Best Camping Flashlights in 2021 – with Reviews and Buying Guide

dark figure shining a camping flashlight while walking down a path

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In a hurry? If you are looking for a camping flashlight and just want to know what our top pick is, we recommend the Anker Bolder LC90.

Do you really need a flashlight for camping? Wouldn’t a headlamp or a lantern be more useful? After all both of those give you the ability to perform actions with your hands free. If you want directed light, use a headlamp. And if you want ambient lighting, the lantern works great. However, we also see the need to include at least one high quality camping flashlight in our supplies for several reasons, the main one being we are camping with a kid.

Why do we feel that a camping flashlight is more practical with a kid? We are so glad you asked. High quality camping flashlights tend to be more affordable, more durable, have brighter beams, a cool zooming feature, and you can carry on a face to face conversation without being blinded. Furthermore, some children really don’t like the feeling of the headlamp strapped to their face. We lay out some additional reasons below if you are curious.

Our Picks:

Anker Bolder LC90

This affordable flashlight has a shock-resistant aluminum body and is able to be used even in a heavy downpour. It comes with a rechargeable battery which can be recharged either through a USB charger or in a stand-alone charger. A slider allows you to manually change the focus of the beam from a wide angle to a pinpoint spotlight. It also cycles through five light settings: high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS. And, while we’ve never had to contact the company, Anker gets great reviews for their customer service.

Pros:

  • Water resistant
  • Run time of up to 6 hours in medium beam mode
  • Zoomable beam

Cons:

  • Battery is not removeable
  • Switching through modes was not intuitive

Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight

This flashlight is definitely an upgrade in price but also in functionality. It comes with the ability to function as a traditional flashlight as well as flood light or lantern. It has multiple light modes including red light, flashing light, and a flood light (with a stated 48 hour run time on flood). The Li-NMC battery can be recharged using the built-in solar panels, with a USB charger, or by turning the hand crank. You can also charge your phone with this flashlight from that USB charger.

Pros:

  • Multiple ways to recharge the batteries
  • Water resistant
  • Run time of 15 hours on low

Cons:

  • Shape is awkward to hold
  • Price if it is lost

GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight

This flashlight comes as a two pack which makes this an extremely affordable option if you are looking for a camping flashlight that won’t hurt to replace if necessary. Batteries are not included on this one, but they take three AAA batteries or one 18650 Li-ion battery which are easy to keep around. This has the standard five light settings: high, medium, low, strobe, and SOS and a zoomable beam.

Pros:

  • Military-grade aluminum body
  • Water resistant
  • Carrying holsters

Cons:

  • Short run time

ALPS Mountaineering Spark 240 Flashlight

This lightweight flashlight is extremely durable and uses a Cree LED light for illumination. It has a click style tail switch. We appreciate the 50 lumen of light on low beam as it helps us to not get blinded by accidental flashlights shining in our face.

Pros:

  • Beam adjusts from 15 degrees to 75 degrees
  • Compact size
  • Waterproof down to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes

Cons:

  • No red light setting

J5 Tactical v-1 Pro Flashlight

This flashlight is a small and powerful workhorse. It runs off one AA battery or a 14500 rechargeable battery. The adjustable beam allows you to switch between a wide or a focused mode and it does provide three light settings: high/low/strobe.

Pros:

  • Water resistant
  • Zoomable beam
  • Attached belt clip

Cons:

  • Switching between modes was not intuitive

Dorcy 55 Lumen Floating Waterproof LED Flashlight

We talk a lot about having our child with us camping so we wanted to mention our current favorite camping flashlight for children. This would be the Dorcy 55 Lumen flashlight which is waterproof and will float if it is dropped in the river. The 55 lumens mean that even if a child accidently shines it right in your eyes you will not be blinded. But it does provide enough light to walk from the tent to the bathhouse. Also, the shock absorbing rubber enables a slip-free and comfortable grip.

Pros:

  • Impact resistant
  • Run time of 8 hours and 45 minutes
  • Built in carabiner for easy attachment

Cons:

  • Requires three AA batteries
  • Batteries are housed in a removeable carriage which can be lost

What we looked at while researching camping flashlights:

  1. Size & weight
  2. Light output
  3. Battery type

Size & weight:

We don’t know about you but when it comes to a camping flashlight we want one that is substantial enough that we can easily find it while light enough that we don’t get tired while carrying it. Therefore, we find a medium weight flashlight with a flatter shape to be easiest to use. Why a flatter shape? To help prevent it from rolling off the surface we set it on. It is also worth noting that the smaller and lighter the flashlight the pricier it is along with being more fragile. And a larger flashlight using larger batteries will have a longer run time.

Light output:

When it comes to light output camping flashlights can produce a lot. However, this is not necessarily a good thing. Not only does too much light destroy the night vision of you and those around you, but if a child is in charge of carrying the flashlight they run the risk of shining it directly in the eyes of someone and causing temporary blindness. We go into this in more depth below, but we recommend carefully considering limiting the amount of lumens in any flashlight that will be used while camping.

Battery type:

There are three ways to power a camping flashlight. We have traditional batteries, both disposable (sometimes known as primary cell) and rechargeable (sometimes known as secondary cell), solar powered, or mechanically powered. We are going to talk about them in reverse order.

Mechanically powered:

For those of you who are not familiar with mechanically powered, these are the flashlights that are powered by turning a crank, shaking it, or squeezing it. While these can give an active child something to do, we only keep these in our emergency kits as a backup for times when electricity might be out for a substantial amount of time. Hey, I grew up in earthquake country and we’ve all heard about how long a storm can knock out power. Having a light that does not require electricity for power is a great thing to have in your emergency kit.

Solar powered:

Solar powered flashlights also do not require electricity to operate, but they do require enough sunlight to recharge their batteries. Additionally, it is best to leave the flashlight on all the way to a dead battery at least once a month. Why? Well rechargeable batteries have a memory effect and if you continually recharge it without fully discharging it, the memory will lock on a lower level and not return to 100% of available power. So, while we love solar powered flashlights, we do not love them in our camping equipment because we don’t remember to take them out and use it in the months we aren’t camping. And then the batteries won’t fully recharge.

Traditionally powered:

Flashlights that utilize traditional batteries, either disposable or rechargeable, are still the easiest to find and the cheapest to buy. This makes them extremely practical if you are purchasing multiples expecting some to get lost and others to get damaged by family members. For EDC, everyday carry, it is best to use rechargeable nonalkaline batteries as over time you are saving money. They can usually be recharged up to 100 times and you aren’t continually adding to the landfill. Plus, they typically allow for higher lumen counts and longer runtimes. For flashlights kept in storage disposable batteries are your better option as they don’t “leak” power, also known as self-discharge, as quickly meaning they will last longer. Additionally, they won’t corrode inside your flashlight. Best practice though would be to store the batteries outside of the flashlight in an easily accessible location.

Other factors to consider when looking at camping flashlights:

Durability:

We are always trying to balance a “buy it for life” attitude with a “don’t go broke saving money” attitude. While it makes sense to buy quality on the gear that we expect to have for years to come, we also don’t want to be heartbroken if our child breaks or loses an item. When it comes to our camping flashlights we try to meet somewhere in the middle. It needs to be durable enough that it can handle a few drops to the ground, but we don’t necessarily need the top of the line model. Therefore, we look for affordable models which have gone through some impact resistance testing. Which naturally brings us to the topic of water resistance.

Water resistance:

We don’t know about you, but we have camped in the rain more often than we care to think about and we appreciate knowing our tools can stand up to getting wet. If the item is labeled with IP and a number or two, it has gone through impact and water testing. IP stands for “Ingress Protection” and it measures how well a device is protected from both solid objects and liquids.

The IP tells us it has gone through official testing. The first number tells us how well it is protected from solid objects and the second number tells us how resistant it is to water. The higher the number, the better the protection. Now an item can still be water resistance and not show an IP rating on it. That just means the manufacturer used a different certification method. But if you see IPX4, you can be confident that some rain won’t hurt it.

Modes:

We love the newer camping flashlights which offer a multitude of settings depending on your needs. A few of our favorites would be the red-light mode, the strobe light mode, and the ability to go into dim or bright light mode. The red light allows you to see where you are going but doesn’t blind others if you happen to accidently shine it in their face. It is the least likely to destroy night vision for all. The pulsing strobe light is a nice feature to have if there is a possibility that you might get lost and need someone to find you because it is definitely an attention grabber! Then there are flashlights which will all you to have both a dim setting and a bright setting so you can use the one flashlight for a variety of purposes.

Two Additional Reasons to Bring a Camping Flashlight:

A second reason we prefer to keep a camping flashlight in our kit is because a flashlight can be flicked back and forth to see both where you are going and where you are now. That ability would have come in handy the time Aaron rolled his ankle on his way back from the bathroom while camping at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Middle Tennessee.

The third reason we want to keep a camping flashlight around is on the off chance that we might need to signal for assistance. While headlamps can be held in your hand, it is just easier, especially for children, to use a flashlight for signaling SOS. Even if you don’t know Morse Code most of us can remember three short, three long, three short again. And if a child is too young to understand the difference between short and long make sure to teach them that “3” is the international number for distress. This means that three of anything is the way to go: three bursts on the whistle, three flashes of the light, three fires lit. All of these mean you need help.

Questions Answered:

How many lumens do you need while camping? And what are lumens exactly?

Lumens are how we measure light output. A regular 40-watt lightbulb at home produces around 450 lumens which is great if we want to light up the inside of our tent. However, this many lumens will destroy your night vision as well as the night vision of your neighbors. It is more beneficial to think in terms of how few lumens do you need in order to perform the task at hand. For walking up to the bathhouse or to grab a few essentials from the car anywhere from 40 to 100 lumens should be sufficient. Your campsite neighbors who are enjoying looking at the stars will also appreciate the lack of light pollution.

How many flashlights should you have in your camping kit?

Short answer is one for every member of your camping party. Long answer would be that we recommend having a variety of light sources every time we camp and that includes one camping flashlight per person on the trip. That way everyone can take themselves off to the bathhouse when they need to go, regardless of waiting around for someone else to return with their flashlight.

Is a camping flashlight enough? Or should we also have headlamps and/or lanterns?

While this article is about the importance of keeping camping flashlights in with your equipment, we definitely do not advocate only taking them along for light. We use lanterns for hands free cleaning up after eating dinner/dessert. We also use headlamps inside the tent for digging into suitcases and climbing into sleeping bags. Therefore, we advocate owning all three types of light.

The Answer:

To sum it up, we definitely believe that every camping kit should have multiple light sources. Some of these should be flashlights. And our favorite camping flashlight is the Anker Bolder LC90. It checks the boxes for all the things we find important and provides great value for the price.

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