The flashlight on your smartphone is sufficient in a pinch, but if you’re looking for something that fits in your pocket and can throw some serious light around, you need a good keychain flashlight.
The biggest problem with using your phone’s flashlight isn’t actually how bright it is—they’re typically around 50 lumens which is respectably bright—but that it drains the battery quickly. It doesn’t matter if you’re searching for things under your couch for 30 seconds, but it’s a problem if you actually need to use a flashlight for extended periods of time. I regularly go on walks at sunset through the woods near my house. If I stay out a little too long or some clouds roll in, it can get seriously dark. It’s great knowing that I always have a flashlight in my pocket that will last for the full walk home (and then some).
Phone flashlights are also pretty inconvenient to use. I can clench my flashlight between my teeth, carry it in the same hand as something else, or prop it up easily; you just can’t do any of that with a smartphone. Further, not only are these flashlights durable enough to survive a tumble even if they don’t the replacement cost is nothing compared to buying a phone.
Convinced yet? Let’s look at some of the best small or keychain flashlights going.
Best Entry Level: ThruNite Ti3 EDC ($14)
At $14, the ThruNite Ti3 EDC is insane value. That’s less than $15 for a serious upgrade to your EDC kit.
The Ti3 is just 2.8 inches long; that’s about the length of your ring finger. It takes a single AAA battery (disposable or rechargeable) and has a maximum output of 120 lumens. It has four modes:
- High (120 lumens, 30 mins battery time)
- Strobe (120 lumens, 60 mins battery time)
- Low (12 lumens, six hours battery time)
- Frefly (0.04 lumens, 115 hours).
The big thing about the Ti3 is that it’s a really solid light from a reputable brand at a great price. If you’re even thinking about buying a keychain flashlight, it’s the place to start. The worst case is you decide you really don’t need a flashlight—they’re way less useful in the cities than in the countryside for example—and you’re only out $15.
And if you realize you love carrying a flashlight, then you can upgrade.
Best Super Bright Light: Olight S1R ($60)
Sadly, my go to flashlight, the 4Sevens Mini MKII, is currently being redeveloped. There are still a few available and we might update this article with the new version when it’s released, but until then, the next best thing is the Olight S1R ($60).
The S1R is a seriously bright light. Its max output is a whopping 900 lumens which puts it in the ballpark of a car headlight. It can only sustain that for 90 seconds and then it drops to—a still super bright—300 lumens for a further 50 minutes.
To get that sort of power output, the S1R can’t run off disposable AAAs. There’s an included rechargeable CR123A power cell. The only real downside to this flashlight is that you will need to keep it charged.
The S1R is also a bit bigger than the Ti3. At 2.6 inches long and 0.83 inches wide, it’s about the same length but twice as thick. The extra bulk does get you IPX-8 waterproofing though so if your torch takes a swim, it’s not going to short out.
Like all good EDC flashlights, the S1R has a few different modes to suit your needs. They are:
- Turbo: 900 lumens for 90 seconds, 300 lumens for 50 minutes.
- High: 300 lumens for 60 minutes.
- Mid: 60 lumens for 4.5 hours.
- Low: 12 lumens for 33 hours.
- Moonlight: 0.5 lumens for 15 days.
While it’s not my beloved 4Sevens Mini, the S1R is an awesome flashlight. If you’re looking for something in a tiny package that throws around a lot of light, check it out.
Best Every Day Carry: Prometheus Lights Beta QRv2 ($59)
Prometheus Lights are well known in EDC circles for their incredible—and incredibly expensive—custom made Alpha line of flashlights. The reason the 4Sevens Mini is off the market is Prometheus Lights recently acquired the company and are upgrading and relaunching their products. But Prometheus Lights also has their own flashlight keychain: the Beta QRv2 ($59).
The Beta isn’t the brightest or cheapest light on this list, but it’s the best made, the best thought out, and the best flashlight for carrying in your pocket every day. It also makes a great gift.
What makes the Beta so special is the small touches. It attaches to your keychain with a special quick release system; you don’t have to faff around with your keychain to remove it, you just have to pull. This instantly makes the Beta quicker and more convenient than any other flashlight on this list.
The Beta is also made from the highest quality materials. The LED and electronics are a step up from what you normally get in a keychain flashlight. The body is machined from a single piece of aluminum and the ridges not only look great, but make it easy to hold. Finally, at 2.95 inches long and 0.55 inches thick, it takes up minimal pocket space.
While the Beta only has two modes—a 15 lumens low and a 60 lumens high—it’s a considered choice. Jason Hui, the designer, thinks that the convenience of being able to buy AAA batteries anywhere is worth more for a keychain flashlight than the extra juice of a power cell.
The Prometheus Lights Beta really is the best EDC flashlight going. You’re paying a premium, but the quick release, and materials and thought that have gone it to, mean you do get what you pay for.