The 10 Best Flashlights
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Shed some light on any poorly illuminated situation with one of these compact and highly portable flashlights. With sizes ranging from modest to mighty, and light outputs going up to thousands of lumens, we've included models ideal for just about any purpose. Stick one in your backpack, purse, or pocket when walking, camping, or hiking or in your vehicle for emergencies. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 18, 2020:
The Maglite ML300L continues to be a top performer, as well as units from ThruNite and Streamlight, but we thought this list could do with a few more budget-friendly models for those who don't need EDC options with tons of features. Families like the EverBrite Handheld Torch for their colorful construction and grippy rubber sheaths, and they provide moderate brightness suitable for power outages, kid's activities, camping trips, and dog walks after sundown.
We also brought on the GearLight Emergency, a two-pack of useful and highly-functional torches that aren't quite as small as pocket flashlights, but come close. They aren't as hardcore as something like the Streamlight TLR-1, but they're rated for a maximum output of 1040 lumens. However, in actual use, the output ranges from 300 to 800 lumens depending on the battery type (lithium, NiMH, or alkaline), strength, operating temperature, and other factors.
Finally, for those who want something feature-rich and long-lasting, we added the Olight Warrior X Pro, a rechargeable option perfect for outdoor use. It offers efficient charging, a redesigned raised tactical tail switch with strong magnetism, aggressive body knurling, waterproof properties, high lumen output and throw, and handy extras like a pocket clip, lanyard, and holster.
December 11, 2019:
At this time, we still like the perennially popular Maglite ML300L as a top choice for most users. It comes in several sizes, and although it isn't a souped up tactical flashlight, it is fine for everyday, general use (and priced appropriately, too). We've selected the ThruNite TC12 V2 in place of the ThruNite Archer 1A 178, however. The TC12 is slightly more expensive, but it has more than double the lumen output and makes an excellent EDC choice for just about anyone. We selected the Anker Bolder LC90 as a more budget-friendly alternative, but it may not be as durable over the long run. If these still don't offer enough power and illumination, there's the Nitecore Tiny Monster TM26GT, taking the place of the now-discontinued Nitecore Tiny Monster TM26. It is a beast, just as its name suggests, and has the robust price tag to match. Finally, we opted to add one flashlight for water activities such as boating, the Dorcy Waterproof Floating. It doesn't have tons of fancy features, but it floats for your peace of mind.
Imalent MS18 For most day-to-day applications, the Imalent MS18 is both too pricey and too powerful, but if you need the brightest option you can find, its 100,000 lumens will be perfect. Offering eight output levels, it gives you plenty of control over both the illumination and runtime. imalentlight.com
Fenix RC40 If you'd like the ability to see far into the night, consider the Fenix RC40 and its beam distance of over 2,300 feet. It achieves this thanks to 6,000 lumens and a convenient integrated battery pack that charges efficiently and well. fenixlighting.com
Muyshondt Flieger The flagship model of luxury portable torch brand Muyshondt, the Flieger is crafted from ultralight, ultra-durable titanium, with a range of 1-720 lumens across five intensities. It's completely weather-sealed for use in all conditions, features a simple push-button operation, and is outfitted with a synthetically grown sapphire crystal lens. muyshondt.net
Where The Light Comes From
What helps to both redirect and magnify the light from that bulb, however, is a concave reflector on the inside of the flashlight head.
Flashlights, often called torches in other parts of the world, are such simple devices that their genius can easily be overlooked.
All they really do is take a charge from a battery or set of batteries and convert it into light through a simple circuit and a little bulb of tungsten, halogen, or LED.
It's a head-slapping, "duh"-inducing setup, but the devices that existed before the flashlight came about were so much less efficient and so much more dangerous.
It would be one thing if all a flashlight did was to light up a little bulb and let it do its thing. What helps to both redirect and magnify the light from that bulb, however, is a concave reflector on the inside of the flashlight head.
Often, this reflective material works in concert with a kind of zoom lens you can manipulate to change the intensity of your light from that of a powerful spot to a more evenly distributed floodlight.
That light is often measured in lumens (lm), thanks to a recent marketing strategy that's really caught on in the last decade or so.
It's a simple and popular way to understand how bright your flashlight can get, but it doesn't correlate directly to the distance the light can travel once you put a lens in front of it and a reflector behind it. Generally speaking, though, more lumens is a good thing.
Carry The Torch If You Can
There is no shortage of options when it comes to selecting a flashlight for your home, or work, or for recreation. I have my plethora of personal biases about what makes a good flashlight, and I certainly have my particular set of intended uses.
But I'm more concerned with what's going to be most useful to you than evangelizing for one style of torch. That said, I think a little perspective, some common sense about flashlights, if you will, would be of use.
Are you a law enforcement official looking for just the right light source while on the job?
There's a saying in the camera industry that the best camera is the one you've got on you. That idea is one of the primary drivers that continues to see high-tech camera developments in the world of cell phones.
The same is true of your flashlight, and if you're getting it to keep in your car for emergencies or to take camping with you, a light that's too big, or that has too short a battery life, is useless to you. Those giant, superpowered flashlights, for example, have no place in the woods or in your Winnebago.
Take a second to think about what you actually want to do with the thing. Are you a law enforcement official looking for just the right light source while on the job? You might want something large and ruggedly-made, with strong bezels that can be used to smash windows or for personal defense.
Perhaps you're a hunter in need of a light that tailors itself for different settings and environments, such as the woods in early dawn or the mountains at dusk. You'll want something versatile and with a few different brightness functions, including high, low, and even strobe.
Shine On, You Crazy Flashlight
What you're looking at here is one of, if not the, first flashlight ever invented. Before this little puppy came along, people lit the way with actual torches, candles, and lanterns running on oil.
Sure, flashlights have gotten stronger and more efficient, but at its core it's still just batteries, bulb, lens, and switch.
That flashlight there was invented in 1898 by the owner of the Eveready Battery Company, whose batteries took after the early dry cell designs that only came out a decade or so before. In fact, it was a pretty short span from the inventions of both the bulb and the battery to the invention of the flashlight.
It's original purpose? Lighting up flowers. That's right. These lights were designed, at least according to legend, to light up flowerpots containing prized flora during the midnight hours.
Other than their intended use, not a lot has changed about the designs through the last century. Sure, flashlights have gotten stronger and more efficient, but at its core it's still just batteries, bulb, lens, and switch.
Indeed, and although you wouldn't think it by looking at it, inventions like the first flashlight more or less torpedoed the whaling industry, the primary purpose of which (you have no idea how tempted I was to write 'porpoise' just now) was to provide oil as fuel for light.
You know what? Once you do get yourself a nice flashlight, make like a kid trying to stay up past his or her bedtime and huddle with it under the covers reading Moby Dick. You'll thank me later.