The flashlight, also known as a ‘torch’ in other parts of the world, is very high up on the list of things to include in any survival kit. The challenge though is, there are so many flashlights to pick from, which flashlight should you buy? What is the best flashlight?
Answer: It depends.
Decide the flashlight criteria
Will it be used in your 72 hour survival kit in your vehicle, your bug-out-bag, backpack, head strap, weapons light, key chain, lantern, boat, or just around the home? Does it need to be waterproof? Does the color matter? Does the flashlight need to be super bright, bright, not too bright? What size should it be? What quality should I pay for? …you get the idea.
Decide the purpose and requirements.
- Type – purpose (size – shape – weight, spot or flood)
- Brightness – bulb type
- Battery type – rechargeable or not rechargeable – battery life
- Color – hidden or conspicuous
- Quality (price – many features are shared by many models, but price and quality vary)
Most people automatically think the brighter the flashlight the better. However, a brighter flashlight will usually be bigger, heavier, and the run-time will be less – requiring more frequent battery changes or recharges. There are many use-case scenarios where you will not want a particularly bright light, but instead a normal output will be Okay. In fact, there are examples where you want the flashlight brightness to be very low, e.g. , to keep your location concealed.
Flashlight brightness is rated in Lumens and Candlepower.
Lumen, quantifies how much light gets to the object you are illuminating.
Candlepower, or Candelas, quantifies how much light the bulb itself produces.
If you want a flashlight to brightly light what you are shining on, pick a higher lumen rating. Similarly, you could pick a higher candlepower (or candela) rating, although it’s rating is a measure of the bulb itself – which doesn’t necessarily represent the efficiency of the light beam output (which includes properties of the reflector, lens, etc…).
To get an idea of the scale of lumens, 13 lumens is the approximate brightness of one lit candle and 1,200 lumens is the approximate brightness of a 100 watt bulb.
One flashlight that I keep around the house for general purpose use is the Streamlight UltraStinger which throws out a spot beam of 295 lumens while the bulb produces 75,000 candela. It is seriously bright for its size (just mentioning this to give you a gauge of what I consider to be “very bright” for a flashlight when we’re talking lumens and candlepower).
The Humvee HMV-40MIL-110 is the brightest flashlight in the million candlepower range that I have ever seen. 40 million candlepower. In a survival search and rescue operation, one might say that this is the best survival flashlight.
Depending on your purpose, you may only want a dim, but long lasting flashlight to use for dark environment map reading or other close up purposes, while not being so bright to give away your position. On the contrary, you may want a bright and widely illuminating flashlight, or maybe one that shoots a focused beam a long distance.
The Surefire LX2 LumaMax might be the best tactical size LED flashlight out there. It is pricey, but the highest of quality and is rated all 5-stars. Might this be the best survival flashlight?
Another fine choice for best survival flashlight might be this one, the Fenix TK40 slightly larger and brighter than the tactical, of high quality and packed with features. I might vote for this one.
Your flashlight application or specific purpose will determine the preferred size. Key-chain size, or something slightly larger for a backpack. For more powerful applications, size will increase, although today’s technology has packed brighter illumination into smaller packages. The multi-million candlepower lights are about the biggest size you will encounter. Although they can be held with one hand, you will pay the price with their weight and size.
Spot or Flood Beam Type
A spot light will narrowly focus the beam and will reach further with brighter object illumination. The angle of the beam will vary depending on the reflector design – some of which are variable, allowing you to adjust it or zoom in and out. A flood light will widely light up an area for general purpose, closer lighting purposes. There are use-case scenarios for both types.
Common flashlight bulb types include LED, halogen, or xenon. They each serve a purpose and have their own trade-offs.
LED flashlight technology has come a long way over recent years and there are many very bright LED flashlights available. LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology is extremely power efficient and will run for very long periods of time before requiring a battery change or recharge. Personally, I prefer LED flashlights for nearly all of my normal applications.
However if extremely bright light is desired, other bulb types such as halogen, xenon, and others can produce brighter light. The penalty you pay for other bulb types is that of power consumption and battery life.
There is not a ‘best’ survival flashlight because it really does depend on its specific purpose, which will vary because of that fact. Having said that, keep in mind the criteria listed here, which should help you think about options. Also, the general rule that I always follow when purchasing any product is, ‘you get what you pay for‘. In other words, the better ‘stuff’ usually costs more money. In some instances this will not matter to you, but in other instances it will.