The world of flashlights can be a crazy one – there is an entire subculture of people who seem to live their lives with the sole goal of buying (or making) the brightest possible lights. We’ve gone from 100’s of lumens to tens of thousands, and the old flashlight battery brick has made way for forced cooled lithium-ion energy packs. Lights that used to point the way can now light up the night sky.
But don’t worry, today we’ll keep things limited to the lights that can make the life of the technician a bit easier, especially those that can benefit technicians either as a keychain light or a light that can clip to a shirt or belt.
We’ve made sure that every type of tech-friendly flashlight is represented here – so we’ve selected some of the best lights we could find:
The Coast A9R inspection light is one of the thinnest flashlights we’ve ever seen – at about the thickness of a pencil. Despite its slender frame, it still sports a replaceable Lithium Polymer battery, external charging contacts, and a highly focused LED light, designed for inspection work. Of course, given how thin this light is, you won’t be lighting up the sky here, but it is bright enough to find your way around a dark machine or point at parts that may need replacing.
The LED runs for up to 3 hours off a full charge, and the light is water-resistant up to the IPX4 norm.
LED Lenser T2QC Quad color LED light
From a normal glance, the LED Lenser T2QC isn’t anything special – but once you turn it on and switch through its different modes, you’ll come across its unique feature – four different color LEDs. From white to red to green to blue – each LED is about 140 lumen, certainly not putting it in the brightest category, but definitely one of the trippiest lights we’ve ever seen.
The different colors benefit all kinds of professionals – some may use the light to detect fluid leaks, others to use different illumination to spot product defects. Regardless of its final use, the T2QC is a very clever little light.
Nebo Tools Lil’Larry COB light
If each light has something unique, then the Nebo Tools Lil’Larry wins the contest for the weirdest name. Wacky name aside, this light features a long COB (Chip On Board) strip with two white modes and a flashing red mode, all from the same LED module.
A strong magnet on the other end helps attach the light when needed.
Switching modes is done with a single power button. The Lil’Larry has a strong magnet on one end and the switch with a shirt clip on the other.
The light runs for up to 3 hours off 3 AAA batteries, but the one feature most potential customers will love is the price; under $17 at most retailers.
The compact Nicron N7 feels well made featuring a strong magnetic base and a swivel head that can rotate 90 degrees, allowing it to switch between traditional flashlight to inspection light.
Perhaps its coolest feature is the ability to “boost” the light from its standard 250 lumens (with an AA battery) to a whopping 600 lumen when you invest in a rechargeable 14500 battery. It accomplishes this by pushing 3.2V through the LED instead of the 1.5 from a standard battery. Of course, unless you happen to have one lying around, a 14500 battery with the charger will cost more than the flashlight on its own, but the boost in brightness is well worth it if you are a fan of bright stuff.
Oilight 1R eos
The smallest light in this list is the incredible Oilight 1R eos. The Oilight isn’t just a small LED light, it is also a very bright light, and it is rechargeable using the pretty standard MicroUSB cable. To make a good light even better, you can find it at most retailers for under $20.
Inside the light is a high-performance Philips LUXEON TX LED and a TIR optic lens. Power is controlled by rotating the LED head – the first setting is 5 Lumens, then 130 lumens when you twist it a little further.
One minor quibble about this light is that the rotating light head is sometimes too simple to turn on, and I found it with a dead battery multiple times in my bag.
Nitecore TUP 1000
Take all the coolest features you can think of in a tiny flashlight, and you get the Nitecore TUP 1000:
USB charger port, multiple brightness settings, programmable custom modes, a lock feature, an OLED display, and an incredibly bright LED with a TURBO mode capable of 1000 lumens.
The TUP is also the only flashlight in our list that required a glance at the instruction manual. The light arrives in demo mode, locking out some of the other features. With a variety of button presses, you can change the mode and switch it to retail mode, unlocking the 1000 lumen setting.
All these cool features come at a price – the light retails for $65. While most technicians wouldn’t dream of dropping that much on a tool they’ll probably lose in a year, those with that weird flashlight fetish tend to ignore the price and only focus on the lumen rating…
Streamlight Bandit COB Headlamp
This headlamp is one of my personal favorites, and as someone who regularly tinkers in a dark networking closet, or drags himself through the crawlspace pulling cables, a headlamp is one of the best pieces of gear you can have in your kit.
One of the first headlamps with a COB LED, this rechargeable light is waterproof, and charges using a MicroUSB port hidden behind a rubber plug.
The light clips into a hinged plate which doubles as a hat clip, and the elastic strap stays tightly on your head with virtually no discomfort, even when wearing it for over an hour.
Speaking of hours, the Bandit can stay on for up to 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is pretty amazing considering how small the unit is.
Oilight S1R Baton + Dock
On its own, the Oilight S1R Baton is “just” another 1000 lumen light, albeit one that is a mere 2.4 inches (63mm) long, weighing in at 1.8 OZ (51 grams). These sizes make it the perfect light for clipping to your pocket.
Light settings start at the very bottom with 0.5 lumens, then make their way up to 1000 lumen, stopping along the way at 12, 60, and 600 lumens. The S1R is IPX8 rated, allowing it to be submerged in up to 1 meter (3.2ft.).
One of the more refreshing options for this light is the Oilight Micro-Dok, a small magnetic dock with a MicroUSB power socket. With the dock on your desk or in your car, you’ll always have a fully charged light available. The Micro-Dok is a $12 accessory, making it almost a no-brainer for any owner of the S1R Baton.
Coast G20 inspection light
Even though we already featured one inspection light on our list, some of you may be looking for a cheaper option, especially if you don’t mind swapping out some AAAs now and then.
The Coast G20 is $14, but most retailers will gladly sell you one for a little over $8 – making it one of the cheapest brand name flashlights on the market.
The G20 feels excellent, but its best feature is a very highly focused LED beam, making it perfect for troubleshooting equipment.
One feature that Coast is well known for is that all of its retail packages allow you to try the light before you buy it – which means every light you purchase comes with a set of Duracell batteries installed.
RovyVon 550 Aurora A1 CREE XP-G3 S5 LED Super Bright
Not only does the RovyVon 550 Aurora A1 CREE XP-G3 S5 LED Super Bright earn a prize for the longest (and weirdest) name in our list, it also wins the award for best output to weight ratio.
The light is tiny – but still manages to push out an incredible 550 lumens. How it does this is probably through a mix of LED magic and voodoo.
Looking into this 550 lumen light will give your vision dark spots for the next 10 minutes – it is that bright. Not only does it output a lot of light, but it does this using a tiny aperture of about 9mm. The light has a single button to switch between its two brightness settings and strobe mode.
Just under the keychain opening is a rubber plug for the MicroUSB port. In my testing, I found the cap tough to remove and usually had to resort to using a small knife to remove it.
The light is only rated IPX5, which means it’ll survive a few splashes from rain, but can not be submerged. The RovyVon 550 Aurora A1 CREE XP-G3 S5 LED Super Bright comes in several colors and retails for a very reasonable $27.