This is a re-review of sorts. I’d written about this little light in 2015 when I’d first gotten it, but after 5 years of on and off use I’ve really got to be more positive about it than I was then.
Back then I was still obsessed with the biggest, baddest lights I could find. I’d started getting into 18650 battery lights with tons of lumens, so although I thought the Tool AAA was cool for what it was, I feel now like I didn’t give it a fair enough shake.
Years later and many more flashlights tested to create context, especially a recent run through with a newer IYP365 Nichia penlight, it deepened my appreciation for the Tool AAA.
The Tool AAA Has A Good Setup Of Modes
As I mentioned in my review of the IYP365 with the Nichia LED, I felt like the light had a lot of potential that was lost by its brightness mode levels.
And in every way that I felt that was true comparing it against the Tool AAA head to head, it made me realize how right they got the Tool AAA. It’s a great little light.
Its 5 lumen low mode is a great balance of long battery life (30 hours) and usable light. The room has to be pretty dark to see much at 5 lumens, but for seeing where you’re going without wanting to light up much of the room and disturb others it’s perfect. And if you found yourself in an emergency situation where you didn’t know how long it’d be before help arrived and you needed light for as long as possible, 30 hours is a lot of time to be able to rely on.
(Out of a single AAA no less.)
The medium mode clocks in at 32-45 lumens (depending on when you got it) and offers 10 hours of run time. (Again, a good balance.) 45 lumens is probably what you’d use a pocket light like this for 80% of the time, useful for walking the dog at night, walking around a dark garage, and all kinds of tasks like that.
10 hours of battery life in this mode is enough to last an entire work day, or quite a few days of frequent use between battery swaps.
There isn’t a ton of range, but nor would you expect it from a keychain-style light. But up to about 10 feet away from you it’s solid and the hotspot provides adequate detail.
The high mode only has 30 minutes of run time, so you’d want to use it sparingly. However, I find it perfectly adequate for the role of a pocket flashlight where you’re mostly using a lower mode, but once in awhile you find yourself in a scenario where you need a lot of light for probably not all that long.
(I figure if you’re looking for several hundred+ lumens for longer than 30 minutes you’re probably using a big flashlight anyway.)
110 lumens is a lot of light for a tiny AAA flashlight. In a pinch it even works when you’re on a bike ride and stayed out a bit later than planned and the sun goes down. We used it as a headlight while riding back and it sufficiently lit up the ground ahead of us to ride safely. Ideally you’d use a bigger light for that, but the Tool AAA did the job in a pinch.
Tons of versatility
I’ve said a lot about the modes already and how well configured I think they are, but even the design of the flashlight body itself adds to versatility.
I admit that I owned this light for a few years and didn’t use it much at first, mostly because I carried an M2R Warrior with me a lot of the time and it’s a significantly more powerful (albeit also much larger) flashlight.
One situation that really got me back into using this light was working on a re-flooring job with a friend of mine. The room we were in didn’t have ceiling lights that did much, and since the house was empty we couldn’t rely on lamps.
I saw my friend using his own pocket flashlight clipped to the bill of his hat and was like, “Hey! I have a light like that!”
Sure, I already had an Olight headlamp, but then again you have to go out of your way to bring a headlamp places and I find that things that come up that make one handy are sometimes not what you’d foreseen. Being able to serve that same role with a regular pocket light is super useful.
With how easy it is to drop the Tool AAA in a pocket it can go anywhere, and it’s easy to hang off of a backpack with MOLLE. Because it’s water resistant to a couple meters, I wouldn’t be worried about
When I’ve compared the Tool AAA against other AAA flashlights, even some with 2x AAAs, I was sometimes disappointed in run times the others had or odd brightness mode settings that were chosen.
Comparatively I think the Tool AAA does a great job balancing usable light levels with reasonable battery life for a single cell. Apart from the High mode’s limited battery life I’ve not really felt the detriments of being on a AAA light as much as I’d expected with it.