It is never too late to pack your survival kit with a battery-free flashlight. As one of your primary tools in the case of an emergency, it is essential that you purchase a flashlight that is both functional and reliable. Not wanting to leave you in the dark, we have compiled everything you need to know about battery-free flashlights, along with the top picks on the market.
What are the best battery-free flashlights on the market? When it comes to reliability, effectiveness, and useful features, the four best battery-free flashlights are:
- ThorFire Hand Crank and Solar Powered Flashlight
- Cynergy LifeLight Multi-Purpose Flashlight
- Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight
- Swiss Safe Store Rechargeable Flashlight
A battery-free flashlight is the perfect back-up solution during a power outage, and may even be the final touch for your doomsday shelter. Finding the ideal flashlight is tricky, and it can be helpful to see all the specifications laid out in front of you. Here’s everything you need to know about operating and finding the best battery-free flashlights on the market.
Comparison of Battery-Free Flashlights
Here is a comprehensive table with relevant, comparable data for 15 of the best available battery-free flashlights on the market. Detailed reviews of our top four picks are included at the end of the post.
|Brand||Rating(# of Reviews)||Price ($)||Weight (oz)||Charging Methods||Light Duration(per minute charged)|
|LifeLight||4.8 (20)||29.95||14.9||Hand Crank / USB||10 min (Cranking)|
|Wind ‘N Go||4.7 (10)||11.95||3.84||Hand Crank||20* min (Cranking)|
|FOCO.ST||4.6 (10)||25.99||13.6||Hand Crank / Solar / USB / AC||3 min (Cranking)|
|ThorFire||4.6 (616)||17.96||6.2||Hand Crank / Solar||60** min (Cranking)|
|FosPower||4.6 (2007)||39.99||10.9||Hand Crank / Solar / AAA||10 min (Cranking)|
|Swiss Safe||4.6 (272)||32.99||3.52||Hand Crank / Solar||8 min (Cranking)|
|Ikea||4.5 (101)||15.99||3.2||Hand Crank||8 min (Cranking)|
|HDE||4.5 (61)||14.99||4.1||Solar||1 min (Solar)|
|Goal Zero||4.5 (299)||69.95||14.4||Hand Crank / Solar / USB||2 min (Cranking)|
|PrimalCamp||4.4 (323)||9.99||3.05||Hand Crank / Solar||10 min (Cranking)|
|Esky||4.4 (1916)||19.99||7.6||Hand Crank / Solar / USB||3 min (Cranking)|
|Renogy||4.3 (138)||19.99||10.9||Solar / USB||8 sec (Solar)|
|EcoCentricNow||4.3 (69)||16.95||5||Shake||4 min (Shaking)|
|NightStar||4.3 (9)||62.95||10.1||Shake||20 min (Shaking)|
|Eton||4.2 (431)||38.68||10.6||Hand Crank / Solar / USB||3 min (Cranking)|
**1 minute of cranking provides 80 minutes of light with 1 LED, 60 minutes with 3 LEDs, 60 minutes of solar for 120 minutes of light.
What Does Battery-Free Really Mean?
The term “battery-free” would seem to imply that the flashlight does not contain a battery at all; however, this is most often not the case. Most battery-free flashlights contain a battery that stores the charge created by hand-cranking, squeezing, shaking, or solar mechanisms.
When a flashlight manufacturer claims “battery-free” they are most likely saying that the flashlight can be recharged without an outside electrical source and will never need replacing. Some “battery-free” flashlights are capable of being used without a battery should a situation call for it but contain one so users can enjoy the features of a higher-powered flashlight.
True battery-free flashlights use a capacitor to hold charge temporarily and require continuous manual effort to provide extended light. These flashlights are uncommon and likely only useful in extreme emergencies or when you only need light for a short period. If you’re worried about the implications of needing a battery, don’t! Most of the time, what you are looking for is light on-demand from flashlights with batteries that do not need to be replaced.
Why You Might Want a Battery-Free Flashlight
The greatest advantage of a battery-free flashlight is that they do not require an outside electrical source to charge. Nor do you need to keep purchasing disposable batteries, which can get costly over time. Battery-free flashlights provide you with on-demand light, without having to worry about a power source.
Furthermore, their batteries typically last a very long time, and many come with warranties that allow you to replace them when they lose their efficiency. They are the ideal light for putting into an emergency kit with which you store and forget about them until needed. At the very least, they serve as a reliable back-up for your battery-charged flashlight.
- The battery doesn’t need to be replaced
- Long shelf-life
- Environmentally friendly
- The light produced is generally less bright
- May need to be frequently recharged
- Comparatively bulky
How Do Battery-Free Flashlights Work?
Battery-free flashlights can use four methods to power up. Crank, squeeze, and shake flashlights rely on mechanical effort, while solar flashlights depend on a cloudless day (and for that reason are typically less reliable for emergencies). Here’s how they each work:
- Crank: Turning the crank operates a generator that charges a battery. Most battery-free flashlights use this method.
- Squeeze: Hand crank lights use electromagnetic induction to generate power. Squeezing a handle spins a gear that spins a flywheel and magnet. The magnet induces an electrical current that flows through a bulb and produces light.
- Shake: Shaking the flashlight causes a rare earth magnet to slide back and forth through a spool of copper wire, creating an electric current.
- Solar: Uses a solar panel to convert sunlight into electrical energy and store it in a battery.
Important Qualities to Look for in a Flashlight
- Materials – Depending on what you’re using your flashlight for, you may want to consider its portability. If you are looking for a durable, bright light that will last a while, you probably want something with heavier, long-lasting materials. An emergency light to keep in your glove box, on the other hand, does not need to be quite as sturdy. Choose a flashlight that is lightweight and compact.
- Size/Weight – In the case of flashlights, bigger is not always better. If you are planning for a night hike on your next camping trip, you probably want something you can hold easily and for a long period without causing your hand to cramp or get tired.
- Brightness – Flashlights typically come with single or multiple LEDs. Lights with multiple LEDs are more versatile because they allow you to change the brightness level, depending on what you need. Luminous light makes it easier to see, but also drains the battery faster.
- Brand Reputation – One of the biggest problems with the flashlight market is the number of cheap knockoffs. An emergency flashlight certainly ranks among one of the worst products to have failed when you need it. It is worth spending a little extra money on a brand with a strong reputation.
As an all-encompassing emergency tool, flashlights often possess additional features that can come in handy, including:
- Strobe lights. Helpful for trying to get someone’s attention.
- Red LED Light. It allows you to see better in the dark.
- FM radio. It can provide you with information in an emergency.
- Charging station. It gives power to other important accessories, such as a cell phone.
- Compass. Useful if you get lost and need a sense of direction.
If you plan on bringing your flashlight for camping or other outdoor activities that can result in unpredictable situations, consider a flashlight with these additional features. Keep in mind that the more features a flashlight has, the bulkier, heavier, and less convenient it generally is.
Ingress Protection (IP) Rating
Some flashlights will have something called an IP rating, which is essentially a standardized calculation of their durability. An IP rating contains two numbers (e.g., IP47):
- The first number represents protection against solids. The scale goes from 0–6, and the higher the number, the more protected it is against finer particles.
- The second number denotes water-resistance. The scale goes from 0-8, with the higher end of the scale denoting more water-protection.
A “0” designates that the product is not protected from the elements, and an “X” means it is untested in that regard.
Keep in mind that the IP rating only partially represents a flashlight’s durability. For the full picture, look at the materials used, which can range from lightweight but less-durable plastics to heavy-duty aluminum.
Protection Against Solids
|(1)||Particulates > 50 mm||Large parts of the body such as the back of the hand|
|(2)||Particulates > 12.5 mm||Fingers and objects of similar size|
|(3)||Particulates > 2.5 mm||Tools and thick cables|
|(4)||Particulates > 1 mm||Most screws, wires, and small insects|
|(5)||Dust Protected||Enough protection from dust to allow the proper operation of equipment|
|(6)||Dust Tight||Total protection from dust|
Protection Against Liquids
|Rating||Protected Against||Test Time|
|(1)||Dripping water; vertically falling||10 minutes.|
|(2)||Dripping water; 15-degree tilt||2.5 minutes.|
|(3)||Spraying water; 60 degrees tilt||1 minute per square meter.|
|(4)||Water splash; any direction||10 minutes.|
|(5)||Water jets; 6.3 mm nozzle||12.5 liters of water per minute per square meter with 30 kPA pressure from 3 meters.|
|(6)||Water jets; 12.5 mm nozzle||100 liters of water per minute per square meter with 100 kPA pressure from 3 meters.|
|(7)||1-meter depth submersion||30 minutes.|
|(8)||> 1-meter depth submersion||Test depth should be specified by the manufacturer.|
15 Best Battery-Free Flashlights
Though often simple in design, a lot goes into a battery-free flashlight. We considered the following key features to decide on the four battery-free flashlights that are the worthiest of your survival kit:
- Available charging methods
- Brightness, number of LEDs, and lumens
- Materials, IP score, size, and weight
- Efficiency: how many minutes or hours of light does 1 minute of cranking, shaking, or solar produce
- Customer reviews (Amazon and otherwise)
- Price and breadth of features.
If you are looking for an affordable and reliable light, the ThorFire is a standout in the market. While it does not come with some of the bells and whistles that the other brands do, the ThorFire does its job, and it does it well. The light contains three LEDs and offers three modes, low power (1 LED), high power (3 LEDs), and SOS (3 flashing LEDs).
The ThorFire offers two ways of charging: a high-efficiency energy conversion hand crank and solar power. One minute of cranking will generate enough power for 1 hour, though the light tends to start strong for the first 10 minutes or so and then weakens. After 1 hour of direct sunlight, you will have enough power for 120 minutes of light.
The ThorFire is notably waterproof with an IP rating of X6 and can be submerged up to 45 feet, making it especially handy during a storm. Though made of plastic, it is surprisingly well-made and durable. At just six ounces, it is also light and compact enough to hold for long periods or store in tight spaces such as a glove box or backpack.
One drawback is that there is no charging indicator to let you know when the battery is fully charged. That aside, the ThorFire handles itself well in emergencies and is a solid choice for any survival toolkit.
The Cynergy LifeLight is the Swiss Army Knife of flashlights. No, really, along with a flashing yellow signal light, it features a glass or window breaker, a seat belt cutter, a compass, and a cell phone charger. Though, in practice, the charger does not work too well and needs to be continuously cranked to supply any charge.
The flashlight has not undergone standards tests, but it is made of impact-resistant plastic. While splash proof and capable of holding up in light rain, the Cynergy LifeLight is not fully waterproof and should not be submerged.
Unfortunately, this flashlight requires a little maintenance, as allowing the battery to drain completely can damage it. If you do not mind giving your flashlight an occasional crank or two, the Cynergy LifeLight is an excellent multipurpose tool to include in your emergency kit or car.
If cost is of no concern and power is what you need, then the Goal Zero Torch 250 is the ideal pick for you. This flashlight comes with multiple light options and acts as a charging hub for your other devices. The spotlight and floodlight settings provide you with an ultra-bright light at either full or half brightness. It also comes with a red-light feature for emergencies.
While using the hand crank is an option, the Goal Zero Torch 250 stores and uses so much power that it is not really feasible unless you are looking to give your arms a workout. The hand crank is more of an emergency-only option. While the solar power feature is viable, you will likely need to leave it in continuous sunlight for a full charge or buy an external panel. The quickest charge is with the USB. Though it may seem like it defeats the purpose of going battery-free, the point is that the option for on-demand light from a previously uncharged source is there.
With great power comes great responsibility, or in this case, weight, and exposure. The Goal Zero Torch 250 is one of the heavier flashlights on the market, and with an exposed USB port, it is notably not water-resistant. However, if these caveats are of no consequence to you, the Goal Zero Torch 250 is an excellent choice for your next family camping trip.
Swiss Safe Store’s 3-Pack of Rechargeable Flashlights is the budget option on this list. These lightweight and compact flashlights come with a mini carabiner clip perfect for attaching to backpacks or camping bags.
The hand crank mechanism is decently efficient, with one minute of cranking for eight minutes of light. It stores up to two hours of light, and the solar charger can also come in handy.
The 3-pack includes a variety of colors as well as a bonus glow-in-the-dark version, for a total of four rechargeable flashlights. Compact, convenient, and attractive, Swiss Safe Store’s Rechargeable Flashlights are a great addition to a small survival kit and make an excellent gift for friends and family.
Special Mentions: NightStar jP Shake Flashlight & Ikea’s Ljusa Hand-Powered LED Flashlight
The NightStar jP Shake Flashlight is an authentic battery-free product with a gold film capacitor that can hold an electrical charge for months. Though expensive, the quality is evident in its construction. The NightStar jP Shake Flashlight is waterproof up to 200 feet, floats, and is uniquely durable.
Though simple in design, Ikea’s Hand-Powered LED Flashlight is a child-friendly option that works. Like the NightStar, it contains a capacitor to hold charge instead of a battery. The downside is that it takes about 20-30 cranks for only 1.5 minutes of light. Unlike rechargeable batteries, these capacitors will genuinely stand the test of time.
Flashlights are simple tools that can come in handy in a variety of circumstances, and add a much-needed degree of safety to outdoor trips and activities. They can even be used for self-defense, as it only takes 60-100 lumens to cause temporary blindness. In an emergency, having the right tool on hand may mean the difference between severe injury and securing the situation smoothly. And when it comes to reliability, no light can beat a battery-free flashlight. If you find yourself lost in darkness, a battery-free flashlight may just be your light at the end of the tunnel.