Rain, Sleet, Snow and What Your Flashlight’s Waterproof Rating Means

With about 71% of the Earth’s surface covered in water, you’re bound to run into some wet situations in your adventures. It’s important to know what sort of weather (or puddles!) your flashlight can tolerate in order to keep your gear in top working condition.

If you’ve ever puzzled at what the different waterproof ratings on flashlight packaging mean or just want to make sure you’re covered in case of a sudden downpour, this guide is for you. We demystify IP ratings and point out some of our favorite waterproof flashlights along the way!

The Difference Between Water-Resistant, Water-Repellent, and Waterproof

Before we get into IP ratings and what they mean, we should first clear up the difference between the terms water-resistant, water-repellent and waterproof. You’ll sometimes see these words used interchangeably, however, each has its own definition so it’s important to know the difference.

Water-resistant refers to a flashlight that’s able to resist the penetration of water — but not entirely. These are flashlights that can withstand a certain amount of heavy splashing and rain but should not be submerged completely.

Waterproof flashlights are those that can fully resist water penetration for a certain amount of time at a specified depth. Look for these flashlights for peace of mind if there’s any chance your light will become submerged.

Water-repellent products are those which water cannot easily penetrate and usually offer some sort of water repellent coating on the surface. As you can imagine, water-repellent is a term more reserved for things like backpacks and bags.

The problem with all three terms is that it’s still very subjective, especially when differentiating between water-repellent and water-resistant. To know if your flashlight can be tossed in a puddle without worry, you’ll need to look at the IP rating.

Ingress Protection Standards


A flashlight’s IP rating or Ingress Protection rating is how you’ll know what sort of moisture and particulate exposure your flashlight can handle. All of our flashlight ratings use an international standard as put forth by IEC 60529 (International Electrotechnical Commission) and adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

These internationally agreed upon standards for measuring solid and liquid protection in electrical equipment make it easy for consumers to purchase  products and feel confident in how they will behave when exposed to the elements.

First Number: Protection from Solids

IP ratings break down into two parts. The first number represents the equipment’s protection from solids on a 0 to 6 scale. As numbers on this scale increase, the finer the size of a particulate is protected against. The highest rating is reserved for products that are fully protected from solid ingression.

 

Rating Protected Against Example
0 Not protected N/A
1 Particulates >50mm Large parts of the body such as the back of the hand, but will not protect deliberate contact with body parts
2 Particulates >12.5mm Fingers and objects of similiar size
3 Particulates >2.5mm Tools and thick cables
4 Particulates >1mm Most screws, wires and small insects
5 Dust Protected Some protection from dust; must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with operation of the equipment
6 Dust Tight Total protection from dust

 

Second Number: Protection from Liquids

The second number in a flashlight’s IP rating describes the degree of water-resistance it has on a 0 to 8 scale. As the number increases, so too does the protection against water ingression. The highest number is for products rated as totally impervious, although even here there are limits which will be listed by the manufacturer.

Rating Protected Against Test Time
0 No protection
1 Dripping water; vertically falling when mounted in an upright position 10 minutes (water equivalent to 1mm of rainfall per min)
2 Dripping water; tilted at 15 degrees, all four positions tested 2.5 minutes per tilt (water equivalent to 3mm of rainfall per min)
3 Spraying water; up to 60 degrees from vertical 1 min per square meter (at least 5 minutes)
4 Water splash; from any direction 10 minutes
5 Water jets; from a nozzle of 6.3mm 1 min per square meter with 12.5 liters of water per min, including a pressure of 30kPa from 3 meters
6 Power water jets; from a nozzle of 12.5mm 1 min per square meter with 100 liters of water per min, including a pressure of 100kPa from 3 meters
7 Submersion of up to 1m depth 30 minutes
8 Submersion of depth of 1m or more Test depth should be specified by manufacturer

 

Putting IP Ratings Together

Putting everything you just learned together, let’s take a look at some NITECORE products and their specific IP ratings.

The NITECORE NU25 is a great example of a water-resistant headlamp. The NU25 has an IP66 rating which from the chart above means that it is totally protected from dust (6) and can withstand heavy jet spraying (6). You could reliably wear this headlamp when running and not worry about it breaking in a rainstorm, but you would want to avoid jumping in the pool with this one on.

Next let’s look at a totally waterproof flashlight like the NITECORE Concept 2. With an IP68 – 2m submersible rating, we can see that the Concept 2 is not only totally protected from dust (6) but can also withstand being fully submerged in liquid up to 2 meters deep (8).

What about IPX8?

As you might have noticed, many waterproof flashlights will have an X instead of a number for solid ingress protection. This means the item has not been given a rating for solid ingress protection, not that there isn’t protection. For example, the NITECORE MH12GT is a waterproof flashlight with an IPX8 rating. Here the manufacturer is saying that the flashlight has only specifically been tested for its water ingress protection. The ability to protect against dust has not been tested.

One Final Note for Using Waterproof Flashlights

Waterproof ratings are only good if your flashlight is properly sealed. This means making sure your O-rings are in good condition, all body tubes are tightly secured, and any charging ports are properly plugged.

You should also keep in mind that some flashlights can get hot during operation, and it is never a good idea to submerge a hot flashlight in water to cool it down.

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