There was a time when carrying a flashlight meant you were either part of the neighborhood watch or one of the people the neighborhood watch was trying to find. Flashlights were either small and lasted only a few minutes, or were huge bulky Maglites that could act as serviceable boat anchors (which you can still get, by the way).
In 1962 important things happened: The Rolling Stones were formed, the Navy SEALS were activated, and Lawrence of Arabia took Best Picture. All of these events pale in comparison to what was going on over at Texas Instruments, though, as James R. Biard and Gary Pittman discovered the light-emitting capabilities of p-n junction diodes — the LED was born.
The LED is behind much of the technology we use everyday — for our purposes, however, we will stick to what it did for flashlights — in sum, it allowed them to get smaller. A lot smaller. LEDs use somewhere around 80-90% less power than incandescent bulbs, and waste almost no energy in creating heat. The LED has permitted flashlights to move from things you would attach to your belt to things you can tuck in your coin pocket.
In order to choose what sort of flashlight to add to your everyday carry kit, you have to consider how you expect to carry it — in your pocket or in your bag.
Most pocket flashlights run on AAA batteries — they’re slim, generally readily available, and don’t require recharging circuitry in the flashlight itself. As stated above, LEDs sip power so a flashlight running on a pair of AAAs can easily run over 100 hours on a single set of batteries (with lower lumen output). Pocket flashlights are great for your true everyday carry, as presumably you always have access to a store to buy more batteries when your’s wear out.
Our choice for the best pocket flashlight is the ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Cool White 500 Lumens light, with the included pocket clip. It is slim, lightweight, and as an added bonus it can be run using a 14500 rechargeable Li-ion battery to both get extra lumens out of the lamp and reduce your shocking AAA battery consumption rate, should this be the only light you are using in your mountainous shack.
If you’re a true adherent to everyday carry, you probably have some kind of gadget bag you are toting around with you as you drift from town to burg. A flashlight you will be keeping in your bag needn’t have quite the size and bulk restrictions of your pocket flashlight (unless you are rocking Jnco jeans). Additionally, your bag flashlight isn’t going to be something you use constantly throughout the day (presumably). For this reason, we humbly suggest, that you should opt for a flashlight that can be cranked to be charged and comes with a few extra features.
The iRonsnow Dynamo is a flashlight that is also an AM/FM radio, NOAA weather Radio, and smart phone charger. It isn’t the best flashlight you can get, and it isn’t the best radio you can get, but it is the smallest form factor that you can pack all of those in to your bag with.
The Cudgel Flashlight
So, you say, LEDs be damned! I want a flashlight that could be used to do some light duty demolition work. I want something that, should my car fly off a bridge, I can use to break through the door with – not the window. I still drive a Buick Century and I want an old school, heavy duty, bicep-muscle-working lumen thrower slash widowmaker. I want something that I can’t swim with, because it’ll sink me.
The Maglite Heavy-Duty flashlight runs on 4 D batteries. It weighs nearly two pounds, which doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realize that is about 7 iPhones.