By 1896, the invention of the dry cell battery made possible the invention of portable lighting first developed by British inventor David Misell in 1899. These lights were so enthusiastically received by 1922, demand had exceeded 10 million.
Today’s flashlight is so sophisticated, providing light is only one of the jobs these devices perform when camping!
Related: Best Camping Lantern
Check out this quick list of our favorite rain pants if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best flashlight for camping and backpacking overall: Fenix PD36R Rechargeable Flashlight
- Best flashlight with a right angle head: Fenix LD15R Right Angle Flashlight
- Affordable and compact flashlight for camping and backpacking: Maglite ML25LT LED Flashlight
- Best budget flashlight for campers: ThruNite Ti3
- Amazing 85-lumen key chain light: Nitecore Thumb
- Tactical flashlight with 3 AAA batteries: Amuoc LED Tactical Flashlight S1000
- Great key chain flashlight with 360-lumen brightness: Nitecore TIP
Fenix PD36R Rechargeable Flashlight
Fenix claims their top-selling flashlight “pierces the night” with up to 1,600 lumens, illuminating up to 928 feet. It’s rechargeable, small, and powered by an innovative, high-capacity 5,000 mAh lithium-ion battery recharged via a USB-C port, so it outperforms traditional flashlights.
Generate 800 lumens on high, 350 lumens on medium, 150 lumens on low plus 30 lumens on Eco mode. An IP68 rating attests to its dustproof and waterproof nature.
The rugged aircraft-grade aluminum body with textured finish delivers a solid grip and the boot-up battery level indicator and low-voltage warning signals recharge time. Comes with a body clip, lanyard, holster and USB cord plus a lifetime Fenix guarantee.
Fenix LD15R Right Angle Flashlight
Acquire the aforementioned brand name at half the cost. This compact, hands-free light is designed with a right angle head.
The Cree LED outputs 500 lumens on the turbo, 150 lumens on high, 30 lumens on medium, and 3 lumens on low. Get 1 hour; 20 minutes run time on high or 110 hours on low.
The LD15R’s rechargeable battery is re-energized by its USB charging cable and a spare rubber switch boot, spare O-ring, and carry pouch are included. If you run into trouble, count on the red light mode for distress signaling.
The solid Fenix aircraft-grade aluminum body with a textured finish for a sure grip and the company’s guarantee offer recourse should this flashlight not perform as advertised.
Maglite ML25LT LED Flashlight
At approximately 1/3rd the cost of the Fenix PD36R, this Maglite won’t let you down. It’s compact, outdoor-ready and comes with a candle mode for in-tent or outdoor mood settings.
Designed for campers seeking an affordable lighting option, this one provides 177 lumens of bright, focused light. The outer case is crafted of rugged, drop-resistant (rated to 1m) aluminum that’s anodized for corrosion resistance, and it’s rated IPX4 for water resistance.
Powered by 2 C-cell batteries (sold separately), this may not be the flashiest product on this list, but you get the basics: small, lightweight design, refined optics, efficiency, and durability.
Even operation is simple: Twist the head to turn it on and off or access focus/spot-to-flood modes. Expect 2 hours of run time per full charge.
Campers on budgets will get plenty of value if they consider this key chain flashlight offering max 120 lumens and max beam distance that extends up to 50m.
Manufactured of type 3 hard-anodized aluminum, you enjoy 4 brightness levels: firefly: 0.04 lumen (115h), low: 12 lumen (6.3h), high: 120 lumen (0.5h) and strobe: 120 lumen (1 hour).
Fasten this flashlight to your backpack, keyring, or belt buckle via the 2-way pocket clip and off you go on your hike, dog walk duty or troubleshooting task that requires a small but powerful illumination tool that gives you one-handed operation.
Get plenty of features for a wallet-pleasing price point if you consider this product for your camping adventures.
Do you love owning functional, unique gadgets? This 85-lumen key chain light is USB rechargeable, and you can tilt it to assume a 120-degree angle by positioning the clip (included) properly on your cap, strap, or pocket.
Costing just a few dollars more than the Thrulight, this handy flashlight weighs less than an ounce (including battery and clip).
The Thumb comes with a rechargeable Li-ion battery that runs at max capacity for 45 minutes on high or up to 22 hours on low.
Equipped with a red light for night vision, navigation or star gazing, a USB cable is included so you can charge your light with any USB port to get it up and running again.
Amuoc LED Tactical Flashlight S1000
This tactical flashlight makes an affordable holiday gift with a surprising number of features for less than a fast-food meal.
It’s tiny but powerful enough to cast a light up to 1000 feet away. Run this product on 3 standard AAA batteries or a rechargeable button-top Li-ion battery (neither are included).
This tactical flashlight can focus in or zoom out and 5 settings replace the need for multiple flashlights.
Fitted with the latest durable CREE XML T6 LED chip, this product is water- and explosion-proof. The Lotus top protects the lens and the case is skid-proof and abrasion-resistant for years of service.
Marketed as “the brightest key chain flashlight” produced by Nitecore, this light emits up to 360 lumens with four brightness levels and a maximum beam distance of 81 yards.
Easy to operate and cycle through settings, this flashlight comes with a 30-second timer for battery conservation.
Switching between modes is easy: press and hold until the tip (which comes in 7 colors) flashes. The built-in 500mAh Li-ion battery and USB charging port provide power up to 90 minutes at 150 lumens and stays lit over 46 hours on lower mode.
The new removable clip is designed to stop accidental activation and the flashlight bundle includes a USB charging cable.
How to choose the best flashlight
With the constant advent of new, super-charged and feature-heavy improvements, today’s flashlight is so sophisticated, it’s important to have criteria in mind before choosing. These 5 factors should be weighed before you take out your plastic.
FYI: light output can range from a modest 20 lumens (great for reading a book) to 3500 lumens, and beam distance — measured in meters — may be the feature you require, so factor both in when you make your buying decision.
You’ll have three battery choices when you shop for flashlights, say camping experts at REI: Disposable, rechargeable and renewable.
Battery manufacturers warn campers not to insert lithium or lithium-ion batteries into any flashlight unless the company recommends doing so or you could easily damage the flashlight.
1. Disposables are the most common type of battery on the market. You likely have a supply of AA or AAA batteries on hand to help power household items. A more efficient option is the CR123A, which is getting easier to find.
Flashlights using D cell batteries are still around, but they’re considered dinosaurs!
2. Rechargeables These flashlights come with built-in lithium-ion batteries that require a USB connection so recharges via a computer, AC, or DC outlet or solar panel will re-energize the unit.
While the upfront cost for rechargeable batteries is higher, expect to save money thanks to this battery type’s low running cost and you don’t have to worry about disposing of them, either.
3. Renewables Favorites of environmentalists who need flashlights but don’t want to promote either of the aforementioned battery types, these built-in battery types are “energized” by a hand crank or solar panel.
For campers eager to live off the grid, they’re ideal, and the newest models are amazing. See some of them here to get an idea of how sophisticated they have become.
You’re too busy camping to run experiments, which is why Alice Wisler is happy to do it for you. Her source? Consumer Reports.
According to their testers, Rayovac outperformed competitor brands in the D-cell battery category and cost less than Duracell, which stayed alive for 24 hours straight. Eveready lasted just six, Duracell 15, and Energizer 22 hours on a single charge.
A similar study on flashlights running on AA batteries also proved that Rayovac batteries outperformed the other three by delivering light for five hours.
None of the others lasted that long. Lithium batteries claim to have a shelf life of up to 10 years, while alkalines may keep performing for 7 seven, regardless of brand, which is why savvy campers buy them in bulk.
Rechargeable batteries require an initial investment, but in the long haul, battery life will repay you. Chargers retrieve power from wall outlets and in the long run, they will save you money, proving to be more economical because of their ability to be used again and again.
The bottom line is that no matter the battery brand you prefer, all advertising promises disappear if you abuse them.
That’s why battery TLC includes keeping them dry, making sure they don’t rust and making sure the flashlight isn’t accidentally turned on, or it will drain the battery, no matter which one you buy.
Size and weight
Fans of crime shows know that the hefty, oversized, industrial types of flashlights carried and wielded by law enforcement and rescue teams have diminished in size over time. Still, these professionals can’t afford to own flashlights that let them down.
Criteria used by police and fire departments are amazingly diverse, with pricing ranging from $20 to $400 according to the Go Fast and Light website.
While the size and weight, say REI experts, is always a matter of personal preference, you would do well to follow the lead of folks working for emergency crews, making decisions about the size and weight and small is better, just as long as the LED bulb built into the product you choose is energy efficient and can go the distance on a recharge.
For your camping needs, size and weight are not likely to play as big a part in your buying decision, but you do want to get the most amount of flashlight for your dollar.
What would you like to do with your flashlight on a typical camping trip? If your answer is getting the strongest possible beam on the market for the most reasonable price, having a product that meets your dexterity and control needs and an ability to put the unit down in order to work on a task and signal power, any of the models in this review will serve you well.
But pay attention to materials like aircraft-grade aluminum that has been texturized for a solid grip if you’ve put durability atop your “must-have” features list.
If you expect to spend time trekking and comping in vicinities where water is present impact- and water-resistance maybe even more important. Look for products that have been dropped while being tested.
Some flashlight manufacturers insist their products must meet the “6-drop” test before it is willing to use language like durable.
In terms of water, there are 3 IPX ratings to which flashlights are subjected. From IPX4 (splash resistant) to IPX7 (received a submersion rating up to 30 minutes in shallow water) to the most advanced IPX8 rating, that means your flashlight can be submerged for up to 4 hours before you will have to kiss it goodbye.
10 Questions to ask when evaluating camping flashlights
1. Is it easy to turn on and off?
2. Will I be able to work the control if I’m wearing gloves?
3. How does the flashlight feel in my hand? Too heavy to hold for long periods of time?
4. Has it passed the drop test?
5. Is it so small, my chances of losing it are better than average?
6. Is the control located in a place that could trigger accidental activation?
7. Does it come with recharge accessories, or must you buy them separately?
8. Will I need a tool to change batteries, or is the battery compartment easy to access?
9. Does it meet ANSI FL1 standards for flashlights?
10. Am I getting the most amount of lumens and beam distance for my dollar?