Survival Gear Review: Milwaukee Work Lights

As if LED flashlights weren’t powerful enough, there is another level of mobile lighting that should have it’s place Survival Flashlightsin your SHTF kit. Battery-powered tools, whether 12, 14, 18. or 28 volts are indispensable these days, and the top makers have now set their sights on innovative LED lighting. Milwaukee Tools has several unique high powered lights that run off the same batteries as their tools. No surprise there. But what is astounding is the massive number of photons the light throw off, their features, and the significant advantage of large-scale rechargeable batteries compared to the grocery store batteries.

Turning 18

Two notable lights for a temporary grid-down are the Milwaukee 2361-20 M18 LED Flood Light and the M12 12-Volt Cordless Lithium-Ion LED Lantern.The M18 LED Flood Light is a blindingly bright octogonal block that uses eight LEDs arrayed in a two by three Review of LED Survival Flashlightsinch matrix kicking out 1100 lumens of floodlight for up to eight hours.  Note that it’s over 1K of flood lumens, not spot ones.  In flashlight parlance, that would be 1100 lumens of spill!  It accepts any of Milwaukee’s newer 18v Fuel Lithium-ion batteries from the compact through their extended life version.

The unique shape of the M18 LED Flood Light allows it to be positioned many ways including nine different sitting poses, as well as hooked, hung, and slung on a rod. Although the light is not lightweight, it is durable. But not waterproof.  The roll-cage design provides excellent protection for both lights and battery. That does come at a cost, however, in the form of almost three and half pounds of weight. And it is not particularly small either being a rough cube about eight inches per side.

Milwaukee made and markets this light to replace the halogen work lights that are dangerously hot, fragile, and power-hungry. While the M18 does not quite match my 120v Craftsman halogen lights in terms of brightness, this floodlight excels in every other area. And I never would consider halogen lighting for a bug out.

MILWAUKEE'S Electric Tool 2361-20 M18 LED Flood Light (Tool-Only, Battery...
  • Up to 30% brighter than a 250 halogen light
  • Up to 8 hours of run time

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 18:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A Twelve Pack of Volts

The Milwaukee M12 12-Volt Cordless LED Lantern is a vertical lighting solution that contains several useful designSurvival Flashlights options. First, the Three columns of six LEDs can all fire forward blasting photons across 180 degrees.  Or with slight turn of the base ring, the two outer columns fold back around behind the central one each now addressing one third of a circle of light. In an instant, the Milwaukee M12 12-Volt Cordless LED Lantern went from a powerful 180-degree flood solution to a shadowless 360-degree circular area lighting solutio. Or any lighting arc in between.

Other features of the M12 12-Volt Cordless LED Lantern include a battery charge indicator that uses four red LEDs to show the condition of the battery. Also a 2.1 amp USB port is included from which cell phones and other electronics can be charged.  Two complementary stainless steel hooks rise from top and double as a carry handle.

The four lighting modes of the M12 12-Volt Cordless LED Lantern include high, medium, low and strobe (on high). My one complaint about the user interface of this light is that the On button and the USB port cover are similar and almost indistinguishable in the dark. Further, they are exactly 180-degrees apart on the shaft of the lantern. More often than not, I either push the USB port as button to no avail, or blind myself by turning the light’s full 400 lumens in my face. The only real tactile indicators of the light’s directing is with the light’s loosely triangular base.

The soft white light the M12 12-Volt Cordless LED Lantern generates is enough illumination to safely move about a campsite at night.  The low setting it is plenty inside a tent whether in circular or unidirectional mode.  At about the same size of a quart water bottle but a little taller, the M12 12-Volt Cordless LED Lantern fits into some water bottle cases including some tactical and MOLLE-compatible ones.

More Bright Options

For those already invested in the Milwaukee 18v Fuel battery tools, there is a larger version of the Milwaukee M12 back up batteries12-Volt Cordless LED that runs on the same 18v lithium batteries as the  M18 LED Flood Light. This particular light in this same form factor as the 12v but a little taller and blasts 700 lumens. It’s called the M18 LED Lantern/Flood Light and also has the USB port.

All the lights mentioned thus far are IPX4 rated which means mild water resistance for splashes, spilt beer, etc. And each light is should survive a six-foot drop onto most surfaces.

The Yellow One

On the DeWalt side, there is a wonderful little 12-volt light called the DCL510 12V MAX LED Work light that puts out plenty of useful photons in a fairly narrow spot.  Where the DeWalt shines, if you pardon the pun, is within its rotating and swiveling head.  Additionally the it comes with a belt clip as well as two powerful magnetic bars will anchor this light to most reasonably flat ferris surfaces such as on a car or or truck body.  Of course the DCL510 12V MAX LED Work light has several different sitting positions including a kickstand that work wonders as well as both a hook and larger footprint for balance.

Although the DCL510 12V MAX LED Work light specs list only an output of 130 lumens, it seems much brighter. The on-switch is just that, it turns the light on and off. No variable power, strobe or anything else with this one, nor any added bumpers or IPX rating.

MILWAUKEE'S Electric Tool 2361-20 M18 LED Flood Light (Tool-Only, Battery...
  • Up to 30% brighter than a 250 halogen light
  • Up to 8 hours of run time

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 18:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Lights Out

Although Dewalt, and Milwaukee make other lights, they are either incandescent, fluorescent, or LEDs in a SHTF flashlightstraditional worklight form factor, not these survival-themed versions. The point of this SHTF lighting introspective is to consider some relatively new light designs that will make a difference when things go dark for real, which is just what happened.

In fact, I am typing this addendum on a laptop while the power is out. Going on day three to be exact. A windstorm moved through the valley while I was in Missoula, MT. It not only knocked over trees that turned power lines into spaghetti, but the hurricane-force breeze also took out the very high-voltage transmission poles that carry the power into the city. The first night in the dark was cute reminder of what could happen. By the next night, it was obvious that things were amiss here in river city. The power company gave no estimates of when the power would flow again, and instead hid behind the word “complicated” when it came to fixing the situation.

But me?  Frankly I enjoyed the darkness and thought it could teach the world plenty about self preparedness. Survival expert Lars Fält is worried about people today with their “built-in helplessness,” which Lars believes is increasing everyday due to our push-button lives.  “Society has never been so vulnerable as it is today,” proclaims Lars Fält flatly.

Lars Fält was on my mind when the sun set. The local news reported a run on generators, flashlights and bags of ice. SHTF flashlightsRemember folks, this is summer.  Every morning the sun rises into a blue sky, and the temperature follows from a pleasant morning to a toasty afternoon.  What’s wrong with this picture? Well, there is no snow. No ice. No blizzard.  And no real concern.  But if this same bit of windy nastiness had arrived during the third of the year we call winter, it would have been a much different story.  Rather than concerns that the meat in our refrigerators would rot, we would be trying to keep our own carcasses from freezing. Like the rules of three so often noted in survival articles, I would like to add some additional ones. In a grid-down, you have three hours before mass concern sets in.  Three hours before folks start to wonder out to the stores to hoard.  And in the winter, three hours before you get seriously cold in your own home.

But with my Milwaukee shop lights, at least I didn’t have to worry about light for a while.  The runtime for my shop lights given all my fully-charged rechargeable batteries could be measured in days or weeks not minutes or hours so I guess that’s some consolation.  Plus the Milwaukee shop lights will quickly earn their keep around the house and campsite long before the lights go out for real.

MILWAUKEE'S Electric Tool 2361-20 M18 LED Flood Light (Tool-Only, Battery...
  • Up to 30% brighter than a 250 halogen light
  • Up to 8 hours of run time

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 18:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

All photos by Doc Montana

Written by Doc Montana

Doc honed his survival skills through professional courses, training, and plenty of real-world situations, both intentional and not. Doc lives to mountaineer, rock climb, trail run, hunt, race mountain bikes, ski, hunt, and fish. Doc Montana holds PhD’s in both Science Education and Computer Science and currently teaches at a University in the northern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of Doc's articles.

8 thoughts on “Survival Gear Review: Milwaukee Work Lights”

  1. While I don't have any of the lights that Doc Montana reviewed, I do use LED flashlights extensively. My standby is a variant made by Maglight that uses 3 "D" cells and their own proprietary LED technology. The thing is as bright as a car headlight and relatively easy on battery usage.

    The only downside to LED technology that I can think of is that I'm not sure it would survive an EMP event. In which case you would need to have older, bulb using flashlights and light sources available. One book that I came across way back when suggested keeping a spare car battery or two around and some of the bulbs that would be used for a car's tail light or other similar purpose. They last a very long time before they burn out and there are a variety of different ways one could potentially charge a car battery as long as too much electronic gear wasn't too badly fried.

    If nothing else, dismount the alternator from a vehicle that isn't being used and figure out some other way to supply motive power to it. Possibly an ersatz windmill or some other jury rig. Modern car alternators use a diode bridge as part of their circuitry, so after a severe enough EMP event one may have to find an older vehicle that actually has a DC generator instead of an alternator to use. Just my two cents. If I used the sort of tools Doc Montana does and had the battery packs for them then I would seriously look into getting some of the lights that he reviewed.

  2. Thanks for the read M1776. Good call on the alternator. That's a whole article by itself.

    While an EMP, or my fav the CMEMP as in a combined CME/EMP event where a solar storm or flare is anticipated and used to cover a terrorist or agressive EMP attack, is much less likely than a cyberterrorist grid down. And that's where good battery lighting will come into play. Powerful and being rechargeable makes them quite practical.

    Once you buy in deeply to high end battery tools, you realize just how advanced they really are. And they are just getting better so only buy what you need or you will be wishing you waited when the next better one comes out.

  3. I have a Ryobi light that uses their 18volt batteries, it works OK. Got it as part of a six tool, two battery kit, (birthday present) have added more tools and batteries of course. My biggest problem with carrying/keeping this type of lighting is that (to the best of my knowledge) with the normal power grid down and no generator backup, this is no way to recharge the batteries. Do they make solar-charging battery packs for these batteries? Otherwise, IMHO candles are the way to go. Good Luck!

    • Hi Roger,

      Low voltage solar hacking is fun for the whole family. Here's a YouTube vid about hacking wall chargers.

      Or you can use car plug chargers and stay with the 12v tool battery size and use off-the -shelf solar panel systems from somewhere like Home Depot ot RV/camping stores. Some tool companies make car chargers for their 18v batteries as well.

      I'm sure someone reading this has one or more of these options. Hopefully they will share their knowledge.

  4. All good info

    Lights and light is a personal issue each person needs to access their needs some people want their home to look like a airport runway.
    I do not like light, if people are lucky enough to be in a very remote area they should light a candle and see just how far they can see it.

    I do like adjustable head flashlights pen lights and I have found a few different 9 volt LED lights I like the battery life
    I also like the newer ultra bright LED bulbs in new lights.

    Battery technology is where people need to research batteries can now last years and no memory problems but buyer beware look up customer reviews and that may save you from buyers remorse, more important you won't be left cursing in the dark.

    As far as EMP I keep rechargeable batteries charger and duplicate lights in a 20MM ammo can as well as bulb type lights since I am not positive what will or will not survive EMP and or some disaster protection against water dirt soot ash etc a 20MM can will do it as well as Pelican cases I have some of both.
    multiples of everything and not dissimilar I may need to cannibalize if they are not the same makes it more difficult.
    Same lights same size batteries bulbs and operation and accessories. people should see that is important as important compatible firearms and ammo.
    Eclectic is OK for furnishings and clothing but no so much in BASIC prepping once people are outfitted with core equipment and backups in survivable containers then stretch out my opinion is only for new preppers most here are well seasoned vets.

  5. I also use 20mm ammo cans as faraday cages, wrapping the contents (including rechargable batteries and solar chargers) in bubble wrap. These cans, while heavy (about 16lbs.), are 'bomb' proof, I can and have jumped up and down on them without even denting the top! Thank you Doc for the link on solar hacking, but my electrical skills aren't real good and I'll keep looking for a commercially-made option! Looking at this youtube video lead me to another on using solar power to run a small ice maker, since I already have a small ice maker so I think I'll give this a shot! Any military man can tell you about the value of light and sound discipline, but like every skill this needs lots of practice. Good Luck and happy prepping! (GLAHP)


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