Whether you're experiencing a power outage, venturing out on a camping trip, or looking to fix a leaky pipe under your kitchen sink, a flashlight is an essential tool to have on hand.
According to Greg Atwell, president of BrightGuy, Inc., flashlight brightness is one of the top considerations but so is how long the flashlight can operate. "When it comes to the brightness of a flashlight, I also like to consider runtime," says Atwell. "Assuming two flashlights use the same battery type, a brighter flashlight will have a shorter runtime. A flashlight with an output of 500-1000 lumens will offer a nice combination of brightness and runtime."
We researched dozens of flashlights, evaluating brightness, durability, battery life, and weight.
Here are the best flashlights.
Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC40 Flashlight
Five different lighting modes
Sturdy and lightweight design
Long-lasting rechargeable battery
Can auto-turn on to last-used brightness
Required adapter not included
Not a ton of features
No battery level indicator
The Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC40 Flashlight earns our top spot because of its well-rounded portable power. It packs impressive battery life and 400-lumen lighting power into a compact, sturdy package. Our tester loved the flashlight's comfortable grip and memory mode that automatically turns it to its last-used lighting mode.
While this flashlight takes six hours to charge fully, it lasts up to 20 hours on medium mode. Unfortunately, you'll have to provide your own 5-volt adapter required for charging. The rechargeable battery is also not replaceable, but it does have a 50,000-hour lifespan. Luckily, the battery isn't the only thing built to last. The aluminum case is strong enough to withstand drops, is water- and dust-resistant, and can tolerate cold temperatures as low as 14 degrees.
The flashlight has high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS light modes. A single button press is enough to turn the flashlight on and switch the modes, but you need to hold the button down to turn it off. Beyond those five settings, the flashlight doesn't have many extra features, which is ideal if you're looking for a simple flashlight with straightforward and easy-to-use controls.
Price at time of publish: $30
Power Source: Rechargeable battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: 400 lumens | Dimensions: 5.04 x 1.3 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 4.3 ounces
Outlite S1000 Portable Handheld LED Flashlight
Five light modes
Rugged, water-resistant design
Compact and easy to manage
Battery can drain quickly
Exact lumen output unspecified
The Outlite S1000 Portable Handheld LED Flashlight offers bright light and flexible control over its intensity and flow. It's compact and lightweight but robust enough to handle the rugged outdoors, thanks to its aluminum alloy casing, water-resistant design, and ability to withstand 10-foot drops.
The flashlight has five different light modes: high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS. The strobe mode will flash the light faster, while the SOS mode will flash at a slower pace. While the lumen output is lower than other models, you also can zoom in and focus your light, which will produce a narrow spotlight that can stretch out up to 656 feet (200 meters). You can also zoom out and widely spread your light over a greater surface area.
The S1000 is your model if you're looking for a durable, budget-friendly, and feature-packed flashlight for your next outdoor adventure. However, it would be wise to keep a spare set of batteries for longer excursions since users note that the battery can deplete quickly.
Power Source: Three AAA batteries or one 18650 battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: Not listed | Dimensions: 5.35 x 1.33 x 1.33 inches | Weight: 5.3 ounces
Anker Bolder LC130 LED Flashlight
Durable and heavyweight for rugged tasks
Five different light modes
Up to a 1,200-foot range
Charging port not easily accessible
Could be too heavy for everyday tasks
The Anker LC130 offers a powerful 1300 lumens for hunting or home security situations and high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS mode. Its 1,200-foot range is powerful enough to light up two football fields. Our tester appreciated the flashlight’s easy controls and setup, as well as its durable feel. The rugged, waterproof flashlight can withstand drops from at least 1 meter and will work even after submersion in water for 30 minutes.
When fully charged, it has a battery life of six hours. When it’s time to recharge, you have to unscrew the tail cap to access the USB port. While this may seem like a hassle, it’s necessary to keep the flashlight water-resistant. Even with an aluminum body, it weighs in at over 1 pound. If you’re looking for a flashlight for leisurely night walks or retrieving something from basement storage, you may want to opt for something lighter.
Price at time of publish: $60
Power Source: Rechargeable battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: 1300 lumens | Dimensions: 7.09 x 2.36 x 2.36 | Weight: 1.05 pounds
OLIGHT Warrior X Pro Superior Tactical Thrower
Battery level indicator
Impressive maximum brightness
Pricier than alternatives
Heavier than other options
Shorter battery life on High mode
If you're interested in a tough tactical flashlight for outdoor or other uses, the OLIGHT Warrior X Pro Superior Tactical Thrower combines ruggedness with several impressive features. This IPX8 waterproof and drop-proof (up to 3 meters) device features a durable aluminum alloy construction with details like a knurling pattern to provide slip-free grip. It offers a maximum brightness of 2100 lumens on high, though the runtime is capped at two minutes on this mode. Low mode lasts longer at around eight hours and produces 300 lumens.
Choosing between lighting modes is easy, thanks to the responsive tactical tail switch, and so is staying aware of the battery life. A flashing indicator illuminates rapidly to let you know when the internal rechargeable battery needs a jolt. Another plus is that the provided charging cable is magnetic and offers easy placement at the base of the device. While all of this functionality and ruggedness comes at a more premium cost and heavier overall weight than alternatives, this could be a high-performing flashlight to keep in your emergency bag.
Price at time of publish: $120
Best Everyday Carry
Olight I3T EOS 180 Flashlight
Great brightness on high mode
Slim and lightweight
Secure grip and pocket clip for easy carrying
Operates on only 1 AAA battery
Only two light modes
Short battery life when using the high mode
The Olight I3T EOS 180 is a compact and portable flashlight ideal for everyday carrying. Its 3.5-inch long and 1.4-ounce build is light and slim, and the rotating, dual-direction pocket clip makes toting this flashlight easy. The double helix body knurling also offers solid grip control.
It’s effective and efficient, too. It requires only one AAA battery and has two different brightness modes, with the lowest brightness at 5 lumens and the highest brightness jumping up to 180 lumens. On high mode, the battery lasts only 21 minutes. However, the battery will last for 16 hours while operating on low mode. Fortunately, for everyday use, the low mode should be sufficient. While other flashlights offer additional lighting modes and longer battery life, it’s hard to beat the portability of the Olight I3T.
Price at time of publish: $20
Power Source: One AAA battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: 180 lumens | Dimensions: 3.5 x 0.59 x 0.59 inches | Weight: 1.4 ounces
OLIGHT Seeker 3 Pro Bright Flashlight
Easy knob controls
Brightness and battery life indicators
Sensor prevents overheating
Smart locking/unlocking feature
Can be too bright for certain uses
The Olight Seeker 3 Pro Flashlight packs powerful brightness into a durable, rechargeable, and feature-packed design. This flashlight is drop- and waterproof and produces a light beam that extends up to 250 feet outward. The brightness is easily adjustable via the handy rotary knob, which allows you to switch between the five different brightness modes, with 5 lumens being the lowest brightness option and a whopping 4200 lumens being the highest. It also relies on sensors to automatically lower the light’s brightness if the lens becomes blocked or the flashlight begins to overheat and locks on its own after 30 seconds.
Monitoring your flashlight is a breeze, thanks to the brightness level and battery life gauges on the rotary knob. You can expect up to 15 days of use before needing to recharge this flashlight via the included USB magnetic cable. You may find this flashlight’s brightness and additional functions to be more than you need. However, the Seeker 3 Pro is ideal if you want a user-friendly, rugged model with a lot of built-in features.
Price at time of publish: $140
Power Source: Rechargeable battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: 4200 lumens | Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.38 x 1.1 inches | Weight: 7.06 ounces
Fenix E12 V2.0 AA Flashlight
Three different brightness levels
Requires only one AA battery
IP68 durability rating
Turns on to lowest brightness setting
Not as powerful as larger models
If you enjoy outdoor activities and want a compact, rugged flashlight to carry, you might want to consider the Fenix E12 V2.0 flashlight. Like most of the selections from Fenix, this model is IP68 rated, which means it’s dustproof and able to handle submersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. This ultra-light flashlight takes a single AA battery and produces 160 lumens on high, 30 lumens on medium, and 5 lumens on low mode.
In addition to the light, durable build, the aircraft-grade aluminum body has a knurled finish so it won’t slip from your grip, and the built-in overheat protection prevents it from getting hot to the touch. It’s a mini flashlight, however, so it will not provide you with the same lighting power as a full-sized option. Also, keep in mind that the light defaults to the lowest brightness setting upon turning it on. However, its compact size, lightweight design, and adjustable pocket clip make it easy to take with you anywhere.
Price at time of publish: $31
Power Source: One AA battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: 160 lumens | Dimensions: 3.06 x 0.75 x 0.69 inches | Weight: 1.8 ounces
Thorfire Cap Hat Light
Clip for hands-free usage
Rotatable light head
Location of power button
May not be bright enough for certain tasks
At just a little over an ounce and a couple of inches long, you’ll barely notice that you have this Thorfire Cap Hat Light clipped to your cap, jacket, or waistband. The five 30-lumen LED lights brightly illuminate your immediate area, making it ideal for campers, fishers, or runners who want to light their path without disturbing their surroundings, and it won’t fully blind you should you look right at it.
The uniform beam doesn’t flicker and won’t distort colors. You can rotate the head 90 degrees to be horizontal or vertical. The light runs on two CR2032 button batteries and gives up to 4 hours of working time. Unfortunately, the on/off button, located on the clip, can be difficult to find at first. It’s also very small, and it won’t produce the level of bright light you may desire for heavier-duty, rugged outdoor tasks.
Power Source: Battery | Light Type: LED | Brightness: 30 lumens | Dimensions: 2 x 2,2 x 0.36 inches | Weight: 1.13 ounces
Our top pick is the Anker Bolder LC40 Flashlight, an affordable, bright, and easy-to-carry flashlight that has a rechargeable battery with an impressive lifespan. For an affordable flashlight to always keep handy, we recommend the Outlite S1000 Handheld Flashlight. It's compact, durable, and powerful for its size.
What to Look For in a Flashlight
"A manufacturer can measure light output in different ways," says Atwell. "A buyer should look for flashlights that are ANSI FL1 rated to make an accurate comparison. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) established guidelines for flashlight manufacturers to measure light output, beam distance, and a few other variables."
One of the most common measures of light output is brightness in lumens. The more lumens, the brighter the beam. A compact flashlight with 100 lumens or less will get the job done for a flashlight to illuminate items nearby. But if you want a powerful flashlight to light up your path at night or illuminate a large area, look for 500 to 1000 lumens or more.
How far that light reaches is referred to as beam distance. "When a buyer is looking for a flashlight, they should consider how it will be used. As an example, if the use is to walk your dog, it might be better to have a flashlight with a broader beam for wide illumination of your path," explains Atwell. "Generally, a flashlight that offers a long beam range will offer less peripheral light. The flashlight needs to concentrate more of the beam onto a small point to get a long beam range. When the light beam is focused, it offers less peripheral light."
Battery life is important to consider for reliable use. If you opt for a flashlight that operates on batteries, you won't have to worry about recharging the model. However, you will need to replace the batteries at some point. Models with a rechargeable internal battery may require recharging after a couple of hours or less, especially on brighter, more battery-heavy modes. Some rechargeable units offer extended battery life on the lowest light settings or the option to use another backup battery option to ensure the flashlight always has sufficient power.
If you’re looking for a flashlight that you’ll frequently carry with you while backpacking, hiking, or camping, you may want to look for a powerful yet lightweight everyday carry model that weighs a few ounces. Many are pocket-sized and feature clips for easier carrying. If you’re looking for the most durable and long-lasting flashlight, heftier tactical flashlights could be the better option. These models can weigh a pound or more but come with heavy-duty metal housing and longer-lasting batteries.
Why won't a flashlight turn on?
"The most common problem between the switch, LED, and the battery is a dead or damaged battery," says Atwell. "If the flashlight runs on alkaline batteries, you will want to make sure the batteries have not leaked inside the flashlight." If replacing the batteries doesn’t solve the problem, it may be that the metal contact points on the on/off switch have become corroded, the inside of the flashlight is dusty or dirty, or the rubber O-rings inside are worn out. You can try cleaning the battery compartment and metal contact points with vinegar and adding silicone lubricant on the O-rings to see if that helps before replacing your existing flashlight.
When were flashlights invented?
The invention of the flashlight followed on the heels of the invention of the dry cell battery and the incandescent lightbulb in the late 1800s. In 1899, a British inventor named David Misell took out a US patent on the first flashlight. He sold it to Conrad Hubert of the American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company, which later changed its name to the Eveready® brand we know today.
Can a flashlight start a fire?
Most flashlights don’t emit enough lumens to start a fire on their own. Some turbo-charged firestarter torch lights on the market that exude up to 2300 lumens with halogen bulbs are capable of starting fires that are obviously to be used with the utmost caution. "Yes, it is possible if you know exactly what you’re doing," says Cliff Jacobson, an outdoor expert and consultant. However, he recommends a lighter and knife for deep-woods excursions. "Making fire without a knife isn’t easy even when you know exactly what you’re doing," says Jacobson. "Without a knife, making tinder is on the hard side of difficult. Bottom line: Forget 'fire with a flashlight.' Carry a lighter!"
Why Trust The Spruce?
This piece was written by Sarah Toscano, a commerce writer specializing in smart home and home tech content for The Spruce. She scoured scores of customer reviews and discussion forums, watched dozens of video demonstrations, and meticulously analyzed each product's specs to properly contribute to this article.
Yoona Wagener, The Spruce's smart home and technology commerce editor, offered additional reporting. She also consulted with Cliff Jacobson, an outdoor writer, consultant, and Distinguished Eagle Scout, and Greg Atwell, the president of BrightGuy, Inc., who offered insights into important buying considerations such as flashlight brightness, beam distance, and runtime.