We’re all familiar with flashlights and how handy they can be to help light the way through the dark. For power outages of short duration, your typical everyday plastic housed flashlight will suffice, as long as you can find it when you need it!
But, for a bug out situation or extended grid down situation, you really need a sturdy flashlight that you can count on so you can navigate unfamiliar terrain in the dark.
When choosing a survival flashlight to include in your bug out bag or for light during an extended SHTF grid-down bug-in situation, there are several factors to consider.
Table of Contents
How to Pick a Survival Flashlight
Size and Weight
Size and weight are crucial factors when considering a flashlight. If you’re choosing a bug out bag or EDC flashlight, smaller and lighter is better as you will have to carry it for an extended period of time either in hand or in your bag.
In an extended bug-in situation you may need to use it to defend yourself in a pinch or you could need light for an hour or more or hands-free while you prepare meals or other tasks, so the heavier flashlights and ones that use larger batteries will be okay.
The type of battery your flashlight uses is a key factor because you want something reliable but you also don’t want to have to carry big heavy batteries as backups or have to stock quantities of different kinds of batteries.
If your other equipment uses AAA or AA then your flashlight should too, it just makes things easier all the way around.
Alternate Power Capability
Batteries are great for short-term temporary power flashlight needs. The ability to recharge batteries is ideal if you can get it and have access to electricity. But always consider a flashlight that has alternative power capability.
The ability to hand crank or solar power your flashlight is especially important in an extended grid-down scenario or if your short bug out trip turns into an extended stay in the woods due to unexpected obstacles.
Ideally, for long-term grid down situations, you will want the option to hand crank or solar power your flashlight or one that has both options like this Energizer Crank Light. It’s a great little flashlight for EDC, you’ll never be left in the dark unexpectedly.
Although it’s a bit heavy, the carabineer is an awesome feature making it very easy to hook to your belt, purse, or just about anything for easy access.
Another great alternative power flashlight to have on hand is this ThorFire Compact LED Flashlight with Carabineer. Battery operated with 80mAh, 3.6V, NI-HM or it can be hand-cranked or solar powered and has the added benefit of being waterproof up to an unbelievable 45 feet!
Run time of up to 4 hours but just 1 minute of cranking provides an hour more of light. Priced perfectly at under $15.
Additional Factors to Consider
When choosing the best prepper flashlight, you’ll also want to consider run time. It’s important to know how long the light will operate under continuous use without changing batteries or recharging. In addition, you want to consider the amount of light output or lumens, as this indicates the brightness of the flashlight.
Since a SHTF scenario can mean repeated or extended flashlight use, you’ll want to look for a flashlight that is durable and will withstand impact as well as one that is resistant to water and weather conditions.
Flashlights for Your Bug Out Bag
When bugging out, you don’t really know what you’ll be up against. You may not be in a position to re-charge or replace batteries frequently. Travel time could be less than an hour or longer if you encounter unexpected delays.
You need a flashlight that is going to light the way, be reliable, and one that won’t require you to carry a large quantity of extra batteries that add weight to your bug out bag. Ideally you want the capability to power without batteries if the need arises.
For a hunker down or bug-in situation, you may want to go a different route. A heavier weight handheld flashlight can be an advantage because it can double as a blunt force weapon if needed during a confrontation with intruders.
In addition, if you’re bugging in, you can afford to stock extra batteries, rechargeable batteries, or even bigger batteries. Hands-free capability will make it easier to light your home while you prepare meals, inventory dwindling supplies, or even read or play games to pass the time.
Best Tactical Flashlights
Tactical flashlights are a good option for hardcore preppers because they have been specifically created with police and military personnel in mind.
They are manufactured with durability in mind and can take more of the physical battering that may occur during repeated use by active law enforcement. The light these tactical flashlights produce usually penetrates the darkness far better than your average flashlight.
Designed by law enforcement. Choose light variations from 290lm to 340lm. Depending on your light choice weight varies from 3.4 to 4.9 ounces and length from 3.5 to 5.2 inches.
Ergonomic grip and waterproof casing of durable aerospace aluminum. Blunt end can be used as a weapon. Clips to belt or pocket, great for EDC. Comes with AC charger and 3.7v rechargeable lithium ion cell. Priced at $90 to $150.
Uses 2 CR123A batteries for 2.5 hours of runtime. Bright penetrating beam with 3 light settings and water resistant anodized aluminum casing with removable pocket clip. Weighs 7 ounces and is 6.6 inches in length. Great flashlight for just under $70.
Can get 2 of these handy lights for around $40 on Amazon right now. Just under 6 ounces and 9.4 inches in length. The Nebo brand has a rep for quality tactical lights and the Redline doesn’t disappoint.
Its pure white 220 lumens enable ultimate flexibility with a 4x adjustable beam and five modes. Uses standard AA batteries. Can be adjusted for close-up focus or illumination of up to 150 yards away.
Reasonably priced at just under $35, a 5-star review flashlight with LED technology. Lightweight at just under 5 ounces, its easily carried in your pocket or clipped to your belt. Aluminum housing is very sturdy and will hold up to rugged use. Uses 1 AA battery.
At just under 4 oz. and 4.25” in length, this handy little light fits in the palm of your hand. Features include a strobe setting and dispersion cone to convert to lantern.
Military grade aluminum and waterproof up to 3 feet. 230 Lumens, uses AAA or CR123 alkaline batteries and includes adapters for both. It has an optional weapon mount compatible with AR-15, shotgun, rifle, or airsoft guns. Great option at around $35.
Best Handheld Flashlights
Everyone knows that the Maglite brand is synonymous with quality and this flashlight lives up to its name. Drop resistant and water resistant the durability and heavier weight make this a great handheld flashlight that can also double as blunt weapon if need be.
Low lumens at only 168 but 80 hour run time makes up for it. Multiple color options for the fashion conscious prepper. Price at under $30.
This is a great flashlight for preppers because their battery lock feature is a twist top that prevents the flashlight from powering on if it accidentally rubs against other items in your bug out bag.
This handy flashlight comes in either a 350L version or a slightly less expensive 250L version. Both have high and low settings. The 350L is 2.25 inches long and weighs just under a pound. It’s great for preppers, it sells for under $25, with a 50-hour run time on low.
Compact light great if you get stranded on the roadside. Its trio of modes includes a signaling option. The battery indicator light is a great feature.
It’s water resistant with a run time of almost 5 hours on high. Uses only 1 AAA Alkaline battery which are easy to stock or hunt up in a SHTF scenario.
Comes with stainless steel or plastic clip and has a split ring above the clip for alternative mounting capability. Priced just under $100.
Runs on Lithium ion battery but is rechargeable via a mini USB which is great if you are setup with a solar charger. It auto-adjusts brightness based on the distance you’re trying to see.
Constructed of durable aircraft-grade aluminum and weighs just under 8 ounces. Impact and water resistant so it can hold up to SHTF battering if need be. Mid-range priced at just under $65.
Pocket-sized it weighs 8 ounces. Low setting 15lm and high up to 60l0m is powerful for a small light. Great rubber grip ring is handy if wet or cold.
Tail cap locking switch prevents accident turn-on while in pocket or bug out bag. Body is made of aerospace aluminum to withstand extreme weather. A bit more expensive at just over $100 but well worth the money.
Fenix PD35 TAC 1000 CREE XP-L LED Tactical Flashlight
This flashlight is just under 6” long and weighs only 4 ounces which makes it great if you have to carry it for an extended period of time.
Waterproof and made of aircraft-grade aluminum. Six different setting from 8lm to a blinding 1000lm. Includes 2 CR50 123A Lithium batteries but can also use 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery. Priced at under $75.
Focusable 350L light, bright and compact. Operates on 3 AAA or 18650. Can clip to belt. At 4.5 ounces and 5.4 inches long, it’s a favorite of emergency personnel such as firefighters and EMTs but perfect for hikers and preppers. Priced for the budget conscious prepper at less than $15!
Turn the darkest night into daylight using 3800 L operated by 3.7V rechargeable batteries. Built solid from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. 5-modes including Strobe and SOS.
Just over 7 inches long and a whopping one pound, this is a great outdoor flashlight. Great for budget conscious at around $20.
Best Weapons Mounted Flashlights
Mounts onto different weapons such as a Moss 500/900 or Remington 870 and can temporarily prevent an intruder from seeing well so you can make your escape. Very rugged, easy to mount. Bright light with to operating modes. New just under $400 or find used for around $200.
Designed to Snap-On smaller firearms, a favorite of gun owners. Three light options include Laser, LED, or both for increased vision and laser sighting in the dark. Fully water resistant, ultra-lightweight, military grade polymer, withstands extreme temperatures. Uses just 1 CR2 battery. Priced at $125.
Great for close or mid-range. Includes programmable white light with three settings. Waterproof to 66 feet with angled activation button. Durable but ultra-light fiber composite housing. Easy to detach mount for swapping between guns. Compatible with variety of guns. Sells for just under $150.
Best Helmet/Head Flashlights
This handy little headlamp has dual beams to light the path beneath you and the view at eye level. 70-degree swivel head. Includes Red night vision LED setting.
Made of water resistant polymer with three interchangeable face plates. In power save mode it runs more than 3 hours. It needs 4 AA batteries.
Get the Sidewinder Compact II plus head strap, helmet mount, and CR123A lithium battery for just under $75. Great light when you need to work or move hands free. Several light color choices. Weighs under 4 ounces with average battery life of just over 5 hours. Nylon housing.
Can be mounted on hard hats or other helmets, such as firefighter or other public service personnel.
360-degree swivel clamp. Impact resistant bulb. Waterproof to just over 3 feet for 30 minutes. Uses 3V CR123A batteries.
The Secure Emergency Flashlight is waterproof and a jack of all trades with its integrated seat belt cutter, window breaker and Lithium Ion backup battery.
It’s great if you need emergency power for your GPS or cell phone and the battery backup is capable of storing extra power. If you combine this with a portable solar charger, you’ll never be in the dark. Sells for around $50.
Alternative Flashlight Uses for Survival
A flashlight can do much more than to show you the way. As you know, it’s essential that you have multi-purose in your bug out bag and your car, to reduce the weight and size of your survival kits.
So here’s a list of alternative uses for flashlights (obviously not all flashlights are able to do all these things):
- to keep other items inside, such as cash or matches
- as a self-defense weapon, especially the big ones
- as a night vision aid when shooting in the dark or low-light conditions
- to start a fire (either by using the protective glass to focus sun rays, or by breaking the outer glass layer, placing tinder inside and turning your flashlight on)
- as a lantern/ambient lighting, if you focus its rays on a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach
When choosing the best flashlight to suit your prepper needs, it’s important to consider all the factors including how you might use the flashlight and under what conditions.
Make sure you include separate flashlights for your EDC kit, your bug out bag, and your home or bug out location. Did we miss your favorite flashlight? Let us know below.
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of nine grandsons and one granddaughter, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.