Light is something we take for granted until the lights go out. A surprising number of emergencies and disasters have the potential to knock out power, and lights that depend on electricity. This is where a great prepper flashlight can keep you prepared and effective- even in the dark.
We’ve tested a large number of flashlights from a variety of brands to find the best for an emergency. There are thousands of models of flashlights out there, but we were able to trim the field quickly with some research and quickly recognizing quality gear. Versatility, output, runtime, and battery type were all huge factors that separated out the best flashlights from the rest of the competition. If you want a versatile, quality flashlight for any situation, one of our prepper flashlight recommendations will get it done.
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The GearLight S1000 punches way above its weight class. For $10 each, you get an adjustable zoom LED flashlight that generates up to 800 lumens with a max throw of 300 yards. The aluminum casing is 6 inches long and makes it lightweight- the flashlight weighs just 5 ounces (without the holster). The flashlight is not water-tight, but it is close with solid water resistance using o-rings. With regular AA batteries, the output is closer to 400 lumens- but the versatile battery housing for various battery types allows you to pick both power and wide availability. It also lasts at least 10 hours on a set of fresh AAs.
GearLight also produces lanterns and headlamps, but the S1000 is the California company’s workhorse with over 35,000 online reviews. You could find a better flashlight on the market, but not for this value. If you need more runtime, output, or throw distance you can always upgrade- but you will find that the GearLight S1000 LED Flashlight is the best prepper flashlight for survival kits and bug out bags when it comes to both performance and value.
The red and blue emergency flashlights are back- they may not be red and blue, but they are better than ever. They are still dirt cheap and use the included D-cell batteries, but they now are 15 times more powerful with LED bulbs. They have a whopping 5 days of run time, with the LEDs drawing less energy than the models you remember from yesteryear. Stocking up on D-cells is easy enough, and if you store the batteries out of the flashlight you’ll be good to go.
These flashlights won’t impress your friends or family, but they just simply get the job done. Nab an 8-pack of the Eveready General Purpose LED Flashlights to stock your kits for well under $3 per light.
Olight has been constantly innovating LED flashlights, tactical attachment lights, headlamps, and more. Their catalog is constantly growing- if it’s a light and it needs to use powerful LEDs they’ll probably end up making it.
The Seeker 3 Pro is one of the toughest little lights you will come across. It is completely sealed and waterproof, so it uses a magnetic charging cable that seats to the bottom of the light to charge its 5000 mAh rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. The light puts out a whopping 4200 lumens thrown 250 meters and can run for 15 days – all of that power in a housing less than 6 inches and less than 8 ounces.
Pick up the Olight Seeker 3 Pro Flashlight if you are looking for the best of the best.
Everything We Recommend
The Flashlights We Compared
Our research narrowed the field down to several contenders that we tested: Eveready, Nitecore, Olight, GearLight, Maglite, Streamlight, Surefire, and more. This helped us eliminate flashlights that just weren’t a good value. Finding the best value and a solid budget pick ended up being much more straightforward than our upgrade pick. There were plenty of options at lower price points, but most of them match their low price with low quality. The few exceptions stood out quickly.
At the higher tier (upgrade) prices, there were still plenty of options from well-known quality brands, so features and versatility became more of a factor. Maglite used to be the de-facto flashlight for emergency use, but has seemingly been out-innovated by a wide range of competition. The onset of LEDs has flooded the market with competition, and a new set of leading brands has emerged.
What to Look For
The best prepper flashlights have several important features to look for:
- Lumens & Throw
- Battery Type
Below, we break down what each of these means for a great flashlight. When you get the right blend of these, you can find a great flashlight without breaking the bank.
Value: Cost vs. Benefit
There are plenty of expensive flashlights that are just awesome. If you are a lottery winner, maybe you can stock up on these for all of your kits. For the rest of us, in the real world, we need to consider what we’re actually getting for the price of the flashlight.
A solid, cheap flashlight is an excellent pick for an occasional-use survival kit. Sure, you don’t want some cheap flashlight that will fail you in an emergency, but there is a tipping point where you could easily overpay for a flashlight. That’s why our upgrade pick is small enough to be EDC- if you are shelling out serious money for a flashlight you need to be using it often and getting your money’s worth.
Lumens & Throw
Flashlight performance is the main thing that separates out the garbage from the useful gear.
Lumens are a measurement of the light output. Flashlights range from 20 lumens all the way up to a blinding 3500 (HID car headlights are 3000L). Flashlights have really gotten brighter over the last several years, but most times this kind of output can drain a battery quickly.
The throw of a flashlight is a factor of the Lumens produced, reflector cone shape, and lens type that affects how far the flashlight beam travels. Some flashlights have a throw of up to 500 yards. Versatile flashlights have a ‘zoom’ bevel which allows you to change the beam width and throw distance.
Runtime is a fancy flashlight word for how long it lasts when it is turned on. This is usually directly related to its battery capacity and the lumen output. A good runtime is a few days, and some flashlights can even be on for weeks.
Batteries are one of the more nuanced decisions you can make when selecting a prepper flashlight. There are two main routes you can go:
- Replaceable: Cheap, easy to stock up, and find more of in an emergency (AAA, AA, C, D – main battery types)
- Rechargeable: Expensive, reusable, great emergency solution when paired with charging capacities like solar panels or generators. Usually Lithium Ion or other advanced battery technology for longer and more consistent performance.
To muddy the discussion even more, you could always go with rechargeable and replaceable batteries, like Eneloop.
There are many ways to make a flashlight more versatile, but here are a few:
- Water Resistance / Waterproofing
- Drop/Shock Resistance
- Colored Lens Filters
- Conversion to Lantern or Headlamp
- Zoomable Bevel
- Multiple Output Modes
- Status Lights
There are also specialty flashlights that are excellent for prepping and survival purposes, such as:
- Combo Flashlight/Radio/Chargers
- Mechanical Flashlights (Crank, Shake, or Spin)
- Socket Emergency Flashlights
- Pen Lights
These specialty lights were not considered for this roundup but will be covered in future reviews.
Why Flashlights are Important for Survival
The list of emergencies that could make the power go out is almost too long to list. We’ll list a few out anyways:
The list goes on, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. To see all common threats and their matching risk score, you can check out our TrueRisk Analysis. As you can see, the probability and impact of these events are very different, but your survivability for each of them can depend on how prepared you are to bug out.
Flashlights can help you see in the dark, but you can also signal with them and some models can even be used to generate heat. They are versatile tools all on their own, and having some light around during an emergency can even be comforting.
With so many threats with the potential for power outages, flashlights are a well-known preparedness priority. It is pretty hard to get things done in the dark, so a flashlight is just a common-sense tool for emergencies. If that’s not enough for you, the Red Cross, FEMA, and CERT – all these agencies agree that self-sufficient preparedness is important and that every family should have an Emergency Plan that includes kits with flashlights.
Who Needs a Prepper Flashlight?
Flashlights are a key tool for preparedness and prepping. Everyone can benefit from being able to see in the dark, especially in an emergency.
A flashlight is an integral and essential part of these kits:
- In-Place Survival Kit
- Bug Out Bag (BOB)
- Get Home Bag (GHB)
- Everyday Carry (EDC)
No matter what threats could come your way, a flashlight is a good thing to have on hand.
Sources and References
An objective look at the best prepper flashlight is useless without sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our practical military experience and prepping acumen.
Hunter, K. & Conrad, J. & Willis, A. Visible light communication using a digital camera and an LED flashlight. IEEE SOUTHEASTCON 2014, Lexington, KY, 2014, pp. 1-5. (Source).
Lenk, R. & Lenk, C. Practical Design of An LED Flashlight in Practical Lighting Design with LEDs. IEEE, 2016, pp.135-160 (Source).
Brooks, M. (2003). The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. Three Rivers Press. (Paperback, Source).
The Final Word
A flashlight may seem like a simple tool, but having a reliable and effective one in an emergency can make all of the difference. Whether you are fixing something at night, navigating to your bug out location, or experiencing a power outage- a solid flashlight is something you will always want close by.
Here are some other review guides our subscribers have found helpful:
- The Best Headlamp for Survival and Prepping
- The Best Emergency Candles for Prepping and Survival
- Home Survival Kit Guide, Gear, and Checklist
We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the GearLight S1000 LED Flashlight was the best option given the value, power, runtime, and versatility.
Be sure to know how to use your flashlight – don’t just let it sit in your survival kit or bug out bag forever.
Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.
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