The Best Flashlights Tested in 2023

If you’re looking for a new flashlight, check out the models that came up winners in our hands-on testing.

By Glenda Taylor | Updated Oct 31, 2022 1:45 PM

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The Best Flashlight Options

Photo: Glenda Taylor

Battery-operated, handheld flashlights have been around since 1898 and have come a long way since then. These household essentials can be crucial in power outages, helpful for late-night security checks, and key to illuminating certain tasks, like when doing automotive work or fixing a leaky pipe under the sink. Flashlights are not only brighter and more dependable than ever, but they’re also more compact and lightweight.

With hundreds of flashlights on the market, we set out to find the ones that really stood up to the hype, so we put them through their paces with hands-on testing. Brightness is important, of course, but other considerations factor in as well, such as ease of operation, weight, battery type, and more.

So whether you need a beacon for your bedside table, glove compartment, utility drawer, workshop, or emergency kit, keep reading to learn how to choose the best flashlight and to find out how the following models performed in our tests.

  1. BEST OVERALL: STREAMLIGHT – 88040 ProTac Professional Flashlight
  2. RUNNER UP: NITECORE P12 Tactical Waterproof Flashlight
  3. BEST TACTICAL: OLIGHT Warrior X Pro 2100 Lumens Tactical Flashlight
  4. BEST HANDS-FREE: Energizer HC-550 LED Flashlight, 550 High Lumens
  5. BEST FOR LIGHT PACKING: Nebo Torchy Rechargeable Pocket Light Bundle
  6. BEST ADJUSTABLE BEAM: Maglite Heavy-Duty Incandescent 2-Cell D Flashlight
  7. BEST FOR LONG USE: Milwaukee 2735-20 M18 LED Work Light
  8. ALSO CONSIDER: DEWALT 20V MAX LED Work Light / Flashlight (DCL040)


How We Tested the Best Flashlights

We extensively tested and reviewed each flashlight that earned a spot in our lineup. Those advertised as being waterproof were submerged in water, while those designed to resist a small amount of splashing got passed through the spray of water in the shower.

The tactical flashlights were tested to see how far their light beam would illuminate, while the work-type flashlights were tested in realistic DIY situations, such as under the hood of a vehicle or under a sink. All functions, such as adjustable modes or strobe modes, on every flashlight were tested to ensure that they worked as promoted.

Our Top Picks

Our hands-on testing illuminated some of the best flashlight options on the market. We tested a wide variety of products to determine the amount of light generated, the beam distance, and the ease of operation for the various functions on each model.

In addition to testing each of the functions on the flashlights, I recruited a helper, which allowed me to gauge the brightness and effectiveness of the beams. I had my helper walk away and then stop when the flashlight beam could no longer illuminate him clearly, and then measured the distances. The following flashlights vary in style, design, and cost, and while some are better suited to specific uses than others, all are top performers in their categories.

Best Overall

The Best Flashlight Option: Streamlight 88040 ProTac HL 750 Lumen Flashlight

Coming in as the best overall flashlight in our tests, the STREAMLIGHT ProTac 750 Lumen Professional Flashlight packs many features into a pocket-size powerhouse. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the quality and solid feel of this flashlight, despite its small size: less than 6 inches long and weighing about 6 ounces. It’s made of durable impact-resistant aircraft aluminum and features rear one-button operation, which gives it a tactical feel.

The STREAMLIGHT is rated IPX7, meaning it should be waterproof to a depth of about 3 feet for up to 30 minutes. I filled the bathtub, dropped it in, and set the timer. In 30 minutes, I dried the STREAMLIGHT off and clicked the power button—the light came on immediately. In the field test with my helper, its LED beam (at its highest setting) was bright enough to see my subject at a distance of 165 yards.

Twisting the end of the flashlight allowed me to adjust the beam’s intensity from a narrow spotlight to a broad, more diffused beam. I could also lower the light’s intensity to that of a night- light. This model also features a very bright strobe that’s guaranteed to attract attention. This impressive little flashlight comes with two 3-volt CR123A batteries; rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries can be used, but no charger is included.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 750
  • Power Source: Two 3-volt CR123A lithium-ion batteries
  • Runtime: Up to 18 hours on low output
  • Weight: About 6 ounces
  • Light Source: LED
  • Material: Black aircraft aluminum
  • Case: Canvas holster with Velcro-type closure


  • Adjustable beam width; versatile use
  • Very bright strobe light
  • Rugged steel belt clip


  • No battery charger included

Get the STREAMLIGHT flashlight on Amazon or at Acme Tools.

Runner Up

The Best Flashlight Option: NITECORE P12 Waterproof Tactical Flashlight

Coming in a close second, the NITECORE P12 Tactical Flashlight stands out for its powerful 1,000-lumen beam that allowed me to illuminate objects at 180 yards. It boasts an ultra-tough industrial-grade body and is IPX8 rated to withstand submersion in up to 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The first thing I did was drop the NITECORE P12 in a bathtub full of water for half an hour, and then completed all other testing after submersion—and it performed admirably.

This flashlight is very lightweight at just over 3 ounces, and it comes with a sturdy steel clip for carrying on a belt or in a pocket. At maximum intensity, the rechargeable batteries should last approximately 1.5 hours; reduce the beam to 70 lumens, and battery runtime can last up to 28 hours. At first, in the dark, I couldn’t find the mode adjustment—it’s a small rubber button located on the barrel about 1.5 inches down from the top. Once I found it, I could scroll through four intensity levels, and I could activate a strobe mode by holding it down.

The NITECORE P12 is impressive in its intensity, yet its light weight, slim dimensions, and small size (under 6 inches) allow for easy toting in a pocket or a purse. It runs on a single 18650 lithium-ion battery (included) or two 3-volt CR123A batteries.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Power Source: One 18650 lithium-ion battery or two 3-volt CR123A batteries
  • Runtime: 1.5 hours at maximum intensity
  • Weight: 3.10 ounces
  • Light Source: LED
  • Material: Heavy-duty anodized aluminum
  • Case: Canvas holster with Velcro-type closure


  • IPX8: Can survive being submerged in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes
  • Very bright LED beam
  • Easy to carry at just over 3 ounces


  • Mode button in less-than-ideal location
  • No battery charger included

Get the NITECORE flashlight on Amazon.

Best Tactical

The Best Flashlight Option: OLIGHT Warrior X Pro 2100 Lumens Tactical Flashlight

There’s nothing wimpy about the OLIGHT Warrior Tactical Flashlight. Right out of the box, I could tell the Warrior was a quality flashlight. Its sleek, anodized aluminum body is slightly heavier than some handheld LED flashlights, weighing in at just under 8.5 ounces, but those added ounces give it a solid feel. The Warrior features an end-thumb on/off switch for one-hand operation. The switch is also a powerful magnet, letting me hang the Warrior to the underside of a steel table.

Like the other flashlights promoted as being waterproof, the OLIGHT Warrior began its testing at the bottom of a bathtub full of water for 30 minutes. After dark, I directed my helper to walk away while I kept the beam from the Warrior on his back. At about 450 yards—as far as my helper could walk without reaching the end of the property—the beam was still bright and clear. I think it could easily reach its 500-meter promoted maximum.

The Warrior comes with just two modes, high and low, which are selected using the thumb button, and it’s powered by a rechargeable 5,000 mAh 21700 lithium-ion battery. Charging the battery is a simple matter of setting it atop its magnetic charging disk that plugs into a USB port. The Warrior may be too bright in neighborhoods with nearby homes, but it’s well suited to camping, hunting, and hiking when it’s essential to see in the dark and at a distance.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 2,100
  • Power Source: 5,000 mAh 21700 lithium-ion battery
  • Runtime: Maximum 8 hours
  • Weight: 8.43 ounces
  • Light Source: High-performance LED
  • Material: Black anodized aluminum
  • Case: Reinforced holster with magnetic closure


  • Highest beam intensity of any flashlight tested
  • Magnetic base for attaching to steel items
  • USB charging disc and cord


  • Only 2 light modes; a little limiting compared to other options

Get the OLIGHT flashlight on Amazon.

Best Hands-Free

The Best Flashlight Option: Energizer HC-550 LED Flashlight, 550 High Lumens

The Energizer LED Flashlight isn’t designed to cast light at a distance but rather to illuminate the immediate area. I found it well suited for both under-the-hood mechanic tasks and workshop needs. This is the flashlight to rely on when tackling two-handed DIY tasks in low-light situations.

Made from impact-resistant plastic, the Energizer features three methods of hands-free use: It can hang from the pull-out hook located at the top, attach to a metal surface via a powerful magnet on its back side, and it can stand solidly on its base atop a table or other flat surface.

The Energizer is promoted as being able to withstand a 2-story drop, and while I didn’t test that claim, I accidentally dropped it from the back of a truck bed onto the concrete driveway and it suffered only a tiny scuff—all its functions still worked. The flashlight delivers 550 lumens and operates on four AA batteries, which are included.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 550
  • Power Source: 4 AA alkaline batteries
  • Runtime: 8 hours maximum on highest setting
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Light Source: LED
  • Material: Impact-resistant molded plastic
  • Case: No case included


  • Magnet in back for positioning flashlight on steel support
  • Hands-free lighting; great for multitasking
  • Hook for hanging
  • Wide area of illumination


  • Doesn’t cast a long beam of illumination
  • Tips over easily when standing on base
  • Head angle not adjustable

Get the Energizer LED flashlight on Amazon.

Best For Light Packing

Best Flashlight Option: Nebo Torchy Rechargeable Pocket Light Bundle

Proving the adage that good things come in small packages, this little number is incredibly bright and handy. At just 2.64 inches long, about an inch wide, and weighing in at 2 ounces, the Nebo Torchy is slightly bigger—and a bit better—than the average penlight for similar uses.

The most significant difference between the Torchy and penlights is the light intensity. The Torchy casts 1,000 lumens of super-bright light on its highest setting (Turbo). It also features high, medium, and low intensities, plus a strobe. The strobe function emits 500 lumens, and I was able to see it flashing from nearly 400 yards away. When testing regular beam intensity, I could see my helper clearly at about 130 yards.

The small flashlight operates on a single 3-volt CR123A rechargeable battery (not included) and comes with a handy USB charging base. There’s also a removable clip that can attach the flashlight to a hat brim, a belt, or a purse strap.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Power source: Single 3-volt CR123A battery
  • Runtime: 30 minutes maximum on Turbo setting
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Light type: LED
  • Material: Black aircraft aluminum
  • Case: No case included


  • Intense 1,000 lumens in a tiny package
  • USB base charger and cord
  • Magnetic base for attaching to steel
  • Includes a removable clip for versatile storage


  • Lacks a carry strap or case
  • Beam width not adjustable

Get the Nebo light bundle at Ace Hardware or at Overstock.

Best Adjustable Beam

The Best Flashlight Option: Maglite Heavy-Duty Incandescent 2-Cell D Flashlight

The only incandescent flashlight I tested, the Maglite Heavy-Duty Flashlight is solid, impressive, and designed for one purpose—to quickly light up the immediate area. Weighing in at 1.44 pounds and measuring nearly 10 inches long, the Maglite is well suited to storing on a shelf for quick retrieval when the lights go out.

This Maglite is rated IPX4, which means it will withstand a bit of rain or splashing water, but it’s not submersible. I turned on the shower, passed the Maglite through the spray a few times, and dried it off before testing its other functions. It performed flawlessly.

A fairly basic and affordable model, this Maglite features a single on/off button near the head of the flashlight and has no strobe function. To adjust the width of the light beam, simply rotate the entire head. I could see my helper at a distance of 150 yards away. The Maglite operates on two D-cell alkaline batteries (not included). While the Maglite features only 27 lumens, the least of any flashlight in the lineup, it was still surprisingly bright, perhaps due to the reflective surface inside the head.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 27
  • Power Source: 2 D-cell alkaline batteries
  • Runtime: 8.5 hours
  • Weight: 1.44 pounds
  • Light Source: Incandescent
  • Material: Textured black aluminum
  • Case: No case included


  • Hefty and substantial; great for rugged outdoor trips
  • Bright incandescent light beam
  • Adjustable beam width
  • Good as an emergency flashlight


  • Flashlight gets warm after about 10 minutes of use
  • Not as bright as an LED flashlight
  • No case or holster included

Get the Maglite flashlight on Amazon.

Best for Long Use


Having been a fan of Milwaukee tools for years, I was eager to test the company’s 18-volt work flashlight. I found the Milwaukee to be well suited for lighting up an immediate area, but before buying, be aware that—like many cordless, manufacturer-specific tools—the Milwaukee flashlight is sold as a “tool only.” That means you must already own, or buy, the battery and the charger. If you have other 18-volt Milwaukee tools, you can swap out the batteries to power the flashlight.

On a fully charged battery, this work flashlight emits 160 lumens, which I found impressively bright for most low-light work situations. The 18-volt battery slides into the bottom of the flashlight and provides a sturdy base. A flip-out hook allows users to hang the Milwaukee rather than put it on a flat surface—a true convenience—and there’s a single on/off switch on the front.

My favorite part of the flashlight is the adjustable head that allows me to direct the beam higher or lower as necessary. The flashlight itself weighs just 12 ounces (without the battery), making it suitable for carrying in a tool box or even in some types of tool belts.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 160
  • Power Source: 18-volt Milwaukee-specific rechargeable battery
  • Runtime: 12 hours maximum
  • Weight: 12 ounces (without battery)
  • Light Source: LED
  • Material: Impact-resistant molded plastic
  • Case: No case included


  • Hands-free lighting allows for multitasking
  • Adjustable head; easy to target a specific spot
  • Built-in hook for hanging
  • Long runtime on fully charged battery


  • Battery must be purchased separately
  • Charger must be purchased separately
  • Accepts only Milwaukee 18-volt battery

Get the Milwaukee work light at Amazon, The Home Depot, Northern Tool, or Acme Tools.

Also Consider

The Best Flashlight Option: DEWALT 20-Volt Max Lithium-Ion LED Flashlight

The second manufacturer-specific flashlight in the lineup, the DEWALT 20V MAX LED Work Light is a solid option that pulls double duty both as a flashlight and a work light. At 110 lumens, it’s not as powerful as some models, but it’s not designed to cast a distant beam of light. Instead, it’s meant to illuminate a nearby work area, such as the inside of a furnace or an HVAC unit where you’d typically find dim lighting.

Prospective buyers should keep in mind that they must also have (or buy) a DeWalt 20-volt battery and a charger—both of which are sold separately. The battery attaches to the bottom of the light and forms a stable base, so I set the entire unit inside the bottom of a sink cabinet, and I had more than enough illumination to see all the plumbing valves and fittings. It includes a stainless steel ring for hanging on a bar or a hook.

The pivoting head on the DeWalt rotates 120 degrees, so users can adjust it to suit lighting-angle needs. This flashlight makes a nice addition to a tool collection for those who have other 20-volt DeWalt cordless products.

Product Specs

  • Lumens: 110
  • Power Source: DeWalt-specific 20V rechargeable battery
  • Runtime: Up to 25 hours on a full battery charge
  • Weight: 10.1 ounces
  • Light Source: LED
  • Material: Impact-resistant molded plastic
  • Case: No case included


  • Bright, hands-free lighting; good versatility
  • Stainless steel ring for hanging
  • Adjustable flashlight head


  • Battery must be purchased separately
  • Charger must be purchased separately
  • Accepts only DeWalt 20-volt battery

Get the DEWALT flashlight on Amazon, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ace Hardware.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Flashlight

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates flashlights by their light output, battery runtime, beam distance, and beam intensity. When shopping, you’ll notice that each product comes with a series of ratings. Understanding what these ratings mean is key to finding a flashlight that best suits your needs.

Light Output

There are still a few flashlight models on the market with incandescent, krypton-type bulbs, but the vast majority of today’s models feature LED bulbs that produce brighter beams over greater distances. The amount of light a flashlight produces is measured in lumens. A flashlight producing 25 lumens is sufficient for reading a book under the covers, while 200 lumens will illuminate the corners of an average-size yard. Need more light? Flashlights with over 1,000 lumens are available—just don’t aim them toward your neighbor’s windows at night!

The two main types of bulbs found in today’s flashlights are LED and incandescent, and both have their pros and cons.

  • LED: Light-emitting diode bulbs are energy efficient, so batteries last longer and require less frequent changes. And while they’re extremely bright, emitting a clear white or bluish light, they don’t generate as much heat as incandescent bulbs. The best LED flashlight stays cool even if it’s operating continuously for an hour or more.
  • Incandescent bulbs: A flashlight that’s more than a decade old likely uses an incandescent bulb, but this type of bulb, which emits a warm yellowish tone, is gradually disappearing. If the flashlight is left on for a while, the incandescent bulb will get hot. Some folks still hunt for incandescent bulbs because they cost less than LEDs, although LEDs last longer so there may not be any real savings.

Beam Distance and Type

Flashlight packaging will tell how far the beam will go and what sort of beam it is—both important considerations. The distance a beam will shine is measured in meters. For instance, a beam distance of 200 meters is equal to just over 650 feet. There are also two types of beams. A “flood” beam lights up a wide area, while a “spot” beam produces a narrower stream of light that travels a greater distance. Some flashlights allow you to toggle between a flood beam and a spotlight as needed.

In addition, tactical-type models may feature an emergency strobe function, designed to attract attention if the user needs assistance. A strobe-flash light emits an intense, piercing light sequence that’s easy to see.

Waterproof Ratings

The abbreviation IPX (for Ingress Protection) denotes that a flashlight will resist moisture and water, an important feature if the torch will be taken on boat trips or other adventures where it might get wet. A rating of IPX4 means the flashlight should function if it gets splashed or sprayed, while a rating of IPX8 indicates that the flashlight will still be operable after being submerged for up to 4 hours.

Power Source

The more powerful the beam, the more quickly batteries will drain, so with more intense and powerful light output comes the need for longer battery runtimes. After all, a high-lumen flashlight won’t do much good on a weekend camping trip if the batteries die in 2 hours. Fortunately, many flashlights today use rechargeable batteries. They cost a bit more than disposables, but they’ll save money over time if the flashlight is used frequently. In addition to batteries, there are solar and hand-crank power sources for flashlights, and all are detailed below.

  • Solar: These flashlights are designed for extended outdoor use, and when the battery runs down, the flashlight can be recharged via a small solar cell. This makes solar-powered flashlights among the best options for camping and hiking. They may come with additional power options, such as the ability to charge the flashlight from a USB port.
  • Crank: Purchased most often for emergency standby use, a crank-type flashlight features a handle the user cranks manually to charge an internal battery, which then generates light. Crank-type flashlights are handy in case of a power outage. Some come with additional features, such as a built-in emergency radio.
  • Rechargeable battery: Many of today’s flashlights come with rechargeable batteries and can be charged with solar cells, USB ports, or adapters that plug into household power outlets. They’re among the handiest options—as long as the user keeps them charged, they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.
  • Battery: A good number of flashlights still take disposable batteries, and they’re typically among the most affordable models. For the best results, the user should keep a supply of extra batteries on hand or risk being caught without a functioning flashlight.


The best flashlights are available in a handful of styles. These include handheld models in various sizes, ranging from tiny penlights that can fit in a purse or a pocket or attach to a keychain to the large, hefty models frequently carried by security guards.

Lantern flashlights are designed to sit on a flat surface to illuminate a wide area. They’re popular for use in tents or to light up entire rooms during an outage. Many also come with a hook for hanging, but they don’t cast bright, directional light, so they cannot reach items in the distance.

Headlamp flashlights are must-have tools for mechanics who want to illuminate the inner workings of an engine while keeping their hands free. They feature a headband with one or more LED lights on the front that turn on by pressing a button.


Continue reading below to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about flashlights.

Q. What does “lumen” mean?

A lumen is a measure of light. The intensity of a flashlight’s beam is measured in lumens, and the higher the number, the brighter the light.

Q. Do LED flashlights get hot?

LED bulbs are much cooler than incandescent bulbs, but a powerful LED flashlight may still become warm. It shouldn’t become scorchingly hot to touch, however.

Q. What does “EDC flashlight” mean?

EDC is an acronym for “everyday carry” and is used to describe items, including flashlights, that are well suited for daily use but might not rise to the level of function required for particular activities. For example, an EDC flashlight would be suitable for lighting up a door lock at night, but it might not be powerful enough for tactical or first-responder use.

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