If you find yourself in an emergency situation, be it a power outage in your home or perhaps a mishap in the wilderness, the first thing people are often scrambling for is a source of light. Cell phone flashlights can come in handy for a short time, but neither the amount of light they produce nor the length of time they last are sufficient for being properly prepared during an emergency situation that could last longer than a few hours.
What are the best flashlights for emergencies? The 13 best flashlights to have on hand during an emergency are:
- SureFire E2D Defender Ultra
- Streamlight 88033 Protac Tactical Flashlight
- Fenix PD35 TAC 1000 Lumen Tactical Flashlight
- NITECORE P12 Precise Tactical Flashlight
- Streamlight 90540 Survivor LED Right Angle Flashlight
- TerraLUX 3-Watt LED Aluminum Flashlight
- TerraLUX 3-Watt LED Aluminum Flashlight
- GearLight High Powered LED Flashlight
- Thrunite TC15 2300 High Lumens Ultra-Bright Flashlight
- Smith and Wesson M&P Duty Rechargeable Flashlight
- Outlite 2-pack S1000 LED Flashlights
- Lebote Car Flashlight and Solar Power Tactical Flashlight
- Emergency LED Tactical Bright Flashlight
Keep reading to learn more about the best flashlights to have in case of an emergency, flashlight buying guide, how flashlights work, how to take care of your flashlight correctly, and more.
13 Best Flashlights for Emergencies
The best flashlights will all have some variety of the following options:
- Flexible battery options.
- Adjustable beams.
- Extremely bright beam, or the option for extremely bright beams.
- Lightweight but high-quality.
- Lock-mode to prevent accidentally turning it on when it is not needed.
- An attachment option if doing some sort of activity where you may need access to a flashlight easily and quickly, such as camping or hiking.
An emergency situation can happen anywhere at any time, so it’s essential always to be prepared. Purchasing a good quality flashlight to always have on hand is important. Here is a list of some of the best flashlights on the market.
The SureFire Defender Ultra is an all-around excellent flashlight to have as a part of your emergency kit. This flashlight has an indestructible high-performance LED light, 1000 lumens when on high beams, and 5 on low beams. When on high, the beams can disorient people or animals, allowing you a few extra moments to act, giving the added benefit of self-defense.
The SureFire is slim and has a lightweight aluminum build. You may choose to store this light in a kit, but you also have the option of clipping it to a bag or pocket. Tapping the flashlight twice will activate battery saving mode, beams will be at 5 lumens, and on these low beams, the battery will last roughly 63 hours.
Pros: incredibly bright, can be used in self-defense, tough, lightweight, can be clipped on or stored, 63-hour battery life on low-beams.
Cons: higher price point, battery will not last 63 hours on high-beams.
The Streamlight flashlight is roughly the length of a ballpoint pen, making it a great flashlight to store in an emergency kit, your pocket, or for keeping in your vehicle. On its high-beams, 250 lumens, the battery will last about 2 hours; on its low-beams, 18 lumens, the battery will last about 43 hours.
This flashlight has many battery options without needing an adapter, has a removable pocket clip, and can be submerged in water for 30 minutes.
Pros: optional pocket clip, 43-hour battery life, compact, battery options, can be submerged.
Cons: some buyers have reported charging issues.
The Fenix Lumen Tactical flashlight is a durable, aluminum, pocket-size flashlight that uses one rechargeable battery, or two lithium batteries, and has a beam distance of 656 feet. This flashlight will indicate when the battery needs charged and is waterproof for 30 minutes.
The Fenix Lumen has two modes: tactical and outdoor. In tactical mode, it can be on turbo beams at 1000 lumens for an hour, low beams at 60 lumens for 29 hours, or strobe at 1000 lumens. In outdoor mode, it can be on turbo beams at 1000 lumens for an hour, high beams at 500 lumens for 2 hours, mid beams at 200 lumens for 8 hours, low beams at 60 lumens for 29 hours, eco-mode beams at 8 lumens for 140 hours, or strobe beams at 1000 lumens.
Pros: small, lightweight, battery indicator, can be submerged, long-distance beams.
Cons: buyers have reported that the wrist strap is uncomfortable and that the button to turn the light on with is difficult to find.
The Nitecore P12 is a durable, tail cap switch one hand operation flashlight with a runtime of up to 520 hours. At its maximum beams, this flashlight operates at 1000 lumens with a beam distance of 253 yards (759 feet).
Aside from the Nitecore being super user-friendly, it comes with a holster, a clip, and a ring so you can choose the best option for storing it or carrying it with you. This flashlight also includes a mode switch to adjust brightness levels.
Pros: durable, easy to use, long-distance beams, multiple ways to store/carry.
Cons: some buyers have reported issues with this flashlight simply not turning on after having owned it for about one year.
The Streamlight Survivor flashlight is a great flashlight to have on hand in case of an emergency. This light has a super user-friendly rubber dome push-button switch, and the flashlight case is made from high-impact touch nylon and is O-ring sealed.
The different modes for this flashlight include high, low, emergency, flash, and moonlight. On high, the light will run continuously for 3 hours, on low continuously for 6 hours, and in low-level moonlight mode for 20 days. This light also comes with a clip and ring, allowing you to choose how you store and carry it.
Pros: user-friendly, durable, multiple modes, protective case, various ways to attach/story/carry.
Cons: Buyers have reported inconsistency regarding beams.
The TerraLUX flashlight has an easy to use tail cap switch, is lightweight, and has a 17-hour battery life on low beams. This flashlight also has two brightness levels, comes with a wrist strap and pocket clip, and has two beam patterns: wide spill or uniform light.
Another perk to the TerraLUX is that the flashlight itself is bright orange, so if you drop it outdoors or are digging through an emergency kit, the bright color makes it easy to spot.
Pros: lightweight, bright color that makes it easy to locate, wide coverage of light.
Cons: though some like this feature, other buyers did not, but this flashlight doesn’t have a hot-spot like most.
The GearLight flashlight is a mid-size flashlight, but still small enough to fit in a backpack, car, or emergency kit. The GearLight flashlight has an ultra-wide beam, as well as five settings: high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS. This flashlight does require 4 AA batteries. A huge perk to this flashlight is that it is made of aluminum and designed to be indestructible.
Pros: compact, wide beam, multiple settings to choose from, indestructible.
Cons: not rechargeable, it takes a lot of batteries.
The ThruNite High Lumens flashlight gives extreme output at up to 2300 lumens with a beam distance of over 800 feet. This light comes with a rechargeable battery and has a battery level indicator so you know when to charge again.
There are five modes to choose from: firefly, low, high, turbo, and strobe. This light is user-friendly, has a non-slip grip making it glove-friendly, is small enough for backpacks, pockets, and belts, and is waterproof.
Pros: incredibly bright, rechargeable battery, multiple modes, non-slip grip, compact.
Cons: button can be difficult to find; buyers have reported odd charge indications.
This Smith and Wesson flashlight is a high-quality flashlight that is rechargeable and comes with a one year warranty. This light has five modes to choose from: low, medium, high, turbo, and SOS. On high, the battery life is about 4 ½ hours, and on low, the battery life is about 24 hours. This light is made of aluminum, so it’s very durable and is also waterproof and impact resistant.
Pros: rechargeable, multiple brightness modes, long-lasting battery, durable, waterproof.
Cons: buyers have reported that the button can be hard to find.
The Foursevens Preon flashlight gives off super clear, natural lighting and has six modes to choose from: low, medium, high, strobe, SOS, and beacon. This light has a durable pocket clip that will last through bumps and drops. The flashlight is also lightweight and compact enough to keep anywhere, including your pocket, without taking up too much space. This light requires either a AAA lithium battery or NiMH rechargeable battery.
Pros: clear lighting, multiple modes to choose from, sturdy clip, lightweight.
Cons: higher price point.
This Outlite 2-pack of mini flashlights is an excellent option for always keeping in your bag, glove compartment, pocket, or emergency kit. These lights take AAA batteries or rechargeable batteries, and because of their size, they are super easy to store.
Outlite flashlights have an adjustable beam that can be widened for a large area like a floodlight or narrowed and used as a spotlight. The five modes these flashlights have are low, medium, high, strobe, and SOS.
Pros: mini, battery options, adjustable beam, five modes.
Cons: not waterproof, cannot be submerged.
The Lebote car flashlight is a great flashlight and multi-tool to have in your car in case of emergencies. Not only is the light ultra-bright with a range that can easily be adjusted with the head of the light, but this flashlight includes: various lighting modes, a window breaker, seatbelt cutter, five different warning alarm horns, compass, magnet, and adjustable lighting range. Light modes include: flashing, side white, side color, and a beam that can go up 700 feet.
Pros: ultra, bright, multiple functions, multiple light modes.
Cons: buyers have reported issues charging this flashlight using their cell phones.
Another all in one flashlight and multi-tool that is perfect for any emergency kit, or keeping in cars, offices, or homes. This flashlight features tools that can cut seatbelts and break windows, as well as featuring three light modes and a 10,000-hour lifespan.
This light runs on AAA batteries, includes four magnets so light can be easily adhered to metal surfaces, and has an anti-slip grip.
Pros: multi-use, multiple light modes, long lifespan, adheres to metal, anti-slip grip.
Cons: buyers have reported that the outer plastic is a bit thin.
At A Glance
Keeping Flashlights Handy
It’s important that you not only have a flashlight during an emergency situation but that it is easily accessible. Here are a few tips for making sure your flashlight is handy and ready to use.
- Store your flashlight(s) in a cool, dry place that is easy to get to in an emergency. Make sure that once you find a good spot for your flashlight that you can easily reach it as well.
- If you plan on being outdoors, make sure your flashlight is clipped to you, can be easily stored in your pocket, or you know exactly where it is in your gear so that you never find yourself fumbling to reach your light source in an emergency.
- Check on your flashlight(s) every few months to ensure your batteries don’t need to be replaced or charged. This is especially important if you live in an area with potentially severe weather seasons, or you’re planning an upcoming camping or hiking trip.
- Keep flashlight(s) in multiple convenient areas in your home and/or cars such as cabinets, drawers, nightstands, glove compartments, and part of emergency kits. If you live with other people, make sure everyone has access to a flashlight and is aware of their locations.
- Keep your high-quality flashlights in emergency kits everyone has access to or with camping gear, but also consider keeping a few basic flashlights stashed around the house in case of minor inconveniences such as power outages.
- Keep new batteries near flashlights or in a centralized location. Having a flashlight with multiple battery options is significant because if the charge is gone, but you have the ability to use batteries and have them on hand, you’ll have a light source for that much longer.
Flashlight Buying Guide
There are a ton of flashlights on the market, so having an idea of what you want in a flashlight will help narrow your search down. Consider the purpose of your flashlight and the following questions:
- Are you going camping?
- Do you live in an area that is expecting upcoming severe weather?
- Are you making emergency kits for your home, car, or office?
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for higher quality flashlights to have in case of emergencies.
- Light output. How much light a flashlight gives is measured in lumens, and lumens is simply a unit of measurement used to measure the total quantity of light emitted. A modest amount of lumens is around 20, while an extremely intense amount of light is about 350 lumens.
- Battery type. You can opt for disposable batteries, rechargeable batteries, or even a flashlight with multiple options. Whichever you choose, just make sure not to use lithium batteries as they can cause damage, unless the flashlight you buy requires explicitly lithium batteries.
If you opt for a rechargeable battery, make sure your flashlight either comes with the required cords or you have some on hand.
- Size and Weight. This is a personal preference; while some people prefer larger and heavier flashlights, some may prefer small and lightweight flashlights. An added bonus to buying a heavier flashlight is it can also be used in self-defense.
- Beam distance. This is especially important if you plan on using your flashlight outdoors, you’ll want to know roughly how far the light will shine.
- Run-time. While it’s hard to say precisely how long a battery or charge will last, it’s essential to at least have an idea as to how long your flashlight will last without needing new batteries or to be plugged in.
- Water resistance. Again, this is going to be more relevant to you if you plan on purchasing a flashlight for outdoor use and plan to be around large bodies of water or perhaps encountering rain. Some flashlights are waterproof when it comes to rain, but can only be submerged so deep for so long.
- On/Off Switch. This is another personal preference. Some prefer a slide switch, while others prefer a tail cap switch. If you’re shopping for a flashlight in stores, check out this feature, and if you’re shopping online, read the reviews.
- Durability. If you plan on keeping your flashlight in an emergency kit or around the house, durability may not be the most critical variable for you, but if you plan on taking your flashlight camping or hiking this is extremely important as you’ll need to know that your flashlight can handle being dropped.
- Budget. There are good flashlights available at every price point, but if you want a high-quality flashlight, be prepared to purchase one with a higher price point.
How to Take Care of Flashlights
Flashlights are pretty low-maintenance but can corrode or rust over time, which will shorten the life of your flashlight. LEDs can last upwards of 50,000 hours, but oftentimes the body of the flashlight suffers damages from the inside long before the LED is done. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your flashlight lasts longer.
- Clean the outside as well as the inside. Make sure to get off any caked on dirt or mud from the exterior of the flashlight. It’s best to use some type of bristle brush to get into any crevices, but you can also opt to use an alcohol pad. For the lens, opt to use an alcohol pad or q-tip to avoid scratching.
Now for the inside, take out the batteries and wipe them off, then proceed with cleaning the inside using a q-tip or alcohol pad. This is also a good time to check that the springs are properly working.
- Check the O-Ring. The O-Ring is the part of the flashlight that keeps water, dust, and other particles away from the light, so making sure this part is in good condition is important. If you notice any cracks or scratches, it’s a good time to replace the O-Ring. You can buy this part online or at your local hardware store.
- To make sure your O-Ring doesn’t dry out and that unscrewing your flashlight goes smoothly, you’ll want to add a lubricant such as Krytox or Nano-Oil. To do this, you’ll apply a small amount of lube to the O-Ring and threads and evenly distribute it.
Clean the inside and the outside of your flashlight, check the O-Ring, and lube flashlight threads and O-Ring about every six months to make sure your flashlight stays in excellent condition and is ready to be used during an emergency situation.
Other Emergency Kit Essentials
Having a flashlight and extra batteries is vital for being prepared for an emergency situation. However, there are several other essentials that will come in handy during an emergency. Here is a small list of items you should make sure to have in your emergency kit.
- Water. It’s essential to have enough water stored for both drinking and sanitation purposes. Typically 2 – 3 gallons per person is the recommendation.
- Food. Make sure you have enough non-perishables such as canned goods, peanut butter, chips, and dried goods to last several days.
- Battery-powered radio to tune into weather reports.
- First aid kit. Not only is it important to have a first aid kit, but it’s also essential your first aid kit is stocked, and you know how to use everything in it.
- Whistle. Whistles come in handy should you need to signal for help.
- Garbage bags and sanitary wipes.
- Basic tools such as a wrench and/or pliers.
- Can opener.
- Extra cell phone chargers.
Maintain your emergency kit simply by checking on it every few months, ensuring it’s stocked, replacing any expired items, and re-evaluating what is included as you and your family’s needs change.
It’s a good idea to keep a kit in your home in a designated, easy to reach location, as well as at your work to “grab and go” should you need to, and in your car in case you find yourself stranded.
History of the Flashlight
A light source has always been a necessity, and for many years people used candles, oil lamps, or kerosene lamps, but obviously, these light sources posed huge risk factors due to open flames.
It wasn’t until the late 1890s in New York City that Conrad Hubert invented the first-ever electric hand flashlight. The first models were made of paper and fiber tubes, a bulb, and a rough brass reflector. At this time batteries were not reliable and long-lasting as we know them today, nor were lightbulbs, oso, only a dull flash of light was produced at a time, hence the name flashlight.
Since then, flashlights have come a long way, having lifespans of years, beam distances that reach hundreds of feet, and doubling as multi-purpose tools offering performance and durability you can rely on when you need it most.
A source of light is going to be the first thing you will want and need during an emergency situation. Cell phone flashlights can be handy for a couple of minutes, but you will absolutely want and need a higher quality light that can potentially last hours should you need it.
When choosing a flashlight, consider the battery type, beams, weight, durability, and user-friendliness, among other things.
Make sure to keep your flashlight handy, check every few months to make sure the batteries still work and keep plenty of extra batteries on hand to ensure you’re fully prepared for an emergency.
Clean the inside and outside of your flashlight a couple of times a year to prevent rust and corrosion. Also, check on parts to make sure everything is operating smoothly.
In addition to a flashlight and extra batteries, make sure your emergency kit includes water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, whistle, and basic tools, among other items you and/or your family could potentially need.
Flashlights have come a long way since the early model that was first invented in the late 1890s. Whether you’re planning for emergency situations within your home or in the great outdoors, knowing you have a high-quality flashlight will reduce stress immensely as flashlights today offer a number of functions you can rely on during any emergency situation.