Each of the three main flashlight categories includes l […]
Each of the three main flashlight categories includes lights of varying design and intended use. Battery type, size, weight, light output, beam distance, and charging time are just a few features that considerably impact the flashlight’s life span and user experience.
Size and Weight
Flashlights range in size from a few inches to several feet and in weight from a few ounces to several pounds. Consider the intended use of your flashlight. Would a pocket flashlight serve better, or would you get more use out of a spotlight? A pocket flashlight may be convenient, but models made of heavier material may be more durable.
Keep in mind that batteries are one of the heaviest components of flashlights. Adding more batteries provides extended life at the expense of extra weight. A heavy flashlight is not necessarily brighter than a lightweight one, but it may have a longer battery life.
Here’s a rundown of the battery types available on rechargeable flashlights:
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries offer high amounts of energy in lightweight packages. Li-ion batteries will last from 450 to 700 life cycle charges. These batteries can explode if they come in contact with water, so they are not the top choice for outdoor use.
Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries operate in temperatures from -5 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit and endure between 500 and 800 life cycles. They have a higher capacity than NiCad and a smaller capacity than Li-ion batteries.
Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries work well in extreme environments, provide bright light, and have the longest life span of about 700 to 1,000 life cycles. But NiCad batteries suffer from a phenomenon called the “memory effect,” in which they lose their maximum energy capacity if repeatedly recharged after being only partially discharged, as though the battery “remembers” the smaller capacity. To prevent this problem, fully discharge and charge NiCad batteries once a month.
Lumens are a standard unit of measurement used to denote the amount of light a rechargeable flashlight emits. A high lumen rating indicates a high light output, while fewer lumens translates to dimmer light. Consider the intended operating environment for your flashlight when choosing an appropriate lumen rating.
Flashlights also emit beams of different sizes, and some offer adjustable beams and dimness settings for more efficient use. Spotlights tend to skew toward a narrow, focused beam of light, while tactical flashlights offer adjustable beams that illuminate vast swaths.
Beam distance measures the distance at which the flashlight beam will produce the light of a full moon. Manufacturers sometimes note beam distance on the packaging and in specification information. The distance a flashlight can project light depends on the battery source, mode, and overall capability of the flashlight.
Models across all three types offer choices for focusing the beam over a distance. Some flashlights include more efficient eco-modes that allow for extended periods of dimmer light. Lower power modes may reduce the flashlight’s ability to project light in favor of conserving battery power.
Many flashlights include adjustable pieces that manipulate the size and distance of a beam. Consider the distances at which you hope to use the flashlight to determine which beam distance works best for your needs.
Run time refers to how long a flashlight can provide light. Some flashlights include dimming modes for extended periods of dimmer light.
The industry measures run time in milliamp hours, or mAh capacity; mAh indicates the storage capacity of the battery. Higher mAh ratings translate to longer run times. A flashlight with a higher mAh may not be brighter than a lower one, but it will last longer.
While batteries have become more efficient, they still don’t last forever. Charging methods, which vary from model to model, include USB cable, charging cradle, removable batteries, or even solar power.
Manufacturers use different charging techniques, and many batteries require specific chargers that don’t work with other brands. Consider the future location and use of your rechargeable flashlight when selecting the charging method.
“Waterproof” and “water resistant” are not synonymous terms. To know how deep into water you can take your flashlight, learn its IP (for “Ingress Protection,” aka “International Protection”) rating.