13 Types of Flashlights

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Flashlights are not only an essential tool for homeowners, but also an incredibly useful gadget for a vast range of activities. Do you know the most common types of flashlights on the market?

What are flashlights used for?

The flashlight is a small, usually hand-held, portable electric device that is an essential hand tool for home use. It is used for lighting up any dim-lit area, often used when looking for lost items or dealing with repairs, self-defense, power outages, or emergencies.

Flashlights, however, aren’t only limited to home use. They are also a handy tool when cave exploring, hiking, and doing many other activities.

While flashlights were already versatile for many situations, the need for more light output, portability, and convenience has compelled manufacturers to find various ways to create different types of flashlights that can be used for special situations. Some of them are best used for a specific occasion and have a certain specialty, both indoors and outdoors alike.

Regular handheld flashlights

This flashlight is the most common flashlight type and can be bought from a local store. With a single switch, it typically runs on AA or AAA single-use/disposable batteries (primary battery) with a standard LED and a fixed beam. 

Although this type of flashlight has many variations when it comes to lumens, size, impact/water resistance, and beam distance, it is a good choice for regular home use. It may not be the most versatile flashlight, but it is one of the most reliable flashlights.

Pros

  • They are affordable and can be found in almost every local store.
  • They are small, lightweight, compact, and can easily be carried around.
  • They are easy to use with a single switch to control the power.
  • They have a strong fixed (flood) beam length that maximizes the output from the battery.
  • No maintenance is required except when replacing batteries.
  • Batteries are easy to obtain and are inexpensive.

Cons

  • The beam is usually fixed and cannot be adjusted between a flood or spot beam
  • They have lower lumen output compared to rechargeable flashlights, and because of the simple design, light output cannot be controlled.
  • In the long run, they are more expensive due to the constant replacement of batteries.

Hands free flashlights

Hands-free flashlights are categorized as any type of flashlight that allows the user to have their hands free when in use. While traditional flashlights come in a recognizable cylinder shape, this type of flashlight comes in all shapes and sizes.

There is a hand-free flashlight for almost any use. Some of them include the following: clip-on for any piece of apparel, belts and chest straps for night jogging, glove flashlights when working in tight spaces, and many more.

Depending on the type and the use, hands-free flashlights will best accommodate the user’s visibility for that situation. This is especially handy during a power outage when you need to keep your hands free for use.

Pros

  • Good and easy to use emergency light with only one switch or button to turn it on.
  • It can come with a rechargeable (secondary) or single-use battery (primary).
  • It will maintain the general area around lit, allowing the user to move their hands freely without worrying about their vision.

Cons

  • Due to the many kinds of hands-free flashlights, they generally serve a single purpose and are not the most versatile flashlight for different situations.
  • Smaller hands-free flashlights use button cells (coin batteries), which are less popular than their bigger brothers AAA and AA.
  • They often have lower lumens compared to other flashlight types.
  • The beam distance of these types of flashlights is usually fixed and light output cannot be controlled.

Impact resistant flashlights

All flashlights have some resistance to impact, but depending on the materials used, the build quality, and overall shape, some flashlights will have stronger impact resistance than others. During manufacture, the flashlight is dropped from different heights in six different orientations to test if the flashlight is still functional without any cracks or dents.

While materials are usually made of plastic or aluminum casing, there are more expensive flashlights that use mixed metal alloys to create a harder and more impact-resistant casing. Some flashlights even come with a rubberized case to soften the impact of the fall.

Pros

  • The flashlight is durable and can survive a fall (from a certain height) and all flashlights have some sort of impact resistance.
  • For those with butterfinger tendencies, it can give you peace of mind that your flashlight will survive a fall if ever let go (however this can be avoided in other flashlights by attaching a lanyard).

Cons

  • Flashlights impact resistance ratings are only limited to falls (being run over, hit with a heavy object, or used to hitting objects are not part of this test).
  • The more impact-resistant a flashlight is, the more expensive it is.
  • High-quality impact-resistant flashlights will be heavier and have a bigger form.

Waterproof flashlights

Not all flashlights are made the same way. Some flashlights may be water fully waterproof (under certain conditions), while others may only be water-resistant (to a certain degree).

When electrical devices undergo protection against the elements (namely dust and water) they are tested to get an Ingress Protection (IP) rating, which is an international unified test so that anywhere in the world the device would perform the same way.

IP ratings come in two digits IPxx. The first digit is to determine protection against solid objects with the highest rating being 6 and the lowest being 0. The second number is against liquids, namely water, with a range between 0 (protection against vertically falling water drop) to 8 (protection against prolonged immersion under pressurized water), the 9th tier is protection against high pressure and temperature water jets which most flashlights do not come in. More about IP ratings can be found here.

High-quality waterproof flashlights come at an IPx8 rating, although it is not uncommon to find waterproof flashlights with 6-8 liquid protection.

Pros

  • A good water waterproof flashlight will give peace of mind to the user, knowing it has some degree of resistance regardless of IP rating.
  • When dealing with any situation with water, indoors or outdoors, this type of flashlight will always come in handy.
  • It may come with a disposable or a rechargeable battery, although the latter is more common.

Cons

  • A high IP-rated flashlight may not suit your needs if you do not use your flashlight near or with water.
  • The higher the IP rating, the more expensive the flashlight becomes.

Tactical flashlights

Tactical flashlights were originally designed for mounting onto the barrel of a gun, but handheld versions are also available. This type of flashlight is preferred for many different types of uses—from travel, self-defense, even home usage.

Pros

  • They are easy to carry with their small and compact body.
  • Tactical flashlights are built with a metal alloy body making them impact-resistant and to a certain degree waterproof.
  • Most come with an adjustable beam option to switch between a wide beam and a narrow beam.
  • They have a strong lumen output compared to other types of flashlights.
  • Paired with rechargeable batteries, tactical flashlights will last a long time.
  • Tactical flashlights have multiple modes controlled by a single switch, for low output, high-output, strobe mode, and even an SOS feature for requesting help.

Cons

  • Because of their overall versatility, they are more expensive than other flashlights.
  • It is one of the heavier handheld flashlights due to its metal casing.
  • Although most tactical flashlights have adjustable beams, the wide (flood) beam is a lot weaker compared to its focused/narrow beam.

Work flashlights

This type of flashlight is made for work situations in mind, with lighting capabilities that are required specifically for a certain trade or job. 

These are great when working on home projects especially when a lot of light is required, such as with under chassis automotive repair, long hours in a dim-lit basement, and many more situations.

Pros

  • This type of flashlight may have some sort of mounting ability, a hook, a magnet, or even a stand.
  • Many work flashlights do not come in cylinder shapes and can be safely mounted without rolling or hindering the workflow.
  • They come with a wide beam with high lumen output, with an adjustable head for different angles, allowing a wide area to be lit, without the need for the flashlight to be too close to the workpiece.

Cons

  • Work flashlights are made specifically for work, while they can be used for other situations, they aren’t versatile for any situation.
  • They are more expensive compared to standard flashlights due to their work catered design.
  • Depending on the type of work flashlight, they might have a larger form factor, heavier in design, and not as portable as other flashlight types.
  • Most work flashlights are built with a fixed beam that is not adjustable.

Wall mounted flashlights

Wall-mounted flashlights are specifically created for home use, it consists of a special mount that is installed unto the wall, connected by a power supply, this contraption holds the flashlight and keeps it ready to use.

Pros

  • You will have a flashlight ready immediately, as long as you remember where each wall mount is located.
  • This flashlight can be used for general usage but is best suited for home emergencies, with its easy access.
  • Some types of flashlights may even turn on automatically during a power outage, giving you visibility right away and acting as an emergency light, just as well as a handheld flashlight.

Cons

  • You will always need electricity beforehand to keep them operational, this is not the same for a flashlight that can easily be changed with an external battery.
  • Because of the way they are built, wall-mounted flashlights have a low battery run and cannot be used as long standard flashlights, these need to be returned to their wall mounts to charge.
  • To keep the flashlight charged, it can only be charged to the paired wall mount.
  • In addition to the low battery run, the lumen output is lower compared to other flashlights.

USB flashlights

This type of flashlight utilizes a specific type of charging that is not compatible with the standard flashlight. With the use of a secondary battery type, it can be recharged a finite number of times.

Charging USB flashlights is done via a built-in charging device within the flashlight’s body. The most common type of USB flashlight is connected via an external micro-USB cord that is then plugged into an outlet.

Pros

  • They are easy to charge with any USB cord via computer, an electric socket, or even in a car. Because of its convenient charging, it is a flashlight that will always have power as long as it is charged
  • With all rechargeable flashlights, the use of a secondary battery allows a bright lumen output that will last a long time.
  • There is no need to buy a separate charger for the battery.

Cons

  • You will need electricity to power the flashlight, just like any other flashlight that does not use primary batteries.
  • This type of flashlight has a large initial cost, just the same as many other rechargeable flashlights.
  • Due to the built-in charger of the flashlight, its form factor will be bigger than the standard flashlight.
  • The charging port may become a point of entry for dirt and water and may become loose over time.
  • Charging via USB may become a hassle rather than having just a separate battery charger to recharge.

Solar powered flashlights

A solar-powered flashlight may not be the most common household flashlight, but it is a good choice for a flashlight that has little maintenance required.

This type of flashlight has a self-sustaining function that standard flashlights do not have, with its built-in solar panel, this flashlight converts sunlight into energy, powering and recharging the flashlight.

Pros

  • Most solar-powered flashlights are lighter than the standard flashlight.
  • The flashlight will always have power, as long as there is the sun and it is charged properly
  • The flashlight does not use primary batteries, but renewable energy from the sun, meaning less environmental waste.

Cons

  • Because it is powered by the sun, if you do not have any sunlight your flashlight will not function.
  • Solar-powered flashlights have inconsistent power supplies, without direct sunlight, you may not be able to charge (indirect sunlight, cloudy or rainy days will hinder the charging process.
  • Compared to other flashlights, solar-powered flashlights have a shorter battery-run.

Hand crank flashlights

Also known as mechanically powered flashlights, these types of flashlights are designed to operate without the need for an external battery or power source.

With the use of kinetic energy, powered via the winding of a crank, a squeezing of a handle, even the shaking of the flashlight, it allows for power to build up and charge.

Pros

  • A quick go-to emergency or reserve flashlight for an emergency.
  • With no replaceable batteries, you don’t have to worry about running out of light during emergencies.
  • These types of flashlights generally have a fixed beam, and they can be great for family use.
  • Depending on the size of the flashlight, and how much is charged, it can last between 2-48 hours.

Cons

  • Hand crank flashlights have a lower lumen output.
  • There is a need for manual labor to keep the hand crank flashlight charged and functional.
  • The running time of the flashlight will largely depend on the size of the battery inside, smaller cheaper hand crank flashlights will have less running time.

Lanterns

Flashlights and lanterns are similar as they both light up an area to give visibility. What sets apart lanterns from flashlights is the direction of the light.

With a standard flashlight, the bulb is only pointed in one direction, giving the user general visibility in one area. On the other hand, a lantern is omnidirectional, meaning the light shines in every direction.

Pros

  • Lanterns to light up the whole area without compromising one area to be darker.
  • A lantern has one of the brightest lumen outputs compared to a standard flashlight.
  • Many types and sizes are available with both primary and secondary batteries as power sources.
  • A lantern has a long battery run and can last a long time while maintaining brightness.

Cons

  • This isn’t the first choice item for emergencies, due to the large size.
  • It cannot be held by hand over a long period of time compared to a handheld flashlight.
  • With its omnidirectional fixed beam, it has a wide beam and cannot be used as a spot/narrow beam.

Dimmable flashlights

The general purpose of flashlights is to light up any dark area, enough to be visible to the user. However, throughout the years with the help of technology, a lot of flashlights now can have more than just one brightness output. 

This allows for flashlights to have a very high lumen output, but at the same time, allows the user the option for lower lumen output, some flashlights are even marketed for a specialized knob to adjust the lumens.

Pros

  • A dimmable flashlight allows the user to have a variety of lumen output options.
  • Many types of flashlights have this option available, usually with the output range of high, mid, to low.
  • Depending on the flashlight, it can be used with any beam distance.
  • Not every occasion needs the brightest output, and lower lumens will be convenient for those who do not want to use a blinding light.

Cons

  • Not all dimmable flashlights have a good flexible adjustment of lumen output. These are usually controlled by the power switch with only one to three outputs, and over time this switch can become damaged.
  • Flashlights with specialized knobs for dimming will be more expensive since they are designed to have an external controller without compromising the durability of the whole flashlight.

Headlamp flashlights

This type of flashlight has been a popular choice for a hands-free flashlight for many ages. It was first introduced in the 1900s as an alternative to the carbide headlamp for miners. Currently, it is used both indoors and outdoors, most notably with hiking, caving, under chassis automotive repairs, medicine, and many more.

Headlamp flashlights are made of at least one band, with the head of the flashlight positioned at the forehead of the user, or over the ear on some styles. The design of the headlamps allows the user to be able to move without losing any visibility, regardless of where they are looking.

Pros

  • Compact and small headlamps take up less space than a regular flashlight.
  • Headlamps are lightweight and are generally comfortable to wear after long hours.
  • Although it is more common to have a flood beam, depending on the type of headlamp you may get a spot beam option as well as adjustable control.
  • Because of their frequent usage, headlamps are paired with rechargeable batteries which will last a long time.
  • Headlamps allow both hands to be free, without compromising visibility.

Cons

  • More expensive headlamps give different beam types, but cheaper headlamps only come with a single beam.
  • Headlamps have a lower lumen output compared to handheld flashlights.
  • The headlamp attached to the top of your head will become a beacon, which could gather insects that could bother you, or even bite you.
  • Because of the fixed position of the headlamp, you will need to turn your head to light up an area, and could potentially blind others standing nearby.
  • Because it is fastened to your head, you will need to turn your head more often just to get an area lit, this could be tiring after many hours of use.