How To Choose The Best Survival Flashlight for Your Bug Out Bag

Best Survival Flashlight

Emergencies can happen in any place at any time and it’s always better to be prepared in case the unexpected happens. The last thing you want is to be left out in the dark.

Finding the best survival flashlight for your bug out bag is an important part of assembling your kit. There are a lot of options out there and it can be difficult to find a good flashlight among all the noise. In this guide, I will step you through the process of finding the best survival flashlight by looking at features, size, weight, battery type, and materials.

To save you time sorting through the huge variety of options out there I have also made some recommendations to help you identify the best survival flashlight for your BOB.

FlashlightLumensLength/WeightFeaturesCost
Vizeri LED Flashlight

High: 2304.25"
3.68 oz
Includes a diffuser to convert the flashlight into a lantern. Flexible battery options.$
SureFire E2D Defender

High: 200
Low: 5
5.4"
3.68 oz
Crenellated front bezel & scalloped tailcap for self defense use. Switch has a "lock" mode to prevent accidental activation.$$$
Coast HP17TAC Flashlight

High: 615
Low: 64
13.12"
16 oz
Adjustable beam, a great mid-sized light that is well built.$$
Fenix PD35 Tactical Flashlight
High: 8505.47"
3 oz
Extremely bright flashlight. Very light weight. Flexible battery options.$$
Surefire P2X Fury

High: 500
Low: 15
5.4"
5.7 oz
Very high lumens for a small light. Switch has a "lock" mode to prevent accidental activation in a pocket or bag.$$$
Streamlight Survivor

High: 140
Low: 47
7.06"
13.1 oz
Designed to be used by firefighters in search & rescue. Rugged clip for attachment to your bag or person.$$
Coast HP21 Flashlight

High: 1317
Low: 207 lumens
15.5"
2.8lbs
Adjustable beam size from flood to spotlight.$$$$
Smith & Wesson Galaxy

High: 25
Low: 6.5
7"
6.08 oz
Lens contains 10 white LEDs and 3 red LEDs for multiple modes.$
Streamlight Protac Tactical Flashlight

High: 260
Low: 13
4.7"
4.8 oz
Comes with 3 modes but can be reprogrammed by the user. Great value.$
Maglite RE1019

High: 13714.3"
2 lbs
Classic design, adjustable beam. Highly durable light.$$$

Our Picks For Best Survival Flashlight

Best Overall Bug Out Flashlight: Vizeri LED Flashlight

Best Survival Flashlight

The Vizeri LED Flashlight is a fantastic choice for a bug out flashlight.  It is a compact powerhouse that will not take up much room in your BOB, coming in at 4.25″ long and weighing less than 4 ounces.  This hand sized light still manages to pump out 230 lumens, more than enough to blind an attacker, light up a large area, or scare off an aggressive animal.  Additionally it can take either AAA alkaline or 18650 Li-ion batteries to give you flexibility when trying to scavenge replacements in the field.

The Vizeri LED Flashlight proves its versatility again with its 5 output modes (high, mid, low, SOS, strobe), giving you the ability to signal for help, blast out a blazing light, or conserve energy.  On top of all this the Vizeri LED Flashlight is weatherproof rated up to IPX-7, giving you confidence that it will illuminate your path in all conditions.  The features listed above are typically found in lights that are in the $150-200 range.  The Vizeri LED Flashlight provides all this FOR LESS THAN $40.  Overall a great survival flashlight at an amazing price.

Best Self-Defense Flashlight: SureFire E2D Defender

Best Self Defense Flashlight

The SureFire E2D Defender is an ideal self-defense flashlight that excels in both of its required tasks.  First off, the SureFire E2D Defender is a dual mode flashlight that can shine at a blazing 200 lumens for tactical situations or be toggled down to 5 lumens for discrete or energy efficient applications.  The flashlight will shine for 1.9 continuous hours while in high mode and an astounding 76 hours in low mode.  The SureFire E2D Defender has also been smartly designed with a lock mode in the on switch to prevent accidental activation while on the trail to keep your batteries saved for when you need them.

As for the self-defense potential of the SureFire E2D Defender, it has been thoughtfully crafted with your protection in mind.  The crenellated front bezel and scalloped tail are designed to intimidate on sight and magnify the force of a strike.  There is no doubt that a blow from the SureFire E2D Defender will stop an aggressor in their tracks, whether animal or human.

Overall the SureFire E2D Defender is a fantastic multipurpose tool, providing outstanding illumination and effective self-defense options to any bug out bag or EDC kit.

Best Full Size Flashlight: Coast HP17TAC Flashlight

Best survival flashlight

If you are looking for a full sized light for your BOB, the Coast HP17TAC Flashlight is an outstanding choice.  First off, it is extremely bright, pumping out a blinding 615 lumens in high mode and a respectable 64 in low.  The Coast Flashlight will effectively throw its beam a whopping 882 feet, just shy of 3 football fields.

The Coast Flashlight’s larger size allows for it to carry a larger battery supply.  This translates into the best lifetime of any of the flashlights that we looked at.  It will operate at its high setting for over 15 hours and coast along on low for more than 51 hours.

The other advantage of the larger size of this flashlight is that it can easily double as a blunt self-defense weapon.  Measuring just over 13″ and weighing 1lb, you can swing this with confidence if your back is up against a wall.

The Coast HP17TAC Flashlight is powered by 3 D size alkaline batteries which make scavenging for replacements a relatively easy proposition in any populated area.

This is a great flashlight that is built well enough to light your way for years to come.

Flashlight Features and Considerations

Weight and Size

One problem that many people have when trying to figure out what to put in their bug out bag is dealing with the weight and volume constraints of their backpack.  Even small bags can be extremely heavy when they’re filled with survival gear.  Large bug out bags that become overly heavy can be far too difficult to carry and may even rip due to the weight.  To check out how heavy your BOB will be try our free tool here.  Ideally a bug out bag flashlight will weigh 16 ounces (1 lb) or less when fully loaded with batteries.

Another issue that is especially prominent in small bug out bags is the issue of space. A bug out bag is not very useful if a few large items are eating up all of the space. The key to dealing with this isn’t putting in fewer items, it’s finding smaller items that work just as well. Many people choose to buy small flashlights that fit easily in the palm of your hand such as mini-flashlights and keychain flashlights to have lightweight and effective lights that take up little space. If you have plenty of room to spare, a rugged tactical flashlight can be a good choice. While being heavy is a benefit for flashlights that double as billy clubs, it’s best to avoid a bulky survival flashlight if you do not intend to use if for this purpose.  Look for a light that is 8 inches or less in length to keep your BOB uncluttered, this should suit most survival needs.  If however you are looking for a flashlight that can double as a self-defense item you may want a larger model, as mentioned above.

Battery Type

When you use a flashlight as your everyday carry (EDC) flashlight, the type of battery you choose comes down to your own requirements and how you plan to use the flashlight (see Chris’ article on choosing the best EDC flashlight for your needs here). However, a flashlight that you plan to keep as part of your bug out bag will have a different set of requirements to consider when it comes to batteries.

An EDC flashlight for example is going to be used often and probably for relatively short periods of time, whereas a survival flashlight for your bug out bug will only be used in case of an emergency situation. In such a scenario, chances are that there will not be power available and you will need to use your flashlight for long periods of time. For this reason, alkaline batteries (AA, C, or D sized) would be the battery option I would recommend. And here is why – alkaline batteries are generally much more commonly available than high-end battery types such Li-ion batteries, while still providing enough power to your flashlight for an extended period of time. When your battery power runs out, you can simply replace the batteries with new ones you have with you or that have been scavenged and carry on.

Alkaline batteries are not perfect though. You need to keep in mind that alkaline batteries can lose power over an extended period of time and could leak battery acid when left in your survival flashlight for a long period of time, ruining your light. So if you do go the alkaline battery route, check the batteries regularly for corrosion or leakage. If you spot leakage, replace the batteries as soon as possible!

Bulb Type

When it comes to flashlights, you can’t get much better than LED bulbs. They’re brighter, clearer, last longer, are more energy efficient and far more durable than traditional incandescent light bulbs.  All these factors make LEDs a great choice for many uses including survival flashlights. LED bulbs are also a favorite for tactical flashlights as their intense brightness is good for blinding enemies.

Best Survival Flashlight

Flashlight Brightness

When it comes to buying a flashlight for your bug out bag, brighter is almost always better. Visibility is vital when it comes to survival situations. About 45 to 150 lumen is the preferred amount for many survival flashlights, but be warned that increased brightness means more strain on the batteries. Note that if you are looking for a self-defense flashlight, a minimum of 100 lumens is needed for blinding aggressors.

Having a focused beam and a good reflector are also necessary for getting the most out of your light. Bigger bulbs and wider reflectors allow a larger area to be illuminated, which is good for lighting up eating areas, car interiors or small rooms. However, when the beam is wider the light doesn’t reach as far. Focused beams with narrow reflectors don’t illuminate as much, but the light extends much farther.  Having an adjustable beam will allow you to have the best of both worlds, look for this feature when finding the best survival flashlight for your bug out bag.

Best Survival Flashlight

Weatherproof Rating

It’s always a good idea to ensure that the flashlight will stand up to water, cold and hot weather, mud, ice and other adverse weather conditions as natural disasters are a common reason to need a bug out bag.  Weatherproof flashlights are especially beneficial to hunters, hikers and anyone who plans on using their BOB for wilderness use.  Weatherproofing is typically expressed in terms of an IPX rating from 1 to 8.  Look for a flashlight that is advertised as rated IPX-4 for basic water resistance and IPX-7 or 8 for a survival flashlight that is able to be submerged without damage.

Best Survival Flashlight

Construction Material

Anodized aluminum is a favorite of tactical flashlight users, but is it as useful for your bug out bag flashlight? Most metal flashlights are sturdy, but some plastics can also be very strong and stand up well to various forms of damage. Metal conducts both cold, heat, and electricity while plastic doesn’t get very cold or hot in intense temperatures. Metal can be quite heavy while plastic is fairly light. If you’re merely using the flashlight for illumination, plastic may be a better choice. If you have the ability to use it as a self-defense flashlight, anodized aluminum will be a better choice.

Self-Defense Features

There are many survival flashlights that can be used as a billy club or kubotan as a means of self-defense against animals or other people. If you already have a reliable weapon such as a firearm, pepper spray, machete or EDC knife, you may not need a self-defense flashlight that acts in this way. However, they’re still good to have as you can never have too many means of protection.

Additional Flashlight Features

Additional features can be useful when finding the best survival flashlight to meet your particular needs. For example, some flashlights have alternating colors for signaling, night-vision, tracking blood and more.

  • Multiple brightness settings can be useful for saving battery life or when you want to avoid drawing attention to yourself.
  • Brighter beam settings can are useful for signaling and potentially blinding enemies.
  • Clips for belts, lanyards, hats and more are great for convenience purposes. Having a headlamp or a hat clip for a flashlight can also allow for hands-free use in emergencies.

When looking at extra features for your survival flashlight make sure to find elements that are well suited to your individual needs.  This will help you effectively find the best survival flashlight to help YOU survive.

Conclusion

When looking for a survival flashlight for your bug out bag, the one that is the best choice is really determined by the ultimate purpose of the light and the main application of your bug out bag. The most critical factors to keep in mind are quality, brightness, battery life, and durability. No matter if it’s a small light for a bug out bag that you keep in your car or a large tactical flashlight for a large bug out bag meant for longer term survival situations and outdoor use, those four factors should be the main aspects to keep in mind for any bug out bag survival flashlight.

About The Author

This article was provided by John Bee, who is the author of The Flashlight Guide.

2 comments on “How To Choose The Best Survival Flashlight for Your Bug Out Bag

  1. I’m 62 and have been backpacking since I was 15. I’ve hunted and worked search and rescue. I’m frankly amused that you don’t include any headlamps in your article. Sure, there’s a place for extremely bright flashlights, but 99.9% of the time having my hands free is of greater value than blinding someone. Actually, I’ve only used a flashlight for self defense to blind an ankle-biter dog. Once. I could have just kicked it instead. I use my headlamp dozens of times a year.

    As far as signaling, in complete darkness one can see a candle for miles. We once rescued an injured hiker by spotting her phone screen a half mile away, and this was a pre-iPhone screen, which was both smaller and less bright.

    I do have a very bright flashlight. I use it for light painting during night photography – after using a headlamp to hike into and out of locations.

    1. Glad to hear a real world story about using a flashlight to protect yourself. You are correct that headlamps are extremely useful when hiking, keep an eye out for a future article on them!

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