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Published Aug 25, 2023 1:00 PM
I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a flashlight guy. For years, I heard people talk about this light or that light for everyday carry. I didn’t understand the point. Unless you had a job that required you to work in the dark, why bother carrying a flashlight everywhere?
Then a buddy of mine convinced me to give it a try. I was shocked at how many times I reached for that light in my pocket. In just that first week, I used it for everything from spotting the dog’s toy after she rolled it under the couch to lighting up dark hallways during work as a private investigator.
I’ve carried an EDC flashlight ever since. Today, they are second only to knives in terms of the number of models and brands that I’ve owned. All three of my sons have been gifted pocket flashlights, and my wife has a couple as well. After years of using, testing, and gifting a number of different lights, I’ve become fond of a few particular models.
That’s what this list is—a full guide to the best EDC flashlights you can buy for a number of different tasks and purposes.
How We Picked the Best EDC Flashlights
Over the last decade, I’ve tested out numerous EDC flashlights. Some were great, and others ended up in the junk drawer. The most common failings of poor lights are a weak battery and poor lumen output. Naturally, those two categories ended up being the most important factors in my testing. I chose lights that have long battery lifespans, strong lumens, and a compact design. I also took into account the durability of each light, user-friendliness, and any included accessories to make my picks.
How did I test them? I’ve been carrying some of these lights for almost ten years. I know they work because I carry them, use them, and gift them to family and friends. They are trusted lights that can help around the house, at work, or out in the field.
Best Overall: Streamlight Wedge
- Length: 5.46 inches
- Weight: 3.3 ounces
- Max output: 300 lumens, with a temporary burst of 1,000 lumens
- The shape makes it easy to grip
- Rugged anodized aluminum construction, so it’s built to last
- Each Wedge is serialized for positive identification
- Only two illumination levels: 300 lumens or 1,000 lumens
The Wedge is unique among its peers due to its flat, rather than round, shape. This low profile means it slides in and out of your pocket easily—minimizing bulkiness. Rotate the power switch and it will throw a 300-lumen beam, but push the switch forward a bit more, and you’ll hit THRO (Temporarily Heightened Regulated Output) mode with 1,000 lumens lighting your way.
The pocket clip is reversible to make it easy to adjust between right- and left-handed carry. You can also remove it entirely for a more streamlined look. The Wedge is waterproof and is rechargeable via USB-C. If you were to turn it on and leave it be, the battery will last about three hours.
Best Pocket: Thrunite Archer 1A V3
- Length: 4.3 inches
- Weight: 2.5 ounces
- Max output: 200 lumens
- Several light modes so you aren’t locked into one choice
- Knurled surface provides a positive grip in challenging conditions
- Tail cap switch can be pressed just halfway for a quick flash
- Only 180 lumens at the highest setting
I’ve owned this light for several years, and it has never let me down. It has a tail switch for on/off, but the illumination settings are toggled by a side switch. The entire operation is very intuitive and easy to use, even if you’re rushed or under stress. It has four levels of illumination, ranging from 180 lumens on high to 0.055 lumens on firefly. It also has a strobe mode for emergency signaling or perhaps disorienting an aggressor.
At just a bit over four inches long, it fits in the pocket nicely without feeling like a boat anchor. The clip can be used to keep it in place, or you can easily just snap it off entirely. Pro tip: That clip will also keep the light from rolling off a work surface, should you need to set it down.
Best Tactical: Fenix PD35
- Length: 5.28 inches
- Weight: 2.95 ounces
- Max output: 1,700 lumens
- Comes with a handy belt pouch
- The crenelated head can be used as an impact weapon for self-defense
- Lightweight (just under three ounces)
- At over five inches long, it is a bit large for EDC
If you need something that can take a beating as well as turn night into day, look no further. The PD35 from Fenix puts out a whopping 1,700 lumens on high, with a range of about 390 yards. It is built with high-strength aluminum and HAII anodized finish for toughness and reliability. It is also rated for impact resistance up to one meter.
A tail switch turns the light on/off, and a metal side switch controls the settings. There are five lighting levels available. Turbo mode gets you 1,700 lumens, and you can dial it all the way back to Eco mode with just 5 lumens. A bidirectional clip gives you options for where you can secure the light as you move.
Best Rechargeable: Streamlight ProTac 2.0
- Length: 6.1 inches
- Weight: 8.25 ounces
- Max output: 2,000 lumens
- The 2,000-lumen setting is extremely bright for an EDC flashlight
- The construction is dust-tight and water-resistant
- It has a holster, so you can wear it on your belt instead of keeping it in your pocket
- Weighs just over 8 ounces, making it a fairly heavy EDC option
This rechargeable light is one of the brightest on our list, with 2,000 lumens on the high setting. It runs on an SL-B50 battery pack, which is included. What’s nice is that you can recharge it inside or outside the light, as there is a sliding cover for a USB-C port a bit behind the head of the light. It also features Streamlight’s TEN-TAP programming, so you can customize the settings and really make the flashlight work for you. It comes with a nylon holster, a 22-inch power cord, and a removable pocket clip.
Best AA: Skilhunt M150 V3
- Length: 3.3 inches
- Weight: 1.2 ounces
- Max output: 750 lumens
- Tail switch magnet makes it easy to use hands-free
- Comes with spare O-rings, should you lose one
- Charges magnetically with the correct battery
- The available lumens vary quite a bit with different types of batteries
One of the neatest things about this light is the magnetic tail. This makes it easy to position the light when you need both hands free for working under the hood of the truck. That same magnet also provides magnetic charging, if you’re using the proper type of battery. There is also an attachment point for a thin lanyard, should you wish to add one.
The M150 can use four different kinds of batteries—alkaline AA, Ni-MH AA, 1.5V Lithium, or 3.7V Li-ion 14500. This gives you plenty of power options. It has five light levels, but those levels change based on which type of battery is used. With the 14500 Li-ion, you’ll have 750 lumens at your fingertips. But if you’re using a Ni-MH AA, then you’ll only have 240 lumens at the highest setting.
Best Under $50: Streamlight MicroStream
- Length: 3.87 inches
- Weight: 1.2 ounces
- Max output: 250 lumens
- Has an unbreakable, scratch-resistant polycarbonate lens
- A combination pocket/hat clip keeps the light in place
- Weighs less than two ounces with the battery
- Wall adapter for charging is sold separately
There are a lot of cheap flashlights on the market, but this one punches well above its price point. The MicroStream is particularly well-suited for EDC, given its slim profile and compact design. It will easily fit in the palm of your hand with plenty of room to spare. It has two settings, with 250 lumens on high and 50 lumens on low. The tail switch controls everything. Hit it once to turn it on and double-bump it to cycle between settings.
The white C4 LED is clean and bright on either power setting. It is rechargeable via a mini-USB port found by sliding a sleeve at the lens end of the light. While charging is easy enough to do, the average user will go a week or two, probably more, between charges.
Best 1000 Lumen: Fenix UC35 V2.0
- Length: 5.5 inches
- Weight: 3.13 ounces
- Max output: 1,000 lumens
- Boot up power indicator lets you know right away where you stand
- Has five lighting modes, plus a strobe
- The light’s range is nearly three football fields long
- Some users don’t care for dual-switch operation
This is the improved version of the original UC35, and they’ve increased the lumens to 1,000 and the throw to almost 300 yards. While that’s a lot of light, just as nifty is the Moonlight mode that puts out just a single lumen. That’s perfect for checking a map at night without blinding you. The UC35 is ruggedly built from aircraft aluminum and is designed for real world use and abuse. This is a dual-switch light, with a power on/off at the tail and a side switch to change settings. It charges via a micro-USB port on the side of the frame.
Best Brass: Prometheus Beta QRV2 Classic
- Length: 2.95 inches
- Weight: 2.0 ounces
- Max output: 90 lumens
- Quick-release keychain means you can carry it everywhere you go
- The brass exterior is exceptionally handsome
- High CRI bulb allows natural colors to shine through
- Only 90 lumens on the highest setting
This is the only true keychain flashlight on our list. It is designed with a quick-release feature, so it can easily pop off a keychain for use, and then clipped back on. Power is turned on and off by simply twisting the light. It has three modes: 90 lumens, 15 lumens, and 1 lumen. The modes are changed by quickly turning the light off and back on.
This is the first production light in the EDC light industry to come with a High CRI LED bulb. This means the colors seen using the light are very natural, rather than clouded by the light source. An excellent feature for those who work on vehicles in particular.
Best Compact: Klarus Mi7
- Length: 3.4 inches
- Weight: 1.6 ounces
- Max output: 700 lumens
- Special lock-out mode to prevent accidental activation
- One-touch access to high and moonlight settings
- Weighs less than an ounce (without battery)
- Might be too small for those who have larger hands
With an overall length shorter than four inches, this light will disappear into your pocket until you need it. When you deploy it, you’ll have access to an incredible 700 lumens. If you don’t need a light quite that bright, you can scale it back to 90 lumens, or go even further down to about five lumens on the lowest setting. There are even two strobe patterns, one of which is an automatic SOS.
It has pineapple-style knurling, which is comfortable while also providing great traction. There’s no pocket clip provided, but there is a nice lanyard. Given its overall size, this is an excellent EDC flashlight for those who work in an office or who otherwise don’t want to be weighed down with pocket jewelry.
What To Consider When Choosing an EDC Flashlight
There is a wide range of flashlights on the market that come in all shapes and sizes. But when we’re talking about an EDC flashlight, there are some specific qualities we want.
The first consideration is size. By definition, an EDC flashlight is one that you’ll carry virtually every day. As such, it needs to be small enough to carry comfortably. And unless you don’t spend your day wearing a tactical belt loaded with pouches and loops, you’ll be carrying the light in your pocket.
Ergonomics is another factor. If the flashlight is awkward to use, you’ll find yourself leaving it at home, which defeats the purpose of buying it. Some people prefer a tail switch, where the on/off is located at the end of the light. Others like a side switch. Find what is most comfortable to hold and stick with it.
Flashlights today have their illumination power measured in lumens. Without getting too deep into the weeds and breaking out complex formulas, just think of lumens as a measurement of the total amount of light you’re able to see emitted from the flashlight. The higher the lumens rating, the brighter the flashlight. Remember that a high-lumen light might be overpowering in some instances, so having the ability to dial it down a notch or two is ideal.
A rechargeable light is often preferred over something that has replaceable batteries. You can always toss a spare battery pack in your EDC bag to charge the light if it runs low. Just remember to include the proper charging cord.
Q: What are the best lumens for an EDC flashlight?
There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to lumens for an EDC flashlight. You need to consider where and how you plan to use the light. Anything rated up to about 250 lumens will be fine for most general chores. A range from 250-1,000 lumens will be good for nighttime use, such as checking the backyard to see what’s making that weird noise. Once you hit the 2,000-lumen mark, you’re getting into law enforcement and military needs.
Q: What is the difference between a tactical and EDC flashlight?
Tactical flashlights are built for heavy-duty use and often include features like high-output light that can be used defensively as well as a strike bezel that can be injurious to an attacker. They also often have fairly simple controls for high-stress situations. An EDC flashlight can certainly have those features as well, but will usually have several output levels and other bells and whistles.
Q: What should every EDC flashlight have?
Every EDC flashlight should have multiple illumination settings that are easily toggled. This gives you options, as the high setting might be far too bright for a given task. I like to see a well-built clip that allows me to attach the light to the brim of my hat or clip it to my pocket for security while moving around. Some degree of water resistance is also desirable, as you never know when you might get soaked by a sudden storm or stumble and end up in the drink.
Best EDC Flashlights: Final Thoughts
When it comes to EDC gear, which includes everything from knives and multi-tools to pens and watches, you have to carefully weigh your options. This category of equipment has absolutely exploded in the last few years, and there are more options on the market today than ever before. All of the recommendations above are sure to excel in the real world every single day—just like any EDC tool should.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.