If you’re looking for the highest lumen flashlight, you need to take into consideration battery type and the quantity needed for maximum light output. In order to go in depth, we need to first discuss how light output is measured and factors that may affect the output.
After gaining a thorough understanding of how light output is measured, we can go over some of the top products that we think offer some of the brightest LED capabilities based on a budget and battery combo. Let’s get started!
How Brightness Is Measured
The flashlight industry is a fickle one. With so many options and features to choose from, flashlight manufacturers are working together to come up with a standard of how flashlights are rated or scored. So far, the ANSI FL1 Standard (hyperlink) is the only standard of which any flashlight is to be rated against.
The FL1 standard specifies that there are three ways in which a flashlight’s light output can be measured. These three ways are Light Output, Beam Distance, and Peak Beam Intensity. Light Output places significant importance on the lumens generated. Beam Distance measures how far the beam of light will travel before being comparable to the moon on a clear night, while Peak Beam Intensity uses candelas to determine the brightest point of the light.
In order to choose the highest lumen flashlight, we decided to focus primarily on the overall generated light output. The Beam Distance and Peak Beam Intensity can be influenced by a variety of factors which are affected by the angle and size of the reflector that the flashlight features. For this reason, the flashlight that features the most lumens may not necessarily be the brightest flashlight you could pick from.
Flashlights are multi beneficial tools that help make our lives and sometimes even our jobs easier. For this reason, we need to take into special consideration what we intend to use the flashlight before we can make a purchasing decision. Many of our articles discuss the important points of flashlights that can help you determine which light is ideal for your situation.
Types of Bulbs
Modern manufacturing and technology has made it possible for the consumer to choose from a variety of light bulb types. While this may seem irrelevant to picking a flashlight, it’s an important consideration that far too many consumers neglect. The most common light bulb offered for a flashlight is LED bulbs. The older flashlights that are grandparents relied on were powered by a metal filament that when heated, produced light.
Unfortunately, while these flashlights may have helped to get the job done, these same flashlights may not be bright enough compared to today’s LED lights. We have HID or High Intensity Discharge lights, whose bulbs are unique due to the process in which they generate light.
We’ll focus mostly on LED lights since these are budget friendly for most anyone. HID powered lights are decent, but their expensive price tags may not be the best if you’re trying to save a little money here and there. Even the cheapest option may have a heart attack-inducing price range of around $300.
Brightest AAA/10440 Powered Flashlights
This category focuses on flashlights that are powered primarily through AAA batteries. Convenient to use, you can find AAA batteries at nearly any grocery store closest to you. Some manufacturers recommend avoiding 10440 batteries in this category of lights. The lights featuring AAA batteries will produce a power comparable to 1.5 volts while the lights featuring 10440 batteries will produce 3.6 volts. If 10440 batteries are compatible with your particular flashlight, you may experience additional Lumen output.
Next, it’s time to consider additional battery options. For AAA sized batteries, we recommend looking at rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries. If you like the convenience of being able to recharge your batteries or flashlight, check out the Eneloop AAA Ni-MH battery pack. While you’re shopping for batteries, it’s important to pick a quality charging station, we recommend the La Crosse BC-700.
If you decided to go the non-rechargeable battery route, we recommend the Energizer L92 Lithium batteries.
This small yet compact flashlight packs a lot of punch. The bright LED light is small enough to fit on your keychain, yet the battery life lasts up to 20 hours with regular use. Despite being compact, users are frequently surprised to find that the Thrunite features a maximum output of 120 lumens which makes it the smallest and the highest lumen flashlight that relies on a single AAA battery.
On the subject of appearances, there’s not too much to complain about. The flashlight is made from high grade aluminum which is coated with an anti-abrasive finish. This means you can drop it any number of times and not worry about scratches and dings ruining the finish. For ease of use, the user can easily power on the flashlight with one hand with the easy to manipulate twist switch. In addition to being bright, you can choose from four light modes: firefly, low, high, and strobe.
Right at the top of this category is the ThruNite Ti4. Users are often attracted first by the penlight appearances, while enjoying the light weight and compact style. The small size enables users to use it for a variety of activities while avoiding the regular fatigue that sets in after holding a bulky flashlight for extended periods of time. Some are even surprised to find that despite being small and compact, the ThruNite Ti4 is one of the brightest lights available. If you’re looking for a penlight flashlight, look no further.
Brightest AA/14500 Flashlights
For this category, we still suggest using Ni-MH batteries instead of the 14500 Li-ion batteries that are available. For AA battery accessories we recommend the following: Eneloop AA Ni-MH batteries, La Crosse BC- 700 charger, and for your everyday battery; try the Energizer L91 AA Lithium batteries.
ThruNite Neutron 2A v2
First up on our list is the Thrunite Neutron 2A v2. The versatility of this flashlight impresses us with the ability to choose from being powered by a single AA battery or two AA batteries. Users can quickly make the choice by using the included extension tube. We like the affordable price plus the light output for a flashlight of this category is pretty impressive at 408 lumens. The compact design makes it easy to hold in your hand during use, and store in an out of the way place when not in use. You can easily power on the flashlight using the side switch which is capable of controlling the five light modes.
The first thing that users notice about the Zebralight is the compact size. While some may be concerned that the compact size may diminish the light output, their fears are quickly erased when we reveal that this flashlight has a 535 lumen output on just a single AA battery.
If that doesn’t impress you, we’re not sure what will! One feature that impresses us is the flashlights ability to “communicate” to us low battery life. Instead of guessing or playing a game of chance on how much longer you have for battery juice, the flashlight will automatically switch light modes depending on how much battery life is remaining. We wish other flashlight manufacturers would incorporate this unique feature into their own products.
The Lumintop SD20 functions off of 3 AA batteries making it capable of reaching a brightness level of 800 lumens. The battery life is pretty impressive (15 hours) for a flashlight of this type. The power button is a multi-function button. Not only can the user turn the flashlight on from one switch, but they can access the 4 different available modes.
The EagleTac offers the brightest light output of this category while functioning on just three AA batteries. While restricted by two modes (regular mode and tactical mode) the light output makes it possible to use this flashlight as an EDC light. Interestingly enough, this flashlight comes with a built in dial that enables you to choose from the two different modes.
The ThruNite TN4A requires the most batteries in this category, but it makes up for it with a light output of 1150 lumens. To get the most out of this flashlight, we recommend using it at the lowest settings to try and conserve battery life. This flashlight allows you to pick from 6 different light modes, while utilizing the latest in LED technology. The quiet ability to power on this flashlight makes it a top consideration for anyone looking for a tactical flashlight. No noisy clicks to worry about.
Brightest CR123A Flashlights
Flashlights of this category are designed to run at a higher voltage while giving the user the ability to choose from lithium or Li-ion batteries. CR123A batteries are typically the type chosen by camera manufacturers because of their high power output while being fairly compact in size. For best possible results, we recommend avoiding any battery manufacturer that includes ‘fire’ in their brand name.
We’ve noticed that batteries of this type are poorly made and run the risk of damaging the flashlight. For better results, stick with U.S based battery manufacturers.
If you need help, we recommend looking at Orbtronic 3400 mAh batteries. If you do decide to go the Li-ion battery route, we recommend pairing it with the Xtar VP2 Li-ion battery charger.
ThruNite Archer 1C V2
This flashlight is a top performer that makes it possible to be used as both a tactical flashlight or an EDC light. The 3-inch compact design makes it possible to carry around every day while the stainless steel design quickly lends itself as an effective defense weapon during times of crisis.
While some may find the knurling (the abrasive texture of the flashlight) to be off putting, we like it because it allows the user to get a firm grip on this flashlight for maximum effectiveness. With a single CR123A battery, you can expect a 500 lumen light output, which is pretty decent for a flashlight of this size and capability.
With a light output of 500 lumens, this is easily the highest lumen flashlight of this category. The lens features an anti-reflective coating that reduces the risk of the lens and bulb shattering from a high impact fall. Interestingly enough, the manufacturer of this flashlight also claims the beam’s distance to extend further than any of its competitors. The switch for this flashlight not only powers the light on, but also works as a controller for the various modes.
It should be noted that this flashlight unlike its competitors, doesn’t come with a set of batteries. This allows the user to choose from using a single rechargeable 18650 battery or use two CR123A batteries. Regardless of the battery style you choose, you’ll be impressed with the 1050 lumen light output that this flashlight comes standard with. Unfortunately, users have noticed that the power switch can be difficult to operate or sometimes even un-responsive.
Zebralight SC600 Mk II
The Zebralight SC600 is the brightest flashlight you could pick up while running off of two CR123A batteries. You can expect a light output of 1100 lumens for up to 2 hours of continuous use. Some might be concerned about the light or bulb overheating, but the advanced design of this flashlight prevents this from happening due to the PID thermal regulated outputs. Placing it well above competitors, this flashlight also features a built in discharging safety feature that prevents the batteries discharging too much power. In addition to being able to choose from 4 different modes, the easy to operate off on switch allows the user to pick various brightness levels depending on the level of brightness you need.
If you’re on the hunt for an affordable yet powerful flashlight, the Nitecore should be one of your top considerations. The flashlight is not only bright, but easy to operate. Instead of operating by a typical off on switch, users find the rotary switch to be unique and easy to use. What about light output? The lumens are rated at an astounding 2,000 lumens which is pretty impressive considering the fact this flashlight is easy on the pocket and also durable enough for daily use.
Fenix TK35 UE
Coming in at 1,800 lumens for light output, this is the new and improved version of the TK35 produced by Fenix. Users have the ability to pick from seven different output modes and a few brightness levels. The regulated output ensures the brightness levels are consistent while featuring a low voltage warning that warns users that the flashlight is low on power.
Reverse polarity protection has been used to protect the flashlight from poorly or improper battery placement. In addition to the easy to use functions of this flashlight, we like the fact that the Fenix has been rated to survive being submerged in up to three feet of water.
Brightest 18650 Flashlights
Flashlights in this category pack a punch, but need the help of 18650 batteries to function properly. It’s possible to use CR123A batteries, but you’d be paying close to a fortune if you made these your primary batteries. For battery recommendations we suggest the Orbtronic 3400 mAh batteries in addition to the Xtar VP2 Li-ion battery charger.
The Olight SR Mini offers one of the highest light output (2,800 lumens) in a small compact design that is both durable and attractive. The SR Mini is powered by a side switch that enables the user to choose from various brightness levels. One of the features that intrigues us is the built in memory feature. This means you can power off the flashlight and the next time you turn it on, the flashlight will resume whichever power mode it was in previously.
If you have problems with decreased or sporadic battery life due to accidentally turning the light on in your pocket, you’ll appreciate the lockout feature of this particular light. You can prevent the light from accidentally turning on by clicking the switch three times while the light is off.
This flashlight quickly distinguishes itself from the others with its Triple LED design. Some users might be concerned with overheating due to the complexity of the LEDS, but Fenix incorporated a thermal control technology that prevents the flashlight from overheating. In addition to protecting the bulbs, the technology also prevents the flashlight itself from becoming hot to the touch. With a light output of 2,800 lumens, this flashlight is easily the brightest of this category.
Easily one of the smallest and brightest flashlights you could possibly pick up, the Nitecore TM06 comes in at just under five inches in length. Don’t let its small size fool you however, the light output is rated at a max of 3,800 lumens due to being powered by four 18650 batteries.
The switch for this flashlight is unique in the fact that it uses a forward switch to power on the light and also switch different brightness levels. We like the fact that Nitecore wanted to make sure that users were getting a lot of bang for their buck but including this light in a special kit. Not only will you receive your flashlight, but you’ll also get a charger and four rechargeable batteries.
Thrunite TN36 UT
While it’s hard to say whether the Thrunite TN36 is the highest lumen flashlight in the world, the max output power of 7,300 lumens is sure to impress even the ficklest of users. The compact design is easy on the hands due to the slight abrasive material of the handle part of the flashlight.
In addition to offering the brightest light output of all of the flashlights listed here, users have the ability to pick from six different light modes that are easily controlled with the electronic switch. Speaking of the switch, users who intend to use the light for stealthy missions will find the electronic switch to be silent during operation. This means no loud and distracting clicks to worry about.
Read this article if you want to check out more 18650 flashlights.
The Highest Lumen Flashlight: Who Wins?
Who wins the highest lumen flashlight contest? Well, we saved the best for the last. The Thrunite TN36 dominates the competition with an awe inspiring 7,300 lumens. However, despite offering a high light output, doesn’t mean that this flashlight is ideal for everyone. In order to determine the best flashlight for your needs you need to take into careful consideration your intended use for the light as well as your budget. Next, look at the power source. How much can you afford to spend on batteries?
If you enjoyed this article, check out our other articles on flashlights.