The Best Flashlights of 2024 (2024)

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Modern flashlights are applicable for a wide range of scenarios, offering longer battery life, powerful LED luminance, and excellent color rendering. Check out our picks for the best flashlights of 2024.

Written by Sean McCoy

The Best Flashlights of 2024 (1)The Fenix PD36R holds our title for best flashlight; (photo/Sean McCoy)

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If you want a powerful, versatile lighting solution, the best flashlights still offer advantages over headlamps in many scenarios.

Flashlights point wherever you want, not just where your head is pointing. Also, due to fewer weight constraints, they tend to have more powerful, longer-lasting batteries and incredible power for modest-sized devices.

And to be honest, I’m a flashlight buff. Yes, I also use headlamps a lot when I’m outdoors. But more often than not, I grab a small flashlight from my truck center console and, if I need two hands for a project, clasp it in my teeth. I just love having the ability to point it wherever I want without having to crane my neck in a specific direction.

So if you love torches, read on for what we’ve determined to be the best flashlights available today. Because GearJunkie focuses on the outdoors, I rated these based on weight, size, battery life, color rendering, and lighting versatility. You can learn a lot more about how I tested and chose these flashlights below, but right up top, I’d like to state that this guide focuses on truly excellent flashlights that can perform day in and day out — whether you use a light professionally or simply need one for camping or to store at home for a power outage.

This isn’t a list of “light cannons,” as you’ll rarely need a 1 million candlepower model. But, I did include one monster in case super-powered lighting is your jam.

Be sure to read the buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions for helpful tips. Also, have a look at our comparison chart to help steer your decision-making.

Editor’s Note: For our May 24, 2024, update, we’ve added the versatile Olight Prowess to our lineup. This unique model converts from a powerful flashlight to a long-lasting lantern, great for use in camp or during power outages.

The Best Flashlights of 2024

Best Overall Flashlight

FENIX PD36R Pro

Specs

  • Max lumens2,800
  • Max beam distance1,247 ft. (380 m)
  • Max runtime42 hrs.
  • Lighting modesFive brightness levels and strobe
  • BatteryIncluded 21700 rechargeable li-ion battery
  • Bulb typeLuminus SFT70 LED
  • Color temperatureAround 6,500K
  • SizeLength: 5.74” (145.8mm), head: 1.04” (26.5mm), body: 1.01” (25.7mm)
  • Weight5.96 oz. (169g) including battery

Pros

  • Powerful, uniform 2,800-lumen beam
  • USB-C charging
  • Long battery life
  • Great user interface

Cons

  • Cannot tail stand
  • Price could be a factor

Sean McCoy

The Fenix PD36R Pro is the latest evolution of our favorite overall flashlight on the market. A slightly upgraded model of the also-great PD36R, the PD36R Pro has one big difference that is better, and that is the dual tail switches. The system works like this: One larger tail switch turns the light on and off. The other toggles through the five brightness modes, or, if the light is off, activates the strobe function for self-defense. In the dark, with gloves, or whenever, it’s incredibly easy to manipulate the switches and get the output you want in seconds.

If you prefer the lighting control mounted on the body of the light, the standard PD36R is still available. But I suspect most users will love the upgraded PRO model.

Beyond user experience, the runtime is phenomenal. With the new PD36R PRO in Eco (30 lumens) mode, you can achieve a solid 42 hours of runtime. If runtime is your primary concern, the non-PRO version of this light has a much longer runtime, but lower overall output.

For casual users (occasional camping trips and short bursts of high-output modes), that should amount to months between charges. Our tester has gone more than 2 months without recharging this flashlight with regular usage.

Speaking of modes, the PD36R PRO ranges from a low-end 30 lumens up to a searingly bright 2,800 lumens. At that 2,800-lumen turbo mode, you can easily see objects at 1,247 feet. That’s more than enough for most use cases forrecreationin the outdoors. And impressively, the PD36R PRO can maintain that brightness for 3.5 hours.

With an IP68 waterproof rating, it can withstand being underwater up to 6.5 feet for 30 minutes. It’s also dustproof and shock-resistant. One feature I love is how you can easily manipulate between tactical (and strobe-enabling) functions.

Beyond the specs, this is a perfect hand-size flashlight (5.74 inches long, 1.04 inches in diameter) with user-friendly functions. Turn it on and off at the large tail switch, press the smaller tail switch to adjust power, and check the LED near the USB-C charging port when turning the light on for a battery-level indication.

Overall, I think thePD36R PROis the best flashlight on the market today.

Read Review:Fenix PD36R Pro Review: Simply My Favorite Flashlight Yet

Best Budget Flashlight

ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Cool White

Specs

  • Max lumens500
  • Max beam distance93 m
  • Max runtime51 hrs. (low), 15 days "firefly mode"
  • Lighting modesFour plus strobe
  • BatteryTwo AA
  • Bulb typeCREE XP-L2 LED
  • DimensionsLength: 6.1", width: 0.86"
  • Weight1.69 oz. (48 g)

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • Small and light
  • Enough power for indoor or close outdoor use
  • Affordable

Cons

  • AA batteries not included

Sean McCoy

While theThruNite Archer($30) lacks a few of the higher-end features of other lights on this list, it comes in at an absolutely excellent price of just $30. For that, you get a quality CREE XP-L V6 LED light source with a maximum power of 500 lumens. While that number may not look impressive, it’s way more than enough formost uses. Using two AA batteries, it has a runtime of up to 4 days on firefly mode and 11 hours on medium (75 lumens).

You heard that right — this flashlight does use AA batteries. That certainly brings down the price compared with high-end rechargeables and costs money to operate. Our team prefers rechargeable flashlights for several reasons we’ll get into below. But flashlights with disposable (or rechargeable) AA batteries are very easy to repower on backcountry trips — just bring a couple of extras.

A budget flashlight needs to have more than just a nice price. It also needs to be durable so you won’t have to run out and buy another in a few months. I put the Archer through rigorous testing, including submersion and drop testing. It came through with flying colors, barely edging out the competition with the Coast G32 (below). I loved the simple interface — particularly the side button to scroll through brightness settings.

For a budget flashlight, the Thurnite Archer is still the one to beat.

Powerful Pocket-Size EDC Light

Nitecore EDC33

Specs

  • Max lumens4,000
  • Max beam distance492 yards
  • Max runtime63 hrs.
  • Lighting modesFive brightness levels, plus spotlight and Lumen Shield
  • Battery included4,000mAh 18650 Li-ion battery
  • Bulb typeNiteLab UHi 20 LED MAX
  • Length4.55”, head: 1”, body: .94”
  • Weight4.48 oz., including battery

Pros

  • Small, fits easily in pocket with deep pocket clip
  • Very bright, with useful lower-power modes
  • USB-C charging
  • Easy-to-use lock

Cons

  • Gets hot quickly in high-power use
  • Built-in battery cannot be changed

Sean McCoy

The Nitecore EDC33 ($70) is a new light for 2024, and it’s incredibly powerful yet very small. For context, this little light will fit in the palm of your hand and weighs a scant 4.48 ounces. It clips to the inside of your pocket, where it doesn’t take up very much real estate. But pull it out and push the tail switch, and wowsers!

The EDC33 packs incredible power, reaching a maximum of 4,000 lumens with a beam distance of almost five football fields. But even better, it has nice low and mid-output modes that are very useable at normal viewing distances of close proximity out to about 50 yards. And at that distance, this little powerhouse will burn and burn and burn, kicking out a very useful 300 lumens for nearly 7 hours straight.

The EDC33 has a bunch of other fabulous tech packed in the diminutive package. It has a great, physical lock to secure it in the off mode. Given the power of this light and the heat it creates, it’s very important. Fortunately, it’s easy to use. The light packs a “Lumen Shield” mode, which it touts as a replacement for strobing self-defense. Call it what you will, but it’s a great, powerful floodlight. Finally, the light has a proximity sensor that automatically dials down the power when it’s too close for high output modes.

Now, for the negatives of a small, powerful flashlight. First, the battery is not removable. That means if the battery gets weak, the flashlight won’t perform as well. Given the quality of Nitecore batteries, I imagine you’ll get a long lifespan of multiple years from the light, but it’s worth considering, and a significant drawback for some buyers. Next, note that this light will get very hot very quickly in high-power modes. So if you need a powerful beam for longer than a few seconds at a time, get something bigger.

Overall, I love this light. Some folks don’t like the single-button tail switch, but it works well for me. And the light will tail stand! If you want a tiny light that has a lot of power, this one is worth considering. It’s also a heck of a good price for so many features.

Read Review:Nitecore EDC33 Review: Tiny Flashlight Boasts Quarter-Mile Reach and ‘Lumen Shield’

Best Value Zooming Flashlight

Coast G32

Specs

  • Max lumens465
  • Max beam distance134 m
  • Max runtime17 hrs.
  • Lighting modes2
  • Battery2 AA
  • Bulb typeLED
  • DimensionsLength: 6.5", height: 1.1"
  • Weight6.9 oz.

Pros

  • Nice light in both zoom and wide modes
  • Easy user interface
  • Very affordable
  • Can upgrade with rechargeable battery from Coast

Cons

  • Only splash-resistant
  • Failed in a 10-foot drop test
  • Not as powerful as more expensive lights

Sean McCoy

We put the Coast G32 ($25) in a head-to-head test with the Thrunite Archer, our overall budget choice, and the competition was neck and neck. In the end, we decided to give a space on this guide to the Coast flashlight as it performed admirably, only failing in a brutal drop from 10 feet to concrete onto the lens.

This is a no-frills, AA flashlight with two modes. But it gives excellent lighting. Zoomed out, it provides a very wide, perfect circle with no halos thanks to Coast’s Pure Beam focus. Then, zoom the lens for a bright point of light with a 134-meter throw. The zoom motion is very simple and smooth. Grab the zooming head by the nice knurling and twist it. It zooms to a hard stop on wide and long throws.

For the money, the G32 is a solid, well-made flashlight that impressed us in use both outdoors and around the house. It’s a bit large for EDC use but will work great around the campsite or at home. And, if you want to upgrade it, Coast offers its ZX555 ZITHION-X rechargeable battery (not included).

Check out our full head-to-head test here.

Best EDC Flashlight

NITECORE EDC27

Specs

  • Max lumens3,000
  • Max beam distance220 m
  • Max runtime37 hrs.
  • Lighting modesFive brightness levels and strobe
  • BatteryBuilt-in li-ion battery
  • Bulb type2x Luminus SST40 LED
  • DimensionsLength: 135.6 mm (5.34"), width: 31.4 mm (1.24")
  • Weight4.37 oz. including battery

Pros

  • Slim design with pocket clip
  • OLED screen displays remaining time, output
  • 3,000-lumen output
  • Long throw
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Expensive

Sean McCoy

A new addition to the best flashlights of 2023, the NITECORE EDC27 first launched at SHOT Show 2023. This light dazzled folks with a wonderful design and massive light output. If you can get your hands on one (it’s still selling out quickly with every batch produced), this light is the latest and greatest EDC flashlight on the market. I expect it to be popular for a long time.

Let’s begin with the design. The NITECORE EDC27 is a flat flashlight with a pocket clip. That means it fits easily in your pocket. It will even work in most knife pockets on pants, making it a dream to carry. To turn it on, press a large tail switch. Next to that switch is a smaller tail switch.

Once on, depress that smaller switch to flip between modes. Or, you can press the smaller tail switch when the light is off to fire the strobe or momentary on modes. For the EDC user who may need to use the light for self-defense, this is a slick interface that should result in never hitting the wrong button for the needed use.

Next, a quick look at the specs reveals class-leading numbers. A top output of 3,000 lumens and a 200m range will serve all but the most dire search and rescue, hunting, or tactical needs. And a run time of 37 hours on low provides a good, long life for the vast majority of uses.

Finally, the light has an easy-to-read OLED display. It reads run time and current lumen output. This takes the guesswork out of recharging the battery and lets the user know exactly what they can expect the light to do.

Overall, the EDC27 is an incredible new flashlight. I haven’t had enough time testing it to say it will outperform our current top pick, but it certainly should give Fenix a run for its money.

Read Review: This Flashlight Could Be an EDC Dream: NITECORE EDC27

Most Versatile Flashlight

NITECORE P20iX 4000 Lumen USB-C Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight

Specs

  • Max lumens4,000
  • Max beam distance241 yds.
  • Max runtime350 hrs.
  • Lighting modesSix plus strobe
  • BatteryNitecore 21700 i Series (other options available)
  • Bulb type4 x CREE XP-L2 V6 LEDs
  • DimensionsLength: 5.57", height; 1.25"
  • Weight4.09 oz.

Pros

  • Very powerful
  • Operates on various battery types
  • Extremely long runtime
  • USB-C Rechargeable

Cons

  • No pocket clip
  • Overkill for many users

Sean McCoy

NITECORE discontinued one of our previous favorites (thei4000R) but replaced it with an even better, more powerful torch. A strong contender for the best overall flashlight, the newNITECORE P20IX($120) is one of the best flashlights on the market in terms of overall performance.

It’s slightly larger than our 2021 winner from Fenix, however, so it’s less suitable for hikers, hunters, or others who value light weight and small size.

That said, the new version shaves half an ounce and half an inch off the previous model, coming in at 4.06 ounces and 5.57 inches long. So it’s edging closer and closer to a pocket-friendly size.

The i4000R punches through the darkness with 4,000 lumens on turbo mode for up to 30 minutes. That’s enough to light up objects 250 yards away, so it should be high on your list for performance alone. More importantly, it has four continuous and strobe modes, ranging all the way down to the 2-lumen ultralow mode that provides light for up to 350 hours.

It runs on a rechargeable battery that powers fourCREE XP-L2 V6 LEDs. This setup provides exceptional versatility for everyone from campers and hunters to search-and-rescue and tactical uses. The user interface is great, providing easy access to toggle between modes (like its turbo output and strobe mode) through a dedicated button separate from the rear tail switch.

While this is a high-end flashlight, it’s absolutely worth the price for those who need a powerful, reliable flashlight with the potential to hold up to extremes.

Best Flashlight With Long Range

Olight Warrior X Pro

Specs

  • Max lumens2,250
  • Max beam distance500 m
  • Max runtime8 hrs.
  • Lighting modes2
  • Battery5,000mAh 21700 battery
  • Bulb typeHigh-performance neutral white LED
  • DimensionsLength: 5.87", width: 1.03"
  • Weight8.43 oz.

Pros

  • Very long light range
  • Great water resistance
  • 3m drop tested

Cons

  • Magnetic charging requires special cable
  • No low-power mode
  • Narrow beam hard to use at close range

Sean McCoy

With a maximum output of 2,250 lumens (and the ability to project it a whopping 500 m), theWarrior X Pro($120) packs a heck of a punch. For most people, that level of output is overkill. But for those who need to sweep large expanses of nighttime terrain (like search-and-rescue personnel), this kind of power can come in handy.

Those are pretty wild specs for a flashlight that weighs just 8.43 ounces and measures less than 6 inches in length. It runs on a 5,000mAh rechargeable battery. You can recharge it anywhere you have a 12-volt USB outlet or recharger. It comes in three additional colors.

While the Olight Warrior X Pro does give you excellent high-power performance, it’s weaker in the runtime category. That’s because its lowest power output is 300 lumens — more power than you usually need around acampsite. So for people looking for better runtime with lower outputs, there are better choices.

For search and rescue personnel, or anyone who needs a reliable tactical flashlight for nighttime scanning, however, this is one of the best flashlights you can buy.

Best Flashlight With Zooming Lens

LEDLENSER MT10 Flashlight

Specs

  • Max lumens1,000
  • Max beam distance180 m
  • Max runtime144 hrs.
  • Lighting modesProgrammable
  • BatteryRechargeable lithium-ion
  • Bulb typeLED
  • DimensionsLength: 5.03"
  • Weight5.5 oz.

Pros

  • Smooth zooming beam
  • Long throw in spotlight mode
  • Easy-to-use button control

Cons

  • Requires specialized charging cord

Sean McCoy

TheLedlenser MT10 rechargeable flashlight($90) competes well with the Fenix above, and on paper, it in some ways outshines the competition. The specs put these two top flashlight choices in similar categories, and I expect users will love them both.

One thing I love about the MT10 over theFenix PD36Ris the Ledlenser Advanced Focus System. This simply means you can adjust between a broad floodlight and a long-distance beam in an instant. Simply press the front bezel forward, and the light focuses tighter and tighter.

It works extremely well in the field. We’ve used it to find our way out of the woods while bushwhacking during elk hunts in the Rocky Mountains and appreciated the ability to scan far away hillsides for trails and landmarks with the max 1,000 lumens and 180 m of throw.

TheLedlenser MT10also gives a great useable low light, running up to 144 hours at 10 lumens. It has a mid-power setting, but the brand doesn’t share specs on it. But at its middle setting, you get nice light for hiking and good runtime. I’ve only charged this flashlight twice in about a year of testing.

Speaking of charging, this light charges off a micro-USB cable. I love that fact, as it’s a common size and doesn’t require you to carry an oddball cable on trips.

Overall, the MT10 is one of the best flashlights you can buy, with most of the features an outdoor user will require. It’s reasonably priced as well, given its strong power and battery. I also appreciate its simple user interface.

The only ding against this compared with the more expensive Fenix is the build feels a little less robust (it’s IP54-rated for dust and water splashes and rain but is not fully waterproof). I also liked the color rendering a bit better on the Fenix. But the Ledlenser MT10puts up a great fight.

Best Flashlight for Mechanics

Blackfire Rechargeable Weatherproof Magnetic Flashlight With Lantern

Specs

  • Max lumens500
  • Max beam distanceN/A
  • Max runtime30 hrs.
  • Lighting modesFour, plus lantern
  • BatteryRechargeable lithium-ion
  • Bulb typeLED
  • DimensionsLength: 5.5", width: 1.5"
  • Weight6.9 oz.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Magnetic base
  • Lantern mode on side
  • Glow-in-dark bezel

Cons

  • Lower brightness than premium options

Sean McCoy

Blackfire, a newer division of Klein Tools, is making some nice flashlights these days. Overall, theBBM6412is an excellent upgrade to our previous top flashlight for mechanics.

At around the $40 range, this light packs in a ton of performance that makes it fit for both the garage and the wilderness. It has a top output of 500 lumens — while not super powerful, that’s certainly sufficient for use on the trail and around the campsite. And it’s more than enough power when working under the hood of your truck.

Where it really stands out is its magnetic base and side-throw lantern. This work light illuminates a larger area with soft, useful light at five brightness settings. In our testing, it was the perfect companion while checking for loose wires under the hood of a truck in the dark. And it’s capable of big tasks, too. It’ll kick out 375 lumens for 10 hours in work light mode or 500 lumens for 7 hours in standard mode.

Our testers also loved the simple, common USB-C connection for fast recharging and the multicolor battery level indicator. Top it off with a glow-in-the-dark bezel that makes it easy to find in a center console in the dark, and you’re looking at a lot of flashlight for not much money.

Best Flashlight/Lantern Combo

Olight Prowess

Specs

  • Max lumens5,000
  • Max beam distance245 m
  • Max runtime20 days (moonlight)
  • Lighting modesFlashlight and lantern (five brightness levels each)
  • Battery included5,000mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Bulb typeHigh-performance LED
  • Color temperatureMultiple
  • DimensionsLength: 5.63” (143mm), head: 1.93” (49mm)
  • Weight9.49 oz. including battery

Pros

  • Doubles as flashlight and lantern
  • Suctions to tables for secure lamp use
  • Can attach to tripods through threaded base
  • Bright, versatile lighting solution

Cons

  • Requires its removable base for USB-C charging
  • Must remove base to fit in holster

Sean McCoy

The Olight Prowess ($140) is a unique entree to our flashlight guide due to its charging system and the fact that it can be configured as a lantern. While we’re not crazy about the charging system, the lantern mode combined with its low light settings make it a very versatile light in emergencies.

Purely as a flashlight, the Prowess packs a powerful 5,000 lumens with a commendable beam distance of 245 m. Five levels of lighting allow you to dial in your preferred brightness-to-battery life ratio, with 10-hour runtime at 300 lumens. Not too shabby.

With the flick of a switch, the Prowess becomes a lantern, projecting a warm light, redirected toward the base of the flashlight. While resting in its detachable charging base, the light can sit on any flat surface, producing a cozy glow to read or work by. In its lowest moonlight setting, it can go for a continuous 20 days.

The charging platform and magnetic charging cable keep this light from reaching the top of our list. We love the ability to recharge any electronic device. It’s cost-effective, better for the environment, and you’ll never have to hunt through your drawers for batteries. The Prowess can be charged with a USB-C cable, via its detachable base, and it can also directly connect to an MCC3 cable for super fast charging.

However, if you lose the base and the MCC3 cable (they’ve got to be in a drawer somewhere with all those batteries), then you can’t charge with the ubiquitous USB-C, and you’ll need to buy another MCC3 cable, and the light is already on the pricey side. The USB-C is the current standard and should be the default method

Charging preferences aside, the prowess is compact, plenty powerful enough for most applications, and the lantern function is super useful in camp or whenever the power goes out. If you’re still curious, check out our in-depth review of the Olight Prowess.

Read Review:Flashlight to Lantern, Olight Prowess Is a Versatile Lighting Solution

Flashlights Comparison Chart

FlashlightPriceMax Output (Lumens)Max Beam DistanceBattery TypeWeight
Fenix PD36RPRO$1202,800 380 m21700 rechargeable
li-ion battery
5.96 oz.
including battery
ThruNite Archer 2A V3
Cool White
$3050093 m2 x AA1.69 oz.
NITECORE EDC27$903,000220 mRechargeable lithium-ion battery4.37 oz. including battery
NITECORE EDC33$704,000450 m4,000mAH 18650 Li-ion 4.48 oz. including battery
NITECORE P20iX$1204,000220 mNitecore 21700
i Series
4.09 oz.
Coast G32$25465134 m2 x AA6.9 oz.
Olight Warrior X Pro$1202,250500 m5,000mAh 21700 battery8.43 oz.
LEDLENSER MT10 Flashlight$901,000180 mRechargeable lithium-ion5.5 oz.
Blackfire Rechargeable Weatherproof
Magnetic Flashlight
$42500N/ARechargeable lithium-Ion6.9 oz.
Olight Prowess $1405,000245 m5,000mAh lithium-ion9.49 oz.

Why You Should Trust Us

In short, our primary flashlight testers are not just super into the outdoors; they’re also flashlight nerds. We really love the technology that goes into flashlights and headlamps. As the author of this article, I personally spend hours every month testing the newest flashlights to see if they can outperform our favorites listed here.

For the record, it takes a long time and impressive performance for a flashlight to earn a spot in this article. I constantly test new flashlights and updates from our favorite brands and update this article many times each year to keep it up to date with the best flashlights available.

This article has evolved significantly since it was first published back in 2018. At that time, it explained in depth why I love flashlights, and how they are different in use from headlamps. I still love flashlights for their directionality and ease of use in many situations. However, our team has done much more testing since this guide’s inception — and has new recommendations based on those results.

So, how do I test flashlights? First, I use them in controlled environments, measuring both runtime and brightness compared to claimed numbers. I put them on a scale to check the weights. I submerse them in water and drop them onto concrete.

These flashlights also get significant field testing. Our team takes them on all kinds of adventures — hiking, mountaineering, backpacking, hunting, boating, and camping are all part of the mix. Most of our team’s tests occur in the mountains of Colorado and fields and forests of the Midwest.

I take all this information and experience and compile the best advice for you. Over the years I’ve tested about 50 flashlights specifically for this buyer’s guide, selected from hundreds pitched to me by brands and examined at events like SHOT Show and the Outdoor Retailer convention. My goal is to give you the same advice I give my best friends.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Flashlight

There are a few important specs to consider when choosing a flashlight: size and weight, max power output (usually noted in lumens), minimum power output, runtime (especially in lower modes), durability, and waterproofness.

Before we get into some of those details, I’d like to share some details about how I chose flashlights to test for this article. And there have been a lot of them.

First, I look for flashlights that work well for both home and outdoor use. This means I look for higher output than flashlights intended primarily for indoor use. I also only include flashlights that can function after at least a 1m drop, are water-resistant, and have a max runtime of at least 8 hours — enough to get you through a summer night at a minimum.

Next comes the question of batteries. Because of the efficiency of modern flashlights, there are now just two real choices: flashlights that run on AA or AAA batteries, or rechargeable flashlights that run off one of many higher-end battery systems and are almost always included in the light.

Gone are the days of giant D-cell flashlights. But there is still a significant argument between those who believe disposable batteries or rechargeable batteries are better. I will get into it more below, but our team likes rechargeable batteries more in most cases.

Lumens: Max Output

For most campers, anything over 1,000 lumens is overkill. You’ll often find yourself using much lower settings, especially around camp. However, those big numbers can be nice, especially if you need to see faraway objects.

User Interface

Flashlight users want easy control of the illumination their lights produce. The interface — the buttons and switches that control the light source — is an important consideration.

Most of the best flashlights, particularly smaller EDC flashlights, have a tail switch. The tail switch is usually a button that you press to turn the light on and off, and often also scrolls through brightness levels or other modes. Some of them have a momentary-on, which turns the light on through a partial press, which lets the light turn off when you release the switch. Others, like our favorite Fenix PD36R, have two tail switches to control different functions.

Some flashlights have side switches in place of, or in addition to, tail switches. A few flashlights also have physical switches that lock the flashlight in the “off” mode for safety and battery protection.

Regardless of the style of the buttons, they should be easy to learn and simple and reliable to use. We have tested and learned about the user interfaces in the flashlights in this guide. All of the lights here are effective and acceptably easy to use.

Battery Life

Another important consideration is if the flashlight uses its own rechargeable battery or if it runs on disposable batteries. Most people will get more value out of a flashlight that offers long runtimes and is easy to recharge.

Battery Type

As noted above, our team prefers rechargeable batteries in most situations. Most rechargeable batteries, such as the 21700 rechargeable Li-ion battery included in the Fenix PD36R PRO, offer superior performance to both disposable and rechargeable AA or AAA batteries.

But more importantly, flashlights that include this type of high-end rechargeable battery do not have hidden costs. And those who will use a battery more than casually will find that the cost of batteries will very quickly add up to more than the cost of the flashlight.

Next, rechargeable flashlights generally have a charging port or system built in. As you can see with our choices, our favorite flashlights today use USB-C charging. This is quickly becoming the industry standard as it is much faster than micro-USB charging. And unlike magnetic charging systems (or other proprietary chargers), you can easily find a USB-C cable anywhere and likely own several already.

One final note on AA and AAA batteries. Some folks argue that it is easier to replace batteries in the field than to charge them. Our testers have carried small battery chargers on many adventures, and they work great with flashlights for long trips. For trips over a week or two in length, though, disposable batteries still have an edge.

So keep battery and charging style in mind when you buy a flashlight. It will make a difference when you’re packing for a trip as to how many cables you’ll need to bring, or if you’ll need to buy batteries continually through the life of the product.

However, it’s convenient to quickly change batteries and refresh your flashlight in the field. Both are valid options but consider how you’ll use the light (and if you mind constantly buying new batteries).

Quality and Output

Modern LED flashlights vary in the quality of their color rendering, meaning you can see color better with some higher-end lights. The best flashlights on the market should always give you a colorized, realistic view.

Better-quality lights also tend to have more efficient LEDs. Some even have “regulators” that electronically manage the power output, resulting in consistent lighting. To expand on that, first understand that most flashlights, even very good ones, lose a little output as they run and deplete the battery. Better flashlights use a regulator to manage this drop-off. Poor flashlights tend to lose power consistently over time, gradually becoming less and less useful as the battery slowly drains.

FAQ

What does lumen mean?

A lumen is the basic unit of measurement for how bright a light is. The brighter the light, the more lumens it produces. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a lumen as “a unit of luminous flux equal to the light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point source of one candle intensity.” For the layperson, a 1-lumen flashlight is barely enough to read a typical book at a normal reading distance from the face, or the amount of light of one birthday candle one foot away.

Do LED flashlights get hot?

Yes, LED flashlights do get warm if they’re pushed hard enough. For many flashlights, this is a sign the heat sink is working, moving heat away from the delicate electronics inside.

What flashlight has the highest lumens?

The highest-lumen flashlight currently on the market is the Imalent MS18, which claims a jaw-dropping 100,000 lumens. However, many huge claims like this are questionable. The brightest flashlight I have tested is the Fenix LR50R. It blasts out a verifiable 12,000 lumens and lights objects clearly up to 950 yards away!

What does ‘EDC flashlight’ mean?

EDC is an acronym for “everyday carry.” It refers to the items that you carry around with you on an ongoing basis.

As a philosophy, EDC is built on utility and being prepared for anything. In this case, it represents a flashlight you carry every day with you in case you ever need light in a dark environment.

What is the best EDC flashlight?

First and foremost, you’ll want a small flashlight that’ll fit in your pocket, clip to your belt, or fit in your daypack. After that, look for a flashlight with good brightness, long battery life, and easy operation.

1,000 to 2,000 lumens is plenty bright for an EDC. That should give you enough juice to see objects 200 to 300 yards away. Our top choice for everyday carry is the Nitecore EDC27.

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Sean McCoy

2,609 articles

Sean McCoy is the Editorial Director of GearJunkie, and 5+ other AllGear websites.

He has been writing about hunting, fishing, trail running, camping, skiing, and more for 15+ years.

Prior to GearJunkie, he was the chief photographer for the Virgin Islands Daily News and former editor-in-chief for GearJunkie. Based in Denver, Colo., McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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