It seems that every time I open my emails there’s a message telling me that a new and innovative torch has just been introduced to the market. Lighting technology continues to develop unabated, with today’s models becoming outdated by mid-afternoon.
The advent of light-emitting diodes as a light source has meant that this incredible momentum continues its relentless pace.
It’s all good news for divers, as these tiny electronic LEDs get brighter but use less power, bringing longer burntimes and shorter charging times.
The bodies are also becoming smaller, as battery expertise improves. As I said in a previous lamp test, “long and thin is just so yesterday” – the new generation is just getting shorter and fatter.

The Design
Famous for the manufacture and supply of specialist drysuit equipment for the demanding world of flood rescue personnel, Northern Diver has produced a series of lamps suitable for the dive market.
Its Varilux range includes the Travel model, with an aircraft-grade hard-anodised alloy body that’s only 140mm long, with a diameter of 34mm and a 50mm head.
The torch weighs in at 290g, making it light enough to take in your dive-bag without eating into the paltry baggage allowances today’s airlines impose on travellers.
Power is supplied from a single 4.2V li-ion battery housed in the main body, and is protected from water ingress by no fewer than three O-rings.
It’s charged via a dry connection accessed by screwing off the end cap. This in turn is sealed with another two O-rings, giving the whole package a 100m depth rating
There are two charging options via 240V mains or a 12V car outlet, which means that keeping the battery topped up shouldn’t cause any headaches.

Output and Burntimes

The tiny single CREE LED produces a very white light, and the polished reflector delivers this in an even but tight beam.
The Varilux Travel has an external magnetic slide switch that cleverly adjusts the output from the manufacturer’s stated 50 to 800 lumens.
The further forward the slide is moved, the higher the output, and it works faultlessly, akin to a dimmer switch.
I’m not sure that the output was as accurate as stated – it didn’t seem quite as bright as the certified 500-lumen focusing light I use on my camera. Having said that, it was more than bright enough for my needs.
Northern Diver has published burntimes of 2.7 hours at full power and up to 60 hours at the minimum setting.
I tested the lamp at full power, placing it in my yellow bucket full of water with a stopwatch strapped to the outside. From fully charged to empty took just 1hr, 55min.
This isn’t an exact science, because burntimes depend on temperature, the age and state of the battery, and how long it has been left dormant, but it was disappointing to see it stay lit for only two-thirds of the advertised time.

In the Water
I took the torch for a week of wreck-diving in the Gulf of Mexico. Under water the visibility was limited, with lots of suspended particles left by recent rain and freshwater run-off.
This little torch was taken as a back-up to a much bigger and more powerful wide-angle umbilical monster. Have you ever put your main beam on in thick fog while driving All that happens is that you light the fog, making it difficult to see through to the road in front.
This is exactly what happens under water, and I was struggling to see my way through the superstructure of the wrecks.
A switch to the Varilux and the narrow beam cut through the murk, allowing me a better view of what was ahead.
Also, by reducing the output the reflected light became less obtrusive.
As the Varilux is a travel torch, I would have liked to see a locking mechanism on the sliding switch.
There were a number of occasions when I opened my dive-bag to find that the lamp had been switched on accidentally, reducing the available battery power.

As a tool for diving in poor visibility, the narrow beam of the Varilux offers real life advantages, and the still-long burntimes and six-hour recharge time made this light more than just a back-up.
I packed the monster umbilical away and never got it wet again on that trip, preferring instead to use the smaller alternative. Sometimes less is more.

STATED OUTPUT 50-800 lumens
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