In keeping with our theme for September, – National Preparedness Month, we’re presenting another product that would be just as home in your camping gear as it would in your 72-hour kit. Coast makes an Emergency Area Light that is perfect for a multitude of uses. At 8.5 inches tall, it’s a little shorter but roughly the same diameter as a two liter Coke bottle, and quite portable. With both red and white LEDs, it can be used as an area light and a warning or signal light. The red lights have a steady or flashing mode, and the white LED has a variable mode, allowing it to run for up to 100 hours. If you crank the white LED all the way up, it will put out 100+ lumens, at the cost of shorter battery life.
How do you test a light? Well, the best place to start is by putting some batteries in it. While some of Coast’s lights do include batteries, the EAL does not. Fair enough – they are heavy (it takes D batteries) and that weight would add up to a lot of extra cost in transportation from the factory to your door. To put those batteries in it, you need to remove the base, which has a threaded T-nut of sorts. Big and small hands should be able to get enough leverage to loosen and tighten it, but it’s no quick task like a cheap sliding door. On the plus side, it contributes greatly to water resistance. We threw $8 worth of D batteries into it (that’s four) and fired it up. The power button is a simple press on/press off, but it rotates as well. This gives you the option to make the white LED dimmer or brighter, plus use the two red LED settings. Below the power switch is a fuel gauge of sorts, that lets you know how much battery life you have left. It never budged off the full setting, but we probably only ran it for a few hours, at most. Coast’s claim of 100 hours seems more than reasonable.
The fairly light weight and rubberized handle make it comfortable to hold or carry for extended periods, but it really is designed to be hung up or set somewhere that allows it to illuminate your immediate surroundings. Construction is impact-resistant plastic, some of which has been rubberized, (the lower black portions) so we subjected it to a few drop tests. Other than breaking the handle off, (it got bent, but we bent it back and no one will ever know) the EAL held up fine. While it should be treated with some respect, as light is pretty critical both for camping and emergencies, getting tipped over or knocked over shouldn’t be a worry. So what’s not to like? We would have been happy with a bit more output on the highest setting, but that may just be a personal preference. It will light up a dark room, but not like daylight. Then again, for the price (about $40) it strikes an excellent balance between output, durability, and cost.