Princeton-Tec Surge

The Surge from Princeton-Tec is a compact and uncommonly bright light. Smaller than a 2-D-cell torch, but with the sort of output power usually associated with specialist lithium cell lights. Yet the Surge runs from commonly avaliable AA alkalines – all 8 for a full run time of several hours or just four to reduce weight at the expense of run-time. Originally intended as an underwater light for casual diving or as a back-up, the Surge is equally at home on dry land as an economical alternative to Lithium-cell-powered units


Manufacturer`s Web site-
Buy yours from- many places including Outdoor Supplies in the UK, and Texas Tactical Supply in the US.
Cost- Varies. GB£20 from Outdoor Supplies. US$20.99 from TTS

Size- 165mm long (6-1/2 inch) x 52mm head diameter (2-1/16 inch).
Bulb type- Xenon bi-pin.
Reflector type- Stochastic (orange-peel texture).
Focussable?- Yes
Body colours/finishes- Black, blue, red, dayglo-green and dayglo-yellow.
Batteries- 8x AA 1.5 volt.
Switch type- Side-to-side toggle.
Waterproof?- Yes, claimed to 500 feet/meters.
Approximate beam half-angle- 4 to 60 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- Not yet measured.

Notes- The test-unit is an earlier verison of the Surge. As far as I`m aware there have been some slight changes to its internal design since my unit was purchased, however the performance and exterior design have not altered significantly. If you have details of the differences between my unit and the latest generation, please let me know!

The Surge comes supplied in a tube in a similar way to some other small dive-lights. Gain access by removing the top. A wrist Lanyard and the batteries are supplied pre-installed so it`s ready to use right from the moment you tip it out of its package. Switch on by pushing the black switch lever to the right (when held with the switch at the top), and off by pushing to the left. It is easy to operate single handed and because it sticks out, it is easy to locate even when wearing gloves. Moulded nobbles lock the lever in place so make sure it`s pushed all the way over to keep it on or off. Inbetween the nobbles the switch moves quite freely and can still be used to toggle it on and off, useful for signalling with brief bursts of light for example. Battery life is quoted as being between 3 and 5 hours, and that seems about right based on my experience. Different types of batteries will give different results, with alkalines reccomended for the best performance.

Princeton-Tec Surge

Whatever you use, do not be tempted to use lithium AA cells in the Surge, their slightly higher voltage is too much for the bulb to handle. When the batteries need replacing, do so by first removing the head. Next you will need to squeeze the two black tabs inwards towards the bulb, while at the same time pulling up/out. This is tricky as the tabs are very smooth offering minimal grip – I find it to be a lot easier holding the light head-down and using the weight of the batteries to help push the insides out.

The batteries are relatively easy to get out from this carrier thanks to cutouts in the side. Insert the new ones as guided by the + and – symbols. Unlike many other battery holders, the spring contacts are all in the middle so it is not possible to determine which way round the cells go by feel alone. The Surge can be powered from just four cells as they are arranged in two paralell sets, not all 8 in series. Inserting the four cells on just one side of the carrier will still allow the light to work, saving weight. This comes at the expense of run-time, it will be less than half the duration with all eight batteries. I also find the light output is a little dimmer and yellower. Still, useful to know if replacement batteries are hard to find or you need to save as much weight as possible. However many you chose to install, when they`re in place, the battery carrier can be re-inserted into the body making sure it`s the right way round. Align the little microswitch on the back of the bulb-end with the black toggle lever on the body and slide the carrier all the way in. Push down until the two tabs click back in to their slots, taking care not to touch the Xenon bulb in the process. The head can then be re-fitted and you`re good to go. As far as battery changing goes, this isn`t the easiest there is, but thankfully due to the good run-time it shouldn`t normally need to be accomplished all that often.

Tec Surge

For such a compact light, the Surge`s light output is extremely impressive. Its bi-pin Xenon bulb puts out a very bright, white light that is nicely focussed by the textured reflector. At its narrowest setting (which isn`t too narrow) the spot it produces is quite smooth, though it does get more wobbly and irregular when opened out to wider settings as can be seen in the beamshots above. It has been designed first and foremost as an underwater scuba light for casual dives or as a backup to your main lamp. Having no diving experience I could not say how effective the Surge would be underwater, but expect it would be more than adequate to light dark rock crevices and ship-wrecks. On dry land it performs admirably- it can illuminate a fairly large area and at its tightest focus it will throw pretty far, a couple of hundred feet or more. The colour of the light with all 8 batteries fitted is a bright white and stays that way for much of its run-time, though as mentioned previously it does look a little yellower running from four cells. One point of concern comes from the mounting method of the bulb. It is a simple bi-pin type that plugs in to two pin-sockets mounted on a board inside. Recently there have been reports that the heat generated from the bulb during use was enough to melt the solder holding those sockets in place, causing the bub to fall out when bumped or even just hung head-down. I have not experienced this myself and apparently the problem has now been resolved – it was due to the wrong type of solder being used by mistake so all new units sold should be just fine.

In conclusion, the Princeton-Tec Surge is a tremendous all-round-use light. It is compact, bright and runs a very long time from commonly avaliable, low cost batteries. Though designed primarilly around scuba-diving use, it can still be used effectively indoors or out, as well as several hundred feet underwater of course. Its all-plastic construction is very tough and shatter resistant, surviving most everyday accidents. The only serious weak-point I can see is the bulb holder. It is common for bi-pin bulbs to become dislodged or misaligned, especially following a bump. But thanks to the textured reflector and adjustable head, the spot produced by the Surge is not adversely affected by accidents, and should just carry on shining. As a welcome alternative to expensive and specialised xenon-bulb, lithium-cell “tactical” lights, the Surge is highly reccomended.