Spotlight for mammalwatching


I am looking for a hand-held flashlight or head-lamp for mammalwatching, with very good light (over 800 lumens), good throw and using commonly available rechargeable batteries.

The M3X Triton has advertised 800 lumen, but in my experience a bit too short throw (smaller mammals far away, e.g. galagos in tree crown is poorly visible) plus uses expensive and hard to get batteries CR123A.

What do you use now?


  • Paul Carter

    Torch Summary – Paul Carter, 2020 March.

    I travel with the following 3 torches (all bought in the last 2 years):
    1) – Handheld Torch: Fenix TK35UE (uses two 18650 battery). $140. Details below.
    2) – Headlight: Fenix HL60R (uses one 18650). About $70.
    3) – Light Torch: Fenix TK15UE (uses one 18650). $75 (2019).
    When searching I mostly use a thermal scope so I depend on the headlight for navigating and once I find something I use the TK35UE, which is powerful enough (3200 on turbo) and is lightweight compared to the TK75 I used before (but the TK35 has less throw); and most importantly the TK35 is easily held alongside a telephoto lens. I am very happy with this combination.
    I used to only buy torches that used AA batteries but those days are gone once I was hooked on 18650s.
    On a good night I go through two sets of batteries for each of thermal scope, camera flash, headlight and handheld – total x8 AA batteries and x6 18650s. For 18650 batteries I suggest 3500mAH and 2900mAH.
    For recharging I carry two Fenix ARE-C2 rechargers (which charge AAA, AA and 18650 batteries; the chargers hold four batteries).
    I use the TK15UE as a light back up handheld.
    I also have the following red filters:
    1) For TK35UE: Klarus FT12 45mm Filter (designed for something else but fits TK35UE). $10.
    2) For TK15: Fenix AD302 TK-Series Red Filter Adapter. $6.
    Fenix website description of the TK35UE (2018 edition): “The Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition 2018 Edition is a rechargeable high-performance flashlight. Fitted with a CREE XHP70 LED, it delivers a maximum output of 3200 lumens with a far-reaching distance of 984 feet. … Powered by two 18650 batteries, the battery holder features a Micro USB charging function. This Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition has five output levels plus an instant strobe mode; there is a battery-level indicator as well. The parallel battery compartment design, flat body, and unique dual tail switches all make the Fenix TK35 Ultimate Edition very suitable for military policing, outdoor exploring, camping, searching, and caving”.
    Fenix website description of the TK15UE: “TK15 UE has it handled with an impressive throw distance of 1,066 Feet (325 Meters) at a maximum output of 1000 Lumens”.
    I still own a Fenix TK75 (no longer used except maybe if driving over open plains) and a Fenix TK41 (never used, bought when I wanted to only use AA rechargeable batteries; it uses 8 AAs).
    No, I am not a rep for Fenix and quite open to using other brands/models …
    Paul Carter

  • JanEbr

    It’s definitely the time to go to 18650s, as they have basically become the industry standard and thus you can get a lot of devices with interchangeable batteries between them, which is really handy. As an added perk, you can now buy 18650s with a USB port on them and charge them without carrying around a charger. On the other hand, it has not happened to me so far to need to charge a 18650 outside its original device, simply because I recharge them in the car and all our trips so far were short enough hikes between drives that we never ran out of juice.

    I have Fenix HL60R headlamp, which has a rather broad beam and it’s good mainly for searching for eyeshine – it also has somehow a bit buggy electronics and needs to be “hard rebooted” by removing the battery once in a while, which is a bit annoying. I also have the small PD36R, which is stunningly good at long distance thanks to its collimation – at a few hundred meters it’s basically almost as strong as the mammoth Larson HL.RL-85-LED-CPR.

    Speaking of the Larson, that’s also an interesting thing to discuss. It has non-replaceable batteries, so it’s not along the lines what you ask for (well, it actually runs on two 18650s, but they are striped down and glued – but this means that it could be made to use 18650 with just a little work) – and it’s also a bit bulky, buy it’s the mightiest light I have seen and also one of the crappiest pieces of manufacturing I have ever seen … and considering Larson’s total lack of will to help you fix anything, I would recommend it only only to people with somewhat of a hobby in electronics.

  • Lee

    jurekmammalwatching, I am using a Fenix FD 41, something less than 1,000 lumens, I think. It has a ring to shrink the output to a narrow spotlight, or expand it to a wide-area light, which is crucial. It has 4 power levels so you can turn it down to follow a trail, or up to see a pair of eyes in the canopy–and it will show them at quite a distance. The battery almost put me off because a replacement might be hard to find in remote places: a Fenix 5V/1A Micro-USB, 2600mAh, bigger than an AA battery. But because it charges with a USB cable attached to a computer or to a cell-phone type transformer (charger), which plugs in anywhere, in practice it is fine. This is the 3rd LED light I’ve used for nocturnal mammals and it is great. Small enough, and comes with a belt holster. Best, Lee (

  • Matt Pep

    Depending on what environment you’re gonna use it in different flashlights are better.

    For open areas where you need both throw and some flood the Fenix TK75 has no rival. It’s better, cheaper and stronger than any other reasonably priced flashlight. Having said that: it’s not that great in dense forests.

    In dense forests I would say there’s a lot of flashlights that do better. Even some headlights do better. My personal favorite is the Olight H2R nova.

    Now for a flashlight I would recommend looking into a flooder. That means one with a broader beam but it doesn’t shine as far as some others. My personal favorite is a very simple light: the Fenix LD30. It’s cheap, has a nice beam and is very small. It does get warm though, which is the main drawback.
    Something a bit comparable is the Fenix TK22 of Fenix TK35. They come in UE (ultimate edition) and normal editions. I don’t know the exact difference, but there should be some when i look to the price.

  • Jurek

    Thank you everybody for the information!

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