Pocket Lights: The 12 Best Keychain Flashlights

Go to a convention of any kind and you’ll be able to collect a few hundred lights for your keychain, a couple of which might last until you get out to the parking lot. The problem with flashlights of this variety is they can be hard to make properly, hard to keep working, and easily damaged. To get one that does its job, especially if you require it for everyday carry, it needs to be special forces tough, bright enough that you won’t shatter your shins on the nearest obstacle, and still be small enough to slip into your pocket without difficulty.

We know that your pants are already bulging with your keys, knives, dental picks, notebooks, phone numbers, receipts, business cards, your stuffed wallet, and a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button, but none of those things will keep you from stumbling around in the waning moonlight. A compact light source is a must and we suggest you find one that shrugs off weather, has a long life based on solid construction and an LED bulb, and gives you a few basic settings for various circumstances. We’ll help you begin your journey with the 10 best keychain flashlights for EDC.

LRI PWK Photon II

LRI PWK Photon II

Forgettable: This looks like every single one of those cheap, bargain brand keychain lights that used car salesmen and insurance agents will shove into your hand, but don’t let the aesthetic turn you off. Beneath the simple hood is a worthy illuminator with a bright white LED that you have to really work to break. You can toggle the switch or lock it in the activated position for hands-free operation. Easily snaps on and pops off your keyring with a simple clip.

Purchase: $7

Streamlight 73001 Nano

Streamlight 73001 Nano

Featherweight: For the price, you shouldn’t even think about it, just get one. The exterior is anodized aircraft aluminum that is cut into a parabolic shape for a wider throw that gets to the side so you don’t need to sweep it as much. The LED lamp is only 5mm, but that small size makes it completely impact resistant, so feel free to drop it, throw it, bang it, bump it, and bash it. It’ll still shine on. With a built-in mini-carabiner on the back, you can pop your keys on and off without worrying that they’ll go rogue at the worst time.

Purchase: $8

Nite Ize Inova

Nite Ize Inova

Right and Tight: The Inova boasts a recessed bulb, which runs contrary to most smaller flashlights in that instead of trying to maximize its throw, it’s aiming to operate more like a penlight, giving a narrow beam for seeing what is right in front of you, rather than casting a wide net. This narrower focus makes the Inova ideal for reading maps in a dark car without blinding the driver, or checking your location without giving away your position in the pitch blackness. It can also be seen from further away when directed.

Purchase: $9

Nitecore Tube T Series

Nitecore Tube T Series

Dying Light: The clickable tube light is an endangered species now that every cell phone out there has a nice flash on it that can stay on, but for purists who don’t want to fumble with their phone, the T series from the tacticians at Nitecore is a worthy addition to your daily gear. Rechargeable via USB and able to kick out 45 Lumens, it’s always ready to go without needing its batteries changed to stay alive.

Purchase: $11

Fenix E01

Fenix E01

Flashaholic’s Friend: Coming in at about three inches long, this isn’t going to get lost in your pocket, but it isn’t going to suck up space either. The E01 has earned a IPX-8 waterproof rating, and when you drop it in a puddle or a snowbank, you’ll notice how sturdy it truly is. It has a sharp Type III anodized finish in a few striking colors that all look good and can make your keys easier to find when you go searching. It bears one of the longest runtimes we’ve found on a light this size at 8+ continuous hours.

Purchase: $16

ThruNite Mini LED Ti3

ThruNite Mini LED Ti3

One Good Turn: The entire T series from ThruNite are winners, but the newest member, the Ti3, is about as stunning as a small flashlight gets. It has three standard stages, ranging from the 0.04 Lumen Firefly mode to the 120+ Lumen high setting. There’s also a strobe should you need to draw attention to – or away from – yourself. Knurling on the bezel and body makes operation easy and allows for good grip even in a downpour, with the light capable of being completely submerged for short periods without shorting out or breaking down.

Purchase: $20

Pixel Keychain Flashlight

Small But Mighty: If you’re looking for something you’ll barely notice is there, than the aptly Pixel is the pocket torch for you. Sure, it’s only 2 inches long, but the Pixel boasts one of the best size to lumen ratios on the everyday carry market – packing a grand total of 25 lumens in all.  Built from durable stainless steel, it’s also waterproof and it’s squared off design keeps the light from rolling away – ensuring it’s always where you left it.

Purchase: $36

FourSevens Atom AL

FourSevens Atom AL

Toggle Free: The Atom AL separates from the pack when it comes to flashlights intended for EDC use. It’s short and squat rather than long and thin, and it uses a single twisting mechanism instead of a repeated back and forth motion to change the settings. Both of these are welcome changes. The bulky little body adds a solidity and a sense of resilience that its more slender cousins lack and the ability to go from low to high beams in a single movement is to be treasured.

Purchase: $40

Maratac Copper Rev 3

Maratac Copper Rev 3

Copper Top: First note that this is not copper plated, but a solid copper light from top to bottom, able to stand out from any crowd before you ever switch it on. Once activated, you get triple operational modes, a glowing diffuser and O-ring, and a real Cree XP-G2 R5 that can go the distance. Each piece is finished by hand.

Purchase: $42

Mec Army IllumineX-1

Rechargeable Torch: At some point, a lot of these lights start to look to the same, but Mec Army’s IllumineX-1 packs a nice little secret not commonly found in flashlights twice its size – it comes with built-in USB recharging. The brushed titanium keychain light is about the size of a standard AAA battery, but it’s LED lamp is packing an impressive 130 lumens, is waterproof up to 2 meters, and can be powered for up to 6 hours of use without needing a single recharge.

Purchase: $50

Prometheus Lights Beta-QRv2

Prometheus Lights Beta-QRv2

Quick Pull: Beginning life as a Kickstarter campaign, the Beta-QR quickly shot to the top of every enthusiast’s list, and the version 2 just improves on near perfection. Made of 302 stainless steel or copper, the QRv2 stands up to abuse and is built with an easy release mechanism so it isn’t stuck to your keys. Microprocessor enabled dual mode bulbs give you good throw and very natural color illumination even in strange lighting circumstances.

Purchase: $59+

MBI HF-R Black

MBI HF-R Black

Professional Grade: A sterling example of just what modern flashlights can do, the high output of this combined with a huge array of modes gives you more power in your palm than you could have found in a full lantern just years before. Using a clock face operation, you can jump right to the mode you require without hopping back and forth. Cast that in a tough aluminum body, and the most serious survivalist can’t find much to complain about.

Purchase: $88

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