The Earth receives 380 septillion Watts of energy from the sun every day. Sadly, that isn’t quite enough if you need to take a walk outside during a blackout in the middle of the night. You are probably going to need a good a good flashlight to supplement all the light that the sun wasted during the day. That way you ensure that you won’t step on a LEGO and teach the neighborhood kids some fun, but foul, new words.
LED flashlights are largely considered better than traditional lights because they are more energy efficient since they use clusters of small lights to generate power rather than one large bulb. Using one of these lights, you are more able to customize how much power is used which can give your light either longer life or better brightness depending on your needs. They also don’t burn out as fast as old-school filament bulbs. By choosing an LED you are going green, saving batteries, and improving the output of your light. You deserve a damn medal, hero.
Tacticians Pal: The Nebo Redline first graced us with its presence during our look at the best tactical flashlights available. It is an excellent LED light with 3 power levels as well as strobe capability for those times when you need to alert someone to your presence during a blackout, an earthquake, or other disaster. In addition, it offers high-grade self-defense abilities with its notched head that will allow you to fend off looters or rioters without sacrificing visibility. Manages to produce 220 lumens of pure white light with just 3 AAA batteries. [Purchase: $22]
Nitecore TM15 Tiny Monster
Ultimate Illumination: The Tiny Monster has an ironic name since its 3500 lumen output is perfect for scaring away the things that go bump in the night, or at least making them go completely blind. There is nothing on the consumer market that is better than the TM15 when you need to chase away shadows or send a little Morse code to the International Space Station. One of the best parts of the Tiny Monster is it uses four CREE XM-L LED lights so that even if one is damaged, you’re still in the fight. Due to the sheer power consumption, you’ll need either 4 18650 rechargeable batteries or 8 CR123’s to keep it running. It has eight power settings ranging from “Going to check the mail” to “You call that sunshine?” Be aware that running it at maximum light output will cause it to heat up significantly. [Purchase: $250]
Best AA Light: Many LED flashlights are very powerful, but they lack the ability to use smaller batteries that are easy to come by. That is where the TK41 manages to – pardon the pun – shine. It takes 8 AA batteries, but it has four power levels that allow it to use those to ultimate effect. It can run for 240 hours on the lowest setting producing just 10 lumens or you can jack it up to the highest setting of 860 lumens when you need it to replace one of the stadium lights for a Friday night homecoming game. Includes an S.O.S. setting as well. The knurled grip makes it slip-proof and the scalloped end is an ideal glass breaker if a rescue op is on your agenda. [Purchase: $130]
Toughest Hombre: The 88850 is the flashlight you put in your survival kit. It is made from a high-impact polymer that can take a beating and still light the way. The C4 LED allows for greater brightness from a compact package that easily fits in a pocket or purse while still producing 130 lumens. The on-board CR123A lithium batteries can run for 3 consecutive hours, or longer if only used periodically. The rear on/off switch makes it easy to use with a pistol, but also means you don’t have variable brightness options or an emergency strobe. Best of all, the light is totally waterproof up to 1 meter with a floating bulb cover for ultimate flooding and hurricane survival. [Purchase: $38]
Streamlight 90512 Survivor
Multi-Purpose: The Survivor hits nearly all of the same selling points as the 88850, but it is more than just a survival light thanks to the right angle design. You can use it for work or clip it onto your belt or pack strap for hands-free visibility. It also employs a C4 LED that can make 140 lumens, or around 50 if you use the low setting. This is a better light for daily hard labor use in the garage, the mines, or the tunnel you are digging to escape the POW camp. The 4.8-volt nickel-cadmium battery is fine, but suffers from some battery memory issues and other Ni-Cd drawbacks meaning it could die at a critical juncture if used in a true life or death scenario. [Purchase: $150]
Most Portable: Keychain LED flashlights are literally a dime a dozen in some places, but don’t trust some knockoff an insurance agent shoved into your hand. It will fail you. To get impressive illumination in a compact package that comfortably fits in your pocket, the LD01 has no equal. It’s only 3 inches long but still puts out 82 lumens for an hour and a half at its highest setting or 9 little lumens for 27 full hours when turned down low. The body is aircraft-grade aluminum and it has an IPX-8 waterproof rating. It only needs a single AAA battery for use. Don’t leave home without it. [Purchase: $35]
Best Headlamp: With some of the other lights on the list, you can go hands-free…kind of. With the H502, you can let go completely and still see clearly. It straps snugly to your forehead and will stay there through nearly any conditions without slipping or bobbing away. It has three settings depending on how much saturation you need and maxes out at 260 lumens even though it is powered by only 1 AA battery. The brightness settings are easy to change even without looking at the light itself. It uses a Cree XM-L2 LED so the longevity is very respectable, though not the best in the business. Unlike most other headlamps, it can also operate as a handheld or even as a 90 degree standing light. [Purchase: $75]
Stanley SL5W09 Spotlight
Honorable Mention: When you need something with more beam width than a traditional flashlight that also has the long-life, durability, and eco-friendliness of an LED, then you want the SL5W09 Spotlight. It gives you 5 watts of power and 192 lumens spread over a wide area. Rather than variable brightness settings like typical LED flashlights, this has a dimmer that allows you to choose how much or how little light you need. The ergonomic handle is comfortable for extended use so you can use it for night tracking or hunting down kindling with equal ease. No truck should be without one. [Purchase: $33]