What is the Best Flashlight for Firefighters?

When running into a burning building full of heat, smoke and eventually water, you need the best and most reliable equipment. You are in a situation where your gear simply cannot fail you. Read on to see my picks for the best flashlight for firefighters.

Here’s a quick list of the best flashlights for firefighters

Factors to consider for your lighting gear

Your needs are definitely not the same as others looking for lighting gear.

Beam Shape

Flashlights generally come in either wide beam, spotlight or narrow beam, adjustable, or a hybrid. I would avoid an adjustable beam as you just don’t have the time to fiddle with it on scene. A wide beam will light the area improving your peripheral vision and situational awareness, but can scatter on the smoke and may actually work against you. A spotlight may give you reach with your light but everything will be focused on one point and may reduce your peripheral vision.

For beam shape you may consider a hybrid beam. This type of beam has a hot spot in the middle where most of the light output is focused, but has a wide beam that disperses the remaining light in a wider arc. This hybrid approach provides the focused light that you need while also providing enough light for your peripheral vision and situational awareness to navigate your immediate surroundings.

Beam Color

An amber or ‘warm white’ colored light has a longer wavelength than a blue or ‘cool white’ light. Blue lights are generally slightly brighter, but have a shorter wavelength and can scatter in smoke or fog. This can light up the smoke and obscure your vision instead of the object you are focusing on. You may find that a white or amber light has better performance than a blue light in a smoke filled environment.

Check out my Ultimate Guide to Flashlight Colors for more information on how important beam color, or beam tint, is when selecting a flashlight.

Gloved hand operation

When you are in a situation you don’t need to be fiddling with your gear. But just in case the need arises, large buttons, mounts or swivel heads which can be operated with a gloved hand enables you to manipulate your gear to adapt to your situation while keeping you protected.

Hands Free/Mountable on gear

Light your way while manning a hose or carrying someone out of a burning building – yea, I would say that is a good feature. Many lights can be mounted on helmets, either as a band or a secure mount on the side, while others have clips to attach to your turnout gear. Yet others can be slung over your shoulder or magnetically attached to steel.

Power (Rechargeable vs Primary Cell):

When you are on scene your gear simply needs to work. You don’t have time to fiddle with a dead flashlight. Using a rechargeable flashlight may work if it is convenient to keep charged and ready to go – and if you have time to get it from the charger if the call comes in. Lights with the ability to quickly change a primary cell are good for fixing power issues quickly on scene provided that you have the correct cells to do so. Having a box of ‘AA’ batteries in your truck doesn’t help you if your flashlight takes CR123 Lithium cells.

One way to have the best of both worlds is a dual-fuel flashlight. These flashlights have a rechargeable battery pack such as NiCd, NiMH or Li-Ion, and allow that pack to be changed out with primary Alkaline or Lithium cells. One common ‘swap’ you may see is the ability to exchange an 18650 sized rechargeable cell for 2x CR123 Lithium cells.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Flashlight Batteries and research the power source that best fits your needs.

The 5 best firefighter flashlights to consider for your kit.

Streamlight Fire Vulcan

The Streamlight Fire Vulcan is a handheld lantern that is much larger and brighter than your normal flashlight. It is surprisingly light for the size and easy to carry hands-free with the included quick-release shoulder strap. Blue LED lights in the rear help others see you through smoke and haze. The programmable switches allow for high or low steady beams, with or without the blue LED lights in the rear activated.

Specs

  • LED: C4 LED technology
  • Battery: 2x Li-Ion rechargeable batteries
  • Rechargeable: 120v AC/12v DC charger or vehicle mount charger
  • Durability: IPX7, submersible to 1 meter for 30 minutes
  • Beam Tint: Neutral White
  • Modes: 2 white light brightness modes
  • Switch: Toggle switch
  • Lumens: 180 Lumens (high), 80 Lumens (low)
  • Candela: 100,000
  • Beam Shape: Wide
  • Dimensions: 7.5” long x 5” wide
  • Weight: 1.85 lbs. With battery

Nightstick NSP4650-B

The Nightstick NSP4650-B is a small and durable helmet mounted light allowing for hands-free operation wherever you are pointing your head. There is also a smaller forward facing downward flood light on the underside of the flashlight to illuminate the immediate surroundings in front of you. This downward flood light is a very popular feature. The CR123 Lithium cells make it easy to swap on scene if they are discharged.

The Nightstick NSP4650-B is mounted with allen screws which may not be easily serviceable on a scene or in the field. It is also difficult to adjust in the field as needed, and laying a helmet on the light can easily mis-align the beam from where you set it. This helmet mount is the biggest complaint about the Nightstick.

Specs

  • Battery: 2x CR123 Lithium cells
  • Rechargeable: No
  • Durability: IPX7
  • Beam Tint: Neutral White
  • Modes: Flashlight Hi/Med/Low, Floodlight Hi/Med/Survival
  • Switch: Dual-switch top button
  • Lumens:
    • Flashlight: 220 Lumens, 100 Lumens, 30 Lumens.
    • Floodlight: 100 Lumens, 50 Lumens, 15 Lumens
  • Candela: 8,073
  • Throw: 183m
  • Beam Shape: Separate wide and narrow beam lights
  • Dimensions: 3.2 in (82mm) x 1.4 in (36mm)
  • Weight: 6.5 oz (184g)

Streamlight Knucklehead Spotlight

The Streamlight Knucklehead Spotlight is a 90 degree style of light with an adjustable head to direct your light beam wherever you need it. The Knucklehead has a number of mounting options including a spring-loaded clip to attach to turnout gear, a powerful rare-earth magnet for attaching to steel surfaces, and a flat bottom for setting on the ground or other surface.

The adjustable head and power switch are both easily operated with a gloved hand. The dual power source allows the unit to be powered by a NiCd battery pack or swapped with 4 ‘AA’ alkaline batteries on scene.

Specs

  • LED: C4 LED
  • Battery: 1 NiCd battery pack or 4 ‘AA” battery cells
  • Rechargeable: 12v DC rechargeable (120v AC rechargeable available as well)
  • Durability: IPX4
  • Beam Tint: Warm White
  • Modes: 3 light modes (High/Low/Midnight)
  • Switch: Push-button
  • Lumens: 180 Lumens, 55 Lumens
  • Candela: 11,000
  • Throw: 210m
  • Beam Shape: Narrow Beam
  • Dimensions: 9.2 in long x 2.8 in wide
  • Weight: NiCd 21.3 oz (655g), Alkaline 18.3 oz (519g)

Streamlight Survivor LED

The Streamlight Survivor is like a little brother to the Streamlight Knucklehead above. The Streamlight Survivor is a narrow beam 90 degree style flashlight that can be attached to your turnout gear with a spring clip or set on a flat surface.

The head is not adjustable like the Knucklehead and there is no magnetic attachment either, but there is beauty in the simplicity of this flashlight. The lower profile helps to keep it from being caught up in gear, and the beam has a higher candela rating which translates into a tighter beam than the Knucklehead.

Specs

  • LED: C4 LED
  • Battery: Rechargeable NiCd or 4 ‘AA’ batteries
  • Rechargeable: Rechargeable Cells
  • Durability: IPX4 water resistant
  • Modes: 3 brightness modes and strobe
  • Switch: Push-button
  • Lumens: 175 Lumens, 60 Lumens, Moonlight
  • Candela: 41,000cd
  • Throw: 405m
  • Beam Shape: Narrow Beam
  • Dimensions: 7.6 in. (17.92 cm) long
  • Weight: 18 oz. (510g) NiCd, 13.17 oz. (373g) Alkaline

Streamlight Vantage 180 X

The Streamlight Vantage 180 is another helmet mounted light. An adjustable head directs the light where you need it as the situation changes, and a rear blue LED provides your position to those behind you.

The Vantage 180 is mounted to the helmet via allen screws, but also has a quick disconnect that allows it to be easily removed and used as a handheld flashlight if needed.

A clip for attaching to turnout gear is also included. When used in this manner the blue rear LED doubles as a forward facing downcast light.

The different mounting options makes this light very versatile.

Specs

  • Battery: Rechargeable 18650 Li-Ion (longer run time) or 2x CR123A Lithium cells
  • Rechargeable: Rechargeable Cells
  • Durability: IPX7 waterproof for 1m for 30 minutes
  • Beam Tint: Neutral White
  • Modes: 2 brightness modes and downcast light mode when used as a 90 degree light
  • Switch: Push-button top switch
  • Lumens: 250 Lumens, 100 Lumens
  • Candela: 7200cd
  • Throw: 170m
  • Beam Shape: Narrow spot light with forward facing downcast light
  • Dimensions: 5.20 in. (13.20 cm) long
  • Weight:
    • 5.9 oz. (167g) with 18650 USB battery
    • 5.5 oz. (156g) with CR123A lithium batteries

What is the best Firefighter Flashlight?

My pick for the best Firefighter Flashlight is…all of them! OK, it may sound cheesy but in the end I cannot believe that a single light will fulfill all of the needs of a Firefighter. I can honestly say that I have never ran into a burning building, but I have had my life on the line a number of times. “Two is one, one is none” is a saying that I picked up somewhere and it rings true here.

You may want a Helmet Light (or two) like the Streamlight Vantage 180, a light for your turnout gear like the Streamlight Knucklehead or Survivor, and yet another one over your shoulder like the Streamlight Vulcan.

It’s obvious that Streamlight products dominate this list. Streamlight seems to have a sincere focus for providing high quality lights for Firefighters and other first responders. I don’t always recommend one brand over another, but for this niche I would say almost any Streamlight solution would be a solid choice.

Whichever you choose, choose the gear setup that works best for your needs.

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