Mini Flashlight Buying Guide

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Time was, the smallest flashlight you could get was a penlight. It had an incandescent bulb that was dim by today’s standards and required disposable batteries. You can still get penlights today—many people like having a slim light with a clip that slips easily into a shirt pocket—and they’ve come a long way, with bright, long-lasting LEDs having replaced the bulbs and rechargeable batteries that never need to be replaced. But these days, there are many other options for very small flashlights. They come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, and they come in handy on a regular basis.

Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Penlight
Streamlight Stylus Pro LED Penlight

The modern tiny light tends to be sleek and so lightweight you barely feel it on your key ring. An example is the Nitecore TUBE LED Key-Chain Flashlight, which weighs just 1/3 of an ounce, yet delivers up to 45 lumens, more than enough light to find a keyhole in a dark doorway or rummage through a deep bag. Its rechargeable battery will run for a full hour on the brightness setting or up to 48 hours on the one-lumen low setting. The output is infinitely variable between low and high, and you have the choice of momentary (light is only on when you’re pressing the switch) or constant-on (click for on, click again for off) activation. Impact- and splash resistant, the housing comes in your choice of eight durable polycarbonate colors and has a built-in keyring loop that’s strong enough to suspend 77 pounds. If you’d like a Nitecore that’s a little beefier but still ultra-compact, consider the Tini Cu Metallic Key Chain Light, with a big-light output of 380 lumens and 60 hours’ run time on the lowest setting, or the TIP Rechargeable Metal Keyring Flashlight, with a 360-lumen turbo setting, Advanced Temperature Regulation to prevent overheating, precision digital optics technology for a long beam throw, and constant current circuitry for consistent performance. As with the Tube, both of these come in an array of fun colors.

Nitecore TIP Rechargeable Metal Keyring Flashlight
Nitecore TIP Rechargeable Metal Keyring Flashlight

At 3.2" long, the venerable Maglite Solitaire 1-Cell AAA LED Flashlight can be considered a tiny light, but it performs like its bigger siblings. It is battery powered in old-school style, but requires just one AAA cell to produce 47 lumens. In typical Maglite style, you can adjust the beam from spot to flood with a twist of the light’s head. Its housing is made of sturdy aluminum, designed to withstand being dropped to a hard surface from almost 7 feet and being submerged to more than 3 feet, with no damage. There’s a hole in the tail for a lanyard or a key ring. The 2.4" Olight I3E EOS Flashlight is another mini-model with the form factor of a full-sized light, including a mil-Spec anodized aluminum housing, Total Internal Reflector lens for a long throw, and 90-lumen peak output. It’s sealed tightly enough to warrant an IPX8 waterproof rating, submersible to six and a half feet, and comes with a chain lanyard and keyring clip.

Maglite Solitaire 1-Cell AAA LED Flashlight
Maglite Solitaire 1-Cell AAA LED Flashlight

Pelican is known for its industrial-grade torches, and its VB3 2220 LED Clip Flashlight has more functionality than most lights in the “mini” category. The VBS 2220 shines 9 lumens from two LEDS. It has a built-in stainless-steel clip that will grip anything up to a half-inch thick. The light comes on when you flip up the lamp assembly, and the assembly tilts 180-degrees to shine the light right where you need it. The light is even certified safe for use in hazardous environments. At 3.5" long, it’s at the edge of the tiny-light world, but it only weighs an ounce. It runs on two widely available CR2032 button batteries.

Pelican VB3 2220 LED Clip Flashlight
Pelican VB3 2220 LED Clip Flashlight

SureFire’s Sidekick Ultra-Compact Variable-Output LED Flashlight measures 2.5" and weighs 1.2 ounces, so it’s tiny by anyone’s standards, but it’s first and foremost a useful illuminator with a high output. Choose from 5, 60, or 300 lumens of bright light with SureFire’s MaxVision reflector creating a smooth beam with a long throw. Powered by an internal rechargeable li-ion battery, its run time on a full charge ranges from 1.3 to 45 hours, depending on the brightness level used.

SureFire Sidekick Ultra-Compact Variable-Output LED Flashlight
SureFire Sidekick Ultra-Compact Variable-Output LED Flashlight

Acebeam specializes in extraordinarily powerful full-size flashlights, so it’s no surprise that the company’s compact model is way brighter than most in this category. The UC15 LED Key Chain Flashlight is 2.6" long, weighs 1.4 ounces, and delivers an astonishing 1,000 lumens (using 10440 lithium batteries). It has the option of a red beam for performing tasks without disrupting your night-acclimated vision, and its housing is dust- and water-resistant hard anodized aluminum. Clip it to the brim of your ball cap and you’ve got one powerful headlamp.

Acebeam UC15 LED Key Chain Flashlight
Acebeam UC15 LED Key Chain Flashlight

Don’t need 1,000 lumens? How about 18 lumens from a simple, aluminum-construction light with a tail cap on-off switch? The COAST G5 Mini-Flood Keychain Light is weather-resistant, has a knurled surface for a secure grip, weighs next to nothing, and runs on common AG5 button batteries. The split ring is already attached and ready for your key ring.

COAST G5 Mini-Flood Keychain Light
COAST G5 Mini-Flood Keychain Light

Full-size flashlights are indispensable for many work, recreation, and home uses. But when you just need a little light for a few moments, these mini torches are ideal. Thanks to modern emitter and battery technology, big lumens come in small packages.

What’s your favorite light? Inform us in the Comments section, or ask a question.

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