The Best EDC Flashlights

What are the best EDC Flashlights?

A phone flashlight is a great compromise if you need a convenient way to light a corner of your house or signal an Uber Eats delivery driver in the dark. But in less-than-desirable situations, you’ll have an easier time of things with a dedicated flashlight. Luckily we’ve got a list of 10 fantastic options from which you can find your next favorite. 

Let's shed some light on this, shall we?

Streamlight Microstream

Sale
Streamlight 66604 250 Lumen MicroStream USB Rechargable Pocket Flashlight,Black
  • Black/250 lumens (high)
  • Runs 3.5 hours (low)/includes USB cord and lanyard
  • Beam distance: 68 meters/max candela: 1, 150

What We Liked

  • Removable pocket clip maximizes flexibility
  • Programmable LED puts out up to 250 Lumens
  • Strobe function mixes in survival elements

What We Didn't Like

  • Uses CR123A batteries, which are hard to find in some stores

Surefire G2X

SureFire G2X Tactical 600 Lumen EDC Flashlight Bundle with 4x Extra Surefire CR123A and...
  • The G2X Tactical provides a single output level — a brilliant, penetrating 600-lumen beam
  • Virtually indestructible LED emitter regulated to maximize output and runtime
  • Precision reflector creates smooth, optimized beam with plenty of reach and surround light

What We Liked

  • Polymer body is incredibly durable
  • The lens is similarly sturdy & scratch-resistant polycarbonate
  • Very simple operation: one click for light, another one for no light
  • Includes spare CR123A batteries

What We Didn't Like

  • Uses CR123A batteries, which are less available than standard AAs

Streamlight Macostream USB

Streamlight 66320 MacroStream USB Rechargeable Compact Flashlight with Wrist Lanyard, Hat Clip and...
  • High: 500-Lumens 2, 000-Candela 90m beam distance, runs 2 hours; Low: 50-Lumens 220-Candela 30m...
  • Pocket clip attaches to visor for hands-free use
  • White LED technology, impervious to shock with a 30, 000 hour lifetime

What We Liked

  • Reversible pocket clip has made a return! 
  • USB charging is a feature we love
  • The sealed aluminum body is very sturdy
  • Rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries will last years

What We Didn't Like

  • On/Off button requires considerable pressure to activate
  • Pocket clip can mark the body of the flashlight with disassembly

Modlite Systems PLHV2

What We Liked

  • Very durable aluminum body
  • An ultra-clear lens allows for a long throw of light
  • Made in the USA, which we always appreciate

What We Didn't Like

  • The detachable pocket clip looks a little wonkier to use than some
  • Expensive

Fenix Lighting PD35

Fenix Bundle PD35 TAC 1000 Lumen 2018 CREE LED Tactical Flashlight USB Rechargeable 18650...
  • Max output 1000 lumes using Cree XP-L(V5) LED
  • Uses one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries
  • Tactical tail switch with momentary-on function

What We Liked

  • Designed for hard use in military and law enforcement application
  • Ultra-bright, up to eye-scorching 1000 Lumens – bright enough for self-defense use
  • The pocket clip looks extremely sturdy
  • Power options as it uses either one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries

What We Didn't Like

  • On highest setting the light has a very short battery life – providing under 3 hours of use

Surefire Stiletto Rechargeable

Sale
SureFire PLR Stiletto Multi-Output Rechargeable Pocket LED Flashlight
  • High-performance LED and MaxVision Beam reflector projects a wide flood beam ideal for situational...
  • Primary switch activates high 650 lumen, medium 250 lumen and low 5 lumen output for tasks; Tactical...
  • Programming switch allows end-users to change activation sequences and more

What We Liked

  • Super slim design, great for a backpack or glove box 
  • Micro-USB charging and the port has a dust cover
  • Multiple light settings

What We Didn't Like

  • Clip position exposes the light when in pocket, creating opportunity to damage the bulb and housing

Streamlight Protac 90

Streamlight ProTac 90X Right Angle Multi-Fuel Tactical Flashlight with Two CR123A Lithium Batteries...
  • TEN-TAP Programming allows for selection of three different operating programs: 1) high/strobe/low...
  • Multi-Fuel -Uses one Streamlight SL-B26 protected Li-Ion USB rechargeable battery pack; also accepts...
  • Multi-function push-button head switch easy to use with gloved hands

What We Liked

  • Basically a redesign of the old school GI lights from the military
  • Comes with a clip for external pocket, belt, or MOLLE carry
  • Great for sitting on a surface from which you want to project light

What We Didn't Like

  • The battery needs to be removed in order to be charged

Surefire LED Defender

SureFire E2D Defender Ultra E2DLU-A Dual-Output 1000 Lumens Tactical LED Flashlight Bundle with 4...
  • POWERFUL & BRIGHT - E2D Defender Tactical utilizes virtually indestructible high-performance LED. It...
  • TACTICAL - The E2D Defender Tactical's design provides enhanced self-defense capabilities.
  • DURABLE & TOUGH - The E2DLU-A has a tough aluminum body with ergonomic design corrosion resistance...

What We Liked

  • Has a bezel you can use as a self-defense striking tool
  • The 1,000 lumen light can be cycled to a few brightness settings
  • Just over 4 ounces, so weighty without being heavy

What We Didn't Like

  • Full power 1,000 lumen setting blows through the battery life

Surefire G27ZX ScoutLight

SureFire Duel Fuel Scoutlight Pro Tactical Light 1500 Lumen LED M640DF Bundle with 4 Extra CR123A...
  • New SureFire Low-Profile Mount (LPM) greatly enhances versatility, allowing the user to mount the...
  • Dual Fuel, ultra-high-output LED generates 1,200 lumens of light with 123A batteries or 1,500 lumens...
  • TIR lens shapes versatile beam with enough reach and surround light for close- to long range

What We Liked

  • The body is made from an extra-tough polymer
  • The grip is easy to hold even in very adverse conditions
  • Has a momentary-on switch for tactical use
  • MIL-STD-1913 or M-LOK rail compatible makes this a fantastic weapons light as well

What We Didn't Like

  • No pocket clip, but it does include a paracord lanyard to carry it around your neck

Streamlight Enduro Pro Headlamp

Sale
Streamlight 61435 Enduro Pro USB Rechargeable Multi-Function Head Lamp with Elastic Head Strap,...
  • Multi-function push-button switch easy to use even with gloves
  • Spot and flood beams with low, medium and high modes
  • IPX4 water-resistant; 2m impact resistance tested

What We Liked

  • Headlamp offers hands-free operation
  • Water and impact resistant
  • Adjustable light settings from 15 – 200 lumens, good for close work and general use
  • Head tracking makes this a fantastic choice for night walks or camping/hiking
  • Light at just 3.60 oz

What We Didn't Like

  • Not technically a flashlight, but if need to access to both hands while using a light a solid headlamp is a game-changer

EDC Flashlight Basics

Of all of the tools, tactics, and tricks that we use in our day-to-day lives, one of the most useful and important things you can own is a quality flashlight. Whether you’re investigating things bumping around in the night, the power has just gone out, or you’re looking for your keys under the couch, having a high-powered light in the palm of your hand is a good idea.

Of course, many folks already carry a flashlight with them everywhere – built right into their phone. This is certainly convenient as the led light on your phone is a decent flashlight that will certainly do in a pinch, and we don’t know anyone who doesn’t use theirs regularly.

Now imagine it’s pouring rain and you’re on the side of the road with a flat. Does holding your phone up to see what you’re doing still seem like a good idea? We didn’t think so, and for situations where better light translates into more safety, such as blinding an intruder, we recommend an everyday carry flashlight to help stay out of trouble.  

An EDC flashlight will be brighter, last longer, avoid draining your phone (a critical bit of safety equipment in its own right), provide better ergonomics, and be much, much, more durable than your phone — often pairing waterproof aluminium casings with sturdy clips — making them much more likely to stay where you put them (and survive a drop onto concrete if they don’t.)

Selection Criteria

There are thousands of different flashlight designs, but rather than weed through all of them to find The One Flashlight To Rule Them All, using a few simple guidelines and looking for key features will make it easy to find the right one without being overwhelmed by analysis paralysis.

“Everyday carry” in most contexts means you will have one of these on your person most of the time. This requires them to fit into a pocket, purse, briefcase, or some other small bag. To meet this requirement we’ve stuck with compact and pocket-sized lights, as much as we all love a good ol’ fashioned Maglite, they are – for this purpose – the wrong tool. Also lighting technology has advanced in ways that make these large C & D battery-powered lights obsolete for many applications.

As far as specific features, water-resistance is critical: that rainy tire change scenario is all too common. Also, rechargeable pocket flashlights are useful to eliminate the need to even think about batteries – they’re just one more thing to remember. USB rechargeable flashlights can be charged in a variety of locations – be it home, car, or in any building.

In terms of design, the smaller the better – up to a point. Flashlights that are too small are difficult to use, provide poor light, and have abysmal battery life – little keychain flashlights that use tiny watch batteries, for example, are little more than junk. 

Instead, look for durable tactical flashlights, preferably aerospace aluminum paired with sealed internals, a few basic light modes, and readily available battery sizes (like AA or AAA). We also prefer EDC flashlights that work just as well with non-rechargeable batteries in an emergency.

These little juggernauts give you everything you need in a compact size that will get most jobs done with ease.

What’s a Lumen?

In most flashlights brightness is measured in Lumens. A lumen is a measure of the light output from a particular bulb or light source. More Lumens translates into more light. It’s not the most intuitive system, so some context can help – an average household LED bulb is about 470 Lumens, but for tactical and pocket flashlights, the appropriate amount of lumens depends on what you plan to use it for. 

For close-up work like hunting for a screw you dropped inside of a computer case, as little as 50 or 100 lumens will work well. For disorienting a would-be home invader, the more the merrier, but we recommend flashlights in the 200-300 lumen range. That’s why we recommend lights with a few modes: with the push of a button on the tail cap you can vary the brightness (e.g. number of lumens).

The brighter the light the more you will find a use for lower power settings because you can avoid blowing out your ability to see at night, and lower settings can extend the battery life.

Generally speaking, we also recommend LED lights; an LED flashlight has better battery life, is more durable, and runs cooler than any other kind of bulb. This means more time between USB charges and more reliability across the board.

What about batteries?

When it comes to batteries, LED flashlights which use a dual-AA configuration or higher end CR123a batteries will offer the best mix of brightness, battery life, and pocketable size. Single-AA and AAA battery configurations can offer smaller footprints, but tend to be lower quality products and won’t offer the same performance of flashlights designed around the dual-AA or CR123a set-up.

In addition to a dual-AA/CR123a configuration look for flashlights which can be recharged via USB. Chances are you already have the right cable, and if you misplace it or need one in a pinch they are readily available, cheap, and handier than batteries.

A closing note on using rechargeable batteries for flashlights

Flashlights often don’t get used every day, and could go weeks or months between uses. Non-rechargeable alkaline batteries are prone to leaking, especially when used in higher-power devices (like tactical flashlights). This leakage will ruin electronic components so it’s important to use quality Ni-MH rechargeable batteries to protect your investment.

If you’re looking for batteries that will last years, look for lithium cell batteries. They do not leak and can last 10 years or more.

Sources

  1. Wikipedia article, Lumen (unit)

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MICHAEL CRITES is el jefe around here. He writes about guns and gear.

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