New Product Test – The Flying Squadron

New Product Test – The Flying Squadron

vendor.2012.baja-designs.polaris-ranger800.mounted-lights.jpgRiding a familiar trail after the sun goes down is often a surreal experience.  Features you recognize and know during the day blend into endless shadows and the trail takes on the characteristics of an entirely new area.  Unless you’re very careful it’s even possible to become lost on a night ride, and more than once we’ve back tracked to a turn we should have made but blew by because we didn’t recognize it.  Other dangers lurk in the shadows as well and creatures large and small often share the trail, oblivious to any danger.  The answer to safer night riding is better lights and BAJA DESIGNS has been illuminating the way for more than 20 years.  Recently we tried one of their SQUADRON LED lights to pierce through the darkness a little better.

Power & Light Primer 

Shopping for new lights is no problem; there are plenty out there but just like with any other accessory you want to get the best value for your dollar and a product that will get the job done.  While lights may seem as simple as a bulb stuck in a shiny, reflective bowl behind a clear lens todays modern HID and LED lights are much more sophisticated.  

The LED (short for Light Emitting Diode) type lights used in off-road systems are actually a collection of small LEDs but when grouped together and properly focused they can produce a very strong light source.  Powering an LED is far more complicated that simply hooking up two wires though.  The LED lights used for off-road driving require their own circuitry and that’s where the differences between brands begin. vendor.2012.baja-designs.squadron-lights.jpg

LED lights must operate at a specific temperature and a big part of that is with the light housing and the circuitry contained within it.  It’s called active thermal management.  Baja Designs likes to use aircraft grade aluminum housings on their LED lights not only because it is light, tough, and it resists corrosion but because aluminum dissipates heat quickly.  Many of their lights even have cooling fins machined into the housing.  Inside the housing the circuit boards are well protected but again Baja Designs takes the extra step and they are only consumer LED lighting manufacturer to use solid copper wiring in their circuit boards for reliability and to control heat.  

The next critical component to LED light design is the reflector.  Not just a shiny housing for the lights, the reflector shape has everything to do with how and where the light is directed.  Change the angles and you can direct the beam.  Many off-road lights give you a sense of tunnel vision as they shine straight up the trail but Baja likes to widen your field of view.  The “spill” beam as Baja calls it is actually the transition area between the main forward beam and the peripheral side light.  The wider “spill” beam greatly improves your ability to recognize terrain and obstacles that would normally be outside the main beam.  It makes a huge difference in cornering or when covering rough terrain.  It’s also much easier on your eyes which tend not to fatigue nearly as quickly like when they try to balance the effects of bright light ahead and darkness to the side.  It all comes down to good product design.vendor.2012.baja-designs.close-up.squadron-lights.jpg

The Flying Squad

Recently we tried out Baja Designs Squadron lights with our Polaris Ranger.  We use the Ranger year round for everything from hunting, to hauling wood, to working on the local youth ball diamond.  During hunting season and in winter we’ll spend a lot of time in the dark and we hoped to improve our night vision with the SQUADRON lights.

The Squadron lights come in a couple different configurations.  By changing the reflector Baja Designs can offer a beam that is focused more in one area, (called the SPOT version) or they can let more light spill to the side in the “Driving” version.  We opted for the more general “driving” lights which sounded perfect for our needs.  The Driving lights have two reflectors that focus the beam forward and two other reflectors that offer great spill light to the side.    Features of the Squadron lights are:

  • Housing:   Billet Machined housing with stainless steel fasteners and mounts.
  • Front Lens:   Hard coated Polycarbonate
  • Power Consumption:   42 watts
  • Weight:   12oz
  • Total Lumens:   3600
  • Uses four T6 Bin Cree XML LEDs at 5000K
  • 25,000 hour LED life expectancy
  • Waterproof, Submersible to 3 meters
  • Available in two configurations:  Driving and Spot
  • Lifetime Warranty

Our first thoughts when opening the box was “Wow, these things are nice!”  The Squadron lights definitely portray all the characteristics of a high quality part and we were anxious to give them a try.  Installing the lights on our Ranger was easy enough and could have been even easier if we had used their accessory wiring harness.  We did it the old fashioned way but since the Ranger has the battery under the front hood it was relatively easy.vendor.2012.baja-designs.polaris-ranger800.close-up.battery.jpg

From our mounting location on the front bumper we routed our power and ground wires back through the electronics tray under the front hood.  From there it was easy to reach the back side of the dash and power from the battery, or an accessory wire Polaris already has built into the wiring harness.  We installed a connecting wire to the back of the switch that fit perfectly in one of the knockouts Polaris already built into the dash.  After making sure all our connections were good we took care to seal them with silicone, then wrapped them with a layer of electrical tape just to be sure.  Plenty of zip ties make for a tidy job and all we needed was for darkness to fall.

It didn’t take long to recognize the improvements with the Baja Squadron lights.  They make a big difference!  In fairness the Polaris has pretty good lights already but they are focused forward.  The SQUADRON lights made things much brighter, especially with your peripheral vision.  Brightness is improved across the entire beam, not just in the center.  We also know they will hold up since Baja has tested them in every racing condition on the planet.  After all, their engineering staff is chock full of racers and they want dependable lights too.  Baja Designs also stands behind their lights with a lifetime warranty.  vendor.2012.baja-designs.close-up.switches.jpg

Into the Wild Places

On our night rides we’ve seen countless deer, hordes of rabbits, bears, and even what appeared to be a large bump in the snow but when it stood up on four enormous legs it turned out to be a moose.  With the Squadron lights we’ll still see the same obstacles and creatures sharing the trail; we’ll just see them at a much safer distance.         

BAJA DESIGNS www.bajadesigns.com

(800) 422-5292

December 6, 2012

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