We all know the sheer convenience of flashlight apps in a quick pinch. While your iPhone’s native utility may prove itself worthy when you’re fumbling in the dark in search of light, 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, serving as the perfect companion for hitting the trail or exploring 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. However, 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, whether you prefer a traditional cylindrical torch or a modern headlamp.
We’ve tested some gnarly flashlights over the years, including a halogen model powerful enough to literally fry an egg and start a fire, however, (all liabilities and general awesomeness aside) a real-world lightsaber isn’t all that practical for most situations. Nonetheless, here are our top picks for the best LED flashlights around.
At a glance
|MAGLITE ML300LX||Best LED flashlight overall|
|Fenix PD35 TAC||Best portable for your pack|
|Power Practical Sparkr||Best for camping|
|Scosche GoBat 2600||Best multi-purpose|
|Ledlenser MH10||Best headlamp model|
|Night Trek 270-degree Shoe Lights||Best for running|
|Surefire Titan||Best compact option|
|Coast HX5||Best budget option|
|Ace Camp 4-Function Utility Knife||Honorable mention|
Per Maglite’s mission statement, the company uses the African proverb of the Lion and the Gazelle as a source of inspiration when designing its products. In essence, the proverb states that regardless of whether you’re a lion or a gazelle, it’s imperative that with the rising of the sun, you must run — and run faster than you did yesterday, or you will die.
“What does any of that have to do with flashlights?” you ask. Everything.
Maglite introduced its first flashlight in 1979 and over the next 40 years, the company has hung its hat on a durable lineup of LED flashlights. The ML300LX has five lighting settings (Momentary, Full Power, Low Power, ECO, and Strobe) to aptly handle the job at hand. At full power, the unit emits 625 lumens of light up to 1,300 feet (in optimal conditions) or as few as 58 lumens when just a little light is needed. With a sturdy aluminum build, the ML300LX is also one of the most rugged LED flashlights on the market — drop it, kick it, run it over, you’ll be hard-pressed to bust this beast. That said, at nearly two pounds, it isn’t the most portable or convenient option for certain tasks but this brute is handy if you need to bludgeon a bear on the fly.
The best portable for your pack
Every ounce and sliver of space counts when you’re packing for an extended trip and while any handheld flashlight is technically “portable,” not all models stow and travel as easily as others. With these parameters in mind, the Fenix PD35 TAC LED Flashlight is our pick for best portable without sacrificing lumen output.
The PD35 TAC is equipped with two lighting modes: Tactical and Outdoor Operation. The Tactical setting is activated via the tail switch and allows you to emit up to 1,000 lumens of light. A double-tap of this button emits the same lumen output for one second for short powerful bursts when a quick glance will suffice. The Outdoor mode adds a little more versatility, offering six different lighting modes ranging from 1,000 to just eight lumens.
The exterior side-mounted clip is ideal for belts, pant pockets, and the semi-recessed tail switch minimizes the risk of the unit powering on even in a brimming overnight camping bag. This model boasts a waterproof IPX8 rating for added durability on soggier outdoor stints. Measuring in at just 5.4 inches in length and tipping the scales at a mere three ounces, the PD35 Tac is a powerful pint-sized tool for individuals looking to travel light.
Fenix PD35 TAC
Power Practical Sparkr ($45)
The best for camping
Aside from being a completely sensational flashlight, Power Practical’s Sparkr also works as a lantern and a windproof lighter. All three functions are easy to use and remarkably efficient. Let’s start with the lighter: On the back end of the shaft is a small cap that once removed, unveils a gray pincer-shaped back end with a small wire poking out from each side. Simply clicking the bottom button three times emits a glowing purple arc, which is a fully-windproof electric plasma flame capable of starting campfires, burning kindling, or lighting stoves. It’s virtually impossible to blow out, too, making it a fantastic tool for starting fires on windy, stormy days. The three-click activation is an intentional safety design to prevent accidental triggering and unwanted fires.
The flashlight features three brightness settings that go up to 400 lumens. It’s built with sturdy anodized aluminum capable of taking a heavy beating while still feeling lightweight. The Sparkr is water-resistant and boasts a rechargeable battery that offers a whopping 12 hours of light (or 100 fire starts). You can use the cap from the lighter as a diffuser to transform the flashlight into a glowing lantern — its included plastic utility tie even allows it to be hung anywhere while in lantern mode.
Scosche GoBat 2600 ($15)
The best multi-purpose
This useful 3-in-1 device offers a bright LED flashlight, a 12-volt car charger, and a portable power bank. Featuring dual LEDs, the flashlight casts a bright penlight-style glow which illuminates small areas, making it easier to search for things on the ground, in your car, or inside a bag or purse. Its function doesn’t stop at the flashlight, however. You can also use the device to charge your phone in a 12V socket while you drive, juicing it up while you run errands or commute to work. Best of all, when you arrive at your destination, just pop the flashlight device out of the car charger and bring it with you. It continues charging your phone wherever you go.
The best solar-powered
We all could use a device capable of lighting our way with something other than D cell batteries. Thankfully, not only does the Renogy E.LUMEN feature a USB port for easy charging but it also touts a built-in solar panel for charging the battery when conventional methods aren’t available. Once charged, it offers up to seven hours of power.
Encased in strong aluminum, this durable flashlight delivers a bright headlight that illuminates up to 200 meters away. With a magnet on the side that allows for mounting on a fridge, it’s equipped with a 3-watt LED headlight and 2-watt LED side lights to offer multiple brightness options. Additionally, the flashlight has an attached seat belt cutter, glass shattering hammer, and handy compass, making it the perfect tool to store in your glovebox for emergencies.
The best headlamp model
While many prefer a traditional, handheld LED flashlight, there are times when it’s convenient to have a hands-free option. That said, we recently tested a regular panoply of headlamps and the Ledlenser MH10 topped our list. The Adjustable Focus System allows you to easily switch between the Spot or Flood lighting settings with a twist of the bezel lens. The rechargeable MH10 is capable of dishing out up to 600 lumens of light on high, which is more than adequate for most situations.
For a little extra peace of mind, this headlamp also has a lock switch to prevent the model from inadvertently powering on in tow. When setting up camp or starting the fire for the evening, a headlamp is a great hands-free way to add a little light to the situation. This model certainly has use outside of camping trips and those who enjoy early morning or nighttime jogs and bike rides will appreciate the built-in taillight.
The best for running
If you’re someone who likes to exercise in the evening — or early morning hours — when it’s dark outside, these clever shoe flashlights are a must-have. The patented technology showcases two ultra-bright front-facing lights so you can easily see what’s in front of you while jogging, along with two red rear-facing safety lights making you visible to others from all sides. With a durable lithium-ion battery that recharges via USB, these clip-on lights offer three to five hours of battery life.
Although the flashlights are small, they manage to emit 150 lumens which cast light around 30 feet forward. Each light fits securely on any style of shoelace and won’t fall off once you start moving. Best of all, they’re encased in a fully weather-resistant material, so you can use them in the rain, wind, or even snow. Even if you’re not a runner, they make great hand-free lights for walking the dog, attaching to your bike, or strolling around town. You can even keep them in your bag or purse to use as ultra-compact travel flashlights.
Surefire Titan ($60)
The best compact option
Blink and you just might miss it; the Titan from Surefire is just 3-inches in length and weighs less than one ounce. The handy LED flashlight produces as much as 125 lumens on its highest setting and 15 lumens on its lowest setting. The versatile key-chain light easily attaches to your keys with an included stainless steel split ring. Simply twist the head switch counterclockwise repeatedly to activate and set output level, or to turn off. Crafted from strong, lightweight aerospace aluminum and further protected by a hard-anodized finished, the Titan may be small, but it is tough as nails.
The best budget option
Look, sometimes you don’t need hundreds of lumens or solar capability to get the job done. No, sometimes you simply need a solid LED option for the junk drawer or the glovebox. The compact Coast HX5 produces 130 lumens and the Pure Beam Focusing System allows you to switch between spot or flood with one hand. At 2.5 ounces and just four inches in length, the HX5 fits easily in your pocket, and the two-way clip conveniently fastens to your belt between uses. If you need a higher lumen output or a wide field of light when setting up the campsite, you’ll need to look elsewhere, however, when it comes to a powerful handheld option under $25, the HX5 fits the bill without breaking the bank.
Another selection with exceptional versatility, this multi-purpose knife is incredibly handy on its own but also packs a stellar flashlight. The 6-lumen LED is small yet still casts an impressive light able to illuminate a hallway or light up a small room. It features premium longevity, offering three hours of steady use before requiring a recharge. On the knife side, the tool features a durable stainless steel locking blade that’s razor sharp and grips easily. It cuts steadily without feeling flimsy and has an effortless release mechanism to fold it back in.
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