When it’s time to light up the night, a good flashlight is an essential for household emergency kits. One of your main considerations should be whether you want a model that runs on disposable or rechargeable batteries – the former is typically cheaper, and you won’t ever have to wait for a recharge, but using the latter means you won’t be fumbling for yet another set of AAs every couple of weeks.
Another big buying consideration is brightness. Though one way to judge this is by how many lumens a... flashlight has, experts note that other factors including beam distance and intensity affect how bright a flashlight seems, too. Still, lumens can be a handy way to compare flashlights on first blush. Don’t forget to consider lifestyle factors, too, like whether you want something that is compact enough to fit in your pocket or clip onto a belt, or whether you’re around water or out in the rain and want a flashlight that can withstand a deluge.
Still need help? Here are some of our favorite flashlights:
If you need an all-around solid flashlight, plenty of reviewers are willing to vouch for the ThruNite Archer 2A V3. Powered by two AA batteries, its maximum output is 500 lumens – more than enough for a nighttime walk through the woods – with an impressive maximum beam distance of 118 yards. Experts at The Sweethome say this is the one to beat for its combination of ease of use, brightness and value.
This ThruNite Archer is relatively light at 1.7 ounces, and it has four brightness settings and a strobe function. Experts particularly love the “Firefly” setting, which turns on a gentle, low light that won’t blind you once your eyes are adjusted to the dark. Other features include an aircraft-grade aluminum body that won’t roll around on a table and can stand up on its end, water resistance up to 1.5 meters, a momentary-on setting when you just need a quick light, and brightness memory. Runtime ranges from 17 hours on low to 100 minutes on high. The two-button controls are intuitive and easy to use, owners say, but some say it stopped working after a drop or report other durability issues.
If you just want a cheaper flashlight for use around the home, there’s no need to overspend. Thousands of owners say there are lots of reasons the J5 Tactical V1-Pro is a best-seller, but first among them is the reasonable price. Powered by a single AA battery, its maximum output is 300 lumens with a beam distance of 600 feet. This light is also able to fit in the palm of your hand or even a large pocket, but it’s heavier than the ThruNite Archer at 2.3 ounces.
There are two lighting modes on this flashlight, high and low, plus a strobe function. Other features include adjustable focus – you can zoom in or widen the beam. On high, it should last at least an hour, though a few weeks is more typical under normal use. You can even power it with a 14500 rechargeable battery if that’s more convenient than going through a stream of disposables. It is water-resistant but shouldn’t be submerged. Reviewers say the one-button operation can’t be any simpler, but some complain that the beam could be stronger, while others report quality-control issues.
If you need a tried-and-true flashlight that is small enough to fit in your junk drawer or glove compartment, it’s hard to go wrong with the Maglite Mini Pro. Powered by two AA batteries, the Mini Maglite can throw a beam up to 163 meters and has a maximum output of 272 lumens. It’s also water- and drop-resistant.
The Sweethome notes that it doesn’t get much more basic than the Mini Maglite – you twist the head to turn it on and off. There is a single brightness setting. Note that though it’s only 6 inches long, the light is a bit heavier than others at 4.15 ounces including the batteries. Runtime is about 2.5 hours. Maglite touts its “superior quality craftsmanship,” and owners agree that the aluminum body is quite sturdy; many say they’ve had their Maglites for years. Some owners say they’ve had issues with the light flickering off, however.
If you need a flashlight that’s as bright as possible, the Elite Tactical Pro 300 Series fits the bill. It has a powerful maximum output of 1,200 lumens – great for outdoors applications where you need as much light as you can get. It’s also powered by a convenient rechargeable battery, so you can use it without depleting your stash of AAs.
The Elite Tactical is waterproof and shock-proof, so you don’t need to worry about using it (or dropping it) in inclement weather. Its beam is also zoomable, letting users focus in on certain objects or areas. There are three light settings – low, medium, and high – as well as strobe and S.O.S. modes for drawing attention during emergencies. It weighs just over a pound and features simple one-button operation. Most users say the brightness is great, especially for the price, though there are some who say they don’t think it’s quite as bright as advertised.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
If you do a lot of camping or boating and need a robust light that can stand to get wet, try out the Stanley FL5W10 Waterproof Spotlight. It’s submersible up to an impressive 6 feet, and it also will float in water with the light beam pointing up. Maximum output is 520 lumens, and it’s powered by a rechargeable NiMH battery.
Unlike traditional flashlights, this Stanley has an ergonomic grip that extends down from the light and a trigger-like button – on first glance, the design is similar to that of a hair dryer. There are two light modes, high and low, and it includes a home and car charger. Runtime is up to 14 hours on a full charge. It’s heavier than a flashlight at 1.8 pounds, but fairly light when compared with other spotlights. Most owners say it’s sturdily built and bright enough for long-distance needs; they also love not having to worry about it during rainy or wet conditions. But there are some users who say it stopped working after a few weeks or months.
If you simply need a flashlight that cannot fail, the Streamlight 74751 Strion is pricey, but professional-grade – it’s often recommended by police officers, for instance. It has a maximum output of 500 lumens and can throw a beam up to 200 meters. It’s also powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will last from one to more than three hours, depending on brightness.
This flashlight is water-resistant, shockproof, and made of aircraft-grade anodized aluminum. It won’t roll away when you set it on a table, and the ribbed body is easy to grip. There are three light levels – low, medium, and high – as well as a strobe function. The battery can be recharged 1,000 times and the LED light should last at least 50,000 hours. Users say that it’s reliable above all else, though there are a few who report faulty on/off switches.
If you need reliable, hands-free light for a defined area but still want the precision of a flashlight for other uses, a lantern flashlight like the Samlite 4-in-1 Rechargeable LED Lantern Flashlight can give you the best of both worlds. This powerful model has a maximum brightness of 530 lumens and an impressive beam distance of 530 meters. It runs on two lithium-ion batteries.
The Samlite has a lot of slick features. First, it doubles as a charger for other USB-compatible electronic devices, and the light’s charging cord stores right in the flashlight handle. It also comes with a hands-free shoulder strap and hanging loop for use as a lantern. Modes include high, low and strobe, and users can choose 180- or 360-degree light when using the Samlite as a lantern. Runtime ranges from three hours on high as a flashlight to 30 hours on low as a lantern. At 7 inches long, 4 inches wide and 1.1 pounds, it’s also relatively compact. Owners love the versatility of this model and report few complaints, and it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
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