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We’ve all been there in the dark, alone, and something goes bump in the night. Our senses heighten and, in the absence of information, our brains’ amygdalae start spooling up to get us ready to fight, flee, or freeze. Is the rustling outside a trash panda checking out thrown-out leftovers, or is a burglar about ready to break into your car? There’s only one way to find out, and that task requires light — a big, bright light.
There are thousands of flashlights on the market, and the outdoor gear reviewers here at Task & Purpose have evaluated a lot of them. We’ve been amazed at the improvements in technology over the past few years, making these useful devices brighter, more rugged, lighter, and more rechargeable and sustainable.
We take a look at dozens of flashlights every year and test them in the field and at home so we can bring you honest, independent recommendations. Over the last month, we’ve done a number of single product reviews and decided to list the best of them here. When it comes to EDC flashlights, we consider each flashlight’s brightness, size, ruggedness/construction, weight, and waterproofness. Here’s what we found.
- Best Overall: Olight Baton 3
- Best Premium: Surefire E2D Defender Ultra
- Best Value: Streamlight MicroStream
- Budget Buy: Coast G20 inspection light
- Best Utility: Streamlight ProTac 1L-1AA
- Best Tactical: Streamlight Wedge
Of all the flashlights we reviewed recently, the Olight Baton 3 has emerged as the favorite. The Baton 3 casts a dazzling 1,200 lumens over 554 feet on its turbo setting. Of course, this burns battery life quickly and will also burn a hole in your pocket if you let the lens heat up too much. The Baton 3 also has a high, medium, and low setting at 300, 60 and 12 lumens respectively. On the low setting, the battery will last 33 hours. Additionally, the Baton 3 has a Moonlight 0.5 lumen setting that will allow the battery to run for 20 days. The Baton 3 was also the smallest flashlight of the lot at 2.48 inches long, and it was one of the lightest at 1.87 ounces — only bested by the Streamlight Microstream. It is rugged as hell and very well-built. The manufacturer produced this very convincing (and entertaining) torture test video to prove its durability. The Baton 3 is also the most waterproof of the lot with an IPX8 rating and it was also the second most expensive. The S clip allows the light to be carried in two positions and it’s pretty intuitive to operate. It’s also rechargeable, which we love as it keeps spent batteries out of landfills, and has a magnetic base. At a $74.95 price point, it was at the upper end of the flashlights we tested, but we think it is entirely worth it — a wise investment.
If you’re looking to dump a bunch of cash on an EDC flashlight, the Surefire E2D Defender Ultra is the ticket for you. Surefire is probably the best known name in tactical lighting, and this flashlight combines impressive performance, durable construction, and defensive features at a premium price. The hard-anodized aluminum body features a TIR lens and both the lens and bulb are protected by a tempered, impact-resistant window. The tailcap button enables you to easily switch from high to low modes and shine 1,000 lumens of light downrange on the high setting and 5 lumens on low. The E2D Defender Ultra also has a crenellated strike bezel in case you need to defend yourself, and the pocket clip allows for two-way carry. It’s a nice light at a premium price.
When you need a bright light at a low price point, the Streamlight MicroStream really delivers. It casts an impressive 250 lumens of light on its high setting and retails at less than $20. The MicroStream also has a 50 lumen low setting that runs for 3.5 hours. It’s also fairly compact at 3.8 inches, and we really loved that it was the lightest of the bunch at 1.2 ounces. It’s not as waterproof as our top picks, but still delivers a IPX4 splash-proof rating. This lower rating is likely due to the USB recharging port below the head of the flashlight. Like many of the models we’ve reviewed, the MicroStream’s S clip offers two-way carry. Dollar for dollar, this is the best value light we’ve found so far. The USB model retails for just under $30 and the AAA battery model costs about $17. We prefer the rechargeable model.
At the low bargain price of $17, the Coast G20 was the cheapest flashlight we reviewed. We didn’t like that the G20 isn’t rechargeable (runs on 2 AAA batteries), but it is easy on battery life and will run for about 10 hours. It’s also small (5.7 inches) and light (2.4 ounces) and carries an IP54 water-resistant rating, protecting it from dust and water splashing at any angle. The G20 offers a good grip and the switch is a dream. For the price, we like this little light a lot, and we’d like it even better if it were rechargeable. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect inexpensive flashlight for light duty use than the Coast G20. The light is small, sturdy, and bright, and it doesn’t turn itself on in your kit.
This middle-of-the-road flashlight will give you decent light at 350 lumens, and at $40, it won’t break the bank. We like the aluminum body and it has decent water resistance with an IPX7 rating. The battery life of this flashlight is lacking compared to other models. You’ll get about an hour and 20 minutes out of it on the high setting and on low, your lithium AA batteries will run for about 14 hours. It’s durable in construction and accepts multiple types of batteries from CR123 to AA and also has a strobe setting for dazzling opponents or busting some dazzling moves on the dance floor. Although it qualifies as a tactical light, it doesn’t have rifle-ready mounts, a pressure pad, or higher-powered illumination.
Designed for deep pocket carry, the Wedge has a flattened, compact design. It will cast 300 lumens of light for three hours on its low setting and 1,000 lumens on high. It weighs 3.3 ounces and is 5.46 inches long. We like the USB-C rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and it has an IPX7 waterproof rating. Its thin ergonomic design fits comfortably in the hand and the exterior is grooved for a secure grip. The activation switch is easy to use in either hand and designed to prevent unintentional activation. It also has a charge level indicator built into the activation switch. Our Travis Pike vouches for it as an outstanding EDC light.
Why you should trust us
The reviewers here at Task & Purpose test the products we review at home and in the field. We have years of experience living and working outdoors with the tools we recommend. We don’t get paid by the manufacturers and have editorial independence. Our editor leaves it to us to recommend gear and prints (almost all of) what we write. All of this enables us to provide you, our valued readers, with our unvarnished, honest opinions on the recommendations we make. Learn more about our product review process.
Types of EDC flashlights
Tactical flashlights come in two basic flavors: EDC and full size. EDC flashlights are small (typically less than 5 inches long) and easily carried in a pocket. They’ve come a long way in technology over the years and can now cast upwards of 1,200 lumens. Improvements in battery technology give them a much longer duration. More and more these days are rechargeable, which we really like. Full-sized tactical flashlights are typically between six and 12 inches long and can kick out more than 2,000 lumens of night penetrating light. They’re also much heavier than EDC flashlights and can be used as melee weapons. Many have a strike face — a ring of raised projections around the lens bezel to jab into vulnerable areas like faces and necks. Both EDC and tactical flashlights are typically waterproof and sport low and high settings. Some also have a strobe setting to dazzle and disorient attackers.
Key features of EDC flashlights
- Light output: This is measured in lumens, and these lights typically cast between 300 and 2,000 lumens of light. That’s very bright.
- Ruggedness: Most EDC and tactical flashlights are made from aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, or plastic polymer. They’re designed to take a beating and are typically impact- and water-resistant.
- Multi-mode: The brighter the light, the more energy the flashlight uses. Everyday carry and tactical flashlights almost always have low and high settings to offer the user options.
- Activators: Both EDC and tactical flashlights typically have three types of activators: push buttons, rotating bezels, and sliding switches.
- Lens and beam type: While the bulb produces the brightness, the lens controls the beam type. Some flashlights are meant to be floodlights, others are spotlights, and some offer adjustable beams to allow the user to decide what is best for the situation they are in.
- Battery type: EDC and tactical flashlights have two types of power sources: disposable batteries (which we don’t typically like as they just add waste to the environment), and rechargeable batteries, which are more environmentally friendly and lower the long-term cost of use of the device.
EDC flashlight pricing
- Budget: Under $15. Be careful with products in this range and read up on their specs. Many times these lights won’t be waterproof.
- Mid-range: $15 to $50. You can find a lot of capable lights in this range.
- Premium: $50 and up. The more you spend, typically, the brighter, more rugged, and more waterproof the product.
How we chose our top picks
All of the flashlights recommended in this review were field-tested by your trusty crew of Task & Purpose gear reviewers. We take our time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each flashlight and also check out the reviews of other experts just to make sure we’re not missing anything.