What To Look For In The Best Compact Flashlight?
If you are looking for the best compact flashlight in 2020, you need to bear in mind that there are some very specific things you will want to look for. Just like with any other flashlight, you want the right light for the job not just the most powerful compact flashlight on the shelf.
In order to purchase the best compact LED flashlight you will need to pay attention to the fine details because that is what is going to allow one to stand out from the rest of the small flashlights.
Short On Time? Here Is The Bullet List
- Coin Cell: LRI Photon Freedom
- Keychain Rechargeable: MecArmy IllumineX-1
- Keychain Rechargeable Budget: Nitecore Tube
- Ultra Compact Rechargeable (high CRI): Manker LAD 219c
- Ultra Compact Rechargeable (UV): MecArmy SGN3
- Ultra Compact Rechargeable (Pocketclip): Nitecore TIP 2017
- AAA Budget: Olight i3E
- AAA: Lumintop Tool
- AA Budget: Thrunite T10
- AA: Olight S1A
- CR123: Olight S Mini
- 18350: Astrolux S41
- 18650 Budget: Emisar D4
- 18650: Zebralight SC64W
- Custom/Small Production: Muyshondt Aeon MKIII
**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
When looking for the best pocket flashlights one of the things you will want to look for is what style of switch they offer. Having one switch over the other doesn’t mean one is better than the other; switch type is all based on personal preference. For those looking for the best compact tactical flashlight tailcap switches are often preferred over side switches or a twisting head. Some other things to look for are a sturdy pocket clip, a thin profile, overall size, and light modes as these will both aid in carrying the flashlight around. Looking for keychain holes is also recommended as it ensures you always have the flashlight with you when needed.
When it comes to compact lights people often think that the best ones are not going to be the brightest compact lights because of their small size. Many people mistakenly assume that if the light can fit into your pocket or be carried around on a key ring then there is no chance for it to be a bright compact flashlight. However, that is not the case at all; some of the best compact flashlights can reach 1000 Lumens for a short amount of time. So, what you want to look for in compact flashlights is how much power they have to ensure they will be bright enough for what you intend to use them for. The style of batteries used should also be taken into consideration. Like many other flashlight styles compact lights use primary and rechargeable batteries, what kind you opt for will depend on what option fits your current lifestyle.
Best Compact Flashlights of 2020
Best Compact Flashlight (Coin Cell):
Coming in at just 1.5 inches long the LRI Photon Freedom might be one of the smallest in the EDC market, but don’t let its small size fool you. The light provides users with a steady 4.5 lumens for over a 12 hour period using one energizer lithium battery. Even in sub-zero temps, the battery will last for several hours. The LRI Photon Freedom offers four safety modes in addition to a signal/Morse code mode. Using single button operation the LRI Photon Freedom provides instant full power with full range brightness control at any time.
The LRI Photon Freedom is one of the most durable lights around as it features an IPX-7 rating and an unbreakable LED, which makes it virtually indestructible. The quick release key ring that comes standard with the light you can use the LRI Photon Freedom to replace any zipper pulls on bags or jackets. The LRI Photon Freedom comes with a hands-free clip, as well as a necklace clip for those who do not wish to carry it on their keychain, although the key ring offers a quick release feature. Consumers can choose between 10 different LED beam colors, as well as 3 different body styles making the light customizable. This light is so small you might as well buy a few and attach them to zippers, then if you are a hunter, survivalist, or just somebody that likes EDC you will always have a light with you.
- Quick release ring
- Easy battery replacement
- Diming function
- Shipped in “demo” mode
- Weight: 1.6 oz. with battery
- Dimensions: 1.5 inches long and 1-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: Variable down to zero lumens
- Highest Setting: 4.5 lumens for over 12 hours
Best Compact Flashlight (Keychain Rechargeable):
The MecArmy IllumineX-1 is a patented rechargeable super micro-sized flashlight. The light uses a CREE XP-G2 LED to emit a maximum of 130 lumens for a period of 30 minutes. The MecArmy allows for one-handed operation through its reliable twist switch. The switch also provides instant access to High and low modes. The MecArmy IllumineX-1 is made from a high-quality titanium alloy and is available in two color choices. The light features a special custom circuit with gold plated internal contacts for high stability.
The MecArmy IllumineX-1 comes it at 1.61 inches long making it the smallest USB rechargeable light in the industry. The MecArmy IllumineX-1 uses a 10180 lithium-ion battery that is included with your purchase. The recharge the battery users need to unscrew the head and plug in a mini USB charging cable. The cable can be connected to multiple power sources. Red light indicates the battery is recharging, green indicates battery has been fully charged. Typically charging time is 1 hour.
- Extremely compact
- Can be hooked to keychain
- IPX-8 rating
- No lockout mode
- Weight: 0.31 oz with battery
- Dimensions: 1.61 inches long and 0.5-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 8 lumens for 6 hours
- Highest Setting: 130 lumens for 30 minutes
Best Compact Flashlight (Keychain Rechargeable Budget):
The Nitecore Tube uses a high performance LED to emit a maximum of 45 lumens. The Nitecore Tube offers instant access to high and low modes, as well as a momentary on feature. The infinitely variable light modes allows users to set their desired brightness level anywhere from 1 to 45 lumens. The polycarbonate design improves impact resistance of the light and aids in the lightweight design. The Nitecore Tube features a stainless steel key ring connector. The connector has the ability to hold up to 77 lbs. without breaking.
As a rechargeable light, the Nitecore Tube features a high-efficiency Li-ion battery with a 48-hour maximum run time. An intelligent protective circuit technology with a blue power indicator light protects the Li-ion battery from overcharging. The wide beam has a 100-degree beam angle to illuminate your peripheral vision. A single button allows for one finger operation.
- Momentary-on function
- Variable brightness
- No lock-out function
- Need to shield light
- Dimensions: 2.2 inches long by 0.83 inches wide
- Weight: 0.34 oz with battery
- Lowest Setting: 1 lumens for 48 hours
- Highest Setting: 45 lumens for 1 hour
Best Compact Flashlight (Ultra Compact Rechargeable (high CRI)):
The Manker LAD 219C is a mini flashlight designed specifically for everyday carrying. The compact light measures just 2 inches long making it easy to carry around on a keychain or inside a pocket. The Manker LAD 219C features a Nichia 219C LED giving the light a high CRI number. The 219C LED has the ability to emit a maximum of 230 lumens for a period of 30 minutes. The Manker LAD 219C offers users three brightness settings and a strobe mode. The Manker LAD 219C also features a 2x Red Straw Hat Led that emits 1 lumen of red light for a period of 100 hours. Having the different color options and this being s really durable little light it might be good as an extra little light to have around for police or outdoors-men that need to keep night vision.
The Manker LAD 219C offers one-handed operation as it is controlled by a single click button switch located on the top of the light. The Manker LAD 219C offers an integrally formed shape made from aluminum alloy with a built-in polymer lithium battery. The rechargeable battery can be charged with any USB charging device. The switch button also serves as a charging indicator for the Manker LAD 219C. How users know the light needs to be charged is when the light automatically switches to the Red LED. Fully charging the battery requires about 70 minutes.
- Charging indicator
- Red illumination
- Port cover falls out of place
- Weight: 0.88 oz. with batteries
- Dimensions: 2.0 inches long and 1.10-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 23 lumens for 5.6 hours
- Highest Setting: 230 lumens for 30 minutes
Best Compact Flashlight (Ultra Compact Rechargeable (UV)):
The MecArmy SGN3 uses a CREE XP-G2 LED to emit a maximum of 160 lumens. The LED is paired with a SMO Max reflector to provide users with a stated maximum beam distance of 40m. The patented design of the MecArmy SGN3 uses 3 separate LEDs. The primary white LED sits in the center of the light. A red and UV sit on the side of the primary LED. The MecArmy SGN3 offers a single switch design allowing for easy one-handed operation, no matter what mode you are using. A specially designed tail allows for the light to be hung on a keychain or something similar. A die-cast alloy shells protect the MecArmy SGN3 from drops up to 1.5m
The MecArmy SGN3 uses a rechargeable 280mAh 410cd lithium polymer battery that comes inside the light. Charging the light is as simple as using the light, simply remove the USB port cover and insert a micro USB charging cable. The cable can be plugged into any USB charging port. The MecArmy SGN3 features built-in charging indicator light. Red means the battery is charging, green means charging is complete. The battery takes approximately 1.5 hours to fully recharge.
- U-Shaped tail
- IPX-5 rating
- Numerous color options
- No lockout mode
- Weight: 1.34oz. with battery
- Dimensions: 2.32 inches long and 0.91-inch diameter
- Lowest Output: 5 lumens for 13 hours
- Highest Output: 160 lumens for 1 hour
Best Compact Flashlight (Ultra Compact Rechargeable (Best Pocket Clip)):
The new Nitecore TIP 2017 is the updated edition of the original Nitecore TIP. The Nitecore TIP 2017 uses a CREE XP-G2 S3 LED to emit a maximum of 360 lumens in Turbo mode. This makes it one of the brightest keychain lights in the industry. Powered by a built-in Li-ion rechargeable battery the Nitecore TIP 2017 offers four brightness levels with an 81-yard maximum beam distance using a dual switch interface. Recharging the Nitecore TIP 2017 is quick and easy with its built-in micro-USB charging port and charging indicator light.
One of the extra features included with the new Nitecore TIP 2017 is the removable clip. The clip allows you to quickly and easily attach the light to stationary objects for hands-free use. The clip can be turned around to prevent accidental activation of light. Daily and Constant-On Modes have been added to the Nitecore TIP. Daily turns the light off after 30 seconds of use, while Constant on puts full control of the light in the hands of the user.
- Removable Clip
- Two operating modes
- Hot to touch
- Weight: 0.75 oz. with battery
- Dimensions: 2.39 inches long and 0.53-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 1 lumen for 46 hours
- Highest Setting: 360 lumens for 30 minutes
Best Compact Flashlight (AAA Budget):
With the Olight i3E not all colors are created equal. The Olight i3E comes in a handful of colors, but the silver offers the best features. The silver Olight i3E has the ability to emit up to 120 lumens of light. The other colors can only emit 90 lumens of light. Runtime for all colors will be determined by the type of AAA batteries used. A NiMH battery provides a 1 hour and 10-minute runtime, while an alkaline battery will only last for 45 minutes.
The Olight i3E features a LUXEON TX LED and a PMMA TIR lens that allows a maximum beam distance of 48 meters in the silver model and 44 meters for the others. The Olight i3E uses a simple head twist rather than a clicky switch to control the light. The Olight i3E is made from an aircraft-grade aluminum body with a Milspec type-III anodizing, anti-scratch coating. The light offers a smooth body that won’t rip or snag clothes. The i3e comes with an IPX rating of 8 and an impact resistance distance of 1.2 meters.
- 5-year warranty
- No switch
- Weight: 0.4 oz. without battery
- Dimensions: 2.38 inches long and 0.55-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 90 lumens for 1 hour
- Highest Setting: 120 lumens for 1 hour
Best Compact Flashlight (AAA):
The Lumintop Tool is a compact, but powerful, light that is powered by a single AAA battery. The Lumintop Tool does not support 10440 batteries, so please do not try to use them. The light uses lithium metal batteries that come included in the light. The Lumintop Tool features a CREE XP-G2 R5 LED to emit a maximum 110 lumens with a maximum beam distance of 47m. The Lumintop Tool comes with two tail caps. The first features a rare tail push button switch allowing for one-handed operation. The light also comes with an optional magnetic tail cap allowing for tail standing or sticking the light to iron surfaces.
The Lumintop Tool uses a clicky switch, unlike other small lights this one is in the form of a tail cap switch rather than a side switch. The Lumintop Tool offers users the option of three different brightness modes, all of which can be accessed via the tail cap switch or for those that prefer a twist operation tightening or loosening the head will also allow you to switch between modes. Like many pocket flashlights, the Lumintop Tool is extremely durable with an impact resistant ability of 1.5 meters and an IPX rating of 8.
- Reversible clip
- Extremely compact
- Glow in the dark front o-ring
- No mode memory
- Weight: 0.53 oz without battery
- Dimensions: 3.2 inches long and 0.57-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 5 lumens for 60 hours
- Highest Setting: 110 lumens for 30 minutes
Best Compact Flashlight (AA Budget):
Powered by a 1.2v AA battery, the Thrunite T10 features a CREE XP-L V6 LED (neutral white) or an XP-G2 (cool white) that has the ability to emit a maximum of 252 lumens. Users can expect a maximum beam distance of 65m with a peak beam intensity of 1,062 candelas. The Thrunite T10 uses an OP reflector to give the beam a perfect flood. Made from aircraft-grade aluminum with a premium type III hard anodized finish the Thrunite T10 is impact resistant up to 1m and features an IPX-8 rating. The ultra-clear glass lens has an anti-reflective coating with an OP reflector to provide a perfect flood style light.
The Thrunite T10 uses a tail switch to power the light on and off. The tail switch is recessed enough to allow the Thrunite T10 the ability to tail stand. Switching between the three brightness levels offered can be done by halfway pressing the tail switch. The Thrunite T10 also features a twisty head design that powers the light and allows users another option to cycle through modes. A reversible clip allows you to clip the light to whatever is convenient. Mode memory allows the light to be turned on in the last mode used.
- Mode memory
- Tail stand capable
- Reversible clip
- Switch is sensitive
- Weight: 1.13 oz without battery
- Dimensions: 3.54 inches long and 0.73-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 0.2 lumens for 240 hours
- Highest Setting: 252 lumens for 1 hour 30 minutes
Best Compact Flashlight (AA):
The Olight S1A is an upgraded version of the extremely popular Olight S15 Baton. Users will notice that the Olight S1A offers double the performance when compared to the Olight S15 Baton due to the TIR optic lens. The TIR lens is paired with a CREE XM-L2 LED to emit a maximum of 600 lumens. The TIR reflector provides the light with a big, defined wide hotspot that is ideal for close up illumination. The manufacturers claim with the Olight S1A there is a maximum beam distance of 118m.
The Olight S1A uses an industrial silicone wide side switch to operate the light. The switch design provides the best performance and allows for easy one-handed operation even while wearing gloves. The Olight S1A can be powered by a single AA battery, but for optimal performance, you will want to use the included 14500 lithium 3.7V battery. 600 lumens can only be achieved with the 14500 lithium battery. The Olight S1A offers five brightness levels, plus strobe mode. The Olight S1A features two built-in timers, a short timer for 3 minutes and a long timer for 9 minutes.
- Built-in timer
- Multiple battery options
- Thermal protection
- Pocket clip could be better
- Weight: 1.32 oz. with battery
- Dimensions: 3.12 inches long and 0.82-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 0.5 for 15 days
- Highest Setting: 600 lumens for 1 hour
Best Compact Flashlight (CR123):
The Olight S Mini Baton come in few different limited edition models (Stainless Steel, Copper, Titanium, and Brass) along with the standard aircraft grade anodized aluminum model with beautiful square knurling. The Olight S Mini Baton uses a XM-L2 LED to emit a maximum of 550 lumens. The cool white LED is paired with a high light transmission rate TIR Optic lens to provide a wide and broad hotspot that is ideal for up close illumination. Manufacturers claim the Olight S Mini has a maximum beam distance of 110m.
The Olight S Mini flashlight can use either a single CR123 or a single RCR123A. The Olight S Mini currently comes with a single CR123 battery that CANNOT be recharged. If you wish to use rechargeable batteries you must purchase a RCR123 battery separately. The Olight S Mini is 10% shorter and 10% more powerful than the Olight S1 Baton. Controlled via a side switch the Olight S Mini offers four brightness levels, plus strobe. Gradual brightness change allows the light to gradually fade in or out when changing brightness settings to prevent any strain on the eyes.
- Pocket clip
- Decent throw
- Small and bright
- No lockout mode
- Weight: 1.8 oz with battery
- Dimensions: 2.5 inches long and 0.83-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 0.5 lumens for 3 days
- Highest Setting: 550 lumens for 2 hours
Best Compact Flashlight (18350):
The Astrolux S41 offers an amazing flood light for its size. Coming in around 3 inches the Astrolux S41 uses four Nichia 219B/XP-G2 LED emitters to produce a maximum of 1600 lumens. With the Astrolux S41 users have the choice between two mode sets. Each of the modes contained in the sets is very well spaced. The light comes equipped with mode memory, but users have the option to turn it off. Cycling through the modes is done via the soft touch push-button tail switch. Quick presses allow you to go up in brightness levels, longer presses allow you to cycle back through the modes.
The Astrolux S41 can be powered by either a 18350 or a 18650 battery, which neither are included with the purchase of the light. The 18350 battery offers shorter runtimes with higher output ability. The 18650 battery increases the runtime but decreases the amount of light the Astrolux S41 emits. If you use a 18650 battery an extended body tube will need to be purchased separately. With an IPX-8 rating, the Astrolux S41 is also shockproof making it a great choice for use in the outdoors.
- Choice of two modes sets
- Mode memory
- Batteries not included
- Weight: 3.17 oz. without battery
- Dimensions: 3.14 inches long and 0.94-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 1 lumen
- Highest Setting: 1600 lumens
Best Compact Flashlight (18650 Budget):
The Emisar D4 is one of the only pocket-sized 18650 lights with quad LEDs. Using the standard 18650 tube the light measures just 3.69 inches long. The Emisar D4 can be made even smaller with a 18350 or a 18500 tube. With the Emisar D4 users have can choose a Quad XP-G2, XP-L HI, or a Nichia 219C LED all of which are mounted on a copper direct thermal path MCPCB. With the Emisar D4, you might notice what appears to be a crack in the corner of the lens. This is not a crack in the optic, it is a gate crop in the Carclo optic. The light will automatically step down if the internal temperature becomes too hot. Temperature limit is user-configurable, so it can be adjusted to personal preferences.
The Emisar D4 is controlled by a momentary electronic side switch. A ramping user interface provides anywhere from 0.6 lumens to 1300 lumens with 150 ramp stamps between the low moonlight mode and the highest output mode. To ramp up from low to high simply press and hold the side switch until the desired amount is found. The side switch also provides access to battery check, momentary on, lock out, temperature check, and beacon mode through a series of fast clicks. The Emisar D4 will turn on in the last mode used.
- Compatible with different battery types
- Moonlight Mode
- Lockout Mode
- Cannot use unprotected batteries
- Weight: 2.35 oz. without battery
- Dimensions: 3.69 inches long and 1.11-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 0.6 lumens for 18 days
- Highest Setting: 1300 lumens for 30 minutes
Best Compact Flashlight (18650):
The compact Zebralight SC64W comes in at just under 4 inches long with a diameter less than an inch. This compact size and pre-installed pocket clip make the Zebralight SC64W the ideal EDC light. The Zebralight SC64W uses a neutral white CREE XHP35 LED to emit a maximum of 1400 lumens. Users can choose between three main brightness levels, in addition to Beacon and Strobe Mode. Each main brightness level can be programmed to two sub-levels and the second sub-level can be further programmed to different brightness levels.
To maximize runtime and brightness, the Zebralight SC64W uses PID thermal regulated outputs on its two highest output levels. A built-in battery capacity indicator alerts users to when battery levels are running low. To preserve battery life the light automatically steps down to the next level based on battery life. A smart user interface utilizes an electronic soft-touch switch to access all brightness levels and special modes.
- Great adjustment range
- UI can be frustrating at first
- Only uses unprotected 18650s
- Weight: 1.3 oz without battery
- Dimensions: 3.64 inches long and 0.96-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 0.07 lumens for 4 months
- Highest Setting: 1400 lumens for 2.8 hours
Best Compact Flashlight (Custom/Small Production):
Using precision machined parts the Muyshondt Aeon MKIII was crafted by hand to provide the highest quality light with attention to detail. The Muyshondt Aeon MKIII 7075-T6 is made from a strong alloy. It is as strong as steel, but as light as aluminum. The Muyshondt Aeon MKIII uses a high CRI LED to provide a high-quality light that can emit a maximum of 160 lumens. With the high CRI LED colors are seen just as they would appear in the sunlight rather than what you would see under electric lighting. The LED is paired with a custom cut parabolic reflector with an orange peel finish to provide a smooth and well-shaped beam.
The Muyshondt Aeon MKIII uses a CR2 Cell battery to power the high-quality light. The CR2 Cell might be small in size, but it delivers high outputs and long runtimes. Controlled by an easy to activate rubber tail switch the Muyshondt Aeon MKIII can be operated one-handed. A full click will turn the light on or off, while a half-push will allow users to switch between modes. Gold plated electronics ensure most of the energy is converted into light rather than heat.
- Stainless steel clip
- Water resistant
- Tested in space
- Weight: 1.2 oz
- Dimensions: 2.48 inches long and 0.69-inch diameter
- Lowest Setting: 1 lumen
- Highest Setting: 160 lumens
Final Thoughts On The Best Compact Flashlight
As you can tell from this article, when it comes to choosing the best compact flashlight you have several choices. Each of the small LED flashlights that we have listed in this article is the best in their class. For example, for mini flashlights under 3 inches we gave you the overall general flashlight, as well as the best budget light. Having the different choices allows you to find the best pocket flashlight that is going to work for your lifestyle. Like all other flashlights on the market, compact flashlights come with several different features. As a consumer when looking for the best you have to consider all of the different features each light comes with in order to choose the best one. Some of us need a super bright compact flashlight, while others need a compact combat flashlight for law enforcement, others need a travel flashlight. The good news is there really is something out there for everyone; you just need to know what you are looking for.
As always we want to thank you for taking the time to read our “Best Compact Flashlight” article. If you have time please check out all of our best flashlight articles here. For those of you that are new to the world of flashlights, we know that the terms used in these articles can be a bit confusing. If you have any questions about the terms used in this article, we ask you to briefly check out our flashlights 101 guide, where you will find all of their definitions. Buying a flashlight is not something that should be taken lightly, especially if you want to buy one of the best. So, to help you out we have provided a Flashlight Comparison Guide that we hope you will find useful. The guide allows you to compare flashlights based on specific specifications, such as lumens, battery type, battery life, and so much more. If you like one of the flashlights that you read about in this article, please follow one of our links to Amazon to buy the best compact flashlight.