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Descending into a dark basement to flip a breaker or finding the keys you dropped in your car is a lot easier with the help of a flashlight. That little light in your smartphone isn’t bright enough, and you can save your phone’s battery for making phone calls, texting friends, and updating your Instagram. Gone are the days of large clunky flashlights with weak incandescent bulbs. Today’s models come with rechargeable batteries and bright LED lights capable of illuminating objects hundreds of feet away. Unlike the flashlights of yesteryear, modern flashlights are small enough to fit in your pocket and weigh next to nothing. The best flashlights will illuminate your search so you can choose the model that will light up the darkness when you need it.
How we chose the best flashlights
As an avid camper and one who lives in a rural area prone to power outages, I find myself traipsing around the dark quite often, so I know a thing or two about flashlights. I considered a few important criteria in researching more than a dozen flashlights for this article. Brightness, of course, is key.
However, I didn’t just consider flashlights with exceptional brightness. While a 1,000-plus lumen output is great when searching for a missing person or pet, it’s too bright for close-quarters use inside a house or tent. With that in mind, I chose models that offered multiple modes that would allow them to be used both indoors and outdoors.
They should be able to endure a fair amount of abuse, so I chose models with rugged anodized aluminum construction and waterproof ratings. For rechargeable models that come equipped with batteries, I chose those with at least 3,000 mAh (milliamp per hour) batteries that can last for many hours on moderate light settings. While cost was not a major factor, I did include lights for those budget-conscious users, as well as expensive high-end models.
The best flashlights: Reviews & Recommendations
For many people, your smartphone is the only flashlight you might think you need. But you should probably conserve phone battery if you’re in the kind of situation where you really need to use a flashlight (and you don’t want to drop that expensive phone trying to fish it out of your pocket in the dark, cracking the screen). From late-night dog walks to trips to the basement breaker when the electricity goes out, a flashlight can keep you seeing clearly. One of our choices should rescue you from stumbling over your own feet.
Best overall: Fenix PD36R 1600 Lumen USB Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight
- Max lumens: 1,600
- Dimensions: 5.33 inches in diameter and 1.04 inches long
- Weight: 3 ounces
- Ample 1,600 lumens of brightness
- Rugged IP68 rating
- Long run time
- May be overkill for some
Sure, the PD36 is one of the pricier flashlights on the market, but if you’re serious about having a good flashlight, it’s worth it. The PD36’s runtime is nothing short of phenomenal. Expect more than four days’ worth of battery life on a single charge at the light’s lowest setting, which is still a very usable 30 lumens. That means you can get hours and hours out of this flashlight before needing to charge it. We also like the fact that the flashlight is rechargeable via USB-C, which can add five hours of battery life to the flashlight with just 10 minutes of charge time.
There’s also a broad range of modes with the flashlight, ranging from its energy-saving 30-lumen mode all the way up to a headlight-like 1,600 lumens, which is bright enough to light up objects more than 900 feet away. While using the PD36R at max brightness will drain the battery fairly quickly, you can still get three hours at that level.
The flashlight is also rugged enough for outdoor use, thanks to an IP68 rating that allows it to withstand being submerged in up to 6.5 feet of water for 30 minutes without suffering damage. Despite its ample brightness, it is still surprisingly easy to handle, with a compact size of just 5.3 inches long and about an inch in diameter.
Best for worksites: Greenworks 24V Cordless High-Intensity LED Flashlight Kit
- Max lumens: 200
- Dimensions: 3.21 inches by 2.61 inches by 4.17 inches
- Weight: 15.6 ounces
- Provides up to 23 hours of power
- Pivoting head adjusts to where you need light
- Energy efficient
- Ergonomically designed
- Doesn’t provide bright light
- Not waterproof
Low light is handy when fixing a tire or checking a fusebox—just enough to illuminate what you need across a wide field without being blinding. Greenworks’ Cordless High-Intensity LED Flashlight Kit provides up to 200 lumens of light when needed. The 24-volt flashlight is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides up to 23 hours of light on a single charge. It’s also ergonomically designed, so it’s comfortable to hold when you’re on a worksite. On your off hours, this flashlight is also great for hiking.
Brightest: Olight Warrior X Pro Tactical Flashlight
- Max lumens: 2,100
- Dimensions: 1.5 inches in diameter by 5.9 inches long
- Weight: 8.4 ounces
- Can project up to 500 meters
- Compact size and lightweight make it suitable for camping
- Rugged waterproof construction
- Minimum brightness of 300 lumens is high
- Too bright for everyday use
With its 2,100-lumen output and ability to throw a beam 500 meters away, the Olight is probably overkill for most people not part of a search-and-rescue team. That said, the Warrior is a worthy choice if you’re looking for the brightest flashlights you can buy and are willing to pay for them.
Despite that extraordinary brightness, the Olight manages to stay surprisingly compact. It measures just 1.5 inches in diameter at the business end and a hair under 6 inches long with a weight of fewer than 9 ounces. That small size, coupled with an IP68 rating, makes the Olight Warrior a worthy companion for hunting trips or backwoods camping adventures.
Just keep in mind that all that brightness significantly strains the Warrior’s 5,000-mAh rechargeable battery. Don’t expect to get more than a couple of hours at 2,100 lumens. With a minimum brightness of 300 lumens, the Warrior is simply too bright for applications that require dimmer lighting, such as illuminating the inside of a tent or the area under a car hood. Regardless, keep this flashlight topped up with the best power banks.
Best EDC: Wuben Tactical EDC Flashlight
- Max lumens: 1,200
- Dimensions: 1.7 inches in diameter by 6.9 inches long
Weight: 1.7 ounces
- Compact size suitable for carrying in a pocket
- Anodized aluminum construction
- Fast USB-C charging
- Uses smaller capacity batteries than other flashlights
- Easy to misplace
For a flashlight to qualify as an EDC (everyday-carry flashlight), it’s got to be compact enough to fit into a pocket comfortably. Measuring less than 5 inches long and just an inch in diameter, Wuben’s EDC option fits the mold. And for those whose pockets are occupied, it also comes with a lanyard and pocket clip.
Some EDC flashlights are compact but don’t produce enough brightness to make them worth carrying. Wuben has no problems in this department, producing an impressive 1,200 lumens despite its small size. It comes with five light modes, including four light levels, along with a strobe and SOS mode. We also like the USB-C charging port on this flashlight, which allows it to charge from zero to full power in less than an hour. A handy indicator lets you know when the battery drops below 15 percent.
A flashlight banging around in a pants pocket or backpack all day long every day should be sturdy, and this one is, with its anodized aircraft-grade aluminum body and waterproof construction.
Best pen: Streamlight Stylus Pro Pen Light
- Max lumens: 100
- Dimensions: 0.6 inches in diameter by 5.3 inches long
- Weight: 1.7 ounces
- Compact size suitable for carrying in a pocket
- Durable aluminum construction
- Multiple color options
- Expensive for a penlight
- Not super high-power
Pen flashlights are built for convenience with a small profile that makes them easy to slide into a pants pocket or even a breast pocket on a button-down shirt. Though this design makes them convenient to carry, these flashlights usually put out wimpy brightness. That’s not the case with the Streamlight Stylus Pro. Despite having a diameter of about 1/2 inch and a total length of 5.3 inches—about the size of a marker—it produces 100 lumens.
This small light is also surprisingly tough, thanks to its anodized aluminum housing and unbreakable polycarbonate lens. This construction makes the flashlight water-resistant and capable of absorbing impacts of up to 2 meters without taking damage. It also has a convenient tail cap switch that makes it easy to operate while pointing the flashlight at the subject. The Stylus Pro gets a respectable eight hours of battery life from its 2 AAA batteries and comes in six color options.
Best headlamp: BioLite HeadLamp 325
- Max lumens: 325 Lumen
- Dimensions: 2.05 x 1.97 x 8.27 inches
- Weight: 1.7 ounces
- Sits flat and is stable on the head
- Charges via microUSB
- Material is moisture-wicking
If heavy headlamps make night hikes a headache, consider the BioLite HeadLamp 325, a lightweight light in the dark. It only weighs 1.7 ounces and doesn’t bounce around while running or doing a cartwheel. The headlamp charges via microUSB—an incredibly common charger you likely already have around the house. A rear reflective strip alerts those behind you that you’re there, and an articulating front bezel allows you to angle the light where you need it with just one hand.
We recently took it on a trip to Arizona and were pleased with how its moisture-wicking fabric kept our forehead comfortable during nighttime jaunts to the bathroom or campfire. Plus, it laid flat to our heads—something we can’t say with other headlamps we’ve tried.
We named its beefier cousin, the BioLite HeadLamp 800 Pro, as the best headlamp for hiking. If you’re more of a casual wanderer or just need something to illuminate the way to take out the trash, the HeadLamp 325 packs a powerful, portable punch.
Best budget: ThruNite Archer LED Flashlight
- Max lumens: 500
- Dimensions: 1.7 inches in diameter by 6.9 inches long
- Weight: 1.7 ounces
- More affordable than high-end tactical flashlights
- Waterproof construction
- Enough brightness for most needs
- Does not use a rechargeable battery
- Not ideal for professional use
When assessing flashlights, we tend to get hung up on lumens and battery life. The fact is most people don’t need a flashlight that approaches car headlight levels of brightness. The ThruNite Archer’s 500 lumens are enough to cast a beam of light the length of a football field or light up a small room, more than enough for most people’s needs. Three light levels, along with firefly mode and strobe, add versatility. And while you won’t be able to go off-grid for weeks and weeks with this flashlight, its max runtime of 15 days on two AA batteries suits most applications.
In terms of construction, it’s compact at less than 7 inches long and 1.7 inches in diameter and weighs just 1.7 ounces. It’s also waterproof up to one meter and ruggedly constructed of anodized steel to resist impacts. Most importantly, the Archer is a quarter of the cost of other tactical flashlights, making it a great option for those looking for a more affordable option.
What to consider when buying the best flashlights
Here is what you should know before buying the best flashlights:
Lumens measure how bright a flashlight is. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the flashlight will be, although the shape of the reflector and lens will determine just how far that light will be cast. Flashlight brightness usually ranges from around 100 lumens for small penlights up to 2,000 or more lumens for the brightest flashlights. As few as 200 lumens is plenty of light for illuminating the dark space under a kitchen sink or even a fuse box, but you’ll need a minimum of 1,000 lumens if you want to illuminate large open spaces such as a campsite.
Whether your flashlight is rechargeable or takes disposable batteries, it won’t stay lit forever. At some point, you’ll need to recharge it or load new batteries. Battery capacity is measured in milliamp hours (mAh). A good mAh for batteries is 3,000, which is enough to keep the light running all night long. Some rechargeable batteries offer 5,000 mAh, which is ideal for higher-lumen flashlights that use more power.
Flashlights come in a variety of sizes, but most measure around 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Smaller EDC (every day carry) flashlights are smaller, allowing the user to wear them on their person throughout the day. These flashlights are typically more compact than a standard tactical flashlight.
Since flashlights are often used outdoors, they need to have some protection from the elements. Flashlights come with an Ingress Protection (IP) rating, which indicates how impervious they are to dust and water. The IP rating is typically followed by two numbers, one that indicates its ability to resist water and the other its ability to resist dust. An IP rating of 68 indicates the flashlight is impervious to dust and can be submerged in water.
Q: What brand of flashlight is best?
With a line of flashlights that are constructed from durable anodized aluminum and high-lumen output, Fenix makes some of the best flashlights you can buy. The company’s products range from basic flashlights to high-performance tactical models.
Q: What is the brightest LED flashlight available?
The brightest flashlight you can buy is the Imalent M18, which produces up to 100,000 lumens, which is enough to illuminate objects up to 1,350 meters away.
Q: What is the highest-rated flashlight?
One of the highest-rated flashlights you can buy is the Fenix PD36R, which produces 1,600 lumens and has a 5000mAh rechargeable battery that will last up to 100 hours.
Q: How bright is a 2,500-lumen flashlight?
A 2,500-lumen flashlight is very bright and capable of casting a beam several hundred meters long depending on the shape of the reflector and lens. This amount of brightness is more than enough to suit any outdoor application.
Q: What flashlights do the military use?
The military uses mainly tactical flashlights that produce a lot of lumens and have anodized aluminum construction that’s waterproof and resistant to impacts. Many military flashlights also have a red-light option, which creates visibility while allowing the operator to maintain their night vision.
Q: How many lumens should a good flashlight have?
The average flashlight puts out about 100 lumens, which is suitable mainly for in-home use. A tactical flashlight designed to improve visibility at night for hiking or search and rescue should produce 1,000 lumens.
Final thoughts on the best flashlights
Given the broad price differences in flashlights, it’s important to consider how you plan to use the light before shopping for one. If you need one to use around the house in the event of a power outage or popped breaker, then an affordable model that produces a few 100 lumens is adequate. Those planning to use a flashlight to illuminate the outdoors at night for camping, hiking, or hunting, should consider investing in a more expensive flashlight with an IP86 weather rating and at least a 1,000-lumen output.
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