In honor of Winter Solstice, I've made an updated list of popular lights. Today is the day you're most likely to need a flashlight in the Northern hemisphere and a great day to buy a new one!
There is no best flashlight, so this is an amalgamation of what enthusiasts have been buying and recommending to others lately along with the author's arbitrary preferences and biases. To search more lights by their attributes, try http://flashlights.parametrek.com/index.html
Some people have asked if they can give me kickbacks or gratuities for maintaining the list. I have two options for that now. This version of the list includes affiliate links to dealers that pay me a kickback. The main reddit version of the list does not include affiliate links. I've set up a tip jar. This list is intended as a community service, so please don't feel obligated to use either.
The following affiliate coupon codes are available:
Supply chain issues impacting the flashlight industry seem to be easing, but some prices have increased a little, and availability will remain a factor for inclusion in the list.
The Quick List
If you're not interested in flashlights as a hobby, you should probably 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. In this section, I've linked good places to buy the lights rather than the manufacturer.
This section is strongly influenced by what is available for purchase within the US. Changes from last time reflect current availability and may be updated before the next list as that changes.
- Wurkkos FC11 - a general-use light for $33. USB-C charging, and it now has proper C-to-C support. 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. I think most people will like 4000K or 5000K, which look like afternoon and midday sunlight, respectively. 2700K is available for those who miss the look of incandescents. 18650 battery.
- Skilhunt M150 with high-CRI Nichia 519A LED option - a smaller everyday carry 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. 21mm (0.82") at its widest point and 84mm (3.3") long. $40
- Skilhunt M200 v3 with high-CRI Nichia 519A LED option - a larger everyday carry light with USB-magnetic charging that could be described as a bigger M150 or a nicer FC11. Compared to the FC11, it's smaller and lighter, maintains higher brightness over time, charges faster, and has more pleasant tint. Unlike older versions of this light, the pocket clip is excellent. $64
- 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. The T-word is overused in marketing, but many would describe this as a handheld tactical light or duty light. This is a great option for situations where the user might need light quickly in a stressful situation 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.
- Skilhunt H04 RC with high-CRI Nichia 519A - a headlamp, right-angle handheld, and magnetic work light all in one. This version has a beaded optic with a somewhat diffused beam, but there's also a reflector version with a little more focus. This version has USB-magnetic charging, but it's available without for a lower price. $64 with the optional bundled 18650 battery and coupon code "reddit".
- Sofirn SP36 (Anduril/LH351D version) - a large high-output light with three 18650 batteries and a $67 price tag. It has USB-C charging, a USB powerbank function, and a more complex user interface, but basic operation is similar to most of the others in this section. If you need to light up a room for a long time, or light up a field, this is up to the task. I think most people will like 4000K or 5000K, which look like afternoon and midday sunlight, respectively. 2700K is sometimes available for those who miss the look of incandescents.
- Thrunite Catapult Pro - a long-range light able to provide fairly good visibility at 500m and detect large objects at twice that. This one doesn't have good color quality of the other options in this section. 26650 battery included, and USB-C charging. Usually $80.
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, use, and buy. They score well on most measures flashlight nerds care about while also being beginner-friendly.
About specs and considerations
Read more about things flashlight enthusiasts look for in the wiki.
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.
Small keychain lights
- Nitecore Tube 2.0 - a brighter, variable output, USB-charging replacement for button-cell keychain lights with shortcuts to high and low modes from off. $15
- Rovyvon Aurora A1 USB-C (Nichia 219C version) - neutral tint, 90 CRI, 450 lumens (briefly), USB-C charging, 16g 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. $27
- Sofirn SC01 - neutral tint, 95 CRI, 330 lumen advertised max, which is sure to drop quickly because this runs on a tiny, but standardized and removable 10180 battery, which can be charged inside the light through a micro-USB port. This seems to be a continuation of the Cooyoo Quantum design that inspired many rebrands and derivatives. Currently only offered in stainless steel, but aluminum may make a return. $15 from Sofirn's site, shipped from China.
- Skilhunt E3A - a simple 1xAAA light with a twist switch and a high CRI option (recommended) for $14
- Nitecore MT06MD - 2xAAA, 90+ CRI, neutral white, and still shipping with the Nichia 219B as far as I know. It's here because the light from the 219B is very clean even compared to other high-CRI options. $30
- Reylight Pineapple Mini - a premium 1xAAA (or 1x10440 Li-ion) light with a tailswitch and Nichia 519A LED. That LED has excellent color rendering along with a neutral tint. $32 for aluminum, more for titanium, mokume, etc....
- Sofirn SP10 Pro - a sophisticated AA/14500 sideswitch light running Toykeeper's excellent Anduril 2 firmware. By default, it's a simple ramping UI with mode memory, but a great deal of customization is available. 900lm max on a 14500, and a high-CRI Samsung LH351D is the only LED option. $24 with a batttery and charger, $22 without.
- Skilhunt M150 with the latest community-favorite LED: the high-CRI Nichia 519A. The M150 has a sideswitch with shortcuts, magnetic charging, and a magnetic tailcap. 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. $45 with battery
- Skilhunt E2A with high-CRI 4000K SST-20 LED. This is a basic, inexpensive 3-mode mechanical tailswitch light running on AA or 14500. It has nice mode spacing, low-voltage protection for the 14500, and impressive maximum output for the size and price. $26 including a 14500 battery
- Acebeam Pokelit AA/14500 with high CRI, three modes, a tailswitch, and USB-charging 14500 battery included for $30, sometimes less.
- Sofirn SC21 - a very small 16340-only e-switch light with USB-C and a magnet. The LH351D LED is a sunlight-like 5000K and 90 CRI for good color quality. 4000K (afternoon sunlight) and 2700K (incandescent-like) are also offered. $35 with a battery
- Sofirn SC21 Pro - the above with ToyKeeper's sophisticated Anduril firmware. Most people who are technically inclined will prefer the extra functionality, but those who are not may find it too complex. $36 with a battery
- Thrunite T1 (neutral white suggested) - 1x18350 (included), MicroUSB charging, magnetic tailcap, 1500 lumen max mode with a ramping UI for medium levels. $40, usually
- Eagletac DX3B Mk II - for those who might need to use a lot of light under stress, but want a more compact package than the average 18650 light. Mash the proud tailswitch and get 2500 lumens and 257m of throw; it always starts on high unless the sideswitch is also held, in which case it starts on low. An 18350 battery is included and the light has onboard micro-USB charging IlluminationGear has what looks to be a dealer exclusive option with an Osram White Flat LED for over 300m throw. Pricey at $95.
- Sofirn SP31 v2.0 - a dual-switch light where a tailswitch controls power and a sideswitch changes brightness. This style used to be very popular, but has fallen out of favor with enthusiasts. It makes a great loaner because explaining its operation takes two seconds. The SP31 has a reasonably efficient driver and optional, recommended high-CRI LH351D LED for the very budget price of $27 with battery and charger shipped from China.
- 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. $79
- Skilhunt M200 v3 (high-CRI Nichia 519A option recommended) - Were you considering the Olight S2R or Baton Pro? Consider this instead. Magnetic charging, but with a standard 18650. Optional high-CRI neutral white Nichia 519A or Samsung LH351D. Magnetic tailcap. You can decide whether to pay extra to get it with a battery, or use an 18650 of your choice. $55 without a battery, $64 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. 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 $33. Now there's a choice of color temperatures: 2700K for the incandescent look, 4000K for afternoon sunlight, and 5000K for midday.
- Acebeam L17 - a compact thrower more suited to a jacket pocket than everyday carry like the rest of these but still quite compact for its 800m throw. This is unconventional in having its e-switch on the end of the tailcap. $60 without a battery
- Fenix PD32 v2 - for those who want a lot of throw without a flared head, the PD32 v2 manages almost 400m FL1 throw with a straight 25mm tube shape. It doesn't have good color rendering, sub-lumen modes, onboard charging, or useful shortcuts in its user interface, but it sure is throwy. $60
- 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 switch 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). $67 by itself, or $77 with a battery.
- Acebeam E70 Mini A triple-emitter high-CRI Niciha 519A light with a tail e-switch and USB-charging 18650 included for $70 without a battery, $80 with.
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.
- Manker E02 II - a 1xAAA/10440 right-angle light in which the neutral white option is high-CRI. This is a good choice for people who want a removable battery and light weight, as it's a mere 22g (without battery or headband). $23 without headband, $30 with
- Sofirn HS10 - a small and inexpensive, but power-inefficient 1x16340 right-angle light with high CRI and USB-C charging. Shipped from China, it's $20 without a battery, $22 with. $30 on Amazon.
- Skilhunt H04 Mini RC - 18350 battery and USB-magnetic charging with my favorite headband in the industry and optional high-CRI 519A or LH351D. Most of the flashlight community prefers the 519A. This offers a floody TIR, less floody reflector (R model) or reflector with flippable diffuser (F model) for $54.
- Nitecore NU25 (2017) - an 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
- Manker E03H II - a 1xAA/14500 right-angle light in which the neutral white option is high-CRI. An unusual feature of this light is sliding diffusers in frosted white, red, and green. $35
All of these use one 18650 battery.
- Skilhunt H04 - 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 available. Uses a timed stepdown. Available in neutral white. Magnetic tailcap. These now offer a high-CRI 519A (recommended) or LH351D option, making it considerably more competitive. $46, or $54 for the RC version with magnetic charging. Battery not included by default, but Skilhunt and dealers usually add one for less than $10.
- Sofirn SP40 (with LH351D) - high CRI, USB charging, a choice of color temperatures and a battery included for the price is pretty compelling. There's even an 18350 tube to make it smaller, but only the 18650 battery is included. The -A model uses a TIR optic, but a lack of reviews has me holding off on recommending that yet. The other options on the list have advantages, but you'll pay for them. $28
- Zebralight H600Fd 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. 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. H600d for non-frosted and a little more throw. $89
- Zebralight H600Fc IV - the H600Fd, but with warmer tint, like the late afternoon sun. $89
- Armytek Wizard C2 Pro Nichia 144A - 1x18650 ) right-angle light with a beautiful high-CRI neutral white emitter, boost driver for stable output, magnetic tailcap, magnetic charging, and excellent low mode. I pushed for this light's creation, so I'm biased, but I do think it's excellent. The manufacturer, however is not, and I recommend ordering from Killzone in the US to avoid customer service and shipping problems. Try coupon code "reddit" for a discount. $90
- Skilhunt H300 - A similar design to the Wizard C2 Pro with a lower price and better headband. Now that a high-CRI option is offered, I have reason to add it to the list. $70 without a battery, $80 with
- 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
- Wurkkos HD20 - 21700 battery, two LEDs (one throwy, the other high-CRI), and USB-C in a right-angle form factor. $40
- Fenix HP30R v2 - 2x21700 batteries (included) in a remote box that can be attached to the headband on worn on a belt, an efficient driver, and both spot and flood options make for a headlamp that can run all night at 1000 lumens with a peak output of 3000. No ultra-low modes here; that's not what this is for. The battery box can serve as a USB powerbank and charges via USB-C. Wearing the batteries under clothing makes it effectively immune to cold. Expensive at $220, though there's usually a 20% off code available for Fenix products.
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 L35 - Very high output of 5000 lumens from a single 21700 battery, though expect it to thermal throttle quickly to about 1300. Tailswitch is max-only, with other modes on the sideswitch. $90 from Killzone.
- Eagletac GX30L2-R - for those who want a better Streamlight Stinger. 2x18650. Onboard charging. 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 18650s recommended. $155
- Acebeam L18 - this is the L35, but optimized for throw with 1000m FL1 throw and 1500lm output. This is probably a secondary light for most people for when something is too far for the primary light. $85
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 v2 - 1x26650, 1xXHP70.2. This is still small enough for a jacket pocket, but has a bigger battery than most EDC lights, and a spectacular 208 lm/W efficiency on medium. USB-C charging. Ugly tint, even when neutral. Over 4000 lumen max, and more efficient than most competitors in all modes. $90 typically, but often $70
- Sofirn SP36 BLF edition - 3x18650, 4xLH351D, Anduril firmware, USB-C charging, USB powerbank. Be careful, there's another version of this light with Cree XP-L2 emitters, which are ugly. Several options for color temperature exist, and batteries are usually bundled now, but not always. 90+ CRI, 5500+ lumens, 350m FL1 throw. $67 with batteries
- Acebeam E70 FC40 - a compact option with spectacular color quality (when the FC40 is selected) or excellent efficiency (when the XHP70 is selected). Acebeam's efficient driver helps make up for the LED's inefficiency, and a thermal sensor prevents severe overheating, though it still gets warm. $75
- Skilhunt EC300 A quad-emitter flooder with a 21700 battery and a choice of low or high CRI Luminus SST-20s and RGB secondary emitters. Lights fitting that description aren't rare lately, but this one has standards-compliant USB-C charging and a powerbank feature with output around 5V/3A. That makes it one of the most effective powerbank/flashlight combinations that might fit in a pants pocket. $68 without a battery, 81 with.
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.
- Sofirn IF22A - 21700 battery, about 700m FL1 throw, 2100 lumens, USB-C, and a powerbank function. Battery included for $37
- Manker U22 III - 21700 battery, 1km FL1 throw, USB-C, and finally a reasonable user interface. This has a more efficient driver than the IF22A, so it should handle sustained operation better. $74
- Noctigon K1 - choice of LEDs, 21700 battery, USB-C, and an advanced, configurable user interface. Osram W1 for most throw, Osraw W2 for some more output at a cost of heat and battery life, SBT90 for a lot of output, a lot of heat, $50 extra, and not much battery life. XHP35 HI for a more balanced light with better color rendering and more stable output as the battery drains. This is an enthusiast-oriented light, but it gets a place here because Illumn sells it, so it's easy to buy if you're in the US. $100
- Thrunite Catapult Pro - a 26650 battery thrower with high output, 1km FL1 throw, and USB-C charging. Battery included for $80
- Acebeam K75 - 2.5km and 6500lm, but large with 4x18650 batteries and a 13cm wide head. $280
Some throw, some flood... probably a lot
- Convoy 4x18A SBT90 - a budget light in this category with 4x18650, USB-C charging, 5400lm and 1.1km throw. It's prone to overheating, so it's probably best held in a bare hand during operation - if it isn't painful to hold, it's safe for the batteries. $90
- Acebeam X75 - one of the highest output lights on the market at 80,000 lumens, a figure I believe to be more honest than the Imalent MS18's claimed 100,000. There's also a throwy version with 67,000 claimed lumens and throw increased to 1306m from 1150. Waterproof/submersible in spite of a cooling fan and USB-PD powerbank function (up to 20V 3A output, able to power many laptop computers). The battery pack is, unfortunately proprietary. $400
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
- Fenix WF30RE - the closest thing to an enthusiast-grade flashlight with an intrinsically-safe rating. This is a low-powered, but relatively normal e-switch tube light running on a field-replaceable proprietary battery. The battery has 18650 performance, but 21700 size, and requires a hex key to change, which should only be done in a safe atmosphere. In most cases, a proprietary battery results in automatic exclusion from this list, but I'm sure it's the only way they could achieve the hazardous environment ratings. $100
- Sofirn BLF LT1 - 4x18650 lantern with Anduril and variable color temperature at 90 CRI. USB-C charging and powerbank functionality. $87 with batteries.
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.
- 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 4500K, 90+ CRI Nichia 519A to most people. Optional extras include a tailcap magnet, steel bezel, pocket clip, 18350 and 18500 battery tubes, different optics, and high-efficiency boost driver. 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 2022 and you can get software updates for your flashlight. $45
- Emisar D4v2 channel switching - the above with the option to ramp or switch between two pairs of different LEDs. There are many possibilities to choose from, including different color temperatures, or a flood set and a throw set. $55
- Noctigon KR4 - This a tail-e-switch D4. If you were thinking about the Lumintop FW4A, this is likely a better option. $55 As with the D4, there's a channel switching version for $60
- Emisar DW4 - this is a D4, but the light comes out the side, making it suitable as a magnetic work light or headlamp. Starts at $50 and goes up with various optional upgrades.
- Convoy S2+/519A - Popular light for DIY and modification. Many parts are available from the manufacturer and Mountain Electronics. The new Nichia 519A will probably satisfy the most people with fairly high output, a balanced beam profile, and color rendering that's amazingly close to sunlight even compared to other high-CRI LEDs. Other popular options include the throwy Luminus SST-20 and rosy-tinted Nichia 219B. Convoy will assemble other combinations of compatible parts not listed in their store - just contact them and ask. $17
- Emisar D4K - the D4 with a 21700 battery. It's exactly what you'd expect, from $50.
- Wurkkos TS10 - a 14500 (not AA) light with a tail E-switch, Anduril 2, and three high-CRI CSP emitters for a floody 1400 lumens. $18 without a battery, $20 with, $28 from Amazon
Jacket pocket, maybe
- Emisar D1 - This is a jacket pocket 1x18650 light can reach nearly 700m FL1 throw with certain emitter options. Several colored and high-CRI otpions are offered as well. A boost driver option is now offered with a Cree XHP70.3 HI, high-CRI Getian FC40, or Nichia B35A. Starts at $39
- Noctigon KR1 - This is a tailswitch version of the D1. $55
- 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. $21
- Convoy M21C FC40 - 1x21700, GT-FC40 high-CRI LED. I'd probably go with the "crumpled" reflector and 4000K for the nicest beam. $36
- Emisar D18 - 3x18650, 18xSST-20 (219B optional). 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. $109
- Convoy M3-C FC40 - a 1x26650 light with USB-C charging and excellent color rendering in a wide range of color tempertures from 1800K to 5500K. $37
- Noctigon K1 - 1x21700, USB-C charging (including C-to-C!), and a variety of LED options. 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 XHP70.3 HI or high-CRI Getian FC40. 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. $100 and up depending on emitter.
- Convoy L21B SFT40 - 1x21700, 1258m throw, $35. Remember when 1km LED throwers started at 5x that price? It wasn't long ago.