The recent increase in the duration and frequency of power outages has kept a lot of us literally in the dark — and for a lot longer than we’d like. If you want to be prepared for a power outage, don’t bother stocking up on tea lights. They might look pretty, but “candles are a fire hazard and should never be used as a source of light,” says Stephanie Fox of the American Red Cross. A good flashlight is what you need.
Thanks to advances in LED technology, today’s flashlights are brighter, lighter, and more efficient than ever. You could potentially spend a lot or a little on one, so what constitutes a good flashlight? Foremost is the amount of light it puts out, which is measured in lumens. More lumens translates to more light — for example, 800 lumens puts out roughly the same amount of light as a 60-watt bulb. “However,” says the popular YouTube prepper who goes by the name Prepper Potpourri, “the more lumens a flashlight has, the faster the power drain,” so her advice is to figure out your flashlight’s needs as best you can and whether you want one that uses replaceable or rechargeable batteries. (Whatever you choose, Fox reminds you to make sure you have extra batteries on hand and to “store them near the flashlight and not inside of it to preserve battery life.”) Beyond that, you’ll want to consider other factors like its beam distance, whether it’s water resistant, what settings it has (low settings are good to conserve the battery, and a strobe or pulse is useful to signal for help), whether you can easily operate the switch while wearing gloves, and whether it’s light and easy to carry or heavy enough to double as a weapon. It’s a lot to know, so we asked six experts in disaster preparedness to tell us their favorites.
Best flashlights overall
Our experts all love Olight flashlights for their combination of high power, light weight, and ergonomic design. A great, economical everyday-carry flashlight is the i5R EOS. It’s small and light, has 350 lumens, can throw light up to 64 meters, has multiple settings, and has a rechargeable battery.
Prepper Potpourri depends on her small but powerful Olight Warrior Mini 2 to “light up my whole yard at night with its 1750-lumen mode.” It’s waterproof, has a 220-meter beam distance, and comes with both a lanyard and a carabiner-style ring for multiple carry options.
This one might be “totally overkill,” in the words of Los Angeles prepper Travis McGill, but if you really want to light up the night, consider a high-lumen flashlight like the Seeker 3. It has a mind-blowing 4,200 lumens, a 250-meter beam output, and a rotary knob, and it shuts off automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity.
Surefire Flashlights has lots of fans in the preparedness community. McGill; Thomas Coyne, the owner and lead instructor at Thomas Coyne Survival Schools; Mykel Hawke, a former U.S. Army special-operations captain, author, and survival instructor; and a Los Angeles prepper who asked that we refer to him as “RC” love that they’re virtually indestructible. According to Coyne, some are specially designed to be used as a self-defense weapon. This 600-lumen, all-aluminum one fits that bill.
Best solar and hand-crank flashlights
Hawke is no stranger to disaster. Over his long career as a captain and medic, he has been in “fires, floods, tornados, earthquakes and plenty of hurricanes and tropical storms.” He has learned that “you’re never prepared enough for Mother Nature, but we can all do something more, so focus on that.” One thing he likes is having lots of options, like a light source that can be charged multiple ways. “I am a fan of those you can recharge by electricity but also have a hand crank and solar-recharging capability,” he says, which is why he likes flashlights from Hybrid Light, which can be recharged by the sun. The Journey 300 has 160 lumens, is fully waterproof, and features regular and micro-USB ports to charge your devices as well as a solar panel.
For a more powerful option, the Mammoth Multilight has all those features at 400 lumens plus a rotating magnetic base and a 120-degree “flex head” that lets you put light exactly where you need it.
A battery-free option, this crank-powered flashlight from the Red Cross clips onto your belt and will never let you down.
Best key-chain flashlights
You might decide your needs are best served by more than one flashlight. “Even a small one for your key-chain will do,” says Hawke, “but make sure it has a turn-on button — not just squeeze-on — for when you need to have light to work and be hands free.” The Maglite Solitaire is waterproof and has an adjustable beam. The Surefire Sidekick has 300 lumens, three settings, and a rechargeable battery. And the Nitecore has a whopping 700 lumens and is smaller than a car key.
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