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The brightest flashlights of 2023: Expert recommended

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The brightest flashlights of 2023: Expert recommended

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Flashlights are an essential item for nighttime outdoor activities like camping or walking the dog, emergencies, or whenever you need an alternative, portable light source. While the average handheld or phone flashlight shines a decent beam, there are significantly brighter options available built for more pressing circumstances or simply easier navigability. 

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“A super bright flashlight is good for anytime you need to travel in the woods at night, or if you need to find something at night,” says Jason Hitchcock, founder of emergency preparedness site Survival Stoic. “A good example would be hunting, or for search and rescue, so you can see farther and cover more area quickly.”

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The world’s brightest flashlight, the Imalent SR32, clocks in at 120,000 lumens and has a built-in fan to keep the unit from heat from overheating in your hands. While this is the most powerful option, it does have a steep price tag, and flashlight enthusiasts and experts agree that it’s not the only option for outdoor pursuits, severe weather supply arsenal, or even photography lighting. 

An outdoor enthusiast myself, I rounded up some of the best flashlights I’ve come across, keeping in mind real-life factors that can decrease a light’s output, which raw lumen outputs don’t usually represent. I also spoke to survivalists, campers, and flashlight enthusiasts who have used and recommended some of their favorite models. 

The brightest flashlights of 2023

Pros

  • World’s brightest flashlight
  • Long distance reach
  • Impressive battery life
  • 7 different settings
Cons

  • Not ideal for everyday use
  • Loud at higher settings

Imalent SR32 tech specs: Lumens: 120,000 lumens | Beam distance: 6,824 feet | Peak beam intensity: 1090000cd | Battery Life: 15 hours on lowest setting | IP Rating: IP56

The brightest flashlight you can currently get is the Imalent SR32. Its maximum output gets up to a blinding 120,000 lumens — beating its previous title-winning 10,000 lumen iteration. This model has seven settings, including cold and warm light options and a moonlight and strobe mode. When switched on, the Imalent SR32 emits the highest brightness level for about a minute before dimming to 25,000 lumens, which it can sustain for 45 minutes. This model also features an OLED digital display to show the battery level. 

As the world’s brightest flashlight, the Imalent SR32 also has a heat pipe cooling system that uses three cooling fans to ensure high performance (and to prevent overheating in your hands). In addition, the IP56 rating means the flashlight is water and dust-resistant. 

While not for everyday carry, this flashlight would serve well for emergency use cases or if you want the bragging rights of owning the world’s brightest flashlight. However, at $680, it’s clear that the cost of the world’s brightest flashlight is a luxury.

Pros

  • Powerful to protect in emergency outdoors situations
  • Can sustain 11,000 lumens for almost an hour
  • Solid beam distance
Cons

  • Customer service could be better

Imalent SR16 tech specs: Lumens: 55,000 lumens | Beam distance: 5,627 feet | Peak beam intensity: 736000cd | Battery life: 7 hours (on lowest setting) | IP Rating: IP56

Another option from Imalent may not beam as bright as the world’s brightest flashlight, but is still a shining star, packing in 55,000 lumens with 16 LEDs. The turbo setting puts out 55,000 lumens for 42 seconds before going down to 11,000 lumens, which it can sustain for 50 minutes. 

There are six total settings, including a middle output of 4,200 lumens and a low output of 1,200 lumens. A built-in thermal control module will automatically adjust the brightness output so that you can use the flashlight comfortably without overheating. 

“I’ve used it on camping trips to light up the campsite at night. Instead of using a smaller one and having to move around with it wherever I needed to see, the Imalent SR16 is bright enough to illuminate the whole area for me,” said Steven Short, a flashlight enthusiast and who reviews flashlights and everyday carry (EDC) items on his YouTube channel. 

“I’ve also used it when I broke down on the side of a dark road in the middle of nowhere. It lit up everything and left both hands free to repair the vehicle,” he told ZDNET. 

Short added that at 55,000 lumens, it’s definitely bright enough to temporarily blind an attacker if you are ever in a situation when alone at night.

Pros

  • Can charge other devices
  • Quality build
  • Spotlight and floodlight mode options
Cons

  • A little heavy and hard to hold

Olight Marauder 2 tech specs: Lumens: 14,000 lumens | Beam distance: 2,625 feet | Peak beam intensity: 160000cd | Battery life: 59 hours on lowest mode | IP Rating: IPX8

Not only does this flashlight have a great battery life, but it’s built-in 54Wh power rechargeable pack can also be used to charge your phone when you’re exploring the outdoors at night. 

On the bright side (pun intended), the flashlight puts out 14,000 lumens from 12 LEDs, and has two separate modes: floodlight to shine across wide areas and spotlight to zone in on a specific direction. Each of these modes has seven modes that range in lumen count and intensity. 

“A friend of mine owns this flashlight and I have used it while hiking with him at night. It is super bright and really lights up the woods,” Hitchcock told ZDNET. “It has an adjustable brightness setting which is nice when you don’t need the high brightness. When we meet others on the trail or need to look at something in our pack for example I can turn it down.”

Pros

  • UV and red light options
  • Completely waterproof
  • Good battery life
Cons

  • Emitted heat can be uncomfortable to the touch
  • Problems with ball joint

TrustFire DF50 tech specs: Lumens: 6,500 lumens | Beam distance: Up to 345 feet | Peak beam intensity: 2756cd | Battery life: Up to 12 hours | IP Rating: Waterproof up to 230 feet 

The TrustFire DF50 is technically a scuba diving light, but it also proves to be a pretty useful light if you’re a photographer looking to illuminate dark spaces or if you’re simply looking for a reliable and decently bright flashlight. 

It can run for 3.4 hours on the highest setting at 6,500 lumens as well as 6.8 hours at 1,000 lumens. The flashlight has white light, red light, and UV light, making it perfect for places underwater or in a cave. 

“This thing has 6,500 lumens and is made specifically for filming (so no flickering),”said Nick Poulson, a flashlight collector and abandoned mine explorer. 

“It not only provides a bright light but also offers a red light and, as if that were not enough, it also has a black light setting. Truly an awesome and fun feature to use in deep, dark mines where minerals line the walls, ready to be illuminated,” he said. 

Poulson added that the only downside to this light is its heat that emits after long periods of use. However, he said the 12-hour battery life makes up for that. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Not bulky
  • Six light modes make for different use-cases
Cons

  • Design of flashlight makes it hard to stand on its own end

Fenix PD35R tech specs: Lumens: 1,700 lumens | Beam distance: 1,158 feet | Peak beam intensity: 31200cd | Battery life: 100 hours on Eco mode | IP Rating: IP68

If you’re looking for a bright flashlight that checks multiple boxes, this one from Fenix is a great pick. Short said it falls into the EDC, pocket, and tactical flashlight categories and can be utilized as each type. 

“I’ve used [the Fenix PD35R] while walking around at night and had it light a path for me, and at the same time, it could have been used for shining it in someone’s eyes if they tried to harm you in some way, or possibly rob you,” Short said. “In other instances, I have used it for looking under the couch in my house for a toy my little girl has ‘tragically’ lost and is in dire need to find.” 

The flashlight has six light modes, including Eco mode, which outputs a small number of lumens (10 lumens) but can run for up to 100 hours. If you’re using the brightest setting on turbo mode, however, you’ll still get a decent usage time of about two hours and 15 minutes. 

The world’s brightest flashlight is currently the Imalent SR32 which has a maximum output of 120,000 lumens that can reach up to 6,824 feet. This crazy bright flashlight also has a heat pipe cooling system that uses cooling fans for ensured safety.

Flashlight

Price

Lumens

Beam distance

Imalent SR32

$680

Up to 120,000 lumens

6,824 feet

Imalent SR16

$370

Up to 55,000 lumens 

5,627 feet

Olight Marauder 2

$330

Up to 14,000 lumens

2,625 feet

TrustFire DF50

$100

Up to 6,500 lumens

345 feet

Fenix PD35R

$90

Up to 1,700 lumens

1,158 feet

Every flashlight on this list is bright, and some emit more lumens than others. The best bright flashlight for you really depends on the size you’re looking for, and how much you’re willing to spend.

Choose this bright flashlight…

If you want…

Imalent SR32

The brightest flashlight overall. The Imalent SR32 is for flashlight enthusiasts willing to spend $700 on a flashlight.

Imalent SR16

A flashlight built for outdoors situations. It gets up to 55,000 lumens, but can sustain 11,000 lumens for almost an hour.

Olight Marauder 2

A flashlight with a great battery life that can also charge other devices with its battery pack. It has two modes: spotlight and floodlight.

TrustFire DF50

Something for photography. It has red and UV light to shine light in extra dark places, like underwater or in a cave.

Fenix PD35R

An affordable flashlight with versatile uses. This flashlight has six light modes. 

I ranked the brightest flashlights by researching each flashlight extensively and spending time reading real customer reviews of each product. Ultimately, these are the factors I considered when making my final picks: 

  • Lumens: I looked at each flashlight’s lumen counts, paying attention to higher lumens that shine bright. I was mindful that the lumens claimed by manufacturers are not always 100% certain. 
  • Beam distance: Light won’t matter if it can’t go far. I considered each flashlight’s beam distance to ensure the top picks had long throws. 
  • Expert recommendations: I spoke with various flashlight enthusiasts and explorers who have personally used these flashlights and recommend them. 
  • Price: I also paid attention to price points when making my final picks. While the brightest flashlight in the world is expensive at $680, I included other more affordable options for different price points. 

A lumen is a unit of measurement for the intensity of the light coming out of a flashlight. A high lumen output means that the flashlight shines bright. 

These brightest flashlights emit the most lumens of all flashlights on the market, when on the brightest setting, although many have multiple brightness options.

Keep in mind that many flashlight manufacturers exaggerate their claimed lumens, and the lumen output may vary depending on your use case with the flashlight. 

The average flashlight emits about 100 lumens. However, any “good” flashlight worth buying will be greater than 1,000 lumens. It really depends on how you will be using your flashlight, and you probably don’t need the world’s brightest flashlight to look under the seats of your car. 

Bright flashlights that have a high lumen output are good for some scenarios, but they are most certainly not always the best. Short said super bright flashlights can actually make it harder to see. 

“Brightest isn’t always best for a lot of people. When flashlights are really bright, you get a lot of the beam shining off of things and back towards you, sometimes making it hard to see,” he said. 

Poulson agrees and said that a higher lumen count will drain your flashlight’s battery quicker. 

“12,000 lumens do me little good if I can only use it for an hour or so. If I can get all-day use out of a 1,000-light, then that’s what I want,” he said. “Also, a rechargeable battery is far more valuable to me than one that takes non-rechargeable ones. The way I use them, it would cost too much to have to replace batteries.” 

However, use cases for a bright flashlight still exist, and you may find yourself needing the brightest in a situation. 

“[Bright flashlights] could be used by a search and rescue scenario where you need to illuminate a wide broad surface area,” Short added. “You could also use a high lumen output light for self-defense to temporarily blind an attacker so you can remove yourself from a potentially horrible and scary situation.”

EDC stands for everyday carry, and these flashlights are characteristically smaller than other models and can easily fit in your pocket. EDC lights are also known for being durable and have waterproof and shockproof features. 

The market is flooded with flashlights, but not all are as bright as they claim. Here are a few other trustworthy options to consider:

nitecore-tm9k

Best alternative for under $200

Nitecore TM9K

At 9,800 lumens, this flashlight is quite bright and can shine its beam up to 919 meters. 

olight-x9r-marauder

Best alternative for a splurge

Olight X9R Marauder

At $600, this isn’t your average flashlight, but it does put out 25,000 lumens. Overall, it’s a superior flashlight from a trusted brand. 

mankerlight-mk38

Best alternative for a floodlight

Mankerlight MK38

This flashlight puts out 20,000 lumens, making it an excellent option when you need a powerful floodlight.



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