If you’ve ever struggled to find your keys or fumbled with them in a lock, then you likely understand the importance of having a small flashlight on hand. A smartphone flashlight can be a quick fix in a hurry, but phone flashlights can only produce 20 to 100 lumens. In comparison, the average small flashlight is capable of 500 to 1,000 lumens, illuminating an entire area instead of just a tiny bubble of light.
The best small flashlight has a compact but durable frame that you can conveniently carry in a pocket or a bag. Extra features like a belt clip, carabiner, or water-resistant casing may be necessary additions to a quality flashlight if you plan to use it for physically challenging activities, like hiking, boating, climbing, or camping. Read on to learn what to look for in a small flashlight and why these recommendations rate as some of the best in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: YIFENG XML T6 Tactical Ultra Bright LED Flashlight
- BEST ULTRA BRIGHT: LUMINTOP Super Bright Small LED Flashlight
- BEST COMPACT: ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Cool White 500 Lumens Flashlight
- BEST WATERPROOF: Dorcy 55 Lumen Floating Waterproof LED Flashlight
- BEST LANTERN: LE Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern Flashlight
- BEST INCANDESCENT: Maglite Mini Incandescent 2-Cell AA Flashlight
- BEST EDC: OLIGHT S1 Baton 500 Lumen Compact EDC LED Flashlight
Types of Small Flashlights
Small flashlights are always being improved, which has led to a wide variety of flashlight types, including LED, HID, shake, lantern, incandescent, xenon, halogen, and krypton flashlights.
LED flashlights are one of the most commonly used types of small flashlight because LED bulbs have a long life, do not produce excess heat, and have no glass or filament that could easily break, making them very durable. These flashlights can create very bright light, only falling behind the noble gas incandescent bulbs (xenon, halogen, and krypton) in terms of maximum lumen output. They are also relatively inexpensive now that they are the most popularly used and manufactured flashlight style.
High-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs are a type of arc lamp. Tungsten electrodes sit inside an arc tube, which can be made of fused quartz or alumina. A noble gas fills this tube and enables the initial electric arc between the electrodes. This arc gives off light, and the noble gas increases the intensity of the visible light produced so that HID bulbs can give off a higher brightness than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. However, HID bulbs are expensive and hard to find, narrowing your product selection and the range of possible features available to you.
Incandescent bulbs were the most popular lighting style for many years, but LED lights have mostly replaced them. While these flashlights are the least expensive option, this may not be that great of a benefit. Incandescent bulbs waste a lot of energy producing heat, which means that the light they give off is not as bright as other flashlight types. They have a short lifespan, requiring frequent replacement, which can cost more in the long run than just paying a bit more upfront for an LED flashlight.
Xenon, Halogen, and Krypton
Xenon, halogen, and krypton bulbs are named after the noble gases which are inside the bulbs. These lights are essentially incandescent bulbs with pressurized gas inside the bulb that extends the filament’s life and helps the flashlight produce more visible light without extra energy. These flashlights have the brightest bulbs available, but the filament is fragile, making them a poor option for hiking, camping, climbing, or any other physical activity that could break the bulb.
Shake flashlights are an interesting purchase if you can find them, but they are not very popular among flashlight manufacturers, so they can be challenging to locate. These flashlights produce several hours of LED light by shaking internal magnets for a few minutes. The light is not very bright, but they are great for power outages or as a helpful light when you are stumbling around your house at night. However, the magnets inside the flashlight are very powerful, and they may damage electronics or the magnetic strip on your credit or debit cards.
Lanterns can have several different types of bulbs, but the most popular model is the LED. These lights provide multi-directional lighting to an area, like a room in a house, a deck, or a campsite. Some lanterns are even waterproof and able to float so you can take them on a boat without worrying about water damage. The main differences between a flashlight and a lantern are that you typically hold a lantern from a handle at the top, and lanterns give off multi-directional light instead of the focused beam of a flashlight. However, some lanterns have both a flashlight mode that points in a single direction and a lantern mode for area lighting, making them ideal for camping.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Small Flashlight
Before choosing a small flashlight, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the most important shopping considerations to keep in mind.
The battery type determines whether you will be regularly replacing batteries or recharging your flashlight.
- Rechargeable batteries are more cost-effective for small flashlights that get a lot of use because you won’t be paying to replace them every time the power runs out. You can plug specific flashlight models into a USB port on your computer, a designated charger, or directly into the wall for a quick recharge. Rechargeable batteries don’t have the same risk of rupturing that some disposables have.
- Disposable batteries cost less initially but will require frequent replacements if you use the flashlight regularly. They are great for a small flashlight that is only used in emergencies because the batteries will not need to be changed as often. Alkaline disposable batteries can rupture and leak if they get overheated. Therefore, only use lithium batteries for your small flashlight if you plan to store it for an extended time, such as with a survival kit.
Battery life is an essential consideration for any flashlight because you want to know just how much light you will be able to get from a new set of batteries or a fully charged internal battery. On average, flashlights with disposable batteries tend to last longer than rechargeable flashlights. Still, the trade-off is that when the rechargeable battery runs out, you can just plug them in, while you will need to completely replace the disposable ones.
Consider what purpose the flashlight will serve. A helpful night light won’t need an extended battery life because you don’t use it for a long time. Also, if you are in close proximity to backup batteries and available power outlets for recharging, a long battery life is not necessary. However, a flashlight for illuminating your path or campsite while you are hiking, camping, or climbing should have a long life so that you don’t run out of light when you need it most.
The brightness of a small flashlight is measured in lumens (lm), representing a measurement of the total amount of light visible to the human eye. The more lumens produced by a flashlight, the more visible light it can create, and the brighter the light (and everything illuminated by it) will appear.
A low brightness flashlight, like the one on your smartphone, can produce between 20 to 100 lumens of light. This can be very effective for lighting your immediate vicinity, but in the middle of the night, this weak light won’t penetrate very far into the encroaching gloom. For extended periods of darkness, like during a fishing trip, camping trip, hiking, or jogging at night, get a small flashlight that produces between 500 to 1,000 lumens. These are typically LED flashlights, as incandescent bulbs have a weaker lumen output.
The purpose of the flashlight is a critical consideration to factor into your decision. General-purpose flashlights for light use around the home don’t need a high lumen output or extremely long life because they will only be infrequently used in enclosed areas.
Features of small flashlights for hiking and camping should prioritize durability, battery life, and on the lumens produced. Add-ons like a clip or carabiner are perfect for hiking because it can secure your flashlight to your bag. You may need a waterproof and floating small flashlight if it’s used for boating or fishing to keep it from breaking or sinking if you drop it in the water.
Every day carry (EDC) small flashlights frequently come with a keychain, a carabiner, a belt clip, or other attachments that make it easy to bring with you without having to occupy one of your hands. These lights are designed for a simple, effective response to emergencies or threatening situations. They typically have very bright lights with at least one strobe light setting for stunning and deterring attackers, or to signal for help.
Modes & Controls
Small flashlights used to just have an on and off switch, but now most products come with multiple modes and settings. You can set the lumen output of the flashlight in varying levels of brightness for poor-lighting situations so that you are not using a blinding flash in a dim room, or trying to light the campsite with a candle glow.
Some flashlights give you the ability to change the color of the light so you can have a red or blue light for a more appealing aesthetic appearance. However, much more useful is the inclusion of a strobe light setting for most small flashlights. Strobe lights can serve as a self-defense option to stun and deter attackers, and you can also use them to signal for help in emergencies.
Items that come with your small flashlight can make your experience with the product better. A carabiner or clip attached to a flashlight lets you fasten it to a bag or belt for easy hands-free carrying. If the product is rechargeable, make sure there is some explanation for how you can recharge it and what charging accessories—a cable or charging dock—are included.
For lights that will be stored in emergency kits or tucked into your bag when you go camping, consider finding a product that comes with a case—something simple and effective to keep the lens of the light from getting scratched. You may also get a set of replacement batteries when you purchase a small flashlight that uses disposable batteries for power.
Our Top Picks
The top-rated products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the best small flashlight for your next road trip.
This powerful LED small flashlight is an ideal addition to any fishing or camping trip because it has an anodized aluminum body that is impact- and water-resistant so you can use it in moderate to heavy rain without issue. You can even use the flashlight in freezing temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit or -10 degrees Celsius.
The Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight has five light settings: high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS. It produces up to 900 lumens of brightness in the highest setting but can last for up to 6 hours when used on the medium setting. The small flashlight can be recharged in 6 hours with the included USB charging cable, and it is just 6.2 ounces in weight and 6.2 inches long, allowing you to easily slip it in your pocket for carrying.
Keep the YIFENG XML T6 Tactical Ultra Bright LED Flashlight in your pocket or your bag without discomfort, thanks to the short 6.1-inch length and light 5.6-ounce weight. This affordable small flashlight uses durable LED bulbs and can create up to 1,600 lumens. However, this is only the case if it is being powered by a 18650 Li-on rechargeable battery, which does not come with the flashlight. You can also power the flashlight with three AAA batteries, but these are not included either.
The small flashlight is made of aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, making it resistant to scratches, dents, and other impact damage. It is also highly water-resistant, but should not be deeply submerged or held underwater for an extended period. The flashlight has five lighting modes and an adjustable focus so that you can set the light to high, middle, low, strobe, or SOS, then set the focus to an intense spotlight or a broad floodlight for your desired illumination.
Chase away the night with the LUMINTOP 2,800 Lumen Rechargeable Flashlight which is capable of producing an astonishing 2,800 lumens on its highest setting, despite being only 3.7 inches long and just 2.7 ounces. The flashlight comes with multiple settings for personalized and situational control, including smooth ramping, stepped ramping, turbo mode, momentary, muggle, or electronic lockout (for safely carrying the light in your pocket without accidentally turning it on). You can also set it to sunset, beacon, tactical strobe, party strobe, bike flasher, candlelight, or lightning storm settings for different lighting experiences.
The flashlight is powered by a 18650 rechargeable battery, which is included, but the battery charger is not, and you will need to purchase it separately. Great for camping, the flashlight is dustproof, impact-resistant, and waterproof at up to two meters for 30 minutes. It also comes with a clip and a magnetic tail cap for hands-free mounting and carrying.
If you need a small flashlight that fits comfortably in your pocket, bag, or purse, the ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Cool White 500 Lumen Flashlight is a compact solution at just 6.1 inches long and 1.7 ounces in weight. It runs on two AA batteries, which are not included with the flashlight but should be easy to find when replacing them.
The small flashlight has five different light settings that can be adjusted to your preference or purpose, including firefly, low, medium, high, and strobe. At the high setting, the flashlight can create an impressive 500 lumens, but will only run for 96 minutes before needing to replace the batteries. The firefly setting is the lowest light level, producing just 0.2 lumens, but lasting for 28 days. The small flashlight has an impact-resistant aircraft-grade aluminum body. It is waterproof at up to two meters for 30 minutes.
The Dorcy 55 Lumen Floating Waterproof LED Flashlight is 8.8 inches long and just 6.4 ounces in weight, making it perfect for carrying in your pocket or for attaching it to a life jacket. The tail cap has both a magnet and a carabiner clip allowing for hands-free mounting or carrying, while the rubber around the plastic head and body protect the flashlight from impact damage.
Take this small flashlight out on the boat or down to the docks without worrying about water damage. The body is sealed against water, and it floats so that it can be used in heavy sprays, submerged for short periods, or even dropped into the water without concern. It’s powered for up to eig8 ht hours and 45 minutes by three AA batteries, which are included. However, the flashlight only puts out about the same brightness as a phone, at 55 lumens.
This LED lantern/flashlight gives you the ability to light up a campsite with a broad lantern shine or direct the light down a narrow hall or path with a more focused beam. The lantern measures only 9.8 inches long but weighs more than other flashlights on this list at 30 ounces or 1.9 pounds. In an emergency, you can use this flashlight to charge your phone or other mobile devices using a USB cable.
The LE Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern Flashlight can produce 400 to 1000 lumens of directed light in front spotlight mode, or 70 to 130 lumens in left side mode. The right side of the lantern also opens, giving off a flashing red glow that can signal help or alert others to your presence in the dark. The main light operates for 4 to 5 hours, while the side light lasts between five and 12 hours. Finally, you can recharge it with the included cable.
If you want your small flashlight to have the recognizable warm, yellow glow of an incandescent bulb, the Maglite Mini Incandescent Flashlight has what you need. The flashlight is just 5.75 inches in length and weighs only 3.8 ounces, making it perfect for carrying in your pocket or bag. It has a 5-hour and 15-minute run time and uses two AA batteries, which are included with the flashlight.
The anodized aluminum body of the small flashlight is impact-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and water-resistant, though the flashlight should not be submerged for an extended period of time. The light produced by the Maglite Mini is noticeably weaker than LED flashlights, creating only 14 lumens of visible light. However, this is the perfect brightness for navigating a tent or walking to the bathroom when your eyes have to adjust at night.
The waterproof OLIGHT S1 Baton 500 Lumen Compact EDC LED Flashlight is designed to be carried around to work, the store, home, or even school, at just 1.06 ounces in weight and 2.4 inches in length. It comes with a lanyard strap and a clip you can secure to your bag, belt, or wrist when you are using it to prevent it from falling if you drop it. However, the aircraft-grade aluminum alloy casing is impact-resistant, so a drop from that height shouldn’t damage it.
This EDC flashlight comes with five light settings, including moonlight, low, medium, high, and strobe modes. It produces up to 500 lumens of visible light on the highest setting and can run for 25 days on the lowest light setting (0.5 lm). The OLIGHT flashlight is powered by either a CR123A battery or an RCR123 battery. Unfortunately, the batteries are not included with the flashlight.
The Advantages of Owning a Small Flashlight
The most obvious advantage of owning a small flashlight is that this compact but powerful device can fit in your pocket, bag, or purse so that you always have a light when you need one. Pull it out to find your keys or the keyhole on your car. Maybe keep it on the nightstand to get to the bathroom without smacking your foot off the corner of the bed.
A small flashlight can also be used in more desperate situations than stumbling through your house in the middle of the night. A bright, compact flashlight with a strobe setting is an excellent way to stun and deter attackers, giving you an emergency self-defense option. You can also use a flashlight to signal to anyone nearby that you need help if you find yourself lost in the forest or your boat is adrift on the water.
An obvious rebuttal is that most people carry flashlights with them, built into their phones. However, the ordinary flashlight (500 to 1,000 lumens) is significantly brighter than the average smartphone light (20 to 100 lumens). It also won’t drain the battery that you may need to call for help in an emergency, and you don’t have to flick through your apps to use it. Just press the button, and you are set.
- Owning a small flashlight gives you a readily available source of light without taking up too much space.
- A small flashlight can be used in emergency situations to blind attackers or signal for help.
- The light on a typical flashlight is brighter and easier to use than trying to fight with an app on your phone that will just consume battery.
FAQs About Your New Small Flashlight
Take a look below at the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about small flashlights.
Q. How many lumens should a good flashlight have?
Small flashlights can have less than 100 lumens and still be useful for illuminating nearby items, but if you are looking to brighten up an entire path or campsite at night, you will want a flashlight with at least 500 to 1,000 lumens. You can have higher lumens than 1,000, but it may not be necessary and can lead to a shortened battery life.
Q. How do you fix a small flashlight?
One answer is that you don’t. Small flashlights are inexpensive, and many times the repair can cost more than just replacing it. However, if you want to attempt some necessary maintenance, you should start with replacing the batteries. If this doesn’t seem to fix the issue, try cleaning the contact plate, which can have built-up rust and grime.
Another quick repair you could attempt before taking the flashlight to a professional repair shop is to restore flexibility to the springs to ensure that power is running through them from the battery. Springs can get compressed, leaving gaps that cause malfunctions. If this does not work, take the flashlight to a repair shop or replace it.
Q. What is the best type of flashlight for home use?
The best type of flashlight for use around your home would be an LED, cable rechargeable flashlight. This is because charging cables have many places to be plugged in at home, ensuring that your flashlight is always ready. Also, LED bulbs are currently the easiest to find, have a very high lumen output, and are relatively inexpensive, making them the best option for general home purposes.