The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Flashlight

Flashlights are handheld and portable electric lamps that can be used to illuminate a space. Originally, flashlights were constructed using incandescent light bulbs. Since then, thanks to ever-evolving technologies, they have been replaced with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which have become the new standard.

Flashlights are now available in a variety of different types and can be used for various purposes. Due to the large selection, it is essential that you know the purpose of each so that when you are buying one, you can choose one that fits your needs. Knowing your purpose and popular brands is helpful before you delve deeper into other factors when choosing a flashlight.

Importance of Flashlights

Man using a torch to see the insides of a car engine

Flashlights are convenient portable lights designed to help you navigate through dark areas. They consist of an outer case or housing containing contacts, a switch, a reflector, a lamp, and batteries. Contacts are copper or brass springs attached to the battery and the lamp. Flashlights also have a switch to activate or break the electrical connection and a reflector, an aluminum-coated plastic part. This reflects the light from the lamp, which is the light source. In addition to illuminating a space, flashlights can also be useful in some other situations including:

Importance of Flashlights

Emergency Situations

Flashlights are great for emergency situations such as power outages If you intend to use your flashlight for emergencies, choose one with replaceable batteries. This is because it is unlikely that you will be able to recharge its battery if it runs out during an emergency.

You can also use flashlights to notify others about your locations if you don’t have signals. Some flashlight models also come with special SOS modes that you can use when you have no other means to contact others for help.


Flashlights can be a very useful self-defense tool, provided that it is bright enough. If you own an LED flashlight that has high brightness, you can use it to temporarily blind the attacker by pointing your flashlight in their face. This will help you gain valuable time that you can use to run and save yourself.

Features like a strobe mode help disorient a person as it flashes a bright light repeatedly. Additionally, if you intend to use an LED flashlight for self-defense, choose one with sturdy metal construction. That way, you can hit your attacker with it if needed. The same also applies for defending yourself against wild animals, but it’s not an alternative to real defense mechanisms and should only be used as a last resort.

To Save the Battery on Your Phone

Many people have replaced regular flashlights with ones on their phones. Although that is a great feature, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to conserve your phone’s battery. If you leave your phone’s flashlight turned on, chances are that your battery will drain very quickly. To avoid such a situation, you should get a separate torch that can aid you in emergency situations without affecting your phone’s battery.

Types of Flashlights

Green flashlight on a white background

All flashlights work by the same principle. When you press the on button, the two contact strips get connected, which causes electricity to flow from the battery to the lamp, and it lights up. When you press the off button, the contact strips move apart, which breaks the circuit, and the lamp stops emitting light.

Using this simple mechanism, various kinds of flashlights are available on the market that can be used for multiple purposes and in different situations. Here are some of the most common types.

LED Flashlights

LED flashlights are some of the most popular flashlights available because they are long lasting and efficient. These flashlights don’t produce much heat and are highly durable. This makes them perfect for rugged use, as they can withstand accidental drops and outdoor use such as hiking and camping.

The light produced by these flashlights is usually off-white with a blue hue. Compared to other flashlights, they are generally expensive and almost match the price of heavy-duty incandescent bulb flashlights. The Fenix FX-PD36R and the ThruNite LED Flashlight are popular LED flashlights on the market.

Headlamp Flashlights

Headlamp flashlights are hands-free flashlights designed to be strapped to your forehead. They are a great option if you want to keep your path lit up while using your hands for other tasks. Headlamp flashlights are convenient as you can use your hands without compromising your sight. They are the perfect kind of flashlight to use if you plan to do outdoor activities at night.

Not only are these flashlights convenient, but they are also cost-effective. Most headlamp flashlights, such as the Armytek Wizard Pro v3 XHP50, use an LED bulb and are mainly targeted at outdoor enthusiasts.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Flashlights

High-intensity discharge or HID flashlights are designed to emit extremely bright light. Unlike other flashlights, its lamp runs an electrical current through an ionized gas ball. Compared to incandescent bulb flashlights, they are less common and almost 10 times as expensive.

Despite their high price tag, they are useful for enthusiasts as they can deliver a very bright light that makes large areas visible. These features make it a good choice for camping trips.

Incandescent Flashlights

Incandescent flashlights are a great budget-friendly option. They usually run on D batteries and are a popular choice for everyday use. Incandescent flashlights are multi-purpose and can be used in various settings, including fishing and camping. They are also powerful enough to light up a small-sized area.

The exact area changes depending on the brand, model and lumens rating. One downside of incandescent flashlights is that they tend to break easily, which means they are not drop-resistant and consume more energy than LED-based flashlights.

Pressurized Gas Flashlights

Gas discharge or pressurized gas flashlights create illumination by ionizing a gas such as xenon, krypton and halogen. This means that the battery drain is slower, so you can use it for longer.

Pressurized gas flashlights are designed to have a housing case that makes them durable and long-lasting. They are relatively cheap compared to other kinds, so this is a great candidate if you are on a budget.

Solar-Powered Flashlights

Solar-powered flashlights are an environmentally friendly option as the battery in these flashlights is charged using solar panels attached to the outer case. These flashlights are convenient for general use. However, compared to other kinds of flashlights, such as LED or HID flashlights, they are weaker. Their brightness also depends on the amount of sunlight they receive and the size of the attached solar panel.

Solar-powered flashlights come in various designs, you can even find hand crank ones that allow you to generate light even when there is no sunlight. This option is helpful in emergencies when there is no sunlight to charge your batteries, which works great for camping and backpacking.

USB Charging Flashlights

A USB charging flashlight comes with inbuilt batteries that can be recharged. To charge these flashlights, you simply need to plug them in like regular devices. This makes them a convenient choice as you do not need to carry an extra set of batteries with you. USB charging batteries can also produce a bright light, but compared to other kinds of flashlights, they are more expensive. You also save a lot on purchasing replacement batteries.

Tactical Flashlights

Tactical flashlights are the go-to option for military personnel and police officers. These flashlights produce a powerful and bright beam of light. This beam is so intense that it can easily disorient people if it is pointed directly at their faces, meaning it can be used for self-defense.

Tactical flashlights, such as the Streamlight 88061 ProTac and the NITECORE P12, are also highly durable, can withstand most weather conditions, and are long-lasting. Most tactical flashlights can produce a beam of light up to 1500 lumens that can reach around 1100 feet.

Shake Flashlights

Shake flashlights are constructed to light up when shaken. Shaking these flashlights brings about a reaction in the flashlight that produces light. These flashlights run on magnets instead of standard batteries. Shaken flashlights are incredibly convenient because you don’t need to have batteries on hand. Additionally, they are cost-effective and readily available for you to purchase. One major downside to these is that the light they produce is not bright enough. The dim light produced by shaken flashlights is just sufficient for you to see a few feet in front of you.

Utility Flashlights

Most utility flashlights use an incandescent bulb and are comparatively less expensive than other kinds of flashlights. They are not meant for rough use, meaning they are not durable and will break if you drop them multiple times. Due to the low price tag, they are a popular choice, and even if it breaks, a replacement does not cost much.

Things To Consider When Purchasing a Flashlight

Black pocket LED flashlight on a white surface

If you are in the market for a flashlight, you have many different options to choose from, making picking the perfect one a little tricky. Here are some factors you should consider to purchase a flashlight that fits your needs.

Things To Consider When Purchasing a Flashlight

Battery Type 

Most flashlights use one of the two main kinds of batteries; rechargeable and non-rechargeable. A non-rechargeable battery is a good choice for those who want one on the go as they are cheap and readily available. The most common kind of battery size used in flashlights is AAA and AA, which are readily available.

In comparison, flashlights with rechargeable batteries are expensive, but they are not so expensive in the long run as you do not need to keep purchasing batteries. Some flashlights with rechargeable batteries allow you to recharge using the built-in USB connection, while for some you have to take out the battery and recharge it manually. If you live in an area with cold weather, a flashlight with lithium batteries will perform better. 18650 batteries are also a good option as they are widely available, have a high capacity and work with a variety of other devices.


Lumens are the light output or brightness of your flashlight. The higher the lumens, the brighter your flashlight will be. If the flashlight you purchase has multiple brightness settings, always check the lumen rating of the highest setting. The lumens rating can vary from 20 lumens all the way up to 3500 lumens (high-end models can have even higher lumens rating than that).

Durability and Water Resistance 

Although durability is not an essential factor for everyone, it is something you should consider when purchasing a flashlight. Ensure that the flashlight you purchase is designed to be durable, impact resistant, and waterproof. The impact resistance of a flashlight is usually measured in meters. Ideally, your flashlight should have an impact resistance of at least 1m and be made using a metal like aluminum to ensure longevity.

Your flashlight should also be water-resistant, as you never know when you may need to take it out into the rain. There are various IPX ratings for flashlights that measure how water-resistant they are. Ideally, your flashlight should be IPX 6 or IPX 7. The OLIGHT I3T EOS is a great waterproof option if you plan to purchase a flashlight for outdoor use.

IPX rating Description
IPX-0 No protection against water splashes.
IPX-1 Can handle water dripping on it for 10 minutes.
IPX-2 Can protect against dripping water when the flashlight is tilted up to 15 degrees from vertical for 10 minutes. 
IPX-3 Offers protection from a spray of water in any direction for 5 minutes.
IPX-4 Protects the device from splashes of water from any direction.
IPX-5 Can protect against a 6.3mm spray of water in any direction for up to 3 minutes.
IPX-6 Protects your device from a 12.5mm spray of water in any direction for up to 3 minutes.
IPX-7 Protects your device from complete water submersion in 1-meter deep water for at least 30 minutes.


The heavier the flashlight is, the more trouble you will have when carrying it, as your arms will get tired. If you plan on using a flashlight for extended periods, you may want to opt for a lightweight model or a hands-free model. The weight can significantly vary depending on the size, battery type, and the kind of material used.


The difference between cheap and costly flashlights is the use of materials, bulb/LED, and battery. Some kinds of flashlights such as HIDsare more expensive, while flashlights with rechargeable batteries are also more costly because they do not require you to swap out the battery.

If you are on a budget, a flashlight between $10 to $20 will serve you well and won’t be very expensive to replace, but you have to bear the cost of regularly replacing batteries. It comes down to intended use and frequency of use, so what might seem like a cheaper option will cost you more in the long run.

Run Time

The run time is how long it takes for the light output to drop to 10% when a new battery is installed. This is measured in hours and depends on the size, type, and quality of the flashlight’s battery and size. If you want to purchase a flashlight with high-lumen outputs, the run time will be considerably lower. Ideally, you should use your flashlight on lower settings because that way, you can use your flashlight for much longer.


When purchasing a flashlight, you should choose one with multiple modes you can easily switch between. The most common modes that you will find on flashlights allow you to switch between brightness levels. These are pretty useful as you do not need to use your flashlight at full brightness in all situations. Some flashlights also include special modes, including strobe, SOS, and red diffuse, that can be useful for emergencies.


Flashlights should be easy to use. Before you decide on a flashlight, check to see whether the controls are easy to reach and press. This is especially important if you work with gloves and cannot afford to take them off each time you want to turn the torch on and off or change the mode. To avoid such issues, purchase one with large push buttons or slider controls.

Materials and Shape

Most flashlights are cylindrical, but they tend to roll on a flat surface, so it is best to opt for an anti-rolling design. In terms of material, aluminum alloys, and plastic is the most commonly used material for housing. The best material depends on your use. If you want the material to be durable, you should opt for aluminum. Titanium and stainless steel are also used because of their durability and resistance to corrosion, but they are also more expensive.

Beam Type

The beam type determines the width of the light coming from the flashlight, meaning the area that the beam will cover. There are three kinds of beams; spot beam, flood beam, and adjustable beam.

A spot beam is a single beam that is focused into a small area. Such beams can travel long distances but do not cover much area in terms of width. Flood beams are unfocused beams that have a wide dispersion. Adjustable beams can adjust between spot and flood beams, making them a versatile option.

Best brands 

Tactical flashlight on the wooden table

When purchasing flashlights, you may want to buy one from a reputable brand. Not only are they well-built, but they also come with warranties that you can leverage in case your flashlight comes damaged or gets damaged. Here are some of the best brands to shop flashlights from.


Fenix is a well-known flashlight brand amongst professionals and enthusiasts owing to its versatile, powerful, and durable nature. The company produces tactical and rechargeable flashlights that are great for heavy-duty as well as casual use. Their reachable lights are lightweight and have a simple interface that makes them perfect for outdoor use. They can also be charged via USB, making them very convenient.


Among the many different kinds of brands available on the market, ThruNight offers the best combination of price and premium features. The flashlights from this company are not only bright but they are also durable, which makes them perfect for outdoor use. Since they have a large variety, you can easily find one that fits your budget and needs.


Armytek produces all kinds of equipment, but their tactical flashlights are very popular and well-known for their build quality. The company also produces an extensive lineup of headlamps, which are durable because of the high-quality material used. The handheld flashlights from Armytek are also durable and comfortable to hold. The handles of their flashlights often have a matte feel that allows you to grip them firmly. Prices for their flashlights range between $30 and $150.


Flashlights are a helpful tool that serve multiple purposes. They not only help you find your way in the dark, but can also serve as a self-defense weapon and can save your life in an emergency or disaster situation. Because of these reasons, it is vital that you purchase the right kind of flashlight. Since there are many different kinds of flashlights available, it is essential that you know all the different kinds and take into account various features, including the battery type, run time, material and the brand name.