Best torches 2024 | Tested and reviewed

Whether as a primary light source or as a backup emergency option, a handheld torch can fit the bill. These are our current favourite flashlights...

Closeup of a Maglite torch

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

For reasons of a hands-free nature, head torches are preferred by hikers over a handheld torch. Handheld torches still have their place for campers and hikers, however.

The torch varies more in size and performance more than headtorches do. They can be simple hand-cranked dynamo torches through to bigger models with a brightness of thousands of lumens. Torches are therefore useful hiking accessories that can be used for a range of circumstances, from emergency backup lighting, to campsite lighting, to heavy-duty lighting for search and rescue.

Our shortlist:

Mini Maglite Pro – Best in Test

Decathlon TL900 – Best Value

NEBO Davinci 2000 – Best for versatility

Ledlenser P2R Core – Best compact torch

Decathlon DYNAMO 100 V2 – Best dynamo torch

Silhouette of a person with a torch at night
©Unsplash/Jonathan Mabey

We’ve recommended our favourites here. Like the wide scale of different torches, our shortlist also consists of very different models, from a low-cost dynamo torch to more versatile options.

Modern torches designed for personal use need not be bulky at all. We’ve given focus to this broad type of torch here. All the models we’ve recommended use either AA or rechargeable batteries – no big flashlights powered by C or D batteries.

Best in Test

Anyone who knows anything about cars will be aware of the horsepower race that went on for years. Car manufacturers were constantly duelling to have the most powerful model. Torches can be like that too, and it can get a bit ridiculous. Very few people need a 2000 lumen torch.

Following that argument, the Mini Maglite Pro is all the torch you’re likely to need. Its 332 lumen brightness is ideal for campsite and night walking activities. Simply twist the head and you get two light modes: high or low, offering 2.5 and 13 hours of run time respectively.

The Mini Maglite Pro weighs less than 120g and runs off a pair of AA batteries (supplied). Those that come with the torch aren’t rechargeable but you can replace them with some once those are through.

Its IPX4 rating is perfectly adequate for outdoor use, so long as it’s not torrential rain or the torch gets flung into a river.

Pros

  • Simple twist operation
  • Tough and water resistant
  • Bright without being overkill
  • Compact

Cons

  • Supplied AAs aren’t rechargeable
  • Not the best run time

Best Value

Having a torch as a spare lighting tool is what most people have in mind. It’s like Marge Simpson’s emergency ham. That’s what the TL900 is: an emergency ham. It’s a reliable and affordable backup.

There’s plenty to like here, such as the rechargeable battery, decent run time and IP65 rating. There are three light modes, one of which is a red light, all accessed via a one-button operation.

Despite its good IP rating, the plastic body isn’t the toughest. It therefore pays not to chuck it around when using it.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • IP65
  • Rechargeable

Cons

  • Not the toughest torch

Best for versatility

American brand NEBO is a lighting specialist. Its range of work lights, lanterns, and torches is impressive, as is their attention to detail.

The NEBO Davinci 2000 is all about versatility. It has four light modes that range from 200 to 2000 lumens, plus zoom. This, when combined with an aluminium body and IP67 rating, makes it perfect for camping, dog walking, or hiking – wet or dry.

Apart from being the brightest and highly-featured torch here, the Davinci 2000 has another USP, which is doubling as a power bank. It’s quite a bit heavier than the other torches here but still perfectly acceptable. Notwithstanding the extra weight, it’s not much bigger than the Mini Maglite Pro.

Pros

  • Very versatile
  • IP67
  • Impressive selection of modes
  • Doubles as a power bank

Cons

  • Overkill for some

Best compact torch

Ledlenser P2R Core
Price: $34.72

This is a wonderful little pocket torch because it has been carefully designed, not just made to be small at the expense of everything else.

So, although the P2R Core weighs just 36g, you get up to 120 lumens, three brightness levels, a rechargeable AA battery, and an IP54 rating. It even features flood and spot lighting modes.

Coming supplied with a rechargeable battery is a big plus for us. It’s a removable AA too, which means that when it eventually does come to the end of its life cycle, you can replace it with another.

It hasn’t the greatest run time – one hour at mid power (50 lumens) and 30 minutes at full power (120 lumens). But that is par for the course with very small torches. You can at least take spare batteries with you.

Pros

  • Feature-rich for a small torch
  • Rechargeable battery included
  • Impressive brightness for its size

Cons

  • Not the greatest run time

Best dynamo torch

The true emergency light is the wind-up dynamo torch. Decathlon’s take is super simple and, crucially, very reliable.

Key to this is the IPX4 rating, which means that the torch isn’t flummoxed by moisture. Its little LiPo battery can gain about five minutes of charge from one minute of winding.

Be in no doubt this is a torch for emergency situations, mostly. It’s not very bright and has a short range. Having said that, it can also be used for rummaging around in your tent at night, for example.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • No batteries required
  • IPX4
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Not very bright

Best rechargeable batteries

Energizer Recharge Universal AA batteries
Price: $19.99
Alternative retailers
Tractor Supply$18.99View offer

Energizer Recharge Universal batteries not only perform really well but are also very cost effective over disposable batteries. Thanks to a long shelf life and the ability to be recharged about 1000 times, a little four-pack like this will last you for several years.

Check out the AAA version here

Pros

  • Up to 1000 cycles
  • Uses some recycled material

Cons

  • Not the absolute cheapest rechargeable batteries (but still good value)

What to look for in a torch

Two tents wild camping at dusk in Scotland
©Live For The Outdoors

Brightness: Rather than running the risk of getting a torch with subpar brightness, these days it’s more important not to go overkill. Thousands of lumens aren’t the be all and end all of a torch. How often do you need to illuminate a hillside? Consider a torch’s other features alongside its brightness.

Beam: Multiple beam modes go a long way to making a torch versatile. Flood and spot/focused are great for hiking because they are useful for both campsites and trails. A red light is a big bonus too, because it helps preserve your night vision.

IP rating: The prevention of moisture and dust ingress is a huge boost to a torch’s durability. A torch with IPX4 or IP54 is fine for most cases. But if you know your torch is going to be subject to wet conditions, look for IP65 or higher.

Construction: Plastic and aluminium are the two common materials used for torch bodies. Plastic ones help keep weight and cost down compared to aluminium, but not usually as tough. The converse is also true: metal is tougher than plastic but heavier and more expensive.

Battery type: On the whole, we generally recommend torches that take AA or AAA batteries. This is because you can replace them as required and because you can get rechargeable AA and AAA batteries. Built-in rechargeable batteries are convenient, but the battery can become a dictating factor of the life of the torch if they go awry. And if you want more fuel, you need to have a power bank.

Extra features: Consider additional features such belt/pocket clips, and also the size and weight of a torch. For hiking in particular, a weight-performance balance is very important.

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