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Review: Coast A9R rechargeable inspection penlight

Small, convenient flashlight for tight, dark spaces

O’Day Mariner at her mooring, Venture Sailing Club, 2010
O’Day Mariner at her mooring, Venture Sailing Club, 2010


Coast A9R rechargeable inspection penlight

Shine light in cramped, dark spaces

Coast A9R rechargeable inspection penlight

Pros: Compact, versatile, weather resistant, LED bulb, stainless steel body, lithium battery, inductive charging, lifetime warranty.

Cons: Too easy to cross-thread bulb, locking switch would have been nice.

$36.90 from Amazon

Regular price: $60

Shipping: Qualifies for free Amazon shipping.

If your boat is bigger than a canoe, you have tight, dark places to look at. Dropped bolt in the engine space, mysterious plumbing leak under the v-berth, last pistachio on the cockpit sole during night watch, the list goes on and on.

The Coast A9R rechargeable inspection penlight brightens these places. It’s the size and weight of a ballpoint pen. It comes with a lithium battery that’s super easy to recharge. The LED bulb is bright and should last indefinitely.

There are a lot of penlights out there, including medical and tactical styles. The medical style is compact but will get its ass kicked on a boat. The tactical style is tough but bulky and heavy. For the A9R, Coast chooses the best of these styles: compact and light while staying useful in a marine environment.

The Supreme Purser’s biggest fan, my wife, got me one for Christmas. (She found it in the Gift Guide.)

Coast A9R box

Coast over-packages a bit but the kit is complete. You get the penlight itself, pocket clip, lithium battery, Pro-Flex charging cable, 12V DC charger, 120V AC charger, and instructions.

Everything is included

Set up

Setting up is simple. Unthread the bulb from the body, plug in the battery, then thread them into the body.

There are two delicate steps in this three-step process. First, the pins for the bulb are tiny so don’t force it into the battery. Thankfully, the pins and socket are symmetrical, so once you orient them, the connection is smooth and secure.

Bulb and battery

Second, the threads on the bulb are plastic while the threads on the body are metal, which increases the risk of cross-threading. Again, don’t force it, let it happen. Once you’re done, though, you’re done. It’s a one-time thing.

Using it

Using the penlight isn’t rocket science. Press the switch lightly for momentary lighting. Press it firmly like a ballpoint pen to toggle it on and off. It would have been nice to have a lock on the switch to prevent accidentally turning it on, especially when this thing gets jostled around in a toolbox in high seas.

Coast A9R in action

A clip is attached to the body. This isn’t a limit on the places that you can hang it from, though. The penlight is small, light, and durable enough to clamp, tape, or cram onto or into almost anything, including your mouth.

The light beam is focused, projecting most of its light into a circle. A 12-inch distance gives a circle with a 5 inch diameter. The diameter expands 5 inches for every foot of distance.

The bulb is not replaceable, but it is an LED. And unlike a lot of other penlights, the bulb is protected inside the body. It should last longer than you or your boat. The stainless steel body is a challenge to bend or crush. The only complaints I’ve seen online are about the switch breaking. But mine works well so far with a solid, confident touch.


Coast didn’t skimp on the battery or charging. Most penlights use replaceable AAA batteries. That reduces the price of the penlight but you pay the difference when you have no spare batteries at 3 am and you can’t find where the rising bilge water is coming from.

With the Coast A9R you get a lithium battery for lightness, capacity, and longevity. Coast claims that a charge lasts 3 hours. Mine lasted 4.5 hours until it was too dim to see in daylight.

You also get inductive USB charging, which Coast calls Flex Charge. There’s no need to disassemble or otherwise expose the penlight’s guts. Just slide the charger cable’s cap over the buld end of the body and plug the other end into a USB socket that supplies 1 amp. The cap glows red while charging and green when done. The penlight comes with a 12V DC adapter and 120V adapter, but they almost seem overkill considering the ubiquity of USB these days.

Charging the A9R

At your service

Humbly yours,

Supreme Purser