Flashlight Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best One for You?

Last Updated on March, 2023

Every household needs a good flashlight. 

Whether you are on a camping trip or dealing with a sudden power outage, a flashlight can come to your rescue.

If you plan on buying a flashlight but aren’t sure where to begin, we are here to help.

This flashlight buying guide will take you through all your options, including flashlight types, battery types, beam types, and so much more.

So keep reading to find out how to choose the best flashlight to meet your requirements. 

Quick Summary

There are three main types of flashlights: general purpose, industrial/heavy duty, and tactical.

When choosing a flashlight, you must consider the light output, bulb type, beam type, and battery type.

Flashlights can be made more durable with features like water resistance and impact resistance.

Choosing the Correct Type of Flashlight

flashlights on the chair

The first step is figuring out the flashlight that suits your needs. The easiest way to do this is to decide the purpose of your flashlight. 

There are 3 main types of flashlights, and each type serves a different purpose. 

1. General Purpose Flashlights

General-purpose flashlights are made for everyday use and are simple yet effective.

They are lightweight, handheld, easy to carry and inexpensive. A general-purpose flashlight is most likely what you need.

You can use a general-purpose flashlight for household chores, fixing things around the house, traveling and exploring and for use during power outages. General-purpose flashlights are further categorized by weight, battery type, and light output.

2. Industrial/Heavy Duty Flashlights

Industrial or heavy-duty flashlights are tough and durable. They are ideal for use in factories and warehouses. 

There are many types of industrial flashlights, based on brightness, battery types and safety rating. The safety rating is a very important aspect of an industrial flashlight. These torches are built, so they don’t react with any hazardous materials in the surroundings. This makes industrial flashlights safe for use in chemical stores and warehouses.

3. Tactical Flashlights

What are Tactical Flashlights? Tactical flashlights are mainly for law enforcement use. They are also popular with firefighters, search and rescue personnel, and as a self-defense tool.

You can attach a tactical flashlight to a weapon or another tool. 

These flashlights are light, making them easy to carry around. Tactical lights are also extra bright and must have a minimum lumen output of 120. 

Because a tactical flashlight is shock resistant, it can withstand the vibration of a firearm. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Flashlight

flashlight's light output and beam types

Flashlights have many features, but some are more important than others. Here’s what you must look out for: 

Light Output

Light output is the brightness of the flashlight and is measured in lumens. 

The lumen count indicates how bright the flashlight is. More lumens means a higher beam intensity. The light output of a flashlight varies between 20 lumens to 3500 lumens. 

The average light output of upto 100 lumens is more than enough for general purpose and industrial flashlights. A 100-lumen flashlight can illuminate objects within a distance of 20-30 feet. 

Tactical flashlights have a high light output starting at around 120 lumens, and most have a range of 300 – 1000 lumens.

Some flashlights come with two adjustable brightness levels, and you can choose between high and low brightness. More sophisticated flashlights have upto ten continuous brightness levels. 

The brightness of a flashlight directly affects its battery life. So the batteries will drain faster when you use brighter settings.

Other factors, such as bulb type and beam type, will also affect the overall light output.

Here you can learn more about “How Many Lumens is Good for a Flashlight.”

Bulb Type

A flashlight has either a LED bulb, an incandescent bulb, or a krypton bulb. However, most modern flashlights come with LED bulbs, and other incandescent and krypton bulbs are rare.

Incandescent bulbs: An incandescent bulb works with a tungsten filament. When the filament heats up, it produces light energy. However, these bulbs also produce a lot of heat, which can heat the torch.

Krypton bulbs: A krypton bulb contains a mix of two gasses, krypton and xenon, and a filament similar to an incandescent bulb. When an electric current passes through the filament, it produces heat and bright white light.

flashlight's led bulb

LED bulbs: LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LED bulbs work by passing an electric current through a semiconductor. The semiconductor then emits lights through a process known as electroluminescence. 

LED flashlights are bright, durable and energy efficient. A LED flashlight uses much less energy than an incandescent flashlight. Incandescent flashlights tend to lose more energy in the form of heat. 

Many LED flashlights have a lifespan of about 50,000 to 100,000 hours.

Overall, LED flashlights are more common and are a better option. Another advantage of buying an LED flashlight is that they are long-lasting, whereas the filament of an incandescent bulb can damage easily. 

The only downside of an LED flashlight is that it’ll cost a bit more. But the durability of a LED flashlight pays off in the long run.

Beam Type

Beam type is another major factor when picking a flashlight. The type of beam you need depends on your purpose for the flashlight.

There are 3 main beam types. The beam type is determined by the reflector that surrounds the light bulb. 

Flood beam: A flood beam is ideal for seeing things in close vicinity. These flashlights emit a broad floodlight that lights up closeby objects. A flood beam won’t work well for seeing far away objects, but it is perfect for indoor use and short-distance outdoor tasks. 

Spot beam: A spot beam is also known as a focused beam. Spot beam flashlights have a high beam distance and are great for brightening up objects far away. Spot beams are ideal for outdoor use when you want a clear grasp of your surroundings. Spot beams are the best options when you want to find your route in the dark and are ideal for camping and hiking.

Adjustable beam: These flashlights allow you to adjust the setting to see objects that are either close by or far away. Depending on the situation, you can change settings to get a focused or wide beam. This is the best option if you are willing to spend a bit extra.

Light Color

Most flashlights use white light, but some use filtered light. There are certain advantages of filtered light. For example, red or blue filtered light is good for avoiding detection. Most animals can’t see red filtered light so it is perfect for night-time hiking.

A soft light color like green is good for a situation like night fishing.

Some flashlights use other light sources, such as UV lights. These flashlights are common among law enforcement for detecting counterfeit cash and fake IDs.

Related article: How to Identify Animal Eyes At Night By Flashlight?

Battery Type: Rechargeable Battery/Disposable Batteries

Rechargeable Batteries on the table and a human holding Disposable Batteries

Battery type is a very important factor when choosing a flashlight. The two main types are rechargeable and non-rechargeable/disposable batteries.

Disposable batteries: Non-rechargeable batteries usually come as AA or AAA batteries, and you must replace them once they run out. This means you must keep buying replacement batteries whenever the old ones run out. Flashlights with disposable batteries are usually cheaper than those with rechargeable batteries. 

Some flashlights have non-rechargeable lithium batteries, also known as CR123A batteries. These batteries are very powerful and have high light intensity, but drain fast.

Rechargeable batteries: Most flashlights come with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. You can charge the flashlight by plugging it into a power outlet. Some flashlights are rechargeable through a USB cable. Rechargeable flashlights are more cost-effective in the long run because you don’t have to keep spending on new batteries.

Renewable batteries: Renewable batteries are a sustainable option. These flashlights have rechargeable batteries powered by solar power and sometimes by hand cranking. Hand crank flashlights don’t need input from batteries. You simply must turn the hand crank. The kinetic energy from the cranking is converted into light.

Battery Life

Battery life is one of the most important features to consider. You wouldn’t want your flashlight to flicker and shut down in the middle of an emergency. 

Regarding battery life, there are two things to consider: Battery run time and battery longevity.

Battery run time: Run time indicates how long your batteries will run when they are charged. Run time is measured in hours. Also, flashlights with high lumen counts have a shorter run time than those with low lumen counts.

Battery longevity: Battery longevity indicates how long your batteries will last before they need to be replaced. If the flashlight has renewable batteries, you must change them once every two years. But if your flashlight has non-renewable batteries, you may have to replace them about once every two months. 

Durability

You must never overlook durability when selecting a new flashlight. The durability of a flashlight mainly depends on the bulb type, water resistance, impact resistance, and the build of the flashlight.

Many flashlights are made with either aluminum or plastic, and both these materials are durable. But flashlights with thicker bodies are more durable, while thinner ones are lighter and easier to carry around.

Some flashlights are embedded with stainless steel to improve their strength.

A tire on top of the flashlight and some water drops on the flashlight

Also, some torches come with a pattern to provide a grip to prevent them from accidental slips.

Water resistance and impact resistance can greatly affect the durability of a flashlight. 

  • Water Resistance

You must consider water resistance if you plan on using your flashlight outdoors. Water resistance is marked with the IPX scale. IPX4 flashlights are splash-resistant, meaning they can withstand a bit of rain. 

IPX7 and IPX8-rated flashlights are resistant to water immersion.

  • Impact Resistance

Impact resistance indicates resistance against damage when the flashlight is dropped onto a solid surface.

Impact resistance is crucial to protect your flashlight from accidental drops. Impact resistance is usually measured in meters. An impact-resistant flashlight will remain functional after small drops. 

These flashlights are important for industrial uses and are a common choice among construction workers, firefighters, and law enforcement.

Controls

Flashlights can have either one or many control buttons. A simple flashlight will come with one slide switch. With your thumb, you can slide the switch to the ON/OFF position. Most flashlights are operable with one hand, but some complex flashlights will require both hands to adjust the settings. 

If the flashlight has many brightness levels, you’ll have to use a rotary ring to switch between levels. 

Some high-end flashlights have safety locks. These prevent the flashlight from being switched on accidentally. 

Tactical flashlights usually have a silent switch. You must press a button to switch on the flashlight and release it to turn it off.

Budget

A flashlight can range from $25 to $250, maybe even higher. A higher budget can secure a long-lasting flashlight with more functions.

You can buy a durable flashlight for everyday carry at a reasonable budget. You must always decide on a budget before you look at flashlight choices. Having a budget in mind will help you reduce the possibilities. 

Flashlights with more power, lithium batteries, and additional features will come at a higher price. 

FAQs 

Rechargeable LED flashlights are generally considered the best type of flashlight, with Acebeam, Nitecore, and Streamlight being some of the most reliable brands.

It is not recommended to leave the batteries in the flashlight as alkaline batteries can leak and damage the flashlight, and can also cause them to self-discharge faster. It is best to remove the batteries if the flashlight will not be in use for an extended period of time.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve gone through our flashlight buying guide, you can choose a flashlight that is ideal for your needs. 

Picking the right flashlight is not easy. There are so many flashlight styles with various features. But the features you must look out for include: battery type, bulb type, beam type, light output, durability, and last but not least, your budget.

The best thing is you can buy a good flashlight without burning a hole in your pocket. 

A good flashlight can last for ages and guide you through your darkest times.

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Author
Dillon Morrison
I have been involved in the flashlight community since 2007. My brother has a flashlight shop from where I have tested and reviewed more than 600+ different types of flashlights. You can find more about me here.

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