Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new picks for 2017. You can find last year’s picks on Page 2.
A good EDC flashlight should have some, if not all, of the following qualities: manageable size (depending on carry preference), a long-lasting LED bulb, a robust housing, water and shock resistance, multiple modes, momentary beam and beam adjustment. Other features, such as USB charging capability and Bluetooth connectivity, are also beginning to make their way into these small yet powerful torches.
Portable lights can run from $30 to well over $100, so knowing what’s important to you is key. If you need something for self-defense, go with something larger but not unwieldy. Putting it in your pocket? Look for a light with a clip. Out in the elements? Find one with sealed O-rings to keep the wet stuff at bay. Whatever your EDC lighting needs, there’s a flashlight for everyone. We’ve chosen nine excellent portable flashlights that will enhance your EDC’s versatility, as well as show you the path after the sun goes down.
Additional contributions by Amos Kwon.
Streamlight ProTac 2L-X
Sometimes no-frills is an asset in and of itself. The ProTac is proof of this; with 500 lumens of light strength, it certainly isn’t the brightest flashlight available. But a machined aircraft aluminum housing with a removable pocket clip, a gasket-sealed lens and a programmable switch make this a safe and reliable bet that won’t flicker from a few drops and a bit of foul weather.
Modes: high, low, strobe
Length: 5.1 inches
Battery Type: CR123A Lithium, 18650 Lithium Ion
Max Battery Life: 30 hours
Foursevens Quark Smart QSL
With 350 lumens, a runtime that can be drawn out to 360 hours, and an IPX8 waterproof rating that’s good for submersion in waters up to about three meters deep, the Quark Smart QSL is a great well-rounded flashlight. It’s also Bluetooth enabled, which means you can check the light’s battery status and configure its settings from an app on your phone. Of course, the torch works without the Bluetooth function (for the connectivity-averse).
Modes: high, medium, low, moonlight, strobe, SOS, beacon (hi), beacon (lo)
Length: 3.43 inches
Battery Type: CR123A
Max Battery Life: 360 hours
At less than four inches, Zebralight’s SC63 really is tiny. But its looks are only deceiving until you hit the power button — 1,300 lumens is bright, especially when projected through tempered optical-quality glass. The rechargeable 18650 battery will last more than two hours at full blast, but the flashlight will automatically dim things down when power gets low. What’s more, the SC63 has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means it’ll survive full submersion in shallow water (up to three feet deep).
Modes: high, medium, low, beacon-strobe
Length: 3.64 inches
Battery Type: 18650
This flashlight is powered by a Cree XP-L Hi V3 LED, a tiny, luminous workhorse that’s capable of throwing a beam of light over 1,000 feet into the night. It’s also equipped with Advanced Temperature Regulation, which allows the light to regulate its own output and adapt to environmental conditions for optimal performance. With that kind of tech, the flashlight’s water-sealed micro USB charging port and aero-grade aluminum housing almost seem like afterthoughts.
Modes: high, medium, low, ultra-low, strobe, SOS, beacon
Length: 5.48 inches
Battery Type: 18650
Max Battery Life: 520 hours
LED Lenser P5R.2
Advancement in flashlight tech often translates to higher lumens and more modes, but with the P5R.2, it translates to a nifty magnetic charging dock that indicates when you’re back to full power (USB works, too). The basic functions of the light aren’t to be overlooked either; it’s lightweight, bright and splashproof, and its three light modes can be easily accessed from full or half clicks of a button.
Length: 4.6 inches
Battery Type: ICR 14500
Max Battery Life: 12 hours
SOG Dark Energy DE-06 Rechargeable
SOG, known for crafting specialty knives, has one thing in mind when designing its flashlights: get the most light in the smallest package. The DE-06 accomplishes that goal, with 687 lumens packed into less than six inches of 6061 T6 aluminum. It’s also equipped with a belt clip and is powered by a rechargeable battery.
Modes: momentary on/off, 100% power, 40% power, reading, tactical strobe
Length: 5.95 inches
Battery Type: rechargeable 18650
Max Battery Life: 98 hours
If you’ve recently upgraded your tech arsenal with USB-C devices, you might as well do the same with your everyday tactical light. But fast charging isn’t the only draw here; the T25L-R touts 2,000 lumens and throws light more than 1,200 feet. That’s at full power, of course; there are multiple output levels that can be controlled easily just by twisting the head of the flashlight — before it’s even turned on.
Modes: high, medium, low, strobe, momentary
Length: 5.9 inches
Battery Type: 18650
Max Battery Life: 70 hours
Nite Ize Inova T4RC
The T4R may have been engineered with security professionals and law enforcement in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of place at a campsite or in the glovebox of your overlander. The light is capable of throwing light up to 840 feet and is contained by solid-stock aluminum finished with a Mil-Spec anodized finish and knurling. And it’s USB rechargeable, to boot.
Modes: high, low, dim, strobe, burst
Length: 7.89 inches
Battery Type: Inova 2600 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery
Max Battery Life: 138 hours
Muyshondt Beagle Mk. I
It makes sense that a flashlight designed for adventure was named to pay homage to the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his five-year journey around the world. The Beagle Mk. I provides two beam types — flood and high beam — and five light modes. Its 6AL4V titanium casing provides the toughest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal and is milled with a monocoque design to shed heat across the entire body of the flashlight.
Modes: flood, throw, five intensity levels
Length: 3.31 inches
Battery Type: CR123 or MPC-18350I
Max Battery Life: 100 hours
Surefire P2X Fury
Surefire is the torch of special forces and law enforcement, and for good reason. The P2X Fury is hard anodized to military specifications, and the shock-proof LED ensures the delivery of light regardless of the circumstance. The reflector is micro-textured for optimal light transmission and the tempered glass window can handle extreme temps and impact.
CRKT Williams Tactical Applications
CRKT called in former military officer, knife designer and martial arts expert James Williams to design their tactical torch. It’s tough as nails and meant to be as much a blinding attack weapon as much as a flashlight. Via its rubberized tail cap, you can access multiple light modes, and thanks to its compact size and convenient clip, keeping it at the ready on a daily basis is a cinch.
The PD35 has a cult following in the EDC flashlight crowd due to its convenient size, insane brightness and supreme toughness in the field. But now it’s even better than before, boasting 960 lumens, up from 850. So bright, it can easily be used as a beacon and a blinding weapon, as well as a wickedly powerful torch to illuminate up to an entire room, if needed. Fenix’s best seller gives six light modes via a simple side switch and a convenient tail cap for the oft-used “momentary on” function.
Streamlight ProTac 2AAA
When you want ultra compact, the ProTac is the choice. This penlight on steroids has C4 LED technology, which means it’s bright and long lasting (there’s a 50,000 hour lifetime in the bulb). Multiple light modes, a toothed attack cap and a tough anodized finish means it’ll be your go-to light day in and day out, without burdening you with something bigger and heavier.
Foursevens Maelstrom Regen MMR-X3R
The Maelstrom Regen MMU-X3R is the expensive bad boy of the group, but there’s good reason for the higher price. It emits a ridiculous 2,000 lumens, which can easily light up a dark and long trail in the dead of night. It has three less-bright modes, if needed, and it’s micro-USB rechargeable and shows the charging status via lighted indicators. In addition to being bright enough to temporarily blind someone, it also has a toothed bezel should you need to fend off an attacker.
Streamlight Scorpion HL
Streamlight’s improved on the first version of the rugged, compact Scorpion, giving it with more light output and three operating modes, including a strobe feature. Our favorite aspect of the original Scorpion, the rubber armor sleeve goes unchanged and still provides ideal grip and tactility for an EDC flashlight. The endcap still stays under the sleeve, aiding in its IPX-7 Waterproof capability.
Vizeri VZ230 Tactical
If you’ve never heard of Vizeri, it’s time you took a look at this robust and very affordable light. The hard anodized finish belies its price, as does the IPX-7 Waterproof rating — something you won’t see in lights costing twice as much. The beam focus is also twist-operated, keeping it secure during nocturnal movements. It takes AAA or rechargeable lithium ion batteries, making it versatile. It also comes with a light diffuser & holster and weapons mounting capability. These features and build for $30 make the VZ230 a complete EDC torch steal.
SOG Dark Energy 247A
SOG focuses on tactical practicality and one look at the Dark Energy, shows it was designed for business. The knurled cap has teeth for self-defense, and the 263 lumens are more than enough to brighten up the night. It ensures ideal grip with the highest levels of checkering (without impeding comfort), and all five light modes are conveniently accessible via the rubberized tail cap.
Inova X5DM HB
A lot of EDC folk don’t carry flashlights because of the extra size and weight, which makes them inconvenient to keep in a pocket or gear stash. Inova’s X5DM HB might not be the brightest, but its small diameter makes it easy to carry in your daily kit. The slick design is more bauhaus than tactical, so it fits in with more sophisticated finery. The five LEDs knock out 31 lumens in high mode, and you can dial it down to a low 8 lumens for reading or less intensive lighting needs.