Find out which flashlight type is best for you and your home.

By Lauren Wellbank
November 17, 2020
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Credit: Getty / JCI / Jamie Grill

Flashlights come in handy for a myriad of household tasks—from assessing a crawl space for leaf accumulation to checking under the stove for a mouse—and emergencies, alike. Despite their necessity, you probably haven't given yours much thought. After all, in a pinch, it just needs to shed some light on the subject, right? In reality, flashlights, like most other household tools, come in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes—and not all iterations were created equal.

So, how can you make sure you have the right type for what your specific needs? Start by understanding your many options, says Soraya Sutherlin, MPA, CEM, the JUDY Emergency Management Director. LED styles are normally brighter and offer extended battery life; hand-crank varieties, on the other hand, come with batteries that can be recharged manually. Sutherlin says to stock up on one of each: Everyone should have a flashlight with working batteries and a rechargeable one with a hand crank for emergencies. Ahead, the numerous types of flashlights on the market.

Lanterns

Lanterns are a helpful option for full-room illumination, since they provide 360 degrees of light. "If you ever lose power and are trying to make breakfast, you'll appreciate their value," Sutherlin says, who advises keeping a lantern or two on hand for this exact situation.

Headlamps

These are flashlights you can secure to your head via a band or in a hat—and are a must in an emergency kit. "It's helpful to have a headlamp for emergencies, especially if you'll be carrying your children or need to free up your hands," notes Sutherlin.

Handheld

Handheld options are what you typically picture when you think of a flashlight in the first place: You simply hold this version in your hand and can direct its light arc with ease. Keep several in your home—including by your bed and in your car.

Emergency Lighting

There are also flashlights like Eton's Blackout Buddy ($14.99, homedepot.com), which Sutherlin says to keep plugged into your wall when not in use. "If you ever lose power, they automatically turn on," she says. "They're similar to a nightlight, but very bright—they shine up and project out," making them ideal for hallways.

How to Choose

"You don't need the Lamborghini of flashlights," Sutherlin explains—you just need a tool that works and is stocked with batteries (or cranked to capacity). Whichever model you choose, make sure to store it somewhere accessible, in the event you wake up in the middle of the night without power and you need to find your kids, navigate your house, or—worst case scenario—evacuate. "You don't want to be digging in your kitchen junk drawer in the dark during an emergency," notes Sutherlin.

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