Most Australian households will have a few torches here and there — some working, some flat, broken or forgotten — but for the likes of Pat from Melbourne, that number is closer to 180.
The Blackburn local, who goes by the online moniker of Sillen and has held his last name in respect for the torch-testing community’s code of anonymity, records all his torches 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 began when he bought a torch from a bargain website a few years ago, which “blew him away”.
“You start thinking, ‘So this [torch] is good, why is it good? How does it work?’
“And then you find these websites and start digging into it.”
He estimated he was among 200 “torch nerds” across Australia.
They are part of an international online community who 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 attempt at finding out the answer before they ask [about torches]”.
“Otherwise we’re anonymous — we don’t know each other’s race, creed or gender.”
Testing torches ‘a lot of fun’
Tim McMahon is also part of this community and owns about 50 torches.
The Melbourne-based software developer’s fascination started in 2020 — about the time his daughter was born.
“I wanted to find a torch that would provide low output and last a long time so I could change nappies at night without waking everyone up,” Mr McMahon said.
He soon began reviewing them, which involved fact-checking what was written on the package by running a number of tests.
Tests take about 20 hours per torch, which he does in his spare time.
“I take some photos of it, take the measurements, and go through and use a light meter to measure the throw, and check the user interface,” Mr McMahon said.
“Then I do the run-time testing, where I let it run throughout the day while I’m working, and I capture the light output and temperature over time.”
Manufacturers paying attention
Mr McMahon posts his reviews on a website called Budget Light Forum.
He said some manufacturers have altered how they design their torches based on his testing.
Another aspect of the hobby is swapping LEDs [the light source]which Mr McMahon says he enjoys doing with fellow enthusiasts.
He said some international torch-lovers even shared their LED designs with Chinese manufacturers, who held most of the market, so that they produced better torches.
Mr McMahon said he wanted to shine a light on the hobby to encourage others to get involved in exploring torches.
But he said it had to be done safely, otherwise they could be dangerous.
He said while most torches had thermal regulation to stop them from overheating, some torches could literally burn a hole in someone’s pocket and had to be handled extremely carefully.
He also said many torches used lithium-iron batteries, which could not be thrown in a drawer like alkaline batteries.
“These cells need to be handled with care at all times and charging must be supervised,” Mr McMahon said.
In addition, he said torches and batteries should be monitored at all times during testing, and must be kept out of reach of children.
“You should also never look directly at the LED of a torch or shine the beam on someone as a joke because these torches could permanently damage your eyesight,” Mr McMahon said.
TikTok torch star goes viral
In the spotlight of the international torch community, however, is Kyle Krueger.
The 20-year-old from Florida in the United States posts on TikTok, spruiking the brightest torches on offer, some which “look like the sun”.
Mr Krueger said his torch videos had attracted about 90 million views.
“It’s kind of hard to remember that these are actually all real people interacting, commenting and engaging with my videos.”
Mr 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.”