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When it’s time to light up the night, a good flashlight is a must 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. We did the research to find the best flashlights on the market, so you can find the right one for your needs.
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.
"While the high setting is very bright, we would caution anyone from using it for an extended period of time. When we left the flashlight on at that setting, it would run for about an hour and a half before the batteries would die."—Brie Dyas, Product Tester
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 tactical flashlight that’s as bright as possible, the Anker Ultra-Bright Tactical Flashlight fits the bill. And if you’re put off by the cost, you only need to look at the reviews for this item to know it delivers premium performance to match the price. The Anker Tactical Flashlight is equipped with three ultra-bright LED bulbs that have a powerful maximum output of 1,300 lumens. That makes it great for outdoor applications where you need as much light as you can get—and the 1,200-foot beam is hard to beat in a flashlight this size. It’s also powered by a convenient USB-rechargeable battery (included), so you can use it without depleting your stash of AAs. This flashlight takes eight hours to fully charge and lasts up to six hours of continuous use without dimming.
The Anker Tactical Flashlight is waterproof and shock-resistant, so you don’t need to worry about using it (or dropping it) in inclement weather. It also has a wrist strap for easy carrying. 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 is seven inches long, making it a manageable size for your glove compartment or camping pack.
"The LC130 is a very durable flashlight. It can be safely dropped from heights up to a meter. We dropped it from a much loftier height (a two-story staircase!), and the flashlight didn’t show any signs of damage."—Brie Dyas, Product Tester
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 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 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 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.
If you’re searching for the ideal “everyday carry” (EDC) flashlight, then this ultra-compact offering from OLIGHT might just be the perfect fit. At only 4.5 inches long and weighing 0.16 ounces, this tiny flashlight comes equipped with its own keyring so you can easily attach it to the keys you already carry in your pocket or purse. The head of the flashlight twists to turn on and off, and even though it’s powered by just one AAA battery (included), the OLIGHT produces a surprising 90 lumens of brightness with a 44-meter beam, which makes it exceptionally powerful for its size. It's also brighter and more reliable than your phone's flashlight, and it won't drain valuable phone battery in the event of an emergency.
The OLIGHT i3E EOS is fully waterproof and shock-resistant up to a 1.5-meter drop. It's ruggedness and compact size means it can provide some much-needed light in all kinds of situations, from simply unlocking your front door at night to changing an unexpected flat tire. Add this tiny flashlight to your EDC and you’ll always be prepared.
For a bright, reliable, and waterproof flashlight, we recommend the ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Flashlight. Although it’s lightweight, it has an impressive maximum beam distance of 118 yards. However, if you’re looking for a tactical flashlight that is as bright as possible, go with the Anker LC130 Ultra Bright Tactical Flashlight.
Brightness The light output of a flashlight is measured in lumens. The more lumens, the brighter the beam. How far that light reaches is referred to as “beam distance.” For a flashlight to illuminate items nearby, a compact flashlight with 100 lumens or less will get the job done. But if you want a powerful flashlight to light up your path at night or illuminate a large area, look for 500 to 1,000 lumens or more.
Battery life Note the battery life of any flashlight model you’re considering so that you don’t accidentally end up in the dark! Most flashlights run on battery power and will need to have the batteries replaced or recharged at regular intervals. Some models have adjustable light settings, and a lower brightness setting can be used to stretch battery life further. It’s typical for most flashlights to last at least a few hours before needing a battery refresh.
Weight Some flashlights are light as a feather and weigh just a few ounces, while heftier versions can withstand more wear and tear but may weigh over a pound. 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 model. If you’re looking for the most durable and long-lasting flashlight, you might have to settle for a model with heavy-duty metal housing and a powerful battery that adds a little weight but pays off in longevity.