get that often these days, a feeling that brings me back to see the latest Star Wars figures advertised during Tiswas.
The E+lite is a great product, and in some ways, it restores my faith in exciting and innovative products, and like any great product, it makes me wonder how it can advance the climbs I want to do!
Resistant to extreme temperatures: –30 °C to +60 °C (-22 °F to +140 °) Always ready for use with a shelf life of up to 10 years Waterproof down to -1 m Sold with its own protective carrying case Can be used in potentially explosive atmospheres (see certification specifications) Compact and ultra-light (27 g) - always carry it with you Designed to prevent accidental operation: switch can be locked
Performance lighting Plenty of light for common tasks: shines up to 19 m Can shine up to 4 nights in a row (45 hours) Easy to operate Strobe mode
Easy to use Can be worn on the head, around wrist or neck or can be attached to thin-edged articles with integrated clip Light source can be oriented 360° Red light helps preserve night vision
Specifications: 3 white LEDs and 1 red LED Lithium CR2032 batteries (included) Waterproof down to -1 m Weight: 27 g including batteries (0.95 oz) (CE, ATEX (3 GD EEx nl IIC T6) and Hazloc certified 2 lighting levels: economy and maximum White and red strobe modes Equipped with a clip system and removable strap Light source rotates 360° on a ball joint