Handheld spotlights are a type of powerful flashlight that are great tools to have with you in a roadside emergency kit in case the car breaks down. They can also be used for more general purposes on the work site or when you head out into nature for camping, hiking, fishing, climbing, or boating. These spotlights typically have a brighter light and a broader beam than the average flashlight, illuminating a wide area.
Consider how the spotlight will be used before choosing a specific product. If you want to take it on a boat, then a waterproof product would be best, but if it’s for use at a work site, then durability should be the highest priority. Take a look through these top options to find the best handheld spotlight.
- BEST OVERALL: Streamlight 44910 Waypoint 1000-Lumens Spotlight
- RUNNER UP: STANLEY 900 Lumen LED Spotlight Flashlight
- BEST DISPOSABLE BATTERY: Energizer LED Spotlight
- BEST RECHARGEABLE BATTERY: Avid Power Rechargeable Spotlight
- BEST WITH BELT HOOK: DEWALT 20V MAX LED Work Light
- BEST WITH CASE: GOODSMANN Rechargeable Spotlight
- BEST WITH STAND: STANLEY FATMAX 2200 Lumen LED Spotlight Flashlight
- BEST COLOR LENS: BIGSUN Q953 10000mAh Rechargeable LED Spotlight
- BEST FOR BOATING: BLACK+DECKER Waterproof 5W LED Spotlight Flashlight
- BEST BRIGHTNESS: CSNDICE 35W LED Rechargeable Handheld Flashlights
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Handheld Spotlight
Before deciding on a product, consider these important factors to help make the best decision, including the size and weight, durability, bulb type, brightness, rechargeable or disposable battery, and the type of controls. By understanding the features of the product, you can more easily decide which option would be the best handheld spotlight for your purposes.
Size and Weight
These handheld devices are made for carrying in your hand or for packing into a bag or backpack. With this intention built into the design, most handheld spotlights are lightweight and compact. The average handheld spotlight ranges in weight from under 1 pound to about 4 pounds, and they are small enough to hold and operate in one hand.
Users may notice some differences in weight between products that are made for high brightness levels and products intended for water resistance. High brightness spotlights typically weigh more due to the lens, reflector, bulb, and power source. Handheld spotlights designed for boating weigh less, despite their larger size. The broad size is just to help the spotlight float if it’s dropped into the water.
Don’t waste time or money on a fragile product that breaks the first time it gets dropped. Handheld spotlights are made for use on busy jobsites and in camping, hiking, boating, fishing, and emergency situations, like when the car breaks down on the side of the road. This range of uses means that it’s necessary to find a durable product that can withstand a few bumps and knocks without failing.
Also, consider whether the handheld spotlight is resistant to water. These products will often come with an IP rating that can help determine the water resistance.
- IPX0: Not protected.
- IPX1: Resistant to water droplets.
- IPX2: Resistant to vertically dripping water.
- IPX3: Resistant to mild splashing from one direction.
- IPX4: Resistant to mild splashing from any direction.
- IPX5: Resistant to light jets of water from any direction.
- IPX6: Resistant to powerful jets of water from any direction.
- IPX7: Waterproof and submersible in up to 6 feet of water.
- IPX8: Waterproof and submersible in over 6 feet of water.
There are several bulb types commonly used in handheld spotlights including LEDs, incandescent bulbs, and noble gas bulbs.
- LEDs are the most commonly used light source for handheld spotlights for several reasons. These light types don’t produce excess heat, so there is no wasted energy, allowing the spotlight to operate for a long period of time. LEDs don’t have a glass filament that is easy to break, making these spotlights a great choice for camping, hiking, or fishing.
- Incandescent bulbs used to be the go-to product for handheld spotlights, but over the years the efficiency and durability of LEDs have mostly replaced these bulbs. However, there remain some users who prefer the yellow light produced by these bulbs, or maybe these individuals just like the lower initial cost of the unit.
- Noble gas bulbs are essentially incandescent bulbs that are filled with xenon, halogen, and krypton gas to help extend the life of the filament and produce more visible light without needing extra energy, increasing energy efficiency and light output. These bulbs are rarely used in handheld spotlights because they are incredibly fragile; however, on average they are brighter than both incandescent bulbs and LEDs.
The brightness of a handheld spotlight is measured in lumens (lm). One lumen is equal to the light produced by a single lit candle at a distance of 1 foot. The specific brightness of a spotlight depends on the individual product with a wide range of options from just 500 lumens to over 6,000. Spotlights with higher levels of brightness make it easier to see objects close by, but it also has the effect of increasing the visible range of the spotlight, which can be referred to as the beam throw.
For use on camping, hiking, or fishing trips, a handheld spotlight should produce from 500 to 1,000 lumens, and the beam throw of the light should extend at least 500 feet with no obstructions. This ensures that the light can illuminate the surrounding area, but it can also be used to signal for help in the case of an emergency.
Lenses and Reflectors
The lens of a handheld spotlight is typically made of clear glass or plastic, helps to protect the bulb, and allows the light to pass through unhindered. However, some spotlights can come with a colored lens that changes the appearance of light for signaling purposes, night-vision applications, or just to have some fun around the campfire. Common lens colors include yellow, red, green, and blue.
While the bulb is responsible for the light produced by the spotlight, it’s the reflector that increases the total lumens by redirecting and focusing the light into a powerful beam. Reflectors typically have a smooth texture for a narrow, clean beam of light or an orange-peel texture that reflects the light out into a wide area, creating a broad beam that’s appropriate for the campsite.
Battery Type and Runtime
One of the main reasons to have a handheld spotlight is to quickly produce light outdoors where there isn’t any available source of electricity. This means that handheld spotlights rely on either disposable batteries or rechargeable batteries to power the light source.
- Disposable batteries are a good option for packing into an emergency kit because they can be stored separately from any electronic devices to avoid depleting the stored energy. They typically last longer than a rechargeable spotlight; however, it can be frustrating to have to walk or drive to the store to pick up batteries when the spotlight runs out of power.
- Rechargeable batteries are the most common option for a handheld spotlight because the device can just be plugged into an outlet at home, a generator, or a power bank while camping, or it can even draw power from the AC outlet in the car or truck. The only drawback with these handheld spotlights is that they usually run out of power at a faster pace than disposable batteries.
Controls and Lighting Modes
Handheld spotlights tend to have very simple controls that are used to switch between several common lighting modes. The spotlight will either have a dial, a series of buttons, or a trigger control that adjusts the lighting mode by squeezing the trigger. Each squeeze of the trigger changes to the next lighting mode, increasing or decreasing the light produced. Standard lighting modes for a handheld spotlight include high, low, and SOS modes.
- High mode uses the most energy to produce the brightest light possible for the device. Due to the high energy required for this setting, it typically has the shortest runtime.
- Low mode is better for energy conservation, often lasting up to five times longer. However, the light produced by the spotlight is significantly weaker, and the beam throw is also shorter.
- SOS mode is intended to signal for help in the case of an emergency. The spotlight produces the same level of light as it does when placed in high mode, but the light is intermittent. This strobe pattern flashes a bright white light and may also incorporate red or blue lights, depending on the specific product.
Our Top Picks
This list of top products was selected based on the important factors mentioned above, including durability, bulb type, brightness, and overall value in order to help you find the best handheld spotlight for the next camping trip with friends or family.
This versatile handheld spotlight comes equipped with a 120-volt AC charger and an integrated stand for hands-free use. It weighs only 1.5 pounds and is small enough to be tucked into a backpack or bag for easy carrying. However, users may wish to carry it with the nylon carrying handle that can be adjusted to fit the size of their wrist so that it doesn’t slip off.
The handheld spotlight has three brightness settings, including high (1,000 lumens), medium (550 lumens), and low (35 lumens). On the high setting, the beam can reach up to 2,200 feet and can operate for up to 3 hours before needing to be recharged. The spotlight can survive being submerged in up to 6 feet of water, and the buoyant exterior allows it to float on the surface so it’s easy to recover if it’s dropped from the boat or dock.
Chase away the darkness with this inexpensive handheld spotlight that has a runtime of 10 hours and can hold a charge for up to 12 months, making it a good option for an emergency roadside kit. It comes with a textured pistol grip for easy control and maneuverability, and it also includes a built-in pivoting, collapsible stand to support the spotlight when the user can’t spare a hand for the light.
This handheld spotlight features four lighting modes that can be selected by squeezing the trigger. Each squeeze switches the lighting mode to change from full to high to low to halo and off. When the spotlight is set to high, it produces up to 900 lumens in a beam that extends up to 800 feet. This handheld spotlight isn’t waterproof, so it shouldn’t be used for fishing or boating.
It’s more than frustrating; it’s also dangerous to have an emergency kit that’s equipped with unreliable products. However, with this Energizer LED handheld spotlight, the light can be stored separately from a brand-new set of six AA batteries so users can feel safe knowing that at least the spotlight will work when they need it, with or without electricity. The lightweight spotlight has a rugged, durable body and weighs just 1 pound.
The spotlight has high and low light settings with a maximum brightness of 600 lumens and a runtime of about 6 hours. At the high setting, the light can extend up to 1,400 feet with a focused beam of light. While this handheld spotlight isn’t a good choice for boating, it does have a basic water-resistance level, so it can resist splashing and light to moderate rainfall.
Rechargeable handheld spotlights are the most common option because many people prefer the ability to plug in the spotlight to charge the battery instead of having to go to the store to pick up new disposable batteries. This handheld spotlight comes with a USB cable and a power outlet adapter so that it can be plugged into a standard wall outlet to charge. It takes about 4 hours to fully charge and can last for up to 10 hours before needing to be recharged.
The spotlight weighs less than 1 pound, and it has a waterproof exterior that can be submerged in up to 6 feet of water without damage. Use it on high (900 lumens), medium (400 lumens), or SOS mode (900 lumens), which, in emergency situations, flashes the light on and off to get the attention of anyone nearby. This beam can extend out about 1,500 feet, so it’s a great way to signal for help while out on a boat.
Work site handheld spotlights, like this DEWALT option, are made with a high level of durability so they can handle any knocks or bumps that can be a regular part of a busy jobsite. The handheld spotlight has a built-in stand for hands-free use and a belt hook so the user can hang the spotlight from their belt when it’s not being used. This also makes it easy to grab the light in a hurry, even when the user is up on a ladder or crawling through a crawl space.
This light has two different settings. The first is a simple white light that has a maximum output of about 900 lumens and can be seen up to 1,525 feet away. The second is a red light that’s intended for work in dark environments to complement night-vision equipment. To get the best angle for properly illuminating the jobsite, the head of the spotlight can pivot up to 90 degrees.
Many handheld spotlights are made with safety features to help protect the light from water, dirt, and impact damage. While this rechargeable spotlight by GOODSMANN can make the same claims, it also comes with a separate carrying case as an added layer of protection when the spotlight isn’t in use. The case is lightweight and durable, keeping out water, dust, and electrostatic energy that can drain the internal battery.
When the handheld spotlight is out of the carrying case, users can rely on it to produce up to 4,500 lumens of light on the highest of three lighting modes, which include high, low, and SOS mode. The beam can be spotted over 1,500 feet away, and if the spotlight takes a tumble into the lake or river, it will float back to the top without damage. This handheld spotlight weighs 2.8 pounds, and it can operate for up to 3 hours before needing to be recharged.
This STANLEY handheld spotlight weighs 2 pounds and includes a textured, ergonomic handle that makes it easy to hold and maneuver. However, when users need both hands for a task, like hammering in tent pegs or getting a fire started, they can use the built-in, collapsible stand. This simple device folds out from the top of the spotlight, forming a base to hold the light steady while the user works.
The handheld spotlight has a low and a high lighting mode. In the high mode, it produces up to 2,200 lumens and it can be seen from over 1,300 feet away, though users should note that at this level of light intensity, the battery lasts for up to only 1 hour. Put the light on the low setting for up to 7 hours of light, and charge the spotlight with a standard wall adapter, a USB device, or with the AC outlet in the car or truck.
Choose a light color to illuminate the campsite with this handheld spotlight that comes with three color lenses, including yellow, red, and green. By using one of these lens filters, the light produced by the spotlight passes through the filter and creates a vividly colored light that can be used for signaling across long distances or simply having some fun at the campsite.
This handheld spotlight comes with three lighting modes, including high, low, and SOS, which flashes white light in a strobe pattern to attract attention in emergencies. The light can reach up to 6,000 lumens in brightness and 2,600 feet in distances, with a long runtime of 32 hours on low and SOS mode. On the high setting, the light will still last for up to 10 hours before needing to be recharged. However, users should be careful to keep this spotlight away from water because it’s designed to withstand only mild splashing or light to moderate rain.
Don’t get caught out in the middle of the lake without a light. Not only does this make it difficult to steer and navigate the boat at night, but it’s also a safety risk because the driver can’t signal to other boats or to shore. The BLACK & DECKER handheld spotlight can be used to signal from the boat, and it can also function in up to 6 feet of water for swimming or snorkeling. The spotlight has a lightweight design that weighs just 2 pounds and quickly floats to the surface if it’s dropped into the water.
This handheld spotlight is powered by six AA batteries for up to 10 hours of runtime on the low-light setting. When switched to the high-light setting, the spotlight produces up to 500 lumens and can be seen up to 650 feet away.
Use this handheld spotlight for up to 8 hours on the high setting and get 6,000 lumens of light that can extend up to 2,600 feet, or save the battery and drop to the low setting for up to 24 hours of use at 1,000 lumens of light. Even on the low setting, the spotlight can be seen at over 1,300 feet away. When the battery runs out, just plug it into a nearby power outlet or the AC output in the vehicle.
The spotlight is made to float if it’s dropped in the water but can be vulnerable to lasting water damage if the charging outlet cover isn’t properly closed. It weighs just 1 pound and comes with a shoulder strap for hands-free carrying. While it does take about 4 hours to fully charge, once charged it can be used as an emergency power bank for recharging phones, tablets, and other USB devices.
FAQs About Handheld Spotlights
Keep a handheld spotlight in the car, take it to work, or pack a rechargeable spotlight for the next camping, hiking, or fishing trip. However, if you aren’t certain about how many lumens a good spotlight would have or exactly how bright 1,000 lumens really are, then continue reading for answers to these questions and some additional questions about the best handheld spotlight.
Q. How many lumens is a good spotlight?
For general outdoor use away from ambient lights, like for a camping or hiking trip, look for a handheld spotlight with 500 to 1,500 lumens.
Q. How bright is 1,000 lumens?
One lumen is equivalent to the light produced by a lit birthday candle placed about 1 foot away. With this base measurement, it’s easier to understand that 1,000 lumens are exactly 1,000 times the brightness of a single lit candle.
Q. Are spotlights waterproof?
It depends on the specific product. Some spotlights are made to be waterproof, even when submerged, while others may be vulnerable to damage in heavy rain.
Q. What is the best spotlight for boating and fishing?
One of the best handheld spotlights for boating and fishing is the Black+Decker WPAK5B Handheld Flashlight, which is submersible in up to 6 feet of water.