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How many times a day could you benefit from more light? Whether you are trying to read hard to see labels, searching a carpeted floor for an earring or screw, or the power goes out, a small compact flashlight on hand can be the perfect solution.
Thanks to technological advancements, penlight flashlights have never been more affordable or available in so many styles. With the number of different options available, we have cut down the list to eight contenders:
- Streamlight 66149 Stylus Pro USB UV Rechargeable Pen Light
- Lumintop IYP365 Penlight for Medical Applications
- Streamlight 88033 ProTac 2AA 250 Lumen Professional Tactical Flashlight
- Fenix LD05 V2.0 High CRI & UV 2x AAA Penlight
- Nitecore MT06MD 180 Lumen Nichia LED Medical Penlight Flashlight
- Streamlight 66133 Stylus Pro USB Rechargeable Pen Light
- TerraLUX Lightstart 80 Penlight - Blue
Every one of these penlight flashlights has pros and cons for the user, so we have made our selection to include products best suited for specific professions or situations. We’ve considered the power they use and other important factors.
Before moving on to our reviews, here is a breakdown of the important features.
Penlight Flashlight Features to Consider
With so many options available, it’s challenging to find the one best suited for your needs. Below, we break down the different features of the penlight flashlights on our list.
Before the rise of inexpensive, energy-efficient and impact-resistant LED lighting, flashlight beams came with a wider variety of options. All the penlights on our list use LEDs, so you don’t have to worry about fragile, battery draining incandescent bulbs.
For most uses, standard LED bulbs will offer all the performance you need. Medical professionals often use penlight flashlights for diagnostic purposes. These medical users prefer special LED bulbs designed to match natural light better.
Another specialized use of penlights requires a bulb capable of producing ultraviolet light. You can use a UV capable flashlight to help detect counterfeit currency, in forensics, and for medical purposes. Outside of practical uses, they can add fun lighting effects for everyday use.
With their well-known energy efficiency, even the highest-powered LED penlights will provide you with hours of runtime. In lower power modes, that runtime extends dramatically.
Our list includes flashlights powered by AA and AAA batteries and a few with internal batteries rechargeable with a USB cord.
Learn everything you need to know about Batteries with our Ultimate Guide to Batteries!
Replaceable battery models have, until recently, been the standard for penlights, and both AA and AAA batteries are readily available and relatively inexpensive.
AAA batteries are smaller and allow for a more compact and lighter penlight, but this comes at the cost of performance. When powering the same device, a AAA battery will run out of power faster than the larger AA.
There are alkaline or lithium options available. Alkaline batteries are less expensive than lithium ones, but are not rechargeable and don’t perform as well.
Most penlights that don’t use replaceable batteries use internal lithium-ion cells and must use a USB cable to charge. This saves on the cost of batteries but can make them a worse choice in emergencies.
It is always wise to have spare batteries or an independent charging option, such as a power bank portable charger. Don’t forget about the batteries in your other devices. Many TV remote controls use AAs, so you can borrow those to power your flashlight.
You can use most rechargeable penlights while they are charging, but the cord limits their mobility. With traditional battery-powered models, you can swap in fresh batteries and use the flashlight right away. If you choose a rechargeable model, make sure you have a way to charge it if the power goes out.
Read our Ultimate Guide to Flashlights to learn what to look for when finding the best flashlight for your needs
Top Eight Penlight Flashlights
Given the diverse uses and the many options available, our list of the top penlights includes the best in each of eight different categories. Our rundown contains details on each flashlight’s building material, battery type and expected output, LED type and any extra practical features.
Best UV Penlight
Streamlight makes our list in several categories, and their Stylus Pro rechargeable UV penlight, with its sleek design made from durable military-grade aluminum, displays several of the qualities that make them such a sought after brand.
It offers a 90 lumens beam from its 400 nanometer UV LED light source and up to 6.5 hours of runtime on a single charge.
Rechargeable on the go with the included micro USB cable or the optional AC wall adaptor, it can receive a full charge in 2.5 hours. The onboard digital control circuit prevents overcharging, extending the life of the internal battery for up to 300 recharges.
Streamlight built this product with functionality in mind, including an unbreakable and scratch-resistant glass lens. Included is a holster for easy carrying, and the purple band differentiates this from non-UV models to prevent mixups. It is water-resistant for all-weather use.
- Powerful 90 lumens UV light with a 58m beam.
- Easy recharging on the go.
- Water-resistant and durable design.
- UV light function cannot be toggled off and on.
- Too bright for some applications.
- The beam is not adjustable.
Best High CRI Penlight
Most flashlights use phosphor-based LEDs. These models offer a similar color profile as fluorescent lamps. A penlight with a higher color rendering index (CRI) can better mimic natural light sources and provide more true to life colors.
The Lumintop IYP365 Penlight is our high CRI choice. Its Nichia 219CT LED offers a CRI rating of 93 compared to an ordinary LED, which, generally, has a 74 CRI rating.
With three lighting modes, it can output up to 125 lumens at its highest settings. Powered by two AA batteries, it is capable of 25 hours of runtime on medium power before battery replacement is necessary.
Designed with professionals in mind, it is fully submersible. While it is not our top choice for medical penlights, this is a valuable quality for medical professionals, as it allows them to sterilize the pen by submerging it in alcohol.
This Lumintop has a durable anodized-aluminum body that can stand up to rugged use. It comes with a silicon diffuser cap to turn it into a reading lamp or an emergency signal light.
- Three lighting levels.
- Unmatched CRI.
- Operable with one hand.
- Flimsy belt clip.
- Runtime is often lower than Manufacturer’s specification.
Best AA Battery Penlight
AA batteries are more common than AAAs, making the Streamlight ProTac a great all-around choice for most users. The C4 LED technology offers a 50,000 hour lifetime and is impervious to shock.
Multifunctional, with three modes including high, low, and strobe, it’s easily operated with one hand using the push-button tactical tail switch.
Few penlights offer the brightness of its high mode at 250 lumens, though that strength can drain the batteries in only two hours. On low, it can run up to 43 hours. The strobe setting is perfect for emergency signal lighting.
Made from durable 600 series machined aircraft aluminum, it is waterproof to three feet for 30 minutes and tested for 6 feet impact resistance. It also features an anti-rolling design.
- 250-lumen brightness on high mode.
- One-hand operation.
- Water and impact resistant.
- Drains batteries quickly on high mode.
- More expensive than other penlights.
- No lanyard clip.
Best AAA Battery Penlight
For those who favor a small size and weight, but want to have specialized functions like a high CRI and UV beams, this is the compact flashlight for you.
Powered by two AAA batteries, it offers four modes: high, medium, low, and UV. High mode pumps out 100 lumens while medium provides 25. On the medium setting, it can run almost seven hours and runs 36 hours on low.
The flashlight, being modeled in reinforced stainless steel, is durable enough to stand up to rugged use, and at only 5.32 inches long, it’s compact enough for comfortable everyday carrying. It is also water-resistant for outdoor use.
Fenix provides 2 AAA batteries and an easy-to-use battery organizer so you can always carry extra batteries to keep it running.
For the professional, it is easy to toggle the UV function on and off when needed, and its high CRI beam will vividly render colors and help enhance details.
- High CRI LED.
- UV mode.
- Water and impact resistant.
- Short battery life.
- Can’t stand on its tail.
Best Medical Penlight
Flashlights used by medical professionals need to be powerful, compact and offer an LED light source with a high CRI for easy diagnosis. The Nitecore MT06MD is our top choice for this vital profession because it meets all those needs.
With its Nichia LED, it provides a CRI over 90, and on high mode pumps out 180 lumens. With a warmer light than standard LEDs, it is ideal for working up close when detail matters. These features improve injury diagnosis for first responders and medical professionals.
Powered by 2 AAA batteries, this Nitecore has three brightness settings and can provide over five hours of life on medium mode and 35 hours on low.
Nitecore uses aerospace-grade aluminum for the case, and it’s operated easily with one hand. The flashlight is waterproof submerge tested up to six feet, so medical professionals can sterilize the entire thing by dropping it in alcohol.
- Water and impact resistant.
- High CRI LED.
- 180 Lumens on high.
- One-handed operation.
- Short battery life.
- Can get hot on high mode.
- Weak clip.
Best USB Rechargeable Penlight
For those that want the sleekest of flashlights, moving away from conventional batteries offers unmatched thinness but comes at the cost of much lower run time.
The Streamlight USB rechargeable penlight has a diameter of only 0.74 inches and weighs 1.9 ounces, including the battery. Flashlights with standard batteries can’t match that compact size.
While small, it is not underpowered, and it features two modes. High mode offers 250 lumens, and the low mode at 90 lumens provides a brighter light than many other models’ highest settings.
The anodized aircraft aluminum construction offers a high level of durability, and a sliding metal sleeve provides the USB port with water resistance for all-weather use.
The lithium-ion cell is rechargeable up to 300 times with the included 120V AC Adaptor and USB cord. It uses Streamlight’s onboard safety circuit to prevent overcharging.
- Sleek and lightweight.
- 250 lumens on high.
- Lithium-ion cell is replaceable.
- Very short runtime.
- The low setting is too bright for many uses.
Best Tactical Penlight
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In rough and tumble circumstances, you need a flashlight that can stand up to tough tasks without fail.
The has a tough aerospace-grade aluminum body that has a Type III hard-anodized finish, resistant to abrasions.
Powered by 2 AA batteries, this product offers five brightness settings. The “high” and “strobe” settings provide a staggering 500 lumens for easy emergency signaling. Besides the medium and low options, ThruNite includes a firefly mode at 0.5 lumens. Such a low setting allows you to provide a small amount of light without blinding your night vision.
The innovative dual button interface includes both a side and a tail switch. A quick touch of the tail button activates the light momentarily for easy signaling.
- The Brightness of the CREE XP-L LED.
- Durable construction.
- Comes with Lanyard for easy everyday carrying.
- Low light Firefly mode.
- The dual switch is more complicated than other models.
- High mode drains batteries quickly.
Best Penlight for Mechanics
Whether you work on cars as a hobby or your profession, you know the importance of a high-quality flashlight to illuminate those tough to see places under the hood.
With a high CRI LED, this TerraLUX gives a single output of 85 lumens with a five hour run time using two AA batteries.
For hands-free operation, it comes with a rubber bite grip. You will never have to juggle your penlight and tools while working on an engine again.
- High CRI LED.
- 85 lumens output.
- Durable aluminum construction.
- Hands-free bite grip.
- Only one brightness setting.
- Short runtime.
Penlights are a compact tool with many everyday and specialized uses. Our medical and UV model recommendations would well serve those specialty users who need high CRI or UV.
Generally, you can find the best model by taking the lumens and power sources into account. Brighter flashlights are better for signaling and emergency use, but these settings drain batteries fast.
You can swap AA or AAA batteries out in seconds. USB charging flashlights will save you money on batteries but can be more challenging to replenish when the power is out. Investing in a portable power bank to do this would be our recommendation.