Need a light that lasts in subzero temperatures- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Need a light that lasts in subzero temperatures

    I have a Cateye Volt 1200, it likes to die in the cold. Riding at -20 Fahrenheit last season it would only last about 10 minutes or so. Tonight I rode at 8 degrees Fahrenheit, it lasted about 20 minutes before dying. I don't know if the batteries are garbage or what, but this light will not cut it. I'd like to get a Son generator hub, and a nice light, and ditch the battery lights, but that isn't in the budget at this time.

    Anybody have any any experience with riding in cold with a light with decent battery life. I'd like to get three or four hours out of a charge.

  2. #2
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    Wow that's cold.

    You could get a niterider pro and get an extension cable, allowing you to put the battery close to your body

  3. #3
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    Li-ion batteries are effected by extreme cold but they should still work. The colder the batteries, the higher the internal resistance of the cells. At some point the lamp will sense the voltage drop and think the batteries are low. At that point the protection in the lamp will either drop the output or cutoff completely.

    In my opinion you're a perfect candidate for a dynamo system, even if you only use it as a back up. Of course there are other options. You could buy a lamp that uses an external battery and then find a way to keep the battery warm. You could buy a flat pack battery and strap it to your body inside your coat and then use a long extension cord to reach the lamp. That should help keep the battery warm but likely it wouldn't feel real comfortable. Another option would be to use a frame bag, put the battery inside the frame bag and then use something like a butane hand warmer to help keep the battery warmer. Keep in mind the bigger the battery the longer it should be able to last in the cold. Your Cateye 1200 is likely only using two cells. Being surrounded by metal, the batteries are going to get cold reallllll fast.

    Keep in mind using something that generates heat can be dangerous. I've used the butane hand warmer idea myself but I also ran two temperature sensors and some insulation along side the battery so I could make sure I wouldn't overheat the battery. I had no problem with mine and the battery never got below 60F. ( in 10F weather ). Likely if you did something like using a butane hand warmer your battery would still get cold because of the colder outside temps. You would need to experiment first and find out what works at that temperature. Buy a couple cheap digital thermometers with long cords and you should be able to find a way to make it all work. Oh and BTW, forget about those cheap chemical hand warmers...they don't work if not exposed to a good amount of oxygen so forget about those. I tried those and they did nothing.

    One last tip for using lights/batteries in the cold. Don't mount the batteries to the bike until you get to the ride trail head and are about to hit the trail. Keep um' as warm as possible until the last minute. Oh, and if you buy a new lamp and battery....don't recharge the batteries "until" the batteries have returned to normal room temps. You can use batteries in extreme temps but you can't recharge in extreme temps.

    Good luck. I don't know how you can enjoy a bike ride in those temps but more power to ya.

  4. #4
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    Idea!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bentpushrod View Post
    I don't know if the batteries are garbage or what, but this light will not cut it.
    I'd like to get a Son generator hub, and a nice light, and ditch the battery lights, but that isn't in the budget at this time.
    I'd like to get three or four hours out of a charge.
    Which mode do you use with the Cateye Volt 1200?

    Every chemistry used in rechargable batteries has a decreased usable capacity at temperatues below room temperature. Only unchargable Lithium batteries are much more cold proof, but this amount of money can be better spend for an dynamo hub.

    You have to use a light with external power and put the batteries under your jacket or start with an cheap dynamo hub.
    Cheap ones are YinDing 900lm at gearbest and additional high quality brand-labeled 4x 18650 cell battery pack from a well named store/shop. And you should insulate the battery pack if you dont wear it under your jacket.
    https://www.gearbest.com/led-flashli...73.html?wid=21
    https://www.gearbest.com/diy-parts-a...pp_119294.html
    ENERpower Mitte Plus Battery 7.4V 10200mAh with Round Plug – ENERprof

    Otherwise 3-4h with a consumer like the Cateye Volt 1200 would need a battery three times the capacity of the Cateye Volt 1200, so 3x 22,32Wh to archive the same amount of energy at your temperatures below zero.

  5. #5
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    Thank you for the replies. Great information, and it confirms what I was thinking all along, in extreme cold these batteries aren't cut out for the conditions. I don't ride a whole lot at -20, but when I do I'd like to be able to see. Guess I need to save my pennies and get a dynamo system.

  6. #6
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    If you can find an NiMH battery pack supplying the correct volts these (may) perform better than Lithium at zero in my experience. but that is my real world use, info on the intertubes varies about this, and I no longer have any nimh packs


    BU-502: Discharging at High and Low Temperatures – Battery University
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  7. #7
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    Dont need to save pennies really. A lot of your problem is a self contained light in the cold. They dont mix. Their designed to shed heat, so your rapidly freezing the batteries. Not to mention its likely you havent let the light sit inside your house for a few hours before attempting to charge. So batteries are junk now.

    Get a light with external battery pack (avoid the cheap chinese garbage lights), aim for a 4 or 6 cell pack and keep it warm till you ride. Should get at least 50% rated runtime in your riding temps, if you insulate the battery pack, can get more.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
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  8. #8
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    This might or might not work but it's worth a try. You might try wrapping your Cateye 1200 in the thin foam packing wrap you sometimes see on things like TV's. This would help prevent heat loss and might aid some in keeping the battery warmer. I'm thinking in sub-zero temps ( with moving air ) it will only slow down the heat loss but if it gets you another 30 minutes that's better than nothing.

    Back in the day when I bought my first good LED lamp ( DiNotte 600L ) I remember trying to use it on a really cold day. After only about 45 minutes I remember the lamp battery indicator was already showing the battery as "low". Afterwards I remember trying to insulate the battery and putting it inside a frame bag. This maybe bought me another half hour so it really didn't help much. I figured the heat was still being sucked from the pack because of the exposed wires. I thought about trying to insulate the wires but I don't think I got around to it. All I know is that trying to use a Li-ion in cold weather can be a b:tch. FWIW I never did actually use the butane hand-warmer idea on a ride although I did test it out in cold weather. Once again, a real PITA to have to go through all that in order to get a cold ride in.

    About a month or so ago I was using one of my small 18650 torches in my bedroom as a light source. I sat the torch on it's tail and used the reflective bounce light to help search for something I was looking for. Took me longer than usual but after I was done I forgot about the torch. I don't know how long the torch ran but when I came back in the room I saw the torch and turned it off. Damn thing was really hot. After it cooled I decided to recharge the battery. When I took the battery out I discovered that the battery had gotten so hot that part of the wrap on the top of the battery had melted away ( not good ). Of course this happened inside a home at normal room temps with no moving air flow. This is why I think my idea about insulating the lamp might work. If you can get the lamp to retain some of the heat generated by the LED's that heat will spread to the lamp body and that might help keep the batteries warmer. I figure at this point it's worth a try and shouldn't cost you any money. If you try this and it works let me know. I'd try it myself but the coldest it ever gets in my neck of the woods is about 5-10F.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAKC Ind View Post
    Dont need to save pennies really. A lot of your problem is a self contained light in the cold. They dont mix. Their designed to shed heat, so your rapidly freezing the batteries. Not to mention its likely you havent let the light sit inside your house for a few hours before attempting to charge. So batteries are junk now.

    Get a light with external battery pack (avoid the cheap chinese garbage lights), aim for a 4 or 6 cell pack and keep it warm till you ride. Should get at least 50% rated runtime in your riding temps, if you insulate the battery pack, can get more.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

    true to this, any attempt to charge LI-Ion that is really cold will cause permanent capacity loss.

    some packs have intelligent circuits that wait and will only charge when temp is high enough or low enough, but don't count on it.

    this is proper charge temp range
    0C to 45C
    (32F to 113F)
    "Put your seatbelt back on or get out and sit in the middle of that circle of death." - Johnny Scoot

  10. #10
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    I'd like to know how you stay warm at those temperatures, forget about the lights for a second. I hate the cold and have invested a lot of money into clothing and it's never really been comfortable for me. I am either cold the entire ride or I start to sweat too much and then I get completely frozen.

  11. #11
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    Thanks again for everybody's input. Great ideas, I have charged my light right after coming inside from a cold ride, I'm sure I have greatly diminished the capacity of my batteries. I think I'll order some fresh Samsung or LG 18650's, take apart the light and put new ones in. I'm also going to go for the insulating ideas. And I'm going to start budgeting in a Son hub, and a light.

    As far as keeping warm in subzero temps, it's all about layering. I wear a thin merino wool base layer, with one pair of thick wool socks. On top of that a thick pair of woolrich wool pants. A pair of Air Force canvas mukluks with wool lines for boots. Up top, a thin merino long sleeve base layer, then a light merino wool t shirt, followed by a light synthetic down filled vest, over that a shell jacket. A merino wool gaiter, then a merino wool beanie. Merino wool gloves, and pogies for my hands. When it's above 10 or so, I lose the vest, and heavy wool pants, and go for some craft x-country ski pants over the merino. Also go from the mukluks to some vasque boots. If you can't tell I love merino wool. It's light, it breathes, its warm, and it doesn't stink or itch. The key is layering.

  12. #12
    EAT MORE GRIME
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    ^ even better base layer is one of those LLBean super thin silk leggings or shirts

    thin silk is pretty friggin significant as a base layer. less than paper thin but works,
    and works when wet like wool
    "Put your seatbelt back on or get out and sit in the middle of that circle of death." - Johnny Scoot

  13. #13
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    I havent ridden subzero but down to about 5F so far.

    Heres what I have, adjust based on temps from 5-10F and over 50F

    -UA Coldgear base layers
    -Light weight cycling jacket (some club did a couple years ago, jersey looking but some wind blocking)
    -UA Coldgear Storm Hoodies (I have 3-4 UA Hoodies cause I live in them in the spring/fall)
    - cheap soft shell pants off Amazon. Work great for $35 a pair
    - UA soft shell jacket (thin, not insulated, just a breathable wind barrier)
    - snowboard pants
    - Columbia insulated soft shell coat
    -Vasque arrowhead boots
    -wool and thick UA socks
    -soft shell gloves (thin ones and somewhat insulated ones both from bontrager)
    -cheap ATV pogies (sub freezing but nkt enough to need thick ones)and the heavy bar mitts pogies for when it gets around or below 10F

    Takes some trial and error to sort out how to layer correctly and riding open ground/road requires a different approach than if your riding in the woods.

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  14. #14
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    Bentpushrod - Shoot me an email (see signature) if you are still looking for a solution. I have been building lights/ hanging out on MTBR for over 8 years now. I have built lights for a few people in Alaska and other parts of the world that were having troubles in lower temps and have never heard of any issues since. I also ride in a group that rides at 5 am in the morning year round in the Denver Front Range and we love riding in the snow and cold weather (most are running my lights) so have some real world experience also.

    I use TASKLed drivers and vancbiker's GoPro mounts (both MTBR members).

    (helmet version pictured, I also do bar mounted versions)

    Need a light that lasts in subzero temperatures-img_2911%25u0025255b1%25255d.jpg





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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by varider View Post
    I'd like to know how you stay warm at those temperatures, forget about the lights for a second. I hate the cold and have invested a lot of money into clothing and it's never really been comfortable for me. I am either cold the entire ride or I start to sweat too much and then I get completely frozen.
    Well, first of all you don't need a lot of insulation at your core, because as you know, you tend to sweat a lot. I takes about 20 minutes to reach operating-temp based on my and other's experience, so dressing to be "warm" when you start usually means sweating and possibly getting a lot colder from moisture later. Proper moisture wicking/breathing clothes are important. Hard shells are usually bad and trap way too much moisture. Waterproof doesn't matter and isn't needed when it's this cold. I will usually do one tight fitting (warmer than loose) baselayer and a good soft-shell. Look at XC skiing. They operate in similar temps at similar exertion levels. Their stuff is ultra-breathable. They have it figured out.

    Then, put a lot of emphasis on protecting your extremities. Ski helmet, balaclava (I have multiple weights), pogies with thin liner-type gloves, sometimes footwarmers on my handlebar, carbon handlebar to reduce heat-transfer, foam grips for the same. Feet is easy if you use flats, sorels or similar felt-liner type boot, but it gets a lot more complicated if you are going to try and keep your feet warm with SPDs. Still possible, it's just hundreds of dollars more for shoes like Lake MXZ400, Wolfgar or Wolfhammers, etc. A lot of the intermediary stuff is pretty pitiful when it gets below zero and ends up just being a waste of money, especially if you are going to spend a while in the cold. Snow-gaiters help to boost your lower-leg warmth and are invaluable when it's snow-season.

    Was 10F this morning, probably going to be the same or colder tomorrow. I haven't had the cold weather light issues as described in this thread, my coldest is usually around -20F.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  16. #16
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    Scar, I will shoot you an email next week. I think I'll try your lights. Looks like a great setup. Jaume, you are spot on with clothing!

    Cat-man-do I wrapped my light in some foam as you suggested. Last night went for a 30 minute ride, temps were in the teens, so not really very cold. I think the foam helped, my light didn't die. Granted, it wasn't very cold, and I only rode for half an hour, but it is progress.

  17. #17
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    I am using external battery packs inside my jacket with this

    Cheap 5.4mm Male to Female Extension Cable for SKU 29489/30864 (100cm)

    when it is freezing here. Working great.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Well, first of all you don't need a lot of insulation at your core, because as you know, you tend to sweat a lot. I takes about 20 minutes to reach operating-temp based on my and other's experience, so dressing to be "warm" when you start usually means sweating and possibly getting a lot colder from moisture later. Proper moisture wicking/breathing clothes are important. Hard shells are usually bad and trap way too much moisture. Waterproof doesn't matter and isn't needed when it's this cold. I will usually do one tight fitting (warmer than loose) baselayer and a good soft-shell. Look at XC skiing. They operate in similar temps at similar exertion levels. Their stuff is ultra-breathable. They have it figured out.

    Then, put a lot of emphasis on protecting your extremities. Ski helmet, balaclava (I have multiple weights), pogies with thin liner-type gloves, sometimes footwarmers on my handlebar, carbon handlebar to reduce heat-transfer, foam grips for the same. Feet is easy if you use flats, sorels or similar felt-liner type boot, but it gets a lot more complicated if you are going to try and keep your feet warm with SPDs. Still possible, it's just hundreds of dollars more for shoes like Lake MXZ400, Wolfgar or Wolfhammers, etc. A lot of the intermediary stuff is pretty pitiful when it gets below zero and ends up just being a waste of money, especially if you are going to spend a while in the cold. Snow-gaiters help to boost your lower-leg warmth and are invaluable when it's snow-season.

    Was 10F this morning, probably going to be the same or colder tomorrow. I haven't had the cold weather light issues as described in this thread, my coldest is usually around -20F.
    Not overdressing is probably the hardest thing to learn about exercise in cold weather. If you arent cold when you start riding, then you will be too warm as you ride.


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  19. #19
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    https://www.niterider.com/product/pr...enduro-remote/


    Run it with the extension cable, and put the battery in a backpack.

    Ive run mine into the single digits, and still gotten full run times out of it.

    You in Oklahoma City? If yes, come ride with us.

  20. #20
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    As a bike commuter in AK year round lights are damned important. For the past three years I've been using a Cygolite Expillion with no issues of run time even in temps down to -25F. I've just purchased a Nite Rider 1100. We'll see how that one does. What I like about Cygolite is that it had a removable/replaceable battery pack so I could, if needed, carry a spare battery next to my body for longer rides. I've always gotten right around the claimed 2 hours of run time for the light down to 10 below. If it gets much colder than that, I tend to not be out and about for any longer than I need to be.

    I also, on long rides bring a battery bank and cable with me like what one would use for a cellphone that I keep in an inside pocket. I once had to use that to power the light when on a night ride that ended up taking three and a half hours due to getting lost...

  21. #21
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    Thanks for all the cold weather tips!

    So are you guys soaking wet at the end of the ride (and yet still warm) or are you relatively dry?

  22. #22
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    I tried the battery bank. I have an Anker 20000 mah bank, had it hooked up to my light, the other night when the light died. The light was on, then died, and then went to charging mode. The Cateye will not work while charging.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by varider View Post
    Thanks for all the cold weather tips!

    So are you guys soaking wet at the end of the ride (and yet still warm) or are you relatively dry?
    I'm usually a little sweaty if the ride ends or I stop a big climb etc. Something with heavy exertion. I dry out extremely quick. If I go a bit further with little to no really effort I'm dry when I stop.

    That's the big thing about wearing the right stuff. Moisture will get pulled away and you'll be pretty much dry. Doesn't take big bucks, just being able to find the stuff that's breathable and then right layer combination. Never use rain gear or anything waterproof. Gore-tex is pushing it because of the strong attempt to be waterproof and breathable. Waterproof anything is bad in this case.

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by varider View Post
    Thanks for all the cold weather tips!

    So are you guys soaking wet at the end of the ride (and yet still warm) or are you relatively dry?
    Dry. Adjust clothing while riding to prevent overheating, like opening balaclava, unzipping front of jacket, rolling-up pogies, in more extreme situations rolling up sleeves or removing a layer, etc. One tricky part is an extended downhill, these have the ability to super-cool your core fast. That's when you throw on your extra layer puffy packable jacket over your normal jacket and pull up your balaclava.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by RAKC Ind View Post
    I'm usually a little sweaty if the ride ends or I stop a big climb etc. Something with heavy exertion. I dry out extremely quick. If I go a bit further with little to no really effort I'm dry when I stop.

    That's the big thing about wearing the right stuff. Moisture will get pulled away and you'll be pretty much dry. Doesn't take big bucks, just being able to find the stuff that's breathable and then right layer combination. Never use rain gear or anything waterproof. Gore-tex is pushing it because of the strong attempt to be waterproof and breathable. Waterproof anything is bad in this case.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
    Yep, gore-tex bad in subfreezing. Good to have some waterproof-ness for your feet in case of steeping in overflow (like last night), but for your core, that traps way too much heat.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  26. #26
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    Thanks for the correction, feet are the exception to the waterproofing matter. That as you said, depends on what your riding in. Wet snow, near freezing temps then its a crap shoot if waterproofing is better or worse IME. Seems a boot thats waterproof on the bottom half, over the toes but still breathable up higher seems to work best. Just make sure to have good wicking socks.

    I tend to avoid rain and cold mix myself. Just miserable because either your wet and cold or soaked in sweat/too hot.

    Now dont confuse my definition of rain though. Misting or "spitting" is when I love my UA Storm Hoodies. Wetness doesnt penetrate so Im good on both fronts. Once it turns to actual rain drops then time to call it quits.

    I think any form of wet and near freezing temps are the worst to try and deal with.

    Also, been proven many times, clipless and cold just dont mix. You basically have a heat sink attached to the bottom of your feet. No matter what, its going to rob heat from your feet, no way around it.

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  27. #27
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    Idea!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bentpushrod View Post
    I tried the battery bank.
    I have an Anker 20000 mah bank, had it hooked up to my light, the other night when the light died.
    The light was on, then died, and then went to charging mode.
    The Cateye will not work while charging.
    Most (bicycle) light wont work during (re)charging.
    But i checked with an B&M Ixon Core, this model can be used during charging over USB.
    Also the Supernova M99 mini Pro can be used with 5-12V DC external power.

  28. #28
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    I have 2 balaclavas: one made of silk, one made of cotton. For near freezing temps I use the silky one, little be colder temps the cotton one, and for the extreme both.

    Balaclavas and gloves, the most important piece of equipment for freezing conditions.

  29. #29
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    I dont see a balaclava all that important. Rather individual based there.

    Here in the midwest it gets plenty COLD and windy. Mtbing they are just good for overheating (especially cotton). Road riding is where they help because of the wind. See roadies with them all the time.

    Skull caps and neoprene half masks or neck gators are what is most common. Oh and beards lol. But its below freezing at least before you see full face type stuff coming out. Some, like me its mid/low 20s (humidty and dew point dependant) before my face gets covered unless Im on the road bike.

    Hands and feet are always most important just because they are the most difficult to keep warm and first to loose when things get too cold.

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  30. #30
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    For me freezing is sub-zero Celsius, extreme sub -20 Celsius.

  31. #31
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    Nitecore sells Li-Ion cells specifically formulated for cold weather.

    NL1829LTHP

    NL1829LTP

    I've also done some Li-Ion cell testing in the freezer to show how generic Li-Ion cells perform when you go out into the cold.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-night-...t-1067314.html

    Scott Novak

  32. #32
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    Thats simply high discharge rate cells. Means they naturally have low internal resistance. Since cold increases internal resistance it brings the cells in line at normal operating currents.

    Running regular cells at lower current draw extends their runtime greatly.

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