Whether you’re buying a flashlight for tactical purposes, survival, self-defense or emergency preparedness, reliability is absolutely critical. What’s the key most important factor when it comes to reliability? The flashlight’s power source: the battery.
The 18650 battery is one of the most popular battery types for flashlights, particularly high-powered ones.
In just a moment, we’re going to share our top picks for the best 18650 flashlight this year. But first, let’s talk more about this battery type, and why it stands out from the crowd.
What are 18650 Batteries?
18650 batteries are a type of rechargeable Lithium batteries that are designed for high-powered devices. Most flashlights use 18650 Lithium-Ion batteries, which are the most common type.
These powerful batteries are preferred for tactical flashlights because they can be recharged up to 1,000 times before needing to be replaced. For most people, one set of batteries will last two to three years.
In a survival or emergency situation, having reliable batteries can mean the difference between life and death – literally.
18650 batteries also come in protected and unprotected forms. A protected battery is preferred, as it protects against over-discharge, overcharge, temperature and short circuit. Overall, protected batteries are safer to use. (Protected 18650 Batteries)
While cheaper in price, unprotected batteries do not offer these protections and may actually damage your device.
How Long Do 18650 Batteries Last?
Like other rechargeable batteries, 18650 batteries have an mAh rating. The letters “mAh” refer to “milli-Ampere hour.” The mAh rating serves as a measurement of how much current the battery will discharge per hour.
A 2400 mAh battery, for example, will maintain a 2400 milli-Amp draw for one hour before dropping to a discharged voltage level.
You’ll find 18650 batteries with varying mAh ratings, and the mAh doesn’t necessarily determine how long the battery will last. Some manufacturers over-rate their batteries, which means they won’t last as long as you anticipated. If you’re camping out there and need a power source to charge your batteries, you can always rely on portable solar generators.
There are also High Drain batteries, which have low mAh ratings, but last a long time.
How to Choose the Right 18650 Flashlight for You
Now you can see why so many tactical and survival flashlights use 18650 batteries. They’re powerful, reliable, rechargeable and last a long time.
The question now is how do you choose a flashlight that uses this battery type? There are dozens to choose from.
We’re going to share our top five choices for the best flashlight. Here are the factors we considered when choosing our picks:
- Lumens: Lumens is a measure of light output, and refers to the intensity of the light on the highest brightness setting with new batteries. Lumen ranges can vary greatly from 20 lumens (just enough light to read a book) to 3500 lumens or higher (enough light to blind someone). Depending on your purpose for the flashlight, you may need a higher or lower number of lumens.
- Meters: Meters refers to the flashight’s “throw,” or how far the light beam will travel before its brightness starts to diminish. The beam distance will vary depending on the brightness mode, but it’s important to ensure that at least one of the settings has an adequate throw for your needs.
- Run Time: Most flashlights will list a run time, which refers to how long the flashlight will last before it drops to 10% of the rated output. Run times are usually given for each light mode, as some modes are brighter and use more power than others.
- Bulb Type: What type of bulb does the flashlight use? The majority of flashlights use LED bulbs, which have a longer lifespan and are far more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
- Water Resistance: If you plan to use your flashlight outdoors, you’ll want a model that has some sort of water resistance. Depending on how and where you will use the flashlight, you may want to choose a model that allows for temporary (30 minutes) or complete submersion (up to 4 hours).
- Beam Type: Flashlights typically have three main types of beams: spot, flood and adjustable. Spot may also be called focused, and flood may also be called fixed. Flood beams have a single beam width and are ideal for simple tasks, like walking or camping. Spotlights have a single condensed beam, which allows it to travel far distances. Adjustable beams allow you to adjust the width of the beam between spot and flood.
With these factors in mind, we selected the top 18650 flashlights on the market this year to help you find the right one for your needs.
Top 9 | Best 18650 Flashlights On The Market
The T6-C has a heavy-duty, solid metal construction with an ergonomic design that makes it comfortable to hold. A bonus waist strap is included for easy securing on your belt loop or backpack.
Five adjustable modes are available to suit your needs, including:
Along with brightness, you can also adjust the width of the beam using the focus zoomable feature. Transition from a wide-angle beam to a focused, narrow beam with ease. This feature alone makes this flashlight versatile and great for a variety of activities, including: climbing, camping, hunting, cycling, outdoor activities and emergency preparedness.
The tip of the flashlight features a lotus shape, which not only protects the bulb, but also allows it to be used to break glass in an emergency situation.
The T6-C is also water-resistant and skid-proof for easy, safe and reliable use in wet weather.
This Hausbell flashlight uses just a single rechargeable 18650 Lithium battery. You also have the option of using three AAA batteries if you run out of 18650 batteries.
With dimensions of just 3.7″ x 1″ x 1″ and a weight of 5.6 ounces, this flashlight packs a lot of power into a compact and lightweight body.
The only complaint with this flashlight is the beam isn’t as bright when using AAA batteries. With that said, the AAA batteries should really only be used as an emergency backup. When using the more-powerful 18650 battery, this flashlight is bright.
ThruNite’s TN36 is a high-powered, portable, compact flooder that offers an orange peel reflector and a high-quality beam. An ultra-bright LED flashlight with 3 Cree-XP-L V6 LEDs, this model requires 4, 18650 batteries to produce a strong, reliable light.
Intelligent temperature control technology is built into the flashlight to ensure damage doesn’t occur to the internal components due to high temperature.
The grip of the flashlight is made from aircraft grade aluminum to provide the durability and longevity needed for frequent use while ensuring the flashlight is lightweight.
Output times depend on the lumens selected. Strobe produces 7300 lumens at 137 minute runtime. Turbo offers 7300 lumens at 95 minutes, High produces 2500 lumens at 194 minutes, Medium produces 850 lumens at 587 minutes and Low produces 130lumens at54 hours.
VIDEO | ThruNite TN36: Light Test
The moonlight setting produces 2 lumens at a 33-day runtime.
Maximum beam density is 285 meters, with a maximum beam length of 320 meters. The unit is waterproof, so it can withstand harsh weather environments while still remaining operational.
When switching through the modes, the flashlight may skip a mode completely, causing you to have to restart. This is a minor issue, but it’s one worth noting. Despite this small flaw –and it happens with a lot of flashlights – this light’s longevity and durability are top-of-the-line.
The Captink T6 is a compact, LED flashlight with multiple modes and a durable design. Don’t let its small size fool you – this is one bright and powerful flashlight.
The Captink features five modes: SOS, high, medium, low and strobe. It also offers an adjustable focus feature, so you can adjust the width of the beam. Intense Spotlight mode extends 600 feet, making it ideal for long range observation. Circle Floodlight is the ideal choice for illuminating large areas.
The T6 has a luminous flux rating of 800 lm.
This high-powered flashlight is crafted with high-quality, aircraft-grade aluminum, so it can withstand extreme temperatures. The T6 is also shock-resistant and waterproof, which makes it ideal for outdoor or survival use.
The textured grip is comfortable to hold and non-slip for safe use in wet weather.
With dimensions of 6.1″ x 1″ x 1.4″ and a weight of 7.2 ounces, this flashlight is pocket sized and light enough to be taken anywhere.
Considered a tactical flashlight, this model can be used as a baton if needed or to break glass.
The T6 is powered by a 18650 battery, which allows for the brightest possible beam. Three AAA batteries can also be used to power this flashlight, but the beam won’t be as bright.
There’s no real quick and easy way to switch between functions with this flashlight, which is a problem for most adjustable flashlights. With that said, once you get the hang of switching modes, it becomes second nature.
This flashlight is still ultra-bright, durable and easy to use, which makes it a great option for most users.
ThruNite’s TN32 has a maximum output of 1702 lumen with a copper circuit housing for better heat distribution. High-powered, this is a top-performing flashlight with a staggering maximum distance of 1043 meters.
Three, 18650 batteries are required to operate the TN32.
Ideal for search and rescue, this flashlight is designed with a Type III anti-abrasive, hard-anodized finish. Weighing just 650 grams, this is a lightweight flashlight that’s comfortable to carry and provides an anti-reflective, ultra-clear tempered glass lens.
A high-focused beam concentrates the flashlight’s powerful light to maximum beam distance.
VIDEO | Thrunite TN32: Beam Test
The forward click tactical switch allows users to switch the flashlight into the strobe setting for advanced search and rescue operations. This flashlight is designed for self-defense, military and law enforcement.
This flashlight is a little on the heavy side at over 9 pounds, and when switching modes, you’ll need to use the twist setting, which is less convenient. But with a high durability and long runtime, this flashlight outpaces the competition.
The Anker Bolder LC40 flashlight is pocket-sized and features an LED bulb. This is an ultra-bright flashlight with a 400-lumen maximum CREE LED light.
With such a bright bulb, this flashlight’s beam can reach between 330 feet and 600 feet, depending on the brightness setting.
The LC40 has three adjustable settings: high, low and strobe. And the long-lasting LED bulb offers consistent performance throughout its 50,000 hours of use.
The flashlight features a tough and durable exterior thanks to its IP65-rated water-resistant construction. The LC40 can even be used in heavy rain and features shock resistance that ensures this flashlight can withstand rough handling.
The anti-slip grip makes this flashlight ideal for use in wet weather, and its sturdy design allows it to stand upright for use as an emergency light.
The LC40 can be powered either through a single 18650 rechargeable battery or 3 AAA batteries. The AAA batteries offer four hours of continuous use, while the 18650 offers six hours of use.
This Anker Bolder flashlight is one of the lightest available, with a weight of just 2.56 ounces. It’s equally compact, with dimensions of 1.05″ x 4.88″ x 1.05.”
The only gripe with the LC40 flashlight is that it doesn’t offer an adjustable beam. However, its ultra-bright bulb and extremely lightweight design make this just a minor inconvenience.
The Fenix PD35 is an ultra-bright flashlight with a long-lasting bulb and the durability you’d expect with a high-end model. For tactical and outdoor use, the PD35 is hard to beat in terms of quality and ease of use.
This Fenix flashlight comes equipped with a Cree XP-L(V5) LED that boasts a 50,000-hour lifespan–a 251% performance boost compared to the previous XP-G2. The 1000-lumen maximum and 656-foot beam length make this flashlight perfect for tactical and outdoor use.
The PD35 has six outdoor modes and three tactical modes.
Pocket-sized, the PD35 is less than 5.51″ long and is exceptionally lightweight (4 ounces). The exterior is made of aircraft-grade aluminum with a hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish. The side switch, which allows you to select a mode, is made of stainless steel for high durability.
The body design is slip-resistant and anti-roll, making it ideal for use in wet weather conditions and a great tactical flashlight as a light for your firearm.
Along with a rugged design, this flashlight also offers advanced internal features, like an intelligent memory circuit, which automatically remembers the last output mode you selected. It also offers a low voltage reminder to let you know when it’s time to change batteries, and a reverse polarity mode to prevent improper battery installation.
VIDEO | Fenix PD35 Tactical Flashlight Features
The only complaint with this flashlight is that it can get hot after extended use. But that’s to be expected with a flashlight this powerful.
With that said, the Fenix PD35 is a great option for outdoor and tactical use. It’s highly durable, easy to use and boasts an exceptionally bright beam.
The Skyray features seven CREE T6 LED bulbs for extreme brightness. These bulbs boast an extra-long life of 100,000+ hours.
The aircraft grade aluminum body allows for maximum durability, and the waterproof design makes this a great choice for camping, climbing and other outdoor activities.
The Skyray is powered by four 18650 batteries. Four light settings are available: high, medium, low and strobe.
Compared to other 18650 flashlights, this model is a bit heavy at 3 pounds. The Skyray also requires four batteries to run. With that said, this model is extremely bright and features multiple LEDs, which explains its heavier weight and need for more batteries.
The ThruNite TN12 is a reliable, compact everyday-carry flashlight with a bright beam and durable design. Featuring the CREE XP-L V6 LED bulb, this model offers a maximum 1100 lumen output with just a single 18650 battery.
The TN12 is used by law enforcement, military, emergency personnel, hunters, campers and hikers. It’s a great flashlight for emergency preparedness, too, because of its reliable bulb and design.
Like the Fenix flashlight, this model also has a stainless steel side switch that makes it easy to switch between modes. There are six modes altogether:
Featuring an aircraft-grade aluminum body, this flashlight is very lightweight at just 86 grams. And the hard-anodized finish helps prevent scratches.
VIDEO | Comparison: ThruNite TN12 vs Fenix PD35
The TN12 does not offer any tactical modes, which other similar models do offer. While not a deal-breaker, this is still something that should be noted.
Still, the ThruNite TN12 offers bright light output, easy operation, a durable design and an extended battery life when on low or firefly modes.
The SK98 features a CREE L2 LED with an ultra-bright bulb (800 lumens maximum). This long-lasting LED will give you 100,000 hours of use before dying out.
Five modes are built into the flashlight: high, medium, low, strobe and SOS. The flashlight also features a zoomable focus that’s easily adjustable. Just pull the head forward to focus the beam.
On a full charge, this flashlight offers a minimum of six hours of use thanks to its high efficiency.
The only complaint with this flashlight is that it can get hot pretty quickly. But this is a problem with a lot of compact flashlights, especially ones with bright beams.
With that said, this model is durable, easy to use and reliable. The heat issue is only a minor inconvenience.
All of the flashlights on our list are bright, compact, reliable and easy to use. No matter whether you’re camping or just preparing for an emergency, you’re sure to find a model that meets your needs on our list above.