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Author: Sean McCoy Date Posted:5 May 2021
Modern flashlights offer long battery life, powerful LEDs, and excellent color rendering. These are the best flashlights you can buy now.
If you want a powerful, versatile lighting solution, flashlights still offer advantages over headlamps in some scenarios. For one, they point wherever you want, not just where your head is pointing.
Also, due to fewer weight constraints, they tend to have more powerful, longer-lasting batteries and incredible power for modest-size devices.
And to be honest, I’m a flashlight buff. Yes, I also use headlamps a lot in the outdoors. But more often than not, I grab a small flashlight from my truck center console and, if I need two hands for a project, clasp it in my teeth. I just love having the ability to point it wherever I want without having to crane my neck in a specific direction.
So if you love torches, read on for what we’ve determined to be the best flashlights you can buy. Because we’re focused on the outdoors, we rated these based on weight, size, battery life, color rendering, and lighting versatility.
Note: This isn’t a list of “light cannons,” as you’ll rarely need 1 million candlepower. But we did include one monster in case superpowered lighting is your jam!
Feel free to scroll through and check all of our recommended buys, or to jump to the category you’re looking for:
The Best Flashlights of 2021
Our team of testers loved the PD35 V2.0. But Fenix recently updated its line, replacing it with the new PD36R. And after a couple of months of testing, we are pleased to discover that the new PD36R is an upgrade over our previous top pick for the best flashlight. The PD36R is equal to, or superior to, its predecessor in several ways.
First, the runtime is phenomenal. With the new PD36R in eco mode, you can achieve an incredible 115 hours of runtime at a very usable 30 lumens. While this is less total runtime than its predecessor, it comes at a significantly higher, more useful output.
For casual users (occasional camping trips and short bursts of high-output modes), that should amount to months between charges. Our tester has gone more than 2 months without recharging the PD36R with regular usage.
Speaking of modes, the PD36R ranges from a low-end 30 lumens up to a searingly bright 1,600 lumens. At that 1,600-lumen turbo mode, you can easily see objects at 928 feet. That’s more than enough for most use cases for recreation in the outdoors. And impressively, the PD36R can maintain that brightness for 2.9 hours.
With an IP68 waterproof rating, it can withstand being underwater up to 6.5 feet for 30 minutes. It’s also dustproof and shock-resistant. One feature that we love is that you can easily manipulate between tactical (and strobe-enabling) functions and standard use with a small button near the front.
Beyond the specs, this is a perfect hand-size flashlight (5.3 inches long, 1.04 inches in diameter) with very user-friendly functions. Turn it on and off at the tail switch, tap the small button near the front to adjust power, and check the LED on the button when turning the light on for a battery-level indication.
One change in the new model that raised our eyebrows is that the PD36R recharges with a USB-C fast-charging cord. The old model used a micro-USB cord, which we liked because it seemed ubiquitous at the time.
However, Fenix notes that USB-C is faster charging and is rapidly becoming a standard charger. We hope to see more standardization in the near future to limit the number of cords needed to keep gear charged up.
Best Flashlight Value: ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Cool White
ThruNite Archer 2A V3 flashlight with clip
While the ThruNite Archer lacks a few of the higher-end features of the Fenix, it hits an absolutely excellent price of just $30. For that, you get a quality CREE XP-L V6 LED light source with a maximum power of 500 lumens.
And while that number may not look impressive, it’s way more than enough for most uses. And, using two AAs, it has a runtime of up to 4 days on firefly mode and 11 hours on medium (75 lumens).
Yes, this flashlight does use AA batteries. That certainly brings down the price compared with high-end rechargeables and costs money to operate. But it makes them extremely easy to re-power on backcountry trips — just bring a couple of extras.
Most Versatile Flashlight: NITECORE i4000R
NiteCore NT3E flashlight, USB charger, and batteries
A strong contender for the best overall flashlight, the NITECORE i4000R is one of the absolutely best flashlights on the market in terms of overall performance. But it’s significantly larger than our 2021 winner from Fenix, so it’s less suitable for hikers, hunters, or others who value lightweight and small size.
If you don’t care as much about size (it weighs 4.76 ounces and is just 6.26 inches long), it should be high on your list for performance alone. The i4000R punches through the darkness with 4,400 lumens on turbo mode. That’s enough to light up objects 250 yards away.
But more importantly, it has five modes, ranging all the way down to the 2-lumen ultralow mode that provides light for up to 380 hours.
It runs on a rechargeable battery that powers four CREE XP-L2 V6 LEDs. This setup provides exceptional versatility for everyone from campers and hunters to search-and-rescue and tactical uses.
The user interface is great, providing easy access to toggle between modes (like its turbo output and strobe mode) through a dedicated button separate from the momentary-on rear tail switch.
Best Flashlight With High Output: OLIGHT Warrior X Pro
OLight warrior x pro 2250 and rechargeable battery
With a maximum output of 2,250 lumens (and the ability to project it a whopping 600 m) the Warrior X Pro packs a heck of a punch. And for most people, that level of output is overkill. But for those who need to sweep large expanses of nighttime (like search-and-rescue personnel), this kind of power can come in handy.
Those are pretty wild specs for a flashlight that weighs just 8.43 ounces and measures less than 6 inches in length. It runs on a 5,000mAh rechargeable battery. You can recharge it anywhere you have a 12-volt USB outlet or recharger.
While the OLIGHT Warrior X Pro ($130) does give you excellent high-power performance, it’s weaker in the runtime category. That’s because its lowest power output is 300 lumens — more power than you usually need around a campsite. So for people looking for better runtime with lower outputs, there are better choices.