What Is The Best Flashlight For You: Flashlight Review Guide!
If you find yourself in an unexpected dark situation, what kind of flashlight would you want at your side? Honestly, you would probably be happy to have ANY flashlight with you. But obviously since you are reading this, you are someone that plans ahead, and you do not want just any old flashlight, you want the best flashlight possible to well, get the job done.
The best led flashlight is more than just a specialized gadget. It becomes something you depend on when the chips are down, a trusted companion that always lends a hand when there is something to do. It can become a highly personal piece of equipment. Because it is frequently in the hands and must be easily accessed, it should be comfortable to hold, easy to grip and operate, and impervious to the weather. The head and tail cap each need to be weatherproof, waterproof and dust proof, with an o-ring seal to ensure a tight, waterproof fit. It may need to survive being used as a hammer or a weapon, so it needs rugged, substantial construction.
The best flashlights should include a head design that prevents the flashlight from rolling away when you set it down. It should produce uncompromising, bright white light on demand, and it should be brilliant enough to blind an attacker if need be. There should be varying levels of available light to avoid revealing your position to an observer, wasting the battery, or blinding the user. Complicating the search for all of these features is deciding how much you are willing to pay and which features you will compromise. For a side-by-side comparison of these and many more tactical flashlights, refer to our Comparison Chart.
The interactive chart below and the analysis that follows will help you decide which one is for you.
We all have our personal preferences on what makes a good flashlight to go camping or hiking with, but in an extreme situation you want the absolute best flashlight for camping possible, and so we are here to help.
Want to See Even More Flashlights? Click Here to See Our Full List of Nearly 70 Flashlights
Included in the matrix are 9 columns:
- Flashlight pictures
- Flashlight brand and name/model – (click to view more details or to purchase)
- Weight – Flashlight weight in ounces
- Runtime – runtime using maximum lumens / runtime using minimum lumens
- Output – Maximum lumens / minimum lumens ( not including SOS or Strobe)
- Modes -Total number of flashlight modes
- Length – Total overall length
- Diameter – Either the widest point of the flashlight or whichever is listed by manufacturer.
- Price – These are approximate prices on Amazon.com. These change frequently based on availability, special promotions, and more. But generally speaking: $ = under $40, $$ = $40 to $100, $$$ = $100 to $200, $$$$ = $200+
- Rating – The average user rating on Amazon.com. This can be very helpful in deciding if people are satisfied with their purchase.
*Click on any of the columns to sort the data to help make your decision easier
The flashlights included on this chart actually only begin to scratch the surface. So many manufacturers and models exist that there is no way that we could have listed everything. However, many exceptional lights are included at every price range and from a wide variety of quality makers.
Most of the torches included are tactical flashlights which many feel is an essential criteria for choosing the right one. However, you will indeed notice we have all sorts of lights that also make good options.
Your Shopping List
The very first thing you need to do is identify what your flashlight needs are. Do you want a light that is cute as a bug for an automobile glovebox? For around your home when the power goes out in stormy weather? Head mounted for tracking a wounded deer? Secured under a weapon? Like many other tools, some flashlights are suited to very very specific tasks. You probably don’t need a $4,000.00 Surefire Hellfighter spotlight to check your circuit breakers; likewise, most compact pocket flashlights won’t blind a home intruder either. Here is a quick and simple reference guide before you buy one.
Output and Range
Flashlights are meant for illumination, so it only makes sense that you find the right flashlight with the perfect output of light for your situation. When you are checking out our comparison chart or researching online, you should keep in mind the various features of the light like the output and the distance of the light beam. It is important to consider, especially if you are purchasing for a specific purpose, i.e. backpacking, hunting, household, car, etc.
The industry standard unit of measure for light intensity for flashlights is Lumens. Most of the average flashlights range from between 10 lumens to 50 lumens and the high end lights range over 200 lumens in some case.
Also a relevant factor when choosing the top torch is the distance in which the beam of light will illuminate. When comparing the various brands, it is necessary to look at the specific distance the flashlight can throw the light and how clean clean the light is at that particular distance. In some cases the flashlight can throw the beam of light over 100 meters but do you really need to be able to call in the airplanes from the night sky?
While the more technical or specific purposed a flashlight is, the more specific the illumination the light is. Although the tactical flashlights used a fixed intensity of light beam because you don’t want to be messing around with adjusting the light beam every time you turn it on. Where as the more common everyday house hold flashlights use an adjustable intensity beam. This can save you a tr
Modes of Operation
Keep in mind the number of modes your flashlight might need. If you are considering a torch for the basic household concerns, then you probably just need one with 1 mode or possibly 2 modes. However, if you are trying to get the most bang for your buck and want a more versatile light, you might consider 3-4 modes, which is handy because the low settings usually are around 15 lumens and the high mode can be up around the 700-800 lumens. Like most tactical flashlights, there are usually 1-2 modes.
Why LED Bulbs
Most of the flashlights over the years came with an incandescent bulb which typically does not put out a very bright light nor does it last very long either. If you are searching for a heavy duty light, you may consider finding one that uses a LED bulb. The LED bulbs tend to last over 10,000 hours before they need to be replaced and use a considerable less power than the incandescent type bulbs.
Choosing The Lens
The less expensive lights often have a basic plastic lens to protect the light bulb, but on more expensive lights is a tempered glass lens. The tempered glass lens is better because is it stronger, does not damage as easy, and won’t break it use as a weapon or dropped.
Size and weight definitely matter when talking about flashlights. You don’t want to be lugging around a heavy flashlight on a backpacking trip or hiking at night. Maybe consider one of the smaller more compact lights for this task. However, if you are on a car camping trip or on vacation at the local state park, you might not mind the bulkiness of 3 pound flashlight because you want the lumens that come with it.
The more advanced the light is, the more complex the circuitry is. You may not think this is important like the price or how many lumens it puts out, but this is a crucial aspect when buying a flashlight that you want to last a long time. As the cheaper flashlights use the old school on and off switch, which basically consists of a few wires and soldering connections, the high end flashlights like Surefire, Fenix, Olight and others, use an advanced circuit board which regulates the power and aids in switching from mode to mode with ease.
Body and Casing
Every piece of equipment and tool that is in my garage has one thing in common. It is the durability of the product I purchased. Like many people, I take care of my tools and especially my expensive ones at that. When looking at the brands during your research, check out the materials used in the body and casing. If you are going to be using the light on a daily basis or need it to withstand bumps, scratches and drops, then you might want to look at metal body or aluminum body flashlights. they are more expensive usually but can withstand more wear and tear. On the flip side, the hard plastic or even a poly type body is great because of the weight.
Batteries and Run-time
The type of battery to run-time ratio is often where a lot of people get stuck when deciding which flashlight to purchase. For novice users, it might seem like the less batteries are needed then the cheaper it costs to use the flashlight. But that is not necessarily the case, Some flashlights just suck down the power so fast that you will find yourself taking along a few extra batteries on your trip. Where some flashlights may take a more specialized battery like the CR123A or even a rechargeable battery, they are great for the power to run-time ratio. Some models even use a variety of batteries to give you options in the field too. The AA Flashlights, AAA Flashlights, C, D, CR123A, 18650, or rechargeable flashlights are all options that you need to think about when searching for the right torch to carry.
What About Price
Everyone that is buying a flashlight has to consider the budget. Not all flashlights are worth spending hundreds of dollars on just to check the fuses in your house or to use during a power outage. Be sure to think about the price you are willing to spend, this can be a deciding factor in many cases.
Other Features to Consider
For those who have very specific flashlight needs (i.e. backpacking folks or professionals like EMTs), there are often other features that come into play when considering which is the right torch for your needs. Here are some of the additional functions:
Some models are designed with strobe modes or even an S.O.S. mode that can be used for emergency signaling, i.e. Morse Code. You have a better chance of being rescued from the backwoods, or cave you are exploring if you have a feature like this.
Your flashlight needs to work no matter the weather so choosing one that is water-repellent is crucial, but water proof is even better.
Wrist Straps, Holsters and Belts
When walking long distances you may want to hold your flashlight with strap or in a holster. This can be considerably valuable when hiking long distances like on a backpacking trip or something. Several of the higher end lights come with a belt clip and/or a holster.
If you are looking for a self defense flashlight, try to find one that is heavy enough to crush a pineapple. Something like the Maglite or LifeGear is a great one.
Like many folks out there that are either firefighters, emt or search and rescue, you know that the right torch with bright colors is easily seen in difficult lighting conditions. Click the link above to see some reviews.
Review of the Top 5 Best Flashlights.
This little powerhouse is less than 14 cm in length and only weighs 87 grams, but the Fenix PD35 produces as much as 850 lumens from a single rechargeable 18650 battery. Fenix also provides the ability to use two CR123A lithium batteries. The first-rate flashlight will have plenty of operating modes to choose from and the PD35 does not disappoint, with four regular modes ranging from Eco with 10 lumens output and ranging up to High, which produces 450 lumens. The Turbo mode steps up the output level to 850 lumens and Strobe mode also flashes at 850 lumens. The mode switch is side-mounted near the head.
The power switch is mounted in the tail, and includes a momentary function that will power on the PD35 for just a moment. The LED bulb is the industry-standard Cree XM-L2(U2), which yields a 50,000-hour lifespan. The PD35 also includes a digital regulator to maintain uniform output and a low-voltage warning system. The body has been engineered from aircraft-grade aluminum and designed to control temperature so it doesn’t become uncomfortably hot. The lens is made of impact resistant glass and has an anti-reflective coating. The handy pocket clip is a nice touch, allowing the light to be attached to a collar, shoulder strap, shirtsleeve or the bill of a hat to free your hands.
Current pricing and reviews on the Fenix PD35 Flashlight.
The Surefire 6P Original, officially the 6P-BK, also features aluminum construction and CR123A lithium batteries. Rather than different switched modes of operation, the 6P has to have its bulb replaced with a brighter or dimmer version to adjust its level of output. Some people don’t want or need multiple modes of operation. However, the Surefire 6P does provide a momentary-on feature. This may be the top flashlight among single-output models. It’s very small, weighing only 5.2 ounces, yet maintains a substantial and solid feel. A heavily knurled handle makes it easy to grip, and the size is perfect for mounting to a rifle. Between the small size and the 5.2-inch length, the light could conceivably be attached to a large-frame handgun or even incorporated into a two-handed grip. The lens is made of tempered glass. The power switch is tail mounted, and the reflector is micro-polished, producing 120 lumens with its high-intensity bulb, or 65 lumens with the battery-saver bulb installed. Anything over 100 lumens will serve to blind an attacker if necessary. When compared against the vast landscape of so-called tactical lights, the Surefire 6P Original has to be a good choice for the best flashlight.
Current pricing and reviews on the Surefire 6P Flashlight.
Streamlight ProTac HL
Streamlight’s compact, aluminum-bodied ProTac HL offers selectable-programmed modes of operation, which can be chosen with the switch in the tail end of the light. Strobe flashes intermittently at 600 lumens for 2.5 hours. High is 600 lumens for 1.25 hours. On Low, it produces 33 lumens for 18 hours. In one program, the light rotates between High, Strobe and Low. In another it shines on High only and in the last it cycles between Low and High selections. It is 5.4 inches long and includes a pocket clip and a nylon holster. The most basic thing any light needs to offer is a far-reaching, highly focused beam of light. The ProTac HL does just that, being able to reach out and touch someone over 750 feet away. The tempered glass is sealed by an o-ring and so is the head. The ProTac HL is digitally regulated to optimize its output. Streamlight calls their mode-selection feature “Ten-Tap Programming”, and cycles between three programs.
Current pricing and reviews on the Streamlight PRoTac HL Flashlight.
The P25 is the top offering from Nitecore, who call it a “tactical light flagship”. Nitecore says they have designed this flashlight specifically for elite operators. It is constructed from aluminum and titanium-plated stainless steel, sized and designed for rifle mounting and specifically styled for handgun use, either weapon-mounted or as part of the two-hand grip. The P25 “Smilodon” features Nitecore’s patented Precision Digital Optics Technology, which results in 20,000-candle beam intensity and a reach of over 750 feet. Maximum output is 860 lumens, with eight selectable light levels available through its patented switch, including strobe and momentary features.
One strobe selection lets the flashlight automatically flash the SOS help signal in Morse code. On the lowest light level setting, the P25 offers up to 325 hours of operation, and just might be the available when it comes to battery conservation. The LED bulb for this flashlight is the Cree XM-L U2, with 50,000 hours of burn time on tap. This flashlight also has integrated spring-based shock protection, making it a good choice when it comes to high-vibration environments such as ATV or bicycle patrol, airborne jumps and for mounting to rifles. The pocket clip is stainless steel, it charges with a USB connector, and it’s waterproof to IPX-8 standards. To top off its claim to best flashlight for police, the Nitecore P25 Smilodon can stand on its tail to free your hands.
Current pricing and reviews on the Nitecore P25 Flashlight.
The T series from Inova is always a good choice when you are looking for the best flashlight for your needs. The T4R is no exception. It’s a durable, high-quality flashlight that is designed for use by professionals in challenging situations. The T4R features a mil spec type III hard-anodized aircraft aluminum case, o-ring sealing and a mid-mounted soft switch offering three levels of lighting and momentary activation. This strong candidate also features a strobe setting and a switch with a lockout to prevent accidentally turning on the flashlight. This and other design features demonstrate that Inova understands the tactical flashlight needs dictated by real-life situations.
Other features offered by the Inova T4R include a patented precision optical system, electronic voltage control to extend battery life, a high-impact glass lens with anti-reflective coating on both sides, very heavy knurling and shockproof battery system. Inova claims this flashlight is crush-proof as well, and additional accessories such as signal cones and an extension to hold replacement batteries solidify its claim as the best flashlight for the money. Inova has placed itself solidly in the pack, and is always a good choice to satisfy the need for a quality, dependable light.
Current pricing and reviews on the Inova T4R Flashlight.
Maglite 2D LED
The maglite 2D LED is the newer version of the traditional Maglite 2D that used an incandescent bulb. This upgraded version still uses the same 2D battery but now comes with a longer lasting LED bulb for brighter white light and longer run time. While still maintaining the classic look of the Maglite and its aircraft aluminum metal casing, you can be sure that this light will withstand some abuse over the years. It comes with a spring loading in the tailcap for securing the batteries during use and a tempered glass lens that holds up to scratches. Like many others, I purchased the Maglite 2D LED because of the durability and cost. At just over $25 or so, it is a great buy for the everyday use around the house, on the farm, or in the pickup truck. Since the body design and materials used, it comes in handy as a hammer or a self-defense weapon when faced with those inconvenient situations. I would recommend this light to anyone looking for a long lasting, durable yet inexpensive solution. While not the brightest flashlight in that price range, it continues to be a strong rival.
Current pricing and reviews on the Maglite 2D LED Flashlight.
Now It’s Your Turn
Any list of this type is going to have some readers nodding in agreement, while others will be outraged that an industry favorite isn’t on the list. That’s the whole point of constructing lists of this type. Do you have a favorite tactical light that’s not on this list? Give us your comments and thoughts. Let us know why yours should be on this list. If you have experience with any of the lights on this list in tactical use, please share your experience. Offer a review to help inform your fellow tactical users who may have need of your particular knowledge. You can have a positive impact on someone with the same professional needs that you have already addressed.
There is lots of advice for soldiers, law enforcement, outdoorsmen and maintenance professionals on tool choice, safety tips, gun specifics, survival techniques and equipment maintenance. The choice of a tactical flashlight should also be a matter of information shared among professionals and serious users. We all share the need to cut through the marketing hype to find out how a product really performs in the field. Those with experience in the use of tactical flashlights can have a positive impact on their professional community by sharing their knowledge. The goal is for those most in need of information on the subject to be able to find it here. You can find out more about me right here: Google+ or here.