LED flashlights use less power than regular flashlights, which equates to longer battery life. And because LED flashlights make less of a drain on batteries, they only use around a third of the power incandescent bulbs need.
Although headlamps have surged in popularity, flashlights remain a good choice whenever a handheld light is preferred, such as:
any time you want the strongest portable beam available.
when dexterity and precision in controlling the light is important.
being able to set down a light to work on a task.
Advances in LED (light-emitting diode) technology and battery efficiency have resulted in flashlights that are smaller, lighter and brighter than they were just a few years ago.
What is the best LED flashlight for you? This article will help you narrow your selection.
Understanding Your Flashlight Choices
The key factors to compare when selecting a flashlight:
Battery type and run time
Size and weight
Flashlights range from under $20 to over $200, yet they may be the same size. What are the differences? Brightness is the biggest one. A pricier light is more powerful due to the use of advanced bulb, battery and circuitry technology. A rechargeable battery can add to the cost, as can features such as strong impact- and water-resistance, effective heat dissipation and multiple lighting modes.
Shopping in person? Check out the following:
How does the light switch on and off?
Could it be inadvertently switched on inside your pack? Or, if you plan to use it in cold conditions, how easily could you switch it on or off wearing gloves?
Does it appear rugged enough (or, conversely, light enough) for your needs?
How does it feel in your hand?
Is a tool required to change batteries?
Compliance with these standards is voluntary and the manufacturers do their own testing, but most major brands now include the following performance data on their packaging.
Light output icon
Measured in lumens. This is a measure of the intensity of the light coming out of the flashlight, on the highest brightness setting powered by new batteries. It may also be shown for multiple light settings. This is a great comparison tool, but does not tell the whole story about brightness. Beam intensity, distance and type all influence the effectiveness of a light in different applications. Light output can range from a modest 20 lumens (great for reading a book) to a terrain-scorching 3500 lumens.
Beam distance icon
Measured in meters. This is how far the light will shine before the brightness diminishes to the equivalent of the light from a full moon. Full moon illumination is considered adequate for safe and careful travel outdoors. This distance will vary with the brightness setting selected.
Run time icon
Measured in hours. How long does it take the light output to drop to 10% of the rated output on new batteries, rounded to the nearest quarter hour. Light output may gradually decrease over time, or remain largely constant and then suddenly decrease. Run time is commonly given for each light setting. A Runtime graph, if available, provides the best illustration of the performance of a light over time.
Measured in meters. Lights are tested by dropping them 6 times onto concrete at the rated distance. This test is primarily to ensure the light remains functional after occasional accidental drops. It is not a test of resistance for a light being run over, being struck with a heavy object or being used to strike other objects.
Rated using the IPX system. Water resistance is important if using your light in the rain or around bodies of water. Three ratings are used:
Water resistance icon
Indicates an IPX4 rating, which is splash resistant from all angles, after the impact test has been applied.
Indicates a water submersion rating, also after the impact test.
IPX7 – temporary immersion: up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1m.
IPX8 – submersion: up to 4 hours at the specified depth.
For further discussion of technical lighting topics, see the REI Expert Advice article,