Home Technology Australians are collecting torches as part of an enlightened international community online

Australians are collecting torches as part of an enlightened international community online

Most Australian households have a few torches here and there – some working, some flat, broken or forgotten – but for the likes of Melbourne’s Pat, that number is closer to 180.

The Blackburn native, who goes by the online name Sillen and has withheld his last name out of respect for the anonymity code of the torch-testing community, records all of his flares in a spreadsheet.

He lists the brand, the type of LED and battery, the amount of light it produces and the distance the beam travels.

Pat said his fascination started when he bought a flashlight from a cheap website a few years ago, which “blew it away”.

“You start thinking, ‘So this? [torch] is good, why is it good? How does it work?’

“And then you find these websites and you start digging into them.”

He estimated that he was one of 200 “torch nerds” in all of Australia.

A photo of three torches in a row on a bench
Pat from Blackburn records all of his flares in a spreadsheet.ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta

They are part of an international online community that communicate anonymously on social media platforms Reddit, Discord, Facebook and TikTok.

Pat said the community discussed all aspects of torches, from the “user interface,” to the “lumens,” to the “throw” — while referring to non-torch nerds as “muggles.”

He said the community was inclusive, but “people should make a decent effort to find the answer before asking” [about torches]†

“Otherwise we are anonymous – we don’t know each other’s race, creed or gender.”

Testing flashlights ‘very nice’

Tim McMahon is also part of this community and owns about 50 torches.

A man looking at the camera with a blank expression while holding a flashlight
Torch tester Tim McMahon hopes more people will take up the hobby.ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta

The Melbourne-based software developer’s fascination started in 2020 – around the time his daughter was born.

“I wanted to find a flashlight that would provide low power and long life so I could change diapers at night without waking everyone up,” said Mr. McMahon.

He soon began reviewing them, fact-checking what was written on the packaging by running a number of tests.

Tests take about 20 hours per flashlight, which he does in his spare time.

“I’ll take some pictures of it, take the measurements and go ahead and use a light meter to measure the throw and check the user interface,” said Mr. McMahon.

“Then I do the runtime test, where I run it all day while I’m working, and I record the light output and temperature over time.”

A photo of several dozen torches in a row
Pat has collected 180 different torches.ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta

Manufacturers who pay attention

Mr. McMahon posts his reviews on a website called Budget Light Forum.

He said some manufacturers have changed the way they design their flares based on his testing.

Another aspect of the hobby is changing LEDs [the light source]what Mr. McMahon says he likes to do with fellow enthusiasts.

He said that some international flashlight enthusiasts even shared their LED designs with Chinese manufacturers, who controlled most of the market, so that they could produce better flashlights.

A man wielding a torch on a workbench while wearing a COVID mask
Tim McMahon says he takes safety precautions when testing flares.ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta

Mr. McMahon said he wanted to shine a light on the hobby to encourage others to get involved in torchlight exploration.

But he said it had to be done safely or else they could be dangerous.

He said that while most torches have a thermal regulation to prevent them from overheating, some torches can literally burn a hole in a person’s pocket and must be handled with extreme care.

He also said that many flashlights use lithium iron batteries, which cannot be thrown in a drawer like alkaline batteries.

“These cells must be handled with care at all times and charging must be supervised,” said Mr. McMahon.

A picture of the inside of a flashlight
Tim McMahon says you should never look directly into a lit torch.ABC Radio Melbourne: Madi Chwasta

In addition, he said flashlights and batteries should be monitored at all times during testing and kept out of the reach of children.

“You should also never look directly into a flashlight’s LED or shine the beam at someone as a joke, as these flashlights can permanently damage your eyesight,” said Mr. McMahon.

TikTok torch star goes viral

However, in the spotlight of the international flare community is Kyle Krueger.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.
“Is this the brightest flashlight in the world?” with Kyle Krueger on TikTok†Supplied: Kyle Krueger/TikTok†

The 20-year-old from Florida in the United States posts on TikTok and raises the brightest torches on offer, some that “look like the sun.”

Krueger said his torch videos had been viewed about 90 million times.

“It’s a little hard to remember that these are actually all real people interacting, commenting and engaging with my videos.”

Krueger said his videos were popular because torches had universal appeal.

“Flashlights are just so versatile,” he said.

“It gets dark everywhere, no matter where you live, who you are or what you do.”

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