As I sit here writing this review the Sidewinder Compact II is in my pocket. It has been there for a few weeks now and it wont be going anywhere any time soon. Not until something truly better comes along and that will take a while. It is not just a matter of getting the latest, brightest LED. The Sidewinder Compact II is a game changing flashlight.
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a Streamlight. That means the quality testing and standards are beyond average flashlight brands. Streamlight spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in researching and proof testing their products. Most other companies, no matter how neat their designs may be or how bright their lights are, they don’t have those standards of quality. Talking about brightness, lumen intensity depends on the brand as well. A good example of this is that the 55 lumens of the Sidewinder Compact II are brighter than the 80 lumens of the Olight i3s EOS when put side by side. Olight and other brands that don’t go for military and industrial safety contracts can allow themselves to be more “creative” about the lumen intensity of their products. Not Streamlight. The same thing happens with Surefire, who’s 100 lumen lights tend to be brighter than some 200 lumen flashlights floating around.
Then there’s the quality of construction. The Sidewinder Compact II is clearly a tough product. Made of nylon, it is both solid and light. Impact resistance to 3 meters and water resistant to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Intended to be used on the feel, everything about this light looks and feels rugged.
The Sidewinder Compact II is without a doubt the most versatile light in the market as of right now. It is intended to be used as a helmet light (comes with the required helmet attachment) , but in can also be used as a headlamp using the head strap (also included). Thanks to its 90 degree angle configuration and rotating sturdy steel clip, it can attach to MOLLE vests, front shirt pockets or neck collars. Of course, it can be carried in your pocket as well. It may not be the most compact pocket EDC light but it well compensates for that by being so useful and adaptable.
Using the Sidewinder Compct II is simple enough. Clicking the rubber dome button on top (silent, remember its military pedigree) turns the light on. Clicking it again turns it off. Double clicking engages the strobe mode and pushing and holding cycles through the four brightness intensities, Low-Medium 1-Medium 2 and High. High is 55 lumens although as explained its comparable to 80 lumens from other brands such as Olight and Fenix. The runtime for the High mode is 6 hours with one CR123A battery. The low mode, which is the first one, is a functional 5 lumens. Good enough for general use and it runs for over 70 hs. The Sidewinder Comapct II C4 LED has good coloration for a white light. Doesn’t seem to be too cold, no purple or green tint around the edges but a nice neutral white light that feels very natural. At very close range the light has an uneven hotspot with a dark spot in the center, but as you move a few inches away this isn’t noticeable. The light has nice throw and just enough spill for practical purposes thanks to its smooth reflector.
Mini headstrap I made for the SCII. It fits nicely under the clip
Pulling up and rotating the knob allows you to rotate between the four different LEDs. The Sidewinder Compact II has a C4 white LED, a red LED, a blue LED and an infrared LED for night vision devices. The strobe and intensity modes work the same way in all LEDs. The red and blue LEDs have a long runtime on low mode, with over 100 hours of runtime.
CR123A, AA and AAA they all work in the SCII
But the most fascinating thing about the Sidewinder Comapct two isn’t the choice of LEDs, even if it can be useful, such as using the LED red to keep your night vision or to keep a low profile or the military applications of the IR LED. What make the Sidewinder Compact II a survivalist´s dream is that it works with a single CR123A or AA battery. The flashlight has a spring loaded insert on the inside which adjusts to either type of battery. Unofficially speaking, the Sidewinder Compact II also works with AAA as well. It says nothing about it in the manual but after trying it out and seeing if it would disengage by hitting it lightly it proved to work well enough. If a AAA with a bit of juice left is all you have, you could throw it in, set it on the red LED low mode and you would squeeze some light out of it. Such versatility is simply fantastic.
Its been a few weeks now since I started carrying the Sidewinder Compact II as my every day pocket carry light. Because of its unusual shape, at first I would notice it in my jeans for a few steps, but thanks to its light weight you soon forget its there. In larger 5.11 pants you don’t ever notice it. I see how the Sidewinder Compact II will be with me for a long time.