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Published Mar 31, 2022 12:00 PM

We live in a great time to be a lumen junky with so many fantastic flashlights on the market. Whether you want a spotlight that fits in the palm of your hand or a feature-rich EDC wonder light, the best flashlight for you is out there. I’ve tested a collection of flashlights over five months by using them for EDC and while hunting and fishing. I also collected beam comparison photos to help you find the right flashlight for your needs. Here are my top flashing picks for different purposes. 

Evaluating the Best Flashlights 

Beam Comparison

I started my test by comparing the beam patterns of each flashlight. I shined a target 25 yards away. I took a photo of the beam with a camera in manual mode, which you’ll see in each review. I used camera settings that produced photos that looked as close to what I saw with my eyes and the settings remained consistent with each flashlight to give the most accurate comparison possible. All the beam photos were taken on the same day under the same conditions with the exception of the 5.11 Rapid L2, which I received later. 

I also compared the beam patterns of the three top-performing flashlights (Stiletto Pro, PLHv2, Sidekick) at 40 yards with the same camera settings. 

The second beam test was to see how the lights performed with interference from thick brush and from ambient lighting. A flashlight with more candela will allow you to see objects beyond those obstacles, whereas a light lacking the necessary throw will hit pitter out after those obstacles. 

Ergonomics and Features

The flashlights I tested are meant to be carried in a pocket or pack and used handheld. Lights in this class need an intuitive button and one that won’t click on accidentally. I tested each flashlight’s ergonomics and features by carrying them and using them daily. Through that process, I found flaws in some pocket clips and found flashlights that I’ll never leave the house without.

Best Overall: SureFire Stiletto Pro

SureFire

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Key Features 

  • Lumens: 1,000, 300, 25
  • Three brightness settings and strobe
  • Weight: 4 ounces
  • Rechargeable 
  • Programable 
  • ​​Passes IPX7 water testing to one meter for 30 minutes

Why It Made the Cut

It doesn’t matter if you carry the Stiletto Pro in your pocket for EDC or in your pack on a hunt, it’s a dependable and bright light that’s ideal for just about any situation. That’s why it’s my pick for the best flashlight overall. 

Pros

  • Ergonomic
  • Long run time
  • Slim profile

Cons

  • Not much throw

Product Description

The SureFire Stiletto Pro checks all the boxes for me. It’s easy to carry in a pocket, it’s bright, it has a versatile beam, and it’s rechargeable—all extremely well. The beam pattern is wide and very even edge to edge, which is ideal for EDC applications, blood trailing, and general use. 

It has good run time and, at max brightness, you can run it continuously for 1 hour. When the Stiletto Pro is running low, a red indicator light comes on. Recharging the Stiletto Pro is easy with a power bank or plugged into the wall via the micro-USB cable. 

The design of the Stiletto Pro is well thought out and extremely ergonomic. It slips into a front pocket and rides unnoticed next to my pocket knife. You hold it a lot like a TV remote and press the on button with your thumb, and you can cycle through the brightness settings by hitting the “on” button like you’re changing channels.

There are tradeoffs for the Stiletto Pro’s nice, even beam. It lacks throw, and you’ll have issues pushing past a photonic barrier or seeing objects beyond 50 yards. But, for most things you’d use a flashlight for, this is the best overall flashlight option. 

Best Tactical: Modlite PLHv2

Modlite Systems

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Key Features 

  • Lumens: 1350
  • Weight: 4.5 ounces
  • Rechargeable 
  • Made in the U.S.

Why It Made the Cut

The Modlite is a blindingly-bright flashlight that fits in the palm of your hand. The brightness is ideal for positively IDing objects up close and at far distances. 

Pros

  • Throws light far distances
  • Extremely bright
  • Easy to carry 

Cons

  • Gets hot after a few minutes of use
  • Could be too much light for some situations 
  • Only one brightness setting

Product Description

If you want to harness the power of the sun in a pocket-sized flashlight, buy a Modlite. The 1,350 lumens are impressive, but the Modlite PLH‘s 54,000 candela is the real power. That candella means this light can easily spot objects at 100 yards, and in urban environments, you’ll have no trouble pushing past the ambient light to see into dark areas. 

The beam has a bright center spot that spills out toward the edges. The intensity of that center spot can’t be overstated, and the crazy thing is that Modlite makes the OKW, which has even more throw. I don’t find the PLH to be too bright for inside use or everyday tasks. Whether I’m using it to look for things in my truck or work my way through a dark house, it performed well. But it isn’t ideal for reading or anything that requires close inspection. While using the PLHv2 for EDC, I found the rechargeable battery lasts about a week. 

If you want an impressively bright flashlight that excels in everything but long run time applications, then a Modlite is for you. 

Best Keychain Flashlight: SureFire Sidekick

SureFire

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Key Features

  • Lumens: 300, 60, and 5
  • Weight: 1.2 ounces
  • 1.25 hours run time on high 
  • Rechargeable 

Why It Made the Cut

If you think a flashlight is too much to carry in your pocket every day, a keychain light is an excellent option. The best keychain flashlight is the SureFire Sidekick because it has class-leading brightness.

Pros

  • Water resistant
  • Easily allows you to ID objects at 40 yards
  • Easy to carry

Cons

  • No great for pocket carry

Product Description

This tiny powerhouse was one of the most exciting flashlights I tested. The Sidekick is the size of a key fob, but its 300 lumens is six times brighter than the flashlight on your phone and as bright as many full size lights. I started testing this light with close objects and was thoroughly impressed with its bright and even beam. I stepped back to 40 yards and couldn’t believe it still illuminated objects enough to see them clearly. It has a single, thumb-actuated button that turns the light on and cycles through the brightness settings. It’s also rechargeable and costs about $30. The Sidekick is an unbeatable value for its brightness and features, and its small size makes a great EDC, keychain, or backup light. 

Best Value: Streamlight ProTac HLX 

Streamlight

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Key Features

  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Weight: 5.7 ounces
  • 1.5 hours run time on high 
  • Rechargeable 
  • IP68 rated (Waterproof to 2 meters)

Why It Made the Cut

Whether you put it in your pocket or on a rifle, the HLX gives you bright light with good throw. At around $80, it’s tough to beat for the price. 

Pros

  • Throws light far distances
  • Price

Cons

  • Too big to pocket carry

Product Description

I’ve had a Streamlight HLX on my rifle for years, and it has performed fantastically for that function. Its bright center spot and good throw make it perfect for spotting targets at distance, and those characteristics also make the handheld version impressive. 

Best Flashlights of 2022
Streamlight HLX at 25 yards. Scott Einsmann

I’ve found the HLX to make a great light for hunting or just taking the dogs for a walk. It’s a large light, so you won’t want to pocket carry this beast—even though it has a pocket clip. When the light is in your pack, the recessed tail cap button prevents the light from accidentally turning on. 

The rechargeable battery lasts 1.5 hours on high, which for me is about a week’s worth of regular use. You can cycle to the medium setting for a longer (3 hours) run time with a tap of the button. The low setting is just 65 lumens, but great for when you want to keep some of your night vision intact or just need to find something in your pack before dawn. If you want a bright, versatile light to carry in your pack, the ProTac HLX is for you.  

Best for Hunting: SureFire G2X Pro 

SureFire

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Key Features 

  • Lumens: 600 and 15
  • Weight: 4.4 ounces
  • Run time: Up to 52 hours on low 
  • Rechargeable 

Why It Made the Cut

The G2X Pro features a long run time, durable construction, and intuitive functionality. Those features make it my choice for the best hunting flashlight. 

Pros

  • Long run time on low
  • Durable 

Cons

  • Low setting is not very bright 

Product Description

For hunting, I don’t need a super bright flashlight; instead, I want something that will provide light for a long time. The G2X Pro’s 1.5-hour run time on high and 52-hour run time on low means that if I’m on a long blood trail, I don’t have to worry about the light dying on me. I also really like keeping a G2X Pro in my truck or by the back door because of its reliability and sub-$100 price tag. 

Best Flashlights of 2022
Surefire G2X Pro at 25 yards. Scott Einsmann

The 600 lumens are on the dim side compared to the 1,000-plus lumen powerhouses featured in the best flashlights lineup, but it’s plenty bright for navigating through the woods. You will miss the extra lumens for spotting objects at distance or seeing through thick brush. The SureFire G2X Pro’s beam has a fairly wide center spot that spills out. It’s a good general-purpose beam pattern that matches the light’s intended purpose. 

Best Small: Streamlight MicroStream 

Streamlight

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Key Features

  • Lumens: 250, 50
  • Weight: 1.2 ounces
  • Rechargeable
  • 1.5 hours run time on high 

Why It Made the Cut

The Streamlight MicroStream fits in the palm of your hand and packs plenty of lumens for EDC tasks. 

Pros

  • Small and lightweight
  • Charges quickly
  • Price

Cons

  • Tail cap isn’t recessed 

Product Description 

Best Flashlights of 2022
Streamlight MicroStream at 25 yards. Scott Einsmann

The Streamlight MicroStream is just under 4-inches long and around $30, which makes it ideal for EDC or as a backup flashlight. This small flashlight is incredibly easy to carry, and I really liked that it doesn’t print like some of the larger flashlights I carry. The 250 lumens is pretty good for the size of the light, and it provides enough illumination for anything you need to see inside 25 yards. It’s also rechargeable and can go from dead to fully charged in just a few hours. 

One of the main drawbacks is that you can accidentally activate the light because the tailcap isn’t recessed. But, Streamlight did make the button stiff enough that those light ADs aren’t super common while pocket carrying. 

Best Budget EDC: 5.11 Rapid L2

5.11

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Key Features 

  • Lumens: 523, 61
  • Run time: 2 hours on high
  • IPX-7 water resistance 
  • Weight: 3.68 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

The Rapid L2 is the best budget EDC flashlight because it has plenty of power, a versatile beam pattern, and a slim profile. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Wide, even beam

Cons

  • Not intuitive to swap between modes

Product Description 

The Rapid L2 is right on the verge of being too big for EDC, but you can comfortably carry it in a front pocket. Other EDC-friendly features include its recessed activation button and deep carry pocket clip. I did find the pocket clip to be a little too loose, and more grip would be my preference. 

5.11 Rapid L2 illuminating a target 25 yards away
5.11 Rapid L2 at 25 yards. Scott Einsmann

The beam is ideal for EDC use with nice even coverage over a wide area, and it excels at illuminating things 30 yards or closer. The 523-lumen flashlight is powered by two CR123 batteries, which is a common battery for flashlights. But, it’s not a battery most people have rolling around their junk drawer, and they’re also pricier than typical AA batteries. The benefit is you can get a higher output and run time with CR123. 

How to Choose the Best Flashlight

Flashlights might seem like simple tools, but there’s a lot to consider when you’re choosing the best flashlight. Manufacturers tailor their flashlights for specific purposes, and you’ll want to consider the lumens, candela, size, and power source before selecting the best flashlight for you. 

Lumens vs. Candela

Lumens is a measurement for the amount of light a flashlight produces. Candela is a measurement of how much light a flashlight puts out in a specific direction. Let’s say you have two flashlights with the same lumens, but one has a concentrated beam, and the other has a wider beam. The flashlight with the concentrated beam will have more candela. 

Size 

When you’re looking at a flashlight, you need to think about how you’ll carry it. Will this be a pocket companion, or will it live in a pack, drawer, or center console? The answer to that question will tell you if you want a small, slim light for your pocket or a larger light for off-body carry. 

Use

How you’ll use the flashlight is the most important deciding factor. Is this a general-purpose flashlight for walking the dog and making your way through a dark parking lot? Or, is this a duty light that carries a specific need to identify possible threats at distance and blind them? Is this a light you’ll need to run for more than an hour while you blood trail and drag a deer? Choosing the flashlight that best matches your needs will make sure you get years of good use out of it. 

Batteries 

Flashlights can use standard AA or AAA batteries or more exotic power supplies like CR123A batteries. Rechargeable flashlights are also becoming more and more prevalent. My preference leans toward rechargeable flashlights to cut down on waste and cost. Today’s rechargeable batteries also are very powerful, like the ones used in the Modlite. For emergency flashlights, I like standard batteries because they’re what I commonly have around the house. But, CR123A batteries have a great reputation for reliable power in all conditions. You just have to be comfortable with buying a pack specifically for your light. 

FAQs

Q: Do LED flashlights get hot?

High-output flashlights get hot even if they use an LED. But, LED flashlights below 500 lumens won’t get noticeably hot. 

Q: Are expensive flashlights worth it?

Like all things, you get what you pay for in flashlights. A $300 premium light will have features that budget lights cannot match. But, the real question is, how much performance do you need for your intended use? If you just need a basic light that won’t see hard use, then a $50 to $100 flashlight will serve you very well. 

Q: What is a good amount of lumens? 

For a micro flashlight, 300 lumens is very good. But, full-size flashlights don’t get exciting until they reach 1,000 lumens with long run times. 

Final Thoughts 

Having the best flashlight for your needs is a huge advantage in the outdoors and everyday life. Whether you go with a tiny powerhouse like the SureFire Sidekick or a lumen monster like the Modlite PLHv2, there’s a great flashlight for your needs out there.