Best Flashlight For The Money

While there may be no single BEST flashlight, there are certainly plenty of attributes to be considered when selecting your flashlight.  Light is of upmost importance in a survival situation, but the ability to see in the dark is something that you should never be far from in any situation.  For example, I never go out of town without a flashlight.  The odds are against my hotel catching fire and frying the circuit panel, leaving me in an unfamiliar surrounding, in the dark…  but I’m not going to take that chance.  Beside my nightstand in my house I keep a “D” cell Maglite LED Flashlight, I don’t take it anywhere, its too damn heavy and bulky, but its a good light and a good weapon should something go bump in the night. Call me paranoid, but If I’m sleeping, there is a flashlight within reach at all times.

So, I think sums up the number one attribute of the best flashlight you can get, which would be one that is available to you when you need it.  So once again, like a lot of our other gear, once we realize this, and put it into practice, we can start looking at other criteria.  The best way to get that squared away is to have more than one flashlight and keep them in the same place at all times.  If you have a good rechargeable flashlight beside your bed at night, you’ve already taken care of 8 hours out of 24.  Keep one in your vehicle at all times, with a spare set of batteries.  Treat them as you would any piece of potentially lifesaving equipment, which means don’t let the kiddos play with them…because they will, and kids kill flashlight batteries like cats kill mice, it’s an instinct they are born with.  If you go out of town, bring a carry flashlight with you, you get the idea.

In years past, the next criteria might have been your choice of bulb.  In my opinion, this is no longer even a decision.  LED technology has come a long way, and is the clear choice over regular incandescent, xenon, or halogen bulbs.  The combination of efficiency, brightness, and dependability just makes it the only option.  SO, for the purposes of this page, I wont be discussing anything but LED light options.  (okay, we’ll look briefly at some emergency lighting).

This does not mean that there are not fine alternative choices to LED, it just means I won’t be spending any time on them.  I’ll let that play out in the flashlight review area below.  Please submit your favorite lighting solutions there for us to discuss…and we can expand to other lighting topics, such as perimeter lighting, weapon-mounted flashlights etc…

So with that said, here are some scenarios and hardware to consider:

Best Flashlight for the nightstand – The MAGLITE

Almost universally recognized, the MAGLITE has not changed much on the outside since being reborn as the LED MAGLITE.  (The original MAGLITE is still available also).  MAGLITE has always produced a quality product.

 The LED version sports 134 lumens, it’s every bit as tough as its older brother was, and has a battery life (2x”D”) of around 8 hours.  The heavy D batteries that power this flashlight, also make it a formidable club, which is why the MAGLITE gets my vote for the best flashlight to keep in your bedroom!  

Best Flashlight for the vehicle – Dependable but expendable.

Every vehicle you drive should have a well maintained flashlight on board, with spare batteries.  The possible scenarios that you might find yourself in need of a flashlight when you are somewhere in your vehicle are endless.  Not to mention that when you are not at home, you are usually close to your vehicle, thus close to a flashlight.  The best flashlight to keep in your vehicle will be something dependable, and rugged, but you dont need to buy an overly expensive flashlight, just to have someone break into your vehicle and steal it.

Obviously, if you work out of a vehicle at night, or are in law enforcement, EMS, or occupation where you USE this flashlight every night, a whole different set of rules apply.  But for the average commuter, most good quality flashlights will suffice.  They can be kept in your toolkit, which I KNOW you have in your trunk already.  

Pictured below is a NITECORE P12 2015 Version 1000 Lumens Precise Tactical Flashlight that came from Nitecore Precise series, I think somebody buys me one of those sets for Christmas every year!  They are actually good little lights.

 The other flashlight in the pouch is a pretty old COAST flashlight, probably no more than 30 lumens, but reliable as hell, at one time it was the best flashlight I owned and also it’s the Amazon Chioce!  I also keep a headlamp in there in case I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to crawl under the car or the hood to try and make a repair.   

Best FLashlight on your person – Tactical Carry Flashlights.

Here’s where things get personal.  Once you hit the trail, the beat, the bush, the job or whatever scenario when its just you and your environment, one of the best flashlight solutions is a tactical offering of some sort.  They are super bright, tough, long lasting, and small and light enough to clip in a pocket or belt pouch.  A good tactical light should have high and low settings to conserve battery usage.  Many will have a strobe setting, and a crowned bezel for hand to hand confrontations.  An integrated pocket clip is always a nice feature also.    

The selection of tactical flashlights available now, is staggering.  How they could ever all be compared, I dont know.  The quality of work being put into most of these lights is fantastic.  I’m partial to streamlight just because I happen to have bought a few of them and have been happy…  I get brand loyal sometimes, its a fault of mine.  I’ve used / tried out a couple of offerings from Surefire, and one from Fenix, I honestly liked them all.   MAGLITE also now offers a MAG-TAC which I have not had my hands on, but from what I’ve seen looks a little big for my personal taste.    

One recommendation I would make with regard to the best flashlight for an everyday personal carry light, and again this is one man’s opinion, so decide for yourself.  Get a flashlight that runs 123A lithium batteries.  These batteries have far superior performance in cold weather, and do a better job of supplying steady power to the high drain diodes in these units.  The cost of these batteries has come down a lot, and rivals AA etc pricing when you compare run time / price ratios.  Look around, you can find them online for as little as a buck each.  Yeah, I know, some of you don’t want the hassle of having to keep up with another battery size… fine, go with AA or AAA.  I just hold my personal carry flashlight in a whole different league than the ones rolling around in my trunk, I want it to be above average, and if that means I gotta stockpile a few batteries that are different, I’m ok with that.

Best Flashlight in the outdoors – Gotta have a headlamp !

A good headlamp is one of those things that makes you wonder how you ever got along without one.  Even the best flashlight ties up one of your hands, and sometimes you need both hands! Night activities that require you to be hands-free or on the move are where these handy little devices “shine”…(pardon the pun).  I think it might have been the taste of my flashlight in my mouth as I was trying to do something in the dark some years back, that finally pushed me to purchase a decent headlamp.  Prices for headlamps start under $10 for cheapos and can go up to several hundred dollars.

 At a minimum, you want your headlamp to have a low and high setting, have at least a water-resistant rating, preferably waterproof, and be comfortable to wear.  Do plenty of research before buying a headlamp, you don’t need to spend a lot of money if you will only be using it as a “Task Light”, and not to illuminate the trail in front of you for 300 yards.  For close up hands-on work, you don’t want or need a blinding 200-300 lumens reflecting back in your face, and a simple, inexpensive unit like the Streamlight enduro shown here is a quality choice.

Serious backpackers / hikers / S&R professionals / cavers will opt for a more expensive offering from Black Diamond, Brunton, Princeton Tec etc.  Again, no need for overkill in our context of preparing for an emergency or survival situation, but quality does count.  There are lots of good, affordable offerings from the brands I just mentioned, as well as Streamlight, Petzl and Fenix to name a few more.

Best Flashlight in the Emergency Kit – LED Lanterns etc..

When the power goes out in the middle of the night, for whatever reason, usually the first priority is lighting.  Ideally you have a backup generator to restore power temporarily, but that can be costly, and not practical for everyone.  In this situation, sometimes the best flashlight, is not actually a flashlight, but a lantern.  You should have at least one long lasting LED Lantern of some type stored with your other emergency supplies, so you know its there when you need it.  It should ideally have a dimming or low light setting to preserve you batteries as long as possible.   You should also have at least one long lasting emergency candle, preferably more.  Emergency candles provide light for days and are very inexpensive.  

Solar and handcranked lights are always good to have on hand, but they usually don’t provide much more than personal space lighting, and most tend to be cheaply made.  The freeplay indigo lantern is one of the better hand cranked lanterns I’ve seen, so consider taking a look at that if you are in the market for a no battery solution.   

Three good choices for an emergency home LED lantern are:

1) Primus Polaris XL.  Well known for their gas lanterns and stoves, Primus also makes a tough line of LED lanterns, and the Polaris XL is a good one to have as an emergency lighting option.  You can squeeze up to 300 hours out of 3 x D batteries if you keep it on the low setting.  The lantern has a carabiner type hook at the top and good stable legs at the bottom.  Best we can tell Lumen range is 12 on low and 110 on high.  

2) Black Diamond Titan .  One of the brightest full size LED lanterns available, the titan puts out 250 Lumens.  A single push rheostat dimmer switch will take it down to a low setting of 16 lumens, letting you stop anywhere in between.  The Titan’s upper lens body slides down over the switch to make it a fairly compact 8 inches tall.  The two piece hook system that black diamond uses on its other lanterns is also in use here.  4 x D cells  $79.95   

3) Kelty Lumacamp.  Bright, 170 Lumens, with a rheostat switch to adjust smoothly down to 60 Lumens.  This is a high-quality Lantern, made to last.  Uses 4 x D cell batteries.  Light is evenly diffused through the frosted lens.  Easily lights an entire room.  The handle on the Lunacamp has a built in hanging hook making it easy to hang just about anywhere.  Can be purchased for under $50.       

Duracell is now selling a line of “ultra” batteries with a 10 year shelf life, they would be a good choice for these units if you plan to keep them as emergency backup lighting.

A Smaller LED Lantern is a good thing to have ready to go with your Evacuation or Bug out gear.  You dont want to hump D cells with you anywhere, so here are a few options for a dependable, lightweight lantern.

1) N-rit mini lantern – a good inexpensive personal lantern.  N-rit is a korean company that makes some good quality core products.  This lantern can be purchased for under $20 bucks, runs on 3xAA batteries, and has a tough aluminum body.  The light is nicely diffused through an egg shaped cover over the LED.  No dimmer switch.

  • Black Diamond Apollo – Another awesome product from Black Diamond, the Apollo folds up neatly, and weighs just a few ounces.  This little light also has a dimmer switch, which is not always an option on these smaller lanterns, and is crucial when battery life needs to be conserved.  The apollo puts out 80 lumens of light through a frosted globe, and uses 4 AA batteries.  The 2 piece fold down hooking system is also a nice feature that black diamond uses on a lot its lanterns.  A slightly less expensive option from Black Diamond is the Orbit, also a great choice.   
  • Kelty Flashback Mini – A fairly unique small lantern option, the flashback and flashback mini use a telescoping action to switch from lantern to flashlight mode. This lantern is constructed of anodized aluminum and rubberized ABS which to me is one of its best selling points, it can take some abuse. The switch is a 4 setting low-med-high-strobe switch. The lantern puts out 20 to 50 lumens, and the flashlight puts out 20-80 lumens, depending on the switch setting. The flashback mini is powered by 4 x AAA batteries. There is an intgrated hanging ring, however it is a closed ring, making it a little less convenient than an “open ended” type hanging system. Nothing a small caribiner doesn’t take care of though.

Remember, when the power goes out: report the outage to your power company if possible.  Turn your front porch light on so when power is restored the crews can see it from the road. Never use any gas lantern, generator, grill etc., indoors. If you are on a municipal water supply, find out if the water supply is safe, if the water treatment facilities are without power, the water supply could become compromised.  If you are in a hot climate, drink plenty of fluids. If you are in a cold climate add layers of clothing to keep your core temperature up.  If you know an ice storm, hurricane, or other risk of power outage is possible, fill your bathtub(s) with water  to use for toilet flushing, washing etc.  Fill whatever sanitary containers you have with water for drinking purposes.    Being prepared to endure a power outage of several days only takes minimal planning and preparation, and you and your family will be glad you did it when the time comes.

What Flashlights do you use ?

Tell us about your experiences with the flashlights and Lanterns you have used.

Leave a Reply