3 Best Backpacking Flashlights

Strictly speaking, there is no single flashlight that performs well in every situation and while recent designs have ensured an optimal performance in general, a flashlight should always be chosen according to the intended purpose.

For this reason, when it comes to choosing the best backpacking flashlight, size is always going to be important but then what good is size without performance?

Truth is, many aspects will decide the best flashlight for every occasion and in order to choose the right one, it really is important to consider certain factors including how the flashlight will be used and for how often.

For example, most camping trips require constant use of a flashlight after dark and if the flashlight is for professional use, it defies any sensible logic to choose the cheapest on the market.

Quick comparison: 3 Best backpacking flashlights

Backpacking FlashlightPriceLumensBeam distance (Meters)Run time (h/min)Weight with batteries (Ounces)BatteriesWater resistantDrop resistant (Meters)Peak beam intensity
Maglite Mini (Incandescent)Check Price14965h 15min3.782-cell AAIPX412305cd
Rayovac Pen LightCheck Price3115h 30min0.31-cell AAANo Info2No info
Maglite Solitaire (LED)
Our Best Pick
Check Price47471h 45min0.81-cell AAAIPX72552cd

Criteria for choosing the best backpacking flashlight

ANSI Chart FL1 standard

  • Brightness

In many cases, the major difference between the best flashlights and some of the more affordable options is the brightness of the beam itself. Technology and the quality of a bulb will determine the output in this sense but then a rechargeable battery or special feature, such as water resistance, will usually add to the cost and effectiveness of a flashlight.

And these are questions you should most certainly be asking yourself when deciding upon the best backpacking flashlight. Which one is the brightest? What flashlight is the most affordable? How will a flashlight adapt to the environment in which you intend on using it?

Although longevity is also important, for the last thing you want is to test the flashlight during an emergency only to find the bulb has died. Yes, you need to ask these questions but assuming that you do; the answer should soon present itself.

  • Practicality

That being said; there are certain activities or situations in which a particular flashlight may not be suitable. For example, if you intend on using it during cold conditions, even some of the very best flashlights will not be suitable for the reason that they are difficult to switch on while wearing gloves.

In some case, the flashlight might be a little too big for your hand or it might be too fragile to sustain the intended environment.

Either way, you must choose the best flashlight for any given purpose based on physical attributes just as much as the effectiveness of the technology itself.

  • Flashlight vs. Headlamp

Which leads to the question of which is the best option between a headlamp and a flashlight? It is often thought that a headlamp is best for any activity which requires your hands to be free but actually, this is often far from the truth.

Headlamps are useful but they are not as useful as a flashlight when it comes to signaling or absolute precision.

Hand and eye co-ordination is the difference in this respect but also, flashlights are generally easier to set down while you work on a task and given that the whole point is within having the best flashlight it is surely worth nothing that LED flashlights offer the strongest brightness.

  • Light Output

Lumens is the measurement for how intense a light can shine with fully charged batteries. This will be determined by a number of factors including the distance it can shine, the type of flashlight and the concentration of the beam. However, these very factors are directly related to how efficient is the LED’s and the amount of power they use.

Naturally, the light output is one of the most important concerns when choosing the best flashlight and as mentioned, you can determine this by the number of lumens outlined in a product description ie. 1,500 lumens, 2,000 lumens, 3,500 lumens.

  • Distance of the beam

The distance of a flashlight beam is measured in meters and this range is decided at the point in which the light reaches the same brightness of natural moonlight.

Reaching this level of performance is crucial for using a flashlight outdoors but even in close quarters, you must consider that the distance of a beam is also an indication as to the general brightness of a flashlight.

You can rest assured that the distance of a beam will perform as advertised by a manufacturer as ANSI FL1 standards outline that all product descriptions must now adhere to a specific set of standards to provide transparency to the customer.

  • Running time

This is measured in hours and calculated depending on when the output of a flashlight has fallen below 10% of the power generated by new batteries. Run time will vary from one flashlight to another with the output fading gradually over time on some and then continuing at the same level before declining rapidly on others.

The type of battery can often be a deciding factor when it comes to run time with larger flashlights and those with power saving features often outlasting lights using re-chargeable batteries.

  • Resistance to force

Also measured in meters, flashlights are usually tested by dropping them onto a hard surface from various heights. Depending on the flashlights ability to withstand the impact, these results are then displayed in a product description and once again, this must adhere to the FL1 set of standards.

Although it can happen, the durability of a flashlight is not designed for every type of impact or incident and these tests are purely to ensure that the flashlights have sufficient durability to sustain the impact of when the user drops it accidentally.

  • Water resistance

Most often a flashlight will need to work in light rain at the very least but then water resistance can also be essential depending on the intended purpose.

Flashlights are tested according to the IPX System and then rated with either IPX4, IPX7 or IPX8. In general, the higher the number, the greater resistance a flashlight will have to water but for a more specific summary, the ratings can be applied as follows:

IPX4 – Flashlight is splash resistant from every angle.

IPX7 – Flashlight can withstand submersion in water for as long as 30 minutes in a body not deeper than 1 meter.

IPX8 – Flashlight can be submerged for as long as 4 hours at a depth specified by the manufacturer.

1.Maglite Mini Incandescent 2-Cell AA Flashlight with Holster

Maglite Mini Incandescent (2-Cell AA Flashlight)

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Weather resistant and extremely compact, the Maglite Mini Incandescent is a robust miniature flashlight with many features to defy such a small frame.

Made from aluminum, the Maglite obviously requires a minimum amount of effort to carry and space in terms of storage but it also packs a punch with a particularly bright beam.

Requiring two AA batteries, it is economical when it comes to power but then also extremely sturdy, for this wonderful flashlight can withstand a surprising amount of accidental damage should it happen.

Another highlight of a Maglite is the adjustable beam which is essential for precision in that it allows you to concentrate or spread the light on any surface when needed.

Suitable in just about any situation, professionally or not, the Maglite is a durable flashlight which continues to receive a loyal customer base for very good reason.

Despite the small size of Maglite being the most noticeable feature of this flashlight, it must be noted how the performance is every bit as impressive and something which you can now literally take with you anywhere, at any time.


  • Sturdy and robust
  • Ultra compact
  • Long lifespan


  • Requires 2 x AA batteries which is expensive to replace on a regular basis.
Check Price and more reviews on Amazon

2.Rayovac Value Bright 3 Lumen LED Pen Light with Battery 

Rayovac Value Bright 3 Lumen LED Pen Light with Battery

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You could be forgiven for looking at the Rayovac Pen flashlight as merely a novelty item but actually, this flashlight is right up there with the very best in every way.

Lasting for more than 100k hours, the LED in this case will literally never expire and Rayovac are extremely efficient with power given that they can run for more than five hours on a single AAA alkaline battery.

For such a small flashlight the brightness is an absolute joy to behind but then even more surprisingly and largely thanks to the magnifying lens, the range at which these can reach is simply staggering.

Whether you clip it onto your belt or store it in a small backpack compartment, this is the ultimate pen flashlight and considering the convenience, it is also a serious contender for the best backpacking flashlight on the market.

In fact, the overall design of this flashlight is often commended on top review websites with many customers agreeing that the product far exceeds the monetary value placed upon it.

Available in three colors and with a beautifully crafted design, they look good but then perform even better. Produced by a respected battery manufacturer in the United States, the Rayovac Pen Light may not be the most suitable for professional use but it certainly offers the easiest means of which to have access to a light at all times.


  • Beam has an enormous range
  • Can be carried absolutely everywhere
  • Single AAA battery


  • Not robust enough for more physical environments ie. Workshop or garage.
Check Price and more reviews on Amazon

3.Maglite Solitaire LED AAA Flashlight

Maglite Solitaire LED AAA Flashlight

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Appearing as it did way back in 1988 when the first Maglite was introduced to the market, Solitaire LED AAA retains the original look of the familiar brand albeit offering a much superior performance.

“A Keychain-Size Flashlight with Big-Light Power”

In fact, Maglite’s tagline above explains everything you need to know about the flashlight. It is still the ultra-light and ultra-small flashlight on the market but minute size of this flashlight is merely another feature to accompany what is a superb performance.

Powered by a single AAA battery, the LED interior promises a surprisingly large amount of power which can travel an equally long distance.

Although let us not discard the true beauty of this flashlight and instead, let us admire how Maglite have managed to pack so much into such a small bundle. At just over 3 inches in length and a half inch in diameter, this was truly the first ultra-light flashlight to hit the market and it is still leading the way.

Just as it did back in 1988, the Maglite is switched on by turning the head of the flashlight. Yet another small feature which makes this oldie so popular and another reason to join the millions of proud owners who claim ownership of one.


  • Classic design by the original miniature flashlight manufacturers
  • Easy to switch on quickly
  • Immense power for something so small


  • No real negative points for this popular backpacking flashlight.
Check Price and more reviews on Amazon

Conclusion on the best backpacking flashlight

In an ideal world we would all have the most compact, convenient and robust flashlight which offers the maximum amount of brightness.

Thing is, the options above are perfect examples of very affordable flashlights which accurately fit this same criteria and while you may not wind up depending upon your flashlight the same way as Aron Ralston, it’s still important to choose the right one.


Chief editor here at Sky-Liners, Breana is a former expat and outdoor enthusiast who grew up on camping, hunting, and hiking. If she could live anywhere, it would be a tree fort in the woods. For now, she's surviving on weekly hiking trips and monthly mountain breaks. You can read more about Breana's adventures on her blog at 3rdCultureWife.

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