To be fair, your phone does have a flashlight, but it’s not nearly as powerful or useful as a real one. Today’s flashlights use strong LED bulbs that let even small ones shine brightly enough and have enough beam settings to help you find your way in almost any dimly lit situation, from camping to finding lost keys or jewelry to long power blackouts.
We looked all over the internet and chose 18 famous flashlights to test ourselves. Here are the best flashlights for you, based on how easy they are to use, how bright their beam is, how long their batteries last, and how long they last.
ThruNite Archer 2A V3 The best flashlight The ThruNite Archer 2A V3 has a wide range of brightness settings, an easy and versatile two-button interface, and an overall satisfying design. $30 from Amazon
You probably have a flashlight on the phone in your pocket. It can probably shine about three feet in front of you pretty well. The ThruNite Archer 2A V3, on the other hand, has better light, more uses, better handling, and lasts longer. It’s a lot like its more expensive competitors in these areas. We chose this model after four weeks in the woods in New Hampshire with 23 flashlights and almost 80 dead batteries. We also spent over 50 hours researching the subject by reading through countless threads on a number of flashlight enthusiast forums and talking to a man who has reviewed almost 200 flashlights himself.
Almost identical, almost as good
The Manker E12 has almost all the same features as the ThruNite Archer 2A V3, but the low setting isn’t as low, and its price is usually slightly higher than our pick’s.
$40 from Amazon
$40 from Manker Light
The ThruNite Archer 2A V3 has the most brightness settings of any AA battery-powered light we looked at. It has a very dim setting that lets us read a map without losing our night vision and a bright setting that lit up trees 500 feet away. This flashlight, like many of the best ones, has two buttons that make it easy to change the power levels with one hand. The blinding flash mode is helpful in an emergency, but the Archer 2A V3’s design makes it easy to use without turning on the strobe, which gives it an edge over most competitors.
One more thing that you can only find on more expensive lights is on the Archer 2A V3: A 1-meter drop or full immersion in water won’t break it—try that with your smartphone—and it has a memory function and a momentary-on feature that lets you turn the light on and off with a half-press of the back button. We used this flashlight first when we went into the woods, even after trying all the others. Its two-AA battery-powered beam pattern makes it so easy to see.
If you can’t get the ThruNite Archer 2A V3, we also like the Manker E12. The two buttons and four brightness settings on this light make it look a lot like the Archer 2A V3. It also has the same useful features, such as a wide beam, a memory function, an anti-roll body design, and a fully waterproof rating. The only big difference is that the E12’s lowest setting is brighter than the Archer 2A V3’s, and we liked that our pick could get really dim better. Plus, the Manker costs a bit more than our pick most of the time.
We also looked at rechargeable torches, and it’s no surprise that the ThruNite TC15 V3 USB rechargeable flashlight is about the same price as the Archer 2A V3 while still having high-end features. With the same run time, the TC15 V3 is just a bit bigger than the Archer 2A V3.
On the high setting, though, it’s twice as bright. It only has one button that lets you quickly switch between the brightest and dimest settings. The USB charging cord that comes with the flashlight plugs right into it, which is different from most rechargeable lanterns where you have to take out the 18650 battery to charge it. Most of the time, the TC15 V3 costs around $50 to $60, which is less than most portable lights.
The problems with the TC15 V3 are problems with all rechargeable lanterns. First, a rechargeable flashlight takes longer to turn on than an AA lantern because the battery needs to fully charge again, which takes about three hours in this case. Furthermore, if the battery dies during a power outage, you cannot use the light anymore unless you have a separate power source or extra 18650 batteries to charge them. Even though rechargeable lights are great and very useful, we still suggest flashlights that run on AA batteries because of the reasons listed above. The latest version of the TC15, the V3 model, has a better pocket clip than the first TC15, which was also a great choice.
When it comes to speed, the Olight S2R Baton II is somewhere between ThruNite’s TC15 V3 and Archer 2A V3. It’s smaller than both, which makes it a good choice for regular carry. But the way it charges is what makes it stand out. The S2R Baton II has a magnetic USB charging attachment that clicks against the tail of the light, so you don’t have to mess with putting anything in.
Charging goes directly into the body of the light, just like the TC15 V3. Our tests showed that this light stayed charged longer than the others because of its easy-to-use design. The S2R Baton II, like the TC15 V3 and all other rechargeables, has problems with how long it takes to charge and how hard it is to charge when the power goes out unless you have extra 18650 batteries ready to go.