The Best 18650 Flashlights

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18650 batteries are among the most popular batteries for flashlights as well as other electronics such as laptops or portable chargers. This lithium-ion battery has an ideal cylindrical shape and size to fit a lot of power into a small EDC (EveryDay Carry) flashlight.

Some of the best 18650 flashlights offer an impressive lumens output packed into a compact case. Furthermore, the 18650 battery provides longer run times compared to other cells available, such as alkaline and zinc

If you want to know more about this flashlight and battery combination, read on, and we’ll fill you in. We’ll also review five of the market leaders.

18650 flashlights reviewed include:

What Is a 18650 Flashlight?

18650 refers primarily to the battery type, not the flashlight itself. They get their name from their dimensions, of 18mm in diameter and 65mm in length. The “0” at the end identifies the battery as cylindrical.

This compact shape allows the battery to fit into a pocket-sized flashlight.

Furthermore, 18650 batteries offer longer run times and a higher voltage compared to other cells such as AA, as well as being rechargeable—ideal for LED flashlights.

A close competitor to the 18650 is the CR123A. This is also compact as well as powerful; however, the CR123A tends to get matched with devices with restricted room for batteries as DSLR cameras.

Similar Design and Possible Dangers

The size of the 18650 is similar to some other models. This can be helpful in certain situations. It facilitates their use in a range of electronic devices that are compatible with lithium-ion batteries—such as laptops and even electric cars.

It’s important to dispose of a 18650 battery correctly once its lifetime is over—since they can leak harmful metals. Furthermore, never use a lithium-ion battery in an alkaline-appliance. Compared to disposable AAs, the lithium-ion battery has a much higher voltage—which can permanently damage your device.

If you need to replace a 18650 battery but have none, you can use two CR123A batteries in some cases.

Always check the manual or manufacturer before using an alternative battery to the recommended type—if you use the wrong kind, it could damage the flashlight’s circuitry.

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

Why Choose a 18650 Flashlight?

18650 flashlights are very popular due to their compact size and powerful beams. Many other factors attract users to this type of torch, and we’ve listed a few of them below.

Widely Available

One of the major advantages of 18650 batteries is their availability. They’re widely stocked and reasonably affordable, unlike the lithium CR123A.

Keep in mind that rechargeable batteries are generally more expensive compared to disposable batteries.

High Drainage Capability

High drainage capability means the battery can draw energy quickly, which pushes up the lumens, giving you a brighter light. 18650 batteries are ideal for tactical flashlights used to blind an attacker temporarily. They’re also commonly used in cameras where a powerful battery is needed to power the flash.

Low Self-Discharge Rate

Even rechargeable batteries will die at some point, depending on their capacity. However, 18650 batteries have a relatively low self-discharge rate, when not in use, of about 2 to 3 percent per year.

Rechargeable

Rechargeable batteries work out less expensive in the long run. Although the initial price is higher, you’ll save as you simply recharge the battery instead of running out to buy a new one. Most 18650 batteries are rechargeable up to 1,000 times without affecting their overall capacity.

Choosing the Best 18650 Flashlight for You

When you’re looking for a new 18650 flashlight, value for money is essential. Below we have made a list of important considerations:

Size

One of the first things we look for in a flashlight is the size. A flashlight must suit your requirements. For instance, if you’re doing maintenance work, you need a powerful light right at hand. If you’re camping or hiking, you need a durable but light product that can fit in your pocket or backpack.

Consider the dimensions of the product you’re thinking about buying to ensure it will suit you.

Light Output

Light output or lumens is another important consideration since they determine how intense the light will be. 18650 flashlights are among the most powerful on the market today, so you can expect to find some bright lights. Most 18650 flashlights have a maximum lumens output of 1,000 and more.

This is quite significant when you compare it to regular AA batteries with a lumens output of around 110 to 150.

Beam Distance

A bright light is nothing if it can’t reach its target—this is where beam distance is crucial. Beam distance specifications will tell you how far the light will shine before it diminishes. A high beam distance is valuable for anyone outdoors after nightfall to enable them to see where they’re going clearly.

Battery Type

For commercial use, most manufacturers use “protected” 18650 batteries, also referred to as “ICR.”

These have a protected circuit that’s attached to the front of the cell. The circuit regulates the charge and protects the battery from overcharging and over-discharging.

This protection circuit does add a small length to the battery, also known as a “button top.” Moreover, it enables you to safely leave the battery in the charger until needed without worrying about it becoming damaged.

However, some manufacturers are still using unprotected batteries, also known as flat tops.

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

Manufacturers often use unprotected cells as they have a higher output, making the light brighter. Some tactical flashlights are equipped with unprotected 18650 batteries to provide that blinding beam. However, these flashlights will need a protection circuit or integrated voltmeter to ensure the battery doesn’t drain completely and become damaged.

Lithium_Ionen_Akku_Überwachungselektronik
Source: Wikipedia

Modes

Some “high-end” flashlights feature multiple modes for you to choose between.

These will often have a low, medium and high mode to control brightness. Usually, they deliver maximum lumens on the high setting, with as little as 1-lumen delivered in the low mode.

For hikers or campers, having an SOS or strobe function can be life-saving in an emergency. These modes will cause the flashlight to flash in different patterns, helping first-responders to locate you.

Using a strobe light in public, however, should be refrained from due to the risk of triggering seizures in epileptic individuals.

Reflectors
Source: Wikipedia

Controls

Most flashlights have the usual tail cap switch that you press to turn the light on or off. There may be a separate switch on the light to alternate the various modes.

Not all flashlights have a separate switch—some require you to depress the tail cap for a certain amount of time to activate the modes. This can be difficult and time-consuming—it can also take time to get used to.

Intelligent Memory Feature

A new smart feature incorporated into many modern flashlights is a mode-memory. The memory will allow the flashlight to retain the mode used last automatically. This eliminates the need to change the mode every time you switch on.

Many flashlight users now see this feature as a must-have due to the ease of use it provides.

Product Reviews

Now that we know what to look for when buying a new 18650 flashlight, it’s time to reveal the top torches on the market. We went through the top-rated flashlights and compared performances to find the best 18650 flashlights.

Best Single-Mode 18650 Flashlight

UltraFire WF-501B

The UltraFire WF-501B is a very bright pocket-sized flashlight with a lumens output of 500. It’s powered by one rechargeable UltraFire High-Performance 18650 battery. Additionally, it’s equipped with a XPE G3 LED bulb, which has a lifetime of 100,000 hours.

Four batteries and a charger are included with the flashlight. These batteries can last between five and six hours each and have a low discharge rate. Furthermore, the batteries have no memory effect—meaning you don’t have to worry about damaging the battery by charging it frequently.

The flashlight features only one mode and it’s controlled by a tail cap switch. It’s made of tough aircraft-grade aluminum alloy and features an anti-abrasive coating that protects the torch from external damages.

Pros

  • Convenient size since it fits comfortably in the pocket.
  • The flashlight requires only one battery so you can keep the three others close at hand to change when needed.
  • The batteries have no memory effect.
  • Durable construction.

Cons

  • Long charging time.  

Brightest 18650 Flashlight

Streamlight ProTac HL5-X Dual-Fuel Flashlight

The Streamlight ProTac HL5-X is a tough flashlight made of anodized aluminum that’s shock-resistant and waterproof. It features an anti-roll head that prevents the light from rolling when placed on a flat surface.

Additionally, the body is covered in a rubber sleeve that not only provides you with a secure grip, but it also offers thermal insulation.

It runs on two 18650 USB batteries that are fitted with an integrated USB charging port. Furthermore, it can also run on four CR123A batteries if needed.

You operate the light using the head-mounted switch—it includes three programs—each program features two or three light modes. When in high, it delivers up to 3,500 lumens with an impressive beam distance of up to 1,482 feet.

The strobe mode is very bright—excellent for disorienting or signaling—it can run for 1.25 hours. The low mode delivers 250 lumens and can run for up to 11.5 hours.

Pros

  • Very high lumens output.
  • Long beam distance.
  • The rubber sleeves offer a secure yet comfortable grip.
  • Rugged design.
  • Three user-selectable programs.

Cons

  • Some users found it inconvenient having to remove the batteries to charge.

Best EDC 18650 Flashlight

Streamlight 88063 ProTac 2L-X Flashlight

A rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion battery powers the Streamlight ProTac flashlight—it delivers up to 500 lumens in the highest setting and can run up to 3.25 hours.

You control the light using the tail cap switch. It features momentary operation that you can activate by half-pressing the switch—once you release the light will turn off.

You get another two modes to choose from, including low with a lumens output of 40, and strobe mode. The strobe mode can run over four hours—ideal for emergencies.

The flashlight’s construction is of anodized aircraft-grade aluminum—it’s dust- and water-proof up to 6.5 feet. Furthermore, the rugged design is resistant to impact, which is vital for a tactical torch.

If needed, you can also use the two included CR123A batteries; however, the runtime will be significantly shorter.

Pros

  • Easy to recharge.
  • Durable construction.
  • Compact size.
  • High beam distance.

Cons

  • Users found that it was inconvenient having to switch through three settings to activate the low mode.

Best Multi-Cell 18650 Flashlight

TrustFire TR-3T6

Two 18650 batteries power this TrustFire flashlight and can deliver up to 3,800 lumens. It’s made of aircraft-grade aluminum alloy and features a radiating design that offers a secure and comfortable grip.

You get a total of five modes to choose between: high, medium, low, strobe and SOS. Furthermore, it#s fitted with a three-piece Cree XM-LT6 LED with a lifespan of up to 100,000 hours.

You can add two or three circular tubes to the body of the torch to make it longer—this will require an additional battery. It also supports the addition of a  remote pressure switch—replace the tail cap with the extension and attach it to your hunting gear.

The batteries are purchased separately.

Pros

  • Can be attached to hunting gear.
  • Easy to carry.
  • Very high light output.
  • Long beam distance.
  • High-quality LED bulbs.

Cons

  • When the batteries run low, the flashlight will switch off, leaving you in the dark.

Best Zoomable 18650 Flashlight

Anker Bolder LC90

This compact, pocket-sized Anker flashlight is efficient, reliable and safe. It’s fitted with a high-performance 18650 battery that delivers a powerful, non-fading brightness due to the Anker LC90’s dedicated integrated circuit.

The flashlight ensures you get consistent lighting with every use thanks to an intelligent illumination driver.

It delivers up to 900 lumens and can reach 660 feet in beam distance. Additionally, it’s able to zoom and reach nearly 1,000 feet—excellent for hunting or hiking. You can also set the light to four other modes, including medium, low, SOS and strobe.

The 18650 battery is protected by an integrated chip that ensures the battery charges safely while preventing it from overheating. This also protects the battery from wear and tear as it discharges and recharges.

The all-metal construction is of an extra-hard anodized-aluminum material. Not only is it resistant to scratches and chipping, but it also delivers a clean, sleek look.

The durable head of the flashlight makes the LC90 an excellent tactical torch that is suitable for tactical striking. Furthermore, the tough body enables the flashlight to withstand frigid temperatures as well as heavy rain.

Pros

  • Protected 18650 battery.
  • Long run time in the medium beam.
  • Zoomable.
  • Durable construction.

Cons

  • Tricky to change between the settings.

Best Throw 18650 Flashlight

ThruNite TC15

This ThruNite TC15 features six different lighting modes: high, medium, low, turbo, strobe and firefly. When in high mode, it will deliver up to 1,050 lumens; however, when in turbo, you get a blinding 2,300 lumens.

The firefly mode delivers a very dimmed 1-lumen rating—excellent for nighttime reading.

The beam distance can reach an incredible 807 feet when in turbo mode, so that you can see everything in your path. There’s only one switch to get familiar with—use it to turn the flashlight on or off and change between the settings.

The flashlight’s housing features a non-slip knurling design that helps you to get a secure grip—even while wearing thick gloves in frigid weather.

You get an included micro USB cable to charge the flashlight when needed. The light indicator will let you know by flashing red when it’s time to recharge.

Pros

  • Six modes.
  • High lumens output.
  • Long beam distance.
  • Non-slip design that’s comfortable to hold.

Cons

  • The single side button can be frustrating.

Best Tactical 18650 Flashlight

PHIXTON Rechargeable Tactical Flashlight

This tactical flashlight is as heavy-duty as it looks—it’s constructed of high-quality T6063-T6 aluminum alloy. The body is anti-abrasive, shock-proof as well as able to withstand heavy rain.

Along with the robust design, the flashlight is compact as well as lightweight and can easily be carried by hand or in a pocket. It measures 6.65 inches in length, 1.57 inches around the head and only 1.38 inches at the handle.

You get five modes to change between to suit whatever task you’re facing. The modes are: high, middle, low, strobe and SOS. In addition to the modes, you can also easily zoom and focus by pulling or pushing the head—it’s also able to deliver spot or floodlight when needed.

Furthermore, the flashlight has an L2 LED chip, which is 20 percent brighter than the regular T6. With this enhancement, the flashlight can deliver up to 1,200 lumens on the highest settings.

Pros

  • Compact tactical light.
  • Five modes.
  • It’s able to work with one 18650 battery or one AAA battery.
  • Advanced L2 LED chip.

Cons

  • There’s a constant ring of light that can be frustrating in certain situations.

Best Budget 18650 Flashlight

Ultrafire WF502B Tactical Flashlight

This flashlight is excellent value for money with a powerful beam and durable construction.

The Ultrafire WF502B’s body is a military-grade 6061T aluminum alloy that’s both scratch-resistant and waterproof, with a rating of IPX6. Additionally, the handle features a skid-proof design that enables you to get a secure grip, even while wearing heavy gloves.

The flashlight offers an incredibly bright beam that tops at 1,000 lumens and shines a distance of up to 656 feet. The reasonable price makes it an attractive option as a backup flashlight in emergencies.

You control the flashlight using the tail cap switch. This is favored by most flashlight-enthusiasts since it’s easy to press and won’t accidentally go off in your pocket.

Unfortunately, there are no modes to choose between; however, we don’t expect any more from a budget-light. It provides an intense beam when on and gets the job done even in harsh conditions and frigid weather.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly.
  • Tail cap switch.
  • Durable construction.
  • Anti-skid handle.

Cons

  • Only one mode.
  • Battery is extra.

Best Single Cell 18650 Flashlight

ThruNite TC12

This ThruNite TC12 is no more than 5.5 inches in length and weighs 3 ounces—it fits easily in your pocket, or you can attach it using the clip.

Powered by a 18650 battery, this flashlight delivers an impressive 1,100 lumens with a maximum throw of 787 feet. The bright light is ideal for hikers, hunters and law enforcement.

It features five modes, including the basic high, medium and low, as well as firefly and turbo with a strobe. Furthermore, it has an impressive run time in the low modes—topping at 49 days in firefly mode.

It can withstand tough conditions as well as extreme weather and frigid temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pros

  • Long run time.
  • A variety of modes.
  • High lumens output.
  • Handy metal pocket clip.

Cons

  • Users found the charging instructions difficult as you need to turn the light on when charging.

Best Bundle 18650 Flashlight

Fenix UC35 V2.0

With this upgraded Fenix UC35 light, you get an even more powerful beam than with its predecessor. The light output reaches 1,000 lumens with an incredible throw of up to 873 feet—which is 219 feet longer than the previous model.

This flashlight isn’t all flash though, it’s also highly durable and made out of stainless steel that gives it a nice weight in the hand. It features a convenient on/off tail cap switch as well as a separate side switch to change between the five different modes. Along with those is a strobe function that’s excellent for when you’re hiking or camping.

When on the lowest setting, the light output is only 1 lumen—making it excellent for up-close reading while doubling the run time.

The compact design makes this flashlight ideal as an EDC—you can easily keep it in your pocket or backpack while you’re exploring. Furthermore, you get a pocket clip, holster and lanyard as well as additional parts such as o-rings and a rubber boot.

You recharge the battery using the built-in USB port. The light indicator flashes when it’s time to charge.

Pros

  • Excellent throw.
  • Compact EDC flashlight.
  • Handy bundle, including useful spare parts.
  • Two separate switches for modes and activation.

Cons

  • Some users found the mode switch to be defective.

Best Multi-Fuel 18650 Flashlight

Fenix UC30 New Edition

The Fenix UC30 is compatible with either a 18650 battery or two CR123A batteries. It delivers up to 1,000 lumens in the highest setting with a beam distance of 828 feet.

The built-in USB port enables you to recharge the flashlight using the included micro USB cable. In addition to the charging cable, the flashlight comes with a lanyard and holster, as well as a spare o-ring, rubber switch boot, battery organizer and an adapter.

It features an ultra-slim design that’s easy and comfortable to hold by hand. You can control the flashlight using the single switch near the head of the light. Here, you can also change between five brightness levels as well as a strobe function.

Another smart feature is a lockout—activate this by double-pressing the switch. It will prevent the light from accidentally going off while in your pocket or backpack.

Pros

  • Slim design.
  • Far throw light.
  • Side switch lockout prevents accidental activation.
  • Useful bundle with spare parts.

Cons

  • Overheats easily.

Conclusion

18650 flashlights have become among the most popular torches on the market due to their powerful light and extended run time. 18650 batteries are compact yet powerful enough to deliver high light outputs of more than 1,000 lumens.

We found that the best 18650 flashlight was the UltraFire WF-501B. It fits all of the requirements of a good flashlight with a strong light and long beam distance, as well as a compact, lightweight design.

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