I have seen a survival kit that has been spoken well of by many reviewers: the SERE Air Force Survival Kit. SERE stands for: survival, evasion, resistance, escape.

It is a rather small kit fitting in roughly the size of an altoids tin box. In the kit there are the basic things that are axiomatic to survival such as: compass, first aid, signal mirror, flints and so forth. Then one item that stood out was finger lights with Velcro straps. It was just kind of glossed over in the reviews I saw, and I also could not get much info elsewhere on the internet. All I know is:

  • one is red light (visible)
  • one is infrared (for use with night vision)

Since I thought perhaps it would be useful for putting it over your finger as you pointed at a map in a dark environment. While this makes sense, I'm not sure the space and weight these items take up in the kit would be justified if it provides merely more convenient map reading (with all due respect to map reading). Here is a picture of the SERE kit with the lights in the red circle:

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As you can see, they look good and well engineered, and I assume as a GI product the purpose is not to just roleplay as iron man.

Question: Perhaps it is the Velcro strap and notion that the lights go on our fingers that confuses me the most; what is the advantage of this? What is the typical use case for such a device? Perhaps we can also Velcro it to a small twig or something?

1 Answer 1


The point of the velcro is to hold the light onto your finger, and the extra length makes it possible to use with gloves.

These have several advantages,

Originally designed for pilots, the popularity of these simple-to-use lights have made them required tools for ground forces, battle tank, medical personnel and logistics staff. Anywhere hands free light is needed, the finger light has found a home.

Affixed to the top of the users index finger with the included Velcro strap, the operator can easily switch the light ON or OFF with their thumb via the units side toggle switch.


The finger light is ideally suited for operations requiring minimal light or situations where preserving night vision while navigating, tracking, map reading, or other close work is critical.

Source (Emphasis mine)

Finger lights

These tiny thimble-like tools turn a pilot's fingertips into flashlights, enabling him to read maps and flight plans inside the cockpit when flying at night.


Also, since pilots would be used to using these in the cockpit anyways, it makes sense that their survival kit would have the same type of flashlight.

  • That explains the red finger light nicely, but the infra-red one is more puzzling. After all, it would be useless without a night-vision device. Perhaps the pilot is expected to have a portable NVD as part of the cockpit gear anyway? In any case, it seems of questionable value for non-pilots, unless they habitually carry a NVD or add one to the kit.
    – Pont
    Aug 15, 2018 at 8:57
  • @Pont, Yeah, and even further it is strange that the infrared version is not just integrated to the red one. After all two LEDs with different wavelengths and two switches could probably fix into the same device without expanding the size by much.
    – jpa
    Aug 15, 2018 at 11:02
  • 2
    I take it that the real benefit of such lights is when you want to see without being seen? ie not very useful for civilian surviving.
    – Guran
    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:08
  • 5
    @Guran - indeed, the point of the IR light is so you can be seen by your rescuers who have night vision goggles. They will likely be flying using them, so a bright ir light makes life easy for them.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 15, 2018 at 13:56
  • 4
    As for why they aren't integrated into one light: When I was in the Army, all the vehicles had a light switch that flipped one way for regular lights and another way for blackout lights. We were all the time flipping the switch in the wrong direction and breaking light discipline.
    – DrewB
    Aug 15, 2018 at 19:52

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