Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Best Survivalist Flashlight: Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II

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.

Incredible Versatility

                              Box Contents
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.



Troy said...

Thank you for that review. I really like the versatility of this light, especially the fact that you can use different batteries. That said, I see no reason why a military grade light can't have at least 100 lumens, or 200 for that matter? Most modern flashlights do. I would gladly pay a little more for this. You almost had me sold on it, but for that one big drawback.

TheModernSurvivalist said...

The reason is that it's not intended to be a weapon light but a goal use light. The 55 lumen do feel like 80 and illuminate better than 100lumen flashlights at a distance thanks to the better throw. clearly to me they valued max runtime over power, but I agree a slightly higher lumen mode would have been better. having said that I find it to be very adequate for most (or I should say all) tasks I've needed it for so far.

Anonymous said...

Senor Fiesta here.

A decent review and a decent product. I avoid anything cr123. They are expensive and not as easily found as the A's (double or triple). Plus when it comes to on person EDC a bright tactical is way more preferable. They all have low settings. Admittingly my tactical isn't waterproof, however I have jumped into a pool with mine in my pocket and swam the length of the pool, gotten out and it worked. In my GHB I have a headlamp and two other flashlights (one of them a hand cranker). I just don't see this one as a must replace for any of them. I didn't look at the price but I'd be willing to guess that I bought all my flashlights for the same amount as this one cost.

Steve said...

Very nice light. Anon commenter makes a good point. Adding in hand crank rechargeablity would make a perfect light.

TheModernSurvivalist said...

Hey Steve, I havent had much luch with hand cranks. Most are too gimicky and not very bright and they dont last long. Just my experience with them of course.

TheModernSurvivalist said...

Hey Troy. In spite of the offcial 55 lumen spec it is pretty bright and it makes great use of the light be keeping a nice hotspot with good throw. For example, compared to a more floody 200 lumen EDC, the 200 lumen light doesnt focus much past 10 meters while the sidewinder compact II does, iluminating just as well or maybe even a tad better on the spot you are pointing at.

Anonymous said...

Senor Fiesta here . . .

Agree with Fernando that hand crankers in general aren't the brightest nor will you get more than 30 minutes of light out of a "cranking session" (usually about a minute or two depending on make and model).

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have one in your bag. They aren't that big. They aren't bulletproof but they are extremely fragile either (depending on make and model). They are bright enough for just when you need some light (and not the sun). There are some good ones out there that are worth their salt. I have a few strewn about. Don't have to worry about channging batteries or checking for battery corrosion if they sit with the batteries in them too long (like alot of flashlights). Everyone should have at least one handcranker in their mix.

Anonymous said...

Too many people are blinded by lumen ratings. An EDC light doesn't need to melt paint.

Troy said...


A 200 lumen is hardly a paint melter. It's not much to ask for that in a tactical light, especially with today's technology.