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The best flashlights: for camping and outdoor adventures on the dark side

Included in this guide:

Best flashlights
Treat yourself to one of the best flashlights in our buyer's guide (Image credit: Getty)

A camper’s kit just isn’t complete without a good torch. When darkness descends, the best flashlights push back. Instead of weak yellow beams that drain batteries quickly, today’s models deliver incredible amounts of illumination with powerful rechargeable batteries and incredible run times. 

The construction quality of the best flashlights has also improved immeasurably over the last decade or so. Materials are more durable and lightweight, with vastly improved levels of shock resistance and waterproofing. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, clipping a flashlight to your belt feels as natural as the multitool you already carry. 

For all-round performance, we highly rate the Ledlenser MT14 1000 as the best flashlight you can have in your gear cupboard, but we have looked at a variety of the best torches for a range of applications here, including some that can be solar charged anywhere, one that’s designed specifically for runners and a little light that makes an excellent back-up beam to include in your Everyday Carry kit. 

The best flashlights you can buy

best flashlights

(Image credit: Amazon)

SOG Dark Energy DE-02

Five ways to turn darkness into light

Specifications
RRP: $66 (US) / £60 (UK) 
Weight: 4.1oz/116g
Length: 5.1in / 13cm
Battery requirements: 2 CR123A batteries
Lumens: 263
Modes: Momentary on/off, 100% power, 40% power, Reading, Strobe
Run time: 171 mins–89 hours (high–low settings)
Waterproof rating: IPX7
Reasons to buy
+Rugged feel+Durable+Checkered housing for non-slip handling
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life-Mode controls

This flashlight feels rugged the instant you pick it up. Crafted from aluminum, the housing is checkered to deliver a firm grip. No more frustration dropping your torch just when you need it. The 263-lumens beam is strong enough to illuminate your work. With a fine balance in your hand and five modes managed from a single button control, it’s easy to match the beam to the need. A belt hook keeps the Dark Energy flashlight close at hand. Powered by a pair of CR123 batteries. This torch is the middle offering in a range that also includes a less powerful flashlight with 128 lumens ($62) and a big brother that packs a punch that has 678 lumens behind it ($130).

best flashlights

(Image credit: Amazon)

Ledlenser MT14 1000

One thousand lumens of programmable, personalized illumination 


Specifications
RRP: $100 (US) / £110 (UK)
Weight: 8.9oz / 253g
Length: 5.9in / 15cm
Battery requirements: USB rechargeable
Lumens: 1,000
Max range: 320 meters
Modes: High, Mid, Low, Strobe
Run time: 9–192 hours (high–low settings)
Waterproof rating: IP54
Reasons to buy
+Rechargeable+Powerful light+Long run time+Battery strength indicator
Reasons to avoid
-Not fully waterproof-Questionable USB port durability-Battery generates heat that affects performance 

This small, lightweight, rechargeable flashlight delivers a powerful punch of light. Four light modes are controlled through Ledlenser’s Smart Light Technology and an ‘Advanced Focus System’ that lets you program and personalize the light beam for your specific environment and activity, offering functionality ranging from broad flood to long-distance focused beam. The USB rechargeable battery includes a status indicator to give you real-time, accurate readings on battery life. The MT14 delivers an incredible nine hours of run time on the highest mode and almost 200 hours at the lowest setting. The housing is weather-resistant, but not fully waterproof, so don’t go submerging it. 

best flashlights

(Image credit: Amazon)

Nathan Terra Fire 400

Stay on pace after dark, with this run-specific hand torch

Specifications
RRP: $60 (US) / £60 (UK)
Weight: 6.1oz / 173g
Length: 13.74in / 35cm
Battery requirements: USB rechargeable
Lumens: 400
Modes: High, Medium, Low
Run time: 5–12 hours (high–low settings)
Waterproof rating: IPX4
Reasons to buy
+Angled beam appeals to runners+Rechargeable battery+Rear strobe
Reasons to avoid
-Stiff controls-Weather-resistant, not waterproof

If your training schedule means running after dark – and you’re not keen on wearing a head lamp – it’s nice to have a torch that’s designed specifically for that very activity. The Terra Fire shows that level of specialization the instant you pick it up. The ergonomic handle and 24-degree download projection angle illuminate the running path ahead of you. No more stumbling on cracked sidewalks or slipping on ice. Using USB rechargeable batteries, the Terra throws out 400 lumens in three modes. With a five-hour run time on high, there’s no worry about a fading light stranding you on the trail after dark. Although bad weather may send you scurrying home, the water-resistant housing is protected from snow, sleet and rain (but it’s not fully waterproof, so don’t submerge it). 

best flashlights

(Image credit: Amazon)

Knog PWR Camper 600

A bright flashlight/bike light that can power your electronic devices

Specifications
RRP: $110 (US) / £86 (UK) / $180 (AUS)
Weight: 9.2oz / 260g
Length: 5.4in / 137mm
Battery requirements: USB rechargeable
Lumens: 600
Modes: Max, Mid, Low, Stamina, SOS
Run time: 2 hours 45mins–30 hours (high–low settings)
Waterproof rating: Unrated
Reasons to buy
+Customizable light head+Doubles as a bike light+Serves as a power bank for other electronics+Bright 600 lumens beam
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Waterproofing rating unknown

Simple, elegant design carries the day with this flashlight, produced by an Australian company that specializes in making bike lights. The torch packs a strong 600-lumen circular beam, which can be used as a camping flashlight or interchanged with another optional light head to serve as a bike light. Five light modes help you customize the beam. The PWR Bank also offers a USB port for charging other devices. A simple one-button push reveals battery life status. A removable lanyard helps you keep the flashlight handy when you’re setting up camp or organizing the inside of your tent. Knog hasn’t made the waterproofing rating of their lights public yet, but it seems to be weatherproof.

best flashlights

(Image credit: Amazon)

Nite Ize Inova T7R Powerswitch

A versatile flashlight with a feature list as long as its name

Specifications
RRP: $100 (US) / £95 (UK)
Weight: 7.2oz / 204g
Length: 5.83in /148mm
Battery requirements: USB rechargeable/ CR123 batteries (not included)
Lumens: 713 (with rechargeable battery) / 825 (with batteries)
Max range: 216 meters
Modes: High, Low, Strobe, SOS, Momentary High, Momentary Strobe
Run time: 3 hours 55 min (on high beam)
Waterproof rating: IPX4
Reasons to buy
+Tactical durability+Six light modes+Rechargeable USB and battery back-up power
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive compared to similar models-Weather-resistant, not waterproof

With this versatile flashlight, you can shift from spotlight to wide flood with a simple twist of the head. The end cap switch activates six illumination modes, from a high beam to a momentary strobe. The PowerSwitch dual power delivers juice through micro USB rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries or two CR123 batteries – which aren’t included but are widely available. Having this option means you can take spare batteries on longer adventures, where you won’t be able to plug the torch in and recharge. A charge indicator light turns from red to green when fully charged, and visa versa, so you can make the switch to batteries in good time, and there’s no more worrying about a fading light just when you need it most. The precision-machined, rugged mil-spec aluminum body is shockproof, crushproof and water-resistant (not waterproof, though). A steel belt clip keeps the flashlight secure and accessible.

Best flashlights

(Image credit: Amazon)

Goal Zero Torch 500

An unconventional, multi-purpose, solar-powered, portable power, LED light

Specifications
RRP: $50 (US) / £50 (UK)
Weight: 12.8oz / 363g
Dimensions: 8.8 x 2.2 x 1.4in / 223 x 56 x 35mm
Battery requirements: Rechargeable with built-in solar panel; also rechargeable via USB
Lumens: 300
Modes: Spot and Flood with high, medium, low settings
Run time: 3–50 hours (high–low settings)
Waterproof rating: IP67
Reasons to buy
+Built-in solar panel+USB rechargeable+Waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-No lanyard-Unconventional shape

Goal Zero moves away from the traditional flashlight shape with the Torch 500, which can be charged from the sun. The angular shape means it can be used as a handheld flashlight, or the unit stands on its end for use as a floodlight – useful in a tent and in all sorts of other situations when you want to keep your hands free. A built-in solar panel and USB-C rechargeable battery powers a 500-lumen three-level spotlight. The integrated powerbank also lets you charge other small electronics, such as a smartphone, GPS unit or headlamp. The rugged housing is waterproof. Use the convenient clip to hang the light to provide more illumination when needed. 

Best flashlight

(Image credit: Amazon)

Maglite XL 50

A little pocket rocket of a flashlight, which punches well above its weight

Specifications
RRP: $38 (US) / £45 (UK)
Weight: 2.4oz / 68g
Length: 4.8in / 12cm
Battery requirements: 3-cell AAA batteries
Lumens: 200
Max range: 224 meters
Modes: High
Run time: 6–25 hours (high–low settings)
Waterproof rating: IPX4
Reasons to buy
+Compact+Rugged+Single button control
Reasons to avoid
-One mode only-Low power for some situations-Weather-resistant, not waterproof

There are more advanced models in this collection of the best flashlights, but sophistication sometimes brings complication. The XL 50 is a simple, rugged, dependable tool. One button delivers a powerful beam for close-up work environments. One mode, one purpose, one singular benefit. Show me the light. It’s small, compact, light and inexpensive, so you can buy multiple units for your backpack hip belt pocket, day pack and glove box – this is a dependable little light that you can have as a secondary light source, in case all else fails. 

Children in tent with torch

When it's dark, a flashlight will keep children entertained for hours (or until the batteries run out). (Image credit: Getty)

What to look for when buying the best flashlights

Every one of the best torches above delivers high-performance illumination. Here are some criteria to help you evaluate the options and help you narrow down your choices. Add one (or two) to your gear kit and push back the dark.

Lumens

One of the first features brands brag about when it comes to the best flashlights is the number of lumens offered. More is better, but that’s not always the full story. Different applications require different shapes and sizes of beams. From tight focused beams to full flood, the number of lumens is influenced by environment and application.

Multiple light modes

Today’s flashlights are far more powerful than a simple high, medium and low settings. Most of the best torches offer a collection of useful settings including emergency, strobe and burst modes that target all of the flashlight’s lumens in a tightly focused beam. There’s no consistency between brands in terms of controlling and switching between modes. Power buttons can be found on the side or both ends of the flashlight housing. Some models can be programmed or customized for specific uses and preferences. All function well – just find a model that fits your needs.

Power source

Flashlights have been part of a camper’s gear kit since they were invented. The tech inside has evolved a long way, from low-power light bulbs to impressive LEDs that light up the night. Power is the next innovation. Many models have switched from standard AA batteries to rechargeable longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries. Backpackers embarking on multiday adventures can use flashlights with dual power sources, so they can take spare batteries, or use a torch with an inbuilt solar panel. With long run times and fast recharging rates, there’s no reason to stumble around in the dark.

Extras 

Flashlights that use micro USB ports to bring power to the rechargeable batteries can serve a second purpose. With some models, the flashlight’s power bank can be used to recharge small electronics like a GPS unit, headlamp or smartphone. The power banks don’t store a lot of power, but nice to know there’s a little extra juice when your other gear is fading. 

Rugged and weather resistant

The best flashlights work hard. They get dropped on rocky terrain on campsites, rolled around in the beds of pick-ups, and accidentally dumped into streams and lakes. Most torches are constructed of durable aluminum water-resistant housings. Surfaces are checkered to enhance the grip, especially when your hands are wet. Every flashlight’s product description includes a rating that explains the water-resistant or waterproof level of the flashlight’s housing. Take a look and match the model to your applications. 

A journalist specializing in outdoor recreation, Lou has covered product design innovations, participation trends and environmentally sustainable manufacturing for over 20 years. On the other hand, he’s had some less than successful outdoor adventures: once, completely spent after a hard day on the trail, he managed to set a vintage MSR Whisperlite stove ablaze before accidentally kicking the burning contraption into a lake. A published author, his book about invasive fish threatening the Great Lakes watershed will be published in 2021. craftedwords.com