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Updated Apr 18, 2022 2:50 PM

I probably own at least a half dozen flashlights at any given time. There’s always a steady rotation coming in and out of the house. If you’re a gear addict, you know the feeling. If not, you might be missing out on the joys of having the right tool for any job.

Owning multiple flashlights is like owning standard and metric socket sets or several pairs of boots — it allows you to perform a wide range of work with purpose-built equipment that makes life easier; not harder.

Let’s establish a few basic premises. First, you need an EDC flashlight. That’s a given; you need something versatile that can perform in a variety of environments. If you spend any amount of time in the field (professionally or personally), a headlamp is key. We also recommend having something on standby for power outages and more serious emergencies. You might even want to add a weapon light to your shopping list to round out your home defense setup. We took the time to think through all this so you can cut right to the chase and find the best flashlights out there. Now, let’s dive in.

Methodology

Consider this gear guide the greatest hits of our favorite flashlights. We’ve reviewed so many types of flashlights that it only seemed fitting to round up a few of the best, along with some deserving newcomers, to provide a 30,000-foot view of the flashlight market. In some cases, this involved scouring the internet for owner-generated reviews and manufacturer specs. We did days of research so you don’t have to.

Some of these have been tested by our writers. Get into the weeds on individual products with our hands-on reviews.

Best Overall

Our own Matt Sampson tested the SureFire Stiletto back in 2021, and it left quite an impression. The little flashlight proved to be user-friendly in day-to-day situations, intuitive and natural in offhand use alongside a pistol, and tough as nails.

As an EDC flashlight, the Stiletto masks its size and rechargeable internal battery with a slim shape that slides nicely into a pocket and feels natural in the hand. It weighs in at less than three ounces and has a metal pocket clip that faces rearward, allowing it to be clipped to a hat brim. Hold it as you’d normally hold a flashlight, and your thumb will fall on a power button that lets you cycle through the three power settings: low (five lumens), medium (250 lumens), and high (650 lumens). Alongside that is a second button that can be used to program which functions each of the buttons will activate. This process is tricky, but at least you have options. Finally, there’s a rubber cover for the micro USB charging port and an LED indicator that displays the battery status while charging.

That’s all well and good, but the Stiletto has a tactical side, too. At the rear of the light is a button meant to be activated by your weak-side thumb when using the flashlight in conjunction with a handgun. Pressing the button will fire up all 650 lumens. Think of this button as more of a pressure pad, because the light shuts off as soon as you release it. That’s a nice feature that was clearly designed for tactical use. The same goes for the soft, wide light pattern that supports situational awareness better than a sharp-edged spotlight.

Ultimately, the Stiletto is a case of compromises. It’s not as powerful as a full-size searchlight, as tactical as a weapon light, or as compact as a dedicated EDC flashlight light. It performs all of those tasks better than it should, though, and we’d be comfortable using it in any of them. If you can only buy one flashlight right now, this is a very solid choice.

Specs
  • Configuration: Handheld
  • Maximum power output: 650 lumens
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable battery
PROS

650 lumens are adequate for indoor and outdoor use

Feels comfortable in your pocket and your hand

Rechargeable batteries are great for tactical lights

CONS

Outclassed by the 1,000-lumen Stiletto Pro for outdoor use

Requires one of your hands to control the light

Oblong shape is love it or hate it

It’s wild to think that the mechanical reliability of military aircraft might be riding on a $15 flashlight, but that’s exactly the kind of work inspection lights like the Coast G20 perform every day. Drew Shapiro took one to the Arctic Circle and back and it came back with his stamp of approval and a Task & Purpose review to prove it.

The G20 is designed to be a go-anywhere EDC light that takes up no more space than a pen. Slip one in your pocket, attach it to your plate carrier, or keep it in your glovebox. The aluminum body is built to be tough, and rubber seals earn the G20 an IP54 waterproof rating. That’s not on par with our more field-oriented picks, but it’s a layer of protection against rain and splashing water. The single LED is powered by two AAA batteries. Tracking down this light’s power output is easier said than done; we’ve seen estimates ranging from nine to 120 lumens. In any case, it’s enough for close-quarters work that might otherwise have you reaching for the light on your phone.

You might not expect much from a budget flashlight that only costs about $15 — that’s fair. We’re glad to see Coast offering such a usable penlight with metal construction at that price. It’s well-built, reasonably durable, affordable, and lasts a long time on one set of batteries. What’s not to like?

Specs
  • Configuration: Handheld
  • Maximum power output: Not provided
  • Batteries: Two disposable AAA or one rechargeable ZX110
PROS

Great grip thanks to the knurled texture

Punches above the price tag

Use inexpensive AA batteries or a rechargeable Coast ZX110 battery

CONS

Crisp light pattern can be hard on the eyes

Casts a very narrow beam

Does not include an adjustable focus feature

Editor’s Choice

The Streamlight ProTac 1L is another one of our staff favorites. In a lot of ways, it feels like a more budget- and EDC-friendly alternative to the SureFire Stiletto. What it sacrifices in power and tactical capability, it makes up for in portability and cost.

The ProTac 1L starts with an aluminum body and two-way clip that can mount the light inside your pocket or on top of your hat brim to use it hands-free. If the clip isn’t your style, you can pop it off without tools. The IPX7 waterproof rating means the ProTac 1L isn’t just water-resistant, it can be submerged as much as a meter for 30 minutes without leaking. With a diameter of just under an inch and an overall length of 4.25 inches, it takes up very little space and carries incredibly easily. Powering the 350-lumen LED is just as convenient since the ProTac 1L accepts AA alkaline, AA lithium, and CR123 batteries. A single button on the end of the tube activates low, high, and strobe power modes.

As nice as it is to be able to use three kinds of batteries, be aware that they offer varying levels of performance. You’re best off using an AA lithium or CR123 and forgetting all about the AA alkaline option unless you’re desperate. The strobe function is extremely useful in tactical environments, but this is best used as a reliable EDC that can get scrappy if you need it to.

Specs
  • Configuration: Handheld
  • Maximum power output: 350 lumens
  • Batteries: One AA or CR123
PROS

Includes high, low, and strobe modes

Durable, waterproof housing is tough enough for go-anywhere EDC duty

Mount it on a hat brim with the two-way clip

CONS

Power output varies by battery type

Performance drops off significantly with common alkaline batteries

Not cut out for use as a weapon light

Best Headlamp

There are times when you might need very specific capabilities from a headlamp. Maybe you prioritize battery life, compatibility with a helmet, or auto-dimming to keep the people around you happy. If you want a great headlamp that’s versatile enough to take just about anywhere, the BioLite Headlamp 750 is one of our favorites.

As the name suggests, this headlamp produces an impressive 750 lumens. That’s more than enough to light a trail while you hike or mountain bike, and can illuminate enough area to bivouac in the field. When only the low setting (150 lumens) is used, the rechargeable battery’s life stretches to 150 hours. The low-profile and streamlined shape is useful when you need to move through vegetation without getting snagged on branches. One of our favorite features is the rear-mounted battery, which balances the load on your head so you don’t have all the weight sagging off your forehead like you would with most headlamps. Wrap all that in a black and green pattern that flies under the radar in uniform, and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

If the IPX4 water resistance and ability to charge the HeadLamp 750 while you use it aren’t enough of a reason to buy this headlamp, we also appreciate that BioLite is committed to bringing light and energy to those in need. As of writing, the company has brought clean energy to more than 3.6 million people in Africa and Asia.

Specs
  • Configuration: Headlamp
  • Power output: 750 lumens
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable battery
PROS

Eight power and color modes to choose from

Use it and charge it at the same time

The rear-mounted battery balances this light for a comfortable fit

CONS

Controlling all the features with just a few buttons is tricky

Great for hiking; possibly overkill for casual use

Fairly heavy for a headlamp

Headlamps aren’t the only way to get hands-free light; sometimes a lantern like the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is the best tool for the job. Unlike old-school kerosene and oil lamps, the Lighthouse 600 runs off a rechargeable internal battery for clean, safe light.

Take advantage of this lantern’s multiple power modes to conserve energy. You can even switch between 180- and 360-degree light, so you’re only directing light where it’s needed. A red beacon feature can also be activated in an emergency. Regardless of which features you use, you can keep tabs on the battery’s lifespan with the power level indicator. When it’s time to charge up, you can use the USB port, the top-mounted solar panel, or the integrated hand crank to keep this lantern operational off the grid indefinitely.

This isn’t just a great option for camping; we think the Lighthouse 600 makes a lot of sense as an addition to your emergency kit. Having access to this much hands-free light without relying on batteries or even a power bank is awfully reassuring.

Specs
  • Configuration: Lantern
  • Maximum power output: 600 lumens
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable battery
PROS

Produces 600 lumens in a 360-degree spread

Built from durable aluminum and plastic

Multiple ways to charge the battery

CONS

Not the most compact camping light

Spindly little legs make us wonder about their durability

Limited battery life at the highest setting

Best Weapon Light

Many of you are probably in the market for a good weapon light. We get it — the temptation to buy something that’s “good enough” is real. By the time you drop four figures on a rifle, optic, magazines, and some go-fast-look-cool goodies, a bargain-basement weapon light starts to look pretty damn appealing. Fight that urge. If you can afford to save up for the good stuff, this Modlite is what you want.

One thing to remember about weapon lights is that they take a lot of abuse. Instead of being gently held in your hand, they spend their life hard-mounted to the business end of a barrel that gets very hot and transfers a lot of recoil directly to your light. Visibility is another concern because there’s a big difference between skiing in the dark and seeing well enough to get a positive ID on a target when you’re full of adrenaline. This Modlite is built to check both those boxes, and then some. Our favorite aspect is the modular design. Modlite builds interchangeable heads and bodies that can be mixed and matched to create the ideal setup for different missions.

Premium switches, mounts, and accessories are also available. Lights can be ordered with black or flat dark earth anodizing. We don’t blame you if $300 sounds like a lot to ask for a weapon light; but if you want the good stuff, it’s right here.

Specs
  • Configuration: Weapon-mounted; handheld
  • Maximum power output: 680 lumens
  • Batteries: Modlite protected cell battery
PROS

Premium built quality, attention to detail, and materials

Built to handle the recoil of an FN SCAR

Modular design allows you to mix and match Modlite components

CONS

The price hits about as hard as the aforementioned SCAR

Only one mode: on

Limited technical information is provided by the manufacturer

Best for Home

The thing about emergencies is that they very rarely send a courtesy heads-up telling you to charge all your electronics and get your gear ready. The people at Energizer know this, so they made an emergency flashlight that’s always 100-percent charged when you need it.

The Weatheready plugs directly into a standard, two-prong wall outlet and keeps its battery topped off at all times. When the power goes out, it automatically turns on so you can find it easily. The plug folds into the handle when you aren’t using it, and the battery lasts up to 3.5 hours. That’s more than enough to get your gear organized and get your backup plan into action.

We love how affordable this light is — just $11 at writing — but there are some necessary cost-cutting measures required to make that price a reality. This light is not waterproof or very durable. It’s a simple, plastic flashlight meant to help you move around the house without electricity. It only has one brightness setting, and that’s a modest 40 lumens. The tradeoff is an extremely affordable backup light with a respectable runtime.

Specs
  • Configuration: Handheld
  • Maximum power output: 40 lumens
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable battery
PROS

Constantly charging so it’s always ready

Easy, affordable emergency preparedness

No batteries required (even though it’s built by a battery company)

CONS

Lightweight construction limits this light to indoor use

Doesn’t generate a bright beam

Basically built to help you find your actual emergency kit

Best for Camping

Camping requires solid gear that can perform multiple jobs, and the LE Camping Flashlight does that extremely well. It’s a flashlight when you’re on the move, a lantern when you’re not, and a power source when you need one.

The LED spotlight pumps out 600 lumens, which is just right for walking along a trail in the dark. Multiple power settings allow you to dial that back when you want to move around the campsite without waking others or when you need to conserve battery life. The lantern function can be activated on one or both sides, depending on where you need light. When you need the maximum amount of illumination possible, hang this light from a branch and turn on the lantern and searchlight at the same time. The battery can also be used to power your other electronics via the attached USB cable or a separate USB port.

Size will be the limiting factor here because this is much larger than most flashlights. The ability to use it as a lantern and power bank more than makes up for that, if you ask us. Add in the maximum runtime of six hours (using the spotlight’s low setting), and this looks like a perfect companion for your next camping trip.

Specs
  • Configuration: Handheld; lantern
  • Maximum power output: 500 lumens
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable battery
PROS

Works as a flashlight and a lantern

Internal power bank to charge your other devices

Provides light for up to six hours

CONS

Too large for many purposes

Not as durable as some of the other flashlights here

Extended charge times as a result of the large battery

Best Utility

If you don’t have a kid nearby to scream at for shining light in the wrong place while you get your ass kicked by routine car maintenance, you’re going to need a utility light. I’ve been using the original Nebo work light for years, and this updated version is even better.

Its 500 lumens are perfect for lighting up even the darkest corners of your engine bay or basement, and there are no brightness settings or color modes to figure out. Just hit the on switch and get to work. You can mount the light with the built-in clip or hook, but I use the magnetic base more often than not. The aluminum body offers enough protection that you won’t have to baby this utility flashlight. The rechargeable battery takes six hours to charge, but then it will last for 10 hours of use.

I keep the Nebo and its charging cable in my glove box so it’s always ready when I need it. It’s gotten me out of a tight spot more than once, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for quick roadside repairs or tracking down an elusive oil leak.

Specs
  • Configuration: Handheld; magnetic
  • Power output: 500 lumens
  • Batteries: Internal rechargeable battery
PROS

Plenty of light in a compact package

Includes a magnetic base and hook for hands-free use

Rechargeable and perfect for the glovebox

CONS

Needs six hours to fully charge

Not very ergonomic as an EDC light

Only one power setting

Our verdict on flashlights

We stand by all the flashlights on this list, but the SureFire PLR-A Stiletto and Coast G20 Inspection Light stand out with incredible versatility and value. If you need a solid do-it-all flashlight, start with those. If you need something more specialized, check out our other picks. Is there something we missed? Share your favorites in the comments section so we can check them out for ourselves.

What to consider when buying flashlights

You wouldn’t buy one knife or one backpack and expect it to be the only one you ever need; the same is true of flashlights. We’re here to help you make sense of the features, components, strengths, and weaknesses that make our favorite flashlights great at what they do.

Types of flashlights

Handheld vs. hands-free

What you plan on doing with your flashlight will play a major role in which one is right for you. Most flashlights are handheld, and we found plenty of powerful flashlights that are small enough to carry in your pocket or attached to your gear all day. This style definitely offers the most variety, but it isn’t ideal for every situation.

If you need to work around a campsite, in the garage, or on a job site, having your hands free is a priority. Headlamps are the most popular style of hands-free flashlights, but there are also options with a magnetic base or a mounting system to attach them to a helmet or weapon for easy access. We even found some that automatically dim when they detect another headlamp, so you and your coworkers don’t blind each other every time you make eye contact. 

Disposable vs. rechargeable batteries

All flashlights require some kind of power source. Aside from survival flashlights equipped with a hand crank, you’ll encounter either disposable (usually AA or CR123) or rechargeable batteries. Disposable batteries get some hate from the survival crowd because they have a finite, limited lifespan, and carrying replacements adds weight to your pack. The upside is that they can be replaced in seconds.

Recharging a flashlight takes much longer and requires a power source — whether it be a wall outlet, vehicle outlet, or standalone power bank. Many people (myself included) find this downtime to be far outweighed by the ability to keep your flashlight operational as long as you have a solar bank that can absorb sunlight. The extra initial cost of purchasing a rechargeable flashlight is also paid off by savings over time as a result of not having to buy batteries.

EDC vs. purpose-built

As with any type of gear, adding versatility often comes at the cost of specialization. Flashlights designed for everyday carry need to be small enough to fit in your pocket, powerful enough to work or navigate in the dark, and last long enough to get you home by foot if need be. To accomplish that, they need to sacrifice advantages in other areas.

We recommend having a good EDC flashlight, but it’s also beneficial to have something like a headlamp for hands-free light, a magnetic light for working in the garage, and some type of lantern for your campsite or emergency kit. It’s hard to go wrong with a good headlamp, but we included a few extra recommendations that might work better in certain situations.

Key features of flashlights

Power and color modes

When it comes to power output in flashlights, more isn’t always better. For most jobs that get done within arms’ reach, a light that produces less than 150 lumens will provide adequate light without straining your eyes. If you want to hike at night, a light with about 500 lumens might be more appropriate. Having 1,000 lumens or more is useful for search and rescue or scanning larger areas. If you want more information, LightMen has a quick breakdown of various power outputs. 

Most flashlights produce white light, but there are times when other hues are more useful. Red and green light have long been used to preserve natural night vision. Flashlights with multiple color options can also be integrated into your comms plan. White light will always be the most popular because it creates realistic colors, but having another option is a good idea. 

Waterproofing

Some flashlights may never encounter a drop of water. Others need to perform in a downpour or maritime environment. If you’re looking for a rugged flashlight for outdoor adventure or tactical environments, you’ll need to prioritize some kind of waterproof rating. There’s more to that than choosing between water-resistant and waterproof.

One standardized scale that you’re likely to encounter is the IP rating system. This four-character alphanumeric code will let you know how protected a product is against solid debris and liquids. In the case of flashlights, you’ll probably see IPX6 (rated for splashing and spray) and IPX7 (rated for limited submersion).

Size and configuration

When it comes to choosing the best size of flashlight for you, the decision comes down to balancing power with portability. The most powerful flashlights are great for things like search and rescue, but they’re larger and heavier than you’d want to carry very far. The best place for this kind of flashlight is in a vehicle or stationary location where you can take advantage of all that power without lugging it around.

More compact flashlights are great for EDC duty because they take up almost no space and are so light you won’t even notice them. I even have a little Streamlight that can be clipped to the brim of a hat. Being small also opens up the possibility of a dedicated headlamp, which is a real game-changer in the field. If you don’t have one, I strongly recommend getting one before your next field exercise.

Flashlight pricing 

We’re happy to report that you don’t have to break the bank to get a quality flashlight. Our value pic, the Coast G20 Inspection Light, only costs $15. Prices go up with an increase in power and added features. Our most expensive pick, the Modlite OKW-18650, checks in at more than $300. That’s not pocket change, but you do get an extremely robust weapon light for that kind of money.

Generally speaking, flashlights start to get good around $30. For $100, you’ll have a healthy selection to choose from. That range includes EDC options like the Streamlight ProTac 1L, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 lantern, and BioLite Headlamp 750. Outside of those prices, you’ll be making some sacrifices to save money or spending top dollar for a premium item.

Tips and tricks

As a lifelong flashlight addict, I’ve been chasing down lights of all kinds since I was a little kid and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way.

  • Batteries pick the worst possible moment to die, so keep spares and charge up often.
  • “Water-resistant” is a vague concept. Pay attention to standardized, tested waterproof ratings.
  • There are a lot of places your phone shouldn’t go, so don’t rely on its light as your EDC flashlight.
  • Cheap flashlights are usually cheap for a reason.
  • Just because you can mount a certain light to your weapon doesn’t mean you should.

FAQs on flashlights

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What is the brightest flashlight?

A: According to our research, the Imalent MS18 is the brightest flashlight currently available. Does anyone really need 100,000 lumens? Probably not, but that doesn’t make us want one any less. There are worse ways to spend $670, and the bragging rights alone are worth that much.

Q: What is the most reliable flashlight?

A: There are a lot of companies that make reliable flashlights, but some of the features we look for are waterproof housings, protected lenses, and rechargeable batteries. Those features tend to be indicators of a well-built flashlight that can take a few knocks.

Q: What is the longest-lasting flashlight?

A: Battery life is affected by so many things that it’s hard to definitively say that one flashlight lasts the longest. What we can say is that a rechargeable flashlight and a solar power bank belong in everyone’s survival kit or go-bag. 

Q: How many lumens should a good flashlight have?

A: If you’re working in confined spaces and want to preserve some semblance of night vision, you might want a flashlight that can achieve double-digit lumen output. On the other hand, if you need to see across large, open areas, having 750 to 1,000 lumens to work with is a good idea.

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