The ThruNite Archer Puts a Streetlight in Your Pocket

A sturdy wrapper around an insanely powerful LED

Photo courtesy the author

When you’re crawling through the dark recesses of your home wielding a barbecue lighter to locate the little hose spewing natural gas, you want to have a good flashlight. That’s the situation I found myself in recently when the earthquake valve on my home’s natural gas line mistakenly tripped, shutting off the pilot light in my hot water heater. Through a convergence of social media, inadvertent influencer marketing, and luck, I happened to have a ThruNite Archer 2A V3 flashlight ready to go, and it saved the day.

I originally heard about the ThruNite Archer via a tweet from Dave Gershgorn of OneZero who’d researched the light, bought it, and then seen it listed as a top pick in Wirecutter. I trust both Dave and Wirecutter, so I immediately bought a ThruNite Archer on Amazon for around $30.

The Archer is a compact flashlight made from what ThruNite calls “aircraft aluminum.” I’m not sure what this actually means. But in practice, the flashlight is lightweight, sturdy, and has a solid diamond-patterned metal grip which makes it easy to hold. It’s about as long as my fully-extended hand, making it easy to carry and to pocket. It also has a metal belt clip, if you want to wear it holster-style.

The Archer is waterproof to 1.5 meters. The build quality feels really good, and it’s one of those rare gizmos that’s a joy to carry and wield. The controls are simple, too. There’s a clicky rubberized button on the back of the light that switches it on (a half-press provides a burst of light, in case you want to practice your Morse code signaling). Once the light is on, a small metal button near the Archer’s grip cycles through brightness levels. A long-press on this button engages a strobe function.

The first light level is called a “firefly” setting. It provides a tiny bit of illumination — enough to read a map at night without wrecking your night vision, or perhaps to read in bed without waking your tentmate on a camping trip. Subsequent presses slowly up the lumens until… WHABAM! You suddenly hit the full-power setting, which more than doubles the brightness to an eyeball-destroying 500 lumens. Especially for a compact flashlight, that’s really bright — about the light output of a traditional 40-watt incandescent bulb. The Archer packs all that light into its tiny form and focuses it into a blinding, directed beam. (ThruNite says not to look directly into the beam, as this can cause eye damage.)

The Archer achieves this by using a Cree XP-L2 LED, which is one of the brightest and most efficient LEDs currently available on the market. Cree says that the XP-L2 is the company’s “highest performing high-density discrete LED.” It moves a remarkable 10 watts of power through a package that’s about the size of a grain of rice. That it does this without overheating is a testament to the XP-L2’s efficiency — nearly all of that power likely turns into light, instead of being wasted as heat. If you put that much power through a less efficient LED of a similar size, it would probably catch fire.

Among other applications, Cree recommends the XP-L2 for “roadway and parking applications, including tunnel lighting, parking garage lighting, road lighting, street lighting, and parking lot lighting.” Basically, the ThruNite Archer is a chunk of a streetlight, miniaturized so that you can hold all of its power in your hand.

I appreciated that power when I turned on my hot water tap late at night about three days after I received the Archer, and found that the water ran cold. I immediately suspected my home’s earthquake valve was to blame, since it had tripped before, provoking panicked calls to PG&E. Earthquake valves are easy to reset, but the process involves peering through a tiny window on the value to check if it has tripped, and then using an even tinier screwdriver to reset the valve. My home is located in a semi-rural area of Contra Costa County and it was around midnight, so there was no light outdoors whatsoever.

The blindingly bright beam on the ThruNite Archer easily lit my way on my walk to the valve. Even in pitch blackness, I was able to see the valve clearly, confirm that it had tripped, and reset it. I was grateful for the bright light the ThruNite Archer provided, and for its compact size.

I also expect the ThruNite Archer to shine (sorry, I had to) during the upcoming California fire season, which promises to be even worse than previous years. My region of the Bay Area is prone to public safety power shutoffs that can last days. I’ve already built a private microgrid, but it’s also helpful to have battery-powered lights during an outage. Because the Archer runs on AA batteries, I can keep swapping them out continuously, and can always have light available, no matter how long a power outage lasts. Rechargeable batteries may be better for the environment, but when you need continuous light, it’s easier not to have to wait hours for your flashlight to recharge. With the Archer, you can just pop in new batteries as they wear down and be good to go.

My only gripe with the Archer is how quickly it jumps from the mildly bright medium mode (70 lumens) to the shocking brightness of high mode. I found that the light’s 500 lumens were sometimes too much — especially reflected off glass surfaces. It was also bright enough to really nuke my night vision. Yet the medium setting wasn’t quite bright enough to light my way. Another intermediate setting of around 150 lumens would be great.

Still, the ThruNite Archer has already earned its $30 price tag. Given its build quality, I expect to get many more years of use from the flashlight. Now if only I could say the same thing for that water heater.

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography.

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