How to choose a Flashlight? Flashlight Buying Guide 2017

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how to select Best flashlightsAs the flashlight market continues to become oversaturated with different flashlights for different needs, it can be tough to find the best flashlights, specifically the best flashlights for your needs. Between all the different brands, models, power, features, and more, it’s very challenging to figure out which flashlight to choose or which is the best flashlight to buy. Although it can be tempting to judge the best based on the lumen count alone, this is not an efficient or accurate indicator as to which flashlight is actually the best one to buy.

A flashlight could have over 5000 lumens and be incredibly impressive, but it could be completely impractical for working around the house. For this particular article I’ll be looking at more compact handheld flashlights that are a bit more versatile than a monster flashlight that requires a case to carry around. No joke, there are flashlights out there like that. Handheld flashlights are the most versatile because they’re portable, powerful, usually come with convenient features, and are great for a ton of different situations and professions. If you pick the right flashlight, you could wind up with a reliable tool that will last you the rest of your life.

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Best Small Flashlight Available

Flashlights didn’t use to be as compact and powerful as they are now. However, thanks to advanced technology and continuous research we can find tiny flashlights that deliver incredible power like the Klarus Mi7. We now have access to the best flashlights that are tactical, portable, and useful. You may remember big clunky flashlights that your father, grandfather, or great grandfather used to use. Of course, we still have large flashlights today that deliver an unbelievable amount of power, but we more commonly see the compact flashlights that fit easily into your hand and are easy to carry around.

Best Flashlight Brands?

There are many brands of flashlights and searching through all of them can give you a headache. Some of the more popular brands include Fenix, Coast, Surefire, Streamlight, and more. While these may be popular brands, there’s no guarantee they’ll deliver the right flashlight for you. It can be tempting to to lean toward the popular brands, but it’s best to do your research and figure out what is best for you. Even relying on friends and forums isn’t always useful because you may have a different need than others. For example, if you’re looking for a hunting flashlight and your friend is suggesting a tactical law enforcement flashlight, it probably won’t work out. Everyone has their own preferences and needs when it comes to tools. So in this article I’ll help you narrow down the selection by talking about different flashlight features. With more knowledge you can better select a flashlight for your needs.

Key Factors in Choosing the Best Flashlight

–    Flashlight Battery Types 

It’s important to consider the batteries when looking into different flashlights. Purchasing cheaper flashlights will usually come with low-quality batteries which will in turn deliver a low-quality performance. There are three types of batteries that flashlights often come with.

  • Disposable Batteries

The most common and disposable batteries on the market are Alkaline and Lithium batteries. Alkaline batteries are less expensive and easier to come by than lithium batteries. Lithium batteries, on the other hand, are a little more expensive but have many positive aspects. Lithium batteries are compact and lightweight. They provide more voltage than alkaline batteries allowing smaller flashlights to be significantly more powerful. It’s easy to purchase both of these batteries in bulk so you can often have replacement batteries. The downside of these disposable batteries is that it can be quite costly over time, especially if you plan on using your flashlight often. You’ll find yourself going through them very quickly. However, if you don’t need to use your flashlight too often then these batteries might be better for you.

  • Rechargeable Batteries

There are several types of rechargeable batteries on the market including AAA, AA, CR123A, 18650, and more. Of course, you can also find non-rechargeable AAA, AA, and CR123A batteries and the non-rechargeable ones are more common. With these rechargeable batteries you may need to purchase a separate battery charger. Lithium-ion batteries such as 18650 batteries, are probably the most popular rechargeable batteries to use in a flashlight and for good reason. Lithium-ion batteries are also quite powerful, with a higher voltage. Many flashlights using lithium-ion batteries are USB rechargeable allowing you to charge your flashlight using any USB port like on your computer. If you’re really wanting the best light definitely go with a USB rechargeable flashlight. They may be a bit more expensive than flashlights that aren’t USB rechargeable, but you won’t need to purchase a battery charger so the cost makes up for it. After owning a USB rechargeable flashlight, you may find you’re unable to deal with flashlights that have you constantly changing out the batteries.

  • Renewable Batteries

Flashlights that come with renewable batteries such as a built-in battery that is energized by a solar panel or hand crank are not quite as common, but make excellent survival flashlights. If you’re wanting a flashlight to keep in a bugout bag or are wanting to be prepared for whatever may come, these types of flashlights will be a good ones.

 

Best Flashlight Material & Shape

Flashlights are often made from aluminum alloy or plastic, and some will even come with stainless steel parts such as bezels. The aluminum alloy flashlights will often be more expensive, but they’ll also be heat resistant and more durable. If you want high-quality, then go with the aluminum alloy flashlight. It’ll most likely last longer and might even perform better. You can find a thinner body or a thicker body on the flashlight. A thinner aluminum body means that it’ll be more lightweight, easier to carry around. A thicker aluminum body will be more durable. However, the thinner aluminum bodies are still very durable so that’s something to keep in mind.

As for the shape, you have a variety to choose from. With more tactical flashlights and flashlights with longer beam throws you’ll often find a slimmer body and an enlarged head. Some flashlights have a stick like form where the body and head are flush. The shape comes down to personal preference. When choosing a flashlight with a cylindrical body it’s important to note that the flashlight may roll when set down on a surface. Some cylindrical flashlights have an anti-roll design and you can always inquire to see if this is the case with a flashlight you have your eye on. Furthermore, you may want to find a flashlight that has a knurled pattern on the body. This pattern allows you to easily grip the flashlight.

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Flashlight Output (Brightness)flashlight light outputOutputs range all over the place from just a few lumens to thousands of lumens. It’s important to understand that with any tool, flashlights included, you get what you pay for. Flashlight prices can range from $10 – $500 or more. Buying a $10 flashlight will work exactly $10’s worth. If you want the best flashlight, be ready to shell out some money, maybe over $50 in some cases.

flashlight beam distance
flashlight beam distance

The best flashlights will come with an advanced and powerful LED, a solid construction, high-quality circuit technology, and often a good warranty.

A good flashlight will come with different brightness modes. Some, like keychain flashlights, may only come with two brightness modes. Others, like tactical flashlights, will often come with three to five brightness modes. The modes allow you to use the flashlight in different situations. If you purchase a 1000 lumen flashlight and want to read a map or directions in the dark, 1000 lumens will be way too bright and damaging to your eyes. Distance, beam intensity, and beam pattern will also play with the application of the flashlight. For example, a flashlight that has a longer beam throw will often have more of a pinpoint beam. This is particularly great for hunting. Whereas a flashlight that has more of a flood allows you to illuminate the area around you allowing you to see your surroundings. Of course, you can find flashlights that have a hotspot while giving out a good amount of spill so you can see around you. Many tactical flashlights will be like this.

When it comes to deciding just how bright your flashlight needs to be, that’s entirely up to you. However, it’s important to remember that with particularly bright and powerful flashlights they drain battery power more quickly so you may need to charge it or replace the battery or batteries in it more frequently. It’s also important to check on runtimes and see if the runtimes are acceptable for your uses. You can find tiny flashlights like the MecArmy PT16 that deliver a whopping 1000 lumens. However, the runtime for that turbo mode is minimal at best.

Flashlight Size & Weight

The size and weight of a flashlight is largely up to the user’s preference when it comes to the best flashlight. You can find small pocket lights no bigger than your thumb and you can find massive flashlights the size of your forearm and everything in between. The most versatile size is a handheld light around 6-7 inches in length. These flashlights are still compact and lightweight enough to carry around, but produce a lot more power than a small flashlight. If you prefer a larger and heavier flashlight you may find more power and extended runtimes. If you prefer a small flashlight you’ll find that they’re more portable but have shorter runtimes.

Waterproof Flashlight

waterproof flashlight

You can have the most powerful in the world, but unless it’s at least water-resistant, it’s as good as useless to you in any rain. Imagine camping out in the woods and it begins to storm. You pull out your flashlight, but after a few minutes in the rain in stops working. Now you’re frustrated because you’re stuck in the dark and you have a useless tool. Having a waterproof flashlight is a must, especially if you’re planning on using it outdoors. Most flashlights that are waterproof will have a little icon that’ll say it’s waterproof or it will be mentioned in the features. Part of what makes a flashlight waterproof is the o-rings found usually around the head and/or tail of the flashlight. If one of these o-rings snaps be sure to get another one to ensure your flashlight remains waterproof.

Flashlight Beam Distance & Type

There are a lot of factors that go into beam type including what kind of lens is used, the texture of the reflector, the size of the reflector, and more.

      1.   Flashlight throw Vs. Flood (What’s the difference?)
        We covered this a little bit earlier, but now we’ll be going into more detail. The beam type that you need will depend on what you’re using your flashlight for. If you plan on going hunting, trying to look at an object far in the distance, or whatever, then a flashlight with a great throw would be better. Flashlights that have a greater beam distance will often have smooth and deep reflectors. They’ll provide an excellent pinpoint beam with some spill that allows you to see around you to an extent.If you plan on using your flashlight in a professional setting or you need your flashlight to illuminate a wider area, than a flashlight that has a flood beam would be better. These flashlights won’t have much distance to them, but they’ll light up everything around you or where you’re working. They’ll often have smaller reflectors with an orange peel texture and some will have convex lenses.

        If you’re not sure exactly what type of beam you need then there are plenty of flashlights that provide distance while having a good spill so you can still see around you clearly. They fall inbetween the spectrum and are more versatile than the beam types we talked about above.

      2.   Flashlight Adjustable Beam
        If you can’t decide between flood and focus you can always go with a flashlight that has a zoomable head. These flashlights allow you to adjust the head and choose between a flood beam, a focused beam, or anything in between. These are particular handy because they’re so versatile. They’re great to have around the house or keep in your car.

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Many high-end flashlights will feature something called ITS temperature control. ITS stands for Intelligent Temperature System and what it does is protect the LED and the electrical internal compenents of the flashlight from overheating. So this system monitors the internal temperature of the flashlight and will step down in brightness if it senses a higher, possibly unsafe temperature. Many things such as the temperature of the flashlight’s environment, a breeze, and more may affect when the flashlight will step down. While this is a great feature to have because it ensures the protection and longevity of your flashlight, it can be a little annoying as well. A flashlight may claim to deliver thousands of lumens but then step down significantly after a very short amount of time. My recommendation would be to watch or read a review of any flashlight you’re interested in. This way you can see the flashlight in action and most reviewers will talk about when the flashlight steps down.

Many flashlights will also drop down in brightness depending on the energy level of the battery. So as the battery drains and gets to the point where it’s unable to provide enough energy to support the turbo brightness level, it’ll drop down to the high brightness level and so on and so forth. Some users really don’t like this system, but I personally do. It allows me to still use the flashlight rather than just completely draining the battery in the turbo brightness level. However, if I want to use the turbo mode then I’ll need to change the batteries or charge the flashlight.

Tactical Flashlight Modes Setting

Some believe that the best flashlights have multiple modes while others argue that a single mode is better, especially for a general use flashlight. To be honest, I find that the flashlights with multiple modes are better equipped to handle different situations. You can get the best powerful flashlight, but you don’t need all that power if all you’re doing is reading a map at night or looking in a dark corner for your keys. Having those different modes can really help you in many different ways. When you buy a flashlight that features different modes it’s important to make certain you have quick access to the modes. This way you can quickly access the high mode or whichever mode you prefer.

Flashlight Switch Types

Typically, you’ll see one (sometimes two) of three kinds of switches that – a tail switch, a side switch, or a twist switch. For tactical flashlights you’ll usually see a tail switch on them so that you can activate the flashlight quickly with one hand. However, tail switches can often prevent a flashlight from tail standing. Side switches are great for general use and some flashlights come with a lockout function to prevent your side switch from accidentally turning on which is convenient. Twist switches are almost always found on keychain flashlights and make it convenient to turn on such a tiny flashlight.

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Final Words on Finding the Best Flashlight

If you want the best LED flashlight then take your time, do research, watch reviews over flashlights you’re interested in, and you’ll make an informed decision. As an added bonus, check to see what a flashlight comes with. If you’re choosing between a few flashlights you may find a more expensive one that comes with many practical accessories while another less expensive one doesn’t. Make sure that it won’t cost more to buy the accessories for the less expensive one than just buying the more expensive flashlight that includes accessories.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for your guide here, this helps a lot.

    Now, I just need to figure out which flashlight to buy, so many options, not an easy decision hah.

    Thank you!

    Charlie

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