Descending into a dark basement to flip a breaker or finding the keys you dropped in your car are a lot easier with the help of one of the best flashlights. That little flashlight 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 flashlights 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. This guide will illuminate the world of flashlights so you can choose the model that will light up the darkness when you need it.

Best Overall: Fenix PD36R 1600 Lumen USB Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight
Best Budget: ThruNite Archer LED Flashlight
Brightest: Olight Warrior X Pro Tactical Flashlight
Best EDC: Wuben Tactical EDC Flashlight
Best Pen: Streamlight Stylus Pro Pen Light

How We Picked 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. In researching more than a dozen flashlights for this article, I considered a few important criteria. Brightness, of course, is key.

However, I didn't just consider flashlights with exceptional brightness. While 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. 

A flashlight 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 flashlights for those budget-conscious users as well as expensive high-end models. 

Best Flashlights: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Fenix PD36R 1600 Lumen USB Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight

Longlasting Light. Fenix

Why It Made The Cut: The PD36R offers ample brightness with exceptionally long battery life.

Specs:
— Max lumens: 1,600
— Dimensions: 5.33 inches in diameter and 1.04 inches long
— Weight: 3 ounces

Pros:
— Ample 1,600 lumens of brightness
— Rugged IP68 rating
— Long run time

Cons:
— Expensive
— 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 to get more than four days worth of battery life on a single charge at the flashlight’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 PD36 uses a USB-C fast charger to charge up its 5000mAh battery, 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 rugged 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, the flashlight is still surprisingly easy to handle with a compact size of just 5.3 inches long and about an inch in diameter.  Make the most of sun's brightness with the best solar panels.

Best Budget: ThruNite Archer LED Flashlight

Great Value. ThruNight

Why It Made The Cut: The Archer offers enough brightness and battery life to suit most needs while coming in at a very affordable price.

Specs:
— Max lumens: 500
— Dimensions: 1.7 inches in diameter by 6.9 inches long
— Weight: 1.7 ounces

Pros: 
— More affordable than high-end tactical flashlights
— Waterproof construction
— Enough brightness for most needs

Cons: 
— 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. Find out what light is best to recharge your eyes.

Brightest: Olight Warrior X Pro Tactical Flashlight

Shining Example. Olight

Why It Made The Cut: This is one of the brightest flashlights we could find with its impressive 2,100-lumen output.

Specs:
— Max lumens: 2,100
— Dimensions: 1.5 inches in diameter by 5.9 inches long
— Weight: 8.4 ounces

Pros:
— Can project up to 500 meters
— Compact size and lightweight make it suitable for camping
— Rugged waterproof construction

Cons:
— 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, if you're looking for the brightest flashlights you can buy and are willing to pay for them, the Warrior is a worthy choice. 

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 puts a significant strain on 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. Keep your flashlight topped up with the best solar chargers.

Best EDC: Wuben Tactical EDC Flashlight

Designed for Daily Use. Wuben

Why It Made The Cut: The Archer offers enough brightness and battery life to suit most needs while coming in at a very affordable price.

Specs:
— Max lumens: 1,200
— Dimensions: 1.7 inches in diameter by 6.9 inches long
— Weight: 1.7 ounces

Pros: 
— Compact size suitable for carrying in a pocket
— Anodized aluminum construction
— Fast USB-C charging

Cons:
— 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 flashlight 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. Wuden 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 that's 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

Ultra Convenient. Streamlight

Why It Made The Cut: The Archer offers enough brightness and battery life to suit most needs at a very affordable price.

Specs:
— Max lumens: 100
— Dimensions: 0.6 inches in diameter by 5.3 inches long
— Weight: 1.7 ounces

Pros:
— Compact size suitable for carrying in a pocket
— Durable aluminum construction
— Multiple color options

Cons:
— 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 for carrying, 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 flashlight 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 it comes in six color options.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Flashlight

Brightness

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 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. 

Battery Life

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 are ideal for higher lumen flashlights that use more power.

Size

Flashlights come in a variety of sizes, but most measure around 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Smaller EDC (everyday 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.

Weather Protection

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.

FAQs

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 flashlights do most police use?

Some of the most popular police flashlights include Streamline’s Stinger DS LED HL flashlight. These flashlights are rechargeable and are capable of illuminating objects from a great distance or lighting up a room.

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 2500-lumen flashlight?

A 2,500-lumen flashlight is very bright, 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

Given the broad price differences in flashlights, it's important to consider how you plan to use the flashlight before shopping for one. If you need a flashlight 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.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.


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