Best Hiking Flashlight

Seeing as how you made your way to this very page, we are going to assume that you are one of many people seeking out the best hiking flashlight of 2019. It’s not a question with an easy answer, but fortunately for you, we’ve taken a dive into almost 20 of the best flashlights and headlights for camping, examining everything from brightness to battery life.

Now, we’ve narrowed it down to the 6 best hiking flashlights for camping, hunting, or any other night time activity that you might find yourselves engaged in. Perhaps you’d agree: having a reliable flashlight or headlamp is nothing short of a bright idea.

Afterwards, we are going to help you choose a camping flashlight with our detailed buying guide on the subject, so be sure to stick around.

Product details
+ Positives
—  Negatives
 
Best Headlamp
Headlamp
Cobiz
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  • Lumens 6000
  • Battery USB Rechargeable
  • Waterproof IPX4
  • Weight 13.6 ounces
  • Bright 6000 Lumens
  • Rechargeable battery pack
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Needs extra padding around light & battery assemblies
 
Best Convertible-Style Headlamp
H2R LED
OLIGHT
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  • Lumens 2300
  • Battery USB Rechargeable
  • Waterproof No
  • Weight 12 ounces
  • Convertible-style construction
  • Reliable light output
  • Beam is more of a floodlight and less of a spotlight
  • Headstrap is less comfortable than other models & manufacturers
 
Best Tactical Flashlight
Tactical Flashlight
Klarus
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  • Lumens 1100
  • Battery USB Rechargeable
  • Waterproof IPX4
  • Weight 12.3 ounces
  • Good size & durability for emergency kits
  • Great runtime for a rechargeable flashlight
  • Buttons are slightly two exposed and can be clicked on accidentally
  • Battery run time will diminish in time
 
Best Alkaline Battery Headlamp
HP15UE
Fenix
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  • Lumens 900
  • Battery Fenix
  • Waterproof Splash Resistant
  • Weight 8.8 ounces
  • AAA batteries offer good light output
  • Very lightweight for the style
  • Battery compartment is somewhat bulky
 
Best Lightweight Flashlight
EA11 14500
Nitecore
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  • Lumens 900
  • Battery 1Xaa Rechargeable
  • Waterproof IPX4
  • Weight 4.5 ounces
  • Very compact & lightweight
  • Direct red light access button
  • Lower runtime than bigger & heavier camping flashlights
  • Buttons can be pressed accidentally causing light to turn on in your pocket
 
Best Flashlight for Hunting
TC10 V2
ThruNite
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  • Lumens 6000
  • Battery USB Rechargeable
  • Waterproof IPX4
  • Weight 3.03 ounces
  • Very durable
  • Great beam focus
  • Included battery isn’t great

Best High Brightness Headlamp for Camping

COBIZ Brightest High 6000 Lumen LED Work Headlight for Camping

LUMENS: 6000

BATTERY SOURCE: USB RECHARGEABLE

STYLE: HEADLAMP

WATERPROOF RATING: IPX4

WEIGHT: 10.3 oz

BEST FEATURE: BATTERY CHARGE INDICATOR

Although there are a lot of things to like about COBIZ’s work headlamp, the one that stands above the rest is the price. You are going to be hard pressed to find anything on the market that can match the value of this camping headlamp. Especially considering that you are getting a whopping 6000 lumens for the price. Why do we like inexpensive headlamps? Personally, it’s because I can’t seem to go on a hiking trip without losing or breaking mine, and sometimes it is good to have a real ‘beater’ lying around that you don’t need to worry about.

Having said that, the COBIZ light is more durable than what you might expect from a headlamp at this price point, meaning that it will likely last a lot longer than you expect it to.

But there is a more important element to talk about when it comes to camping lights, and that, of course, is the light. At 6000 lumens this headlamp is one of the brighter one’s on our list, however we are not sure if we can agree that it hits a full 6000. It certainly comes quite close. There seems to be something about rechargeable batteries not being able to offer the same brightness as traditional battery power sources, but this seems to be changing in the industry, and we for one are glad to hear it.

We did have one nitpicky thing to say about the COBIZ light, and that is simply that it could stand to be a bit more comfortable. After extended use (3-4 hours) there is some stress where the front light assembly and the rear battery assembly come into contact with the head. A bit of foam padding in these areas would more than solve the problem, and it’s something that you can do DIY on the cheap if you need to.

Pros
  • Bright 6000 Lumens
  • Rechargeable battery pack
Cons
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Needs extra padding around light & battery assemblies

Best Convertible-Style Headlamp

OLIGHT Bundle HR2 CREE LED Rechargeable Headlamp

LUMENS: 2300

BATTERY SOURCE: USB RECHARGEABLE

STYLE: HEADLAMP

WATERPROOF RATING: NOT WATERPROOF

WEIGHT: 7.2 oz

BEST FEATURE: CONVERTIBLE USE (LIGHT CAN BE USED AS HANDHELD)

Generally speaking, we are big fans of many of the products that OLIGHT has released in recent years, simply because their products tend to actually hit the advertised lumen rate. Perhaps this is because they almost strictly use the 18650 style rechargeable batteries, which in our experience simply offer more efficient energy output than other battery styles. The result is a quality mid-range headlamp that offers a bright, if not a bit flooded, illumination for your next camping or hunting trip.

The OLIGHT HR2 is not without its problems. For one, the head strap is made of a hard, somewhat coarse plastic, whereas the large majority of manufacturers use the standard soft silicone stretch bands that have become so popular because of how comfortable they are.

We suspect that the switch to this harder plastic was done to accommodate the attached flashlight, which is basically a small handheld flashlight that can be mounted on the head strap. In other words, what we have here is a fully functioning convertible headlamp that can be used just like a traditional flashlight if you need. However, we are still not sure when a headlamp wouldn’t be superior to a traditional style flashlight. After all, why use your hands if you don’t need to?

We noticed a bit of battery rattling upon unboxing the unit. We were able to fix this with a bit of tape, and hopefully it is not a defect that you will find in other units. However if you do notice a bit of battery rattle then we recommend you send it back for a new one; OLIGHT has some pretty outstanding customer service and I’m sure that they will replace it, no questions asked.

Pros
  • Convertible-style construction
  • Reliable light output
Cons
  • Beam is more of a floodlight and less of a spotlight
  • Headstrap is less comfortable than other models & manufacturers

Best Tactical Flashlight for Camping

KLARUS XT11S CREE XP-L HI V3 LED Tactical Flashlight

LUMENS: 1100

BATTERY SOURCE: USB RECHARGEABLE

STYLE: TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT

WATERPROOF RATING: IPX4

WEIGHT: 12.8 oz

BEST FEATURE: VERY DURABLE

A good tactical flashlight is one of the most useful things that you can keep in your emergency bag or the glove compartment of your car. You never know when you are going to need a good light on your side, and these are small and durable enough to handle any adventure or emergency, no matter how unexpected they may be. And that’s the thing about a really good adventure; you never really know when it is going to arrive at your door.

While the tactical flashlights of our childhood normally operated off of at least 4x AA batteries, many manufacturers have switched to rechargeable batteries because of how much more affordable they have become in recent years. So which style is better? That has yet to be seen, but we can say this: it certainly is nice to not have to go out and buy new batteries every time you want to go camping. Simply leave this baby plugged in overnight and you’ll have a decent amount of operating time. The included 12V car charger is a nice touch, we might add.

The design of this tactical flashlight is somewhat curious. Both the rear button and the side button seem to stick out a bit further than they should, leaving them somewhat exposed. The result of an over-exposed button on a flashlight is that it becomes much more likely to turn on inside your pocket or backpack, thus wasting battery and creating a bunch of excess heat, which can damage the flashlight or any gear that it comes into contact with.

We’ve had the KLARUS XT11S for a few weeks now, recharging daily, and we are only noticing small reductions in the total run time. We imagine that with this style and size of battery, the capacity will continue to dwindle over time.

Pros
  • Good size & durability for emergency kits
  • Great runtime for a rechargeable flashlight
Cons
  • Buttons are slightly two exposed and can be clicked on accidentally
  • Battery run time will diminish in time

Best Alkaline Battery Powered Headlamp

FENIX HP15UE Ultimate Edition 900 Lumens Expedition Headlamp

LUMENS: 900

BATTERY SOURCE: 4x AAA

STYLE: HEADLAMP

WATERPROOF RATING: SPLASH RESISTANT

WEIGHT: 5.4 oz

BEST FEATURE: BATTERY CHARGE INDICATOR

We’ve had the pleasure of reviewing some of FENIX’s lighting products in the past, and we have always been pretty impressed by their performance. In fact, the HP11 was one of the best headlamps that we have ever used, considering how lightweight it was and its ease of use. The other thing we really liked, which is also present here with the HP15UE, is that the actual lamp assembly is not in direct contact with the forehead, which helps alleviate some of the problems that can arise as a result of overheating.

The multiple tactical modes are quite useful. There are four lighting modes in all, including a flashing SOS option which is way more useful than most people realize. The thing is, most folks have never been in the situation when a flashing light would be needed, but it only takes once. Leaving a flashing SOS light on in  the same position is one of the best ways to alert search and rescue teams to your location, if you are ever unfortunate enough to need that kind of thing.

In the age of rechargeable battery packs, FENIX has decided to stick with traditional AAAs for the HP15UE. There are some upsides to this, including the fact that AAA batteries tend to supply a more reliable power stream to the light source. This eliminates some of the problems that come with rechargeable batteries like intermittent dimming or powering down when the battery starts to get low.

Another big pro to using disposable batteries is that it is possible to carry extra, which gives you access to a fresh battery source whenever you need it. Rechargeable headlamps on the other hand need to be plugged in to get more energy, and as any good adventurer knows, power outlets can be hard to come by in the wilderness.

The most significant drawback to disposable batteries is how big the battery compartment has to be. It is particularly bulky with the HP15UE. The added weight on the back of the head strap is something that you will have to get used to, but the overall weight of this unit is still surprisingly light considering this fact.

Pros
  • AAA batteries offer good light output
  • Very lightweight for the style
Cons
  • Battery compartment is somewhat bulky

Best Lightweight Camping Flashlight

NITECORE EA11 14500 CREE XM-L2 U2 900LM LED FLASHLIGHT

LUMENS: 900

BATTERY SOURCE: 1Xaa RECHARGEABLE

STYLE: TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT

WATERPROOF RATING: IPX4

WEIGHT: 1.7 oz

BEST FEATURE: DIRECT RED LIGHT ACCESS

If we’re being completely honest, we haven’t yet had the pleasure of reviewing any of NITECORE’s lighting products, which would make the EA11 the very first for us. The first thing that we noticed was how remarkably compact and lightweight this flashlight is. 900 lumens is certainly nothing to write home about with most camping flashlights, but the ability to offer this 900 lumens in a reliable way is one of the most important things, and the EA11 does it in style.

The included battery is a rechargeable AA, however this flashlight works fine with any regular AA as well. This is a nice option as some of your hiking resupply stops might not offer the specialty batteries that some flashlights require, especially the rechargeable ones.

The most unique feature on the EA11 is probably the direct-access red light. While red light options exist on many headlamps in order to provide a light source that will not harm your night vision, it is somewhat rare to see a flashlight that has the option to use that red light directly, as opposed to having to change the ‘mode’ of the light in order to get it. Sure, it only shaves off a portion of a second, but the added convenience is something that we can’t help but mention.

While the brightness was surprising considering the small battery compartment, we did have some trouble with certain lighting modes, leading us to wonder how well programmed this little guy is. In addition, just like the KLARUS XT11Sthat we reviewed above, the buttons on this model are too exposed. The flashlight has a tendency to get turned on if you keep it in your pocket. It can also get kind of hot after running for a while, which runs the risk of melting any nearby plastic gear.

Pros
  • Very compact & lightweight
  • Direct red light access button
Cons
  • Lower runtime than bigger & heavier camping flashlights
  • Buttons can be pressed accidentally causing light to turn on in your pocket

Best Tactical Flashlight for Hunting

THRUNITE TC10 V2 Micro-USB Interface Rechargeable Tactical LED Flashlight

LUMENS: 6000

BATTERY SOURCE: USB RECHARGEABLE

STYLE: TACTICAL FLASHLIGHT

WATERPROOF RATING: IPX4

WEIGHT: 3.04 OX  

BEST FEATURE: GOOD BEAM FOCUS

The TC10 V2 from THRUNITE is the brand new version of the hugely popular TC10 that the company released only a few short years ago. It has since become one of their most wildly popular products, and we can see why. For a compact tactical flashlight, this has one of the most focused and direct beams that we have ever seen, which is why we are not surprised that this flashlight has become so popular for hunting and law enforcement applications. At only 3.04 ounces, it is also one of the lightest, perfect for any application really.

The V2 has a few notable improvements over the original model. For one, the USB port has been significantly improved, which lessens recharge time considerably. They also made small tweaks to the switch and the user interface in an attempt to fix what some people saw as major problems with the V1. We might also take a moment to mention the aircraft-grade aluminum body, which is simply one of the strongest flashlight shell materials that you can get. Simply put, you would be hard pressed to break this thing even if you tried.

We do have a complaint to lodge with THRUNITE about the battery that came included with the purchase. While the lamp worked really well when we first opened it, it started to lose its charging capabilities after only two weeks. We replaced it with a third party rechargeable battery, which has solved the problem, but anyone interested in buying the TC10 V2 would do well to order a few extra batteries to go along with it. Unfortunately those batteries can be in the range of 25 bucks, so be sure to do your homework before buying.

Pros
  • Very durable
  • Great beam focus
Cons
  • Included battery isn’t great

Conclusion

Exploring the facts and features of the 6 best camping flashlights of the year was nothing short of illuminating. We can’t exactly say why, but the flashlight is quite possibly our very favorite piece of outdoor gear. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is also one of the most important.

When it comes to overall brightness capabilities, you aren’t going to get much brighter than the COBIZ. And strangely enough, it is also one of the most affordable lights on our list. The drawbacks? Reduced battery time, for one, and a less reliable battery.

Not into the headlamps, so you say? A good tactical flashlight is the best alternative. Our favorite was the THRUNITE TC10 V2. The durability simply cannot be matched, but more importantly, it has a remarkably well-focused beam for a light in this price range.

How to Choose the Best Camping Flashlight

So you’re headed out into the deep woods, where darkness reigns even when the moon is above. What better way to defeat the dark than to bring along a trusty headlamp or tactical flashlight. But the recent proliferation of outdoor supply companies has made shopping for a flashlight more difficult than it needs to be.

Here are a few things to look for when selecting a new headlamp:

1.)    Brightness (LUMENS)

Unsurprisingly, the measure of a flashlights brightness output is quite often the biggest selling point of the product. Therefore, it is usually displayed front and center, and people tend to put a lot of stock into the notion that more lumens = more light. Generally this is correct, however there are a number of factors that can alter the rule.

man shining with a flashlight at night

For instance, the way a light is directed and reflected can have a big impact on the perceived brightness of the unit.

So what exactly is a lumen? It’s simply the unit that we use to the total quantity of light that is emitted by any particular light source.

LEARN MORE: Lumen Scale & Color Rendering Index

2.)    Battery Source Type

When it comes to camping lights and headlamps, there are basically three different types of batteries that are used. Of course the actual detailed statistics of any particular battery will vary depending on who is making it, each type does have some pros can cons that make them more or less ideal for certain circumstances.

different types of batteries
  • RECHARGEABLE NICKEL METAL HYDRIDE (NiMH) have become increasingly popular in recent years because of their ability to be recharged via USB cable. The big benefit here is that you don’t have to go out and buy disposable batteries for every camping trip. The con is that they tend to lose their charge when not in use, so it is a good idea to carry a few alkaline replacements in case your light goes dead.
  • LITHIUM batteries are slightly less common and tend to be a bit more expensive, but they are particularly well-suited to cold weather conditions because they hold a charge better than alkaline or NiMH when it’s colder outside.
  • ALKALINE batteries are the traditional standby, usually your basic, everyday AAs or AAAs. These are dependable and hold their charge well even when not in use, so it is a good idea to have some on you at all times. One of the coolest things about the newer flashlights on the market is that many rechargeable models have the capability to work with traditional disposable batteries as well.

3.)    Additional Features

Just like any other piece of camping or outdoor gear, there are a whole host of additional features that differentiate one light from another, and in addition, might make one light more suitable for a particular purpose than other lights with even higher lumen outputs.

  • Red Light Mode is a super handy feature as it allows you to see what you are doing without damaging your night vision with harmful white LED light.
red light flashlight
  • Angled Tilting is available on almost every headlamp these days, allowing the user to direct the beam downwards for walking or upwards for spotting things at a greater distance.
  • Waterproof / water resistance is of course a good thing on any piece of gear, and lights are no exception. While there are only a few flashlights on the market that are rated for total submersion, most can handle a good splashing, or at the very least an unexpected rainstorm without taking any damage.
  • SOS Flash / Strobe is fairly common in flashlights these days, but it is an important thing to look for nonetheless. Having a strobe mode on your light gives you the ability to signal your location consistently and for quite a long time, as it does not take much battery draw.

A Matter of Safety: Why You Should Pack A Good Flashlight, Every Time

According to National Geographic, the large majority of hikers who get lost or stranded in the wilderness are actually day hikers … folks who didn’t think they would be going far enough to pack a full bag of supplies. Most often, the things that they neglect to bring include a flashlight.

But you never know what is going to happen. There are many things that can go wrong in the wilderness, even on the most innocent of camping trips. That’s why buying a good flashlight is the first step to keeping yourself safe out there. The second step, of course, is to put it in your bag. And keep it there.

Frequently Asked Questions

• Q: How many lumens does a good flashlight have?

A: In ourhumble opinion, lumens are not necessarily as important as you might think. This is because the lumen rating that manufacturers use to market their products are not always accurate, and in addition, each company uses different methods to test that number.

The low end of the brightness scale for these camping flashlights is around 900 Lumens, however, some 900l flashlights will actually perform better than a 1200l flashlight from a different manufacturer. Things to pay attention to are battery time & recharge time, which are both pretty good indicators of how well a light can function.

On the other end of the spectrum is a camping light like the COBIZ 6000 LUMEN HEADLAMP. While 6000 lumens is a whole heck of a lot, there are some downsides as well. Namely, there are very few portable batteries that can power this many lumens for very long. While a company might say that it’s light can produce 6000 lumens, it will have a significantly reduced runtime at this setting.

• Q: What is the most powerful flashlight?  

A: Out of all the camping flashlights that we looked at, the one with the highest advertised lumens is the COBIZ HEADLAMP. At 6000 lumens it far outshines the competition, both literally and figuratively. However, there is a very limited amount of runtime available for this “high” brightness setting. If you are going out for a weekend of camping, for instance, you would do well to not waste your battery life on “high” setting when a lower setting would do just fine. 

• Q: Can I use the 18650 3400mah battery?

A: The 18650 battery is perhaps one of the best things to happen to the headlamp and camping flashlight industry in quite some time. These small AA-sized batteries can carry far more power than their traditional disposable counterparts, and best of all, they are rechargeable.

However not all of the lamps and flashlights that we looked at here offer compatibility with the 18650 3400 mAh. Some manufacturers prefer to use different styles or even their own exclusive battery styles, which means that it is quite important to check the product specifications to make sure that your new camping flashlight can operate off the right kind of battery.

• Q:  What is the average runtime?

A: There are a surprising number of factors that play into just how much run time you are going to get out of your camping flashlight. These include:

  • Battery Capacity
  • Lumen Output (brightness setting)
  • Wiring materials
  • Bulb efficiency

Because there are so many factors, it can be difficult to come up with a basic average, but we are going to take a crack at it anyway. Seeing as how almost all headlamps and flashlights on the market today feature 3 basic light settings, we can safely organize it into low, medium, & high.

LOW offers an average runtime of 15-20 hours.

MEDIUM offers an average runtime of 8-14 hours.

HIGH offers an average runtime of 2-7 hours. Other settings like SOS strobe and red light might vary depending on which light you choose to buy.

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