“Flashlight: A mechanical device used by people to carry around dead batteries.”
We don’t know who came up with this definition, but we can relate to it. This post will help you choose a flashlight that’s right for you – and more than just a dead battery holder.
With thousands of flashlights on the market, deciding on the right one can be an overwhelming task. This post will give you guidelines on what to look for in a good quality flashlight, and make your decision easier. There are so many options to consider before making your purchase.
Do you need a super-bright light? Do you want long-lasting performance for multi-day hikes?
You may need a tactical model with a strobe setting for protection while out walking at night.
Do you want a flashlight with built-in rechargeable batteries? What about variable power settings?
Performance ratings: Firstly, look for a flashlight displaying ANSI FL1 ratings. These standards ensure models are tested and rated in the same way. The following list describes some of the qualities you should check out.
- Output: The intensity of the light produced by a flashlight measured in lumens. This rating is sometimes shown for multiple light settings available on certain models.
- Beam distance: Measured in meters, this rating determines the distance of illumination before the brightness diminishes to the equivalent of the light from a full moon.
- Impact resistance: Measured in metres, this test ensures the flashlight will still work after being repeatedly dropped onto a concrete floor.
- Water resistance: Waterproof flashlights are a must, especially if you’re a hiker, camper, or fisherman. Three ratings are used to demonstrate waterproof ratings, with testing performed after impact testing. An IPX4 rated flashlight is simply splash-resistant; IPX7 lights are good for temporary water immersion for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1m; an IPX8 rated flashlight can withstand submersion for up to 4 hours at the specified depth.
- Run time: The measurement in hours of how long it takes the amount of light produced by the flashlight to drop to 10% of the rated output (using new batteries). Sometimes represented by a graph, this measure is commonly given for each light setting available with the unit tested. Smaller, single-battery flashlights generally have shorter run times. Larger lights with specialized rechargeable batteries last longer – some up to several days on low power settings.
Brightness: Don’t be fooled by false advertising. A $10 flashlight advertised as having an output of 10,000 lumens? I don’t think so. A more expensive, top-quality flashlight with an output of 1000 lumens is a realistic figure.
Remember – when comparing flashlights, it is important to check that the lumen rating follows the ANSI FL1 standard for all units being evaluated.
To give you an idea of relative brightness, the following is an approximate brightness chart:
- 1 lumen: Roughly 10-times brighter than full moonlight.
- 10 lumens: The total amount of light given off by a candle (however, a candle’s light is not focused like a flashlight). A small keychain flashlight emits about 5 – 10 lumens.
- 100 lumens: Approximate brightness of a big, old, 3xD-cell flashlight.
- 300 lumens: A good brightness for an all-purpose flashlight.
- 800 lumens: A 60-watt tungsten household lightbulb.
- 1000 lumens: Similar to a car headlight.
Power levels and modes: Many quality flashlights have several power levels. Some have “turbo” modes for temporary maximum brightness. Variable levels give you some control over the run time.
Many lights have a “moonlight” setting that extends run time to up to several days, although you won’t be able to see much at this setting. At a higher brightness level, your light may last for 30 to 40 hours. On the highest setting, the batteries may last only 1 to 2 hours.
Tactical flashlights: Very popular with law enforcement, these flashlights are designed to be tough, waterproof, and can be used as weapons. The heads are reinforced – some designed to break glass. They have strobe settings that can temporarily blind and disorient an attacker. Accessories include gun mounts and remote switches. While hikers and campers probably won’t need all of these features, a tactical flashlight could come in handy if someone attacked you.
Battery types: The type and availability of replacement batteries may be a factor in selecting your perfect flashlight. Batteries come in various sizes and types – choose your flashlight with battery replacement in mind.
- Throwaway: While most environmentally conscious people use rechargeable batteries, disposable types are still commonly used. The most common, readily available, throwaway batteries types are AAA or AA. CR123 types are another common choice, but they are more expensive and can be difficult to find. The advantage of a CR123 type battery is higher voltage output in a smaller size, providing for bright flashlights in a small size. With the advent of better batteries and efficient LED bulbs, larger flashlights using C and D-cell batteries are losing popularity.
- Rechargeable: Some flashlights use built-in lithium-ion batteries, and can be recharged in several ways. Some are equipped with USB charging ports, other models with charging stands. You can plug them into a household outlet, or use a charging port in your vehicle. Solar panels are another option. Many people use rechargeable batteries with their own charger. Either way, these types of batteries are long lasting.
- Renewable: Less common, hand cranked flashlights with built-in batteries are handy for emergency kits – some are even equipped with solar panels for recharging.
Cautionary note: To ensure damage does not occur due to mismatched battery types, don’t use lithium or lithium-ion batteries with your flashlight unless recommended by the manufacturer.
Affordability: If you do your research – which we have – you’ll likely be overwhelmed with the choices and price ranges. Flashlights range in price from less than $10 up to more than $300. Buying a good quality light will give you a product that should last for many years. A good flashlight will give you the illumination you need with variable brightness levels making it possible to increase run time.
A high-quality light will be waterproof and shock resistant. If you need protection, a tactical unit with a powerful strobe setting may be a good choice. You won’t find these characteristics in a low-end flashlight.
Thanks for reading our post – we hope it was helpful in your quest to find the perfect flashlight.
Looking to buy a new tent? Read our post for help: How to Choose the Perfect Tent.