The torch market is quite large and we see every day new models of torches always more powerful, more technological and at prices always lower. It is quite difficult to make a choice whether it is just for a standard torch for everyday use, a torch for more specific activities such as hiking, caving or just for pro use ( lamp for the police , army, fireman, hunting …). Through this guide, you will find advice and recommendations to choose the best torch suitable for your needs!
IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS
Establishing the listing of your needs is a crucial step in choosing a flashlight as this will rule out many models and categories of inadequate torches.
1. What use?
As mentioned above, most people who buy a flashlight do so impulsively , based on Amazon customer reviews for example (which is not a bad thing in itself) and no longer counts the number of feedback from customers who have spent tens of euros in lamps of very bad invoice and who are obliged to buy back every 6 months.
Although we all have more or less a +/- precise idea of the usefulness of a flashlight in our daily life, it is necessary to take 2 minutes and ask: in which situation (s) I would be brought to use my flashlight?
Grosso-modo, a flashlight can be used in any situation whether you’re in space, on land, at the supermarket or whatever, just target the primary need to which it will respond.
Here are the best known uses for a flashlight:
- Hiking, trail, trekking and all activities in the mountains, alpine hunters, mountaineering …
- Night hunting:we have also drafted a guide if you are looking for a flashlight for hunting.
- Water sports such as diving, sea hunting, boat trips etc.
- Running, cycling and other outdoor endurance sports
- Speleology, discovering caves and caves of all kinds.
- Self-defense/use for professionals in trades such as police, night watchman, military, firefighters..
- Camping/holiday:often a punctual use just a few weeks a year.
- Mechanics with stroboscopic lamps.
- For the house (find the hole of the lock at nightfall, blow rather of flashlights …)
- … Etc
For each of these activities will adapt different models of flashlight .Instead, we will choose a frontal torch for speleology because we need to have both hands free while for camping use to go to the toilet at night for example, a flashlight will suffice.
2. Warranty or not guaranteed?
The guarantee is a bit of a “false problem” in the sense that the majority of the major brands of torches like Maglite, Fenix, Lenser, Olight etc always offer a guarantee of minimum 2 years.
It is common for your flashlight to fall to the ground during handling or transportation, that is why investing in a lamp that is subject to warranty will always be a plus.Nevertheless what you should know, and it is important, is that most of the warranties work only for manufacturing defects.
Basically if the battery is defective or if the LED does not work anymore, you will not be able to play the warranty with the manufacturer .You will have to ask the builder before buying to know the warranty conditions.
For summary, in most cases guarantee rhymes with quality and seriousness.You will never see any warranty on Chinese lamps such as ls360 or shadowhawk.
One gets into the heart of the matter with which are all the criteria to be taken into account when choosing a torch on the internet .Whether power, autonomy, ergonomics etc, we reveal everything in this section dedicated to the criteria of choice to help you find your torch.
3. Type of flashlight
There are 3 main categories of torch lights:
The headlamps are most often used for activities that require to have both hands free (running, cycling, caving, mechanics …).
Depending on the model, they are more or less heavy/comfortable.These lamps are quite specific to certain trades and activities/leisure.The offer is more limited for the following 2 categories.Discover our comparison of the top 10 headlamps of the moment.
Ahhhhh the tactical lamps … Great mode of the moment and for some years already because of the stroboscope mode to defend themselves in case of aggression.
These lamps are called “tactics” because of their tactical switch as you can see in the photo on the right.These lamps were at the base intended for use in the army, police, gendarmerie and other trades of the kind whether in civilian or military for their power and strobe mode to neutralize the enemy.
Although these lamps are still essentially destined for these trades, more and more individuals have obtained them for everyday use (notably in the USA following numerous burglaries, many private individuals had invested in ultra powerful tactical lamps to protect themselves from this plague).
What is known as “standard” are all lamps which do not have a tactical button and which have no specific characteristics such as, for example, watertight bulbs for diving.
This is the type of lamp that is found in the large distribution with just one on/off button and, from time to time, the possibility to adjust the beam intensity, neither more nor less.Although these lamps are not tactical, this does not prevent them from being powerful and of good quality according to the marks.
Of course in each of its categories there are lamps specific to certain sports practices such as for example torches dedicated to diving or underwater fishing which may be tactical or standard lamps but with the peculiarity of being watertight up to several tens of meters.
Do not get me wrong, each category of lamp has different models all more or less powerful.Nevertheless, it will be simpler to find a powerful torch among the tactical category than among the standard category, although the notion of raw power (lumens) is to be qualified as will be seen in point 4.
Everyone only swears by the number of Lumens indicated by the manufacturer and this is a major mistake!The power of a lamp can in no case be measured only from the Lumens value which you will find on the data sheet of these for several reasons:
- Many manufacturers provide the value in Lumens corresponding to the max power value of the LED .It seems logical to say to me and it is true but keep in mind that in the majority of cases, if the LED makes say 1040 Lumens max, there is very little chance that out of the lens you had of 1040 lumens because of the energy loss … If you want to know more about the LEDs and check for yourself max values, we use this site .
- Another parameter that comes into play when calculating the actual power of a torch is the quality of the LED itself for two reasons:
- The color of the LED.If you have already read some of our tests, it is sometimes indicated that the LED projects a beam of warm or cold color.According to our research, the colder the color, the greater the amount of light emitted, or the greater the illumination power.
- The heating level of the LED:again a property that is impossible to gauge as a consumer but for your information, as you probably know, the LED has a function similar to a bulb.Like a conventional halogen bulb, it heats up as soon as it receives power for a few seconds.This phenomenon implies a loss of energy and therefore of power.The higher the LED will rise, the lower the power.
And it’s not all, to finish in beauty know that even if you have the best LED in the world but that the system of regulation of the current and the circuit board of your lamp is not of good quality, you will lose still until to 30% power by counting the power reduction that is generated by the reflector and the protective lens of the LED.
Okay, but how do I get into this?
The theory is pretty nice but in practice you will never know, before buying a flashlight, what its real power is.Personally to have a rough idea of the “real” power one uses 1 rule:
- 30% of the value indicated in Lumens is removed in order to have an idea of the actual power to the order.
Always assume that there is a lie on power regardless of the manufacturer and that to actually calculate the power of a torch, it must be compared to similar models in real situation.
Finally , beware above all of torches <10 € claiming to provide 1000 or 2000 lumens as well as torches with 12 Led of 1000 lumens which are supposed to provide 12000 lumens, again big fat because often it takes big batteries to be able to reach this value.
5. Autonomy and regulation
If you’ve ever had a flashlight you probably noticed that as soon as the batteries start to discharge, the intensity of the light beam tends to drop true?This is called regulation.
In reality, the control systems have been set up with the arrival of new models of LED torches because an LED needs to be regulated in intensity, notably on tactical models or you can switch from one power to another. ..
- In the case of LED control, most high-end lamps have a rather high-performance control system, which keeps a high luminous intensity up to the breaking point where the lamp will switch off at once.Some models nevertheless have a warning light to warn that the batteries are discharged and avoid this type of sudden “shutdown”of the torch.
- For bulb torches it was different as you can see on the right curve.Without regulation, the luminous intensity decreased as the battery discharged.
If most LED torches have a control system, you will have to be wary of unknown marks (light strike 360, Wolfsky, lumify x9 …) boasting a big power and an autonomy of several hours because you will, in most cases, disappointed.
The disadvantage of torches with a good system of internal power regulation is that they use more intensity to maintain a stable power level.
This means that you will have less battery life than a flashlight whose power decreases at the same time as the battery power.
The criterion of autonomy per se is of value only for “standard” lamps or having only one power mode.Indeed, tactical lamps for example have several levels of power adjustable precisely in order to be able to play on the autonomy.
You are lost?This is normal.
Personally, apart from feedbacks and tests, it is quite complex to determine the actual range of a torch even for brands like Maglite because as we have seen previously, it depends on the regulation system but also batteries or batteries you use with.
Yes, we have not yet talked about the problem of batteries too low for some types of LED and the eternal debate battery or battery?
So rather battery or battery?Let’s say this depends on several criteria:
- Do you intend to use your torch daily, punctually or just a few days a year during your holiday for example?
- In the first situation and for everyday activities like caving, cycling etc. we recommend rechargeable batteries to save money.
- For occasional or occasional activities, it is not necessarily necessary to invest in a rechargeable battery (this is of course a general rule)
- Batteries were naturally used for conventional bulbs but since the lamps are becoming more and more powerful, Ni-Mh or Li-ion (lithium battery) batteries are increasingly being used for tactical or frontal lamps.
- The big difference between a Ni-Mh and Li-ion lithium battery is that, on the one hand, Ni-Mh batteries have a lower storage capacity than the Li-ion battery, models of power-hungry torch lamps believe us.This is why the Olight Lithium batteries are often recommended, because in terms of power it is the top.
- A Lithium battery will provide up to 40% more energy compared to a NiMh battery or a battery.For this reason the nominal power of the LEDs and the flashlight in its entirety does not mean anything because with NimH batteries you will NEVER reach 100% brightness there or with a Li-ion battery it will be possible!
- Lastly, Lithium batteries do not have a memory effect which implies that you are not obliged to wait until they are fully discharged to recharge them but also that there is almost no energy loss when storing your lamp for several months where you, with NiMh batteries, you should recharge your lamp because the batteries have discharged on their own.
To make it simple just know that if you have to invest in a battery pack for your flashlight, head towards lithium, it will be more interesting in the long run!
If the lamp you purchased comes with batteries, know that you can earn both battery life and power by investing in Lithium batteries.
6. Lighting Range
This is one of the characteristics through which manufacturers actually abuse in terms of value.It is not uncommon to see values of the ” lighting up to 400m”type.So yes it is not entirely false because most assume that if you place 400 meters you will see a bright spot.
Overall, all the distance values you will find on torch lamp data sheets will be wrong for obvious marketing reasons ( yes, people want the most powerful lamp that illuminates the farthest and with the best autonomy as a bonus. .. )
To really get a real glimpse of the range of the light beam of a torch , it would already have to be determined under what conditions it is used (fog, atmospheric conditions, environment …)
But that is not all, we should also define what is meant by “maximum scope”.Is it where the beam stops or where our vision stops?
To tell you the truth, practically no attention is paid to the max distance of lighting indicated by the manufacturers because, in any case, it is erroneous.It is as simple as that, this criterion does not really matter to us.
In the majority of cases, if you invest in a branded tactical flashlight, the distance will be well beyond what is sufficient even for activities that require an increased field of vision!
7. Lighting Diameter
If you have already used a torch (even large-scale), you probably noticed that the beam is not uniform.One always observes a central point of impact which forms a very luminous circle and the rest of the beam all around less luminous than one names the “flood” or “spill”.Here is a picture to illustrate our words:
The point of impact is clearly distinguished from the rest of the light beam of lower intensity.
It is very unusual for manufacturers to provide information on the diameter of the beam, it will be preferable to rely on customer tests and returns (objectives).
Some lamps have settings to focus the luminous flux to obtain a very intense beam and therefore more restricted in terms of diameter (like the 3D Maglite for example).
These values are sometimes indicated by angles of the beam type of 60 or 90 °, which means that the “flood” that will be obtained could be calculated as an angle of 60 or 90 ° from the impact zone.
By default, most LED lamps whether tactical or not will provide a light beam with an impact point and flood.
The question being, in your activity do you think you need a flashlight or you have the ability to focus the beam or not?
8. Ergonomics, weight and dimensions
I do not think anybody wants to walk around with a flashlight of the weight of a brick or the size of a 1.5L bottle of water in his backpack. dimensions and weight are 2 important criteria.
Not really advice at this level except that it should be aware that (in the majority of cases) plus a lamp will be compact plus it will tend to quickly heat , especially on tactical flashlights.For example if you find a 10 cm lamp with 1000 lumens, know that it will heat up faster than a 16 cm torch with these same 1000 lumens, pure physics matter and no matter the material (aluminum, plastic, metal).
The fact that the lamp is heated is not a problem in itself for short uses but if you are in jungle or other expeditions and the lamp starts to overheat after a few minutes you will be forced to pass in a lower power mode (if the model has it) or you expect that the autonomy takes a hell of a blow in the muzzle!
Let’s talk about ergonomics
There is more or less an infinity of form of torch that it is at the level of the handle (body of the lamp) but also with respect to the head.
Apart from the aesthetic aspect, it is important to grasp the stakes of these differences in terms of ergonomics and handling:
- Let’s take the example of tactical lamps that have a ring at the end of the handle (see the 4th model from the left).These models have the advantage of better access to the tactical switch on the back of the lamp simply because you can lock your torch between your fingers while activating the tactical mode with your thumb.Not necessarily so simple with a flashlight that has a perfectly round handle.The disadvantage is that during transport, that can distort your pockets over the long term.
- A lamp with a perfectly smooth body like a tube (see photo 2) will have the advantage of slipping perfectly into any type of storage and more precisely a pocket of trousers.
- Torches with a head with crenellated or ‘tactical’ ends are supposedly intended for use in self defense situations such as batons.Apart from this use, the end caps of this type make it possible to place the lamp on the floor vertically without fear of it wobbling, useful enough for DIY.
The choice of the type of lamp is personal but think that some lamps will have more tendency to heat than others (unfortunately one knows only very rarely before buying except via comments/tests of other customers).
As for size and weight, it is the good will of everyone, personally we avoid the lamps> 500g because it is still heavy for a torch as powerful as it is!
PS: Caution because very often the weight indicated by the manufacturers is the weight without battery!
9. Tactical switches
Depending on the type of flashlight you choose, you will find different brands with different torch references all with tactical switches or specific operating modes.
Without going into the differences between a standard switch and a tactic here are the modes that are most often found on tactical torches:
- A full power mode or “Turbo”
- One or more intermediate power modes
- A low power mode or “night light” to save a max of battery
- An SOS mode
- A Strobsocope mode that allows to blind in case of aggression.
All these modes are pretty nice on paper but the most important when choosing a tactical lamp, besides the fact that it has x modes is to know how the tactical button works.
Roughly, imagine that in order to arrive at the mode of lighting full power you are forced to press every time 4 times on the tactical switch, believe us it will be usable in the long run.
Some lamps feature a tactical knob to make you hammer style 2 half presses to switch from one mode to another then press to change the intensity once the mode is selected.The kind of manipulation we do once and never again!
Another important point is the position of the tactical knob or the mode change ring.Perso one is more fan of the tactical side buttons , others are more fan in the back of the lamp, it is a matter of taste and it does not change much in the end.
Be careful, however, to the side switches which are sometimes sensitive and which can activate the lamp during transport in your pocket or backpack.
Some lamps do not have a tactical button but a change of mode by turning the head of the torch, which is not a bad option either!
Finally, many people think that the SOS and Strobe modes will be useful to them some day, but the reality is that in most cases these modes will be more of a scourge when changing modes (loss of time if 5 modes for example) rather than benefits…
If possible, check how the tactical switch works via the technical data sheet of the lamp before buying and if the lamp has a memory that will prevent you from returning to each mode in the optimum mode for your use!
The vast majority of high-end lamps have certain standards:
- IPX standard : the most known and the most important.It ensures that the torch is rainproof and up to a certain level of immersion according to the number.For example IPX-8 = 2 meters.Caution as this standard is calculated on the principle that the lamp falls into the water during a very short time labs and that it is put to dry immediately after.In short, it is not a lamp that you can use to swim 2 meters below the surface!!
- Anti-corrosion standard
- Atex Standard:a standard that can be seen on all torch lamps dedicated to firefighters and trades where employees are in contact with areas where explosive atmospheres may form.It is for this reason that torches are under this specific Atex regulation, in other words, they are explosion-proof.The regulation has several rungs from 0 to 22. For more information on this standard, see wikipedia.
Just remember that the IPX standard is the most important except if you are looking for a flashlight for firefighter or explosion proof.
A criterion of choice to which one does not necessarily lend (consciously) attention but which can make the difference if you hesitate between 2 models of lamps of different brand.
A lot of brands supply the battery (s) with their lamps like Maglite for its models XL50 and XL200 or the Fenix PD35 .This is clearly a plus and saves a few euros!
It is also possible that in some packs, you receive O-rings in supplements in case the old ones let loose what is nice!
All models of flashlight are sold with a charger (except rare exceptions) so no worries of this side there.Some models of torches are rechargeable via usb , so you will receive a USB charger or cigarette lighter.
Another accessory that one is glad to receive for free is a strap or a clip for the belt.
The determining and most important criterion that we kept for the end.Everyone has their own budget and will have to select a flashlight in a certain price range.
There is often a tendency to recommend, in case of hesitation, to invest a little more than your budget in a lamp of better quality and that will last years rather than a low-end torch that will let you go for 6 months.
By investing in a quality flashlight from brands such as Fenix, Maglite etc, you will not be able to go wrong and your torch will hold for years, taking care, word of the connoisseur.
After having sifted all the criteria to choose your flashlight, we will present our recommendations of the best torches according to predefined budgets and different types of lamps.All recommended lamps are branded for the simple reason that we believe that low quality lamps are not worth buying because of their lifetime.
Budget <50 €
For a budget of less than 50 €, you can have access to a high-end torch!Here is our selection of our 3 favorite lamps for less than 50 euros !
If you are not afraid of its 31cm and 850g, the Maglite 3D remains a reference as a flashlight but not to buy for EDC for example!
Budget between 50 and 100 €
With a budget of between 50 and 100 € for a torch, you will have a fairly consistent choice that will cover almost 90% of all torch ranges sold on the market.Here are the 3 best torches we have selected for this price range.
Personally, we are really fan of the Fenix PD35 which is really cheap and has a good autonomy.We recommend this torch light daily to people with a little budget to invest in a high-end tactical lamp!
Top 3 tactical lamps
Without budget constraints, here are the 3 best powerful tactical lamps to which one would head.
Always our beloved Fenix PD35 .Nevertheless if you have a little more budget, the Javelin Olight is a pure wonder too!
Top 3 rechargeable lamps
Below, our 3 best rechargeable flashlights in USB (and on mains via an adapter).
The Olight SRMini 2 is one of our favorite rechargeable lamps because it comes with a whole range of accessories and has a good power/autonomy ratio.
Top 3 headlamps
To finish in beauty, here are the top 3 of the best headlamps .
Quite a fan of the Petzl Pixa 3 has the advantage of being much cheaper than the model Nao 575 brand. It keeps well on the head and has a very good battery life. In short, it is recommended!
We hope this guide helped you get the best in your quest for your ideal torch lamp! Do not hesitate to take a look at our various buying guides and torches tests of any kind!
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