How to Choose the Best Flashlight

Headlamps are popular because they direct light with head movements and leave your hands free. However, flashlights are still a good choice for handheld lighting. Their strong, portable beams are ideal for signaling and task lighting.

Advances in battery efficiency and light-emitting diode (LED) technology have resulted in smaller, lighter flashlights that are brighter than ever. Companies like ExtremeBeam sell powerful models of various weights and sizes. How do you choose the best flashlight for your needs?

Know Your Choices

Flashlights range in price from $20 to $200, yet they are often the same size. What are the differences? Brightness is the main difference. A pricier light is more powerful due to advanced technologies in the battery, bulb and circuitry.

Other features — such as a rechargeable battery, multiple lighting modes and impact- or water-resistance — add to the cost. Size, weight, light output, battery type and special features are all key considerations when choosing a flashlight.

Make It Personal

Online purchases are convenient, but shopping in person allows you to check certain features in person. How does the flashlight feel in your hand? Is it rugged enough for your needs?

Turn the light switch on and off. Could the light turn on accidentally in your pack? Is the switch easy to use wearing gloves? Do you need a special tool to change the batteries?

Understand Performance

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) introduced standards in 2009 to ensure all flashlights are tested and rated in the same manner. Although compliance is voluntary, most major brands include performance data on their packaging.

Light output, which is measured in lumens, refers to the intensity of light coming from the unit. Beam distance, which is measured in meters, tells you how far the light will shine before the brightness diminishes to the level of a full moon. Run time is measured in hours, and it tells you how long the light will shine until the output drops to 10 percent of the battery life.

Impact resistance, also measured in meters, ensures that light remains functional after accidental drops. Water resistance is important if you use a flashlight in the rain or around water. Testing uses the IPX code system to measure water and splash resistance.

Consider Other Features

Other functions are not ANSI-rated, but they can influence your choice of flashlight. For example, advancements in LED technology have rendered most other bulbs obsolete. Incandescent bulbs still exist, but they can’t beat the efficiency, brightness and other features of LED lights.

Beam type is another consideration. The most common options are flood, spot and adjustable beams. Flood lights provide a fixed beam of light, while spotlights provide focused light. Adjustable beams produce a range of light, from wide to focused beams.

Most flashlights run on disposable batteries in common sizes like AA or AAA. CR123A is a popular choice, but it’s more expensive and harder to find. Many baton-sized flashlights still use D cell batteries. You can recharge lithium-ion batteries from your computer’s USB port or an AC/DC electrical outlet. Renewable batteries, ideal for emergency kits, are energized by hand crank or solar panel.

Other things can help you choose the best flashlight for your needs. They include modes, settings and controls as well as the size and weight of the model. Lanyards, belt clips, diffusers and other accessories can help you finalize your choice.

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