Best EDC Flashlights 2018

Of all the items in my EDC kit, my flashlight gets the most use. In addition to being invaluable for many day to day tasks it is also a vital survival tool in any SHTF scenario.

I like how Mikey Bautista puts it:

“You would bring an umbrella without a thought for 50% chance of rain, so why wouldn’t you carry a light for a 100% chance of darkness every night?”


Quick Comparison - EDC Flashlights

Product

Length

Battery Type

Max Output (lumens)

Max Beam (meters)

Check Price

ThruNite TN12

4.25"

18650 lithium

1100

226

MecArmy IllumineX

1.7"

USB-rechargeable 10180 lithium


130

59

UltraTac K18

3"

USB-rechargeable 10440 lithium or AAA

370

88

Streamlight ProTac

4.25"

CR123A lithium or AA

350

160

Olight S1 Mini Baton

2.13"

USB-rechargeable CR123A lithium

600

130

Our Top Pick: ThruNite TN12 2016 XP-L

With 6 brightness modes to choose from, an ultra-long battery life, and blinding 1100 lumens max, the ThruNite TN12 2016 XP-L is a flashlight you can count on for everyday use or emergencies.

Runners Up:

 

Can’t You Just Use Your Phone’s Flashlight?

The main argument that people have against EDC flashlights is that they “can just use the flashlight on their phone.”

Yes, phone flashlights are useful – but they aren’t a substitute for a real flashlight.  Here’s just some of the reasons to go with an EDC flashlight instead of your phone:

  • Won’t drain your phone’s battery
  • Can put in your mouth to go hands-free
  • Don’t risk dropping and breaking your phone in the dark
  • Stronger more focused beams
  • Good EDC flashlights can take a beating


Choosing the Right One

In the past few years, there has been a lot of innovation in EDC gear, flashlights included.  Now you can find mini flashlights that fit on your keychain but are still capable of producing lots of light before their batteries run out.

To help you narrow down the choices, here is what you need to know before buying.

1. Getting the Right Size 

EDC gear needs to be small enough to carry around in your pocket or on a keychain.  

The problem is that small usually means that the beam won’t be as powerful, the batteries will run out quickly, and you won’t be able to use the flashlight for self-defense.

I personally find the best size for an EDC flashlight is 3-4 inches. This gives you enough size to get in the features you need, but is still small enough for convenient carry.


2. Beam Strength/Brightness

The amount of light that a flashlight emits is measured in lumens.  However, lumens does NOT measure the intensity of the light. Intensity is measured in lux or candela.

For example, two flashlights can have the same lumens, but one has a much more concentrated beam.  This one will seem brighter when focusing the light on a specific object.

Consider how you will use your EDC flashlight – will it be for detailed tasks (like picking a lock) or general lighting (such as walking through a dark hallway)?

Because of differences in lux, it is smart to choose an EDC flashlight with different beam width options.

lumens vs candela vs lux

Lumens Chart


  • 25 lumens: This is enough light for small tasks at a close range.
  • 25-100 lumens: This range is adequate for most daily tasks, including some outdoor tasks.
  • 100-500 lumens: At this range, you have a very bright light that can be used for pretty much all tasks. Many EDC flashlights are in this range.
  • 500+ lumens: This is bright enough to be used for night-time trekking. You’d also be able to temporarily blind an attacker, giving you time to get away.  Most EDC flashlights aren’t large enough to produce this level of lumens.


3. Battery Type

It’s surprising what a difference a battery can make.  Depending on the battery, a flashlight could run for hours longer and at much greater brightness.

For example, the Streamlight ProTac flashlight (reviewed below) gets to 350 lumens with a CR123A lithium battery but only 150 lumens with an alkaline battery.

In general, lithium batteries will give the best performance – but they are also harder to find and more expensive.  So, you’ll have to weigh the pros/cons of each flashlight battery types.

I personally prefer NiMH batteries because of their good performance but affordable cost.  And, if you can’t find a NiMH battery, you can always just use disposable AA or AAA batteries in their place.

Single Use Batteries

  • Easy to find
  • Cheap
  • Quality varies drastically
  • No way to recharge

NiMH Batteries

  • Can be recharged
  • Generally longer-lasting than single-use batteries
  • Lose their power when sitting idle, thus need to be recharged regularly

Lithium-Ion Batteries

  • Generally give the best performance and battery life
  • Can be recharged
  • plus-circle
    Don’t lose much power when sitting idle
  • Lose their power when sitting idle, thus need to be recharged regularly

Button-Cell Batteries

  • Are very small and compact
  • Most are not rechargeable
  • minus-circle
    Harder to find replacements

4. Durability

waterproof edc flashlight

Every EDC flashlight is going to claim that it is “durable” and “can take a lot of abuse.”  Don’t take them at their word though.  When choosing you want to make sure that the flashlight is actually tested.  

There are three things you want to look at:

  • Materials: Anodized aluminum is one of the most popular materials for tactical flashlights. It can take a real beating.  The best flashlights will also tell you want the lens is made of.
  • Waterproof Rating: A good EDC flashlight will always list its waterproof rating. Look for a minimum of IPX7.
  • Impact Resistance: The very best EDC flashlights will also list their impact resistance. This is given as a rating in meters. For example, a flashlight with a 2 meter rating can be dropped from 2 meters without breaking.  Cheaper flashlights will not list this information.

 

Best EDC Flashlights Reviewed

ThruNite TN12 2016 XP-L

Length: 4.25" | Battery Type: 18650 lithium battery  | Output: 0.4 to 1100 lumens
Beam: Max 226 meters | Body: Anodized aluminum | Waterproof: IPX8 rated
Impact Resistance: 5 meters tested | Battery Life: 95 minutes (Turbo), 8 hours (strobe), 4.2 hours (high), 11.8 hours (medium), 5.5 days (low), 74 days (firefly)

If you don’t mind carrying around a slightly larger EDC flashlight, then this is one of the most impressive ones you can get.  It gets incredibly bright at 1100 lumens, which means you can use it to temporarily blind someone in self-defense.

Considering that only one battery is required, the battery life is very good.

 At the medium setting (which is a bright 175 lumens), the ThruNite lasts nearly 12 hours.  This makes the EDC flashlight one you can rely on for a long time.

Streamlight ProTac

Length: 4.25" | Battery Type: CR123A lithium or AA  | Output: 40 - 350 lumens 
Beam: 160 meter (high), 53 meter (low) | Body: Anodized aluminum | Waterproof: IPX7 rated
Impact Resistance: 2 meter tested | Battery Life: 5 hour (high), 3.5 hours (medium), 6.75 hours (low)

The Streamlight ProTac is a fairly standard tactical flashlight for its price group.  It is very durable with its anodized aluminum construction and is rated to IPX7 for waterproofness.

As far as brightness and battery life go, the ProTac could be a lot better.  Despite these shortcomings, the ProTac still makes our list because it has different beam options – you can make a concentrated beam for long-distance viewing or a wide beam for illuminating around you.

Make sure you get a good lithium battery to use with this flashlight.  Otherwise the beam and battery life are only about half of what is listed.

Olight S1 Mini Baton HCRI

Length: 2.13" | Battery Type: Micro USB-chargeable lithium battery  | Output: 0.5 to 600 lumens
Beam: Max 130 meters | Body: Aluminum alloy and stainless steel | Waterproof: IPX8 rated
Impact Resistance: 5 meters tested | Battery Life:1 hour 55 minutes (turbo), 60 minutes (high), 6 hours (medium), 30 hours (low), 15 days (moon)

At just over two inches, the Olight S1 Mini Baton fits right in your palm and can easily be carried on a keychain.

Despite its small size, the Olight S1 is surprisingly powerful.  It has five modes starting at a dim 0.5 lumens to a very bright 600 lumens.  The beam distance is 130 meters, so it is suitable for most outdoor use.   At its brightest mode, the Olight will still last for 1 hour 55 minutes continuously.

There are some other nice features of the Olight too – like that it has a magnetic end so you can stick it to metal surfaces.  I also appreciate that you can recharge the batteries directly within the flashlight using micro-USB.

UltraTac K18

Length: 3" | Battery Type: AAA or 10440 lithium, USB rechargeable  | Output: 110 and 370 lumens
Beam: Max 88 meters | Body: Anodized aluminum | Waterproof: IPX8 rated
Impact Resistance: Not Listed | Battery Life: 14 hours (high), 40 hours (low)

The UltraTac K18 is a more affordable EDC flashlight.  I’d recommend it for people getting their first EDC flashlight who want something of reasonable quality without spending a lot of money.

At 3 inches, the UltraTa K18 is the perfect size.  It has some nice features like being USB rechargeable, having a low-battery indicator, and stands up so it can be used like a candle.

The only major issue I have with the UltraTac K18 is that there are only two modes: 110 and 370 lumens.  It would be nice to have an ultra-low mode for emergencies.  

However, the battery life of this flashlight is very impressive.  Just be warned that you need to use quality batteries.  If you use alkaline batteries, you’ll only get a max of about 200 lumens and a much shorter life.

MecArmy IllumineX

Length: 1.7" | Battery Type: USB rechargeable 10180 lithium battery  | Output: 130 lumens
Beam: Max 59 meters | Body: Copper | Waterproof: IPX8 rated
Impact Resistance: Not Listed | Battery Life: 6 hours (high)

When it comes to tiny EDC flashlights under 2 inches, this is my favorite.  It boasts that it is the “World’s Smallest USB rechargeable flashlight.”

As you’d expect from such a small flashlight, the beam strength and brightness aren’t very high.  Yet 130 lumens is still pretty bright, and you get 6 hours of light before the battery dies.

A nice feature of the MecArmy Illuminex is that is recharges quickly via USB in just 1 hour.  The flashlight is impact resistance tested to 2 meters and has an IPX8 waterproofness.

 Do you carry an EDC flashlight? Which one and what do you love about it? Let us know in the comments!

Product

Length

Battery Type

Max Output (lumens)

Max Beam (meters)

Check Price

ThruNite TN12

4.25"

18650 lithium

1100

226

MecArmy IllumineX

1.7"

USB-rechargeable 10180 lithium


130

59

UltraTac K18

3"

USB-rechargeable 10440 lithium or AAA

370

88

Streamlight ProTac

4.25"

CR123A lithium or AA

350

160

Olight S1 Mini Baton

2.13"

USB-rechargeable CR123A lithium

600

130

Diane Vukovic spent her childhood roaming the woods of upstate NY, making brush shelters, backpacking and orienteering.

Now she is the proud mother of two adventurous girls whom she takes wild camping and teaches survival skills and self-defense. Learn more about Diane here.

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