Best High Powered Tactical LED, EDC Flashlight

Best High Powered Tactical LED, EDC Flashlight

Let’s Begin the Search for the Best Flashlight

Ah flashlights, a tiny sun in the palm of your hands that lets you see in the dark without being a vampire. They let you explore dark mysterious caves, wander around the woods at night by the campfire looking at stars and cast light on the mugger hiding in the bushes. Could you imagine a world without flashlights?

Click here for the big 13 matrix 70+ flashlights comparison chart.

The Best Flashlights on Amazon

FlashlightLowHighRuntimeWeatherproofBeamPriceRating
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Hexbright FLEX
15001-100Water resistantFixed$$$4.9
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Surefire P2X
155001.5-46YesFixed$$$4.8
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Fenix PD35
108501.25-140IPX8Fixed$$$4.8
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Coast HP14
563394.75-20Water resistantAdjustable$$4.7
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Mini Cree LED
300300NANoneAdjustable$4.3
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Streamlight ProTAC
336001.25-18IPX7Fixed$$$4.7
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Maglite 3-D LED
13113179Water resistantFixed$$4.7
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Nebo 5581
222204.25-72Water resistantFixed$4.3
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Maglite XL200
1721722.5-218Water resistantFixed$$4.6
[easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="B001T7F3KA" cloaking="default" height="104" localization="default" locale="US" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/418yOMYesXL._SL160_.jpg" tag="bestflashhq-20" width="160"]
Streamlight Strion
652602-7.5IPX4Fixed$$$4.7

The best flashlight doesn’t have to be the most expensive.

The best flashlight doesn’t have to look the sexiest.

The best flashlight doesn’t have to have every available feature.

The best flashlight is the one you have with you.

The best flashlight can only be determined by you.

This site was created to help you determine the best flashlight for your needs.  There are thousands of flashlights to choose from.  Weather you are looking for an EDC flashlight, Tactical LED flashlight or high powered LED flashlight for your specific task. We’ll only focus on the best so you won’t have to sort through the sucky ones.  Let’s explore the world’s best flashlights!

LED or incandescent

The most common light source used in the best flashlights today are LED which stands for light-emitting diode.  The other being filament and glass incandescent bulbs made famous by Thomas Edison in 1880, yes old school technology.  In general LEDs have major advantages over the traditional bulbs.

Advantages of LED over incandescent bulbs

  • Super long life.  LEDs are rated between 25,000 and 100,000 hours.  Which means a LED can burn continuously for up to 11 years before it needs to be replaced.  High powered Incandescent bulbs lasts less than 50 hours so be prepared to carry a spare.
  • Efficiency.  White LEDs can produce 100 lumens per watt versus only 15 lumens on an incandescent bulb.
  • Heat.  LED lights produce nearly zero infrared radiation where as incandescent light is over 85% infrared heat!  That’s alot of wasted energy.
  • Durablity.  LED lights are encased in a clear polymer which makes them much more resistant to vibrations and drops than the fragile glass and filament incandescent bulbs.
  • Beam Pattern.  The clear polymer around a semiconductor diode in an LED acts as a lens and when combined with the reflector it produces a beam pattern much smoother and consistent than incandescent bulbs.

The advantages can go on forever so do yourself a favor and go with an LED flashlight unless you like the nostalgic yellow glow of an incandescent bulb.

ANSI/NEMA FL1 Standard…what?

ANSI FL1 is a specification standardization for testing flashlights developed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).  This is a voluntary compliance by manufacturers to help consumers make a more accurate decision on what’s the best flashlight for their needs.  More and more brands are adopting the standard, which is great for consumers.  It prevents makers from cheating by pumping up their specs.  Below are the icons used to specify the data.

Brightness

best flashlight lumen icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for lumens.

best flashlight candela icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for candela.

Flashlights are normally rated by lumens but this doesn’t necessarily dictate how bright the light will be.  A lumen measurement is the total light output without taking in consideration of the reflector or lens.  A flashlight with tight spotlight beam pattern would look brighter than a wide beam pattern even if the lumen rating is the same.  Just for reference an Apple 5s flashlight is about 10 lumen and a 100w incandescent bulb is about 1500 lumen.  Another measurement of brightness is candela.  This is measured at the brightest point in the beam and can be misleading.  It can have a super high candela rating but the beam pattern is a narrow laser beam and dark around it.  Lumen is a better indicator of a flashlight’s brightness.

Beam Distance and Pattern

best flashlight distance icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for distance.

There are flashlights with any type of beam pattern for any situation, from 360 degree lantern style throw to pinpoint focused beam spotlight.

  • Spot or narrow beams are great for pathfinding or checking to see if someone is hiding under your car.
  • Wide beams for hiking or close up work around your camp or reading.
  • Adjustable from wide to narrow are great but they sacrifice pattern quality and can have uneven dark and hotspots.  Having a dark spot in the pattern can be mistaken for a moving object when moving the light.  This could be freaky in tactical or hunting situations.  The best flashlights use a pebbled texture on the reflector to even out the pattern.
  • Hybrid Some of the best flashlights have more than one bulb, a spot and wide.  These tend to have a smoother pattern than the fully adjustable but the reflector is not as efficient as the dedicated single beams.

Variable Output and Runtime

best flashlight runtime icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for runtime.

LED flashlights are digital devices that are controlled by power regulators that maximize the runtime of high output.  Flashlights are rated by runtime in terms of how many hours of output at a given lumen for the light to drop to 10% of the rated output.  So even if a flashlight is rated for say 3 hours at maximum output, it will still have hundreds of hours of useful light. Unlike unregulated incandescent bulbs where brightness is adjusted by voltage the output drops off rapidly.

LED light output is determined by how fast or slow it turns on and off.  This is called PWM or pulse width modulation.  Some flashlights are equipped with regulators that have multiple levels of brightness and some have only one setting.  This is a matter of personal taste.  If you want a flashlight with the perfect amount of light for every situation, get an adjustable output.  If you want a no frills predictable light output without messing with adjustments, go with the single setting.

Here is a cool trick you can do to see PWM in action.  Get a LED flashlight with an adjustable output.  Set the light on the lowest setting and wave your hand in the beam quickly.  You’ll see a cool strobe like effect.  That’s the LED turning on and off really fast.

Getting wet

Pretty much all of the best flashlights now are made with some level of weatherproofing.  The best flashlight brands such as Streamlight and Fenix use the standard IPX water system to determine the level of water protection.

best flashlight weatherproof icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for weather- proof.

Flashlights with an IPX rating up to IPX6 are considered weatherproof.

  • IPX0 No waterproofing
  • IPX1 – IPX4 Can withstand light water up to splashing water
  • IPX5 Water jets
  • IPX6 Protection against heavy seas
best flashlight waterproof icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for water-
proof.

The flashlights with an IPX7 or higher rating are waterproof.

  • IPX7 Can be immersed in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes
  • IPX8 Submersion in water, rating will be based off the manufacturers test

 

Power!

These are the most common types of batteries used in high-powered flashlights.  Battery power is rated by mAh (milliamp hours).

  • Lithium CR123A, $2 each 1500mAh.  These are great because they are small, light and powerful but they’re expensive and sometimes hard to find.
  • Common size AAA, AA, C and D, $.50 to $3 a set 1000 – 15,000mAh.  You can find these everywhere cheap and they last a long time, especially flashlights that use D batteries.  They will last forever, almost.
  • Rechargeable batteries $2 – $35 800 – 5000mAh, are great because it’s like buying a lifetime subscription.  It costs a little more up front but you are set for life.  No worrying about monthly payments (batteries) and you can use it as much as you want!  Some companies such as Streamlight and Fenix have flashlights that use rechargeable CR123A’s, best of both worlds!  The disadvantage of rechargeables are they are not as powerful as their alkaline and lithium equivalents.

The type of battery used should be taken into consideration when searching for the best flashlight.  CR123A batteries could be hard to find if you’re camping out in the middle of nowhere versus regular AA can be found everywhere.

Control freak

The on/off method could play an important factor in finding the best flashlight for your needs.  The button location can determine how the light will be held.

  • Tail Push Button, the most common method in high-powered flashlights.  This requires you to hold the flashlight in a raised fist position like you are about to punch someone, could be good or bad depending on the situation.
  • Body Push Button, the button is on the body letting you hold the light at a comfortable waist level.
  • Combo twist end with button.  These require a twist to put it in constant on and usually has lock out feature that prevents the light from turning on.  This would be handy when packing the light.  The button is usually silent, a good feature to have in law enforcement.  It can be held in the tactical tail or body button positions.  Most of the best flashlights are set up this way.

Reliability, what if your life depended it?

best flashlight impact icon

ANSI FL1 symbol for impact.

LED powered flashlights are much more resistant drops than incandescent due to the fact that there’s no filament or glass to break.  Price is usually a good indicator of how reliable the unit will be.  If you are just going camping a $5 LED flashlight would work great.  But if yours or someone else’s life depends on being able to see in the dark such as a police officer or caver, spend a little more money on the best flashlight.

 HexBright FLEX

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B00CY9RGD4″ cloaking=”default” height=”76″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31m0Bv19GvL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”bestflashhq-20″ width=”160″]The Kickstarter funded HexBright Flex is hands down the smartest and most advanced flashlight in this group. This beast has a built in accelerometer, CREE XM-L2 LED capable of 500 lumen (upgradeable to futureproof), internal temperature sensor, rechargeable battery, water-resistant and Open-Sourced Arduino based programmable microcontroller. It’s preprogrammed with three output levels from 50 – 500 lumen. You can set the output to whatever you want or customize the flashlight to do whatever you need. Maybe you need preset Morse codes, or the clumsy folks can program it to strobe when you drop it in the dark. If you like hacking this is the light for you.

Surefire 2PX

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B006NKLRW6″ cloaking=”default” height=”89″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31e-6EQPK6L._SL160_.jpg” tag=”bestflashhq-20″ width=”160″]If you are serious about quality and reliability, Surefire flashlights will be on the top of most people’s lists. The Surefire P2X is a favorite in the law enforcement, security, military and tactical communities. It’s easy to see why. At 5.4 inches, 5.7 ounces, no fuss two output settings, a usable 15 lumen 46 hour low setting, blinding 500 lumen 1.5 hour setting, lockout tail switch and serious Surefire quality. If a flashlight is one of the most important tools in your kit, look no further, the Surefire P2x could be your best flashlight option.

Mini Cree LED

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B006E0QAFY” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41JfzOf9rlL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”bestflashhq-20″ width=”160″]A $4 flashlight…I know what you’re thinking, cheap junk from China, worthless weak flashlight and a waste of money.  You may be wrong.  As of this writing 4,600+ 4.5 star rating on Amazon will prove us both wrong.  Yes it’s made in China but so are Apple products.  The Mini Cree is powered by a 300 lumen Cree Q5 LED with 4 modes and an adjustable beam by pulling or pushing the head.  We were surprised by how good this light is.  You won’t mistaken this light for a Surefire though.  For one thing the body is not CNC aluminum like the high end flashlights but die casted alloy metal.  But then again you can’t get a Surefire for four bucks.  At 3.7 inches and 2.1 ounces, the Mini Cree 300LM is probably the best bang for the buck flashlights.  Great for keeping one at the house, cars, keychain, toolbox or tent. There’s no reason to not add one, two or 5 in your cart.

Streamlight ProTAC

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B007RB82CS” cloaking=”default” height=”115″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41fKXyJvEHL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”bestflashhq-20″ width=”160″]Streamlight Protac series are made up of 8 models and some of the most popular flashlights and it’s easy to see why.  They are considered tools of the trade by people who rely on their flashlights for their line of work.  First let me tell you Streamlight’s “C4” LEDs simply stands for controlled collapse chip connection.  It’s basically a technique used to solder an LED chip on the circuit board and is mostly marketing babble.  So don’t let having a “C4” LED be a deciding factor on choosing the best flashlight for your needs.  But Streamlight does use a great LED in the flashlights capable of blasting 1,100 lumen in the HL 3.  All the Protac lights have a waterproof rating of IPX7 (submersible up to 1 meter for 30 minutes),  multiple lighting modes and have flashlights that use AAA, AA and CR123A batteries.   With 8 models to choose from ranging from 3.35 inches to 12 inches, multiple battery options and almost any level of light output you would ever need.  There is a perfect Streamlight Protac flashlight for any job.

MagLite 3-D LED

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B000IXAJVY” cloaking=”default” height=”36″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31HKPmaKkuL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”bestflashhq-20″ width=”160″]Teaching old dogs new tricks.  The Maglite 3-D LED is essentially the original krypton bulb flashlight retrofitted with an LED.  They took a great flashlight and made it even better!  It has a simple one mode on/off, body switch, weather-resistant and adjustable beam. The head can be completely unscrewed off turning the flashlight into a lantern (not an official feature but it can be done).  At 12.3 inches and 30 ounces it’s big enough to use as a baton if you really needed to.  Besides the size the only other major disadvantage is the reflector.  Unlike the modern tactical flashlights that use pebble textured reflectors to produce even beams, the Maglite’s reflector is smooth glossy.  This produces an adjustable beam that has hotspots and darkspots.  Using D batteries, it has a 131 lumen output for 79 hours.  A super long runtime, adjustable beam, weapon worthy and weather resistance could make this the best flashlight for camping or the home.

Conclusion on what makes the best flashlight

So there you have it, these are some of the criteria you should consider when searching for the best flashlight.  The perfect everyday carry or EDC flashlight might not be well suited for a police officer or a spelunker.  This site will provide you with the facts you need to make a decision for yourself.  We’ll do our best to stay unbiased in the reviews but of course we have our favorites too!

2 comments

  1. Wow, this is a great flashlight site. It would be great if you could show the light patterns on the flashlights. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Kyle! Please check back soon we have a lot of new flashlight reviews coming up complete with light patterns and video.

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