We all know the sheer convenience of flashlight apps in a quick pinch. Yet, although your iPhone’s native utility may prove itself worthy when you’re fumbling in the dark in search of a light switch, they’re far from convenient when it comes to power and efficiency. Thankfully, dedicated LED (light-emitting diode) flashlights excel in terms of size, longevity, and overall brightness, rendering the devices the perfect companion when it comes time to hit the trail or explore the darkest corners of your basement.
Though they can be relatively expensive, most LED flashlights boast a shelf life of more than 25,000 hours, easily surpassing that of their conventional counterparts while producing less light pollution and using a mere 85 percent of the power. LED flashlights aren’t the most visually attractive — unless you want to drop a whopping $300 on something like the Orbita Lighthouse — but they will give you the most bang for your buck in the long run, whether your prefer a traditional cylindrical torch or a modern headlamp. Here our our top picks for the best LED flashlights around. I guess it’s time to load up on those D cells.
MagLite LED 3-Cell D — $55
The MagLite has long been a staple, whether used as a flashlight or merely a device for thwarting unwanted attackers. The LED version of the classic — constructed of aluminum alloy and available in five distinct colors — offers the same functionality as its predecessors when running off three D cell batteries, and produces a high-intensity beam in nearly any scenario. It’s durable, shock- and water-resistant, and adjustable from spot to flood with a simple twist of the head.
Goal Zero Torch 250 — $80
We all could use a device that lights our way with something other than D cell batteries. Thankfully, not only does the Goal Zero Torch 250 feature an internal lithium battery that’s rechargeable via an equipped USB port, but it also touts a built-in hand crank and solar panel for charging the battery when conventional methods aren’t available. One minute of hand cranking will even supply you with 10 minutes of light, which is a better return than most investments in life.
With more than 180 hours of burn time and five lighting modes ranging from continuous to strobe, the Petzl Tikka 2 Core offers plenty of options on a budget. The sleek light runs off of a couple AAAs and provides light for up to 115 feet (when used under optimum conditions), while allowing you to utilize a single red LED to preserve night vision. Its even available in two colors, red and black, and comes with a waterproof rating of IP X4 for a variety of conditions.
Dorcy’s flagship offering isn’t the most attractive of the bunch, but it remains extremely affordable and built to withstand a fair amount of water. The bright-yellow LED flashlight produces a standard 55 lumens of light while using several AA batteries, and provides nearly 10 hours of use at a time. Dorcy also designed the flashlight with a carabiner clip and watertight rubber exterior, as well as the unique ability to float when dropped in water.
Though Princeton Tec specifically advises against using the Remix headlamp for biking, it’s more than suitable as your everyday alternative to the traditional flashlight. It’s shock- and water-resistant, and features an asymmetrical single arm bracket and large power button for easy access in nearly any situation. More importantly, the headlamp produces a bright and efficient wide-beam light capable of lasting nearly 200 hours on the lowest possible setting.
Though Princeton Tec specifically advises against using the Remix headlamp for biking, it’s more than suitable as your everyday alternative to the traditional flashlight. It’s shock and water-resistant like most, featuring an asymmetrical single arm bracket and large power button for easy access in nearly any situation. More importantly, the headlamp produces a bright and efficient wide-beam light capable of lasting nearly 200 hours on the lowest possible setting.
Streamlight Stylus Pro ($34)
Smartphone flashlights have taught us the beauty of compactness, but they have yet to rival a dedicated device. Weighing 1.6 ounces and built of aircraft-grade aluminum, the Streamlight Stylus Pro is one of the sleeker devices currently on the market. It provides more than 30,000 hours of operation with its high-flux LED and micro optical system — yet features only a lackluster 8 hours of run time — along with an unbreakable pocket clip and simple push button for operation.
Fenix PD22 ($76)
The Fenix PD22 is certainly not the cheapest in its class, but it’s also far from the most incapable. It’s designed with a durable, antislip body, and produces 190 lumens on command while offering four brightness levels that encompass two flashing modes and a side mode switch for total lighting control. Unlike most flashlights of a similar size, it requires a single CR123a battery in lieu of several AA to function.
Cree Mini LED Flashlight ($30)
Amazon customers like lighting manufacturer Cree — and with good reason. The company’s line of compact,LED flashlights is both functional and affordable, even if they have been known to give customers the runaround in the past. The sturdy Cree Mini LED is available in a variety of colors and as either a on-e or three-mode model, the latter of which offers an adjustable focus and three lighting modes designed for a variety of circumstances (including SOS if need be).
Fenix TK15 ($110)
Law enforcement officers frequently praise the Fenix TK15 for its sheer light intensity and ability to switch between five distinct outputs, ranging from low-light options to those that flash. Dual, recoil-absorbing springs also ensure the aluminum build survives the occasional impact, so you’ll always be able to shed light from more than 700 feet away for up to 140 hours via two CR123a batteries or a single 18650 Li-ion battery. And who doesn’t like an antirolling design?
Black Diamond may be a staple among outdoor enthusiasts, but the company’s Spot headlamp is designed for enthusiasts of all types. Available in five colors and featuring a water-resistant rating of IPX 4, the simple headlamp offers an admirable 130 lumens while allowing you to cycle between standard, flashing, and night vision modes via normal AAA batteries. It even houses a three-level power meter that reveals the remaining battery life for several seconds as soon as you switch it on.