You could have all the possible gear with you, the best of the best, but if you are lost in the forest on a cloudy, moonless night without any means to light your way or your surroundings, then nothing of what you have with you will be of any use since all you can do is blindly scuttle around.
In some circumstances having a light in your hand could mean having your life in your hands. But have any light when you can have the best tactical flashlight one click away?
In the worst case scenario, having a regular household flashlight, or a lighter or even a box of matches would be better than having nothing, but this is not about being slightly better equipped than not at all, this is about having the best possible equipment you can when facing the darkness of the wild, and as far as light sources go, a tactical flashlight is what you need.
The best tactical flashlight will bring the correct amount of light to a large variety of situations, from exploring dark caves through late night fishing to just checking if everything is fine around your tent late at night.
What to Look At
There is a quite a number of factors to take into consideration before you should buy one of these flashlights. The most important of all is that you first consider what type of activity you will mainly use it for.
While most of them will do fine for general purposes, if you know for sure that you will need it during specific activities, e.g. clipper racing, then you can look for a flashlight which is better suited for those activities, e.g. higher water resistance.
The first thing you should take into consideration is the size you are going for. While you can get a larger model, say over 7 inches, if you think it is necessary, these are mainly used by police officers, as their bulky and heavy size make them good tools for self-defence. But for going out in the wilderness, you should probably aim for a small to medium one.
These will still be bright enough for whatever activity you would attempt but will be much lighter to carry around, which is an important factor when you are already carrying a heavy backpack around.
They also offer greater flexibility in movement. While the smaller ones will be the easiest to carry, the medium ones will fit more batteries and thus have a longer run time.
Ideally, you would have a mini flashlight, under 5 inches, with you in case something happens to your main one. These are not as bright, nor do they have such a long run time, but they get the job done.
Another important aspect you need to pay attention to is what type of battery your flashlight uses and how long the run time on said batteries is.
Some flashlights run on regular alkaline or lithium disposable batteries. These are your standard AAs, AAAs, Cs etc., which we all know. Their availability and low price is their strongest asset, though their runtime is not as good as some other types of batteries.
Still, due to their LED lights, which do not use very much energy, a tactical flashlight could run for quite a while on three AAAs. As such, picking one with regular batteries will probably be your best choice.
You also have the more environmentally friendly option of independent or integrated rechargeable batteries. The independent ones come in specialized sizes, e.g. 18500, 18650, while the integrated ones are akin to cell phones or walkie-talkies.
This means that you need a charger for them and a place where to plug it in. Superior if you only ever leave civilization a night at a time, not recommended if you go into the wild for several days.
Your flashlight can be made out of one of three materials: plastic, aluminium, and stainless steel. These materials influence weight and durability. As aluminium is between the other two when it comes to both qualities, it is probably the best choice.
Though, again, if you know that either a light-weight or a very durable flashlight is more suited for your needs, you will know which choice to make.
Light and lighting settings
Brightness intensity is measured in lumens. People often try and find an equivalent in watts, but it doesn’t really work that way. Just know that 14 lumens are enough to read a map in the dark, 40 will light up a room and from 200 onwards you can cause temporary blindness.
Tactical flashlights can reach to over 3000 lumens, though most will stay under 1000. Even one of those mini ones discussed above can reach 250 lumens. However, beam distance, usually measured in metres, is a better indicator of the usefulness of your flashlight, even if manufacturers will often focus on the number of lumens.
Flashlights can either spread or flood, the beam over an area or throw a more focused beam over a long distance. And while you can most often switch between the two, some flashlights might perform one function better than the other.
Make sure that the flashlight you buy has several lighting settings. These can include several intensity settings, because you don’t always need your flashlight, especially if it is very bright, at its peak intensity.
Other settings might include a strobe effect, which is mainly used for self-defence, or the SOS setting, which spells S.O.S in Morse code. Not that many people know Morse code, but if you are in trouble it should get the attention of people nearby.
Since you will probably use your flashlight outdoors its water resistance level is very important. Usually, this is measured on an IPX scale, and the flashlight might be IPX4, IPX7 or IPX8.
IPX4 basically means that the flashlight is splash resistant. Will probably be fine if covered with dew, but do not submerge it.
IPX8 should resist under water at a depth of 1 meter for up to 4 hours. But unless you will use it in sea or river activities, you won’t need this.
IPX7 will be fine for up to half an hour at a depth of 1 meter, so this should resist under most conditions you will encounter in the wild, from heavy rain to falling in the river when reaching for a trout.
It is possible that the manufacturer will not use this system when describing their product, but some information about water resistance should be available, and you should mind it.
Best Tactical Flashlight Reviews
BLACKHAWK Legacy L-6V
Weight: 8.7 ounces
Length: 6.1 inches
Best use: Hunting trips
Description: With a maximum output of 570 Lumens at that price, this is one of the most expensive items on the list.
On the other hand, BLACKHAWK Legacy L-6V is one of the most durable flashlights we’ve seen. Its casing isn’t stainless steel, but it is aluminium with a hard-coat anodized finish, which makes it perfect if you know you will be in situations which will make it likely that you will drop the flashlight a lot.
Another benefit is the multiple-position rotating switch, which allows you to select the desired lighting setting from the five which are available (low, medium, high, strobe, safety off) even before you turn it on. This in contrast to most flashlights which usually have a scrolling system, where you have to go through them one by one.
The lamp is powered by two regular AA batteries, which are very accessible but will not hold as much as other types of batteries used in other flashlights.
While it is one of the most durable flashlights on this list, it will only justify its price if you are specifically looking for that feature in a flashlight.
LumiTact Tactical G700
Weight: 7 ounces
Length: 5 inches
Best Use: Perfect for any general purpose
Description: The casing is made from aluminium and it is also rather light. LumiTact Tactical G700 runs on either a rechargeable lithium 18650 battery or on three AAA batteries, which is very handy as you can choose which to use depending on your needs.
As the name suggests the LED light produces 700 lumens, which should be more than enough for most situations you find yourself in, and thanks to its five settings, low/medium/high/strobe/SOS, you can choose the brightness of the light.
The beam can also by focused with a telescopic zoom by varying degrees, giving you the possibility to throw the beam pretty far.
The casing is IPX7 waterproof, though I wouldn’t try to see how far I can push this. In any case, it should be fine under even the worst weather.
All in all, this would make a pretty good choice if you are looking for a general purpose flashlight and don’t have a specific task in mind.
Fenix PD35 TAC
Weight: 11.2 ounces
Length: 9.8 inches
Best Use: Rafting, Spelunking, Out on Sea
Description: A slightly larger item is the Fenix PD35.
This increase in size also comes with increases in price and performance, its brightness going up to 1000 lumens. Fenix PD35 TAC uses a CREE LED light, which is one of the best you can get and according to the manufacturer, the output is digitally regulated to maintain a constant brightness, though this is not something you will be likely to be concerned about. What will interest you, is that the beam will reach to 200 metres or 656 feet.
The PD35 also comes with a wider range of lighting settings. Though it misses the SOS setting, it keeps the strobe, and very usefully, adds two more power settings, these being Eco, Low, Medium, High and Turbo. The last one being the 1000 lumen setting, while the Eco setting, with its 8 lumens, will likely help you find your way to the restroom in the dark.
The level of water resistance is also increased, this time going up to IPX8, which makes the PD35 an excellent choice if you’re going out to sea or rafting or spelunking in watery caves.
Another advantage which makes the higher price worth it is the addition of little extras in the package when you order it from Amazon. The FD35 comes with a rechargeable 18650 battery, USB charger included, though it could also run on two 123A batteries.
The package also includes a holster and a belt clip, both of which will prove very useful in the wild, especially if you move around a lot.
Though the price is higher compared to other tactical flashlights the PD35 justifies the price difference and will be a good addition to your inventory.
Streamlight ProTac 2L
Weight: 3.2 ounces
Length: 4.7 inches
Best Use: Back-up flashlight, Hiking trips
Description: Remember when I said that you could do well with having a smaller backup flashlight, in case something goes awry with the first one? Well, the Streamlight ProTac 2L is that flashlight.
This is one of the lightest on the list. A smaller size also means lower power with a LED light which has a maximum output of 260 lumens and a beam with a reach of up to 150 metres, which is why it is better suited as a back-up. The lighting comes with three settings, Low/High/Strobe and is powered by two 123A batteries, which are included in the prize.
Made from aluminium, this compact flashlight is designed for durability and comes with a detachable belt clip, of which the producers claim it is unbreakable. It also has an IPX7 water resistance.
The downside is that for its size and capability it is pretty pricey, costing around as much as a regular size flashlight. But it does come with a nylon holster.
SOLARAY PRO ZX-1
Weight: 5 ounces
Length: 6.2 inches
Best Use: Ideal for any general purpose
Description: This medium priced flashlight not only looks very similar to the Lumitact, but has many of the same features.
The battery and settings options are the same as the Lumitact, meaning either one 18650 Battery or three AAA batteries. The package does, however, include a double battery charger and two rechargeable batteries.
SOLARAY PRO ZX-1 is slightly larger in size, but for that, it is rather light, mainly because it is thinner than the other ones in this category and not due to inferior materials used in the casing, as this is still aluminium.
Powerwise the ZX-1 will reach 1200 lumen at maximum capacity and has the standard five lighting settings and the zoom.
While it does not have a clip, it does come with a strap you can put around your wrist.
The higher power makes it a bit pricier though.
Streamlight TL-2 X
Weight: 4.7 ounces
Length: 5,65 inches
Best Use: Hunting
Description: Streamlight TL-2 X is the most expensive item on the list, but that is because it comes with a weapon rail mount. Still, the package costs almost double than the Lumitact.
And paying that price is really only worth it if you really need a compact, slim tactical flashlight for your weapon, say if you are an avid night hunter, because the flashlight itself is inferior in every way to what has been discussed before.
It runs on two CR 123A batteries, but the light has a maximum output of 200 lumens, there is no mention of a zoom and it only has three lighting settings, LOW/HIGH/STROBE.
The water resistance is also only at an IPX4 level.
The mount is sturdy and will not loosen even if you use quick fire rounds, so it might be a good choice if that is what you are looking for, but otherwise, you have better options mentioned above.
SureFire Nitrolon G2
Weight: 4.1 ounces
Length: 5.1 inches
Best Use: Around the house/cabin
Description: There are two things which make the Nitrolon G2 different from the other flashlights on the list. Firstly, it’s very light casing which is made not from aluminium but a resistant polymer and, secondly, the fact that it uses not a LED but an incandescent light bulb.
This brings its standard output to 60 Lumens. Not the brightest on our list, that is for sure. You can increase this output to 120 Lumens, though, if you buy the special light bulb which is sold separately.
This flashlight is powered by two 123A batteries which are included in the packet.
Another difference this item brings to the table is the tactical tail switch, which in this case is only shining while you press on it. If you want the light to shine continuously, you need to twist on the tail. While this can have advantages, it might be difficult if you only have one free hand.
Considering the price and the performance, it is hard to recommend this item to anyone. It might have been something when it came out in 2003, but it has long been upstaged by newer models.
Surefire UNR Commander
Weight: 12 ounces
Length: 9.4 inches
Best Use: Perfect for any purpose involving a flashlight
Description: While the price might scare you away, if you can afford this luxury item it will probably be the last flashlight you will ever need.
Even if it isn’t the lightest item on our list, the slim design makes Surefire UNR Commander very handy and it feels very well balanced when handling it.
With a maximum output of 800 Lumens, it is not the brightest flashlight we’ve had a look at, but 800 Lumens will do fine for pretty much any situation, and the microchip regulated beam will be the best quality one you might yet see.
The flashlight runs on either two 123A disposable batteries or on the included, rechargeable lithium batteries. The package also comes with a wall and a car charger.
The Surefire has six different lighting settings: four different intensities between 30 and 800 Lumen, which will give you the right brightness for any task at hand, a strobe setting and a safety offsetting, which will prevent the flashlight from accidentally being turned on. These settings are selectable with a power ring, which means you don’t have to scroll through settings.
It also has four different switch positions, two momentary and two constant positions. The second momentary and constant positions will allow you to jump to maximum output no matter which setting is selected.
EagleTac G25C2 MK II
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Length: 5.9 inches
Best use: Water related activities, General Purpose
Description: With a maximum output of 1180 Lumen and a beam distance of up to 295 meters, this is one of the strongest puppies on the list. At the same time, it is also a medium-sized flashlight, so the power to size ratio is quite impressive.
EagleTac G25C2 MK II is also one of the few that has an IPX8 waterproof level, which, once again, makes it ideal for any activity where the likelihood of falling in water that is more than 3 feet deep is high.
The flashlight runs on either 2 CR123A batteries, which are included, or on one 18650 battery.
While it has only four lighting settings, HIGH/LOW/STROBE 1/STROBE 2, these are selectable via a ring, which means you can jump directly to the one you need. Still, at such a high maximum output it would have been preferable to have several power settings.
The MK II comes equipped with a durable belt clip, which is another advantage if you are on a boat or raft.
Unlike other survival tools, a good flashlight can be very useful in all sorts of situations, whether you use it around the house, or keep it in the car or the garage.
As such, if you invest in one, it won’t pointlessly sit on a shelf until you go on your next adventure, which makes is it a wise purchase in itself.
But when you do go out, then it becomes essential. If you would get lost in a forest in the middle of the night, without boots or a knife or a tent you would still be fine, but without a good light, you’d fall prey to the dark.