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Flashlights were invented way back in 1899, and it wasn’t long before they became popular because of their portability and safety. Today, these key features are one of the main reasons why backpackers use flashlights.
When you’re outdoors, it can be tedious to carry around a flame to light your way. Having the right backpacking flashlight makes getting around in the dark much easier. We have some tips for choosing the best backpacking flashlight, and we’ll also reveal some of the best ones so that you get the best value for your money.
The best backpacking flashlights reviewed:
- BYB F2O
- Wowtac A1S LED
- Fenix UC35 V2.0
- Nitecore MH23
- Soonfire Cree XP-L LED Flashlight
- Anker Bolder LC90
- Nitecore Thumb Flashlight
- OLIGHT S1 Baton
- Nitecore MT10C
- Nitecore EC11
- ThorFire Headlamp
- Maglite XL200
- Fenix Flashlights E05
- ThruNite Ti3
- Goal Zero Torch 250
- Fenix E12
Selecting a Backpacking Flashlight
There are certain factors to take into consideration when shopping for the best backpacking flashlight. These include the material used to make it, its runtime, its shape, water resistance, light output and range, mode, battery type, and control.
Runtime, in this case, has to do with how long the batteries last before they need to be changed or recharged. This is usually measured in hours and gives you an estimate of how long it takes the light output to drop, which is normally rounded to the nearest quarter-hour.
Illustrations of runtimes are usually accessible by the runtime graph provided by manufacturers. Runtime is always given for each light setting.
Material and Shape
Most backpacking flashlights are cylindrical in shape but are designed to resist rolling. You’ll often find they have a knurled pattern surface to aid in the reduction of slipping and for a firmer hold.
Flashlights are commonly made using plastic or aluminum alloys, and this affects their durability. Although they are made with these two materials, additional features include stainless steel placed in the head of the flashlight for greater impact resistance.
Backpacking flashlights are designed for the outdoors, and with this in mind, water resistance is very important — especially if they are going to be used around bodies of water or in the rain. Flashlights are rated using the IPX system.
The IPX ratings determine the splash resistance from all angles and a water submersion rating, both after the impact test has been completed. Submersion ratings are either temporary immersion or submersion, which can last up to 4 hours at a certain depth.
How durable is it? What does IPX6 mean? Read our Ultimate Guide to the ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard symbols!
Light Output and Range
Light output is measured in lumens, while the range that the light covers is measured in feet. These are some of the most important factors to take into consideration with your flashlight.
The light output gives you an estimate of the intensity and highest brightness setting normally powered by the battery. This can range from 20 lumens to a terrain-scorching 3500 lumens.
The range is an indication of the distance the light can travel before it diminishes to the brightness from that of a full moon, which is relatively safe for outdoor travels. Range is dependent on the brightness setting selected on the flashlight.
Flashlights usually offer different modes of lighting, such as low, medium, high, and boost. However, the brighter the mode, the shorter the runtime. For general purposes, a single setting flashlight may be sufficient.
Some models of flashlights are even made with special modes like strobe or SOS features. Other flashlights also carry programmable modes that may be set up on software and downloaded to the light using a USB cable.
When selecting a flashlight, you first have to take into consideration the type and availability of replacement batteries. Batteries come in three types: rechargeable, disposable, and renewable.
The most common type is the disposable battery that’s available in AA or AAA along with the CR123A, which is more costly and a bit difficult to find.
Rechargeable batteries are built-in lithium-ion batteries that are charged using a USB connection from either a computer, AC or DC outlet, or solar panel.
Learn everything you need to know about Batteries with our Ultimate Guide to Batteries!
The lighting mode switches and the type of on/off features are of great importance to some users. Push buttons and sliders are thumb-operated and convenient, while the rotating bezel requires two hands to operate.
Some lights carry a silent insta-beam function used without having to click through all the modes and are favored in law enforcement operations.
Reviews for the Best Backpacking Flashlights
The BYB F2O is a compact, extremely portable rechargeable LED flashlight that has a maximum output of 1000 lumens. It features five brightness modes with memory functions: high, medium, low, ultra-low, and strobe.
It’s very durable and made with aviation graded aluminum that can endure scratches, abrasions, and corrosion that could occur on your backpacking adventures.
The waterproof rating is IP65 and is designed to withstand heavy rain and dusty conditions, a great choice for lots of daily activities. The BYB F2O features anti-skip knurling, providing a comfortable and firm hand grip.
The tail cap is also manufactured with a lanyard hole so you can easily keep a hold of it, and is capable of standing up for use as an emergency lamp.
This type of flashlight is very convenient as it can be connected to any USB port for charging. It will take around 4.5 hours for a full charge, which should last you up to 36 hours on the lowest setting.
- Can perform under extreme weather conditions
- Compact design
- Wrist strap included
- High Lumen output
- ·Not very water-resistant
The Wowtac A1S is an extremely bright pocket-sized LED flashlight with a maximum brightness of 1150 lumens and an intense beam distance of up to 909 feet. It’s ideal for backpackers and those who spend time outdoors as it’s 1-inch in diameter and fitted with anti-slip knurling for a firmer grip.
The Wowtac’s durable body is waterproof with a rating of IPX7, which means it can be submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It’s suited to all weather conditions and tested with an impact resistance of 5 feet.
The lighting modes are as follows: intelligent low, medium, high, turbo, strobe, and SOS, which makes it suitable for plenty of outdoor activities. Additionally, it features last memory functions and a low voltage indicator that blinks twice periodically.
- Mode memory
- Six light modes
- Long press to direct access to different modes
The Fenix UC35 delivers a maximum output of 1000 lumens and an 872-foot beam distance. It’s powered by a high capacity 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery, which is included, or two 3V/CR123A lithium batteries. On the highest setting, it can last up to 2 hours and 15 minutes, but on the lowest moonlight setting of 1 Lumen, the runtime is 800 hours.
The device features one tactical tail switch and one functional side switch, which controls the five light levels and strobe. The Fenix UC35 dual switch operation makes it convenient for backpacking; with its instant-on function, you’ll be with light straight away in any situation.
This model is made of durable high-strength and oxidation-resistant aluminum and weighs just over 3 ounces without the battery. The Fenix UC35 V2.0 charges in 10 minutes for up to 5 hours of illumination, and features a USB-C rechargeable cable for fast, reliable charging.
- Six light modes
- EdisonBright BBX3 charging cable with carrying case included
- Compact design
- Dual switch operation
- Not very water-resistant
This model is both lightweight and pocket-sized. It weighs 3.39 ounces and is best suited for everyday travel as well as backpacking activities. The MH23 flashlight offers a super-bright output of 1800 lumens and can cover a distance of 966 feet.
The lighting mode ranges are turbo, high, mid, low, and ultra-low, each offering different lumens of brightness. It also features a dual-stage switch and memorizes previously used outputs.
The Nitecore MH23 can be carried using a holster, pocket clip, or lanyard — all of which are included in the packaging. The flashlight has a convenient built-in USB charging port and can be charged using any power source, such as adapters, laptops, solar panels, and power banks.
- Accessories included for hands-free usage
- Convenient charging options
- Difficulty switching through the modes
The Soonfire Cree XP-L is a USB rechargeable 1000 lumen EDC flashlight. It has a maximum runtime of 500 hours and a throw distance of up to 738 feet.
It’s very compact and fits into your palm and pockets perfectly. The stainless steel switch controls the five levels of brightness: high, medium, low, moonlight, and strobe.
The Soonfire E07 is constructed using an aero grade aluminum alloy, making it tough and reliable for backpacking, camping, hiking, and more. Its waterproof rating is IPX8, and it is submersible for up to 6.5 feet.
To ensure it doesn’t overheat, the device features a thermal management system. When on the highest setting for over a minute, the brightness will drop by 50 percent for safe use.
- Recharges quickly
- Waterproof — charging ports and buttons have seals
- Compact and impact resistant
- Temperature control
- Battery discharges fast on standby
The Anker Bolder LC90 emits a powerful beam of 900 lumens and is capable of sweeping light over the length of two football fields, or a distance of 656 feet. It comes with five adaptable mode settings, namely: high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS.
The tool carries a rechargeable 6700mAh battery that can keep it shining for up to 13 hours on medium mode. It also boasts an extended LED lifespan of 50,000 hours.
The flashlight’s water-resistance rating is IP65 and designed for use in heavy rain. It is manufactured using aluminum and shock-resistance to endure rough handling.
- Durable construction
- Bright white light
- Multiple brightness modes
- You have to remove the end cap to charge
Here we have something a little different to your average backpacking flashlight. This little guy weighs less than 1 ounce inclusive of battery and clip, meaning you can never be without it.
The Nightcore Thumb flashlight has a tiltable head that makes it convenient if you want to be hands-free. The tiltable head offers 120-degree flexibility and has a brightness of 85 lumens with three light levels.
This flashlight has a red light mode, which makes it easy on the eyes. Red light doesn’t bother the eyes as much as white light, making it ideal for nighttime use and navigation. It also has a reasonable runtime; on the lowest setting, it can last up to 22 hours and on the highest, 45 minutes.
The Nitecore thumb keychain flashlight is very compact and has a built-in USB charger for the rechargeable Li-ion battery.
- Incredibly lightweight and portable
- Clips for hands-free usage
- Well suited for night use
- Inconsistencies in quality control
The OLIGHT S1 is just 2.4 inches in length and weighs 1.06 ounces, meaning it can be taken anywhere with you.
It may be small, but this flashlight still emits a powerful beam of up to 500 lumens to 360 feet. It features five levels of brightness to illuminate your surroundings.
The device is impact resistant and waterproof to 6.5 feet. This type of flashlight is ideal for outdoor activities and, because of its compact size, can be carried around in your bag or pocket.
- Great knurling and grip
- Removable magnet in the tail cap
- Incredibly small but useful size
- Button switch is difficult to find
The Nitecore MT10C is compact and emits a maximum output of 920 lumens with a long throw distance of 621 feet. Its robust body is 3.6 inches long and is made from military-grade aluminum.
It features five modes of brightness levels of white light and is suitable for most types of weather and terrain operations. On top of this, there is red light illumination, which is useful to preserve night vision, and three special models such as a beacon or SOS to signal in an emergency.
The tactical tail switch allows you to get momentary or constant light with a single hand, which is ideal for when you’re in sticky situations. The flashlight is submersible up to 6.5 feet, with a rating of IPX8, and can withstand an impact of up to 3.2 feet.
The stainless steel titanium-plated clip is what makes this flashlight ideal for everyday carrying.
- Tactical tail switch design
- Red light illumination and three special modes
- Durable and compact
- Sensitive switch which is easily activated
This compact tool weighs 1.6 ounces and is less than 3 inches in length. The Nitecore EC11 flashlight runs on one IMR18350 lithium-ion rechargeable battery to reach a bright 900-lumen maximum output.
There are five normal light modes, plus strobe and SOS, that are easily accessible by the dual side button and power switch. This dual switch design ensures ease of use. This palm-sized flashlight delivers a beam distance of up to 620 feet.
Being highly efficient enables a maximum runtime of up to 20 hours, which should be plenty, depending on your backpacking plans. It also features a detachable anti-rolling clip, and the flashlight is constructed from hard-anodized aluminum. It has an impact resistance of up to 5 feet and can stand from the tail to create a lamp if required.
The Nitecore EC 11 Flashlight is waterproof in accordance with an IPX8 rating and is submersible up to 6.5 feet.
- Reversible pocket clip included
- Waterproof and impact-resistant
- Comes with lumen tactical keychain light
- Overheats on turbo setting
As well as backpacking, this little flashlight is suitable for home maintenance, fishing, hunting, camping, biking, and other outdoor activities. It comes with three lighting modes, including high, low, and strobe. The ThorFire Headlamp has a zoomable beam focus and an adjustable lamp angle.
The device is designed to clip on to your hat like a headlamp, but it will clip on to various other surfaces too. This flashlight is powered by three AAA batteries that are not included in the packaging. It features an XP-E LED with a maximum output of 155 lumens.
Thorfire is said to always make lights that are of high-quality and reasonably priced. Excluding the battery, the flashlight weighs 1.7 ounces and features a top switch for on/off and output selection.
- Bright light output
- Perfect for night hiking
- Very lightweight
- Easy to clip on
- Requires three AAA batteries which are not included
The Maglite XL200 comes with five lighting modes with a unique motion control functionality. This model is versatile and offers a rich array of advanced functions. It can turn on and adjust continuously between dim and bright, and also has memory functions based on the last mode that was used.
It produces a strobe that you can adjust the speed of and has a nightlight mode, which could be useful if you’re camping. It also features a silent signal mode as well as an SOS flashing signal.
For when it’s stored in your pocket or backpack, the flashlight prevents accidental activation based on the LockOut feature that it possesses.
The battery runtime is about 2.5 hours on the highest setting, which illuminates a brightness of 172 lumens. Its beam distance is 450 feet.
The Maglite XL200 is compact and designed to fit into your pocket. It has a water-resistant rating of IPX4 and is shock-resistant.
- Lockout feature prevents accidental turn on
- Portable, lightweight, bright
- Different colors available
- Short battery runtime
The Fenix Flashlights E05 85 is a compact light with high lumen output. The flashlight is only 2.6 inches long, easy to use, and weighs 1.4 ounces.
It has no switches or buttons, just an easy turn of the head does the activation, which could be ideal when you’re in the dark. It’s made out of aircraft aluminum and is very durable. It comes in two colors: black and blue.
This flashlight is waterproof to IPX8 standards, iodized for scratch and corrosion resistance, and has ergonomic grips. It can stay submerged underwater for 30 minutes at a depth of 6.5 feet.
It comes with three mode outputs: high, mid, and low. Each of these modes carries a different runtime; the high mode lasts for up to one hour and the low 14.5 hours. Overall, the LED batteries have a lifespan of 50,000 hours, and the beam covers a wide reach of over 148 feet.
This flashlight is powered by a single AAA battery that’s included in the package, which is easy to replace.
- Compact and powerful
- Powered by easy and affordable batteries
- Easy to use
- Brilliant white light
- Low and brightness levels almost the same
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The is a sturdy, penlight-styled, compact flashlight. While it’s powered by two AA batteries, they are not included but easily accessible by everyone. To insert the batteries, you have to unscrew the light head, insert the batteries down into the battery tube, and then screw the light head back on.
The model is constructed from military-grade hard-anodized aluminum, making it durable enough for backpacking and use outdoors.
The light is operated by a dual interface button and operates on five brightness settings, the firefly mode, low, medium, high, and strobe. At the firefly level, the battery can last up to 137 hours, the low level on 12 hours, the high level of brightness 51 minutes, and at the strobe level 90 minutes, which is useful in emergencies. It has a beam that reaches a distance of 220 feet.
This flashlights’ waterproof rating is IPX8, and it’s impact-resistant. The flashlight also features a short memory function that turns on in the last mode accessed within a 1–10 second interval, except for strobe.
- Perfect shirt pocket size
- High lumen, clear white light
- Slippery, lack of gripping stability
Another ThruNite flashlight, this model made from aircraft-grade aluminum with an anodized finish is solid and compact. It’s 2.76 inches in length, 0.55 inches in diameter, and weighs 0.43 ounces, making it small yet powerful. Its maximum output is 120 lumens with a beam distance of 164 feet. It comes with three levels of brightness, including firefly, low, and high, as well as a strobe option.
The waterproof rating is IPX8 and submersible to 3.9 feet. The flashlight has an impact resistance of 3.9 feet.
It’s easy to handle when backpacking as it has a non-rotating snap hook that attaches and detaches easily with single-handed operation. The pocket clips are two-way reversible, allowing for a hat brim attachment as well.
- Convenient twist switch design
- Bright white light
- Flashlight head does not rotate smoothly
If you’re looking for versatility, the Torch 250 Power Hub and Flashlight is a reliable source of power and light for any situation. It boasts a powerful, 4,400 mAh lithium battery, and its multiple light modes allow for an output of 250 lumens.
The flashlight features three methods of charging by USB, solar panel, and a built-in hand crank generator. Using the USB the flashlight charges in five hours, the solar panel 24 hours, and when hand-cranked, provides two minutes of light for each one minute of crank. It has a run time of 7 to 48 hours.
This tool is multi-functional as it acts as a flashlight, lantern, and charger for your phone or tablet; it also features a red light for emergency purposes. The shape allows you to position it in any number of ways to give a stable light source.
- Charges phones and tablets
- Multiple light options
- Three methods of recharging
- Has to be cranked for a long time to build up power
This sturdy flashlight is made from aircraft-grade aluminum. The battery illuminates at a maximum of 130 lumens from the single AA battery that’s included. The Fenix E12 has a high-intensity light beam that’s efficient and durable.
It also features a rubber O-ring seal that helps to keep this flashlight waterproof to an IPX8 rating standard. It can be submerged for up to 30 minutes in 6.5 feet of water.
The runtime on the lowest setting is 40 hours, and 6.5 hours on the medium.
- Features no memory mode
There are many benefits to be derived from selecting a flashlight designed for backpacking. They offer you the opportunity to be able to position your lighting as you work or walk and the dexterity and precision in controlling the light. They are also the preferred choice when it comes to signaling and cases of emergency.
Backpacking flashlights are very durable, and all are water-resistant or waterproof. They are made with the great outdoors in mind and all that it has to offer.