[UPDATED] What Are The Best Tactical Flashlights For EDC, Camping and Survival In 2019?

Tactical Flashlight Features Editor's Score Buy On Amazon

Tac9er Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight

  • Max Light Output: 900 lumens
  • Modes: High-Middle-Low-Strobe-SOS
  • Power source: 1 x 18650 rechargeable Li battery, USB charging capability
  • Weight: 6.34 oz
  • Impact Resistance: impact resistant up to 1.2m
  • Water Resistance: IP44 rating
  • Surefire G2X

    • Max Light Output: 320 lumens
    • Modes:single output, temporary on
    • Power source: 2 CR123A batteries
    • Weight: 4.48 oz
    • Impact Resistance: not specified by manufacturer
    • Water Resistance: not specified by manufacturer

    Fenix PD35

    • Max Light Output: 1000 lumens
    • Modes: Turbo, High, Mid, Low, Eco, Strobe
    • Power source: one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries
    • Weight: 4 oz
    • Impact Resistance: up to 1m
    • Water Resistance: IPX-8 standard rating, can stay underwater up to 2m for 30 minutes

    Helotex G4

    • Max Light Output: 1000 lumens
    • Modes: High, Low and Strobe
    • Power source: 2 CR123 batteries or a single 18650 rechargeable battery
    • Weight: 5.1 oz
    • Impact Resistance: not specified by manufacturer
    • Water Resistance: not specified by manufacturer

    Nitecore EC11

    • Max Light Output: 900 lumens
    • Modes: turbo, high, mid, low, ultra low, 3 flashing modes, and secondary red LED
    • Power source: CR123A, rechargeable RCR123A or IMR 18350 battery
    • Weight: 1.59 oz
    • Impact Resistance: impact resistant up to 1.5m
    • Water Resistance: IPX-8 standard rating, can stayunderwater up to 2m for 30 minutes

    J5 Tactical V1-Pro

    • Max Light Output: 300 lumens
    • Modes: high, low, strobe
    • Power source: 1 AA battery or 14500 rechargeable Li-ion battery
    • Weight: 2.4 oz
    • Impact Resistance: impact resistant up to 2.1m
    • Water Resistance: IPX-4 standard rating, can withstand water splash for up to 5 minutes

    SOG Dark Energy DE-06

    • Max Light Output: 687 lumens
    • Modes: high, mid, low, strobe, temporary on
    • Power source: 18650 rechargeable battery
    • Weight: 4.8 oz
    • Impact Resistance: not specified by manufacturer
    • Water Resistance: IPX-7 standard rating, can stay underwater up to 2m for 30 minutes

    SOLARAY PRO ZX-1

    • Max Light Output: 1200 lumens
    • Modes: high, medium, low, strobe, sos
    • Power source: Rechargeable 18650 Li-ion, AAA batteries
    • Weight: 5 oz
    • Impact Resistance: not specified by manufacturer
    • Water Resistance: not specified by manufacturer

    Rofis TR15

    • Max Light Output: 700 lumens
    • Modes: high, medium, low, strobe, beacon, sos
    • Power source: 14500 Li-ion rechargeable battery or 1 AA battery
    • Weight: 2.2 oz
    • Impact Resistance: Impact resistant to 1 meter
    • Water Resistance: IPX-8 standard rating, can stay underwater up to 2m for 30 minutes

    Olight S1 Baton

    • Max Light Output: 500 lumens
    • Modes: high, mid, low, moonlight and strobe
    • Power source: 1 CR123A or 1 RCR123
    • Weight: 2.9 oz
    • Impact Resistance: impact resistant up to 1.5m
    • Water Resistance: IPX-8 standard rating, can stay underwater up to 2m for 30 minutes

    We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: a tactical flashlight is an indispensable part of your EDC kit or bug out bag.

    Can you imagine surviving through a blackout without a reliable light strapped on your person? We sure can’t.

    The uses of a tactical flashlight go beyond survival, too. You can use it for all-around jobs at home or at work, law enforcement, emergency response and even for self-defense if the situation calls for it.

    You can’t deny the fact that a tactical flashlight is a must-have for every prepared individual. The question is: which tactical flashlight is the best one out there?

    That’s what we’re going to find out in this article, so read on!

    Hold Up, What’s Makes A Flashlight ‘Tactical’, Anyway?

    If you missed the memo and are not quite sure what a tactical flashlight is, here’s a quick refresher:

    Tactical flashlights are basically your everyday house torches…if these torches were on steroids.

    As the name suggests, tactical flashlights were initially made to help the police and military in tactical operations. They were often used in combat, mounted onto weapons or utilized to identify and apprehend perps. Like any good piece of tactical gear, however, these lights soon caught the attention of the general public and it was only a matter of time before they made their way to commercial markets and into the EDC kits of many a civilian.

    The biggest factor that sets tactical lights apart from their kitchen-drawer counterparts is their powerful light output. A tactical light can pack anywhere between 100 to 1000+ lumens and can reach distances of at least a hundred meters. In comparison, most household flashlights can only produce around 50-80 lumens at the maximum and can reach about several feet in beam distance.

    Tactical flashlights are also built like tanks. Most of them are made from sturdy materials like stainless steel, hard anodized aircraft grade aluminum and sometimes, proprietary polymers or special plastics.

    They’re also equipped with strike bezels that can be used for self-defense, breaking glass and the like.

    Ingress Protection (IP Rating)

    Depending on their Ingress Protection (IP) rating, tactical lights can also be water and impact resistant. Here’s a quick look into how they’re classified:

    IP rating chart
    photo from bluesea.com

    ANSI Standards

    Aside from IP ratings, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has also established standards for tactical lights. You’ll often find these icons on the packaging or specs sheet of any tactical light. Here’s a quick look at the common icons used:

    ANSI rating chart

    Things To Consider When Looking For A Tactical Flashlight

    Lots of factors come into play when searching for the perfect tactical flashlight. There are specs to look into, features to consider and of course, price points to evaluate.

    Here’s a short guide on what to look for when choosing a tactical flashlight:

    Purpose

    First things first: what are you using the tactical light for? A tactical flashlight is a pretty straight-forward tool, but you still need to consider its main purpose in your kit.

    Are you in law enforcement or the military? You probably know your thing and need a robust light that can handle some use and abuse. You might want something that can easily be clipped on a holster or mounted on weapons. Aggressive strike bezels can also be part of your checklist, should you use it for self-defense.

    If you’re a first responder, you might need a powerful yet long-lasting light that can help you identify threats, signal for help across long distances or aid in medical emergencies.

    If you’re an average Joe who just needs a reliable light for everyday fixes and chores, there are a lot of tactical lights that can fit the bill, too.

    Once you’ve identified the purpose of your tactical light, it will be easier to narrow down your choices and criteria further along the way.

    Weight and Size

    parts of the flashlight

    Tactical lights can come in various shapes and sizes, but you can roughly classify them into two categories: small tactical flashlights and large tactical flashlights.

    Here are the main differences between the two:

    Small Tactical Lights

    • Average length: About 1 to 3 inches
    • Average weight: About 1-4 oz
    • Shape: straight and slender, also marketed as micro/mini-flashlights or pen lights
    • Pros: lightweight, portable, can be clipped on key chains or fobs
    • Cons: tend to heat up easily, usually don’t have strike bezels
    • Preferred by: folks who travel frequently, wish to carry something light and discreet

    Medium to Large Tactical Lights

    • Average length: About 4-6 inches
    • Average weight: About 5-8 oz
    • Shape: straight handle with bulbous heads
    • Pros: great grip, don’t heat up easily, can be outfitted with sharp strike bezels
    • Cons: relatively heavier, may not be TSA-approved
    • Preferred by: those in the military, law enforcement, or people who need a light for heavy-duty jobs

    Light Output, Peak Beam Intensity, and Distance

    tactical flashlight, outdoors, beam distance

    When it comes to determining a tactical light’s brightness, lumen output is not everything— it’s actually just one slice of the pizza. You must also look into the light’s peak beam intensity (candela) and beam distance.

    Let’s break these factors down one by one:

    Max Light Output (Lumens)

    You’d see a lot of manufacturers throw the word “lumens” around, as if it’s the end all, be all of tactical lights.

    It’s actually not.

    By definition, lumens is the total quantity of visible light produced by a device. It’s how much light a flashlight puts out, regardless of direction.

    A lot of things can influence the light’s lumen output, such as:

    • the actual LED used
    • its power source
    • the light’s reflector

    That being said, even if your light has a really high max lumen output, its actual performance would still depend on these factors.

    Peak Beam Intensity (Candela)

    If lumens is all about the amount of light a device puts out, candela is all about the intensity. To be very specific, candela is a unit used to measure the intensity and focus of a particular beam.

    In terms of tactical flashlights, candela is usually measured by finding out how much light hits a 1-foot square area, 1 foot away from a wall at a 90-degree angle. The higher the candela, the more throw and focus you get from a light. On the flip side, if the candela is low, you get a more diffused, floody light output.

    Keep in mind that just because the light’s candela is high doesn’t mean that it’s the best light for you. A high candela may blind an attacker, but in threat assessment, it’s prone to shine an intense beam on one point and leave the rest in relative darkness.

    Lights with high peak beam intensity also burn through their power faster, so don’t forget to take that into consideration when choosing a tactical light.

    Beam Distance

    The ANSI describes beam distance as “a measure of how far away the light will usefully light up an object when its beam is focused optimally”. In plain English, that means the max distance at which the flashlight will give you the same amount of light produced by a full moon on a clear night.

    Beam distance is measured in meters and is closely related to the light’s peak beam intensity. The more focused the light, the farther its beam distance.

    Power Source

    Another thing to consider when looking for a tactical light is its power source. There are two ways to go about this: you can use rechargeable cells or opt for disposable, non-rechargeable ones.

    Non-rechargeable or disposable cells

    • Alkaline (AA, AAA, C or D batteries)
    • Lithium cells (CR123)

    Alkaline batteries are the cheapest and the most common. Disposable lithium cells, on the other hand, can be more expensive but are lighter and have a longer shelf life. Both cells work well with devices that only require small amounts of power. They’re not very efficient when used with high-draining devices, though.

    Rechargeable or reusable cells

    • Li-ion 18650
    • RCR123A

    Rechargeable batteries tend to be expensive upfront, but they could be beneficial in the long run. They work well with high-drain devices, like flashlights with really powerful lumen outputs and high peak beam intensities. These batteries can be recharged for hundreds of times before they’re rendered unusable.

    USB-Charging Capability

    tac9er flashlight USB chargingUSB charging is one of latest innovations in tactical flashlight technology. These flashlights are usually powered by 1 18650 rechargeable lithium battery and come with a USB cord.

    With this unique and versatile feature, you don’t have to worry about running out of power; you can plug your flashlight into any USB-compatible device like a laptop, portable power bank or vehicle.

    Light Modes And Special Features

    Each light has its own set of modes and special features. Some people prefer lights that have a lot of output options, while some want to keep things straight-forward and simple.

    Here are the light modes available in most tactical flashlights today:

    • Single output – this can’t be more simple: you can turn the light on and off. Most single output tactical lights give around 100-300 lumens
    • Low to mid – used for general tasks such as reading, looking for stuff in the dark, camping, bushcraft and other activities.
    • High mode – can be used to shine light across long distances, for distress signals and tp blind perpetrators
    • Strobe and SOS functions – useful for distress signals, limited visibility (ie biking at night or driving through foggy roads), and self-defense.

    Aside from the usual light output functions, modern tactical flashlights are also made with other special features:

    • heads that can be rotated at an angle
    • adjustable focus
    • magnetic bottoms
    • safety locks that prevent turning the light on accidentally
    • standby modes
    • battery indicators
    • memory functions

    How We Did Our Review

    There are literally hundreds of lights out there, each promising different functionalities. Choosing the right one that fits your needs can be a tricky job, so, naturally, we took it upon ourselves to find out which tactical flashlight is worth your while.

    We looked at dozens of products, pored over hundreds of reviews and testimonials from people from all walks of life. We gathered dozens of insights before narrowing our list down to the top 10. Once we got the flashlights on hand, we compared them side by side and weighed each light’s pros and cons.

    We then subjected them to rigorous performance tests.

    Floors were chipped, some paint jobs were nicked and more than a dozen non-rechargeable batteries met their maker (or the trash can, in this case). In the end, we determined that even the best lights aren’t created equal.

    We documented it all in the reviews below:

    The Top 10 Best Tactical Flashlights

    Tac9er Rechargeable Tactical LED Flashlight

    tac9er rechargeable flashlight, camping

    Quick Specs

    Max light output: 900 lumens
    Modes: High-Middle-Low-Strobe-SOS
    Power: 1 rechargeable Li battery, USB charging capability

    Pros:

    • Can be recharged via USB (can be charged in the car, laptop, power bank, etc)
    • Brighter CREE XM-L2 U3 LED light source
    • 350m max beam distance
    • Doesn’t heat up easily
    • Affordable price point

    Cons:

    • slightly heavier than other lights

    Our Review:

    Despite being the new kid on the block, Tac9er’s Rechargeable Tactical LED Flashlight is already soaring past the other tactical lights in this list.

    tac9er tactical flashlight, 18650 rechargeable battery, USB cord

    There’s a lot to love about this latest offering from Tac9er, but what really makes this light stand out is its USB charging capability. This tactical flashlight comes with its own 18650 rechargeable lithium battery and micro USB cord, so you can simply plug it to your car, laptop, or portable power bank to recharge. With an adapter, you can also plug it into the usual power outlet. With the Tac9er’s versatile power options, you don’t have to worry about running out of juice ever again.

    This light is insanely bright. It’s equipped with the latest CREE XM-L2 U# LED and can reach a max light output of 900 lumens. Overheating is not a problem either. You can keep the light on its highest setting for 20 straight minutes before it starts getting warm.

    Toggling between its 5 modes is a breeze, too. Some lights in this list had really hard tail switch buttons, but this one had the perfect kind of sensitivity. You won’t accidentally turn it on, but going through its different modes isn’t difficult either.

    At around 6 ounces, this is one of the bigger and heavier lights on our list, but it’s still got a comfortable, reassuring weight. The texture and grip feel great in the hand too.

    Maybe the only downside to this light is that its strike bezels aren’t really that prominent. Still, it’s made with a tough aerograde aluminum body, so you can still use it for self-defense should the need arise.

    Overall, we found the Tac9er Rechargeable Tactical LED Flashlight to be pretty impressive. The best part is it’s available at a really affordable price point. You don’t have to spend a small fortune just to get your hands on a high-quality, innovative light like this one.

    Surefire G2X

    surefire tactical flashlight

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 320 lumens
    Modes: single output, temporary on
    Power: 2 CR123A batteries

    Pros:

    • 320-lumen single output
    • permanent and temporary on features
    • doesn’t heat up
    • solid Nitrolon polymer body
    • tough polycarbonate window
    • comes in 3 other colors and can be painted

    Cons:

    • single output only—no other modes available

    Our Review:

    Just because a light doesn’t have a lot of fancy bells and whistles doesn’t mean it’s less functional than the others.

    The Surefire G2x is a no-frills, single output light that’s often mounted onto rifles, but it can definitely be used as an EDC device as well. It’s light and compact, with a nitrolon polymer body, Mil-SPEC aluminum bezeled head, and a polycarbonate window. The polymer makes the light sturdy and virtually impervious to extreme temperatures. During our heat test, only its aluminum head began to warm up, but the rest of the body remained cool as a cucumber. It also passed our drop test without a single chip or scratch.

    surefire tactical light bezels

    The nitrolon gives the light a matte finish, but it’s got enough texture on the body to keep it from slipping or dropping from your hands. The light has bezels on the head, but they don’t look like they’ve got too much bite. The light is, however, very bright, so you can use its powerful 320 lumens to stun any potential perps instead. It’s the only light in this list to come in 3 other colors: orange, yellow and green. Painting a camouflage pattern onto the light is possible as well.

    surefire tactical flashlight

    The G2x is basically the embodiment of the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle: it’s got permanent and momentary-on functions that you can access through its tail switch. You can also move between these two modes by twisting the light’s tail cap. It can be kept on for long periods of time without a hitch as the light’s output hardly decreases even after several minutes of continued use.

    The Surefire G2x is proof that a good light doesn’t have to be complicated. This straightforward tactical light does its job and does it so well, it deserves a spot in an EDC kit.

    Fenix PD35

    fenix PD35 tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 1000 lumens
    Modes: Turbo, High, Mid, Low, Eco, Strobe
    Power: one 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries

    Pros:

    • 1000 lumen max output
    • 6 output modes
    • Has dual switch (tailswitch and sideswitch)
    • Comes with holster, 2 non-rechargeable batteries, lanyard, and O-rings
    • sleek and slender design
    • doesn’t heat up quickly

    Cons:

    • high price point at $70

    Our Review:

    Like the G4 below, the Fenix PD35 also boasts a maximum of 1000 lumens at its highest setting, but it’s much pricier at a little over $70. Many owners of the PD35 (the 663 individuals who rated it 5 stars on Amazon, to be exact) would, however, agree that it’s worth every penny.

    The package comes with a holster, 2 non-rechargeable CR123A batteries, a lanyard and a couple of spare O-Rings. In our opinion, you can do without the holster since it isn’t really of the best make. The light comes with a clip anyway, so you can conveniently put it on your belt or stow it in your pocket.

    fenix PD35 tactical flashlight bezels

    That being said, the Fenix is lighter at around 4 ounces and is far more slender than most lights in this list. It fits great in the hand; nothing clunky about this light at all. Because of its slim shape and high peak beam intensity, the light gives a really impressive throw. And despite being slender, the Fenix doesn’t heat up as much as the other lights in this list. It started getting warm at the bulb at around 20 minutes, but the rest of the body barely heated up.

    What we love about this light is that it’s got 6 features (turbo, high, mid, low, eco and strobe) and two switches: one on the tail and another on the side.

    The tail switch works smoothly and has a momentary-on function. The stainless steel side switch is used for toggling between modes.

    Fenix PD35 tactical flashlight, sideview

    The side switch is definitely a winner— it’s ergonomic and makes for a more convenient experience. Pressing the side switch for a second will let you move between turbo, high, mid, low, and eco while pressing it for a couple more will get you to strobe.

    Overall, it’s pretty safe to say that the Fenix has the best of both worlds: its slender design makes it easy to carry and its performance, ergonomic build, and functionality can definitely match those of the bigger lights out there.

    Helotex G4

    helotex g4 tactical flashlight, camping, outdoors

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 1000 lumens
    Modes: High, Low and Strobe
    Power Source: 2 CR123 batteries or a single 18650 rechargeable battery

    Pros:

    • 1000 Lumen CREE XM-L2 LED
    • Tri-mode (High, Low, Strobe)
    • Runs on 2-CR123 or 1-18650 button top battery
    • Runtime 72+ hours on low power setting
    • Aircraft spec 6063 T-6 anodized aluminum body with O-ring seals
    • Comes with an attachable clip
    • G4 never appeared to overheat and stayed cool until end of the test
    • Emits cool white light

    Cons:

    • Runtime 2.75 hours on high power setting
    • Tapping the light to switch through modes is very sensitive and feels awkward

    Our Review:

    People who want a sturdy tactical light will love the Helotex G4. The light is made of 6063-T6 aircraft aluminum alloy and it shows because the G4 is built like a tank.

    Despite being only 5.5 inches long, the light has a nice, solid weight. It’s got a tough build but it’s not too bulky, either. The G4 comes with a clip, so you can conveniently attach it to your belt, but it can definitely fit in a pocket or EDC kit, too. The manufacturer doesn’t indicate the light’s impact resistance rating, but dropping it from a height of 1 meter did nothing to damage the light. If anything, the G4 ended up chipping the floor. The light also comes with a bezeled head that’s as solid as the rest of its body. It can definitely be used for self-defense.

    helotex g4 tactical flashlight bezels

    The light can be powered by 2 CR123 batteries or a single 18650 rechargeable cell. Based on our experience, the latter works better than the former. Given its high 1000 lumen max output, it can only run for a little less than 3 hours on its highest setting. Running it on low will make it last for around 72 hours. What we love most about the G4 is that while it’s got a powerful max output, it never overheats. We ran it on its highest setting for 45 minutes straight and were pretty impressed that the light kept its cool until the end of the test.

    The G4 emits a cool white light temperature, with the slightest blue tint on its spill.

    helotex g4 tactical flashlight tailswitch

    The light has low and strobe modes that you can switch to from the tail. Now, as much as we like the light’s sturdy build and its ability not to overheat, we’re not big fans of its tail-switch. Turning the light on and off is easy enough, but switching through modes requires a tap so light it comes off as awkward and difficult. That being said, cycling through its modes takes a while to get used to.

    All in all, the G4 is tough as nails. It’s a solid light that does its job pretty well, but its tail-switch could use a bit of improvement.

    Nitecore EC11

    nitecore ec11 tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 900 lumens
    Modes: turbo, high, mid, low, ultra low, 3 flashing modes, and secondary red LED
    Power Source: CR123A, rechargeable RCR123A or IMR 18350 battery

    Pros:

    • 900-lumen max output
    • secondary red LED output
    • 20 hrs runtime on low
    • versatile power options (runs on disposable CR123A and rechargeable RCR123A or IMR 18350)
    • dual switch design
    • comes with clip, O-rings, and batteries
    • great texture and anti-roll features
    • smart energy-saving mode
    • standby mode

    Cons:

    • easily heats up after several minutes on turbo
    • only 30-45 min runtime on turbo

    Our Review:

    At 3 inches and just under 2 ounces, the Nitecore EC11 is one of the smallest lights on this list. But don’t count it out just yet: the EC11 arguably has the most light output features out of all the contenders.

    The Nitecore EC11 is tiny and could easily fit in the palm of your hand. If you’re a fan of big lights and want something a bit heftier, the EC11 might not be the best fit for you. Despite its tiny size, however, it has great texture and anti-roll features.

    nitecore ec11 tactical flashlight bezels

    The light’s package comes with a holster and lanyard that both look sturdy enough. It also has a detachable clip, a couple of spare O-rings and 2 IMR 18350 Batteries. Note that this light can also run on CR123A and RCR123A batteries, so you have quite versatile power options.

    Tiny as it is, the light packs a maximum output of 900 lumens on turbo. Aside from that, one can cycle through high, mid, low, ultra low plus SOS and strobe. And then there’s the secondary red-light LED feature that comes in handy during emergencies and also flashes in standby mode so you can find the light in total darkness.

    The EC11 doesn’t have a tail-switch; instead, it’s got a dual side switch that does its job pretty well. The first button is used to turn the light on or off— it has a memory feature and saves the last mode selected. Pressing the power button for one second allows you to enter instant low mode; pressing it for more than one second while the light is still on enables a standby mode.

    nitecore ec11 tactical flashlight sideswitch

    During standby mode, the red light flashes every three seconds. This lets you find the EC11 even when it’s totally dark out. It’s an awesome proactive idea, given that the light is so tiny and could most likely get lost or misplaced during use. The standby mode can last for as long as 6 straight days.

    The second button lets you cycle through the light’s five modes. Pressing the mode button for one second instantly takes you to turbo mode.

    Like most small lights, its greatest downside to the EC11 is overheating. The light has a smart setting that automatically adjusts its output. This is to prevent it from draining juice. This setting does work— the light’s output decreases significantly from turbo to low at around 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the light starts getting warm 3 minutes into its highest setting. By the 5 minute mark, it gets pretty hot and is uncomfortable to hold.

    nitecore ec11 tactical flashlight, solaray tactical flashlight, size comparison
    The size difference between the Nitecore EC11 and the Solaray tactical flashlight

    The light is undeniably packed with so many features. It might not be the best light for those who want something bigger, but it’s great as an everyday carry device, especially for people who want a reliable light that can easily be stowed inside a pocket, purse, glove compartment or EDC bag. It might not have very large bezels, but it sure can momentarily stun someone if you wish to use it for self-defense.

    We don’t recommend going on full turbo for more than 10 minutes, though. This is to conserve energy and well, to prevent your hands from getting burnt.

    J5 Tactical V1-Pro

    j5 tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 300 lumens
    Modes: high, low, strobe
    Power: 1 AA battery or 14500 rechargeable Li-ion battery

    Pros:

    • affordable at $13
    • 300-lumen max output
    • 3 output modes: high, low and strobe
    • runs on AA battery or 14500 rechargeable
    • solid and robust aerograde aluminum body
    • adjustable zoom feature

    Cons:

    • paint can chip after multiple uses
    • alkaline batteries have shorter life span

    Our Review

    There are three things that make the J5 special: first, it runs on a single AA battery. Second, this light is the cheapest on the list at less than $15. Third, it’s got 13,457 rave reviews on Amazon, 3/4 of which are 5-star ratings. So, how does a cheap, alkaline battery-powered light get crazy good reviews from thousands of customers? Let’s break it down.

    First, the J5 packs a punch with its 300-lumen max output. Sure, it’s nowhere near the 1000 lumens of some lights in this list, but how many of them are powered by a single AA battery?

    j5 tactical flashlight, side clip, bezels

    The light is on the smaller side at only around four inches, but its weight and build are both pretty solid and robust. Some chipping on its paint job can be seen after the drop test, but other than its looks, it didn’t do any serious damage to the light itself. The J5 has great knurling and texture on its tiny body and comes with a clip. Its bezels are on the sharp side, so be careful not to take anyone’s eye out with it.

    The light has 3 modes— high, low and strobe— which you can access using the tailswitch. Aesthetically speaking, the said switch is…well, not nice to look at. It’s a nasty red color and sticks out like a sore thumb. However, it doesn’t affect the light’s performance. The switch works like a dream and lets you toggle flawlessly from one mode to another.

    j5 tactical flashlight tailswitch

    The light also has an adjustable focus feature– something quite uncommon in smaller lights— so we’re quite glad that the J5 has one. Zooming in or out is no problem and light output is still excellent, but it can be quite spilly.

    The AA batteries can actually hold their own; although AA batteries have a limited lifespan compared to their rechargeable kin, they still work great. The light never heated up after 45 minutes on continuous high mode. The test didn’t drain much of the light’s juice, either, so that’s a plus.

    So, with its price tag and ace qualities, it’s really no wonder why the J5 is a fan favorite. It has an excellent price-performance ratio and is a perfect light for those who want a reliable device without spending a small fortune.

    SOG Dark Energy DE-06

    SOG dark energy tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 687 lumens
    Modes: high, mid, low, strobe, temporary on
    Power: 18650 rechargeable battery

    Pros:

    • 687-lumen max output
    • 75 mins runtime on max
    • 32 hours runtime on low
    • sturdy anodized aluminum body
    • great knurling and bezels
    • comes with rechargeable batteries and charger

    Cons:

    • hard to press tailswitch
    • heats up fast
    • high price point at $107

    Our Review

    We all know that SOG can make good knives, but we also wanted to know if any of their flashlights were worthy to make the list.

    At around $110, the SOG Dark Energy is easily the most expensive light on this list. The package comes with its own rechargeable 18650 lithium battery and charger. The light— with its twisted, bezeled head and textured 6061-T6 aluminum body— looks tough and foreboding in an aesthetically pleasing way. In other words, it’s darn pretty for a tactical light.

    SOG dark energy tactical flashlight bezels

    The Dark Energy has a really great grip and build. It’s not too small at around 6 inches but its body is slim and feels good in the hand. It’s less bulky than both Anker and Solaray, described below, but has better knurling and body texture. Its bezels are smaller and less pronounced compared to the two lights as well. After the drop test, we saw some chipping around the tailswitch and the bezels, but no major damage done to the LED or windows.

    The light has momentary on, high, medium, low, and strobe options that you can go through using the single-button tailswitch.

    SOG dark energy tactical flashlight, tailswitch

    And that’s where the tiny issue comes in: the tail switch is kind of hard to press when you want to turn the light on or off.

    Switching from one mode to another is fine, but fully pressing the button to switch the light on or off is not a smooth experience. We wanted to chalk it up as an isolated case, or a user issue (perhaps we have really weak thumbs?) but a quick glance at user testimonials and reviews on Amazon reveals that other users have the same complaint. It’s not a major issue in the grand scheme of things, because the light is truly bright at a max 687 lumens and well-built.

    On the plus side, this also means that it would be difficult to accidentally turn this light on.

    SOG dark energy tactical flashlight

    What we love most about this SOG light is that its brightness really lasts a long time. At max, the light can last for 72 hours straight. After running it on its highest setting for 45 minutes, the light showed no signs of diminished output. However, this also meant it heated up faster than the other lights. At around 20 minutes in, it got uncomfortably toasty.

    Overall, it turns out that SOG not only makes good knives, they can also make functional tactical lights that are also easy on the eyes. While it has a tailswitch that needs a bit of work and a tendency to heat up, this light has solid functionality and can last a darn long time.

    SOLARAY PRO ZX-1

    solaray tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 1200 lumens
    Modes: high, medium, low, strobe, sos
    Power: Rechargeable 18650 Li-ion, AAA batteries

    Pros:

    • 1200 lumen max output
    • 5 light output modes
    • can run on rechargeable li-ion batteries or disposable AAA batteries
    • adjustable focus feature
    • doesn’t heat up fast

    Cons:

    • chipped bezels after drop test

    Our Review

    solaray tactical flashlight

    When it comes to size, the Solaray Pro ZX-1 is right up there with the Anker LC90 and SOG Dark Energy. It’s got an adjustable focus feature and is quite sizable at 6.2 inches when fully extended. Aside from being one of the biggest lights in this list, the ZX-1 also has one of the highest max light outputs at 1200 lumens.

    What we love about it is its adjustable focus feature. It compliments the light’s high lumen output very well, making it more versatile and useful in many situations. The head zooms in and out without a hitch. When zoomed in, the light focuses into a single, powerful beam with really great throw. Zoomed out, the flood is even and bright. The light can be powered by 1 rechargeable lithium 18650 battery. It also comes with a sleeve so you can fit the 3 AAA cells.

    solaray tactical flashlight, bezels

    The light doesn’t heat up too much as well. It started getting warm during the 15-minute mark, but it doesn’t get too hot after that.

    It’s got the standard 5 modes that you can find in most lights, namely: high, medium, low, strobe and SOS. Getting from one mode to another is smooth and easy with the tailswitch.

    The light itself has a nice weight and build but it could use a bit more knurling and bite in the grip. The bezels sustained a bit of chipping after the drop test.

    Rofis TR15

    rofis tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 700 lumens
    Modes: high, medium, low, strobe, beacon, SOS
    Power: 14500 Li-ion rechargeable battery or 1 AA battery

    Pros:

    • 700-lumen max output
    • 3 brightness levels (high, mid, low)
    • 3 special modes (strobe, SOS, beacon)
    • head is adjustable up to 90 degrees
    • magnetic bottom
    • submersible for up to two meters
    • not prone to overheating

    Cons:

    • 1 hr 15 mins runtime on high
    • 6.7 hrs runtime on low
    • alkaline batteries don’t last long

    Our Review

    At only 3.8 inches in length, the Rofis TR15 is one of the smallest in this list.

    Like it’s small cousin, the J5, the Rofis can run on a rechargeable 14500 and on a standard AA. But that’s where the similarity ends: unlike the J5, the TR15 is smooth and sleek, has a higher max output at 700 lumens and is priced significantly higher at $40.

    rofis tactical flashlight

    The Rofis is small enough to be stowed in a pocket, purse, EDC kit or clipped onto a belt. What’s great about it is that although it’s on the smaller side, it’s got a pretty substantial weight and texture. The light can withstand use and abuse, too: it’s impact resistant up to 1 meter (looked good as new after the drop test) and is submersible for up to 2 meters.

    It’s easy to cycle through modes— you just have to press the side-switch to move through low, high and medium. Clicking thrice will bring you to strobe and from there you can press for more than 1 second to go through SOS and beacon. What’s the difference between SOS and beacon, you might ask? Not much, really. Both are used for signaling, but the latter blinks three consecutive times, pauses and then repeats the blinking pattern.

    Max light output can diminish after several minutes using the AA batteries. On the plus side, it doesn’t overheat.

    rofis tactical flashlight

    What’s unique about the TR15 is that its head can be adjusted to a 90-degree angle, and its bottom is magnetic. This means you can stick the light to any metallic surface. You can work hands-free on tasks such as plumbing, car repairs and the like.

    Overall, the TR15 is pretty unique and has really good ergonomic features. It’s only got 5 reviews on Amazon, but all of them are for 5 stars, so that’s still saying something.

    Olight S1 Baton

    olight s1 baton tactical flashlight, outdoors, camping

    Quick Specs:

    Max Light Output: 500 lumens
    Modes: high, mid, low, moonlight and strobe
    Power: 1 CR123A or 1 RCR123

    Pros:

    • 500 max lumen output
    • 5 light output modes (high, mid, low, moonlight and strobe)
    • magnetic bottom
    • overheat protection

    Cons:

    • turbo mode only lasts 1.5 minutes before output diminishes by 50%

    Our Review

    So, here’s the question with the Olight S1: are you willing to shell out 45 bucks for a light that’s no bigger than a grown man’s pinky?

    At barely 2.37 inches, the S1 is both the smallest flashlight Olight has produced and is also the smallest light on this list. It’s slightly smaller than the EC11 and can be powered by a single CR123A or RCR123 battery.

    The package comes with a spare O-ring and a wrist strap. The light also has a clip and sports a magnetic bottom so you can stick it to metal surfaces especially when you need two hands to do a job.

    olight s1 baton tactical flashlight

    The S1 Baton may be tiny but it has an impressive 500 lumens max output on it. It’s impressively bright for a light this small. You can switch between high, medium and low by pressing the side switch for more than one second. Pressing it 3 times will get you to strobe. Overheating, as always, is an issue in small lights, and this one is no exception. You’ll feel the warmth in around 4 minutes and since the light is so tiny, there won’t be much room for your hands to adjust. The S1 also doesn’t have any bezels for self-defense.

    As far as small flashlights go, this one can easily find a home in someone’s purse, bag or pocket as an EDC. It’s also great for travel. It’s got excellent light output and is definitely handy, but is quite limited in terms of features.

    You have to know what you’ll need the tactical flashlight for from the get-go. From there, you can then fine-tune your criteria, know what features to look for and narrow your choices down.

    Final Thoughts

    Tactical flashlights are some of the best EDC tools that one can carry. As long as you’ve got a tactical light on your person, you can assess an area for threats, signal for help during emergencies and disasters and even wield it as a self-defense weapon, if needed.

    All lights in this list are good, but the Tac9er Rechargeable LED Tactical flashlight really impressed us with its unique features. Its USB charging capability was a huge advantage; it provided the light with versatile power options. It’s got the best price-performance ratio out of all the lights on this list as well.

    The Surefire G2x is a worthy runner-up with its light yet sturdy nitrolon body. It’s a single output, no-nonsense light that does its job well.

    Another great light is the Fenix PD35 with its ergonomic tail and side switches

    We hope that this guide was helpful in presenting each light’s pros and cons. As a buyer and potential tactical flashlight owner, you should also have your own set of criteria that will help you in choosing the appropriate light. Again, it all goes down to what you need and which light can fill that role best.

    Which one was your best pick? Let us know in the comments below! If you liked this article, and don’t forget to share this with fellow preppers and outdoorsmen!

     

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