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I’ve Tried More Than 200 Flashlights, and These Are the Three I Swear By

Photo: fox

Ever since we got our rescue pup, Charlie Girl, I’ve been on a mission to find the perfect pocket-size flashlight to bring with us on our nightly walks. (Stumbling through the isolated wilds of Central Park on moonless evenings without a proper flashlight is not a great idea.) After 30 years as a gadget reviewer for outlets including CBS News and Popular Mechanics, I’ve tested more than 200 flashlights. None was quite perfect, so over the past few months, I tried a dozen more. These are the three that provide the best combination of value and innovative technology. They’ll serve you well whether you’re walking your dog or just trying to find your way to the living room when the power goes out.

The MT10 is a compact, tough, rechargeable, ultrabright-white flashlight with a blinding 1,000-lumen output. (That’s brighter than your car’s low-beam headlights.) Sleek and water-resistant, this flashlight is dimmable to 10 lumens. It can be set to light up broad areas or focused to a narrow, intense spotlight. On our walks, while Charlie looks around for the glowing eyes of enemy raccoons, I use the bright beam to vainly search for the park’s legendary female coyote. When we come across people, we have to be careful not to let the blinding intensity of this flashlight shine in their eyes. I also like the innovative illuminated power switch, which lets you know when the lithium-ion battery needs recharging via a micro-USB charging port.

I get some odd looks when I strap this headlamp to my forehead, but it’s absolutely worth it. At 200 lumens, the Biolite is much less bright than the Ledlenser, but it provides plenty of light for our walks. It’s also exceedingly comfortable, weighing less than two ounces and freeing up both my hands to grab the leash when Charlie actually spots a raccoon and tries to take off after it. Our fellow late-night walkers are constantly telling me how impressed they are with this headlamp’s wide swath of white light. There’s also a red LED lamp you can use to give yourself a sort of night vision to navigate the darkness without disturbing (or blinding) the other dog walkers around you. The single button cycles through four light settings: two for the white light (one flashing, one solid) and two for the red. You can also adjust the angle of the beam to accommodate your height, keeping it aimed at the ground to protect the eyes of anyone you stop to talk to. It charges via micro USB.

This is a complete reinvention of the flashlight: a tiny (less than three inches long), rectangular nugget of innovation. Despite the small size, it gives off a brilliant, powerful beam up to 1,000 lumens in brightness. My favorite feature is the LED display, which lets you know exactly how much battery you have remaining at any of the five brightness settings you’ve selected. I can take a look at that display before Charlie and I leave the house and know there’s no chance of running out of juice in the middle of our walk. It comes with a handy clip, attaches to a keychain, and recharges via micro USB.

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After Trying 200 Flashlights, I Swear By These Three