Updated Jun 25, 2022 11:17 AM
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the outdoors you’ve likely been in the dark. Be it paddling to the duck blind, hiking out of the woods, or waiting on a rising trout. When the sun disappears and you are stuck in the pitch black, having the right flashlight makes for an easy walk back to the truck.
I’ve used the best headlamps to help me cross icy rivers and spotlights to shine the path for my boat to navigate through a narrow channel. A strong light is one of the most important tools for any outdoorsman. Whether it be hiking, camping, fishing, or hunting—a good flashlight, headlamp, or spotlight is critical for the safety and success of a trip. After extensive testing, I found the best flashlights for just about any situation. One of my top picks is sure to help light the way for you.
Why it Made the Cut: A powerful light in a bulletproof package ready for whatever you through at it.
- Lumens: 3,100
- Weight: 3.95 oz
- Run time: 2hr 50min on high
- Great battery life
- Fully waterproof and dustproof
- Six different light modes
- Battery removed for charging
If you need a powerful light in a durable package then nothing is better than the best tactical flashlight Fenix TK16 V2.0. Equipped with an IP68 rating this light is built to go through just about anything. As a fisheries biologist, I find myself reaching for this light more and more. Its waterproof and dustproof which is ideal for working in and around water. The different modes allow you to dial in the brightness for whatever you need to see without blinding yourself. The TK16 also has an impressive battery life which can last up to 43 hours in Eco mode or nearly 3 hours in turbo mode. For those looking for a quality tactical light, this won’t disappoint. The strobe mode blasts out at 3100 lumens and is more than bright. This is the best all-around light I have used and it always comes with me for both work and pleasure. Not to mention the TK16 is backed with Fenix’s Limited Lifetime Guarantee.
Why it Made the Cut: Impressively bright and so light you forget you’re carrying it.
- Lumens: 500
- Weight: 2.2 oz
- Run Time: 2 hours on high
- Bright for the size
- USB Rechargeable
Few people think to add a flashlight into their everyday carry kit and rightfully so. In the past, flashlights have always been big and bulky, those small enough to carry lacked the power to illuminate anything for long periods of time. But flashlight technology has now improved to the point that both lightweight and powerful is possible in one unit. The Streamlight MACROSTREAM is the perfect size to carry all day and at 500 lumens is plenty bright to get the job done making it our pick for the best EDC flashlight. This little light finds its way into my pocket daily and at just over 2 ounces it’s easy to forget you’re carrying it. The two light modes offer 50 lumen and 500 lumen options which are great for everyday tasks like looking under your truck or lighting up a dark parking lot. The rechargeable battery makes it easy to throw on the charger in your truck and be ready to go when you reach your destination.
Why it Made the Cut: An ultra-powerful floodlight that emits a staggering 12,000 lumens.
- Lumens: 12,000
- Weight: 34.8 oz
- Run time: 1hr 50 min on turbo
- 9 different running modes
- Tripod socket for easy setup
- Intelligent downshifting light sensor
Ever need the power of the sun in the palm of your hand? The Fenix LR50R is the closest thing I’ve found. It’s one of the most powerful flashlights ever made. At 12,000 lumens there is no shortage of light. This is a true floodlight and casts a wide beam up to a half-mile away. In the woods I find myself reaching for this light more and more for tracking blood trails after a successful hunt. It provides great coverage to trail blood and the intelligent downshifting light sensor that will automatically dim the light for when I’m getting up close. Another great feature is it will double as a portable charger to keep your phone or other electronics ready to go during a long sit in the stand. If you’re looking for the brightest light you can find and don’t mind a little extra weight then the Fenix LR50R is your pick.
Why it Made the Cut: The perfect light for when you need to see further than you ever imagined.
- Lumens: 500
- Weight: 20.8 oz
- Run Time: 6.25 hours on spotlight mode
- Magnetic base
- LEP laser for long distance
- Red light mode
- Be careful where you shine the LEP laser
In the world of flashlights lumens are everything, that is until the Nebo LUXTREME SL100 came along. As the best flashlight for fishing, this innovative light uses an LEP laser that can shine up to a mile away and is truly impressive. On my boat, I run from dock light to dock light in the dead of night looking for wary snook and tarpon. Weaving in and out of channel markers and obstructions makes for a sketchy trip without a good light. I find this light really shines as a boat light—pun intended. The magnetic base sticks onto the center console and with the squeeze of a trigger, I can see everything in front of me. It also offers a wide range flood light that helps brighten a larger area. This is beneficial when tying on flies and moving around the boat. If the fish are extremely wary, I turn on the red-light mode to stay stealthy and hidden.
Why it Made the Cut: The most adaptable headlamp on the market for any hunting situation.
- Lumens: 700
- Weight: 2.75 oz
- Run Time: 1 hour on turbo mode
- Red light mode
- Detachable clip
- Changing between modes can take some getting used to
What do 30-inch brown trout, trophy deer, and a flock of ducks all have in common? Other than the need for a headlamp, not much. Trekking to your deer stand, paddling out to your duck spot, or casting all night for a fish of a lifetime are all next to impossible without a good light. The Fenix HM50R V2.0 is the best headlamp for hunting I’ve used to date and keeps your hands ready to go. On a recent hunt, I tested this extensively by hiking miles through the dark and rain to my stand with ease. With four different brightness options, the click of a button allowed me to see everything and minimize glare, especially in the rain. The neat part of this light is that can detach from the headband to allow you to clip it to a shirt pocket or hold it in your hand to see in tight places. Additionally, a red-light mode gives you the option to help stay hidden from wild game and wary trout. The HM50R is an incredibly well-thought-out headlamp in a virtually indestructible and rechargeable package.
Best Rechargeable Flashlight: Nebo SLIM+
Why it Made the Cut?: A true do-it-all light that is up to any task you throw at it.
- Lumens: 700
- Weight: 4 oz
- Run Time: 1.5 hours on high
- USB battery pack
- Laser pointer
- Adjustable clip
- Battery life is not long-lasting
Most flashlights are rechargeable these days but few offer as many features as the Nebo SLIM+. This model is our choice for the best recharable flashlight because not only is it a flashlight, it’s also a laser pointer, and battery pack all in a small convenient package. While it may not look like a conventional flashlight in its rectangular shape package, this light blasts out 700 lumens and is plenty bright enough. But the versatility of the SLIM+ is why it made it on our list. Simply hold the power button down and it suddenly becomes a laser pointer. If your phone is dying, plug it into the USB port and you’ll be fully charged in no time. This light is a valuable addition to my camping gear when I need a little extra light and the ability to conveniently keep my other electronics charged at the same time. The innovative adjustable hook and magnetic base work great for hanging inside of a tent to double as a camp lantern.
As a fisheries biologist and an avid angler and hunter, I find myself reaching for a flashlight daily. If you choose the right light, the job at hand becomes much easier, but choose the wrong one, and you have a long night ahead of you. I took the time to narrow down the best flashlights on the market today to help save you that struggle. All of my picks are field-tested and field-proven. My selections were based on the following criteria:
- Lumens: How bright is the flashlight and does it offer different brightness modes?
- Battery life: Will the battery life hold up long enough to get the job done?
- Rechargeable: Is the flashlight USB rechargeable or does it rely on disposable batteries?
- Distance: How well do the available lumens translate into beam distance?
- Size: Does the size and shape make sense and is it ergonomic and comfortable?
- Weight: What is the weight of the light and is it justifiable?
- Durability: Flashlights must be built to withstand lots of abuse without faltering.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Flashlight
A good flashlight can last you a long time, but with that comes a decent price tag. Before you commit to a purchase, you should know what you need out of a flashlight. Look for lights that are built with a purpose and you’ll be much happier in the long run. Here are a few key considerations:
When you find yourself looking for a flashlight, chances are you really need it. You don’t want that dreaded feeling of hitting the power button with no response. Look for lights that have rechargeable batteries and will hold a charge for a long time. Another important feature is the light’s durability rating. Is it IP68 rated? Meaning is it drop-proof, dustproof, and waterproof? These are all important considerations when finding a light that will never fail you when you need it most.
Finding a light that is comfortable in your hand makes the user experience much more enjoyable. Look for things like rubberized grips or finger grooves to make holding the light for long periods comfortable. Along with ergonomics comes weight and size. For instance, if you want an everyday carry light, compact and lightweight are big factors. If a spotlight is more important for you then weight and size might not be as big of a deal compared to if it fits your hand comfortably.
Flashlights are big on lumens which is a unit of measurement equal to roughly one birthday candle from one foot away. A good starting point for a flashlight is anything 500 lumens and up on high power. This is more than enough light for you to see plenty at night. With lumens, another important factor is how the flashlight projects the light. Flood lights for instance may be upwards of 10,000 lumens but spread a wide beam. Whereas a typical flashlight may be 700 lumens but can see just as far if not farther with a narrow light beam.
Battery Life and Charging
Nowadays there are endless battery options for flashlights. If you want something that’s always ready to go, rechargeable lights are readily available and can be charged using any USB port. If you know you’ll be off the grid for long periods of time look for lights with disposable batteries and pack extras for when your light runs out. Look carefully at how long the light will run on certain settings to make sure the light you choose will last long enough for the job you need it to do. There is nothing worse than a slowly dimming light when you need it the most.
Q: How many lumens should a good flashlight have?
In the flashlight world lumens are everything and can range anywhere from 100 to 100,000. A good starting point for most lights is 500 to 1,000 lumens. This range is plenty bright without being overkill. The result is a usable light that gets the job done without blinding those around you. Lights with variable modes allow you to adjust the brightness to the task at hand and maximize battery life.
Q: What is the longest lasting flashlight?
Flashlight battery life depends on a lot of conditions such as the temperature outside and the settings you run it on. Any rechargeable light worthy of owning should last up to 20 hours on low power while many such as the LR50R can last upwards of 60 hours. Do your research and find a light that will last more than enough for what you plan to use it on.
Q: What is the best flashlight on the market?
Many flashlight brands are rugged, reliable, and bright. It’s tough to say what the best flashlight is because like a pocket knife it depends on how you plan to use it. The perfect light for me may not be the perfect light for you. Companies such as Fenix, Nebo, and Streamlight make quality lights that can withstand anything you throw at them.
Final Thoughts on the Best Flashlights
Choosing the right flashlight for you is not always as straightforward as you may think. Something comfortable, long-lasting, and bright is a good starting point but really knowing what you plan to use it for can help you narrow it down. My top picks will help steer you in the right direction with something for everyone. But remember to do your research and look for a flashlight that will serve you the best.