Factors to Consider When Choosing Camping Flashlights
Not all flashlights are created equal. That’s pretty apparent as you browse around looking for the ideal camping flashlight; they range in price from a few bucks to $100+ dollars. It can be tough to decide which choice will be best for you, but if you keep the following factors in mind you should be able to find a suitable model that fits within your budget; fortunately there’s a number of reliable flashlights that won’t break the bank.
Most of us have experienced the unpleasantness of using an ultra-dim flashlight at some point in our lives. If you haven’t, you’re lucky. Flashlight brightness is often marketed in terms of lumens. What’s a lumen, you ask? It’s “the SI unit of luminous flux, equal to the amount of light emitted per second in a unit solid angle of one steradian from a uniform source of one candela.” Which is a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo. Basically what you need to know is the more lumens a flashlight puts out, the brighter it is. A bright flashlight is nice, but you won’t usually need a massive amount (2000 lumens is often a bit bright and can create a “hot spot” where the light hits, which can make distinguishing what you’re point the light at a bit tricky). Generally for most purposes, 300 to 1000 lumens is more than adequate. Anything below and you’ll have a dull light that doesn’t do much good.
Flashlights vary widely in size, they range all they way from tiny keychain lights and those that are the size of a stick of lip balm; others can be made of heavier metals and be the size of your forearm. Most small-to-mid-sized lights will be ideal when you’re camping, you don’t want holding your flashlight to be a chore when you’re out exploring or looking for firewood after dark. There’s no right or wrong size or weight, but we factored in size and weight when choosing the 7 best flashlights for camping (below), so if you go with any of the options presented you should have no issues with portability.
Some flashlights are flimsy and cheap feeling, while others are nearly indestructible. As you can imagine, the less-sturdy lights tend to be cheaper, and the more solidly-built models are usually a bit pricier. This comes down to budget at your needs. If you’re going to be enjoying the water (floating a river, canoeing, camping out by a lake, etc.) it’s wise to invest in a waterproof flashlight (which many higher-grade flashlights are). If you’re hiking or rock-climbing, there’s more of a chance you may drop your flashlight, so you want to be sure it can withstand a tumble, especially on rocky terrain. Fortunately, there are some $20-$30 flashlights that are dependable enough, and many of the $50+ flashlights should have no problems taking a bit of a beating.
A flashlight is pretty useless if it doesn’t have the juice it needs to generate light, so it’s important that you plan ahead no matter what type of flashlight you have. No matter which type of flashlight you pack, it’s a good idea to pack at least one backup, and ideally with a different power source.
Traditional flashlights simply use batteries to generate power, and these are a great choice for any camping trips that are going to last for more than a night. Be sure to bring several extra batteries–a good rule of thumb is to bring enough batteries to do a complete swap each day (so if your flashlight takes two AA batteries and you’re going on a 3-night camping trip, bring 6 extra batteries). You likely won’t need to use most of these backups, but better to be safe and enjoying light than sorry and fumbling around in the dark.
Some flashlights don’t take any batteries at all, and only have a rechargeable battery pack. That sounds great on paper–batteries aren’t exactly cheap, and saving money is always nice. Unfortunately, unless you’re 100% sure you’ll have access to reliable power throughout your camping trip, you may wind up with a chunk of metal (or plastic) instead of a flashlight before the trip is over. If you’re bringing a rechargeable flashlight with you, it’s a great idea to bring along a backup flashlight with a different type of power source, just in case.
Shake flashlights, also known as Faraday flashlights or linear induction flashlights, are handy to have, but not very bright. They’re great because you’re guaranteed a light source. They’re not so great because the light you get is going to be weak, no matter how much you shake it. In addition, if you’re exhausted from a long trek or some other camping activity, the last thing you want is to get an arm workout because you need some light. These are great as a secondary or tertiary backup choice.
Solar-powered flashlights sound great on paper, and they’re handy to have… unless it’s cloudy, or if it runs out of the power its collected before the night is over. Sure, they’ll still charge when there’s cloud coverage, but they won’t charge as fast or as well. A solar-powered light, like a shake light, is a great backup option, but it’s not recommended to bring one as a primary flashlight.
A flashlight has one main job to do: create light so you can see. So, if you have a flashlight that does this, you’re set. However, many flashlights (especially nicer models) have multiple flashlight modes. These modes usually include low, medium, and high settings. Using the low or medium setting is a good way to conserve power and, depending on the overall output the flashlight produces, will be adequate in most scenarios (and its nice to have the high option for when you’re trying to see farther away). Some of the nicer models may include one or two extra modes, which may be nice, but aren’t really necessary. A common one is a strobe light feature. We’ve never been in an instance where that would come in handy, but if you’re trying to signal for help it might catch someone’s eye, maybe? (Though waving a flashlight with a normal beam would probably do the trick equally well.) It could also be handy if you’re planning a rave party in the woods. Some also have an SOS mode, which is what the strobe light mode probably should be–that mode could literally be a lifesaver in a scenario where you need help.
Flashlights can cost anywhere from a few bucks to hundreds of dollars, so it’s important to set a realistic budget. We can tell you up front: $5 flashlights aren’t going to cut it for camping. They may work semi-decently for a bit, but they tend to fizzle out and stop working when you need them most. Fortunately there are some sub-$20 flashlights that are reliable and long lasting, and we’ll look at them below. If you can swing $100 or more for a light, you can look at flashlights in the highest tier, though there are plenty of great sub $100 choices that won’t let you down.
Camping Flashlight Reviews
Supernova Guardian 1300XL Tactical LED Flashlight
If you want to get both durable and bright flashlight for your camping trips, Supernova Guardian 1300XL will be an excellent choice. Firstly, it provides up to 1300 lumens of light, allowing this LED flashlight to deliver illumination at up to 275 meters!
When it comes to functionality, 1300XL also shines (no pun intended) as it has 5 light modes: low, medium, high, strobe, and SOS. The SOS mode isn’t a thing that you see in flashlights that often, and it is certainly useful for camping.
1300XL is also rather durable, with its aircraft-grade aluminum alloy finish making it strong and its waterproof casing protecting it from water.
Supernova kindly includes 2 rechargeable AA batteries with 1300XL instead of one, making this flashlight a great value. Furthermore, the manufacturer additionally includes 3 AAA alkaline batteries, plus a conversion case for them.
- Great value for the price.
- 275 meters of lighting distance.
- Waterproof and durable.
- 5 light modes.
- 2 rechargeable AA and 3 AAA alkaline batteries + adapter included.
- Remote pressure switch included.
- 5-year limited warranty.
- The light button tends to get stuck.
Streamlight Stinger 75832 DS LED Flashlight
If you are looking for a flashlight for up-close use, then Stinger 75832 DS LED flashlight could be a perfect choice for you. This flashlight features a build quality that is much superior to that of the 1300XL, albeit Stinger’s flashlight is less powerful. We are speaking about almost 1000 lumens of difference between the two models: this one only delivers 350 lumens at the max settings. That won’t be a problem if you don’t need to have a light on for long distances though.
In terms of convenience, Stinger 75832 is great thanks to its rubber grip. This flashlight also features 4 light modes: low, medium, high, and strobe. Remarkably, Streamlight backs up this flashlight by a lifetime warranty. However, bear in mind that the build quality makes this flashlight quite pricey.
- Great for short-distant use.
- 4 light modes.
- Water-resistant and durable.
- Convenient rubber grip.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Only 350 lumens of light delivered.
- Quite pricey.
Streamlight 75458 Stinger DS LED Flashlight
Stinger 75458 differs from the previous Stinger flashlight in terms of its power: it delivers up to 800 lumens of light. Needless to say, the price of this Stinger is also higher. Its battery life is quite similar to the previous Stinger model though, in spite of the noticeable brightness difference.
Aside from the brightness, 75458 is pretty much identical to the other Stinger model. It has the same excellent durable and water-resistant construction. Paired with the rubberized grip, the case of this LED flashlight makes for a solid and comfortable product. And yeah, the limited lifetime warranty applies to this flashlight as well.
- Quite powerful.
- 4 light modes.
- Water-resistant and durable case.
- Rubberized grip.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
ThruNite TN42 Thrower Flashlight
TN42 is maybe the most spectacular model on our reviews of the best camping flashlights. It is an ideal choice if you are looking for a very bright LED flashlight since it delivers insane 2000 lumens of light, which allows for a maximum lighting distance of 1550 meters.
ThruNite fit TN42 with 6 light modes: firefly, low, medium, high, turbo, and strobe. TN42’s battery can run for weeks on the lowest setting and for 1.5 hours on the turbo 2000-lumen mode.
Speaking of the batteries, ThruNite includes none with this flashlight, unfortunately. No charger as well. And this flashlight costs about 200 bucks as it is, mind you! The buyers of TN42 praise it highly though and don’t regret spending the money on the flashlight, its batteries, and the charger.
- Excellent build quality.
- Delivers up to 2000 lumens.
- 1550 meters of lighting distance.
- Knurled handle for firm grip.
- 6 light modes.
- No batteries or chargers included.
- A truly astronomical price.
Anker Bolder LC90 Super Bright Tactical Flashlight
LC90 is an excellent choice if you don’t wish to spend too much money on a flashlight. In spite of the low price tag, this flashlight still has a couple of things to surprise you with!
Firstly, it has a zoom feature which switches the width of the light beam between narrow and wide. Secondly, LC90’s battery can be charged via a USB port thanks to the included USB cable, which certainly greatly adds to this flashlight’s convenience.
LC90 also has the same light modes as the 1300XL we reviewed in the beginning, though this flashlight delivers a bit less light: 900 lumens at max, to be exact. And it should be noted that switching between the light modes is inconvenient with the LC90: it requires you to repeatedly and quickly push the on/off button, which isn’t as easy as it may seem.
- Adjustable beam width.
- 5 light modes.
- Good power.
- Charges via a USB port.
- Inconvenient mode switching.
Outlite A100 LED Flashlight
Outlite A100 LED flashlight is another good affordable option for camping. A100 is pretty similar to LC90 we reviewed previously, though it doesn’t have the USB-charging capability. Still, the about $10 lower price may attract some people more.
So what does A100 have to offer? Well, it has the same zooming feature and 5 modes present in LC90. It is likewise water-resistant as well. When it comes to brightness, A100 is pretty good, but don’t expect it to light objects from 600 feet (as claimed by Outlite).
As a little bonus, Outlite includes a small keychain flashlight with A100, as well as a battery with holder & tube, a charger, and a sling. The keychain flashlight could be very useful for you, but don’t expect much to come out of it.
- Adjustable beam width.
- Fairly good brightness.
- 5 modes.
- Not as bright as you may expect.
J5 Tactical V1-PRO LED Flashlight
And the last product on our reviews of best camping flashlights is suitable for those who want a durable yet affordable flashlight. V1-Pro by J5 Tactical is compact and very tough.
Delivering 300 lumens, V1-PRO is quite a bright flashlight as well. The manufacturer also claims that it can focus objects at distances of up to 600 feet, but that’s probably a bit exaggerated. Still, this flashlight should do good at short distances, especially given that it has the zoom feature that allows you to focus objects.
A nice feature of V1-PRO is that it has a belt clip, which could become useful if you like to keep your flashlight on your belt rather than in the pocket.
Unfortunately, no batteries or chargers come with this flashlight, which could slightly reduce its price advantage over some of the other flashlights we examined.
- Very affordable.
- Very sturdy build.
- Beam zoom feature.
- Inbuilt belt clip.
- No batteries or chargers included.
- 3 modes.