Flashlight Review: Borealis

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The way I use my bright lights- what is the shelf life of a fully charged Borealis? I may not need a light for several weeks, then I need one several days in row. How long will it stay charged up without use before it gives out? I don't use my Surefire much because it burns up the lithium batteries fast, but supposedly they will last on the shelf for 10 years. Can you just leave it on the charger til you need it?
The Borealis uses high-output NiMH rechargeables. This type of battery typically self-discharges at a rate of about 1% per day. However, my experience with my Black Bear S&R makes me think that number is a bit high. I've gone over two months without recharging and still gotten full brightness and decent run time out of the light even though the quoted discharge rate would imply that the batteries had discharged about 2/3 of their capacity leaving less than 1/3 capacity left. I suspect that with the specific batteries being used in the lights now, the self-discharge rate is a good bit lower--maybe 1% every two days. Of course you would expect the run time would almost certainly be shorter if they've sat for 2 or 3 months without charging.

At any rate, if you want to keep your light ready for any occasion, you can recharge the batteries once a month or so. Fortunately the NiMH batteries can be recharged without any adverse effects even if they are not fully drained. I don't think it's really ever recommended to leave batteries on a charger indefinitely.

You might also consider the S&R flashlight like I have. It's based on a 4 cell sized host, puts out 852 lumens and has a bit longer runtime than the Borealis--over an hour. With an extra set of batteries and battery holders, you can do a quick changeout (as fast as changing the batteries in a normal flashlight). The Borealis also has the capability for a quick battery changeout with a second set of batteries & holders, but that style of battery holder has a bit more internal resistance than the one piece holders and reduces the light output of the Borealis to about 951 lumens. I suppose you could even go with a second one piece holder and battery set, you'd have to ask Juan (the owner of Black Bear) for a price on a spare one-piece holder.

If you don't mind the extra size, and need the quick battery changeout, the S&R makes good sense from my perspective. You get a good bit more runtime, the quick changeout and only lose 100 lumens compared to a Borealis equipped with the quick-changeout battery holders.
The Search and Rescue uses four plastic battery carriers (or canisters) that carry 3 batteries each, (except for one dummy battery).
The batteries are taken out of the carriers to recharge in a multi- battery capacity charger, such as the Vanson 10 bays or the Maha 808.

Here is a picture of the 10 bay charger,


Here is a picture of three of the canisters (battery carriers) in the BOREALIS these carriers give 951 lumens, more information on the version # 1 of the BOREALIS which use these carriers is in my web site.


One of the others carriers is the "Cadillac" it keeps the batteries all together, lowering resistance and producing 1050 lumens, it charge easily by using the charging rods.


The alligators from the RC Fast or Slow chargers, clip to the charging rods in the Cadillac battery carrier.


The most convenient way to charge, is with the Rolls Royce battery carrier, the RC Fast or the RC slow chargers (pulse and reverse pulse charging will not heat the batteries) will plug into the charging port of the Rolls Royce and will charge the batteries in 1 1/2 hours or 3 hours (with the settings in the RC FAST charger) or in 4 1/2 hours in the RC Slow charger.

Here is a picture of the set up, RC FAST charger and Rolls Royce.


And here is a close up of the charging port in the Rolls Royce battery carrier.


The new Powerex 2700 mah batteries that I am using now, will give the BOREALIS a 50 minutes run time (after a few charges-discharges, up from 45 minutes) and the new batteries seem to have a much lower self discharge rate, of about .50 % per day.

Still, if the light is in the shelf without beign used, I charge it every time I pay the phone bill, the same day I unload the full magazines to rest the spring for a month.

Nimhs batteries don't have a memory, so you can top them at any time, even if you use the light for 15 minutes today, you can quick charge them, so tomorrow you start with a full charge.
Think about it, you can not do that with alkaline batteries!

Since we are talking about the batteries, the manufacturer says that the batteries will last for 1,000 recharges.
At 50 minutes per charge a set of 9 batteries for the BOREALIS will last for 833 hours, before a new pack of $30.00 is needed.

Since this light was conceived to be in direct competition with the Surefire M-6, (500 lumens, 20 minutes run time on six 123's batteries), at $2.00 per 123 battery a cost of $12.00 per 20 minutes and $36.00 per hour.

It is clear that before the M-6 can run for 833 hours, it will have spent $29.988 in batteries!!

More information on the BOREALIS light and others can be found in my web site

black bear
Battery longevity:

Lithium batteries claim a shelf life of 10 years.

JohnKSa says he gets 2 months between charges.

Both good.

My question: what is the life expectancy in shelf life of the NiMH batteries? The reason I ask is I bought a digital camera several years ago and bought 2 extra sets of Maha batteries and a Maha charger. They are 2300mah NiMH AA's. I have had them about 3 years. I definitely have NOT charged them up more than 100 times in 3 years. But now they will not hold a charge. I think they have just reached their shelf life maximum (not their number of recharges maximum). Is it your experience that NiMH batteries will go bad after a couple of years even though they have not been recharged very many times? Or did I just get a bad batch of batteries (1 set from Sony and 2 Maha sets)?
JohnKsa was talking about Nimh batteries; I think that you too, as you mentioned the Sanyo and Maha brands.
I think your problem is your batteries have been left too much time without being charged.

They are very sensitive to deep discharges (sometimes they go into reverse polarity) and if you don't charge them in a regular base they can become bad cells.

They are shipped from the factory with half a charge and they should be recharged fully before using them.

Charged and discharged regularly (like when using in a power hungry camera that is used often) they will give you close to 1,000 recharges.

I can't answer about shelf life, because Nimhs are not used that way.

You mentioned 10 years life for Lithium batteries; of course you are talking about the 123's batteries used in tactical lights (first used in cameras).
In my long experience with them, I have yet to enjoy a set of batteries in one of my collector’s lights that will get even close to that time, most of them have suffered form early childhood dead syndrome.

I have had since 1988 a pair of Surefire first lights (the model 6 C ~civilian~) as they were collector's items I never used them, but I had to change batteries several times.
The same with my other collector's flashlights (I have an extended collection) that use the 123's batteries.
I most have at least 60 off them died earlier.

Another thing with 123 Lithium is that if you don't have a matched pair in your light (the same voltage and capacity for both of them) they can explode on you.

Now that Lithium 123's are approaching $2.00 even on the web, rechargeable batteries make more sense than ever.

Happy Thanksgiving

black bear

I did a lot of reading awhile back on rechargeable batteries.

Unless you plan to store them (predictably long periods with absolutely no use) you will get far better longevity keeping them charged (not allowing them to fully discharge or leaving them without recharging for long periods). This applies to all the types of rechargeables I've been able to research including the Li-Ion rechargeables, NiMH and NiCad rechargeables.

If you know that you will not be using the batteries for a long period and really want to get your money's worth, I found some long term storage strategies for rechargeable batteries that NASA figured out. From what I remember, they'd better be expensive batteries or you'd better have a lot of free time and some specialized equipment--otherwise you'll never go through the process of storage conditioning or the process required to get them out of their stored condition.

The bottom line is that your rechargeable batteries will last longer if you charge them fairly regularly. As black bear mentioned, one common way that rechargeables are "killed" is by trying to use them when they're nearly completely discharged. That can drive some of the "weaker" batteries in a pack/set into reverse bias which ruins them.

Another problem I've seen with my wife's rechargeable camera batteries is that she uses the fast, portable recharger that she bought for next to nothing at WalMart with a set of batteries. The batteries get pretty hot during recharging and that's a good indication that you're shortening their lifetime. My larger, more expensive and slower battery charger will charge the same set of batteries in only a few minutes longer than her "fast" charger, but the batteries remain cool to the touch throughout the cycle. She pays for the cheaper charger, the convenience of portability and the faster charging with much reduced battery life. In her situation, she considers it a fair trade.

BTW, with the rechargeable AA batteries that black bear is now using in his flashlights, I have gotten OVER 2 months between charges while still apparently getting full brightness out of the light. That's not recommended behavior, but I find it comforting to know that if I forget to recharge my light for a couple of months, it's still going to work.
Hi John,
I also like your advice of putting the unused batteries in the refrigerator to prolong the power of the batteries (cold slow down the self discharging)

As a watchmaker I used to store the batteries in the refrigerator when the first battery operated watches appeared in the market.

Best wishes
Juan C.
I posted this in another thread, but since we're discussing batteries & Black Bear mentioned it, I thought I'd put it here as well.

My Black Bear S&R runs for over an hour at full brightness on a charge.

But, like most rechargeables, the batteries in it will self-discharge to an unusable level in a couple of months even without use. I consulted a coworker with a background in Chemistry and he said that there is a rule of thumb that says a chemical reaction slows down by a factor of two for every 10 degrees C of temperature drop. Therefore, the batteries should self-discharge about 4 times slower in the refrigerator than at room temperature. He was confident that the refrigerator (not the freezer) would not harm them.

I thought I'd do my own test. I stored my backup set of AA NimH recharcheables in the fridge after giving them a full charge. Then I waited about two months.

So I pulled out the set in the fridge and let them warm up That's important--they shouldn't be used straight out of the fridge.

After warming up, the refrigerated set showed a FULL charge (all LEDs lit on my battery tester) while the mostly unused set (been a slow month) in the flashlight which had been charged at the same time as the backup set showed **fully discharged (no LEDs lit) on the same tester.

I guess if you're religious about keeping up with your charging routine this wouldn't be an issue. But I'm not. I figure with my luck, the power will go out and leave me with a couple of sets of self-discharged batteries. Obviously I won't be able to recharge them while the power is out, but now all I'll have to do is pull my spare set out of the fridge and they will be good to go after warming up to room temperature.

Just make sure you put them in something so that you don't end up with condensation causing corrosion while they're stored in the refrigerator. Storing them in the freezer might make them last a bit longer, but there seems to be a good bit of differing opinion on whether or not it will cause damage. My Chemistry "consultant" advised against it strongly so I'll pass his advice along.

**This was not using the Maha 2700maH batteries that come with the Borealis/S&R, the Mahas self-discharge at a slower rate than the batteries I tested here.
Black bear makes 2 C sell sized flashlights, the Polar Bear (426 lumens, 75 minutes) and the Bear Cub (220 lumens, 1.5hrs). Both of these lights run off rechargeable lithium batteries which have a MUCH slower self-discharge rate than the NimH rechargeables.

Here's the website: www.blackbearflashlights.com
Also, for folks looking to store AA NiMh's for long times, charged, you can look into the Eneloop or Enduro (amondotech has enduros) NiMhs. They have an extremely LOW self discharge rate. Only drawback currently, is I think the highest capacity AA of this type is 2100Mah.
Vic 303 is right, Eneloop batteries have an extremelly low self discharge and will be ideal for light stored in cup boards or in cars.

I have tried a set of Eneloop in my BOREALIS flashlight, and they are high current enough to power the almost 3 1/2 amps bulb, without any problem and with the same output as the Sanyo HR3U 2500's.

I haven't yet the opportunity to try out the Enduro batteries, but it is commendable that Amondotech provide this new style of batteries.

As JohnKSa, have pointed out, I have two lights made in the C size body.
The BEAR CUB is made in the 2 C (9 inches long) and the POLAR BEAR is made in the 3 C size (11 inches long).

The POLAR BEAR uses three Lithium Ion (computer) batteries, these batteries have a very low self discharge (5 % per month) and provide a very flat rate of discharge during the run time (no sag as with 123's batteries).

The POLAR BEAR is 426 lumens for 75 minutes (it will outpower the Surefire M-4, 350 lumens for 20 minutes on four 123's disposable batteries)

(In black only)


The BEAR CUB, is 220 lumens for 90 minutes, it will outpower a Surefire C-3 with P-91 lamp (200 lumens for 20 minutes on three disposables 123's batteries)

(Available in Pewter and Black, Crenellated bezel and Quick Detach Swivel are optional)


More information about the lights and shoot-outs can be seen in my web site


black bear
Although this thread is about the BOREALIS I have received several P.M.'s and E-mails asking for my others lights, one that is short and powerful is the Black Bear 720 lumens.
Here is a little shoot-out against the Surefire M-6.


Of course all my others lights live in the shadow of their big brother, the BOREALIS 1050 lumens torch.
But one that stands up for it own merits is the BLACK BEAR 720.

At one pound 4 oz. the Black Bear 720 is smaller and lighter and its length of ten inches makes it a natural for glove compartments and pockets in overcoats and hunting jackets.

The light runs on six rechargeable high current NIMH batteries, my latest batteries are Powerex 2700 mah, with them, I am getting 40 minutes of run time (after a few charges-discharges).

The lumens output and throw is superior to the Surefire M-6 (20 minutes run time on six disposables 123’s batteries for 500 lumens).
And you can see that the run time on the rechargeable batteries is double than the disposables 123’s also the cost of running the M-6 is $12.00 per 20 minutes, while the Black Bear 720 will run double that amount for free.

The M-6 is still smaller than the BLACK BEAR 720, but as you can see in the pictures the difference is not that much.

Pictured too are the battery carriers that each light uses, the plastic carrier of the M-6 hold six 123’s while the metal and delrin carriers of the Black Bear 720, also holds six of the AA rechargeable batteries.

The Rolls Royce battery carrier have a charging port at the back in which the RC charger is plugged, this will charge the batteries in 4 ½ hours, without the need to take them out of the carrier.

The Black Bear 720 is offered with your choice of four reflectors to customize the light to your needs, the smooth reflector offers maximum throw, the Orange Peel improves in the quality of the beam and give more flood without altering the throw much.
The Light Stippled is very much the same surface treatment as the M-6 reflector, it have a good flood without curtailing the throw.
The Medium Stippled is all flood, rivaling a pair of backyards floodlights.

Here is a picture of the lights and the battery carriers each one uses.


Yesterday I did a shoot out between the Black Bear 720 and the Surefire M-6 at 30 yards against my 12 by 8 feet tool shed.
Here are the results.

Surefire M-6 (500 lumens)




The Black Bear is made with the same high quality components than the BOREALIS, the high temperature switch, the small hole parabolic solid aluminum reflector, Pyrex lens and the shorter version of the Rolls Royce battery carrier, as well as the high current high capacity rechargeable Nimh batteries.

Best regards
black bear

People ask me all the time how tough the BOREALIS is, I just uploaded a new video in the web site.

Click here


and then click on the window that is marked BOREALIS TORTURE TEST

You will see how we broke branches, hit water jugs, throw the light use it as a hammer and finally shot it with a .22 rifle, and the light keep going.

black bear
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I have dropped the Borealis from 5' onto concrete. With the newer potted bulb, it withstood the drop without any damage except minor scuffing.

This light will compare favorably to many 1 or 2 million candlepower spotlights. It will also cut through dust, snow and (to a less degree) fog!

It appears to be the brightest hand-held light at the SF camp I'm currently attached to.
Posted this on a thread over at TFL.

I charged two sets of batteries on the same day.

I put one set in the refrigerator (not the freezer) and another set was left out at room temperature. Both sets were 2700maH NimH rechargeables, one set by Sanyo and the other set were Powerex.

57 days later I tested both sets.

The room temperature stored batteries (Sanyo) measured 3 out of 5 leds lit on my battery checker. The unloaded voltage (average of 5 batteries) was 1.295V

BTW, before testing this set, I put them in my Black Bear Search & Rescue--they showed no performance degradation in terms of brightness output. So at least with this battery, even 2 months at room temperature isn't enough to drain them to a useless state although clearly they're down a bit from fresh. In a couple of months, I'll check the runtime of a set of batteries left at room temperature for around 60 days.

The refrigerator stored batteries (Powerex) were allowed to warm to room temperature before testing. They measured 5 out of 5 leds lit on the charge tester. The unloaded voltage (again the average of 5 batteries) was 1.355V

So if power outages are a major concern, you can buy a few sets and put the spares in the fridge for storage after charging them. They'll keep a LONG time (at least 4 months, probably more like 6) and when they come out, it's as if they're fresh from the charger (after you let them warm to room temperature.)

As long as you can remember to have a charging session three times a year or so you're good to go.
Customer Service at its best!

Juan (black bear) attention to customer service is by far one of the best you will ever encounter. I have e-mailed him MANY times and I have gotten a detailed response. You will not be disappointed with Black Bear flashlights.

Recently, the cable for my charger was broken for unknown reasons. I contacted Juan and he offered to send a replacement. It is nice knowing that if something goes wrong, Juan is there to help.

I should have followed JohnKSa's advice and put my batteries in the fridge while I waited for my replacement!
Black Bear Flashlights

My Black Bear Flashlight is one of the most impressive purchases I've made in years. My Dad and I both have one, and this thing in INSANELY bright. I do a lot of night hog hunting and I've tracked down 2 hogs at night with this light. It turns the night to day, and I'm not kidding. It was absolutely worth every penny. It has been perfect for varmint hunting as well. My Surefire is nothing compared to this.

I had an attempted break (I thought) 2 months ago. That light illuminated every corner of every room SO much better than my Surefire. When I checked my yard for additional signs of trouble, every shadow disappeared even 100 feet away in the corner of my property.

I'm very happy with my service and my light. It was WELL WORTH THE MONEY TO ME. I'm very busy right now and I don't have time to post a review, but this light is so great and my experience with Juan was so extremely positive I really wanted to just let everyone know how great it is.
Just a quick question here... how long-lasting is the life of a Borealis bulb, in terms of hours?
Welcome to the forum, hope you enjoy your stay.

The bulb life is 35 hours plus (just the same as Surefire lamps) the Borealis include a spare bulb in the tail cap and extra bulbs are inexpensive.

Best regards
Black Bear
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