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While there are certainly some pieces of kit that people could debate about whether or not it’s essential survival gear (is 550 cord always necessary?), there’s also some things that everyone who has deployed or just gone camping would agree they should have almost all the time. Among these non-negotiable items is surely a good flashlight. When in an austere environment far from help, the ability to see and/or signal can be a matter of life or death. For these purposes, a reliable flashlight is a must.
Currently, my home is a graveyard of old or just plain garbage flashlights. I do have a Pelican M6 that was issued by the Air Force years ago, but the batteries (some weird, odd-sized Lithium type) haven’t been replaced in years. The other torches I own are the kind bought in pairs at Walmart or a truck stop. They work for a while, but drain disposable batteries fast, so that whenever I find myself in need of a functioning flashlight, I almost never have one. This point was driven home over the past few weeks as I’ve been on a couple of good hikes, including a weekend in the mountains in Tennessee. I didn’t really have a flashlight that I felt I could rely on for extended periods outdoors, especially in inclement weather.
This is why I found the Nitecore P10i tactical flashlight so appealing. True, at about $80, it’s way more expensive than the garbage flashlights I’ve bought over the years, but compared to other tactical flashlights, it’s squarely mid-range in terms of price. In terms of brightness, this baby promises to cast 1800 lumens, which is insane considering the typical, run-of-the mill flashlight might throw 300 lumens at best. Here’s why it might be your next flashlight of choice.
The Nitecore P10i comes in a smart-looking black package that contains not just the flashlight, but also several accoutrements (more on that in a second). The first thing that jumped out at me was how light the package was. Years ago when I was still in the service, I had a SureFire brand tactical flashlight, and I remember that sucker had some heft to it. The fact that this entire package, extras and all, was so light made me suspicious that this flashlight was going to feel flimsy. That concern turned out to be misplaced.
The P10i feels solid. It’s made of “aero-grade” aluminum alloy, which is also treated with HA III anodized finish. The Nitecore product page refers to this as “military-grade hard.” The liberal use of such descriptions by any number of folks selling “tactical” gear notwithstanding, this flashlight feels like it was made to take a beating. Plus, Nitecore boasts this torch has an IP68 waterproof rating, which is an international standard that says the P10i can withstand immersion in up to two meters of water. In fact, the Nitecore product page on Amazon shows the flashlight being recharged while submerged. That’s pretty cool, and something I look forward to testing.
The P10i is about 5.8 inches long, and fits comfortably in my hand. It has two buttons on the end: a prominent “tactical tail switch” that activates the light to maximum lumination with a click (or, if you gently press it, it’ll shine until you remove the pressure). A flat “mode button” beside the tail switch allows you to either cycle through three brightness settings, or to enable a strobe light that is pretty impressive as far as those things go.
Along with the flashlight comes a small but sturdy plastic holster that clicks to a belt or MOLLE gear (although I had problems actually attaching it to older MOLLE webbing I own), a lanyard, a spare battery case, a USB-C charging cable, and a spare O-ring. The NL2140i battery comes already installed in the flashlight, so I just needed to open it to remove the thin disposable divider that keeps the battery from contacting the lead.
How we tested the Nitecore P10i tactical flashlight
I like to take a methodical approach to testing gear, so I devised three categories: basic functionality, impact testing, and waterproof testing. The results are as follows:
Basic functionality. I first played around with the tactical thumb switch and mode button. The P10i has a simple setup that is intuitive to use. I liked this quite a bit. What surprised me is that the mode button, which is flat and flush with the base of the flashlight, is easy to engage even while wearing tactical gloves. (Full disclosure, my “tactical gloves” are actually dirt bike gloves, as it’s been a long time since I’ve had any issued to me. But they feel quite similar in thickness to the issued gloves I wore when I belonged to a security forces squadron).
As with most high-powered flashlights, the P10i gets warm fast when at maximum power. I figured if this thing really puts out 1800 lumens, then it should sizzle. But after 40 minutes of constant use, I noticed two things. First, the heat doesn’t spread through the whole flashlight, so I could comfortably handle it even without wearing gloves. Second, the front end appeared to cool periodically (I’m talking relative cooling here. Once it was hot, it was hot). I assume this cooling is a product of the P10i’s Advanced Temperature Regulation (ATR) feature. This ATR is patent-pending, which is why I assume Nitecore’s description of how it works isn’t particularly enlightening. Regardless, it seems to work well.
Of course, I took the opportunity to turn off all the lights in my house and shine the P10i around. It’s bright and works amazingly well. I then took it outside after dark, where I stood 36 feet away from the front of my house and then switched the flashlight on. Yeah, no problem making out anything lurking around the front door. The illumination cast by this flashlight is pretty spectacular.
But as impressed as I was with its brightness and ease of use, I wanted to give the “tactical” side of this torch a workout. Time to start abusing it.
Impact testing. I found no need to get creative here. My first tests were basic, but also the most likely to happen to a user: I dropped the P10i onto concrete. That IP68 rating I mentioned above also means this flashlight is supposed to be able to withstand impacts when dropped from one meter. So, no throwing this sucker up in the air and letting it crash to the ground, but I did drop it from about waist height and it was good to go. Three times, my son (who jumped at the chance to try and see if we could break an $80 flashlight) held the torch straight out in front of him and dropped it. It survived and works just as well as it did out of the box. The only minor thing I noticed was a purely cosmetic slight scrape along the edge of the front tip of the case.
For the second round of impact tests, I took the P10i with me on a short hike to a nearby creek. There, I dropped it onto some rocks a couple of times, then into the creek itself. Luckily, I had the light on, because even though it was daylight it may have been tricky to find the black flashlight in the mud. As with the “drop on concrete” tests, the P10i survived with only a couple of minor abrasions. The light never dimmed or flickered, though I left it in the water for several minutes at a time, which is the perfect segue into the waterproofing tests.
Waterproof testing. The night before I went on the hike, I turned the flashlight on and set it in a tub of water about seven inches deep. I left it there for 10 minutes before fishing it out. No problems at all. The light remained constant (no flickering) and I noticed that the flashlight’s anti-slip knurling helped me keep a good grip on it even when wet.
Next, I just had to test something that the folks at Nitecore put in their P10i product demonstration video: They charged the flashlight while it was submerged underwater. So I plugged the USB-C cable into the charging port, plugged the cable into my phone charger (which in turn was plugged into a surge protector, because I didn’t want to blow a lot of fuses if this didn’t work), and plopped it back in. I saw the blue charging light blink for a few minutes, and since at this point I had only used it for a total of maybe 15 minutes, it fully charged pretty fast. In summary, the waterproofing on this flashlight is very impressive.
What we like about the Nitecore P10i tactical flashlight
In the “does this product deliver on basic functionality” category, the Nitecore P10i is fantastic. The activation switches, simply designed, are easy to use without looking, and the 1800 lumens this thing throws is bright. So very bright.
The rechargeable battery is also a major plus. I no longer have to worry about whether I have C, D, or friggin’ lithium batteries lying around. If I’m going on a hike or I see severe weather coming in, I just need to plug it up.
Although I’m not sure if many military or police units in the U.S. are keen to load up on flashlights made in China, Nitecore does offer a wide range of add-ons for use in the field. These include things like diffusers, gun and helmet mounts, and remote switches.
What we don’t like about the Nitecore P10i tactical flashlight
There’s very little I didn’t like about the P10i. The biggest thing to be aware of from a readiness perspective is that the rechargeable battery can take up to three hours and 45 minutes to get fully charged if the battery is completely depleted. Nitecore claims that their 21700 series rechargeable Li-ion batteries can survive over 500 recharges, so these batteries will last you a while. But when you eventually replace them, they’re a bit costly. A replacement battery currently costs about $25. But if these batteries last as long as Nitecore claims, then this isn’t bad at all. Just think how many disposable batteries you might have to buy throughout the year for a flashlight that doesn’t perform a fraction as well as the P10i.
The Nitecore P10i is impressive. While not cheap at $80, it more than delivers value and quality for this price point. It’s tough, intuitively designed, and practical. For EDC, camping, or hiking use, I think the P10i is the only flashlight you’ll need. I’m not in the military anymore, and I’ve never been a police officer, but I have been in a tactical unit that trained for and performed missions that required a reliable flashlight. The ruggedness of the P10i makes this one that you should consider unless you’re concerned about operating in a location where it may be difficult to recharge the battery.
FAQs about the Nitecore P10i tactical flashlight
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Nitecore P10i tactical flashlight cost?
Q. How long will the P10i’s battery last between charges?
A. According to the product manual, the P10i can last an hour and half at full power (1800 lumens), seven hours and 15 minutes at mid power (280 lumens), and up to 38 hours at low power (35 lumens).
Q. Where is the Nitecore P10i made?
A. It’s made in China.
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W.E. Linde spent 12 years in the Air Force as an intelligence guy and loved both his enlisted and commissioned time. Now a civilian, he toils away as a healthcare business analyst by day and wannabe writer by night because who needs sleep when you have coffee? His time in the military made him appreciate just how funny the term “military grade” can be. He currently writes for Duffel Blog and for the humor site Damperthree.com