The Zebralight H52W has been around for a few years. The LED has been upgrading over time, currently it’s a Cree XM-L2, in either cool or neutral white, but the excellent concept, design and execution have remained. In spite of this I did not buy one until now. It seemed I always had something else that I liked well enough or was very happy with. Boy I wish I had bought one of these before.
The Best Survivalist flashlight?
Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II is the ultimate survival flashlight, the one I would have if I could have only one to deal with SHTF for extended periods of time. Having said that, the Zebralight is an extremely strong contender for the #1 place in the list. Both of these are angle head lights, making them very versatile. What I like about the Sidewinder Compact II the most is the military grade toughness and the ability to indistinctively use AA, AAA and CR123 format batteries. This trait is crucial for such a survivalist flashlight. On the other hand the H52W is almost half the size, making it better for pocket EDC, and with the right battery can put almost five times as much lumens downrange with its 500 lumen high mode.
The Zebralight H52W makes very good use of its angle head and clip. Like the old Fulton MX991/U military flashlight, they can be clipped to webbing, straps or belts, keeping the reflector pointed forward. I used it recently attaching it to the neck of my t-shirt (the H52W is small and light enough to allow this) I can also clip it to my belt or front jeans pocket. The Zebralight H52W is actually intended to be headlamp so it includes a headstrap which is compact yet comfortable, turning it into a pretty good headlamp. The H52W uses a single AA battery. This is an important factor given that AA are one of the easiest batteries to come across. It can also run on lithium and li-ion batteries, considerably increasing its capabilities with the use of 3.7V14500 rechargable batteries. Many AA lights expressively forbid the use of 3.7V batteries and the few that do allow it often end up losing functions such as the lower lumen modes. Not the case here. The light includes yet another feature that is important for anyone carrying and using the light frequently as their EDC, a battery voltage indicator. Clicking it four times the LED blinks 1 to 4 times letting you know how much battery is left. Clicking three times you get the beacon and strobe mode, which you can select by double clicking. With 14500 it has a maximum output of 500 lumens. This runs for only one minute before dropping to 270 lumens to avoid overheating. The moonlight mode can be programed as low as 0,01 lumens which can supposedly run for 3 months.
The user interface of the H52W sounds tricky at first to say the least, but once you do get used to it, it becomes almost intuitive and fast to use. The light has low medium and high mode, and there’s a second sublevel mode for each which can be programed into two output modes or three in the case of the second low mode.
A short click turns the light on in high, either one of the high modes used last time. A double click turns the light on in medium mode (again, either one of the two used last) and one long click turns it on low. In any case pressing and holding cycles through low, medium and high and double clicking engages the sub level of each of those. After a few days, it was simple enough to double click so as to get an either brighter or dimmer light if either of the low medium or high mode wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Again, sounds messy but you soon get the hang of it.
As much as I liked the H52W I couldn’t get over the fact that it simply wasn’t a multi battery flashlight like the Sidewinder Compact II… or was it? Out of pure curiosity I dropped a AAA in there and clicked the light. Surprisingly, it came to life. The light is clearly not intended to be used with AAA but the spring on the cap happens to be long enough to make contact. It is not very reliable. The small AAA moves out of contact easily but the point is it does work and using a bit of paper rolled around it to keep it centered in place would greatly improve the reliability.
The Zebralight H52W is now my EDC light. I know something better will eventually come along to replace it. Looking forward to that though, because if it does replace my Zebralight I know it will be one hell of an amazing flashlight.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.