Modern flashlights come in a variety of styles and shapes, and they often include so many more features than just on/off -- each with specific applications in mind. If you’re not a seasoned lighting expert, these choices may seem daunting, but the good news is we’ve taken all the guesswork out of it for you. Keep reading for our detailed guide on picking the right lighting tool for the job.
Popular Flashlight TypesEven within the category of “flashlights” -- a portable, handheld source of light -- there are a number of options to consider. We came up with 5 basic groups for what you’ll find available today:
When it comes to the top end of basic handheld flashlights, most include special modes for signaling and offer different accessibility options which are great for customizing the flashlight to your desires.
Best used for: Household use, emergency backup, camping
Our top picks: NITECORE EC22, NITECORE MH12GT
Best used for: Law enforcement, hunting, survival, emergency preparation
Our top picks: NITECORE MH27UV, NITECORE P12GT, NITECORE P16 TAC
Best used for: Everyday carry, professional use
Our top picks: NITECORE MT06MD, NITECORE MT20A
The idea is to always be prepared, and keychain or everyday carry (edc) flashlights are built with this principle in mind. Small and lightweight, everyday carry flashlights can be comfortably carried in your pocket and/or keychain. Much like pen lights, edc flashlights emit a moderate amount of light with minimal modes to keep things simple. A final consideration when looking at everyday carry flashlights is the battery. If you’ll be using the flashlight frequently -- and you will -- it’s important that you can easily replace or ideally recharge the battery. Many EDC style lights either include integrated charging or use easily sourced non-rechargeable batteries.
Best used for: Everyday carry, safety, emergency backup, travel
Our top picks: NITECORE TIP 2017, NITECORE TINI, NITECORE EC11
It’s all about getting the maximum brightness and distance from these flashlights. Brightness is controlled by mostly by the battery and LED while throw distance is largely determined by the shape and size of the reflector. When combined, the result is a powerful flashlight capable of illuminating over long distances -- over 1000 yards on some of the top models. Size is often a secondary concern for these types of flashlights, although new innovations continue to push the brightness/throw distance possibilities brighter and farther in smaller packages. Many of these flashlights fall into the category of lights known as “soda can flashlights,” referred to as such because of the battery base which is roughly the same size as a pop can.
Best used for: Search & rescue, photography, work sites, boating, camping
Our top picks: NITECORE Concept 2, NITECORE TM28
Popular Headlamp TypesAs you can see, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to flashlights. But what about times when you need your hands free? This is where headlamps reign supreme. Although there aren't nearly as many styles of headlamps as there are flashlights, you still have some options. Headlamps break down into the 3 basic categories:
Aiming for supreme comfort, these headlamps are usually constructed from lightweight materials such as plastic and have the smallest bodies available. Many feature shallow reflectors and are designed to create a wide beam that can illuminate large areas directly in front of the wearer. Output usually caps out around 400-500 lumens, and more advanced mini headlamps will include secondary features such as red light and special blinking modes. Compact headlamps frequently use an internal battery to keep weight down and uses an integrated micro-USB charging port for convenient powering.
Best used for: Running, jogging, cycling, camping, home repair, modeling/crafting
Our top picks: NITECORE NU20, NITECORE NU25
Best used for: Industrial/professional use, camping, hunting, caving, fishing
Our top picks: NITECORE HC65, NITECORE HC70
Best used for: Camping, emergency preparedness, cycling, household repairs
Our top picks: NITECORE HC33
Popular Lantern TypesNothing beats the soft, diffused glow of a lantern when it comes to even, all-purpose lighting. If you need your hands free and want to share the light with others, a lantern is what you need. Long gone are the days of the traditional fuel burning lantern which was bulky and potentially dangerous. Nowadays, there are plenty of options for compact, battery powered lanterns. These 2 styles are the most popular available:
Best used for: Camping, RVs, boats, emergency preparedness, household use
Our top picks: NITECORE LA30
Lipstick lanternsUnique to the NITECORE lantern series, lipstick lanterns have a retractable diffuser which “twists” for storage during travel. By hiding the diffuser, these lanterns are ultra compact and ideal for travel.
Best used for: Camping, everyday carry, emergency preparedness, household use
Our top picks: NITECORE LA10, NITECORE LR12