Coast’s new HP21 is unlike any other hand-held light we’ve seen. With 1317 lumens of output, based on ANSI FL1 standards, the HP21 is akin to holding the power of the sun in your hand. It’s “holy crap, this thing needs a warning label” bright. This is the first flashlight I’ve ever felt the need to treat like a handgun: Keep your hand off the power button (trigger) and point the lens (barrel) away from people at all times.
Proof that I’ve been a good boy, UPS delivered it November 7th, right after we changed our clocks, so darkness arrived an hour sooner. Which is good, because patience is a virtue sometimes lacking on my part. I was at my office when it arrived, and was surprised at the size of the shipping carton. Inside was a box, a bit larger than a shoe box, containing a zippered nylon case that held the HP21. Opening the case, I noticed the bottom half was molded to hold the light and included accessories, while the top was egg-crate foam. When I first held it, I thought “this is what Luke Skywalker must have experienced when he got his first light saber”. The batteries were quickly loaded, and with some trepidation, the power button depressed while it was pointed away from innocent bystanders. Sadly, it did not make the sound I was hoping for, but I still felt like a young Jedi when he first powered up his own saber. And based on the “What the…” from halfway across the building, I might as well have been holding a futuristic weapon. Yes, it’s that bright.
At 2.8 pounds fully loaded, the HP21 is not exactly a lightweight, even though it’s constructed of heavy duty aluminum. Coast recognizes this, and was kind enough to include a loop for hanging from a belt, as well as a sling that attaches with two snug-fitting flexible plastic sleeves. Of course, this isn’t a daily carry kind of light, unless your job is in security/law enforcement, search and rescue, or you own a big piece of land, and need to see what’s happening up to 852 feet (260 meters) away. That’s on the high setting, where run time is two hours, fifteen minutes. For closer work, out to 337 feet, (103 meters) the low setting will suffice. You’ll also get a bit more life out of a set of batteries – expect forty hours, thirty minutes. There’s even a strobe setting that’s quite attention-getting, and would probably do a great job of disorienting bad guys. On any setting, speed focusing is accomplished by the Pure Beam ™ Focusing Optic System and Speed Focus Control™. Simply pull the ring around the flash head out for spot, and back for flood. Cycle through the output settings with the switch that’s heavily sealed, like the rest of the light. Speaking of sealing and waterproofing, I’m sure that in a pinch, you could use it as a headlight for your submarine.
Anyway, we set out to test it the day it arrived. (I say “we”, because you can’t test one of these in your front yard without attracting neighbors like moths to a flame) The light output is just amazing. It will illuminate objects well beyond the range of a typical suburban neighborhood. Shining it straight up produced a beam like a small searchlight. Might as well come with a sign that proclaims “Grand opening!” or something similar. We took it up the canyon to see if we could spot some deer, but none were to be found. The way it lit up the hillside, we were probably mistaken for the most indiscreet poachers ever. There really is no simple way to describe how bright this light is, it has to be experienced. The “hand-held sun” isn’t too far off from the truth though, when out in wide open spaces.
Inevitably, comparisons will be made against two other notable lights – the 800 lumen Invictus from Surefire, and the 4,100 lumen Torch from Wicked Lasers. The Invictus is certainly more compact, but that limits its use as a weapon (a serious concern for law enforcement or military use) when compared to the HP21. And there’s that little matter of the Surefire’s $695 price tag for 800 lumens, vs $300 for Coast’s 1317 lumens. The Hp21 can’t fry an egg like the Torch’s 100 watt halogen bulb, but offers significantly more battery life. If you want more than 15 minutes out of your Torch, a spare rechargeable battery is $35, which should get you 7-8 sets of batteries for the HP21. (Beyond the novelty, I’m not sure what 4,100 lumens is really good for) So the HP21 is neither the least expensive, nor brightest of the trio. But it’s the best all around when it comes to actual usefulness.
If you need a versatile, durable, light with massive output, that won’t break the bank, the Coast HP21 fits the bill perfectly. Be on the lookout for future articles too, as we’re looking for suggestions on how to adequately convey through pictures (or video) just how awesome this light is.