15 Different Types of Flashlights: Find the Best One For You

Last Updated on May, 2024

Although we can all be thankful for super vision and night vision ability, as normal human beings, we’ve got to settle with regular vision and use night vision devices to help us with that. 

Want to light up a nighttime outdoor adventure or the darkness of a power outage?

Flashlights are the most convenient portable light, operated with a simple ON button to light up the darkness.

Quick Summary

There are many different types of flashlights, each with its own benefits, that are available on the market.

The most common type of flashlight is the incandescent flashlight, which is budget-friendly and versatile but not as durable as some of the other options.

Tactical flashlights are the go-to choice among police officers and military personnel because they are extremely durable and produce a very bright light.

How Does a Flashlight Work?

a human holding flashlight

A typical flashlight consists of the following parts that come together to perform the function of a flashlight, which is to produce light.

  • Outer Case- housing of the below parts 
  • Contacts- a copper or brass spring or strip attached between the batteries, lamp and switch to complete the electrical connection
  • Switch- activates or breaks the electrical connection
  • Reflector- an aluminum-coated plastic part that reflects the light from the lamp
  • Lamp- the light source. Either tungsten filament or LED (light-emitting diode)
  • Lens- a plastic part to protect the lamp
  • Batteries- the power source

When the flashlight switch is pushed to the ON position, it connects two contact strips which initiate a battery-powered flow of electricity.

The batteries are placed in a series connection where the electrical current flow occurs between the battery’s positive and negative electrodes. These batteries rest atop a metal spring connecting to the contact strip with the switch.

Another flat contact strip runs from the other side of the switch to the lamp, providing an electrical connection. This arrangement connects the top battery’s positive electrode with the lamp’s metal part (bulb). And this complete electric circuit generates electricity. 

Activating this electric circuit causes the lamp to glow, producing visible light. The light from the lamp reflects off the reflector present around the lamp. This reflected light is redirected as a steady beam of light and is emitted from the flashlight. The clear lens serves as a protective barrier to the glass lamp.

When the switch is pushed to the OFF position, the contact strips are moved apart, breaking the electric circuit and stopping the electricity flow. It leads to the end of light production and turns OFF the flashlight.

Read our complete guide on “How Do Flashlights Work?“.

Types of Flashlights

1. LED Flashlights

These days LEDs are very popular for many reasons. These types of flashlights are long-lasting and don’t produce heat when it runs.

The durability of LED types of flashlights makes them ideal for rugged use and accidental drops. Thus making it an excellent option for camping trips and other outdoor use. 

When comparing the light produced by LED flashlights to incandescent bulb flashlights producing a white light with a yellow hue, the LED light will give you an off-white light with a blue hue. 

This type of flashlight is more expensive and almost matches the price of a heavy-duty incandescent bulb flashlight. 

LED Flashlights on the table

LED flashlight lumen depends on the purpose it is used for. An average LED for general use around the house emits between 300- 500 lumens.

Checkout the best LED Flashlights that we tested and ranked on our website.

2. Lanterns

Lanterns are the old-fashioned way of lighting up a place in a decorative way. Traditional lanterns use a fuel power source like kerosene to provide light. 

Modern lanterns have become more common. They function similarly to LED flashlights.

To get the best use out of lantern lights, you have to place them down on the area which needs to be lit up. 

You can also carry lanterns along with you to light up your way. Their large and heavy size makes them more suitable for stationery use rather than for hiking or walking after dark.

People usually purchase lanterns to be prepared for storms and natural disasters.

LED lanterns produce light with a warm glow. The light caps out at around 120 lumens.

Lanterns flashlights on the table

3. Diving Lamp Flashlights

A diving lamp is flashlights specifically designed for underwater use. It is waterproof and can handle depths from 600 feet up to 200 meters. 

The light source in most diving lamps is LED lights. And this makes them give a bright light. 

The waterproof materials used as the casing of lamps won’t corrode in water or salt water.

It makes this type of flashlight option the only and best choice for snorkeling and scuba diving activities.

a human using a flashlight while  Diving

4. Headlamp Flashlights

A headlamp flashlight is a great option to keep your path lit up while your hands are busy. 

If you need a light to see while carrying or holding on to something, it can be pretty inconvenient to do two things simultaneously.

A headlamp flashlight is your solution for this. All you’ve got to do is strap it around your forehead, and the lamp will do the rest for you. 

Using headlamps allows you to use your hands without compromising your sight. This type of flashlight makes it as convenient as possible for you.

Headlamp Flashlight on the table

Headlamps are ideal for outdoor activities at night or in the dark such as caving, camping, hiking, fishing and orienteering.

Headlamps are practical and cost-effective flashlights. The light source of most headlamp flashlights is LED bulbs. It makes it long-lasting while producing a bright light. Rechargeable headlamps producing a brightness of up to 1,800 lumens are available too. 

5. Heavy Duty Flashlights

Heavy-duty flashlights, as the name implies, are built to last long and handle a bit of bashing and batter. They are more durable than day-to-day flashlights.

The durability protects it from much damage when dropped.

This type of flashlight is a good choice if you want a standard flashlight for heavy use. 

It doesn’t drain the batteries soon. For a heavy-duty flashlight, this is a cost-effective option. But remember, there are other durable options too.

This flashlight is often used when on a hunt or trip.

a human holding Heavy Duty Flashlight

A heavy-duty flashlight uses incandescent bulbs. Although not very convenient, they are affordable for a hard-use light.

6. High- Intensity Discharge (HID) Flashlights

High-intensity discharge flashlights give an extremely bright light. Unlike other flashlights, this lamp runs an electrical current through an ionized gas ball. 

HID flashlights are much less common compared to incandescent bulb flashlights. They are also up to 10 times more expensive than incandescent bulb flashlights.

This reason makes it a popular choice among enthusiasts.

High-intensity discharge flashlights are very useful even with the higher price tag. They can deliver a very bright light that brightens up a large area.

These features make this type of flashlight a good choice when on outdoor or camping trips.

a human holding High Intensity Discharge (HID) Flashlight

7. Incandescent Flashlights

For decades, incandescent flashlights have been one of the most popular choices. This flashlight is often chosen because it is budget-friendly.

They usually run on D batteries. It is also used around bathroom remodeling projects to light up a dark area. 

Incandescent flashlights are built to be weather-resistant. So it resists water and corrosion as well. This flashlight comes in handy during rainy days.

Sadly, an incandescent flashlight tends to break easily when dropped. Durable models that withstand accidental drops are available at an expensive rate.

a human holding a Flashlight

This flashlight is multi-purpose. It has many uses in a residential setting. It is also used in fishing and camping for its ease of use. It is powerful enough to light up a decent-sized area.

8. Novelty Flashlights

These flashlights produce much lower power compared to other flashlights.

They don’t produce a bright light making them unreliable for general-purpose tasks. 

They are usually compact and small in size and utilize a AAA battery.

Its compact size makes it easier to carry it around and comes in handy for spontaneous tasks.

But you can’t expect to brighten up the whole room.

a human holding Novelty Flashlight

9. Pressurized Gas Flashlights

Certain types of flashlights power up differently from other standard flashlights. Flashlights that come with pressurized gas increase the glowing time of the bulb. 

It uses halogen gasses, krypton and xenon to help the light glow brighter and last longer than usual. In turn, this will drain the battery power much more slowly. 

Some pressurized gas flashlights use a krypton bulb, illuminating brighter and lasting longer.

They come with a housing case that makes them durable to handle hard use. Surprisingly, it is relatively cheap, so it conveniently fits your budget.

a Flashlight on the floor

Pressurized gas flashlights utilize standard D batteries. You can often find these flashlights lying around in kitchen drawers or cabinets for emergency situations. They come in handy when you need quick access to light. 

10. Shake Flashlights

As the title hints, shake flashlights produce light when shaken. This shaking brings about a reaction that produces light.

Shake flashlights are different to regular flashlights. They don’t use standard batteries as the power source; instead, they run on magnets placed within the flashlight. 

It is a convenient option because you don’t have to worry about having batteries in hand. 

However, these flashlights don’t produce a bright enough light. This dim light is just enough to light your way but may not serve anything more than that.

a human holding Shake Flashlight

Shake flashlights are very cost-effective and readily available to buy. Even with dim light, this option is worth considering if you like the idea of no use of batteries.

11. Solar Powered Flashlights

Many people consider environmentally friendly options at large for any purchase. And this applies to flashlights as well. For this reason, there are solar-powered flashlights for those looking for an eco-friendly purchase.

They are usually powerful enough and convenient for most general uses. 

Most of these types of flashlights are weaker than regular flashlights. But some specific models can give a more bright light.

That said, they can’t compete with a LED flashlight or a HID flashlight. Compared to incandescent flashlights, this type is cost-effective with proper charging practice. 

Solar Power Flashlight on the stone

Some models are equipped with a hand crank. This crank helps you to generate the power to produce the light without solar energy. This option is helpful in emergency situations when you forget to charge the solar cells.

12. USB Charging Flashlights

Using USB technology flashlights, this type of flashlights are designed to recharge the inbuilt batteries for use.

All you have to do differently is recharge it using a USB port, just like charging a mobile phone. 

It is one of the most convenient choices because you will inevitably be charging your electronics in rotation, making it one extra device to charge.

And during emergencies, you’ll have it ready to go.

A USB charging flashlight can produce bright light but can be more expensive. But the bonus is you get to save on buying batteries as replacements.

USB Charging Flashlight

13. Utility Flashlights

Most utility flashlights make use of an incandescent light bulb. You can easily purchase a unit within your budget as they are the least expensive compared to other flashlight types in this list.

And you can manage to use it for many general projects.

The only thing is they are not built for rough use, so it is not as durable. If you don’t need a flashlight regularly, these types of flashlights are the way to go.

The low price tag makes it a popular choice among many people.

And if it breaks, people simply purchase a new replacement. If you’re looking for a long-lasting, durable, brighter light option, this may not be for you.

a human holding a Utility Flashlight

14. Tactical Flashlights

Tactical flashlights are the go-to choice among police officers and military personnel. Police officers use it during investigations.

This flashlight produces a powerful and very bright beam of light that can disorient people at the sight of this light. 

Tactical flashlight types are extremely durable. They are designed for rough use and can withstand different weather conditions and impacts while in use.

You don’t have to worry about a damaged flashlight in extreme situations. Most of the time, it will meet your needs, even after drops and tumbles.

Tactical flashlights can efficiently deliver a beam of light up to 1500 lumens that can reach over 1100 feet in distance. 

Tactical Flashlights on the table

There are many different situations where tactical flashlights come in handy. Rescue workers and firefighters carry this in their daily tool kits. Contracting jobs & Law enforcement require a good flashlight such as this. 

Here’s the complete guide on “What is Tactical Flashlight“, if you want to learn more about this type of flashlight.

15. Work Flashlight

Work flashlights are made for professionals who need a reliable source of light. It is a beneficial type of flashlight if you work in the dark often and need to focus on all the minor details. 

These flashlights can be purchased as dual bundles where one flashlight can produce up to 250 lumens and the other up to 300 lumens.

You can use both or alternate between the two based on your requirements. 

These come with a rechargeable feature, so there is no need for spare batteries. With three to four hours of charging, it will be ready for use. 

Work Flashlight on the table

They also come with dimmable beams and an adjustable zoom feature to help narrow the light beam to a specific point. You can zoom in up to four times. And this makes it a popular and convenient choice for various work projects.

Choosing the Flashlight That Works Best for You

There are many factors to consider when looking for a flashlight for a specific use. This section will explore the criteria you need to analyze to determine the performance of a flashlight. 

Light Output

Brightness and beam intensity are two essential factors in light output. The brightness of the light emitted is measured in lumens.

It indicates the amount of light produced. So the higher the lumen count, the brighter the light delivered. 

A flashlight that gives from 800-1200 lumens delivers more than enough light.

It is recommended for a wide range of activities. But a higher lumen count will be helpful if you want to see longer distances.

The beam intensity of a light source is measured in candelas. A higher candela rating will give you a focused light beam.

And a low candela rating light will have a beam without a good center point or varying beam. 

Flashlight output

Run Time

The run time of a flashlight decides its usefulness. Continuous use of over 15 minutes usually drops the run time by at least 10%. 

Battery strength and flashlight size impact the run time. For this reason, always check the battery power before purchasing. Stronger batteries mean longer running time.

Checkout the Top Picks of the Long Lasting Flashlights reviewed by Outlighter.

Beam Distance

It is the distance of how far the light beam will shine before fading and is measured in meters. 

Impact Resistance

A test is conducted on the flashlight by dropping it on concrete at least six times from a rated distance. And this is measured in meters. This test merely ensures the functionality of the light after accidental drops. 

Batteries

Batteries are an essential criterion to factor into your buy. Always give preference to flashlights that consume high-quality rechargeable batteries for convenience. 

But in case of lengthy power outages, a non-rechargeable alkaline battery-powered flashlight should be the choice. These batteries are expensive, so overall maintenance costs may be high, plus they are not environmentally friendly.

If you don’t want to deal with any sort of battery, then power sources such as solar cells and magnets work well too.

Solar-powered flashlights charged through sun exposure and shake lights powered simply by shaking are the way for you to go.

Budget

The price of each flashlight reflects all the criterion factors mentioned in this list. So it goes without saying that different types of flashlights come with varied price tags.

For simple residential use around the house, types of flashlights with cost-effective incandescent light bulbs are the way to go. With a bigger budget, you can use USB charging or LED flashlights for their much brighter light. In addition, they are more durable than incandescent bulb flashlights. 

A flashlight built for a specific use will be expensive compared to an average general-use flashlight.

Checkout the average price of a flashlight guide to learn more.

Durability

The housing materials of the flashlight determine its durability. So this is a factor that needs heavy attention.

Materials such as aluminum, plastic and polycarbonate (PC) are commonly used in many flashlights. 

Plastic-cased flashlights are lightweight, so they are easy to use and maintain. But it is not as durable. If it is accidentally dropped, it will easily crack and split.

Flashlights with an aluminum shell are much more robust but lightweight. Most LED flashlights come with an aluminum casing.

a human holding a Flashlight

Headlamps usually use PC materials because it has to be lightweight to be strapped around your forehead. But PC materials are also not as sturdy as aluminum. So it requires careful use if purchased for a specific reason.

Purpose

The above list of flashlights touched on the fact that they are built for various purposes. And I would say the purpose is the first factor essential to consider.

If you need a light for a construction site or a big gathering of people, you have to choose a type of flashlight that will give you an extremely bright light. 

Walking at night or looking for something in your surroundings works well with incandescent models with just enough light.

For camping, hunting trips and night-time trekking in the woods, a tight and focused beam will let you see over long distances like HID flashlights.

And if you need it for a project to investigate situations or rescue missions, a high-quality flashlight like a tactical flashlight is ideal.

Size and Weight

Size and weight are a must-consider for ease of use and extended usage time. A larger model will have a longer run time because they come equipped with solid and big batteries. It also means a brighter light.

That said, specific smaller models can be powerful too. And their lightweight nature makes them easy and convenient to carry around.

Water Resistance

Water is found all around you through many different sources. This makes it an important factor to consider, mainly if the flashlight is used outdoors.

There is a likely chance of accidentally dropping it in water. So going for a flashlight that is water resistant comes as an additional protection feature.

A waterproof rating of IPX4 can handle the rain. A rating that goes up to IPX7 allows you to submerge the flashlight at least 3 feet deep into the water.

The IPX8 rating means you can immerse it beyond 3 feet deep without causing any damage. 

a human holding a Flashlight in water

Final Thoughts

We are spoiled for choice with so many different types of flashlights available in the market. Their existence in various sizes, shapes, and weights makes them useful for different settings and purposes. 

Be it an emergency situation or day-to-day use, a flashlight is extremely handy to have around.

Use our outline to help you pick the flashlight that best works for you- cause you never know when you may need one.

Frequently Asked Questions

The brightest flashlight available in the market has a maximum luminosity of 100,000 lumens.

LED flashlights last significantly longer than traditional flashlights due to their energy efficiency. They can last up to 100 000 hours, while incandescent bulbs typically last only 2000 hours.

Strobe lights on flashlights are used to disorient and temporarily blind an attacker, and to signal for help when lost or stranded.

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Author
Dillon Morrison
I have been involved in the flashlight community since 2007. My brother has a flashlight shop from where I have tested and reviewed more than 600+ different types of flashlights. You can find more about me here.

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