In A Nutshell
Here are the best LED flashlights of 2014:
- The brightest keyring-size LED flashlight: Fenix LD01 — 80 lumens — costs around $40
- The best standard-size LED flashlight: Fenix TK11 R5 — 225 lumens – costs around $75
- The brightest LED flashlight that runs on AA batteries: Fenix TK-41 U2 860 lumens – costs around $110
- The brightest LED flashlight: Nitecore TM15 Tiny Monster — 2450 lumens — costs about $220
A few notable brands of flashlight are still made in the U.S. — Streamlight (made in Eagleville, Pennsylvania) and Surefire (made in Fountain Valley, California), and Pelican (made in Torrance, California).
See also my guide to the best rechargeable batteries.
Brightest LED Flashlight Running On AA Batteries
The Fenix TK-41 U2, which shines at 860 lumens, is the brightest LED flashlight that runs on AA batteries. It uses eight AA batteries, and these can be rechargeable NiMH or alkaline AAs. The TK41 produces four brightness levels, the lowest (10 lumens) allows the flashlight to run for up to 240 hours.
The Fenix TK-41 U2, is available from Amazon for about $111.
Best Overall Flashlight – Fenix TK11 R5 LED Flashlight
Pros: Very bright, durable, quality components, waterproof, inexpensive.
The Fenix TK11 R5 impressed reviewers with its build quality and light quality. The TK11 R5 uses of two Cree 7090 XR-E Premium Q5 LEDs (PDF), producing very bright beam of light (285 lumens in turbo mode). Most reviewers say that Fenix now rivals Surefire in terms of build quality, but because Fenix lights use Cree LEDs, their flashlights are brighter and more affordable than Surefire lights.
The Fenix Tk11 is part of the Tactical range of flashlights from Fenix Light. The Fenix TK11 is actually an enhanced version of Fenix T1 Tactical. The TK11 uses two CR123 or 18650 batteries. A 18650 is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a 3.7V working voltage. You can find rechargeable 18650 batteries and the chargers at Amazon. You can use rechargeable CR123A batteries in this flashlight. You switch between light levels by turning the flashlight’s head: turbo mode is 225 lumens, and general mode is 60 lumens.
The body of the TK11 is built of aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, and it has a very solid construction. The flashlight is coated inside out with olive color type III hard coat anodizing that not only provides excellent surface look and feel finish but also protects body against bruises scratches.
25 Amazon reviewers gave the Fenix Tk11 an average of 4.9 stars (out of 5 stars).
It’s available from Amazon for $73.
Best Keychain-sized Flashlight – Fenix LD01 LED Flashlight
Pros: Very bright, uses single AAA battery, rugged, waterproof, affordable.
Reviewers are virtually unanimous in recommending the Fenix LD01 as the best keychain-sized flashlight. The Fenix LD01 flashlight runs on a single AAA-sized battery, yet it can produce 80 lumens of light on its highest setting. It uses a Cree Q5 LED as its light source, and the lens is made of toughened, anti-reflective glass (as with all Fenix lights). It has three output modes: 10 lumens, 27 lumens, and 80 lumens.
The Fenix LD01 is also “IPX-8 water proof” which means it is suitable for continuous submersion.
The Fenix LD01 is available from Amazon for $41.
Best for General Household Use – Streamlight 4AA LED Flashlight
Pros: Inexpensive, extremely rugged, good beam shape.
Reviews say the Streamlight ProPolymer 4AA Flashlight is the best flashlight for general household use. There are lighter and brighter flashlights out there, they can’t beat the Streamlight’s price at $28. The flashlight uses 7 LEDs that produce a flood beam with a hotspot in the middle. Reviewers at Amazon give this flashlight 4 or 5 stars, and rave about its ability to fill a room with light.
Home Page: Streamlight 4AA Product Page