Best Flashlights of 2018

A reliable flashlight is a necessity to have on hand for emergency situations. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best flashlight to guide you through the darkness.

Light Your Way: A Guide to the Best Flashlights

Whether you're telling scary stories around a campfire or changing a fuse in the basement, a good flashlight is on everyone's list of essentials.

With so many options on the market, however, how do you pick the best flashlight for you? You'll need to decide between heavy-duty flashlights and portable pen lights, incandescent bulbs and LED lights, not to mention the number of lumens.

At BestReviews, we're here to guide you through the darkness. We create thorough reviews you can count on by testing products in our dedicated labs and out in the field, talking to experts, and analyzing feedback from existing customers. Because we never accept free products from manufacturers, we're always free from bias and unswayed by the hype. Our goal is simply to make shopping easier for you.

If you're ready to purchase a flashlight, scroll up for BestReviews' top picks. For all the information you need to find the right flashlight for your home or next adventure, you've come to the right place.

BestReviews recommends a weatherproof flashlight if you plan to use it for outdoor pursuits.

Know Your Flashlights

Let's consider the pros, cons, and prices of the different types of flashlights.

Utility Flashlights

  • Utility flashlights are standard multipurpose models. Utility flashlights are the type you find in most households.
  • Most utility flashlights are lightweight and relatively compact.
  • Utility flashlights provide enough light for average indoor and outdoor tasks, but they may be insufficient if you need to see long distances.
  • Although you can find cheaper models, expect to pay between $20 and $50 for a good-quality utility flashlight.

Pen Flashlights

  • Pen flashlights, or pocket flashlights, are primarily designed to be compact. The small size of pen flashlights is more important than their light output.
  • Most pen flashlights have a low light output.
  • Pen flashlights often cost under $5, but look for a pen flashlight in the $10 to $25 range if you want good performance.

Tactical Flashlights

  • Tactical flashlights are designed with tactical applications in mind, such as law enforcement and military use. However, tactical flashlights are commonly used by civilians who want high-end flashlights.
  • Tactical flashlights are extremely durable and can withstand regular heavy-duty use.
  • Powerful tactical flashlights have a good light output and a range of other handy features, such as SOS strobe lights, tactical rings, and light filters.
  • A basic tactical flashlight will set you back around $45 to $60. High-end tactical flashlights cost as much as $100 to $150.

Work Flashlights

  • Work flashlights are designed for industrial use. Electricians and builders use work flashlights.
  • Most work flashlights are waterproof or water-resistant, and they have very durable casings to withstand knocks and scrapes.
  • Expect to pay between $40 and $100 for a decent work flashlight.
Emergency flashlights are powered by a hand crank, and they are ideal for emergency situations where you don't have access to batteries or electricity to recharge your flashlight.

Which Bulb Is Best?

Incandescent Bulbs
Incandescent bulbs, such as xenon and halogen, were once the go-to choice for flashlights, but they have been made all but obsolete due to LED bulbs. Not only do incandescent bulbs produce a limited amount of lumens, but their filaments burn out faster, meaning the whole bulb must be replaced. Incandescent bulbs also use a significantly larger amount of a flashlight's battery power.

LED Bulbs
LED bulbs are now the most common type of light bulb for flashlights. LED bulbs are extremely durable. One LED bulb can last over 100,000 hours before needing to be replaced. LED bulbs are also much less of a battery drain for your flashlight, using just a fraction of the power of incandescent bulbs.

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Look for Good Battery Life When Shopping for a Flashlight

A good flashlight should have a strong battery life and be capable of shining at full power for a couple of hours, rather than weakening significantly after a few minutes.

Let's Talk Light Output

Light output for flashlights is a tricky thing. While most people focus on lumens, several factors affect the strength and quality of a flashlight's light output.

Lumens
Lumens are a measurement of light intensity. While a higher number of lumens doesn't necessarily equate to a better flashlight, it's a good basic indicator of brightness. It's worth considering that flashlights with higher lumens go through batteries more quickly.

  • Indoor Use: A flashlight with under 150 lumens is best for indoor use or small tasks.
  • Outdoor Use: A flashlight boasting 150 to 299 lumens is fine for basic outdoor tasks, such as walking around a campsite at night. This range of lumens can also light up a fairly large room.
  • For Large Areas: Choose a flashlight with 300 to 699 lumens if you need to light up large areas.
  • Emergency Use: Flashlights with 700-plus lumens are favored by emergency services and search and rescue.

Beam Distance
Beam distance is the distance in feet that a flashlight's beam can penetrate at a brightness of 0.25 lux. Some basic flashlights only have a beam distance of 30 feet or so, whereas high-end flashlights can have a beam distance exceeding 1,000 feet.

Beam Type
Flashlights either have flood beams or spot beams. Flood beams emit a wide beam of light that illuminates outward as well as forward. Spot beams focus light only forward, so the light travels further but is more condensed. Some flashlights allow you to switch between flood beams and spot beams.

Adjustable Light Settings
You can find flashlights that have adjustable light settings. With adjustable light settings, you can set a flashlight to high, medium, or low light. Adjustable light settings are extremely useful, especially if you have a high-powered flashlight. Sometimes you don't need the full force of a powerful flashlight. A low setting means the beam will be less conspicuous, and the flashlight's battery will last longer, too.

Color temperature can make a difference as to how bright your flashlight's beam appears. Cool white tends to look brighter than warm white.

Beyond Bright: Tips for Choosing and Using a Flashlight

  • Think about your flashlight's material. Most flashlights either have plastic or aluminum housing. Aluminum is usually the more durable choice.
  • Look for ANSI FL1 ratings. ANSI FL1 standards exist to ensure all flashlights are tested and rated in the same way, though compliance to these standards isn't mandatory. ANSI FL1-rated flashlights usually include the following data on their packaging: run time, light output, beam distance, water resistance, and impact resistance.
  • Consider durability. Some flashlights are designed to withstand heavy wear and tear, whereas others are less durable. If you'll only be using your flashlight around the house, durability may not be the concern that it is for industrial users.
  • Decide if you want to use your flashlight hands-free. Some flashlights have stands or other features to enable hands-free use, which is invaluable when you need to complete a two-handed task in the dark.
  • Be careful while using your flashlight. The bulb end can get hot, especially if you have a powerful flashlight.

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Store a Flashlight in Your Car for Emergency Use

Compact flashlights are ideal for taking camping or storing in your vehicle's glove box.

FAQ

Q. Should I buy a rechargeable flashlight?
A. If you plan to use your flashlight regularly, consider a rechargeable model. Most rechargeable flashlights use standard AA or D rechargeable batteries, though the best rechargeable flashlights can be charged using a USB cable.

Q. What sort of battery life do flashlights have?
A. The battery life of a flashlight is referred to as its run time and is measured in hours. Expect an average flashlight to have a run time between five hours and 10 hours before needing to be recharged or have its batteries replaced. However, some extremely high-powered flashlights have a run time under five hours, as the high beam quickly drains the batteries. Bear in mind that your flashlight is unlikely to run at full brightness for its whole run time. A flashlight gradually gets dimmer before it stops working altogether.

Q. Which switch type is best for flashlights?
A. Flashlights can have switches that you click or press, switches that you slide, or switches that you twist. While there isn't a definitive best type of switch for a flashlight, BestReviews prefers click/press or slide switches. Twist switches usually take two hands to turn on the flashlight, which isn't always practical.

If you don't use your flashlight regularly, store it without batteries, or replace the batteries every four months to avoid corrosion and leakage.

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