Top 7 Best Survival Flashlight Reviews for 2020

best survival flashlight in the marketWhether you are shopping for a flashlight for your everyday carry, your bug-out bag, or just an emergency survival flashlight for around the house, you want to make sure you have the most dependable light possible. You typically reach for a flashlight when things are not as they should be.  The situation may be as simple as a burned-out light bulb in a dark closet or as dire as an area-wide disaster that has left all the public utilities compromised.  Either way, when you reach for that flashlight, you want it to work.

Depending on the situation, different flashlights fill different roles in a survival situation.  There are also considerations about the type of light source, the battery, and the size that are important.  Choosing that flashlight is crucial and, in some circumstances, can be lifesaving.

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Written by Dennis H., former military and prepardness retail store owner and gear expert

What We Look for in a Survival Flashlight

Picking a survival flashlight can be an overwhelming job.  The market is flooded with LED flashlights, all claiming to be ‘tactical,’ ‘survival,’ or ‘mil-spec.”  In truth, very few of them should be assumed to meet any of these classifications.

As we considered our picks for the best survival flashlights, we looked at several criteria.

  • Lumen output
  • Features and modes
  • Quality of construction
  • Type of LED
  • Price

Our objective is to find the best combination of all these criteria in one package.  However, making such choices always involves compromise.  There may be areas in your needs for a survival flashlight that require no compromise in certain features or capabilities.  Always consider your needs above any other recommendations.


Best Survival Flashlight: Our Top 7 Picks

At a quick glance, here are our top picks summarized:

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. Best Overall EDC Survival Flashlight – Fenix PD35 Tactical Flashlight Review

Fenix PD35 Tactical Flashlight Review

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For many of us, carrying a small tactical style flashlight as part of our everyday carry has become second nature.  In our world where light is available at the flick of a switch, many of us forget that darkness can happen almost instantly.  Large buildings, subways, movie theaters are just some of the places you may find yourself in the dark and with a need to find your way out.

Fenix came to the US market in 2005 and immediately caught the attention of the military and law enforcement community.  Attention to detail and the production of high lumen lights at a reasonable garnered Fenix a solid market share.  Fenix has continued to lead the industry with its innovative designs and engineering.

Fenix delivers on its reputation with some impressive features.

  • Produces 1,000 lumens for up to 2.75 hours
  • Low-level usage at 8 lumens can run for up to 140 hours
  • CREE XP-L(V5) LED
  • 125 inches in diameter and 5.6 inches long, the PD35 flashlight is the perfect size for everyday carry.
  • Weighs only 4.2 ounces with the batteries
  • Waterproof
  • Advanced digitally control to regulate power output for consistent brightness
  • Multiple modes of operation for the best efficiency

Users consistently rate Fenix flashlights well.   The PD35 is no exception.

Pros

  • Incredibly bright.
  • Tough and durable all-aluminum construction
  • Can use rechargeable or regular batteries

Cons

  • Gets hot in a hurry at the highest illumination
  • Two-button controls can be confusing
  • In extremely cold weather, the LED may flicker

We chose the Fenix PD35 as our Best Overall EDC Survival Flashlight because it offers the best performance, durability, and features at the best price.  If you can only afford one survival flashlight to carry every day, the Fenix PD35 tactical flashlight should be in your pocket.

Fenix PD35 TAC 1000 Lumen CREE XP-L LED Tactical Flashlight with Two...
  • 1000 Lumen max utilizing Cree XP-L (V5) LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
  • Uses one rechargeable Li-ion battery or two 3V CR123A Lithium batteries
  • Tactical tail switch with momentary-on function

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Best Top of the Line EDC Survival Flashlight – Surefire E2D Defender Ultra Review

Surefire E2D Defender Ultra Review

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Without a doubt, the choice of lights by most military operators is the Surefire E2D Defender.  Across the board, when asked, law enforcement, military, and emergency first responders will choose the Surefire E2D to carry at work and at play.

Surefire has a long history of high-quality engineering and manufacturing, using only the best materials. The E2D is no exception.  This flashlight is often the standard against which other EDC flashlights are measured.  The list against which other flashlights face in the challenge is impressive.

  • Dual output functions for energy conservation
  • Delivers 1,000 lumens for 2.75 ours
  • At 5 lumens runtime is 63 hours
  • Crenelated strike bezel and scalloped tail cap for strike surface use
  • Mil-Spec hard-anodized aluminum construction
  • Dual function pocket clip
  • Single tail button control for easy manipulation even with gloves

You don’t find many complaints about the Surefire E3D Ultra.  When you do, you almost always find that Surefire customer service was on top of the issue with a quick solution.

Pros

  • Can be rifle mounted with optional accessories
  • Intense bright light on high setting with a long runtime
  • Perfect size for everyday carry. Fits in a shirt pocket easily
  • Great distance and reach.

Cons

  • No Strobe
  • Expensive

If you want the best, you can’t get much better than the Surefire E2D Defender Ultra.  The only reason that the Surefire E2D isn’t our overall top pick is the price.  You are going to pay a bit more to carry the Surefire E2D Ultra.  A lot of people do make that choice making the Surefire E2D a top seller.

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3. Best Standard Battery Survival Flashlight – Nitecore EA41 Review

Nitecore EA41 Review

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Nitecore isn’t as well-known as some of the other brands of survival flashlights, but they have quickly gained a reputation for producing gold flashlights with solid engineering.  The many designs and engineering awards the brand has garnered over the past few years is a testament to the emphasis Nitecore puts on quality and customer service.

The Nitecore EA41 offers the same sorts of features with one bonus.  Many users complain about the difficulty in finding the specialty batteries that many tactical EDC flashlights require.  Nitecore addresses that problem directly.  The Nitecore EA41 is designed to use standard AA batteries as its power source.

No more searching specialty stores for batteries.  The convenience of buying standard AA batteries makes the Nitecore EA41 a prime choice for many who are looking for an EDC survival flashlight.  Easy to find batteries is not the only standout feature of the Nitecore EA41 flashlight.

  • CREE XM-L2 US cool white or neutral white LED light
  • Uses 4 AA batteries
  • 1020 lumens output with 1.75 hours of runtime
  • 520 lumens yields 2.75 hours of runtime
  • Strobe, SOS and location beacon features built-in
  • Weighs only 5.33 ounces
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum construction
  • Dual switch operation
  • Integrated power indicator

While not too many people are familiar with the Nitecore line of flashlights. Those who have become users of these lights praise the durability and quality of these flashlights.

Pros

  • Switches offer an easy to use one-handed way to control the functions of the flashlight
  • Well-constructed and designed. Fits nicely in hand.
  • Very bright and gets good distance

Cons

  • Can’t use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries
  • Careful when using the included holster that you don’t accidentally turn on the light putting it back in.

The convenience of using standard AA batteries in your EDC flashlight is attractive to many people.  Unfortunately, many of the low-end, tactical style flashlights that use AA batteries just don’t offer the light or the runtime necessary for an ESC flashlight.  The Nitecore EA41 has met that challenge and in a package that doesn’t bust your budget.

Nitecore EA41 1020 Lumen Cree XM-L2 U2 LED Flashlight Compact Searchlight
  • 1020 lumens maximum brightness and 366 yards beam
  • Easy to use dual mode switch and power switch; Five output levels & Strobe SoS
  • Use commonly available 4x AA Batteries (not included); Low battery warning

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Best Budget Survival Flashlight – Smith and Wesson Galaxy Review

Smith and Wesson Galaxy Review

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Say Smith and Wesson and almost everyone immediately thinks of guns with good reason.  With a history dating back to the early years of this country, Smith and Wesson have a proud history of producing some of the most iconic firearms in history.  Their reputation for quality is at the top of the ladder.

What most people don’t realize is that Smith and Wesson also produce some of the best lines of tactical gear as well.   This includes flashlights.  Their Galaxy mid-sized flashlight is one of the most popular.  If you need a flashlight a bit bigger than a tactical EDC flashlight for your car, home, or gear bag, the Smith and Wesson Galaxy should fit the bill.

The Galaxy flashlight features a 12 LED array in a durable aluminum housing.  In addition to the 15-lumen flashlight, the LED array also houses red, blue, and green LEDs to allow just the right color setting for the conditions without having to fumble for lens filters.

Other features make this the best budget buy in a mid-sized flashlight.

  • Impact-resistant aluminum construction
  • Waterproof to 6 meters
  • Dual function switch system for mounted on the barrel of the flashlight for easy use.
  • 5-hour runtime
  • Uses 3 AAA batteries
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

Pros

  • Great flashlight for utility purposes.
  • The color LEDs a handy, especially the red for reading maps at night without ruining night vision
  • Uses AAA batteries which are easy to find

Cons

  • The light can be a little dim when using only the color mode LEDs
  • The design requires you to cycle through all the modes to get to a specific color. This can be distracting, especially at night.

The Smith and Wesson Galaxy is a great addition to a bug-out bag, get-home bag, or just to have handy for utility purposes.  It is not by any stretch of the imagination a tactical light.  However, everyone should have a good utility light in their kit.  The Smith and Wesson Galaxy handles that chore perfectly at a minimal cost.

Smith & Wesson Galaxy 12 LED 15 Lumen Flashlight with Dual Beam Function...
  • SPECS: 3-hour 30-minute runtime, 6.25” overall length and weighs 7.6 oz
  • BRIGHTNESS: Battery powered, LED flashlight (3xAAA included)
  • DURABLE: Constructed of anodized aerospace aluminum that is waterproof and impact resistant up to 1...

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Best Full-Sized Survival Flashlight – Maglight LED 3-Cell D Flashlight Review

Maglight LED 3-Cell D Flashlight Review

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Until the advent of LEDs and high capacity batteries, the mainstay of the flashlight industry was the D-cell flashlight.  The Maglite 3 D-cell flashlight was the choice of most emergency responders.   Law enforcement officers prized them because of their quality and dependability and the rugged construction that allowed the hefty flashlights to break windows as a self-defense weapon when necessary.

Now Maglite offers that same all-around useful flashlight in a modern version complete with multi-functional LED light.  The Maglite LED 3-Cell D light maintains the same utilitarian design and ruggedness with the capabilities for long run time and extremely bright lights.

To make the Maglite 3 D-cell light even more functional, Maglite offers three different configurations of features to fit the needs of almost any profession.  The function sets are designed for outdoor use, military use, and law enforcement use.

  • Water-resistant
  • 625 lumens
  • High power setting gives 16 hours of runtime
  • Low power setting offers 77 hours of runtime
  • Eco mode runs up to 117 hours
  • Spot to flood adjustment in ¼ turn of the focusing head

Pros

  • Rugged and almost indestructible construction
  • Made 100% in the USA
  • The focus ability is essential in a full-sized flashlight. It makes this light much more versatile than comparable lights.

Cons

  • Heavy

The Maglite LED #-Cell D Flashlight is the perfect flashlight to keep nearby in your home or in your vehicle.  It feels good in your hand and adds a measure of comfort, not just because it is a dependable and functional flashlight, but also because it has enough heft and strength to survive some intense encounters.

Sale
Maglite LED 3-Cell D Flashlight, Black
  • Superior quality craftsmanship with weather-resistant seals and anodized inside and out for improved...
  • A premium drop resistant and water resistant flashlight renowned for its quality, durability and...
  • Advanced lighting instrument with a diamond knurled design and a powerful projecting beam making it...

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. Best Right-Angle Survival Flashlight – Streamlight 90540 LED Right Angle Flashlight Review

Streamlight 90540 LED Right Angle Flashlight Review

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Sometimes an unconventional flashlight is a better solution and the Streamlight 90540 LED Right Angle Flashlight is a perfect example.  Designed for firefighters who need dependable and tough equipment that can survive extreme conditions, the Streamlight 90540 could also be the answer to your needs in a survival light.

Firefighters need to have light in early impenetrable smoke conditions and keep their hands free for other work.  The Streamlight is designed to hang from firefighter’s protective gear, project light forward, and survive conditions most flashlights would find deadly.

These same sorts of conditions might be what you anticipate and having those capabilities in a flashlight the features you want.  You won’t find yourself lacking if you chose the Streamlight 90540 flashlight.

  • Rubber protected push button is easy to manipulate with gloves
  • Uses either rechargeable NiCd batteries or 4 AA Alkaline batteries
  • C4 LED light source
  • High power, low power, emergency flash, and moonlight modes
  • 175 lumens provide 405 meters of distance
  • 5 hours runtime
  • Lexan lens
  • Waterproof

Pros

  • Tough and resilient
  • Bright orange case makes it easy to find
  • Bright beam on high and the moonlight mode is great in the tent when camping

Cons

  • No charging dock

Sale
Streamlight 90540 Survivor LED Right Angle Flashlight, Orange - 175 Lumens
  • Rubber dome push button switch easy to use with gloves
  • Dual power source: Rechargeable NiCd battery; also accepts 4 “AA” alkaline batteries
  • C4 LED with high, low, emergency flash and moonlight modes

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

7. Best Headlamp Survival Flashlight – Fenix HM23 Review

Fenix HM23 Review

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Hand-free light is essential, especially in a survival situation.   Some jobs just require that you keep both hands free but have light exactly where you need it.  Often, the solution to the dilemma of hands-free with light is to employ a good headlamp.

No bug-out bag or get-home bag should be without a dependable headlamp.  The Fenix HM23 is a great solution to the problem of keeping hands free with available light. This headlamp from Fenix brings all the qualities we have come to expect from Fenix flashlights in an ergonomic design at a reasonable price.

The Fenix HM23 uses the same long-lasting LED system as the other Fenix flashlights. Fenix lights are noted for their durability and quality construction.  This has made them a mainstay in many people’s EDC kits.  The Fenix HM23 doesn’t lack the features we expect from Fenix lights.

  • CREE neutral white LED
  • Lightweight and compact
  • 180-degree adjustable beam
  • Uses one AA Alkaline Battery
  • Waterproof
  • 240 lumens on high setting with 8 hours of runtime
  • Digitally regulated output
  • One switch controls

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use controls
  • Lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods
  • Great bright light and good distance on the beam

Cons

  • Don’t expect 8 hours of runtime at full light output

Whether you are out fishing and need to tie on a new lure or deep in the wilderness and needing both hands to fix a broken backpack strap or administer first aid, a solid and dependable headlamp can be the difference in success or failure.  The Fenix HM23 is a superb choice for a headlamp whether the situation is recreation or survival.

Fenix HM23 240 Lumen Compact Ultralight Single AA Headlamp and LumenTac AA...
  • BRIGHT OUTDOOR HEADLAMP - The Fenix HM23 produces up to 240 lumens of neutral light giving you peace...
  • COMPACT ULTRALIGHT HEADLAMP - The HM23 headlamp weighs in under 1.5 oz not including battery making...
  • EASY TO OPERATE, EASY TO MAINTAIN - The HM23 comes with an AA from the factory, but will run on any...

Last update on 2020-03-31 at 01:06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Survival Flashlight FAQs

What are Lumens?

To keep the answer simple, think of lumens as a measure of light that you can see.  The higher the lumen count, the brighter the light will appear to your eye.  Lumens have nothing to do with power, often associated with ratings in watts such as 60w.

How do LEDs Work?

LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are a product of the semiconductor industry.  These small electronic parts have an interesting capability.  When electricity flows in a specific direction through the material of which the LED is made, the LED emits light.  LED’s consume less power than conventional incandescent bulbs and produce much less heat.  Their life expectancy is many times that of conventional bulbs.

If LEDs Run Cooler Than Conventional Lights, How Come my LED Light Gets Hot?

Anything that produces light will get hot if driven hard enough.  When your LED flashlight is used at the highest setting, the lamp will produce heat, which is taken away from the bulb and the electronics by the body of the flashlight, which serves as a heat sink.  This is why good LED flashlights have a limiting technology that will only allow the flashlight to operate for a limited time at peak power.


Before You Chose a Survival Flashlight

Everyone’s needs and expectations of what a survival flashlight should do are different.  We feel that the selections we have made bring the best possible combination of features, capabilities, and prices to our list.   Before you choose from one of the best survival flashlights listed above, consider your own expectations, needs, and budget.  We hope that our suggestions make your decision easier and more informed.

Our recommendation is the Fenix PD35 Tactical Flashlight.  The high lumen output, the reputation of the Fenix brand, and the features for the price make this tactical survival flashlight our choice for everyday carry and inclusion in our gear bags.  We have never been disappointed with our Fenix lights and are sure that you won’t be either.

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