The 10 Best Flashlights
10. EcoGear FX TK120X
9. ThorFire C8s
8. Streamlight TLR-1
7. ThruNite TN4A
6. Nitecore Tiny Monster TM26
5. Streamlight ProTAC HL
4. SureFire Defender Series
3. Coast HP7
2. ThruNite Archer 1A 178
1. Maglite ML300L
Where The Light Comes From
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 flood light.
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.
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 setting 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.
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.