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Outdoor Retailer Summer 2008 #2

My report on Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008 continues (click here for the previous installment):

A New Saint of Light

Surefire Saint prototypeSurefire’s long-awaited and much anticipated headlamp has arrived. Surefire showed off prototypes of the new “Saint” model that are very close to the final specification, particularly with regards to the critical elements. Some of the machined parts in the prototypes will be done in high-tech engineered reinforced plastic for production, but the light housing itself will be aluminum in the same manner as traditional Surefire flashlights with Type III mil-spec hard anodizing.

Like some other recently introduced headlamps, Surefire has gone the tubular light housing route. However, the similarity ends there. The housing itself rotates completely around, using a knob on the left side (as worn), so that the lens can be protected when not in use if required. There is a rotary switch on the right end (as worn). The switch has a slight detent at 10 lumens, but the power adjusts smoothly from zero to 100 lumens. The switch and the housing rotation knobs look like they would be easy enough to operate with typical operator’s gloves, part of the design brief. A Cree 3-watt XRE LED is used.

Surefire Saint PrototypeThe lens itself is aspheric in shape with apparently some manner of Fresnel type rings evident looking into it. Surefire calls it a “refractive optic.” The end result appears to be an extremely smooth flood of light that ramps up smoothly. I did not see any evidence of hot spots, rings or noticeable graduations in the beam.

The battery box, which will be engineered plastic in production, is attached at the rear and holds three 123A 3-volt lithium cells as the primary power source. The Saint will run on one or two 123A’s if desired, and in a pinch, two AA-cells, alkaline or lithium, can be used, but with reportedly much reduced output and life, especially if alkalines are selected. Surefire calls this “Dual-Fuel capable,” but it seems to me to be mostly designed as a means to allow for redundancy and back-up under less than ideal field conditions, not for regular use. In any case, having options is a good thing.

Surefire Saint prototypeInstead of the typical closed-cell neoprene pad on the battery box and headlamp, Surefire has used “Breath-O-Prene” pads that are designed to wick away moisture. That could certainly add to the comfort in many situations. There is also a recess in the battery pack, behind the pad, to accommodate the occipital protuberance that moist of us have at the base of the skull. The pads are washable and are installed with Velcro and easily removed and replaced. Replacement pad sets will be available.

The robust elastic headband is adjustable, as one would expect, but also offers a few advanced features. On the left side (as worn), the power cable has a loop that is retained in a fabric three-snap closure. The extra cable provides for adjustment and strain relief as well as allowing sufficient length to allow the Saint to be easily mounted on a helmet. The top strap is removable, snapping easily in or out as needed.

Click here for higher resolution and more detailed images of the Saint prototype.

Colored filters will be available to snap into place over the lens. MSRP will be $185 with first deliveries expected later this Fall. The Saint is expected to be just the first of a range of headlamps from Surefire, so stay tuned

Floating Glass Signal Mirror?

Coghlan's Sight-Grid Signal MirrorA floating glass signal mirror seems like something of an oxymoron, but Coghlan’s new “Sight-Grid Signal Mirror” does just that. This signal mirror is an attempt to provide some of the desirable attributes of some plastic signal mirrors with the generally higher reflectivity you get from a glass mirror. How well they succeeded remains to be seen.

Nominally a 2 x 3 inch mirror, the actual reflective portion measured 1.78 x 2.81 inches on my scale, with one corner removed for the lanyard hole. Total reflective area is probably more or less the same as their traditional laminated glass mirror which is 2 x 3 inches, but has four radiused corners, plus a riveted lanyard hole. The glass mirror is surrounded on four sides and the back by an acrylic plastic enclosure, very reminiscent of the original plastic Star Flash mirror from Ultimate Survival Technologies.

Coghlan's Sight-Grid Signal MirrorInstead of two laminated pieces of glass, the Sight-Grid mirror has a single piece of glass along with a piece of foam backing and the instructions on the back, encased in the acrylic surround. It ends up about 0.03 inch thicker than their laminated mirror. Weight is 1 oz versus 1.8 ounces for the laminated mirror. I can confirm that it floats.

It has the same excellent retro-reflective sighting grid as their laminated mirror, except there’s no cut-out in the center, as is traditionally provided. I don’t expect that to be a problem; it’s easy enough to see through the grid, which you have to do anyway to merge the aiming “hot spot” and the target. For that matter, it surely simplifies production if they don’t have to try and get that hole centered in the aimer, an eternal problem with signal mirror production. Like its laminated sibling, this mirror is made in Japan.

Coghlan's Sight-Grid Signal Mirror (left) and laminated mirror (right) (Image right: Coghlan’s Sight-Grid Signal Mirror (left) and laminated mirror (right))

The instructions on the back are clear and easy to read, white text on a black background, especially easy compared to the barely readable low-contrast red text on black background found on their laminated mirror (copied from traditional subdued mil-spec glass mirror designs).

As far as robustness, it’s unlikely to be shatter proof; it is glass after all. How much the acrylic surround helps and how it compares to a traditional laminated glass mirror remains to be seen. When we have a bunch of samples we’ll start dropping them.

In a quick and dirty check reflecting a spot on a wall 50 feet away at noon, our sample didn’t seem to have quite as powerful a reflective spot as their laminated glass mirror which is right up there with the best in terms of reflectivity. It did provide a concentric and bright spot, a good start. However, we’ll wait to test a number of production samples in the new signal mirror test rig we are building before we make a final judgment as to its comparative performance. For the moment, we’d not rush out to buy one until we can conduct a full evaluation, but it holds a good deal of promise as a compromise between a heavy laminated glass mirror and the best plastic mirrors.

The Sight-Grid Signal Mirror should be in stores shortly with an MSRP of $12.99.

(DISCLOSURE: I helped develop the Adventure Medical Kits “Rescue Flash” plastic laminated signal mirror which is included in the AMK Pocket Survival Pak, sales of which provide royalties to myself and the ETS Foundation. The Rescue Flash is also sold separately.)

Check Back Soon for More New Gear

In an effort to speed up the process, I’m going to publish this review of new products from Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2008 in stages over the next few days. Check back for more new gear, hopefully tomorrow.