Congratulations! You’re going on a trip and are excitedly packing your bag! One item (or possibly two – we’ll come to that) you shouldn’t forget to pack is a travel flashlight.
We all know how invaluable a flashlight can be, and that goes doubly for when you’re travelling. Even if you’re not the adventurous type who likes to head off into the wilderness and leave the streetlamps of civilisation behind, the chances are that a flashlight will come in handy at some point.
Perhaps you’re walking back to your hotel from the beach after watching a beautiful sunset? Perhaps there’s a power outage during a tropical storm? Perhaps you simply need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and can’t remember where it is in the dark!
Whatever the reason, having a good, reliable flashlight with you can give you some much needed peace of mind. And who wants to spend their vacation worrying?
So what are the requirements for a good travel flashlight and what do we recommend? Let’s go through the main criteria.
Smaller and lighter are better. You don’t want to fill up your case or go over your weight allowance because you’ve brought a heavy flashlight. Compact and light are the order of the day. You want a flashlight that won’t take up much room in your luggage, and which you can happily slip in a pocket or purse while you’re out and about.
For me, AA batteries are the way to go. Followed by AAAs. The reason is simple: if you need to replace the batteries while you’re away, you don’t want to be looking for some obscure size that the local convenience store doesn’t stock. There’s no point having a flashlight if you can’t find the batteries to put in it.
Another option is to bring a rechargeable flashlight, but make sure that you have any necessary adapters to plug it in to the outlet. Rechargers add weight, though, which is something every traveller should avoid. On the whole, go for an AA or AAA model.
Tactical or not?
There are a couple of considerations as to whether you should take a tactical flashlight, i.e. one with a strike bezel. The first is whether you expect trouble where you’re going and you think you can get yourself out of a sticky situation with your flashlight. If you’re going somewhere where it helps to carry some protection, then by all means go with a tactical flashlight.
Be aware, though, that you may not get a tactical flashlight past the TSA in a carry-on bag or on your person. Depending on the aggressiveness of the strike bezel, and depending on the mood of the agent at the airport, it may be confiscated from you. So another consideration is whether you have a check-in bag. If you don’t, leave the tactical flashlight at home.
Is it waterproof?
Travelling usually provides lots of opportunities to get wet, whether it’s heading to the beach or getting caught in a tropical downpour. If you think there’s the slightest chance your flashlight will encounter water, make sure it’s at least reasonably waterproof. It doesn’t have to survive going snorkelling with you, but make sure it’ll stand up to someone splashing you beside the pool.
There’ll be times you want a nice bright light (searching for a missing earring under the hotel bed, maybe?) and times you want a low-level beam that’ll last for hours. Try to take a flashlight with more than one mode – it’s far more versatile.
Head-mounted or not?
This is a contentious topic. People who like head-mounted flashlights really like head-mounted flashlights. And there are certainly times when they prove very useful. Personally, I wouldn’t go with just a head-mounted light. Either take a regular small flashlight and a small head-mounted version, or get a head-mount strap for your existing flashlight.
Another option is to get a flashlight with a clip that can be reversed. That way you can mount the light on the peak of a baseball cap and get the best of both worlds.
How much should I pay?
The trade-off here is between having something that’s good enough to do the job, and not paying so much money that you’ll be hurting if you lose it. The reality is that things get lost – or stolen – on vacation. You’re in unfamiliar surroundings, you’re relaxing and not paying attention, perhaps there’s a little too much booze involved. Whatever the reason, you’re probably more likely to lose your flashlight on holiday than at any other time.
I still wouldn’t buy a cheap flashlight – it still has to pass the reliability and durability threshold – but I wouldn’t spend too much either. Where that sweet spot is for you will vary with the thickness of your wallet. For me, it’s around the $25 mark.
Travel flashlight recommendations
Fenix E12 AA flashlight
Our favourite AA travel flashlight is the Fenix E12. It has three outputs ranging from 130 lumens on high to 8 lumens on low, is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and is IPX-8 waterproof to 2 metres for 30 minutes. It ticks all the boxes.
ThruNite Ti3 AAA flashlight
Our favourite small AAA travel flashlight is the ThruNite Ti3. It’s so small and light you’ll barely know it’s there, yet it can range in power from a firefly mode of 0.04 lumens right up to 120 lumens.