Let me get right to the point. I have tested and used hundreds of lights in the outdoors over the years, from cheap headlamps to high-tech flashlights and lanterns that cost hundreds of dollars. I have finally found the best and most versatile one for use in the outdoors, including deer hunting. And its affordable.

As its name implies, the Fenix PD35TAC is designed for tactical employment, but the developers cleverly added an Outdoor Mode for multipurpose illumination, making it great for hunters, hikers and campers.

Specs and Features

At 5½ inches long and weighing just 89 grams, this compact flashlight is the right size for hunters who juggle a good amount of gear on the walk or from a stand in the dark. After use, it is easily stored in your pocket or in its small nylon belt holster (included).

The light is powered by 2 CR123A Lithium batteries, and in turbo mode produces an incredibly bright 1,000 lumens with a beam distance of some 650 feet. It uses Cree XP-L LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours.

In Outdoor Mode with Mid to Eco illumination settings, which we’ll discuss more in the next section, expect 8 to more than 100 hours of battery life depending on power setting. The flashlight has a low-battery warning function (light blinks 3 times every 5 minutes).

The PD35TAC’s body is made from strong aircraft-grade aluminum. Its compact and clean cylindrical design makes it comfortable and easy to grip in your hand. I can see why law enforcement officers would like it. Overall build quality is excellent.

Outdoor Mode Operation

First time you power up the PD35TAC you’ll be impressed—no, make that blown away—by how powerful this compact light is. In tactical turbo mode it produces 1,000 lumens, which will disorient you if you accidentally point it too close to your face. When you dial it back to 500 to 200 to 60 lumens (read on) for outdoor/hunting use, its output of bright, crisp white light is impressive.

For hunters, hikers and campers the PD35TAC is best used in Outdoor Mode. Simply flip it on by pushing the dime-size rear switch, which is easy to find with your fingers in the dark. Fully engage the switch to lock the light on, or press it lightly for momentary illumination (i.e., you drop something in the dark and just need a short pop of light to find it).

Here’s where the PD35TAC shines in the outdoors. Push the rear switch and lock it on. Now finger the little silver button toward the head of the flashlight. Push it once and the beam drops to Eco output mode (lowest brightness of 8 lumens). Push switch one click again and again to increase to Low, Mid, High and Turbo mode, incrementally increasing the light’s brightness as needed from 60 to 1,000 lumens. The light has mode memory, and remembers the last output mode you were using when you turn it off and back on.

For deer hunters, here is the beauty of being able to vary the illumination between 5 settings.

When walking to your stand in the pitch black in the morning, use Eco or Low mode for minimal illumination and to spook/alert as few nearby animals as possible. At your hunting spot dial up to Mid mode (with light pointed down and close to your body) to get your gear settled, load your rifle safely, etc.

At some point this season or next, you’ll shoot a buck right at dark and have to blood-track it in the dark. Or your buddy will shoot one and you’ll help track. Switch the PD35TAC’s silver button to High (500 lumens) or turbo to light up the woods and find small drops of blood on grass and leaves. Eventually follow the trail to your deer.

I have blood-trailed hundreds of deer in my day, using all shapes and sizes of flashlights and lanterns, and the PD35TAC is on par with the best I’ve used. For a compact light, it is the best I’ve used. Beam pattern is excellent, with a bright but controlled white core. There is no significant “side light spill” or glare, which is a common problem I have had with other hunting/tracking lights.

If you and a buddy both carry and use these lights, you will greatly increase your chances of finding deer on difficult blood trails and track jobs.

While battery life is good in Outdoor Mode, I suggest you carry an extra set or two of CR123A batteries in your backpack, especially when you’re traveling or hunting in remote rural areas. The higher the illumination settings you use, such as 600 to 1,000 lumens when blood-trailing a deer, lower the battery life. You’ll need spare batteries.

Safety/Self Defense Bonus

The PD35TAC has an incredibly bright strobe feature that could come in handy or even save your life. Say you’re out hunting or hiking and are confronted by an unsavory and potentially dangerous person, like a night poacher or trespasser. Switch on the light, press and hold the silver button for 3 seconds and the light immediately starts strobing. Point and hold in a criminal’s face to blind and disorient him. He’ll flee; if not it buys you time to plan your next move to defend yourself.

Also, anybody roaming or hunting in the mountains or backwoods can get turned around or lost. Use the strobe to signal for help. Again, have spare batteries in your pack.

The PD35TAC is available now at the Fenix Store for $71.95 and free shipping. It has more than 600 customer reviews and is rated 5 stars. If I could give it 6 stars I would.

This light is the perfect gift for hunters.