Everyday Carry

Best Flashlights; Tactical & LED items reviewed by Everyday Carry

Best Flashlights for Everyday Carry

Carrying a LED flashlight as part of your everyday carry is a bright idea—and we don't mean the one on the back of your smartphone.  While the LED on your phone can work in a pinch, a dedicated EDC flashlight is a more reliable option. Even if you think you might not use one, the reality is that it gets dark every night. So to be prepared, whether it's in a blackout, scanning the floor for something you dropped, or taking a walk at night, you should invest in a small flashlight.

How to Choose the Best Flashlight for Your Needs

Carrying an LED flashlight as part of your everyday carry is a bright idea, and we don't just mean the one on the back of your smartphone. While your phone's flash can work in a pinch, a dedicated EDC flashlight is a more reliable option. Even if you think you might not use one, the reality is that it gets dark every night. To be prepared, whether in a blackout, scanning the floor for something you dropped, or taking a walk at night, you should invest in even a small flashlight.

If this is your first time carrying a flashlight, we recommend starting small. Small flashlights are easier to carry in your pocket or even on your keychain without getting in the way. The top flashlights can still get impressively bright even at a compact size, thanks to how advanced LEDs and batteries have become.

Consider looking at tactical flashlights for emergencies or harsh use. They're built to perform in demanding military and law enforcement applications, so they'll be bright and durable enough for everyday use.

Choose the Right Flashlight Category

There are a lot of flashlights to choose from and dedicated kinds of lights for specific tasks, such as:

  • Tactical lights for defensive and emergency use. These lights tend to come with high peak brightness and strobe modes. They also tend to have aggressive designs like those made by Olight, Fenix, and Streamlight, making them stand out from the standard flashlight.
  • Industrial flashlights for use in job sites and hazardous environments. These high-quality lights tend to be built with rugged durability in mind. Some of these lights are made for hazardous environments where electrical sparks can cause accidents.
  • Headlamps for hands-free illumination while running, hiking, working, or exploring. These wrap around your forehead or a helmet, with even light output in a wide-angle floodlight that lights up your surroundings evenly without being too bright for your eyes. They also tend to be rechargeable flashlights for added convenience.
  • Keychain lights are for backup use. These small LED lights help ensure you always have a light; because they are on your keys, it’s unlikelier to lose them. Keychain lights often come with USB rechargeability because their size tends to mean they have smaller batteries and lower runtimes than full-sized lights.
  • Magnetic tailcap work lights have a magnetic base for mounting on surfaces while you do your job.
  • Penlights for close-up inspection. These lights tend to be long and slender, emphasizing color accuracy at short distances over pure brightness and throw. Doctors and technicians frequently use them for examination purposes.

When it comes to lights, a couple of metrics come into play when you look at their ability to perform the task you have in mind:

  • Brightness is measured in lumens (or candelas). The higher the number of lumens a flashlight has, the brighter it can get. Sometimes it can only sustain those ultra-bright levels for a short time before the battery runs out or it gets too hot to operate. Brightness is important, but sometimes you can get a light that’s too bright, especially if you’re using it indoors all the time.
  • Beam distance is measured in either feet or meters, sometimes referred to as “throw.” This measures how far the light can reach out and illuminate something in the distance. It’s especially important if you’re buying an ultra-bright light for long-distance search and rescue or searchlight work. Some lights have an adjustable throw; by changing the lens in the flashlight head, you can change the overall throw and beam profile on some lights.
  • Runtime is important because batteries eventually run out of juice. Runtime metrics can vary, and they mostly depend on the light's brightness setting. A light putting out 3,000 lumens on a maximum output mode can only have minutes to live. But bring that down to sub-lumen economy modes and that runtime can go for days or weeks depending on the size of the battery in the light.
  • Impact resistance is important because the last thing you need is an EDC light that’s so fragile that it breaks apart the first time you drop it onto concrete. While lights that are certified or tested to be impact resistant are built hardier than a budget light from a dollar store, they’re not immune to damage, and care should still be taken.
  • Water resistance is important if you ever get caught in the rain or work near water. Some lights are waterproof enough to leave them underwater (and stay on) for an extended period. Make sure to check what your EDC flashlight is rated for before putting it through harsher environments.

Battery Type

The type and availability of replacement batteries are important factors in selecting a flashlight.

  • Disposable batteries are easy to find, and many lights still use AA batteries today. AAA batteries and CR123A batteries are also common. These three batteries specifically come in lithium primary variations made by brands like Energizer that offer long-lasting runtimes and extended shelf life without the risk of leaks that alkaline disposables do.
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries dominate the EDC LED flashlight market today. The higher voltage of these batteries means lights have far more raw high-lumen output potential than disposable cells, and the ability to recharge them means spending less on batteries as a whole. You can use a dedicated charger, and some come with built-in USB rechargeable ports on the battery themselves. You’re also likely to find flashlights with micro USB or USB-C ports that let you charge the batteries inside the light.
  • Solar/hand-crank handheld flashlights either have a rechargeable battery cell or a capacitor system that lets them charge up by cranking on them or leaving them out in the sun for a while. These lights are good for extended journeys outdoors or for emergency survival situations.

Other Considerations

Beyond the basics, there are other important factors to remember when selecting your everyday carry LED flashlight.

  • Budget is first; after all, you can only buy what you can afford. While you can spend hundreds on an EDC flashlight, the truth is that you can find lights offering solid lumen outputs with a good warranty and decent battery life that are far more affordable and even budget-oriented today.
  • Size and weight come into play because a light that’s too big and too heavy for your pockets will tend to be left at home.
  • Material is important depending on your durability (and style preference) requirements.
  • Modes are essential for specific circumstances. You usually adjust between light modes using the tail switch or a dedicated mode switch in a two-switch light. Colored modes like red light work well for camping and tactical lights because they allow you to see in the dark without ruining your eye’s natural low-light vision. Strobe modes can disorient someone looking for trouble in the night. And economy modes like Firefly or Moonlight (and to an extent, Beacon modes) let you get the most out of your light in the case of a power outage or where extended use is needed.


How do I choose the best flashlight?

First, look at what you need: a regular flashlight or something more specialized. Then take a look at the brightness and rechargeability of a flashlight. That will let you pick something to start that you really need.

What is a really good flashlight for a teenager?

A teenager has largely the same EDC flashlight needs as an adult, but two options are the most viable. You can give a teenager a backup keychain flashlight as something easy to carry for emergencies. They can also get a small EDC flashlight for early morning or even walks to and from school, or for walking their pet.

What is a tactical flashlight?

A tactical flashlight is a light intended for first responder or emergency use. They tend to have modes like tac strobe and high output for high-intensity situations. They also have external features like spiked bezels or the ability to mount on a firearm that make them good for law enforcement or military use.

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