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How many lumens is good for a flashlight?

For this article I want to answer a very common question that keeps appearing.

“How many lumens is good for a flashlight?”

In the flashlight market today we keep seeing these massive, powerful flashlights ranging from 1,000 lumens and beyond. There’s even the MecArmy PT60 that I believe is 9,600 lumens. I think a lot of us flash-a-holics can get lost in the sheer numbers that we continually see. We just keep asking for more power, we just want to see more lumens. However more lumens does not necessarily mean better.

In fact, just the other day I was looking for something in my car, I used my Klarus XT2CR PRO to search for it and I blinded myself using the full 2,100 lumens. 2,100 lumens is simply too much in such close quarters. So here’s one example of why more lumens may not necessarily be better.

Can A Flashlight Be Too Bright?

How many lumens should a flashlight have? Well, this answer or rather this question, has a fairly detailed answer. It honestly just greatly depends on what you plan on using the flashlight for. So I’ll go into a few different situations that you would want a flashlight for and talk about what lumen count you’re going to want. From there it’s up to you to decide which situation or which lumen count is right for you.

Everyday Carry Flashlight Brightness Levels

So first I’m going to start with casual everyday carry. Personally I think anything from 100 lumens to 500 lumens is a good amount. Just like the story I just told where I blinded myself in such close quarters, everyday carry flashlights are more or less used for situations like that where you’re searching for something in the dark or when you just need to illuminate something. Generally speaking you don’t really need a long throw or a super bright powerful flashlight. Now I’m sure people are going to fly in and tell me that I’m wrong about that and that’s fine, that’s their opinion but for many casual users a simple key chain flashlight that delivers around 100 or 150 lumens is perfectly adequate. You’d be surprised just how bright even just 100 lumens can be. So if you’re wanting a flashlight that you plan on carrying with you everyday you’re not really going to use it in any tactical situation, it’s only there for convenience then I would say 100 to 500 lumens is absolutely adequate.

Tactical Flashlight Brightness Levels

If you’re looking for a more tactical light whether it’s for law enforcement, security or for your own personal self defense, it gets a little more interesting here. You’re probably going to want a flashlight that’s around 800 to 2,000 lumens. I know it’s quite a range but every tactical user has their preference. Personally I think it’s important to have at least 800 lumens in a tactical flashlight because of that strobe mode. You want a powerful and truly disorienting strobe mode. And you need a lot of power to deliver on that and for good self defense. I’m actually going to change my mind. I would say 500 to 2,000 lumens. You can get a decent strobe mode out of a 500 lumen flashlight so I would recommend at least 500 lumens if you’re looking into a tactical flashlight but would very much recommend looking for something a little bit more than 500.

You have the Fenix PD36R, an insane tactical flashlight that delivers 1600 lumens. If you need to go around strobing bad guys all the time then yeah, I would probably recommend the PD36R for that purpose because it’s not going to let you down. For me I would say the sweet spot in all my tactical flashlights are around 1,000 to 1,600 lumens. I find that this is a good amount of light, I great beam distances on these flashlights and the strobe is powerful enough that I feel comfortable using it as a non-lethal self defense option.

Professional Flashlight Brightness Levels

So let’s move on to professional flashlights. Now obviously it does depend on which profession we’re talking about but let’s for the moment say we’re talking about engineers, auto mechanics, repair men and women and jobs like this. For these kinds of jobs I don’t think you’re going to need more than 700 lumens. I think 200 to 700 lumens will be perfect for this kind of job. Or these kinds of jobs rather. Because many of the jobs I mentioned require a lot of close up work you’re going to want a more diffused beam.

A great example would be the Klarus P20 penlight that they just came out with. I know I have Klarus on the brain today but it’s just because I’ve done a lot of research into this Klarus P20 and I’m excited to talk about it which I’ll do later on in another article. But anyway this penlight delivers 230 lumens, it delivers a soft, natural lighting and easily illuminates what’s right in front of your face. Of course many professionals do prefer using headlamps and you’ll find that many headlamps will range around 10 lumens to I believe 2,300 lumens, something like that. For a professional job you’ll definitely want to look and shop around to see which lumen count is right for you. As well as which flashlight ’cause you might want a handheld flashlight or you may want a headlamp. There are many options to choose from. I know when I’m working around the house, depending on what I’m doing, I usually stick around 300 lumens to 500 lumens. It gives me a decent amount of light without blinding me. And allows me to work a lot more easily.

Outdoor Flashlight Brightness Levels

So now I’m going to talk about a category that’s a little tougher for me to narrow down how many lumens would make a good flashlight. And that’s outdoor flashlights. There are so many outdoor activities and so many flashlights that just work well for a variety of different activities that it would be tough for me to pin down what’s really a good flashlight. Outdoor gear should be durable and reliable.

I’m going to first talk about handheld flashlights. I think you’re probably going to want 1,000 lumens at least for a handheld outdoor flashlight. I know some users prefer a more focused beam that has a long beam throw with their outdoor flashlights. I personally prefer a more diffused floody beam. I like being able to see my entire surroundings or I also like the balance of a decent spill and a hot spot. Regardless for many nighttime outdoor activities, because there typically is not any lighting around I think a bright flashlight is quite important here. Because you want to be able to see all around you, that’s why I would recommend 1,000 lumens at least. That being said, I also think it’s important to have multiple brightness levels when you’re talking about outdoor flashlights.

So the turbo mode might be 1,000 lumens on your outdoor flashlight but you probably won’t be using that at all times. If you are reading a map or maybe just searching in your bag, you’re probably going to be using that lower setting. You certainly don’t need 1,000 lumens to read a map, that’s for sure.

Of course every user is different and everyone has their own preferences so while this entire article is simply my opinion on the matter, you may hold a completely different opinion and have completely different preferences and that’s totally fine. However if you’re new to flashlights and you don’t know which way to go because there are so many options, I recommend reading reviews over high quality LED flashlights like the reviews I do here or going to flashlight forums and asking questions or looking up answers that some people may have already, well just looking up answers.

You can decide which flashlight is best for you and what best suits your needs. Flash-a-holics are always excited to talk about their favorite brands and their favorite flashlights. So go see what they have to say on flashlight forums. Honestly even if you’re not new to flashlights I would still recommend you check out flashlight forums because you can get so much valuable information from these other flashlight users.

Final Thoughts

So to sum everything up, there are an awful lot of flashlights out there to pick from and one flashlight may not be what you need for a specific job. For example, maybe I should not have used my Klarus XT2C on, or in my car when I was searching for something. But generally speaking each situation may call for a different flashlight and a certain number of lumens. So depending on which situation you’re planning on using the flashlight for, whether it be everyday carry, casual use, tactical use, outdoor use, you have a general idea now of around how many lumens a good flashlight would be.  It is also very important to consider the type of battery to power the light.  Most flashlights can either take 18650, CR123 batteries, or AA.

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