Saturday, April 7, 2012

Equipment Review Retraction - Gerber Omnivore

Flashlight Shootout!

A while back we reviewed the Gerber Omnivore flashlight.  (The review can be found here).  We had used it for a couple of months and where more than satisfied.  Long term use (if you can call 12 months long term), however, proved the Omnivore to be less than satisfactory.  In this vein, we decided to provide you with a "Flashlight Shootout".

Contender #1 - Gerber Omnivore

  • Price:  $27.00
  • Construction:  Machined aircraft grade aluminum, waterproof - sealed with O rings
  • Batteries:  Capable of using AAA, AA and CR123 batteries (a huge selling point)
  • Specifications:  Ultra-bright LED lamp

Contender #2 - Thrift Store child's flashlight
  • Price:  $.25 (Yes, that is 25 cents!)
  • Construction:  Plastic (glows in the dark if you hold it up to the light!)
  • Batteries:  3 AAA battery pack (can use rechargeable)
  • Specifications:  Old-school multiple LED technology

How we conducted the test:

The Gerber Omnivore was used for multiple mundane lighting tasks.  It lived indoors, on a hutch with our radio gear and our rechargeable battery equipment.  It was used only by adults (with the occasional teenager using it to light the way to the generator) and never was exposed to moisture.  

The thrift store child's light was owned by a three year old.  It spent most of its life living under piles of toys, under beds and sitting in spilled hot cocoa.  It also survived several trips down the stair case, landing on the concrete floor.  It disappeared for approximately three months and was discovered hibernating in a snow bank.  It was used as a gun, a club and occasionally a flying projectile.

Flash Light Comparison:

How did our contenders fair?  The Gerber Omnivore's off/on switch failed completely, rendering the flashlight little more than a very expensive piece of aluminum.  We have been completely unable to contact Gerber (their website won't load using Safari) and have been unable to resolve the Omnivore's issues.  Even after disassembling the switch, Sir Knight was unable to resolve the problem.  It appears to be in a section of the switch that is sealed.  

The $.25 thrift store flashlight is still working well.  No matter how many times it bounces down the stairs, off siblings heads and off rocks in the front yard, it still performs flawlessly.  The on/off switch always works and the glow-in-the-dark feature is a popular feature with 3 and 4 year old flashlight owners.  The fact that Dad regularly asks to use his flashlight is also rather exciting.

The good, the bad and the ugly?  The expensive flashlight left much to be desired, namely, illumination.  Ultimately, if a flashlight no longer lights up it has become worthless.  We really wanted to love the Omnivore.  The fact that it could accept multiple batteries only added to its usefulness, however, it is only useful as long as it works.  We would rather purchase tons of cheap flashlights than spend a lot of money on one or two expensive ones that don't hold up.  It appears that the adage "you get what you pay for" is not true in this instance.  The thrift store flashlight was by far a better deal than the Gerber.

Once again, I would encourage everyone to use what they have.  If you don't use it now, you won't know what to expect when you really need it.  

We will continue our search for a worthwhile emergency flashlight, meanwhile, we hope that you "use it, use it, use it"!


  1. I've had a Coleman Max for at least 7 months now (can't remember if we bought it before or after the move) and it's survived a 3 year old's continual abuses thus far. It's extremely bright but eats batteries pretty quickly (well, at least as far as I'm concerned). Wally has them for 20 bucks. I got mine for 25. Nice to see some prices going down....

  2. Your comments reminded me I had not updated my flashlight page in a while so I updated it:

    I own an "expensive" flashlight, and also some very inexpensive ones. As you can see from my reviews the cheapest model still has a lot going for it. The biggest advantage is low cost which allows me to have many of them for redundancy.

  3. Good luck and let me know when you're done reading all the flashaholic posts in a couple years! I'm a big fan of Fenix flashlights with a handfull of Surefires thrown in, though I admit they're generally too rich for my blood. Most all flashlights I have now are LEDs powered by CR123 batteries. For daily use you can't beat the efficiency and longevity of LEDs and the energy density of CR123 batteries (MUST purchase online to make it cost-effective--about $1 each). Plus, CR123s have a shelf life of 10 years. LEDs with CR123s are now my long term storage flashlights in vehicles, throughout the house, and in camping gear. I have a couple AA LEDs for some insurance in TEOTWAWKI situations, since I figure AA batteries will be more available. I'll never go back to incandescent flashlights, Maglights, or those cheap multi-LED discount flashlights. Once I used a 6-mode 220 candlepower Fenix flashlight, I was hooked.

  4. Great post and great information on flashlights, thanks!

    With out family being without a paycheck now for 5 weeks we have had opportunity to really evaluate our supplies and preparedness. Some areas I knew we needed more of (one can only do so much...) but there are other areas where I see my supplies are not nearly enough! Silly me, I thought 3 cases of toilet paper was plenty... NOT. So once we are employed again I know where I need to beef up our supplies! Well as the budget will allow. :-)

    I don't think I would recommend going 'unemployed for 5 weeks' to check out your supplies, but this time has had it's blessings! :-)
    Blessings, ~Mrs. R

  5. I haven't visited in a long while. Enjoyed this post. It points out something so basic but forgotten, that simple tools often do the best job. So far I'm liking my cheap LED flashlight, but nowadays, I don't expect anything to last very long.

  6. Enola

    I have one of them Giant 6-D cell Mega Mag lights with a regular bulb.

    It doubles as a Baseball Bat, hammer, slegehammer, potato masher and bad guy beater.

    One other trick you can't do with thease new fancy LED Chinease small but expensive lights is use it to knock the legs out from under a bad guy as they are runnung away.
    The flash light makes a wonderful "Tonk" noise on the back of the legs as it impacts and knocks the bad guy to the ground.

    You can't do that with a Gerber "Worknomore" flashlight.

    I can also duct tape my Mag light to my M1A rifle and add another 15 pounds to my rifle. I do this when I go "Chupacobra Hunting" here in Texas. (Chupacobra is the legendary Goatsucker that eats goats)

    Moral of the story is, the older stuff works better for us Rednecks especially Stuff that ain't made in China.

  7. Thanks for the review. I have been tempted to buy an Omnivore. I have a Fenix 2 AA light I like a lot. Have bought a TerreLux 2 AA from batteryjunction. Flashlites are an obsession of mine...

  8. Try this site
    look for Ultrafire flashlights. the model WF-501B (1 led)will light up a target at 100 yards when looking through a cheap 4X scope. The 4 led version has a much broader beam but still works well. The 4 led version has lit the way to the barn for all winter and still works fine. I purchased a rechargeable battery and charger for the 4 led version and they both seem to work well. As you will see they have a bunch of other stuff for good prices but the flashlights and charger are all I have purchased so far. I have been very pleased and the 501B was only $11 with shipping about 10 months ago.

  9. This 'Shootout' reinforces the saying, "Two is one and one is none." I keep a couple of 'el-cheapos' LED flashlights right next to my fancy schmancy 'Baby'.
    Montana Guy

  10. I've noticed a lot of folks judging the quality of their flashlight by brightness, but nine times out of ten flashlights are just used for looking for things round the house, reading under the covers, walking between buildings or fixing mechanical things. For this type of use brightness is not to be desired, and may actually be a bad thing, if turning on a flashlight advertises our presence to everyone within ten miles.

  11. I'm using one of those el cheapo multiple LED flashlights as a bicycle headlight-it didn't cost me a dime-it was a promotional's held up for over a year(vibration, rain, snow and all), and still works fine. I had to buy two pipe clamps and one quarter inch bolt and nut to mount it to the hanldebar. Stand weather just fine(this one is thin aluminum with O rings. I bought LED replacement bulbs for a couple of my favorite flashlights($6 each at Wally World). Though not as bright as the original incandescent bulb, it will run just short of a week continuously on a fully charged set of NiMh batteries..

  12. I like theose 1 inch multi led flashlights for a buck or two, I have one mounted to my rifle for close in, it will not blind the target, or me but insures that I know my target, and can be use indoors to clear rooms without too much impact to my night vision. being 1 inch it fits into inexpensive 1 inch scope mounts, I use only on of the pair I bought for 10 bucks at the big box.

  13. I have had Surefire flashlights that I liked very much. The only problem being that every time I would use one I would worry about the bulb burning out (which they did) and the (very expensive) batteries getting drained (which they would). I love my Maglites, and use them a lot, having replaced all the original bulbs with LEDs. I also bought a pair of quite bright Serengetti(sp?) LED flashlights at Sam's Club two years ago for about $15 that work like little charms, put out a huge amount of light and go through AA rechargeables at a reasonable rate.
    I also have a 50c plastic flashlight that I bought for my oldest grandchild about ten years ago that still works with the original batteries no less. It's not much use with its old-fashioned bulb and all but it is good enough for government work which I no longer have to do at all.

  14. This is one of the best, if not the best, post I've read on a blog in months. Thank you.