Although headlamps have become the main focus in the lighting community, flashlights remain a good choice whenever a handheld light is preferred. Advances in LED (light-emitting diode) technology and battery efficiency have resulted in flashlights that are smaller, lighter and brighter than they were just a few years ago.
Some key factors to compare when selecting a flashlight:
- Light output
- Battery type and run time
- Size and weigh
Light output is measured in lumens. This is a measure of the intensity of the light coming out of the flashlight, on the highest brightness setting powered by new batteries. It may also be shown for multiple light settings. Light output can range from a modest 20 lumens (great for reading a book) to a terrain-scorching 3500 lumens.
Beam distance is measured in meters. This refers to how far the light will shine before the brightness diminishes to the equivalent of the light from a full moon. Full moon illumination is considered adequate for safe and careful outdoor travels. This distance will vary when the brightness setting is selected.
Run time is measured in hours. How long does it take for the light output to. Light output may gradually decrease over time, or remain largely constant and then suddenly decrease. Run time is commonly given for each light setting. A Runtime graph provides the best illustration of the performance of a light over time.
Impact resistance is measured in meters. Lights are tested by dropping them 6 times onto concrete at the rated distance. This test is primarily to ensure the light remains functional after occasional accidental drops. It is not a test of resistance for more heavy impact like being run over, being struck with a heavy object or being used to strike other objects.
Water resistance is rated using the IPX system. Water resistance is important if using your light in the rain or around bodies of water. The lights are tested for splash resistance, submersion rating, etc.
Additional Features and Functions
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- Bulb Type
- Advancements in LED technology have rendered other bulb types almost obsolete.
- Beam Type
- The lens reflector that surrounds a bulb influences how the light is dispersed.
- Regulated Output
- Lights with a regulated power supply maintain a steady, near-peak brightness level throughout most of the batteries' life cycle.
- Battery Type
- The type and availability of replacement batteries is often a factor in selecting a flashlight.
- A single setting is sufficient for general-purpose use. Some models offer 2 or more modes like low, medium, high and boost).
- The type of on/off and lighting mode switches is important for some users.
- Materials and Shape
- Most flashlight bodies are either plastic or aluminium alloy. Some feature stainless steel in the head of the flashlight for extra impact resistance.
- Size and Weight
- This is mostly personal preference.
- Add-ons that may be included or sold separately include a lanyard, belt clip or holster, and lens filters and diffusers to provide lighting options.