I know that are some of you out there that probably need a decent flashlight, but cannot (for whatever reason) be bothered to read about flashlights and figure out what someone actually should buy which is easy to use and will get the job done every time. If you are someone who wants to have a few good flashlights on hand, doesn’t want it to become a hobby, and wants to keep life simple — these three lights are for you.
If you are reading this and you are thinking “I bet he will say XYZ” or “He better not recommend PQRS” then this is not a post that you will get joy out of reading — it’s not for you.
There are three types of lights you need to cover just about anything you would need to use a light for: lantern, headlamp, and standard handheld flashlight. All of these picks are simple to use, all of them use methods of powering the lights which you already are familiar with, all of them run for a long time on their batteries, and all of them don’t suck. Some of them are not going to wow you, and for those I do have some upgrade picks for you if you want to spend a little more money. None of these lights are bad, and if they are what you have on hand they should get the job done.
The goal here is that you don’t have to learn how to use these items, but you will get more benefit if you do read the manual — but that’s still optional. And these lights are easy for you to recharge/replace batteries in because they work like everything else you have encountered. Here we go…
You need a lantern, either for camping, or just if the power goes out. They work really well for lighting up a larger area so that you can see and do things like cook or eat. They also can last for a very long time. My pick here is the 45-Day LED Lantern from UST. I have this lantern and it is my primary pick here because of the price at about $31 and the battery life which can run a full 19 hours on max output which is really outstanding. It takes D batteries which is probably the least standard battery on this entire list.
UST on left with the lowest output shown, Barebones on right also with lowest output.
The downside with this lantern is the quality of the light: it’s not flattering at all. It feels like blue hued LED light. It works, it’s durable, and it is cheap — but that quality of the light output is the downside. If all you need a lantern for is just-in-case emergencies, then this is a good pick as it’s cheap and easy. I have it for precisely this reason.
Both lanterns on high output.
If you want something for camping and to actually use, my pick is the Barebones Forest Lantern which is $70 — quite the jump. But the benefit of this is threefold: it recharges an internal battery off a micro USB port which lasts a good long while. The quality of the light output, which I can attest to, is very good. It is inviting. The downside is that it lasts only 3 hours on high, and 80 hours on low, and if the battery dies you need to charge it for 4-6 hours — so you need to make sure it doesn’t die when you don’t have power. It does a good job at holding a charge while not in use, so even if you only top it off every few months it should be good to go. And the switch is dead simple to use, and is a nice dimmer switch as well. This is the lantern I actually use when I need one. Bonus points: it looks really cool.
There’s only one pick you need for a headlamp: Nitecore NU25 at $37. This headlamp kicks ass. There’s red light, white, and another flood light that renders accurate colors for things when you really need to see something you are doing. It is also lightweight and tiny and recharges with a micro USB. It has a 16 hour run time and can easily recharge off a battery backup — but 16 hours is a lot for a headlamp.
This is also my top pick generally with headlamps, so no upgrade pick needed. The High CRI light on it is really nice for doing things like tending to first aid wounds, or cooking, or washing dishes in the dark as the light output there is flood and renders colors very accurately — but you will need to read the manual to know how to work that function. Otherwise it’s dead simple and might just become something you never knew you needed.
But, if you have kids there’s only one light they need: Black Diamond Wiz. This thing is simple to use, replaceable batteries, auto-off — and it is dim and diffused enough that they won’t blind you when you call their name. My kids love theirs, and they have made it through several camping trips without any damage or wear on them.
This is the hardest pick of them all, because you want something good/decent/solid without all the fuss of most good flashlights. My base pick here is the LUMINTOP TOOL AA 2.0 EDC. It takes a single AA battery which most households have on hand all the time. It’s waterproof and bright as well — all for $20. Kind of hard to make this a bad buy. It is also small enough you can take it with you if you wanted too, but large enough that you can hold it decently well. Like the lantern though, the light quality leaves a lot to be desired, but I have seen worse — also I should mention that this flashlight weighs nothing.
Lumintop Tool AA.
So I have an upgrade pick for you, in the Prometheus QUARK QK2A MKIII for about $75. This one takes two AA batteries and is bright with solid light quality. The downside is that you really shouldn’t use standard AAs, but rather some rechargeable ones (you can buy those with the light). This one comes closest to breaking the rules, but it is a really good light that is still simple enough so I put it on the list anyways — to be clear it will run off standard AAs if needed but it’s not ideal for the light.
All of those lights are simple and easy to use, and all of the base picks require nothing special from a battery stand point. More than all of that, you can buy all the base picks for under $100. Add in some backup batteries and there are a lot worse ways to spend $100.