Pinpoints: The 7 Best Penlights

Aug 15, 2015

Category: Gear

When you’re out working search and rescue in the pitch darkness of the Yukon territory or trying to catch escaped fugitives, then you need an LED flashlight that is as bright as the sun. The rest of the time, having a few thousand lumens at your fingertips is a whole lot of overkill. During your day-to-day life, a penlight will typically suffice. They can often offer more direct illumination, which is better for menial tasks; like hunting down the phone that just fell into the black hole between the seats of your car. They’re also preferable as an every-day-carry since they don’t suck up space.

Picking the light that is right for you is about the level of light you need, how much space you have available, and how long you need it to last. There are lights that are bulky but put out a ton of power or those that are slender and simple to tote around. Some can run for ages without stopping while others burn hot and bright for an hour and then must either be charged or have their batteries swapped out. If you’re ready to go small or go home, get ready for the 7 best penlights.

ThorFire PF02

ThorFire PF02

Pro: Lightweight yet strong
Con: Strobe setting is a waste

Most Balanced: At any price point, the PF02 is an impressive piece of hardware. The fact it lands at the lower end of the spectrum just shows how much quality can be crammed into such a tight package. The Cree XP-E2(R3) LED bulb will give you up to 150 lumens worth of light but also sinks down to just half a lumen at the lower end. Lighter than your average fountain pen at a bit over 1.5 ounces you can barely tell it’s there. It fits in your briefcase, your tool box, your pocket, and just about everywhere else. Though it’s small, it is still fully aircraft aluminum with a waterproof rating of IPX-7 and high impact resistance. Bezels on the end make it able to function in a moderately tactical manner. Good for medical use, work, or just as an EDC flashlight. [Purchase: $20]

Streamlight Stylus Reach

Streamlight Stylus Reach

Pro: Can reach into small spaces
Con: Long

Flip and Flex: Built like the fiber-optic cable that we’re sure the NSA hasn’t put in our homes, this is the workman’s best friend. Folded up it is just under 7 inches, but when you unfurl the flexible arm you have 14 inches to work with, which is every guy’s dream. The extremely slender body permits the Reach to get into nooks and crannies where other lights can’t. It can also be hooked over or around objects to provide a stationary hands-free light. The size is it’s greatest downfall as well as greatest asset since you only get about 10 lumens worth of power. It’s made for detail work and won’t replace your standard flashlight by any stretch. Though the power isn’t high, the durability is exceptional, especially considering the moving parts and modest price. [Purchase: $22]

Under Control Tactical Pen Light

Under Control Tactical Pen/Light

Pro: Multi-Purpose
Con: Light lacks multiple settings

Last Line: You might one day find yourself in a situation where it is down to you, an opponent, and your dinky little penlight. In those circumstances an SOS strobe isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to want something more, and that is where this steps in. Inside this contraption is a bright LED 40-100 lumen light that works fine. That is coupled with a jagged self-defense bevel, a DNA catching cap, and an honest to god ballpoint pen. Billed as a tactical pen, this seems to be a multi-purpose piece of tactical gear that is ideal by your side for any situation. The light is plenty bright and lasts for a relatively long time depending on the battery used. The body is made to break windows or bust skulls, and it even writes smoothly in poor conditions. [Purchase: $25]

Streamlight Protac

Streamlight Protac

Pro: Programmable on/off button
Con: Short battery life

Tough Customer: Beginning with a C4 LED that is tough to break, everything about the Protac makes it ideal for guys who work hard and play hard. It’s often found on the hips of law enforcement officers, EMTs, firemen, and rescue workers because it can be dropped, kicked, soaked, and battered without giving up. Each of the 3 modes is easily accessed via the thumb button, a tactical advantage for one-handed operation. You’re able to program the switch to function differently depending on how you want the light to work. At the highest setting you’ll get 155 lumens for about 2 hours while low will run for an impressive 36 hours at 11 lumens. The lack of a twilight setting below low is irritating, so keep plenty of batteries on hand if you go this route. [Purchase: $39]

FOURSEVENS Preon 2

FOURSEVENS Preon 2

Pro: Stylish, professional look
Con: Sensitive switch

Medical and More: Those who want a typical penlight for standard use probably aren’t doctors or nurses. If you want something that works like a medical penlight but can also go above and beyond checking for concussions or plumbing the depths of a person’s orifice, give the Preon 2 a go. You’ll find the CREE XP-G 2 LED with its 192 lumens maximum output gives you a lot of light in a small package. If that is more than you need, there are 2 other levels to choose from starting at 2.2 lumens. You also have a few hidden strobe and SOS features which pop up if you begin pounding on the button. FourSevens has made these very stylish so any of the colors look good being carried around an office. [Purchase: $45]

FENIX LD22

FENIX LD22

Pro: Bezeled end
Con: Side push button for changing modes can be awkward

True Tactician: This straddles the fence between true penlight and tactical flashlight, but anyone looking for something with a little more meat without a ton of girth will find this a welcome addition to their arsenal. The LD22 runs on standard batteries so go ahead and put it in your survival kit or bug-out bag. It has a broad range of six settings that go from the 215 lumen turbo mode to the 3 lumen moonlight setting. An anodized aluminum body with minor bezel at the end give it the feel of a weapon and it can indeed become a window breaker. Just don’t expect the bulb to survive the experience. IPX-8 waterproofing make it able to survive 2-meter submergence for up to half an hour. [Purchase: $54]

EagleTac Clicky

EagleTac Clicky

Pro: Works for self-defense
Con: Threading feels rough

Short Round: The Clicky has a few distinctions. First, it is one of the brightest penlights you can find kicking out a whopping 453 lumens for a long 115 yard throw that can light up the night. It’s also shorter than most with an overall length a hair’s breadth away from 3 inches. It comes with its own belt holster so it won’t take up space in your pocket, though with the squat size, it generally fits just about anywhere. At the lowest, 1 lumen setting you’ll get 150 hours worth of life, but if put on maximum blast it won’t even make it an hour. The aircraft grade aluminum and roll-of-quarters size can also turn this into a blunt instrument if tucked into your fist. Much less dangerous than a self-defense knife, but also less likely to get you arrested. [Purchase: $55]

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