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FLASHWARE



FLASHWARE Hands-Free Flashlight Helper, retail $TBA (http://www.flashware.com)
Manufactured by Flashware
Last updated: 03-25-07


LED Light


Flashware is a new product that allows you to use your flashlight almost completely hands-free. It makes the promise of no more juggling flashlights and tools, no more trying to hold & aim a big "AA" cell light in your mouth, and no more dropped & broken flashlights.

The nylon webbing & neoprene device fits over your forearm with a velcro strap, and your flashlight fits into a sturdy, quick-release plastic holder mounted on the armpiece; this keeps your light aimed anywhere your hand & arm are aiming. The apparatus is also fitted with elastic "pockets" which can hold a cell phone, tools, or (by slipping a magnet inside) small metal parts like nuts & bolts. A medium-sized keyring is also attached to every unit, and the Flashware logo is professionally embroidered (gosh, when was the last time I used that word???) in color on it.

The Flashware X-series also comes with a bungee attachment. The website states some of its uses as attaching it to tool handles and sports bottles; however my bungee is different and I'm having some problems figuring out exactly how to attach various things to it. Maybe I'm just stupid, or maybe I'm not seeing the forest for the trees. More on this farther down.



The Flashware unit attaches to your forearm much like a blood pressure cuff - you wrap the unit around your arm and then secure it with the generously sized velcro closure. Once on, it stays put until you want it off.

The large width distributes all of the force evenly over your arm, so it doesn't feel as constrictive as you might think it would. It can be attached anywhere from your wrist all the way up to where your elbow bends, and can be worn either on the bare arm, or over the sleeves of long-sleeved shirts or jackets. The lining feels like a neoprene/nylon blend, and feels soft to the touch.

The test sample came with a Dorcy Excell flashlight (this is a fairly skinny, 2 "AA" cell incandescent with adjustable beam). Flashware can be ordered with this light at an extra charge if you don't own a light that will fit it.
It will also fit many other small "AA" (2 and 3 cell) flashlights, plus it can be ordered in sizes made for specific lights like Pelican, Lightwave 2000, and Mag Lite.





The Flashware Hands-Free Flashlight System is a unique and novel idea, but will it catch on?

The overall construction appears to be fairly robust and durable. The sewing looks professional, and extra stitching is present in probable higher stress areas. The flashlight clip receptacle is attached with three gigantic plastic "rivets", each with extra surface area so there is less of a chance they will rip through the fabric if accidentally pulled on or snagged on something. There are also an extra layer of thick neoprene on the inner surface where the flashlight holder is attached; this serves two purposes: it acts like a washer to further reduce the chance of pull-through, and it cushions the skin so the rivets won't dig in and irritate you.

One somewhat "sensitive" issue that needs to be brought up... I don't know if this fabric is "breathable" or if it will become all yucky and stinky after multiple uses in warmer weather. Being a primarily all-fabric product, it *should* be washable provided you put it in a hoisery bag and use your washing machine's "gentle" cycle.
DO NOT PUT IT IN A DRYER! Neoprene typically doesn't do well in the dryer. Air-dry Flashware in a warm place for a day, and it should be good as new.

I can't say I've used the Flashware system a lot, and here's why:
  • The unit is fairly bulky and large - although it is this size out of necessity.
  • Honestly, at times I found it to be a pain in the toilet muscle to use. You have to make a concerted effort to dig the thing out from wherever you stored it, get it strapped around your arm and adjusted, and fiddle with clips & bungees if you want to load it up with tools or other articles.
  • The included flashlight is fine for close-up tasks, but I'd rather be able to use one of the newer, more powerful lights in it. (Unit was later successfully tested with a borrowed Nightbuster Ledda 4X).
    The clip can be forced open a small amount, but any more and it may break or become deformed & not spring back.
  • Walking around with the Flashware on your arm all loaded up with a flashlight, jingling keys, and a cellphone can become a bit cumbersome. When it is loaded full of heavy stuff, it does begin to feel slightly constricting or "in the way" and you just want to get the thing off.
  • It comes with a bungee attachment which I had a devil of a time trying to figure out.
    I never did.

So, what is it good for?
It is good for some tasks where you need both hands free, and would rather not have to hold a long, metal light in your mouth. Going under the hood of the car may be one of its best uses; as you can slip a speaker magnet in one of the "pockets" and use it to hold screws, nuts, and bolts (and even a small wrench or screwdriver or two) until you find a safer place for them. The other pocket will accomodate a pair or two of pliers.

Another use would be going to the basement to change fuses in a fusebox, because you then have both hands free to manipulate the fuses or to use a stick to pry out those pesky mains cartridge fuses.

Yet another use would be for short tasks at night such as taking the dog outside to go potty; though for LONGER walks I might want to carry a flashlight seperately. This is largely personal opinion, and your results can and probably will vary.

It is NOT the ideal system to use when working in small areas like inside a computer, because you can't really control exactly where the flashlight itself will go because it is fixed in one position an inch or so above your arm.


LED Light
Product being used while repairing my electric wheelchair.
The camera flash pretty much drowned out the flashlight. :-O




TEST NOTES:

Admittedly, I have not used the Flashware for some tasks it is intended for (like walking a dog at night or fixing a car) due to my location and particular situation.
One of the best possible uses for this product is while poking around under the hood of a car, and that is one of the activities I am unable to do, and therefore, unable to test Flashware with.

During the times I have used Flashware, I found I could often do better without it.
Like I mentioned above, YOUR RESULTS MAY AND VERY LIKELY WILL VARY!

Honestly, I really didn't like it that much. Maybe I just don't like things wrapped around my arm... or maybe I'm having trouble adapting to this new way of aiming a flashlight.

Will I discard the test units?
No I won't. I will still try the product periodically as newer flashlights (that fit it) are introduced. Perhaps, a super brilliant light fitting the unit may give me reason to think twice. Everything evolves, and that includes flashlight reviewers. Maybe someday the Flashware system will grow on me and I will come to like it more.


UPDATE: 03-25-07
Here is the Flashware unit with a Coast Cutlery 10 LED flashlight in it.



I still think it's a bit cumbersome to use, but since I do not own or have access to an automobile (tinkering around under the hood is what I think it would excell at), I cannot test it in this fashion.


Any updates related to this review will be posted as they happen.




PROS:
Unique product, has multiple uses, appears very well constructed overall. May be an ideal choice if you do a lot of engine work.

CONS:
Some people might ask "Why?". Can be cumbersome to use at times, can feel "constricting" or "bulky" under some circumstances. This is a product you must get accustomed to or even develop a particular "ritual" to use regularly, rather than one you instantly fall in love with.





        MANUFACTURER: Flashware
        PRODUCT TYPE: Flashlight "helper" add-on accessory
        LAMP TYPE: N/A
        No. OF LAMPS: 0
        BEAM TYPE: N/A
        SWITCH TYPE: N/A
        BEZEL: N/A
        BATTERY: N/A
        CURRENT CONSUMPTION: N/A
        WATER RESISTANT: Yes
        SUBMERSIBLE: Yes
        ACCESSORIES: See text article above
        WARRANTY: Unknown







FLASHWARE * WWW.FLASHWARE.COM



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