What is the Best Pocket Flashlight?

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In a hurry and want to find out my pick for the Best Pocket Flashlight? It’s the Olight S1 Baton Turbo S.

Most people have a morning routine to start their day, and that usually includes grabbing your essentials such as a wallet, pen in your pocket, house keys, and a pocket flashlight. Oh – you don’t have a pocket flashlight you say? Here are my picks for the Best Pocket Flashlights to fix that problem.

The Best Pocket Flashlights:

What To Look For In A Pocket Flashlight

Size and Portability

Size and Portability are the most critical factors in selecting a pocket flashlight. Whatever best fits into your pocket comfortably is what matters. You may work outdoors in bulkier clothing where a larger flashlight would work well, or in an office environment where a torch with a long, narrow profile would fit your clothing better. Personally I wear jeans a lot and like one that fits in my jeans pocket without being obtrusive, and it must have a pocket clip so it is always handy.

Power/Charging Source

This is a light you will have on you on a regular basis yet may not see regular use. Being dead when you need it makes it a useless paperweight. There are two options you want to consider – a rechargeable light that is convenient to charge on a regular basis (such as with a standard micro-USB cable), or a primary (disposable) cell which has a long shelf life such as a Lithium CR123A cell.

Learn everything you need to know about Batteries with our Ultimate Guide to Batteries!

Brightness

Let’s face it, most of the time you pull out your pocket flashlight you will be using it to fish out your cell phone from in-between the car seats or finding something under the couch. High brightness isn’t going to be a priority. But it’s always nice to have a torch that can light up a room if needed, even if it is for a short time.

Durability

Given the environments that I find myself in, I’m usually a stickler for durability standards. However, by definition, a pocket flashlight is going to be sitting comfortably in my pocket for most of its’ life so I tend to relax my standards a bit here. That being understood, waterproofing, dust proofing, and impact resistance always add value to any of my lights.

How durable is it? What does IPX6 mean? Read our Ultimate Guide to the ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard symbols!

Product Reviews

Here are some of my favorite pocket flashlights to consider.

Olight S1 Baton Turbo S Version

Features

  • 6 modes including a 900 Lumens Turbo S Mode
  • 1.9 oz with battery
  • 2.59 inches long x 0.82 inches diameter
  • IPX8 Waterproof
  • Magnetic base
  • Side switch
  • Customized RCR123A rechargeable Li-Ion battery with magnetic USB charging interface
  • Integrated Voltage Meter
  • Pocket Clip which doubles as a hat clip

This is the smallest torch in the roundup and is basically a wrapper around a customized RCR123A battery. The battery has been modified to produce 5x the normal discharge rate, resulting in the super bright 900 Lumens Turbo S output. The Turbo S can only sustain this level of output for 90 seconds. The torch is light enough that it fits comfortably on the bill of a hat.

A word of caution on the modified battery: Li-Ion batteries typically have a protection circuit to prevent over-discharging, which will damage the battery. I suspect that is the modification that was done on this battery to enable the higher drain. When the integrated voltage meter says it’s time to charge the battery, stop using the light until you have done so.

Pros

  • Extremely bright Turbo mode that lasts for 90 seconds
  • Magnetic Base to secure to metal surfaces for hands-free work

Cons

  • Non-standard magnetic USB charging cable
  • Gets hot quickly in Turbo mode
  • Easily turns on while in your pocket

Maglite MAG-TAC Rechargeable

Features

  • 3 Modes (Momentary, Full Power, and Strobe) at 320 Lumens on Full mode.
  • 4.8 oz with battery
  • 5.275 in x 1.05 in diameter
  • Water and Impact Resistant
  • Tail Switch
  • USB rechargeable base
  • Pocket Clip

The Maglite MAG-TAC Rechargeable is an excellent functional torch. The charging base fits neatly into a vehicle drink holder so the light is always ready to go. I only recommend the rechargeable version. It is easy to select a ‘AA’ version of this light but this version operates on a lower voltage and therefore has lower performance. The size of the MAG-TAC makes is a good candidate for a larger pocket flashlight.

Pros

  • A rechargeable base that is convenient for auto or home
  • Larger, sure feeling size

Cons

  • No micro-USB charging port
  • Single brightness level

Read our Ultimate Guide to Flashlights to learn what to look for when finding the best flashlight for your needs

Streamlight Stylus Pro USB Rechargeable

Features

  • 2 Modes: Hi at 250 Lumens and Low at 90 Lumens
  • 6.15 inches long, 0.74 inches in diameter
  • 1.9 oz. with battery
  • Push-Button tail switch
  • IPX4 water-resistant
  • 1-meter impact resistant
  • Charging light indicator

This little guy has a long, lean profile that fits nicely alongside the pen in my pocket. The metal housing is pretty tough and this torch can sometimes even make a decent impromptu pry bar or lever. The standard Micro-USB charging port makes it convenient to keep this torch charged. Be aware that there is a ‘AAA’ powered version for this light which may sound convenient, but the USB version has much better performance. This torch works well for office workers who want something sleek and less bulky than other options.

Pros

  • Mini-USB charging port
  • Long, slim profile

Cons

  • Non-replaceable battery

Fenix RC11

Features

  • 6 modes from Turbo at 1000 Lumens to Eco at 10 Lumens
  • 4.47 inches long by 1.16-inch diameter
  • 10.4 ounces (without battery)
  • USB charging cable with magnetic adapter
  • IPX8 waterproof, submersible to 2 Meters
  • Side switch with lockout function
  • Powered by 18650 rechargeable Li-Ion battery or 2 CR123A primary cells
  • Low voltage warning

At 1.16 inches in diameter, this torch is on the wider side of our roundup, but deserves consideration for those who work outside or first responders that need a bit more performance and durability out of their gear and have a bit more space in their pockets. It is worth taking some time to learn how to use the lockout function so this torch doesn’t turn on accidentally in your pocket.

Pros

  • Magnetic charging port with a USB cable
  • Switch lockout function
  • A rechargeable cell can be replaced with primary cells when it is exhausted

Cons

  • No micro-USB charging port

Nitecore MH10

Features

  • 4 brightness modes: High (1000 Lumens), Med, Low, Ultra Low (1 Lumen)
  • 2 special modes: SOS and Strobe
  • 5.12 inches long by 1-inch diameter
  • 2.65 ounces (without battery)
  • Powered by a rechargeable and replaceable 18650 Li-Ion battery
  • Micro-USB charging port
  • IPX8 waterproof to 2 meters
  • Integrated voltage indicator
  • Flat tail for standing the light on-end

This tactical torch has a pretty smart design. When I cycle through modes I typically close my eyes when I know that the Strobe or SOS mode is coming up. The ability to loop through brightness modes without triggering these modes is a very nice feature. The durability and performance of this torch make it a great fit for construction workers or first responders.

Pros

  • USB rechargeable with a standard USB cable
  • Cycling through brightness modes does not cycle through special SOS or Strobe modes.
  • A rechargeable cell can be replaced when it is exhausted
  • Integrated voltage indicator shows the current power levels

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a secondary Red Light (I had to put something here…)

Fenix E35UE

Features

  • 5 brightness modes from Turbo (1000 Lumens) to Eco (8 Lumens)
  • IPX8 waterproof standard compliant (submersible to 2 meters)
  • 4.8 inches long by 0.9 inches in diameter
  • 2.5 ounces (without battery)
  • Micro-USB charging port on the included battery
  • Uses replaceable 18650 Li-Ion or 2x CR123A Lithium cells

Tactical flashlights are sexy and cool, but for a pocket torch, I recommend the non-tactical UE (Ultimate Edition) version of the Fenix 35 series over the tactical version. The E35UE has a slightly smaller size and smoother profile, making it more pocket friendly. At under one inch in diameter, this torch would be convenient in most pockets while having performance and durability characteristics of a slightly larger flashlight. Some owners have reported that they line the pocket clip up with the power buttons to make them easier to find in the dark. This torch also has a separate Strobe mode so cycling through brightness settings doesn’t cycle through the different Strobe modes.

This torch provides a great entry into higher performance flashlights with the USB rechargeable battery. Usually recharging a replaceable Li-Ion cell requires a charger, but the cells included with this flashlight contain a port in the battery itself. This replaces the need for a charger but adds some inconvenience because you must remove the cell for charging instead of being able to simply plug in the torch itself.

Pros

  • Cycling through brightness modes does not cycle through special SOS or Strobe modes.
  • Sleek design compared to Tactical style torches
  • Waterproof and durable

Cons

  • The battery must be removed for USB recharging
  • Finding the side buttons in the dark or with gloves can be difficult
  • No switch lockout and light can be turned on while in your pocket

Nitecore EC11

Features

  • 5 modes from Turbo at 900 Lumens for 30 minutes to Ultra-Low at 1 Lumen (with IMR cell)
  • High discharge IMR Li-Ion 18350 rechargeable cells or 1x CR123A
  • Turbo is reduced to 450 Lumens with CR123A cell
  • Integrated Voltage indicator
  • 2.95 inches long by 1 inch in diameter
  • 1.6 ounces (without battery)
  • Secondary red light
  • IPX8 waterproof, submersible to 2 meters
  • Tail stand capability

Let’s start off by stating that I do not recommend this torch for folks who don’t have experience with unprotected Li-Ion batteries. Li-Ion batteries can be permanently damaged by overcharging or over-draining. For this reason, most Li-Ion batteries have a protection circuit which, among other things, shuts the battery down at a certain low voltage point. Remove the protection circuit from the cell and you do get more current, but you also lose the low voltage shutdown function. Voltage in an IMR battery must be carefully monitored and not allowed to go below a certain level or you will damage the battery.

This flashlight is best for torch ‘prosumers’ who want maximum performance and have the ability to properly maintain an IMR battery.

Pros

  • Integrated secondary red light – have I mentioned that I LOVE torches that include a red light?
  • The IMR battery provides higher current flow and brighter light than comparable cells
  • Can use a variety of rechargeable and primary cells (IMR 18350, standard 18350, CR123A)
  • Switch lockout feature to avoid accidentally turning the torch on in your pocket

Cons

  • IMR Li-Ion batteries do not have under-voltage protection and voltage must be carefully managed to avoid permanently damaging the battery.
  • Not USB chargeable – the IMR battery must be charged in an appropriate charger (usually included)

Conclusion

Each of these has strengths and weaknesses, and they are all excellent depending on your specific needs. For a general user getting their first good quality pocket flashlight, my recommendation would be the Olight S1 Baton Turbo S.

The Turbo S has all of the features I look for in a torch – waterproof and impact-resistant, high output and USB rechargeable. It adds versatility with a magnetic base that can attach to magnetic surfaces, and can be clipped to the bill of a hat for close work. I do prefer a micro-USB port for charging, but the magnetic USB charging cable is very convenient.

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