Monday, April 7, 2014

Gear review: Fenix PD35 light

Wow, about time I did a gear review of something, eh?  I know it has been a while, so bear with me.  This is a review of my new Fenix PD-35 LED flashlight with the XML-U2 LED. 
It represents a bit of a sea-change in my flashlight EDC desires and needs.  I have for years, stuck to single cell CR123 lights to achieve a compact form and to reduce the potential for a flashlight kaboom when using lithium ion batteries (either primary or rechargeable).  I even went so far as to change battery chemistry to the LiFePO4 battery to remove the vent-with-flame potential of a multi-cell light.

For those not familiar with lithium ion chemistry and the vent-with-flame potential I happily refer you to this Candlepower forum area:  Battery Kabooms
It will educate you more than you probably ever wanted about batteries, their chemistry, their faults and benefits. 

So why the change?  Because I got a chance to check out a PD35 light at REI this weekend on DH's birthday, and having a 20% coupon there along with my dividend, it was remarkably inexpensive for a light capable of taking an 18650 single cell Li-Ion battery.  The light typically retails for $80USD.  DH liked it so much that he encouraged me to buy it--"Here, love, twist my arm to make me buy another flashlight!"

There are a number of nice things about this PD35 light.  For a light capable of running on a single 18650 battery, it is very compact.  It is not really any longer than DH's Nitecore MH1C 1xAA light.  That's pretty impressive if you ask me, since an 18650 packs a lot more power into it, than a 14500 battery.  It also has a small head/reflector on it, which means it fits comfortably in one's front pocket.  This is nice, if you don't want to have it in a belt pouch.  The pocket clip is removable, though I plan to leave it in place regardless, to use it as an indexing point to find the grey side switch.  The notched fins on the head help prevent rolling when you set the light down, and also increase the heat dissipation when running the light on the higher output levels.
The beam from the reflector is very nice.  It is very smooth from the bright hotspot to the wide spill, so that at distance it is almost like a pure flood beam.  Also, for a small 20mm reflector, it throws pretty well outside.  When I tested it in the front yard the other night, I was getting good illumination out to 50+yds, which is plenty for visual ID of hazards, including the 2 legged kind.  The reflector is smooth, and the LED centered.  This contributes greatly to the really nice beam pattern.

On to the switches on this light.  There are two.  This is less complicated than it sounds.  The main switch, is on the rear of the light.  It is a "tactical" switch, in that it has a momentary forward press as well as a forward click to turn on the light.  The switch is large enough to find easily with a thumb.  When pressed, the light will come on at whatever power setting it was used at last (except for strobe).  So if you turn it off in Eco mode, it will turn back on, in Eco mode.
The second switch is the mode switch located on the side of the light body.  This enables you to select how bright the light is.  It is important to note that this switch does NOT change the settings of the light if the light is turned off.  That means it will not switch modes in your pocket.  The primary modes of this light are as follows:  Eco-Low-Med-Hi-Turbo.  The factory ratings can be seen in this picture.
There is also a hidden strobe mode.  You can have the light shift into a rapid strobe mode by pressing the side switch and holding it down for approximately 1 second.  The strobe is fairly disorienting if it is shined in your eyes.  It's also stunningly bright!  Fortunately, this light does not include the typical extraneous flashing modes that so irritate us flashaholics.  There is no SOS, and no beacon slow flash.  Plus with the strobe not loaded into the main mode sequence, if you don't want to use it, you will never encounter it unless you press and hold the side switch.

The steps in brightness in the main output settings are fairly well spaced.  Even turbo is significantly brighter than High, especially when using an 18650 battery.  Eco, which is the lowest mode, is fine for wandering around the house in the middle of the night to avoid stepping on sleeping dogs and kiddie caltrops.  It's a bit too bright to truly preserve your night adapted vision--for that you would want a sub-one lumen output.  Eco mode is about 10 lumens.  There is available, a red filter, that fits this light if preserving night vision is important to you.

Because this is a 2xCR123 or 1x18650 light, it is long enough to use the Harries Method when carrying a pistol.  My small 1xCR123 lights were really too small (and all twisty lights) to use in conjunction with a pistol.  So why not use a pistol mounted light?  Because I don't want to have to point a pistol at something just to put light on it.  Think about that for a second...

Overall, I really like this light.  It is very unobtrusive on the belt or in the pocket.  The light comes with a pouch, a small lanyard, spare o-rings, a pocket clip, and a spare rubber tail cap.  The cordura nylon belt pouch has a velcro flap and the belt loop on the back will handle a 1 1/2" wide belt.  I don't know if it will handle a 1 3/4" belt but it might.  If you register your light with Fenix online, they will extend the 2 year warranty an additional 6 months, which is nice.

For those of you who want to see beam shots at night, and some white wall hunting pics, I will gladly refer you to FlashLion's review on CPF.  It is a very detailed review and includes some output measurements in a real-world setting.  He's also a better photographer than I am with my cell phone!


  1. As one who also appreciates a well lit subject, this one sounds like an amazing flashlight. I'm using an (embarrassingly) puny LED hand held light right now. Bought it had the local automotive store. I figure if there's an intruder, I can hold this little bright monster with one hand and the .45 with the other easily. Hopefully the shock of bright light would frighten off even the most ardent of intruders and I wouldn't have to bag 'em. [wink] Thank you for sharing such an indepth review. I may use it sometime.
    God bless. ~:)

  2. Great review and most of it over my head...but, if you like it and I'm in the market, I'll buy it. Your opinion carries weight with me. I've got a huge light that throws light for half a mile then handheld LED flashlights. The huge light is needed when the coyotes, etc. get rowdy and the other lights sometimes. If I have to go to the barn after dark, I carry my gun and the huge flashlight; I need all the light possible so I can see what's happening.
    I'm going with the Galaxy Note III and am pretty sure it's Android and not a JellyBean...but, don't know why I should avoid 4.3 JellyBean.
    Thanks for your advice though; this phone has to last me more than a couple of years and I'm hoping for 5.


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