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Whether you’re someone who regularly loses items in the seemingly endless nooks and crannies in the car, or you’re someone who looks for the toughest, most reliable gear for their EDC pack, a keychain flashlight should be in your toolkit. While there are lots of high-quality, heavy-duty tactical flashlights on the market for every situation, most of them are just too powerful for use in everyday situations. The last thing you want to do is end up blinding the person in your passenger seat while you rummage around the center console looking for your house keys.
We also reviewed the best EDC flashlights on the market, but most of these are still too large to be carried with you everywhere — I mean everywhere. That’s where keychain flashlights come in. As the name implies, keychain flashlights easily attach to your key ring, or something similar, allowing you to take a high-quality flashlight with you everywhere you go. Keep reading to learn more about the best keychain flashlights for each major category and price point.
- Best Overall: Surefire Sidekick
- Best Budget: Fenix E03R
- Best for Brightness: Nitecore T4K
- Best Battery Life: Nitecore TINI
- Best Micro-Sized: TEC Accessories Pixel Keychain Microlight
Designed by tactical experts, the Sidekick keychain flashlight from SureFire is functional, durable, and reliable. Although it’s not a tactical light itself, it contains most of the beneficial features of a tactical light, such as the ability to quickly transition to different output levels or to widen or narrow the beam depending on the task at hand. This light is easy to transport and can be adapted to a variety of situations, making its utility comparatively superior to most of its competitors. Similar to how this light blends the best of tactical and EDC designs, it also offers the best of both worlds for batteries. The batteries are rechargeable via USB-C but can also be removed, which means you can bring a fully-charged spare in case you won’t have access to power for a while.
- Weight: 1.2 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.5 x 0.58 x 0.10 inches
- Brightness: 300 lumens
- Battery life: Up to 44 hours on the lowest setting
- SureFire is a leader in the personal lighting industry, whether it be headlamps or rifle lights, and its extensive experience is evident in this purpose-built keychain light.
Impressive brightness, especially on narrowest beam
Long throw distance of over 200 feet
Easy to toggle between three output levels
Durable construction from a reputable brand
Optional pocket clip is one-third the cost of the light itself
If you’re in the market for a reliable, versatile keychain light that won’t break the bank, consider the Fenix E03R. Not only is Fenix a well-respected manufacturer, but this light is also packed to the gills with high-end features that are usually found on keychain lights that are twice the price. For example, with four different output settings, you have significant control over whether you want to maximize visibility for a short period of time on the brightest setting or preserve battery life by using the lowest setting possible, or something in between. The red strobe option also makes this light especially useful if you’re trying to draw attention, which is an essential aspect of any solo adventurer’s toolkit. However, this light sacrifices a certain level of durability. That’s not to say that it’s not durable, because it is. It’s impact-resistant from waist-level drops and is also rated as IP66 for dust and rain. However, it’s not fully waterproof, so you’ll have to be mindful of that if you plan on wading through streams and rivers.
- Weight: 0.78 ounces
- Dimensions: 1.85 x 0.94 x 0.47 inches
- Brightness: 260 lumens
- Battery life: Up to 18 hours on lowest setting
- For the price, this keychain light punches well above its weight class.
Four brightness levels
Red light and strobe available
Large, tactile, one-click operation
Battery level indicator
Short runtime of 45 minutes on brightest setting
Not fully waterproof, only rainproof
If brightness is what you’re after, there’s no better keychain flashlight than the Nitecore T4K. However, keep in mind that the maximum 4,000-lumen output is only available in 10-second bursts. Not only does this save battery life, but it also helps prevent any accidental injury caused by misuse of the light. Four thousand lumens are not to be toyed with; this keychain flashlight is more than capable of serving self-defense purposes in a pinch. This, combined with the red strobe option, make this light great for the more experienced adventurer.
Another great feature of the Nitecore T4K is the fact that it has rapid USB-C charging, which means you can get more than 60 hours of runtime in less than 1.5 hours of charging. You don’t have to worry about short circuits or overloads either, thanks to the charging safeguards included in the T4K. If all that isn’t enough for you, the T4K also has a screen that displays everything from charge level to current runtime, and is compatible with numerous Nitecore accessory kits.
- Weight: 2.72 ounces
- Dimensions: 5.91 x 2.87 x 2.52 inches
- Brightness: 4,000 lumens
- Battery life: 67 hours on the lowest setting
- Simply put, this keychain flashlight puts the entire market to shame in terms of sheer power and output. Nowhere will you find more lumens in a smaller package from a reputable brand.
Beam throw is over 600 feet
Industry-leading brightness output
Built-in screen displays battery life, output level, and other helpful information
Four LED emitters
Pushing the boundaries for the size of a keychain flashlight
Highest level of brightness can be blinding and dangerous
This little light is extremely portable. In fact, it’s so small that if you don’t attach it to your key ring or backpack, you’re liable to lose it. That would be a bummer considering how much value this light packs into such a small, aerospace-grade aluminum package. One of the standout features of this light is the fact that it has dedicated buttons for brightness and on/off operation. Most keychain flashlights use only one button to save space, but this means that you have to round-robin through all the different modes to get to your desired setting, which is annoying at best, and potentially life-threatening in a dangerous situation. This keychain mini flashlight resolves that by including two separate buttons, one of which also serves as a charging indicator.
- Weight: 0.48 ounces
- Dimensions: 1.7 x 1.0 x 0.45 inches
- Brightness: 380 lumens
- Battery life: 60 hours on the lowest setting
- This affordable microlight has top-tier battery life and great light output, as well as a thick keyring that’s sure to stand the test of time.
High performance for a low price
Four levels of brightness
Separate controls for operation and brightness
Highest brightness only offer 15 minutes of runtime
Not waterproof or shockproof
The Pixel Microlight from TEC Accessories punches well above its weight class in terms of build quality, durability, and functionality. TEC accessories took a no-frills approach to this sleek flashlight, instead placing a high priority on simple reliability. The titanium exterior is incredibly strong and can take a serious beating. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the elements thanks to the quality seal on the Pixel Microlight. While 25 lumens may not seem like much on the highest setting, this light is plenty bright thanks to the narrowness of its beam; it’s quite intense. However, because it is twist-activated, you have to be mindful not to over-tighten it when turning it on. Over-tightening can damage the bulb.
- Weight: 0.25 ounces
- Dimensions: 1.8 x 0.315 x 0.315 inches
- Brightness: 21 to 25 lumens
- Battery life: Up to 12 hours
- The Pixel is made from high-quality titanium and exceeds expectations in the major performance areas despite its small size.
Rugged construction and water-resistant
Variable colors and intensity
White, red, and UV LED options
Square design prevents it from rolling on flat surfaces
Not the brightest light on this list
Can easily be over-tightened during regular operation
What to consider before buying a keychain flashlight
Keychain flashlights come with either disposable or rechargeable batteries. One isn’t necessarily better than the other in terms of performance. However, they both have advantages and disadvantages.
Flashlights that use disposable batteries tend to be smaller, cost less, and you can “recharge” them just by replacing a dead battery. The main drawback is the ongoing cost of batteries.
As the name suggests, you can recharge a rechargeable flashlight when you’re not using it, so you save money on batteries and reduce overall waste. Also, they tend to have higher lumen ratings and have longer light throws because they have a higher power capacity. The drawback is they tend to cost more up front.
When it comes to measuring the brightness of a flashlight, the most common term you’ll hear is lumens. This refers to the amount of light you get from a bulb, so you can quantify the brightness.
Another measurement to consider is candelas. Unlike lumens, it measures the intensity of the light thrown. The measurement increases when a beam of light is narrow and decreases as it gets wider.
High-quality keychain torches tend to be rated between 30 and 250 lumens. Don’t be fooled by cheap flashlights promising high lumen ratings; make sure the rating is up to the PLATO Standard.
There are two main bulb types in terms of micro flashlights, keychain or otherwise: incandescent and LED. In short, incandescent bulbs are worse than LED bulbs in almost every aspect. They don’t have as long a lifespan as their LED counterparts, nor are they as bright or energy-efficient. However, they tend to be cheaper. But you end up paying more for low-quality incandescent bulbs in the long run because of constant replacements. Unless you are in a situation where saving on upfront cost is more important than anything else, go for an LED keychain flashlight.
Keep your eyes peeled for keychain flashlights with reputable waterproof and shockproof ratings that are made from durable materials such as titanium, aluminum, or thick polymer. Flashlights with an IP (ingress protection) rating of four are weather-resistant, while those with a rating of IPx7 or higher are fully waterproof when submerged. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) developed and currently certifies these standards. Flashlights with a rating of IPx6 or higher are also completely dustproof. IK ratings, which are also overseen by IEC, operate on a scale of one to 10 and measure impact resistance. Keychain lights with a higher IK rating will be more impact-resistant.
FAQs about keychain flashlights
Q: Is 6,000 lumens too bright for a keychain?
A: A 6,000-lumen flashlight is quite bright, although not necessarily too bright. Determining whether a flashlight is too bright or not bright enough is largely dependent on what you’re trying to accomplish with a keychain light. Keep in mind that higher-lumen bulbs will require more recharging or battery replacements than lower-lumen bulbs.
Q: What is the brightest keychain flashlight?
A: The brightest keychain flashlight from a reputable brand is the Nitecore T4K EDC. It’s rated at 4,000 lumens.
Q: What is the smallest keychain flashlight?
A: Keychain flashlights come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and determining the overall size of them entails finding their volume, which isn’t so easy. Nonetheless, there are almost countless options on the market that promise to impress in terms of their minimal footprint. For instance, the Nitefox e1 is an astounding 1.3 inches and 15 lumens, while the Aurora A1x manages to pump out 650 lumens despite being only 2.4 inches.
Q: How much should I expect to spend on a keychain flashlight?
A: Expect to spend between $20 and $50 for an affordable, high-quality keychain flashlight. Expect keychain mini flashlights to be on the lower end of the spectrum and keychain torch lights to be towards the top. If you want, you can spend upwards of $100 for a keychain light that comes with a lot of accessories.
Q: What is the best EDC keychain flashlight?
A: We believe that the best overall keychain flashlight, the SureFire Sidekick, is the best EDC flashlight because it strikes a great balance between brightness, battery life, and size without compromising on build quality.
The SureFire Sidekick Ultra-Compact Triple-Output Keychain Flashlight is the best option for all everyday needs as well as a host of specialized uses, as well. This light is small but capable of casting both wide, floodlight-type beams as well as intense narrow beams, both of which serve different purposes. Not only is it bright, with a lumen rating of 300, but the LED emitter and reflectors are also specifically designed to throw light that’s easily acceptable to the human eye, which minimizes glow-glare while in use. All in all, this keychain light is well-designed and critically well-built, yet it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, which is why it’s at the top of our list.
We conducted an in-depth investigation into a wide range of keychain flashlights at a variety of price points to ensure that our selections provided excellent performance, especially in relation to their cost. We took everything from specification sheets provided by manufacturers to verified customer reviews into account when carrying out our research. We also relied on our extensive hands-on experience testing flashlights of all types.
When narrowing down our final recommendations, we focused on the brightness, build quality, versatility, overall value, and how well each pick would fare in certain situations. We paid special attention to independently certified measures of quality, such as IP and IK ratings, as well as controlled performance testing. Each of our selections has been vetted and is ready to be reliably put to work in a variety of situations.
For more information on our process, check out the Task & Purpose review guidelines.