Best Flashlights: Control Light at Night and in Your Shop
Find your way through dimly lit areas with these flashlights
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON October 12, 2019
A flashlight can offer a reliable light source for a dimly lit home garage or auto repair shop. You can also use them outdoors when camping, fishing, or hiking. There are numerous flashlights available, but only a limited number can fulfill your lighting needs. Our buying guide offers a rundown of some of the best flashlights on the market that can be used for any lighting job.
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Benefits of Flashlights
- Light up the area. The main benefit of owning a flashlight comes from the fact you get to light up dark areas at all times. A flashlight will help you handle night conditions when visibility is extremely low, whether it's an emergency or a regular daily situation. With it, you can find lost items, light up the road when riding a bicycle, and stay safe while waiting for roadside assistance.
- Identify potential threats. These days, flashlights are designed to provide brighter light and a longer beam. This allows you to light up greater distances and spot potential threats in time. A flashlight comes in rather handy while walking down a dark street or for your car at night when you have reduced visibility and might feel unsafe.
- Use as a self-defense tool. A flashlight transforms into a convenient self-defense tool in emergencies. You can use it to blind an attacker and gain a few precious moments to get away from danger. It takes only about 60 lumens to cause temporary blindness, which is how much most flashlights have. Additionally, newly designed flashlights have sturdy constructions that allow you to use them as a weapon and hit an attacker to gain an advantage.
- Save power on your phone. Although you can use a phone to light up an area, the light found in a regular flashlight is a lot more powerful. You can see things in the dark at a greater distance and can save the battery on your phone, which is especially important during a power outage.
Types of Flashlights
Incandescent Bulb Flashlights
These are the most common type of flashlights usually found in people's homes. They are incredibly popular due to their low price. You can find them in almost every store and buy one whenever you need it, which is quite convenient in emergencies.
Incandescent bulb flashlights are handy and run on different batteries, with all of them being inexpensive and easy to find in stores. However, they are also a little fragile and the batteries and bulbs don't last for very long.
These flashlights use light-emitting diodes that are a type of semiconductor. They waste very little energy making heat, which means they are extremely durable. Overall, LED lights are more powerful than incandescent bulbs, offer a longer lifespan, and brighter light.
The batteries in LED flashlights work for longer and the construction is sturdier than with the regular flashlights. However, LEDs are pricier and some people don't feel the light is very natural. Due to the high output, these flashlights might be unsuitable for those who need a mid-range tool for daily situations.
HID (High-Intensity Discharge) bulbs pass an electric current through an arranged ball of ionized gas. They make flashlights much more powerful than incandescent bulbs, offering brighter light as well as more durability. HID flashlights are usually rechargeable and offer high efficiency in the dark.
HID flashlights are ideal for tactical and industrial purposes. They are bulky, sturdy, and very durable. However, they are also expensive and difficult to find on the market.
Named after the man who discovered the electromagnetic principle, these are also known as Faraday flashlights. They are a unique type that allows you to use the magnets inside the flashlight to produce several hours of the LED light. All you need to do is to shake the flashlight and this causes the magnets to create light.
Shake flashlights don't use batteries, which makes them low-maintenance and very convenient for emergencies. Still, the drawback might be the fact that the light is not very bright. It's rather dim and not enough for some night situations when you need superior visibility.
Maglite was founded in 1979 by Anthony Maglica. It's a widely-known company that is based in Ontario, California. Maglite started with producing regular flashlights that were of excellent quality and low cost. Over time, the production evolved, and now the brand offers all kinds of innovative products, from everyday carry to professional tools and equipment. Maglite Mini PRO Flashlight is one of the company's most popular products.
Streamlight was founded in 1973 and is located in Eagleville, Penn. It's a company that focuses on producing high-quality flashlights for all kinds of purposes. Streamlight offers a product line with hand-held flashlights, headlamps, weapon-mounted lights, lanterns, and much more. Customers get to choose between LEDs, incandescent bulbs, and many other light types. Streamlight Stylus Pro Pen Light turns out to be one of the best-rated Streamlight products on the market.
PowerTac is a company that focuses on producing versatile lights that can be used for both home and tactical purposes. It offers a wide range of flashlights made with the help of modern electronic technology for ultimate performance and durability. PowerTac was found in 2006 and is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. One of the company's best-rated products is the PowerTac LED Tactical Flashlight.
- Under $20: At this price point, you can find quite handy flashlights that prove to be very useful in emergencies. They might fail to produce extremely bright light but are still efficient and reliable.
- $20-$50: For everyday carry flashlights, you might need to add a few more bucks. Pricier flashlights are made to withstand heavy daily abuse and provide more power and durability.
- $50 and up: Those who want to spend more on their new flashlights can expect to get ultra-bright and long-lasting tools. Expensive flashlights have a lot of extra features to offer, starting with impressive power and convenient and durable design.
One of the first things to consider when choosing a flashlight is how many lumens it has to offer. The number of lumens determines how bright the flashlight will be. If you need a tool for lighting up nearby items, you can go for 100 lumens or less. For illuminating large areas or paths, you might want to consider getting a flashlight that offers from 500 to 1000 lumens.
Beam distance refers to how far the light reaches. It's a crucial feature to look for when choosing a flashlight. For home purposes, you won't need a tool with high reach. The great beam distance is necessary for professional and tactical purposes. It's also important to get a flashlight with a larger beam distance if you're planning to use the tool in emergencies and as a self-defense weapon.
To avoid ending up in the dark, it's crucial to look for flashlights with durable batteries. Although you can easily recharge or change batteries when using the tool at home, it's not the same outdoors. If you're planning to use a flashlight in emergencies or when outside, you might want to look for models that have long-lasting batteries. In this case, it's also smart to go for tools that have adjustable light settings, so you can extend the life of the batteries.
- Design. It's also important to check the overall design of each flashlight. You want to make sure it's compact or large enough to meet your purposes. For situations such as backpacking, hiking, or camping, you might want to get a model that is small and lightweight enough to fit your pocket. For tactical and other professional purposes, a tool with a sturdy and thick metal casing might be a better option.
- Durability. Depending on your needs, you might want to check the overall durability of a particular flashlight. If you're planning to use it outdoors, weather-resistance is a must. For getting a long-lasting flashlight, it's crucial to double-check the IP rating for water and impact-resistance.
- Light Modes. Not all flashlights have to offer many light modes. Most of them offer basic ranges from low to maximum mode, which is enough for basic tasks at home. However, advanced flashlights also offer strobe or SOS features that come in handy for tactical and professional situations as well as emergencies.
Best Flashlight Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- If you are working in an auto service shop, wear gloves to keep the flashlight free of grease.
- Use a grease-cutting cleaner or an alcohol pad to remove dirt and grease stains from the flashlight. You can also use a Q-tip or a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the charging port.
- To prevent battery leakage, replace the batteries in your flashlight at least every four months if the flashlight hasn’t been used over that period.
- If you’re shopping for a non-rechargeable flashlight, prioritize one that uses AA batteries. You won’t struggle to find a replacement since they are the most common battery type available.
- Carry an extra battery set for your flashlight on camping trips. It’s always good to have a backup set in case the batteries die.
Q: Which flashlight is best for camping?
A: Non-rechargeable batteries are best for camping. You won’t drain your car’s battery, and most can run for over 50 hours without a replacement. You can purchase a rechargeable one if you have a reliable generator at your campsite.
Q: What does lumen mean?
A: The term lumen is used to describe the unit of light or brightness emitted by the flashlight. For example, a pitch dark room has zero lumens of light. The higher the number of lumens on a flashlight, the brighter the light it will produce.
Q: Do flashlight batteries drain when not in use?
A: New detachable batteries typically don’t drain when not in use. They may discharge at the same rate as when they are removed from the battery shell. However, rechargeable batteries do self-discharge, and you may find the battery is drained if you don’t use the flashlight for about six months. Self-discharging can also shorten the life of the battery.
Our top pick is the PowerTac LED Tactical Flashlight. It’s incredibly bright and can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications. It’s also rechargeable and well made.
Our budget-friendly pick is the Maglite Mini PRO Flashlight. It’s quite affordable and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.