Are you looking to brighten up your nights, or even the darker parts of your day? You could do worse than one of these five full-size flashlights.
Whether you thrive in the darkness like a tailless cave newt or fear it like…a horse(?), you need a flashlight. Human eyes don’t work so well at night, despite personal preference.
Before we shine a light (sorry) on these night-brighteners, I need to qualify what I mean by “full-size” flashlights. Basically, full-size is anything that isn’t a key-chain flashlight, the one on your phone, or anything else that’s really tiny. My rule of thumb is if you hold it with your hands and not your fingers, it’s eligible for this list.
I do also have a soft spot for big-stick flashlights you can hit stuff with (just in case 30 to 50 feral hogs come at ya), so those will feature heavily.
Best Overall: Streamlight ProTac HL4
As you can glean from its name, this is a flashlight professional, tactical flashlighters use when they need flashlights. If you’re after a beefy nightstick of a torch that’s brighter than a classic Maglite, this’ll do. The LED light source can shine at up to 2,200 lumens, so the ProTac HL4 is very bright indeed—over twice as bright as some of the full-size Maglites.
It’s also adjustable, so you can dim things down to a more reasonable (and battery-friendly) brightness level. Or, if you want to make someone sick, there’s a strobe light option to help you disorient them.
Just don’t drop it in the water! Just kidding—sink it one meter deep for up to 30 minutes if you feel like it. And it’s got a “dual fuel” system, so you can use either four lithium batteries or two rechargeables.
All this is encased in a rubber sleeve, which makes it both comfortable to hold and able to stop crime (or cause it, but don’t do that). In other words, you can hit stuff with it.
Best Budget: Outlite A100
It’s roughly the size of a smartphone, but I’m still calling the Outlite A100 a “full-size” flashlight. After all, at 6.22 inches, it’s too big for a key ring. It also has a scalloped bezel at the front, intended for striking things (people, presumably).
This little guy’s LED source gives off full-size light at 600 lumens. You can light up the whole backyard. You can also extend the telescopic body to create a searchlight perfect for bouncing off coyote tapeta lucida (the reflectors in spooky animal eyes that make them look like devils in flash photos).
It’s also so cheap, you’ll probably spend more on the batteries for it—except it only needs one AAA.
Best Premium: Streamlight 74751 Strion
I know what this looks like, and I promise you Streamlight isn’t paying me. They just make some popular, well-received flashlights.
This one—the Streamlight Strion—is no stranger to “best-of” lists. It also ain’t cheap, which is partially why it’s our best premium entry here (and elsewhere). Apart from that, it’s just a solid, rechargeable, shock-resistant, 615-lumen LED flashlight with C4 LED technology, an aluminum body, and a pocket clip.
This is basically Streamlight’s take on the Outlite A100, as both are compact, relatively small (around 6 inches) flashlights that pack a lot of light. Of course, the Outlite is cheap, and the Strion is not. But members of the law enforcement community seem to think the Strion’s compact and durable body, brightness, and beam control make it reliable and worth the price.
Brightest: IMALENT MS18
I’m gonna come right out and say it: the IMALENT MS18 is too much flashlight for you, little man/woman/pronoun. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with the Outlite A100 mentioned above.
One-hundred thousand lumens is more than you need. Well, hold on—I shouldn’t say that—you might have extraordinary needs. Are you searching for shipwreck survivors from a helicopter that doesn’t have a spotlight? Okay then, the IMALENT is a fine choice for that, and it might save lives.
But whatever you do, do not point it upward. You might crash a plane. But, more importantly, humanity is not yet evolved enough to make first contact with sentient, extraterrestrial beings. We need more time in the hopper to stop doing all the bad things, so please don’t use the IMALENT MS18 and let the rest of the Milky Way know where we are just yet.
The IMALENT MS18 has an aluminum body and is also rechargeable by nuclear power plant. Just kidding! It has a charger, but my point is this light is insanely powerful.
Also, it’s very expensive, which is good. Very few people should have access to this flashlight.
Best UV Flashlight: Nitecore Chameleon CU6
As I mentioned previously, some flashlights, like the Streamlight ProTac HL4, might help you stop crime. You might be able to use others, like the IMALENT MS18, to trick a night-criminal into thinking it’s daytime, and thus, time to scuttle off to his crime hole.
While the Nitecore Chameleon CU6 probably won’t help you prevent a crime, it might help you solve one. At 440 lumens, it ain’t the brightest flashlight on this list (I think I made myself clear about how bright the IMALENT is). Rather, it’s an ultraviolet (UV) flashlight, designed for police investigations and forensics, checking IDs, and hunting.
The irony is while the other lights on this list offer peace of mind by dispelling the darkness, the Nitecore Chameleon probably makes you less comfortable. For example, I wouldn’t use it in a hotel room if you want to get any sleep—some things are better left unseen. Unless you work in crime scene forensics and are paid to know which things have people fluids on them, you probably don’t need the CU6.
The switches on the side control the color output, which includes white, red, green, and blue LEDs. The red, in particular, might come in handy if you need to read something (like a map) in a dark place (like the woods) without totally ruining your night vision.