Plug In – The 5 Best Rechargeable Flashlights

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If you are in a hurry and want to find out my pick for the Best Rechargeable Flashlight, it is the Pelican 7600

Choosing one of the best rechargeable flashlights will not only help you go green but also give you superior performance.  Read on to see how.

How you power a flashlight is one of the biggest factors in choosing the best flashlight for your needs. Most off-the-shelf flashlights use disposable, single-use Alkaline (AA, AAA, C-Cell, D-Cell, etc.) or Lithium (CR123A) cells which are discarded once they are drained. I always seem to have a box full of dead flashlight batteries of all kinds that need to be taken to the recycling center. I sometimes run out of fresh batteries and find myself looking through this box for any with a little juice to spare to get one of my lights going. It’s no wonder I’m very interested in and am a big fan of, rechargeable flashlights.

I’ll discuss my favorites below but here’s the quick list:

The Case for Rechargeable Flashlights

Cost

The biggest benefit for Rechargeable Flashlights in my opinion is the overall savings in battery cost over the life of the flashlight. Battery costs can range from $0.45 for standard ‘AA’ batteries to $1.73 or more for CR123A Lithium batteries, and you do get what you pay for. Most flashlights take multiple batteries so you can double or triple that number on every battery change.

Batteries discharge slowly even if not used, so I change them on a regular basis to ensure they are fresh when I need them – about every 2-3 months depending on the drain. I can easily go through 12 batteries a year with a 2-battery flashlight. That would cost me from $5.40 to $20.76 in batteries per year per flashlight. That may be economical on the low end but as your performance needs increase that cost starts to rack up!

The Simple Dollar has a more thorough comparison of the costs of Rechargeable vs Disposable. Check it out here

Environment

I showed above how a single flashlight can go through a dozen single batteries in a year. Consider that a guy like me has dozens of flashlights stashed in every corner of the house and in every vehicle. My personal use of flashlight batteries can hit 100 batteries in a year! That environmental cost is high on both the manufacture and disposal side of the battery life span – too high for my conscious.

Here is an interesting video on the impact of batteries on the environment:

Why You Would Not Want A Rechargeable Flashlight

The biggest drawback of a rechargeable flashlight is the case where you expend your charge and you may be out and not have the means to recharge it. For this reason I try to avoid flashlights with specialty or proprietary chargers or charging cables, and choose ones with USB cables instead. Time is also a factor, as rechargeable flashlights can take hours to charge properly

It can also be noted that primary cell (disposable, non-rechargeable) Lithium batteries do hold up better in cold weather than rechargeable Li-On (Lithium Ion) or NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) batteries. This is of concern to me as I often use a torch in -20°C temperatures. If I’m working for extended periods in those temperatures I defer back to a Lithium Primary Cell powered light if I can. Also note that charging your rechargeable batteries in freezing temperatures will likely damage them.

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

How to Choose the Right Rechargeable Flashlight

Questions to consider when choosing the best rechargeable flashlight for your purposes:

  • What will you be using it for?
  • How do you intend to charge it?
  • How long do you need the light to last for?
  • How frequently will you be using it?
  • How cold (or hot) is the climate you’ll be using it in?

What are the best uses for Rechargeable Flashlights?

Rechargeable flashlights can be used for almost any purpose that primary cell flashlights can, including.

  • Everyday Carry (EDC)
  • Household use
  • Outdoor work
  • Hiking/Camping
  • Reading
  • Power Outages
  • Signaling
  • Emergency Auto Kit
  • Search/Rescue
  • Self Defense
  • Flashlight Tag with the kids

What Sets Rechargeable Flashlights Apart?

There are several valid points to consider.

Purpose

Flashlights for EDC are going to have very different characteristics than one for Search and Rescue. Knowing your usage will help clarify other factors such as size and battery.

Charging

Knowing the purpose for your flashlight will also help dictate the best charging options for you. Cradles are good for flashlights that see frequent use like in my father-in-law’s truck yard. USB cables are more convenient and portable for travelers or someone who already has a lot of USB charged devices. Proprietary cables or chargers can be specially made to charge your flashlight might be faster than other options, but can be less portable than using a common USB cable.

Weather proofing

Again, knowing the purpose is everything here. Weatherproofing ratings vary from continual submersion (IPX8 standard) to disintegration on contact with water. Personally I prefer IPX7 (submerged to 10 meters for 30 minutes) or better, but I will not accept anything below IPX4 (protected against 5 minutes of splashing water) for my purposes.

My biggest water threats to my flashlights are use on a boat in a marine environment (where frankly if I drop it, it’s gone), and melting snow.

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

The Best Rechargeable Flashlights

Streamlight Stinger

Specs

  • 3 Modes from 200 to 800 Lumens
  • 8.85 inches long x 1.17 inch diameter
  • 12.8 ounces
  • Side and Tail switches
  • Wall charging cradle with 2nd battery charging

This light is a solid workhorse with few bells and whistles to get in the way.  The Stinger HL series provides a wider flood-like effect, brightening any room or workspace without focusing too much on throw distance.

The Nickel-metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery stick used by the Stinger is a solid performer in all weather and normal temperatures.  The wall-mount cradle keeps the light convenient and allows for charging a 2nd battery to take with you for continual use.

The size of the Streamlight Stinger gives a sure feel when working.

Pros

  • Wall mount cradle for light and spare battery
  • Wide-Beam flood effect
  • Easily replaceable battery

Cons

  • Not USB chargeable
  • Cannot use CR-123 Lithium cells

Pelican 7600

Specs

  • 3 Modes from 200 to 800 Lumens
  • 8.85 inches long x 1.17 inch diameter
  • 12.8 ounces
  • Side and Tail switches
  • Wall charging cradle with 2nd battery charging

This light is a solid workhorse with few bells and whistles to get in the way. The Stinger HL series provides a wider flood-like effect, brightening any room or workspace without focusing too much on throw distance.

The Nickel-metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery stick used by the Stinger is a solid performer in all weather and normal temperatures. The wall-mount cradle keeps the light convenient and allows for charging a 2nd battery to take with you for continual use.

The size of the Streamlight Stinger gives a sure feel when working.

Pros

  • Wall mount cradle for light and spare battery
  • Wide-Beam flood effect
  • Easily replaceable battery

Cons

  • Not USB chargeable
  • Cannot use CR-123 Lithium cells

ThruNite TC12

Specs

  • 5 modes from Firefly (0.5 Lumens) to Turbo (1100 Lumens)
  • 140mm long by 12.4mm diameter
  • Weight 87 grams (excluding battery)
  • Integrated Battery Capacity indicator
  • Waterproof to IPX8 standard (submersible to 2 meters)
  • Impact resistant to 1 meter drop

This guy is an absolute pocket rocket! 1100 lumens packed into 5.5 inches – incredible!

The ThruNite TC12 is conveniently rechargeable with a micro-usb interface. Be aware that there have been reports of users not able to recharge this torch with lower quality USB chargers.

This torch is waterproof to IPX8 standards, which makes is continually submersible to 2 meters.

The 18650 is a standard rechargeable battery in higher end flashlights and is replaceable with two Lithium CR-123A primary cells if needed.

Pros

  • Rechargeable USB interface
  • Can replace the rechargeable 18650 battery with two Lithium CR-123 cells
  • IPX8 Waterproof

Cons

  • Needs a higher amp USB charger

Nitecore P12

Specs

  • Four brightness modes from Low (1 Lumen) to High (1000 Lumens)
  • Three special modes (Strobe, SOS and Beacon)
  • 139mm long by 25.4mm diameter
  • 88 grams (without battery)
  • Side Switch and instant on Tail Switch
  • Integrated voltage indicator
  • Waterproof to IPX8 standards (submersible to 2 meters)

This little powerhouse is waterproof to the IPX8 standard, which means it’s continually submersible to the manufacturers standard of 2 meters. I wouldn’t use it as a dive light, but that kind of durability is a plus.

The P12 has 7 modes of illumination with an intelligent memory function to store your favorite setting.

This torch maintains the same 1 inch width (diameter) along the entire body, meaning it does not have a flared head that is larger than the handle. This makes it easier for Every Day Carry (EDC) in your pocket.

One note on the Nitecore P12 is that it does come with a USB powered charger, and the torch itself cannot be charged with a USB cable.

The Nicecore P12 uses the 18650 rechargeable battery which can be swapped for 2 Lithium CR-123A primary cells if needed.

Pros

  • Can use CR-123A cells if necessary
  • Suitable for EDC
  • Non-rolling bezel
  • Tail Stand capable

Cons

  • Requires a USB powered charger

Nitecore TM36

Specs

  • 5 brightness modes from Low
    (50 Lumens) to Turbo (1800 Lumens)
  • Up to 1100 meters of throw distance (over 1 Kilometer!)
  • 10.94 inches long by 3.54 inches in diameter at the head
  • 47.4 ounces (almost 3 pounds!)
  • Integrated display for battery, mode, temperature status and more
  • Waterproof to IPX8 standard (submersible to 2 meters)
  • 1.5 meter impact resistant

The ‘TM’ stands for Tiny Monster, and the Nitecore TM36 lives up to the name. If you need a rechargeable searchlight in your hand this is one to consider at a whopping 1800 lumens with a throw distance of 1100 meters – over 1 Kilometer of throw!

At almost 3 pounds this is a sizeable torch that comes with a shoulder strap to lighten the load. There is also a fitting which allows it to be mounted on a standard tripod.

An integrated microprocessor and LED screen tells you exactly what the mode, charge and remaining run time status is at a glance.

This torch uses a NBP52 battery pack with the same capacity as eight rechargeable 18650 cells. The TM36 uses a non-standard charging cable and does not have a USB charging port but does provide the option to charge the battery pack separately from the light allowing you to charge multiple battery packs if needed.

Waterproof to the IPX8 standard, this torch is rated for continuous submersion to two meters.

Pros

  • Extremely bright and powerful
  • Long throw at over 1 Km on high
  • Integrated LED screen

Cons

  • Long charge time – around 8 hours
  • Not USB chargeable

Conclusion

For general use, my pick for the Best Rechargeable Flashlight is the Pelican 7600. It hits all of my requirements for carry ability and size, brightness, versatility of red and green light, convenient recharging via USB cable and ability to use lithium cells in a pinch. While all of the picks are good, this one has the best value in my opinion.

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