The Best Penlights for Precise Illumination

For any task that requires accurate visual perception, a penlight can provide illumination where you need it most. Check out the following suggestions to find the best penlight for your precision jobs.

BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

The Best Penlight Options

Photo: amazon.com

If your health care provider has ever pulled a tiny flashlight from the pocket of a lab coat to examine the pupils of your eyes and the back of your throat, you’re probably familiar with how a penlight works. But the doctor’s office isn’t the only place where penlights serve a vital function. A battery-powered or rechargeable penlight can be a convenient device for you as well.

Read on to discover the best penlight to keep in your car, tool box, kitchen drawer, or anywhere you need a focused beam of light to help you accomplish a task.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Streamlight Stylus Pro USB Rechargeable Penlight
  2. RUNNER UP: GearLight LED Pocket Pen Light Flashlight
  3. BEST RECHARGEABLE: Anker Rechargeable Bolder P2 LED Pen Flashlight
  4. ALSO CONSIDER: INFRAY LED Pen Light Flashlight
best-penlights

Photo: istockphoto.com

Types of Penlights

Penlights offer ultimate convenience with their diminutive size, powerful light output, and portability. They may be battery-powered (either by AAA batteries or rechargeable batteries) or intended for disposal after their nonreplaceable batteries run down. Below are the differences between the two types of penlights.

Rechargeable

For long-lasting and dependable service, you can use a rechargeable penlight that provides hours of bright illumination. These penlights typically feature lithium-ion batteries that recharge via a USB cord and a standard USB port. Although rechargeable penlights may be more expensive than disposable models or those that run on AAA batteries, they tend to offer higher quality and a longer lifespan.

Penlights with recharging capabilities are available with batteries and USB cords included; you only need to provide the USB port. Check product descriptions to learn how long it takes to fully recharge the penlight battery.

The advantage of owning a rechargeable penlight is that you don’t need to worry about keeping batteries on hand. The downside is that you’ll need to remember to recharge the battery when necessary; otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a dead penlight.

Disposable

Disposable penlights offer the ultimate convenience, as you don’t need to replace or recharge the batteries. These penlights include nonreplaceable batteries that offer hours of illumination.

Disposable penlights are commonly used in health care settings. Nurses and doctors depend on these handy tools for diagnostic purposes and may toss them away to avoid cross- contamination. But they might be useful around your home or workplace, too.

Disposable penlights are constructed from plastic, and the batteries are included. They’re small, inexpensive, and lightweight. You can use a disposable penlight until the battery runs out. Since they’re low-cost and convenient, you may want to keep a few disposable penlights around your house, garage, shed, or workshop.

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Penlight

Penlights are nifty little tools that can serve tons of purposes. For travel, camping, in your car, around the house, or in your workplace, penlights offer convenience and promote safety.
As you shop for a penlight, look for convenience, quality construction, and ease of operation. Additionally, you’ll want to consider the type of battery you’d like to use in your penlight. These considerations will help you choose the best penlight to serve your individual purposes.

Convenience

Based on their size, construction, and performance, penlights are convenient little gadgets. Typically around the size of a writing pen, a penlight slips handily into a purse, pocket, toolbox, or any small storage nook.

For added convenience, some penlights offer rechargeable batteries with USB cords to keep your penlight topped up and ready to go. Alternatively, you may prefer a penlight with replaceable batteries. Because they’re so slim in their designs, penlights typically require AAA batteries.

For optimal convenience, disposable penlights include long-lasting, nonreplaceable batteries. When these batteries run down, you simply throw away the penlight. Although this is a convenient feature, disposable penlights are not as high quality and versatile as those that use replaceable or rechargeable batteries.

Construction

The small size and slim, cylindrical shape of a penlight make it a super-convenient and portable device. Typically, penlights measure approximately 5 to 6 inches in length and 0.5 inches in diameter. Additionally, most models feature a clip on the side that lets you secure the penlight to your belt or pocket.

The body or casing of many penlights is made of anodized aluminum that resists abrasions and chipping. You may also want to look for penlights that are tested and rated for water resistance. For instance, an IPX5 rating means that the penlight can withstand light water spray but cannot be submerged in water without causing damage.

Disposable penlights are made of plastic, so they are not as durable as others. However, the plastic construction contributes to the more affordable nature of these penlights.

Easy Use

Penlights are not complicated devices, and most of them feature button-click, on-off mechanisms similar to writing pens. Many penlights allow you to switch between high-beam and low-beam modes. This way, you can control the exact amount of light you need for any job or situation. Some penlights offer the convenience of a rotating design that allows you to zoom in or out, controlling the intensity of the light beam.

Recharging or replacing batteries is the only chore associated with using your penlight. With a rechargeable battery, simply plug the USB cord into a USB port so that your penlight is ready to go when you need it. To power a penlight that uses replaceable batteries, you’ll most likely need two AAA batteries. Keep a few of these on hand, especially for emergency situations.

Run Time/Batteries

Penlights vary in the battery life that they offer. Read product descriptions to learn the run times of batteries on specific penlights. Keep in mind that operating your penlight on the high-beam mode will consume more battery power than the low-beam mode. Therefore, you won’t get as many hours of illumination if you always run your penlight on the high setting. Most product descriptions provide information about battery life on both high and low settings.

Penlights with replaceable batteries generally use any available AAA batteries, but not all batteries are equal in run time. You can influence the run time of your penlight by purchasing alkaline batteries made by reputable manufacturers. These typically run longer before losing their charge.

Disposable penlights run on nonreplaceable batteries. These offer hours of life before they run down, but the next step is to dispose of the penlight rather than to replace or recharge its batteries.

Our Top Picks

To bring you the top picks, this guide looked at penlights that operate on rechargeable and replaceable batteries as well as those that are meant for disposal. Cost, quality construction, brightness, and battery run time were also considered. From this list of suggestions, you’ll likely discover the best penlight for your home, office, or workshop.

Best Overall

The Best Penlight Options: Streamlight 66134 Stylus Pro USB Rechargeable
Photo: amazon.com

For maximum convenience and portability, this rechargeable penlight from Streamlight measures only 6.15 inches by 0.74 inches and weighs a mere 1.9 ounces, including the battery. Use the included USB cord to recharge the lithium-ion battery (also included) up to 300 times. It charges fully in only 2.5 hours.

When it’s operating in high-intensity mode, this penlight will run for 1.5 hours, emitting 250 lumens with a beam that can be seen 109 meters away. Switch to low-intensity mode, and the device delivers 90 lumens with a 58-meter beam for 3.5 hours.

The casing of the Streamlight penlight is constructed of machined aircraft aluminum with an anodized finish to ensure durability. Tested and rated for water resistance, all openings are O-ring sealed, and the glass lens is gasket-sealed.

Runner Up

The Best Penlight Options: GearLight LED Pocket Pen Light Flashlight S100
Photo: amazon.com

GearLight offers this two-pack of penlights at a budget-friendly price. Each light runs on two AAA batteries (not included) to deliver long-lasting, ultrabright LED illumination. Weighing in at only 3.2 ounces each, these penlights are 5.5 inches long and 0.5 inches in diameter. A handy clip on the all-aluminum casing lets you secure this convenient device in a pocket or purse.

Stash a few of these practical penlights in places where you’ll need them most, including your car, backpack, garage, workshop, kitchen, and bedroom. Because of their water-resistant and shock-resistant design, these penlights will work in extreme conditions. Their reliability promotes peace of mind for dependable lighting during an emergency power outage or natural disaster.

Best Rechargeable

The Best Penlight Options: Anker Rechargeable Bolder P2 LED Pen Flashlight
Photo: amazon.com

Use the included USB cord to charge the two 900mAh NiMH batteries that are included with the Bolder P2 penlight from Anker. Operating in high-beam mode, this device delivers 120 lumens for 1.5 hours. When it’s in low-beam mode, the penlight emits 40 lumens for 5.5 hours. With one-button operation, it’s easy to toggle between high-beam and low-beam light intensity.

The lightweight aluminum body of the Anker penlight is tough and resistant to scratches or chipping. It’s rated IPX5 for water resistance, which means you can count on this penlight even in a heavy rainstorm. Additionally, this penlight has been tested for reliability in cold temperatures, as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. With a handy clip attached to its 2.72-ounce body, this penlight attaches conveniently to your tool belt, pocket, or backpack.

Also Consider

The Best Penlight Options: INFRAY LED Pen Light Flashlight, Zoomable, Small EDC
Photo: amazon.com

When you need a super-bright light that can be seen as far away as 230 feet, this penlight from Infray meets your needs. It emits 220 lumens and offers high-beam, low-beam, and strobe-light settings. In high-beam mode, the battery lasts seven hours, and you can switch to the low-beam mode for 14 hours of illumination. Power this penlight with two AAA alkaline batteries (not included), and you’re ready to go.

Its rotating mechanism lets you zoom in or out, making a smooth transition from a narrow beam to a wide beam. Feel confident that you can use this penlight in rough weather, if necessary. The anodized aluminum casing is resistant to water and abrasion, and the polycarbonate lens is scratch-resistant.

FAQs About Penlights

Once you’ve chosen the best penlight to suit your needs, add it to your arsenal of handy tools that make your life easier. Stash a few convenient penlights in strategic places to shine a bright, focused light whenever you need it. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions to help you get started with your new penlight.

Q: How many lumens is a penlight?

Penlights vary in their capacity to emit light. Those that offer a higher number of lumens will deliver brighter beams of light.

Q: What is the difference between a penlight and a tactical flashlight?

A penlight is similar in size and weight to a writing pen, so it easily clips to a pocket or other small storage space. Tactical flashlights are designed for tactical use by military or police personnel, and they are sometimes attached to weapons. Compared to tactical flashlights, penlights are typically not as bright.

Q: How long does a penlight last?

The batteries in penlights vary in their run time. When operating in low-beam mode, a penlight battery will last longer than when it is operating in high-beam mode.