The best camping flashlights to light the way

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

Best Overall

Fenix HM61R

Fenix HM61R

Best Value



Editor’s Choice

Fenix PD40R

Fenix PD40R

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In the mountains of northwest Montana, the rains of spring are washing away memories of fresh-powder skiing and days spent snowshoeing under clear blue skies as winter slowly releases its grip on Flathead Valley. While the peaks of the Lewis range will remain crowned with snow for many months, it’s time to begin making plans for summer. The anticipation of days spent camping in the backcountry steadily grows as sunlight lingers a bit longer each passing day.

The seasoned adventurer will make good use of the remaining days of spring to carefully review, maintain, and if appropriate, upgrade their kit to ensure maximum enjoyment in the field.  Despite the longer days and warmer nights, a key piece of gear for any camping endeavor is the humble, but essential, flashlight.

In this article, we will cover in depth the best camping flashlights. To facilitate the discussion and narrow the field of possibilities to a more manageable size, we will consider only vehicle-dependent camping scenarios, which presumes that weight is not a major consideration and external power sources are available to some degree.


From illuminating things that go bump in the night to telling ghost stories by the fire, the camping flashlight must fulfill many roles. While it may be tempting to buy something inexpensive and expedient at the nearest big box store, we will take a more measured approach, and define five key requirements for the best camping flashlight.

  1. LED illumination: There is simply no reason to purchase a flashlight with an incandescent bulb anymore. LEDs are brighter, more efficient, and will last thousands of hours longer than any other bulb design.
  1. Variable output: A light that can produce 1,000, 2,000, or even more lumens at full power is certainly impressive; however, many situations such as reading a good book under the stars or answering the call of nature at 2 a.m. warrant a much lower level of illumination. Accordingly, we will focus on flashlights that provide multiple brightness settings, ideally ones that offer three orders of magnitude in brightness range (e.g., 1,000 lumens to one lumen).
  1. Field-rechargeable: Non-rechargeable batteries are expensive and environmentally wasteful, and carrying spare batteries takes up unnecessary space. We will focus on flashlights that use Li-ion which can be recharged using a standard USB-A connector.  Our vehicle-dependent camping scenario ensures that the flashlight can be recharged via a USB port within the vehicle itself or using a standalone battery pack of the type used to charge smartphones and other mobile devices.
  1. Rugged construction: Whether rattling around in an empty ammo can or being dropped on granite, camping flashlights can really take a beating. We will focus on lights made from durable materials such as aircraft grade aluminum or rugged polymers.
  1. Ingress protection (IP): Protection against dust, mud, rain, snow, and the occasional drop in an alpine lake is a key requirement. We’ll stop short of going into dive light territory, but ingress protection is essential.

Satisfying all of these requirements will mean a focus on the higher end of the price range for flashlights, but based on our experience here at Task & Purpose, it is generally preferred to “buy once, cry once” by purchasing a quality product that lasts for many years of vigorous use.

Best Overall

Fenix HM61R

Best Value

Nitecore MH11

Editor’s Choice

Fenix PD40R

Most Powerful

Fenix LR35R

Best Tail Switch

Thrunite TT20

Best Tactical Practical

Nitecore P20iX

Our verdict on camping flashlights

While many of us at Task & Purpose have fond memories of camping with just a plastic D-cell flashlight from K-mart, it’s safe to say that flashlight technology has advanced significantly since those halcyon days of yesteryear. Efficient LED emitters, computer-designed reflectors, and high-capacity batteries have created a revolution in lighting technology. Our top three picks, the Fenix HM61R, Nitecore MH11, and Fenix PD40R represent the most versatile, best value, and editor’s choice, respectively, and cover a multitude of use cases.  

The Fenix HM61R was selected for extreme versatility in both methods of use and modes of illumination. The author uses a light of similar design in nearly all outdoor pursuits for this very reason.

The Nitecore MH11 is a solid, middle-of-the-road contender for budget-conscious buyers at roughly half the price of all the other lights that we reviewed.

The Fenix PD40R won our editor’s choice selection for design efficiency both in terms of ease of operation and the performance of the LED, reflector, lens, and power regulator, which combined, convert 3,000 lumens of potential brightness to a peak beam intensity of over 40,000 candela, the second highest rating of all the lights that we reviewed. For more details on this, please refer to the section on luminous flux versus luminous intensity below.  

As always, we welcome feedback from each of you, our valued readers and fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts with us.

What to consider when buying a camping flashlight

In addition to the requirements outlined above, it’s important to keep the following factors in mind when selecting a camping flashlight.

Luminous flux vs luminous intensity

Most flashlights are marketed based on their advertised brightness in lumens; however, this is misleading, usually intentionally. A lumen is the International System of Units (SI unit) for luminous flux, which is a measure of the total amount of light radiated by a source, but without consideration for angle or distance. 

Consider a point isotropic light source like a candle radiating “x” lumens in all directions. If we place that same candle in front of an ideal reflector, then the brightness of the light perceived by a target in front of the reflector will be considerably higher than before. This characteristic is called luminous intensity, informally called peak beam intensity by manufacturers, and is measured in candela. 

Luminous flux is a characteristic of the source (an LED in the case of camping flashlights) while the ability to convert the light into a focused beam — the luminous intensity — is a function of the reflector design, lens efficiency, and other parameters such as the user’s preference for flood versus spot output.

The table below shows the luminous flux (aka brightness) and luminous intensity (aka peak beam intensity) for all of the lights we reviewed. In the case of the Nitecore P20iX, even though the LED produces 4,000 lumens of output, the target perceives only 12,200 candela, and the light can only illuminate objects 200 meters distant. In contrast, the Fenix PD40R generates only 3,000 lumens of output but is capable of converting that raw light into 40,576 candela, a 230 percent increase with 25 percent less power.

Brightness (lumens)11200100010000300025264000
Peak Beam Intensity (cd)5287915063200405761665012200
Peak Beam Distance (m)145190500400258200
Note: The manufacturer’s term “brightness” is more correctly labeled luminous flux

Thermal protection

All of the flashlights we reviewed employ a thermal protection circuit to prevent damage to the LED due to overheating. This is generally a consideration at the higher brightness setting, although prolonged use at medium levels can also activate the circuit. In all cases, the maximum brightness values for each light are specified before the thermal protection circuit begins to ramp down the light output. This generally occurs within 30 seconds to a few minutes depending on the power output, power regulator, and radiator efficiency. The ramp-down curve of the thermal protection circuit for each light can usually be found in the user manual for each light.  

Recharging options

All of the lights we reviewed use either a USB-C port or a sealed magnetic port (as in the case of the Fenix HM61R) for charging. We intentionally excluded flashlights that have legacy USB micro connectors due to the likely near-term obsolescence of these connectors and their slower recharge rates.

Camping flashlight pricing

As with many gear choices, you get what you pay for when it comes to selecting a camping flashlight. That said, due to the rate of change in technology, the budget flashlights of today often have many of the flagship features of just five years ago.


A quality camping flashlight in this category like the Nitecore MH11 will generally run around $50 at the time of writing. At that price point, buyers can expect to receive an older-generation LED with a brightness of around 1,000 lumens powered by an 18,650 Li-ion battery of 2,500 to 3,500 mAh of capacity. There is generally little correlation between the number of brightness settings and price with all lights offering some form of high-output “turbo” and between two and four dimmer options.


Flashlights in this category will generally feature either flexible form factors and user options like the Fenix HM61R and/or brighter LED’s, better reflectors, and larger 21700 series batteries with longer runtimes. The Fenix PD40R V2.0 is a good example in this category with 3,000 lumens of brightness and a peak beam distance of 400 meters. These lights will generally cost around $100.


A premium-grade flashlight is generally defined by dramatically higher brightness owing to multiple or improved LEDs with superior reflector designs and multiple 21700 series batteries.  The Fenix LR35R with 10,000 lumens of brightness and a peak beam distance of 500 meters is representative of the premium level in camping flashlights. These lights will generally cost upwards of $200. Even though this article is written for vehicle-dependent camping, it’s worth noting that some users may find the size of such flashlights unwieldy depending on the overall form factor chosen by the designers.

How we choose our top picks 

Our selections for this article are based on field experience with comparable products along with extensive research including reviews of manufacturer specifications, professional publications, product videos, and other sources.   

FAQs on camping flashlights

Q: Why do you need a flashlight for camping?

A: There are a variety of reasons including night hiking, setting up camp, cooking, searching for gear in the dark, and, of course, the ever-popular snipe hunt.

Q: How many lumens do I need for a camping flashlight?

A: While lumens do not directly correlate to peak beam intensity, we recommend at least 1,000 lumens for a camping flashlight.  

Q: How far will 1,000 lumens shine?

A: Lumens do not directly correlate to peak beam intensity; therefore, we recommend looking at the peak beam distance rating for each light and selecting one that can illuminate objects at least 100 meters away.

Q: Why didn’t you review ____ brand?

A: As part of our review process, we carefully reviewed product recalls and safety issues from each manufacturer. Any manufacturers with recent quality issues, especially those related to the thermal protection circuit, were excluded from consideration.


Scott Drumm Avatar

Scott Drumm

Contributing Writer

Scott Drumm served in the Navy at the Office of Naval Reactors / NAVSEA 08 where he was responsible for the design and maintenance of nuclear propulsion systems in use throughout the fleet. Scott is an alumni of Gunsite Academy and enjoys tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun training as well as precision long-range rifle shooting.  He resides in the mountains of northwest Montana and when not writing or busy with his day job, spends time backpacking and hiking the many trails of Glacier National Park.