What the hell’s a lumen, and how many of them do you need? A lumen is the measure of the total quantity of visible light. The more lumens a flashlight is capable of shining, the brighter its beam and the more area it can illuminate. Also, the more lumens a torch has the more power it sucks up from the battery, which is why so many flashlights these days come with USB-rechargeable power supplies.
But more lumens doesn’t necessarily mean better. You don’t exactly need an industrial strength floodlight to fix a leaky faucet, for example. Your illumination needs vary depending on what you’re doing. So if you’re in the market for a useful flashlight, or if you’re tired of using your phone as a substitute for one, read on to discover our recommendations for the best flashlights for 2022.
GENERAL, AROUND-THE-HOUSE USAGE
If you’re simply looking for a multi-purpose flashlight to use around the house, there’s no reason to go super high powered. Finding the keys you dropped under the couch isn’t exactly search and rescue, after all. For general usage, 300 to 500 lumens is plenty of illumination power.
The Nitecore P10 v2 is a palm-sized compact flashlight that can use either rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or standard double-As. Very useful for keeping in a tool box or the kitchen’s junk drawer for general tasks. The Nitecore MT2A pen light is another good choice, weighing only 2.3 ounces and delivering a max output of 345 lumens. This one’s right at home in your EDC go-bag or your car’s glove box.
It’s pitch-black at the campground in the middle of the night, and your only illumination comes from the stars and the moon. Sounds wonderful, except that won’t help you when you need to leave your tent to head to the restroom. Make sure you bring along a powerful enough flashlight to illuminate the path ahead, ensuring you don’t trip over any rough terrain or get caught unaware by wildlife. (Hey, it can happen.) Don’t be afraid to go with some extra lumen power here, in the 1000 to 2000 range. Our recommendation is an all-time GovX bestseller, the Nitecore MH12S. At 1800 lumens with over 330 yards of beam throw, it’s the ideal nighttime camper’s torch. Plus, with three special emergency modes—strobe, SOS, and beacon—it’s useful as a survival tool if you ever find yourself in a jam. Read our full review of this Nitecore flashlight here.
Or you can go with a headlamp, which is technically cheating in an article about flashlights, but whatever. Headlamps are the friends of backpackers and campers nationwide, freeing up your hands for cooking, cleaning, or grabbing another beer out of your YETI cooler. We also recommend Nitecore here, with the NU32 headlamp. 550 lumens is plenty of light for common tasks around the campground, and it comes with a thoughtful low light mode so you don’t blind your fellow campers.
Time to pull out the stops. For night-time operations and search-and-rescue missions for saving some idiot who fell off a cliff while taking a selfie, choose a torch with thousands of lumens, capable of lighting up vast stretches of terrain. The Nitecore TM39 is a precise and powerful torch that can throw up to 5200 lumens over a distance of 1600 yards.
Need even more power? Get a load of the Olight Marauder 2. This chunky torch packs 14,000 lumens, and with a flick of a switch it turns into a wide-ranging floodlight that can illuminate an entire hillside. It’s practically a lighthouse in your hand. IPX8 waterproof rated, impact resistant, as thick as a soda can, and weighing in at a hefty 26.5 ounces, it’s not exactly compact. But that missing hiker you’re searching for via helicopter will thank you for having it.
Considering your smartphone’s flashbulb is only capable of a paltry 100 lumens (if that), it’s about time you upgraded your illumination game. Whether you’re a regular American in need of a good flashlight, or a full-blown tactical superhero who needs illumination for operational capabilities, make sure you’re using the right torch for the job.