In honor of Summer Solstice for the northern hemisphere, I've made an updated list of popular lights. Today is a couple days after (sorry!) the day you're least likely to need a flashlight north of the equator, but it increases every day after so it's a good time to buy a flashlight.
Because a definitive buyer's guide is too hard, I've made an arbitrary list of popular lights you should consider if you're shopping for a light. There is no best flashlight, so this is not the last word in what's good, but a list of lights that are often bought or recommended here with a touch of my own opinion thrown in. Exclusion from this list doesn't mean a light isn't good. To search more lights by their attributes, try http://flashlights.parametrek.com/index.html
Where available, this version of the list uses affiliate links that result in fees paid to the author for certain purchases made after clicking them. A version of this list without any affiliate links is on reddit. That version was written first in an attempt to avoid bias.
Shipping/availability may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, items shipped from China are often taking 2 months to arrive. Supply chains and warehouse stock also appear to be disrupted as well, so you may have to be more patient than usual if you want certain flashlights, chargers, and batteries.
For those in a hurry
If you don't want to learn much, just get one of these.
All of the lights in this section come with a rechargeable battery and have a charger built in to the light. The battery will be a standard size you can buy online from third parties, and the charger will use USB as its power source, though some options do use a special cable. Aside from the Catapult, all have very good color quality compared to the average LED flashlight, improving your ability to see details.
- Wurkkos FC11 - a general-use light for $30. USB-C charging, but it needs to use an A-to-C cable. There's a strong magnet in the tailcap, and a pocket clip for carry. A 25mm (1 inch) diameter and 120mm (4.7 inches) long is suitable for larger pants pockets. 18650 battery.
- Skilhunt M150 with high-CRI LH351D LED option - a smaller light with many characteristics similar to the FC11, but a smaller (14500 size) battery and magnetic charging connector. This light can also use AA batteries, both rechargeable and disposable, but the built-in charger only works with a 14500. $40, and sometimes available on Amazon, but not always with the right LED, which is important since the color and beam quality of the other options is poor. 21mm (0.82") at its widest point and 84mm (3.3") long.
- Armytek Wizard Pro Nichia 144A - a combination handheld flashlight, headlamp, and magnetic work light with high output and excellent color quality. An 18650 battery is included, and it uses USB/magnetic charging, which is a bit slow, but convenient otherwise. It's $90, but try coupon code "reddit" for a discount. I've linked Killzone Flashlights here rather than the manufacturer because the manufacturer's customer service is rather poor, and Killzone's is good. European buyers should consider Nkon and coupon code "AT25%off".
- Acebeam EC35 II, Killzone special edition with SST-20. I swear I'm not trying to favor Killzone here, but this one is a dealer exclusive. If you're thinking of a handheld light to accompany a pistol, this is a great option because the tailswitch is high-only with other functions on the sideswitch. If you think you want a single-mode light, you probably want this instead. USB-C charging (A-to-C again), and it's a USB powerbank (C-to-C works for this). $77 with bundled 18650 battery, $67 if you bring your own battery.
- Sofirn SP36 (Anduril/LH351D version) - with three 18650 batteries and a $71 price tag, this is a larger, more powerful, and longer-running light than the others in this section. It has USB-C (A-to-C only) charging. If you need to light up a room for a long time, or light up a field, this is up to the task.
- Thrunite Catapult V6 in neutral white - for seeing far away. You can spot large objects with this at 750m, and see in reasonable detail at half that. The color quality here is only average, but neutral white will look a little more natural, and have less visible backscatter than cool white. MicroUSB charging and a 26650 battery is included. $75, but coupon code "20%" does exactly what you think.
These are at the top of the list not because they're the best in some objective sense, but because they're easy to own and use, and easy to buy. They score well on most measure flashlight nerds care about while also being suitable for non-enthusiasts.
Some things to consider when shopping
Briefly, here are some characteristics that are usually considered desirable. Most of the recommended lights won't have all of them, but these are things to look for when shopping for lights:
- Neutral white tint - the vast majority of people with an opinion prefer a color temperature that's within the range of direct sunlight, which is generally marketed as "neutral white", but sometimes as "warm white"
- A lack of red, or especially green off-tints, beam artifacts and tint shift from the center of the beam to the edges
- A user interface that does not require cycling through different modes to turn off, and does not change modes every time the light is turned off
- A lack of blinking modes within the standard mode rotation, either because the light doesn't have any, or they're "hidden" by being accessed in a different manner than the usual modes
- An IP waterproofing rating - most good lights are rated for IPX8 with the depth and duration of submersion specified by the manufacturer
- A lack of timed stepdowns. Some lights only produce their maximum output for a few minutes at a time. While some powerful lights can get too hot to hold if run on high constantly, the hardware necessary to measure temperature and only reduce power if the light is actually too hot costs only a few cents, but many lights won't overheat badly anyway
- Full-spectrum, or high-CRI for more accurate color rendering. Color rendering index, or CRI is the most common measurement of this; average LEDs are about 70. Over 80 is decent, and over 90 is excellent. The highest I've heard of from an LED is 99. This is more important for seeing detail than absolute output and can be the difference between a stick and a snake on the trail.
- A sub-lumen moonlight mode (for general-use lights)
- A user interface that allows access to the lowest and highest modes from off without having to cycle through other modes
- A user interface where a single click turns the light on in a reasonable mode, and another single click turns it off.
Lumens are total output. Don't worry about small differences in output. You probably can't detect a 10% difference in lumens with your eyes, and 20% is barely noticeable. It takes 4 times the lumens to look twice as bright. Candela is intensity, which translates to throw distance. FL1 throw numbers are about right for detecting large objects; cut them in half for seeing clearly. Extreme throw distances also run in to limits imposed by human vision and by backscatter in the atmosphere. Warmer tints have less backscatter.
FL1 runtime numbers are to 10% output and can be misleading. Look for a review with a runtime graph.
Performance specs for AA and AAA powered lights are usually given with NiMH rechargeable batteries. Alkalines don't perform as well, and may leak corrosive electrolyte.
If you want something particularly powerful or long-lasting, you should probably skip right to the 18650, 21700, and 26650 powered lights. These larger Li-ion rechargeable batteries significantly outperforms other options, especially alkalines.
Lights in the mainstream section are generally stocked at dealers in the US and EU, probably have a warranty of some sort if they cost more than $50, often come with a battery and have onboard charging, and should have a low rate of defects or anything the user needs to tweak. Lights in the mainstream section are usually fairly simple to operate without much configurability, but there are a couple exceptions.
Lights in the enthusiast section often ship from China, may have safety concerns, might need calibration or adjustment to work correctly, etc.... Enthusiast lights often offer exceptional performance under certain circumstances, and opportunities for customization. These often have open source firmwares you can rewrite to your liking (given sufficient programming skill), but may be easy to configure right into an unusable state.
Everyday Carry Lights
These are selected for pocketability first and performance second, but most of the larger options are perfectly adequate for house/car/camping/etc... uses. This section excludes right-angle designs that double as headlamps, but many people do use those for pocket carry, so see that section as well.
- Nitecore Tube - a brighter, variable output, USB-charging replacement for button-cell keychain lights with shortcuts to high and low modes from off. $9
- Rovyvon Aurora A3x (Nichia 219C version) - neutral tint, 90 CRI, 450 lumens (briefly), USB charging, under 20g weight. Non-removable battery, so this will eventually wear out. Other Nichia Rovyvons are similar, offering different body materials, sizes, and sometimes colored LEDs on the sides. $33
- Lumintop IYP07 - a 1xAAA tailswitch option with three modes (5, 40, 130 lumens), three colors (black, silver, pink), and two LED options, of which only the neutral white, high-CRI Nichia 219C is worth considering. $22
- Lumintop IYP365 Nichia 219C - 2xAAA, 90+ CRI (Nichia version only) and neutral white. This is a longer IYP07. Not as bright as a Ti4, but light quality is often more important for being able to see clearly. $19
- Fenix LD02 2.0 (warm white version) - 1xAAA, tailswitch, warm white, high-CRI, and a UV secondary. 1 lumen low, 70 lumens high. $30
- Fenix LD05 2.0 (warm white version) - 2xAAA, 100lm max, and the same features as the above. $40
- Thrunite Ti4 - 2xAAA - Neutral white available. Titanium sometimes available. High output for this form factor. $20
- Nitecore MT06MD - 2xAAA, 90+ CRI, neutral white, and still shipping with the Nichia 219B as far as I know. Similar to the IYP365 on paper, but many people prefer the tint of the 219B over the 219C. $30
- Skilhunt M150 with high-CRI LH351D - this is the AA/14500 version of the M200, without the mode customization feature. It's only offered bundled with a 14500. The onboard charging works with any 14500, but won't charge NiMH AA inside the light. There's low-voltage protection for both battery types, so unprotected 14500s are OK. $40
- Thrunite T10 II - a side-switch light supporting both AA and 14500 Li-ion batteries with shortcuts from off to high and low and a magnetic tailcap. Neutral white available and recommended. $20
- Zebralight SC53c - 90+ CRI, warm-neutral white, e-switch with shortcuts to low, medium and high with several sub-levels for each. $57
- Thrunite Archer 1A - a dual-switch 1xAA light that can also use 14500. 200 lumens with AA, about 450 with 14500. $28
- Sofirn SP10S - 1xAA/1x14500, 90+ CRI with a Samsung LH351D LED and black, blue, or red body color. Slightly awkward UI with a long-press to turn off, but it may be worth it for the low price and high color quality. $16
- Lumintop Tool AA 219C - 1xAA/1x14500 and a 90 CRI Nichia 219C. There's a Cree XP-L version of this that isn't so compelling, so I've linked Illumn rather than the manufacturer, but it may be available elsewhere. 22
- Acebeam TK16 (SST-20 version only) - 95+ CRI, neutral white, tail e-switch with shortcuts to lowest, highest, and last-used, plus two mode groups so you can choose between sensible runtimes and impressing your friends with the 1250 lumen peak output. 0.5 lumen moonlight. Battery included, but you'll need a separate charger. If you were considering the Olight S1 line, get this instead. Also available in copper. $55
- Wowtac W1 - a basic light using a 16340 (CR123A won't work well, if at all) and USB charging. It only seems to come in cool white at the moment. Why is it here? Because it costs $20 on US Amazon and should have Wowtac's usual solid built quality and accurate specs.
- Thrunite T1 (neutral white suggested) - 1x18350 (included), MicroUSB charging, magnetic tailcap, 1500 lumen max mode with a ramping UI for medium levels. $40, usually
This category is so popular it gets subcategories. If you're looking for a lot of power and runtime that's still possible to carry in most pants pockets, this is your battery.
A tailswitch controls power, a sideswitch changes brightness. The ease of explaning the UI makes these perfect to hand out to others.
- Eagletac DX30LC2 - slimmer than most 18650 lights, with a unique take on the dual-switch interface: it always starts on high, unless the mode switch is held, in which case it starts on low. Longer throw than most, neutral white available from some dealers. $75
- Thrunite TC12 - essentially a TN12 with USB charging, a thermal sensor to limit temperature, low-voltage protection and a battery included. $56
- Sofirn SP31 v2.0 - efficient driver and XP-L HI emitter for more throw than most lights in this class. Cool white only, unfortunately, but a good value with the features of the Fenix PD32 at half the price. $37 with battery and charger on US Amazon. $21 without accessories on Sofirn's own site, but shipping from China is likely to take more than a month.
- Acebeam EC35 II (Killzone special edition) This has a bit different UI than the others here. The tailswitch is alawys high, with half-press for momentary. The side siwtch is an electronic switch with shortcuts from off to low, last-used, and high. This offers versatility in combination with dead-simple reliability under stress. USB-C charging (note: requires A-to-C cable; does not charge from C-to-C), optional battery, and it's a USB powerbank (powerbank function does work with C-to-C). The Nichia 219C is a bit cooler with a fairly balanced beam profile, and the SST-20 is warmer with some more throw. $67 by itself, or $77 with a battery. $10 less for the 219C.
Electronic switches enable shortcuts from off to useful modes - usually lowest, highest, and last-used.
- Zebralight SC64c LE - the SC6x series has long been an EDC favorite for their compact size, high efficiency, great low modes, and a user interface that was well ahead of the competition when it came out. Now, many would prefer ToyKeeper's Anduril firmware as used on the FW3A and D4v2, but Zebralight has added some configuration options that should keep most users happy. The 828 lumen max output sounds low next to today's hot-rods, but lights this size can't sustain more than that for longer than 5 minutes without burning the user's hand. $80
- Zebraligh SC64w HI - the above, trading some color quality for more output and throw. $80
- Thrunite TC15 - like the Neutron in form, but trades battery flexibility for 2300 lumens turn-on output and replaces the ramping UI with fixed modes. $56
- Skilhunt M200 (high-CRI LH351D option recommended) - Were you considering the Olight S2R? Consider this instead. Magnetic charging, but with a standard 18650. Optional high-CRI neutral white LH351D. Magnetic tailcap. Magnetic charging. The linked version even has configurable mode groups, and you can decide whether to pay extra to get it with a battery. Pending due to lack of reviews, but Skilhunt stuff is usually solid. $43 without a battery, $51 with.
- Wurkkos FC11 - 18650 EDC light, high-CRI Samsung LH351D, battery included, magnetic tailcap, USB-C charging, e-switch with the option of fixed modes or ramping. Wurkkos is affiliated with Sofirn, and this seems very much like some SP36S parts found their way into an SC31. Early versions had some UI wierdness, but the UI has been revised and is now very good. The tint could stand to be better, but the color rendering is very good, and it's $30
Other by use case
Right-angle lights and headlamps
If I could have only one portable light, it would be a right-angle light that functions as both an everyday carry light and a headlamp. Some lights in this form factor also offer a magnetic tailcap, allowing them to act as mountable area lights.
- Zebralight H53c - All the Zebralight goodness described above for the SC64c LE, but in a right-angle, 1xAA form factor. The Cree XP-L2 may make a less attractive beam than the Samsung LH351D, but most people report Zebralight's optics smooth it out well. H53Fc for a frosted lens for a very even beam. This one even comes with a pocket clip, and the headband does not have the top strap the 18650 versions do. $59
- Thrunite TH20 - 1xAA headlamp available in neutral white with infinite ramping and shortcuts from off to low/high. $30
- Acebeam H40 with 95 CRI Luminus SST-20. This is very similar to the TH20, but the low isn't quite as low and the color rendering is better. $30
- Fenix HL10 - a 1xAAA headlamp that weighs 40 grams with a lithium battery. It's here so /r/ultralight doesn't feel left out, as I would recommend something with a larger battery for a primary headlamp. This would make a good backup. Two is one. $30
- Nitecore NU25 - the other ultralight option. Sealed Li-ion pouch cell, so no carrying spares, and it's effectively disposable when the battery wears out. The primary emitter is cool white and low-CRI, but there's a high-CRI secondary. Some sacrifices must be made for a weight of 28g. $36
- Thrunite TH01 - 1x18350 battery dedicated headlamp, 1500 lumens burst (450 stable). This is a USB-charged option without going to the larger 18650 battery. If it sounds like a headlamp version of the T1, that's not far off. $46
All of these use one 18650 battery.
- Skilhunt H04RC - the popular version has a honeycomb TIR optic for a diffuse beam pattern. A reflector for more throw and a version with a reflector and a flip-out diffuser are sometimes available. Uses a timed stepdown. Available in neutral white. Magnetic tailcap. This version has USB/magnetic charging and includes a battery. Base models are cheaper. $58 as configured
- Wowtac A2/A2S - another budget option, this time with a reflector. Both come with an 18650 that has a USB charge port right on the battery, but can be used with any 18650. The A2S also offers neutral white, which I recommend. $20/$30
- Zebralight H600w IV - very compact, neutral white, great efficiency, well-regarded user interface, boost driver. What's not to love? The pocket clip isn't so good. $89
- Zebralight H600Fd IV - the above with 90+ CRI, a frosted lens for a more diffuse beam and a slightly cooler neutral tint that's a close match for the midday sun. $89
- Zebralight H600Fc IV - the H600Fd, but with warmer tint, like the late afternoon sun. $89
- Zebralight H604d - the H600Fd with no reflector and a clear lens for a very floody, perfectly even beam. $89
- Zebralight H604c - if you've read the above, this needs no explanation. $89
- YLP Panda 2M CRI - 1x18650 dedicated headlamp, with high-CRI neutral white LH351Ds. Not the most efficient, but the light quality is great and with an 18650 battery, most people won't mind. $38
- Thrunite TH10 V2 - over 300m throw in a right-angle light for those who need it. USB charging, and battery included. A bit more bulky than most. $60
- Armytek Wizard Pro Nichia 144A - this light was my idea. After reviewing the Wizard Pro XHP50, I convinced them to put a 90 CRI, 4500K Nichia 144A in it. It took a couple years, but they did, and it is glorious. The Wizard Pro is the most versatile light I own, and the one I'd keep if I could only keep one. The first batch of these had some battery safety issues (broken low-voltage protection), but that's fixed now. I suggest buying from a dealer like Killzone or Nkon, and checking for coupon codes for those dealers because Armytek's customer service and shipping are questionable. $90
- Acebeam H30 - 21700 battery (also compatible with 18650), USB-C charging, powerbank function, 4000 lumen main output with optional neutral white, red secondary, choice between a green secondary, UV secondary, or a high-CRI Nichia 219C secondary. Boost driver for stable output when the battery is low or cold. Many people would consider this too heavy for a headlamp, but it weighs a lot less than a motorcycle helmet. Noncompliant USB-C behavior requires charging with an A-to-C cable. $120
- Fenix HP30R - 2x18650 batteries in a remote holder that can be worn under a jacket. This is probably the most reliable battery option for extreme cold environments as the batteries can be kept warm. The battery case features USB charging and can be used as a USB powerbank. There are flood and spot emitters, which make 750 and 1000 lumens respectively, and can be used together for 1750 lumens. This is the heaviest headlamp on the list by far, but much of the weight is in the battery pack. $130
These are suitable for first responders and possibly members of the military in combat roles. The focus is on simple operation, reliability and a good way to make sure the light starts on high.
- Acebeam L30 - 4000 lumens from a single 18650 or 21700 (included). Neutral white available and recommended. High-CRI secondary emitter optional. Not the prettiest light, but there's a lot of it, and enough thermal mass to sustain it for a few minutes. Stable output without overheating is 2000 lumens. Forward-clicky tailswith is always max output, but the side switch has shortcuts to low and last-used. USB charging. $110
- Eagletac GX30L2 Pro - for those who want a better Streamlight Stinger. 2x18650. Neutral white with XHP35 HI recommended for more natural color and throw distance. Onboard charging. Neutral white optional. The included battery pack is just two 18650s in series. It says not to charge standard 18650s, but there's no technical reason for that, and it is reported to work. Protected cells recommended. $155
- Skylumen M2Rvn - about that neutral white... and it gains over 100m of throw in the process by switching to the XHP35 HI. This is a modified Olight M2R with different warranty terms from the original, so read those carefully. $120
- Eagletac T25V - a 21700-powered duty light with USB-C charging and battery included. Twist the head for output selection between three configurable levels with the light on or off, so it can be left locked in high. 2600 lumens and 214m throw with the XHP70.2, or 1640 lumens and about 400m throw with the XHP35 HI. The latter emitter in neutral white does the most to make this light stand out from its peers, if you can find it that way. This is a good alternative if the Olight M2R Pro looks appealing or you missed out on the Acebeam T36.$96
Most lights on the list are easy to carry, with performance constrained by size and thermal mass as a result. After all, the best light is the one you have. Here are lights to bring when you know you'll be using them.
Turn night into day, but not necessarily very far away
- Thrunite TC20 - 1x26650, 1xXHP70.2. This is still small enough for a jacket pocket, but has a bigger battery than most EDC lights, and a spectacular 180 lm/W efficiency on medium. USB charging. Ugly tint, even when neutral. 3800 lumen max, and more efficient than most competitors in all modes. $90
- Acebeam X45 - 4x18650, not pretty even in neutral white, but it makes 18,000 lumens. $180
- Sofirn SP36 BLF edition - 3x18650, 4xLH351D, Anduril firmware, USB-C charging. Be careful, there's another version of this light with Cree XP-L2 emitters, which are ugly. 90+ CRI, 5500+ lumens, 350m FL1 throw. This replaces the BLF Q8 in the list due to the LEDs offered and USB-C charging, though the Q8 is easier to disassemble for those interested in modifications. $71 with batteries
What's that over there? WAY over there? The hotspots of these lights tend to be too focused for comfortable use up close, though using a diffuser is an option. These tend to be most useful for search and rescue, boating, and the like.
FL1 throw is the distance at which large objects can be detected in clear air. At half that distance, there's usually enough illumination to see clearly, though with more extreme throwers, the distances may be so great as to require binoculars to see clearly even during the day. Throwers have visible backscatter from the atmosphere even in clear air, which may obstruct the user's view of the target. Warmer color temperatures tend to have less.
- Wowtac A4v2 - 1x26650, MicroUSB charging, 1982 lumens and 564m throw according to zeroair. The A4v2 isn't quite a pure thrower; it's more versatile than that. Boost driver for near-full output even when the battery is low and better performance in the cold - that's rare to see in the A4's price/performance category. $50, but check for coupons
- Thrunite Catapult V6 - 1x26650, MicroUSB charging. This is the Wowtac A4, but with a more expensive shell and a bigger reflector for more throw. $75
- Acebeam T27 - 1x21700/18650. This is like a thrower version of the L30 duty light above, though its charging is USB-C, and oddly, it can act as a USB powerbank. Boost driver for full output on a low battery. 5000K recommended. 1180m FL1 throw. Noncompliant USB-C behavior requires charging with an A-to-C cable. $140
- Acebeam T28 - it's a T27 with a bigger head and even more throw. There's not much more to say about it than that. $160
- Thrunite TN42 - 4x18650, 1550m FL1 throw advertised, 1700m observed by reviewers. $160
Some throw, some flood... probably a lot
- Acebeam K30GT - a hybrid, but leaning toward the throw side of things with 1km. 5500 lumens, but not for long due to heat. 3x18650. $160
- Acebeam K65 - probably the original dedomed XHP70.2 version. 1km and 6200lm, but much bigger than the K30GT with 4x18650 batteries, giving it the ability to say bright longer without overheating. $195
- Imalent MS18 - proprietary battery pack, 18xXHP70.2. Heat pipes. Fan cooling. 100,000 lumens. 1350m FL1 throw. This thing weighs 5 pounds, isn't waterproof, sounds like a jet engine, and I trust Imalent's build quality about as far as I can throw an MS18, not to mention the price. It makes no sense for nearly any practical purpose, but it's the brightest flashlight you can buy, so it goes on the list. $500
Stuff that doesn't fit somewhere else goes here.
- Pelican 3315 CC - 3xAA, 130 lumens, intrinsically safe. The only reason to get this is because an intrinsically safe or explosion proof light is required. This is the least bad option with a warm color temperature and high CRI. $55
- Viltrox L116T - a 95 CRI, adjustable color temperature LED panel intended to be used as a camera light with adjustable output from about 200 lumens to 1000 lumens. Also works great as fixed lighting with a DC power supply, or a portable area light with a Sony NP-F camera battery. A battery holder and a bit of soldering will allow it to run on 2x18650. $38
- Viltrox VL200T - The 2500 lumen version of the L116T. DC power supply included. Radio-based remote control. $79
- Litufoto F12 (AKA Viltrox FA-D10) - A smartphone-sized LED panel with 96+ CRI, adjustable color temperature, USB-C power (note: noncompliant, A-to-C only), and sealed Li-ion battery. 800 lumens on high with 80 minute runtime, 70 lumens lowest, adjusts in 5% increments. 65% output available continuously without draining the battery while plugged in. This would even be viable as floody EDC flashlight if it wasn't for the obnoxiously long press for on/off. $48 on US Amazon
Enthusiast lights can be subject to a bit of a flavor of the month phenomenon, and this section isn't necessarily going to try to include them all. What you'll find here are enthusiast lights with some staying power. There will probably be an Emisar D4 of some description this time next year, but not necessarily the latest new FW variant or whatever's currently trendy from Nightwatch.
- Lumintop FW3A - this light was designed by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. It's unusual in having a tail e-switch, while most others position it on the side. It has an open source firmware with continuous brightness adjustment and lots of options. 2800 lumen max (briefly), about 800 lumens relatively sustainable (thermally regulated). There are currently five LED options, and I would recommend most people go with one of the high-CRI options. Luminus SST-20 for more throw and less heat, but the Nichia 219C may have more pleasant tint. Caution: this light requires an unprotected, 10A rated battery and can set things that get too close to its lens on fire. This has fairly inefficient electronics, but the large capacity of the 18650 battery makes that a minor issue for a lot of use cases. There are titanium, copper, etc... versions for more money. Build quality and reliability may be a bit questionable, but these pack in a lot of features for the money. Several larger versions with higher output exist, but the original still makes the most sense to this list's maintainer. $40
- Lumintop FW1A - an FW3A with fewer emitters (one) and more reflector (again, one, in place of the FW3A's TIR optic). Less output, more throw, less demanding on the battery. $40
- Emisar D4v2 - every flashlight geek's favorite way to burn a hole in their pocket has been upgraded. It now comes with colored aux LEDs that can serve as a decoration, locator, and battery status indicator. Some versions of this light can exceed 4000 output at power-on, though efficiency is not one of its goals, even at lower levels. Not to be outdone by the FW3A, there are eight LED options, from which I'd suggest the 4000K, 95+ CRI SST-20 to most people. Optional extras include a tailcap magnet, steel bezel, pocket clip, 18350 and 18500 battery tubes, and different optics. There are exposed programming headers on the battery side of the driver for those who want to modify the firmware, or just keep it up to date with ToyKeeper's latest revisions. That's right, it's 2019 and you can get software updates for your flashlight. $45 or a bit more from the US warehouse for those wanting faster shipping.
- Noctigon KR4 - This is almost a tail-e-switch D4, but it uses a variable linear driver that provides a bit better efficiency and more stable output as the battery drains as well as allowing brightness adjustment without PWM and enabling the use of ultra-low-voltage LEDs like the Nichia E21A. If you were thinking about the Lumintop FW4A, this is likely a better option. SST-20 4000K would probably still be my pick here because the E21A doesn't seem to play all that well with the Carclo quad optics. $55, and often stocked in the US warehouse.
- Convoy S2+/219C - Popular light for DIY and modification. Many parts are available from the manufacturer and Mountain Electronics. S2+ linked. S3 is similar, but with a removable steel bezel. S6 has a deeper reflector for a narrower spill and longer throw. Recently updated with the high-CRI Nichia 219C and Luminus SST-20 LEDs, which are strongly recommended over the prior options. 219C 4000K will probably make the largest number of people happy. "Body color" is actually drive current. More 7135 chips means more power, which means more output, shorter battery life, and more heat. x6 is a reasonable choice that should never get too hot to hold. x3 or x4 for giving to people who will waste the battery. x8 for max output. Convoy will assemble other combinations of compatible parts not listed in their store - just contact them and ask. $15
Jacket pocket, maybe
- Noctigon KR1 - Do you miss the Emisar D1? This is a jacket pocket light can reach nearly 700m FL1 throw with certain emitter options. It's the only light I've ever seen offer a high-CRI Cree XP-L HI, which in this case is an incandescent-like 2850K. $50
- Convoy C8 SST-20 - 1x18650. 4000K and 7135x8 will produce the best results for most users. Over 4000K is low-CRI for the SST-20, and yes, CRI still matters in a semi-thrower like the C8. This isn't in the performance class of the other high-output lights, but it's over 500m FL1 throw that fits in a jacket pocket for $20. Note that there are a lot of C8s on the market from different companies, but this C8 is the one most people should get. $20
- Haikelite SC04 - 1x26650/2x26650, 4xSST-20. The neutral white option is 95+ CRI and about 3000 lumens with 500+ meters FL1 throw. Side e-switch with a ramping UI and shortcuts. 2x26650 configuration is probably suitable for thumping someone on the head for those who miss that aspect of the classic Maglite. Boost driver for stable output when the batteries are low. This replaces the Convoy L6 on the list due to its LED choice and switch position. $60
- Emisar D4Sv2 - 1x26650, four emitters, lots of options. This is very similar to the D4v2 from the EDC section, but with a bigger battery, more thermal mass, and more throw. 3000-5000 lumens, 280-480m FL1 throw. SST-20 4000K recommended for most users. $50 US buyers should check the US warehouse for faster shipping
- Emisar D18 - 3x18650, 18xSST-20 (XP-L HI by request). 4000K recommended for 10,000 lumens of 95+ CRI light (thermally limited). Efficiency is not a goal with this model's FET driver, but the battery capacity will make up for it for a lot of use cases. Uses ToyKeeper's excellent open source Anduril firmware. $100 - again, check the US warehouse
- Astrolux FT03 SST-40 FET driver, SST-40, big reflector, 26650/21700/18650 and USB-C (probably only A-to-C) charging. 955m throw and 2313 lumens according to zeroair. There's also an XHP50.2 version that trades some of the throw for output. 5000K suggested. $34
- Noctigon K1 - 1x21700, USB-C charging (including C-to-C!), and probably the most throw of any single-cell LED flashlight (LEPs are impressive, but not quite ready for prime time). 1600m FL1 throw with the Osram White Flat 1, 4500 lumens and nearly as much throw (briefly) from the Luminus SBT-90.2. A balanced beam and stable output from the boost-driver equipped Cree XHP35 HI. Several other emitters are available, though some are not listed and can only be had by request - email and ask if there's a combination you want. $90 and up depending on emitter.
- Astrolux MF01 Mini - 1x26650/21700/18650, 7 Luminus SST-20s (4000K, 95 CRI available), USB-C, Anduril firmware, FET driver, aux LEDs. Like a bigger D4v2 with more emitters and a USB port. $65, but check for active discounts
- BLF GT - 8x18650, over 2000m FL1 throw. 4000K neutral white available and recommended. Do you want to win a display of machismo against a lighthouse? This is your flashlight. $180 (on Banggood at the time of this writing)
- BLF GT90 - the GT with a Luminus SBT-90.2 for over 7000 lumens and 2700m throw claimed, but that's going to be limited by heat and power. For sustainable performance, the original may have the advantage. For short bursts, this will be most impressive. 360, but look for discounts
Edit 20200624: added Tool AA, NU25, KR4, KR1