Written by: Joe Nobody
Back in 2007, while kicking back with an Army Times magazine, I noticed an article that featured their choices for the best products of the year. One of the winners was a unique-looking flashlight, manufactured by Stream-light, and branded the Sidewinder (like the snake).
Now for a lot of the fellas, a new flashlight can be one of those testosterone-influenced impulse purchases, like pocketknives, tools, and MOLLE pouches. I happen to suffer from this affliction on occasion.
I just had to have one and forked over $60 or so. It has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
I purchased the light for tactical purposes, but I believe it to be one of the finest torches available for the prepper as well.
All of the basics are covered by the Sidewinder. It’s waterproof, shockproof, clips or attaches to just about anything, and has a rotating head for aiming, thus offering hands-free operation. The lens cover is described on the Steam-light website as “indestructible.”
The light is generated by LED bulbs, so battery life is good. My model also produces infrared, red and blue light. Red light doesn’t degrade the human eye’s natural night vision, which can be important for anyone trying to operate in low light conditions. The infrared bulb is used with my PVS-14 night vision monocle in extreme low light situations.
Everything about this unit is built for low light usage. The battery cap is tethered, so you won’t drop it in knee-high weeds at zero-dark-thirty. When installing fresh batteries, the positive/negative indicators are raised so you can feel them with your finger.
The on and off button also serves as the dimmer switch and is large enough to engage while wearing gloves. This critical control is recessed, making it difficult to accidentally turn on – something that might get you killed in certain situations.
My Sidewinder has been through 120-degree desert heat and subzero cold. It has been beaten against rocks and survived sand storms, a blizzard and numerous rainstorms.
Mine uses AA batteries, which are common with several other electronic devices in my kit. My Aim-point optic, PVS-14 and laser rangefinder all use these same power cells. I have a small, fold-up solar battery charger that will recharge this size battery in a few hours on a sunny day.
About the only drawback I can find with the Sidewinder is its brightness. It produces only a 20 lumen white light. While that has served me just fine in the field, I know some people like a little more juice.
The IR bulb is a great additional to the night vision and won’t act like a big neon sign pointing back at you (unless the threat has night vision as well). The blue light can be used to signal, and all of the colors can be set to strobe.
Stream-light now makes a compact version of this same flashlight, and both models come in a variety of colors. You also have a few options for the different color output, like green. So the next time you need a good torch that serves multiple roles and is a rugged piece of kit, I don’t see how you can go wrong with Sidewinder.
Joe Nobody is the author of several best-selling survival and firearms training books, as well as the popular fiction series “Holding Their Ground.” He is a rather opinionated prepper and received no compensation for this endorsement.