With so many great options available, choosing the best everyday carry flashlight is not an easy task. For the flashlight collectors or “flashaholics”, things have never been better. There’s hundreds of great lights out there, but which one should you carry? The flashlight industry is constantly evolving along with LED technology. Every year lights are brighter and use less battery power. A +100 lumen single AAA keychain light was unthinkable just a few years ago but today a 162 lumen 1xAAA light lives in my keychain (Thrunite Ti).
A survival-minded approach will help us narrow down our options considerably in spite of how overwhelming the offer out there can be. We want dependable, reliable flashlights. We want a brand that we can trust, enough lumen output for whenever we need it but also low modes for saving power when going without electricity for an extended period of time. Ideally, the light will take readily available AA and AAA batteries although CR123A are becoming more common and they do provide the most power for tactical lights. Strobe for disorienting attackers, beacon and SOS modes for signaling, these may be literal life savers during emergencies.
For the modern survivalist, the EDC flashlight (and most gear in general) is chosen keeping in mind a two-tier application: On one level the item, in this case the flashlight, must be useful and viable on a general purpose, every day use level. You’ll use it for looking into boxes, checking for things dropped under furniture, walking across a garage without turning the lights on, or walking across the parking lot at night without stepping on mud and getting your feet dirty. On another level, the flashlight should perform on a worst case emergency scenario. It should allow you to find people when someone gets lost while hiking along a trail. It should allow you to signal for traffic to stop if there’s an accident. It should run for several hours, maybe even days if power goes down after a disaster. It should be capable of temporary disorienting an attacker. It should take common batteries you may be able to scrounge. It should be capable of signaling for help when wounded, lost or otherwise stranded off the beaten track.
As you can see, we are asking a lot from this flashlight. Although there’s no one flashlight that is perfect in every way, these are some of the ones that fill all these niche applications the best:
Zebralight H52w AA
The H52W is one of the most powerful 1XAA lights in the market today with an output of 280 lumens on high. It can also take 14500 li-ion batteries, which brings the maximum lumen output up to 500 lumens on high for one minute before dropping back to 280 lumens. The H52W has programmable brightness levels as well as beacon and strobe modes, making it easy to suit personal preferences. The H52W is a 90 angle light which combined with the strap turns the Zebralight into a headlamp, freeing one hand for use compared to normal hand-held lights. It also has a Low battery alert function. With great construction and design the Zebralight is as of right now one of the most capable flashlights in the market. For those that like these functions but prefer a normal straight reflector configuration, there’s the Zebralight SC52.
Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II
If you could only have one flashlight for the end of the world the Streamlight Sidewinder II would be it. It can be used as a headlamp or hand-held light. It’s a true mil-spec torch, tough as nails. It has various output modes and LEDs to choose from, including red, IR and blue (green in some versions). The included head strap turns it into a useful headlamp. Maybe its most impressive capability, the Sidewinder Compact II can digest most small batteries you come across: CR123A, AA, AAA, 14500, 10440, 16340. The downside is that the high mode is not as bright as in other models and the shape makes it less comfortable to carry than smaller, cylindrical tube format lights. Other than that, the Sidewinder Compact II is THE survivalist’s flashlight.
The Eagletac D25C is a simple, no-nonsense 1XCR123A flashlight. In spite of the compact size, which is one of its strengths, it has a lot to offer: Tough and well made. Cree XM-L2 U2 LED. Maximum output is 453 Lumens (with 16340 li-ion) . You won’t bash anyone’s head in with this light but tightening the head it goes into “tactical” mode, high and strobe, while loosening the head allows you to access the different brightness levels, moonlight, beacon, strobe and SOS for general purpose and emergency signaling use. The D25C is one of the most compact CR123A clickly flashlights in the market. The Tintanium D25C looks fantastic.
Fenix PD22 Ultimate Edition
Featuring a Cree XP-L LED, the latest edition of the PD22UE uses a CR123A battery for a maximum output of 400 Lumens but also officially supports the use of 16340 batteries for an output of 510 Lumens which will run for 45 minutes. Modes include turbo, high, medium, low, strobe and SOS which can be accessed using the side switch.
The P22 is a classic EDC torch made by a reputable manufacturer. It is clearly intended as a tactical/utility light and should serve you well on both roles. The P22UE is also one of the few lights that officially approves the use of 16340 li-ion batteries.
SureFire E1D Defender
The E1D is as close as it gets to a pure breed tactical light in an EDC pocket format. This is a light flashlight collectors have wanted for some time, often modifying the larger E2D so as to make it a shorter single battery light. At 300 lumens the E1D may not sound very impressive but Surefire tends to underestimate its own lumen output. Surefire quality is legendary, its built like a tank and the strike Bezel makes for a nice compact defensive tool. There’s not a lot of output modes to choose from, its either the 300 lumen high or 5 lumen low. 5 lumen is a good amount of light for low battery drain yet enough light for most close range utility tasks. A strobe mode would have been a nice addition, although 300 lumens should be enough to disorient an attacker when dark.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.