By Corrie Pelc
Flashlights are one of those indispensable tools that we rarely seem to care about. They’re vital when the lights go out unexpectedly due to a storm or blackout. You depend on them when camping to be able to see where you’re going in the middle of the night, or what’s suddenly scratched at the outside of your tent. And they’re an important part of any emergency roadside assistance kit in a car.
With how important flashlights are, it’s important to spend time making sure that quality ones will shed light on any dark situation when we need them to. For that reason, we’ve taken a look across the flashlight market to find the best flashlights you can buy in 2021.
How to Buy a Flashlight
There are a few factors to consider when purchasing a flashlight:
- EDC or Tactical Flashlight: Generally speaking, flashlights tend to fall into two categories — EDC (everyday carry) or tactical. EDC flashlights are usually cheaper, lower-powered, and good for everyday things, like having them in your home if the power goes out or helping you get around your dark basement. Tactical flashlights are usually brighter, last longer, are more durable, and are a solid pick for campers and hikers, as well as those who need a flashlight to do their work as a first responder or want a bright, dependable flashlight for home security.
- Brightness: The amount of light that a flashlight emits is measured in lumens. A higher lumens count is brighter than a lower lumens count. For example, a flashlight that emits 2300 lumens of light is brighter than one that emits 1000 lumens. Some flashlights have a set amount of lumens, and others have various modes where you can switch between different brightnesses.
- Battery Type: Most flashlights run on either rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s really a personal preference. And some of today’s more modern flashlights use no batteries at all — instead, you charge them through a USB connector.
Test Factors We Considered When Picking the Best Flashlights
With so many flashlights out on the market today, making a choice can be rather overwhelming. Here are the main test factors we used to come up with our list of best flashlights:
- Price: There are flashlights available at many price points.
- Length: How long the flashlight is will indicate if it will fit in a pocket or not, or if it’s too long to store wherever needed.
- Diameter: How large is the flashlight’s diameter? This is important in determining how comfortably it will fit in hand.
- Weight: Lighter-weight flashlights are better for campers and backpackers, while heavier flashlights are better suited for home and general use.
- Power Source: How is the flashlight powered — batteries, USB plug-in, or something else?
- Bulb Type: What type of lightbulb does the flashlight use — incandescent? LED? Something else? LED light bulbs generally last much longer than incandescent.
- Brightness: Like we mentioned above, how much light the flashlight emits is measured in lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. The brightness amount shown in the product description is the maximum amount of lumens the flashlight emits — lower lumens may be emitted through a flashlight’s lower brightness modes.
- Beam Distance: The longest distance the flashlight’s light beam can travel is measured in meters. The beam distance is usually produced through the highest brightness level of the flashlight.
- Runtime: What’s the maximum amount of hours the flashlight can last with its batteries charged? The longest runtime is usually produced through the lowest brightness level of the flashlight.
- User Interface: How is the flashlight powered on — it is a button or something else? And can it toggle through different modes with the user interface?
- Modes: Many of today’s flashlights have different light modes, including different brightnesses, strobe (great for getting attention during emergency situations), and even different colors.
- Durability: Flashlights come with different durability factors including water resistance ratings through Ingress Protection (IP) ratings, and impact resistance through drop testing — how far can it can drop without breaking. For example, under the IP ratings, IPX7 is water-resistant down to one meter, while IPX8 is water-resistant down to more than one meter.
- Warranty: Does the flashlight come with a warranty?
Now without further ado, see our picks of the best flashlights you can buy in 2021.
Best Overall Flashlight for Everday Use: Olight S2R II Baton
~ $70 on Amazon
A solid everyday flashlight with lots of options.