Guide to Choosing the Right Flashlight

Guide to Choosing the Right Flashlight

Streamlight makes serious lighting tools. We make them for a wide variety of applications, but typically, there is no one light that works well in all situations. Flashlight choice depends on intended use. You need to consider your applications and how you will be using the light to select the light that's best for your specific needs.

To help you determine the right light for you, Streamlight created an interactive, online beam demonstration. You can check it out by clicking here. More information on our different beam patterns can also be found here.

Use the beam information, as well as the information we provide below, to choose a light that will serve you well for a long, long time.


Can the budget pay for disposable batteries or does frequent use demand rechargeables?

  • Disposable: Disposable batteries, either alkaline or lithium, have excellent storage life, 7 and 10 years respectively. They generally offer longer run times for a given bulb power, are typically lower in initial purchase price and are easier to keep spares on hand. Their operating costs are considerably higher than rechargeable lights (see chart) and they are seldom as bright. Lithium cells have high energy density, but are even more costly than alkaline.
  • Rechargeable: Rechargeable flashlights using nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium ion batteries feature extraordinarily low operating expenses and are well suited for frequent use. They can often support a brighter bulb or LED and store conveniently in custom charger holders. Their initial purchase price is higher and they self-discharge at a higher rate when in storage.
Typical Costs of a Rechargeable vs. Disposable
YearRechargeable Flashlight CostsD-Cell Flashlight Costs
* Average suggested cost of a rechargeable flashlight
** Includes $25 flashlight purchase and a year’s worth of replacement batteries



"Lumens" of a bulb is a measurement of the entire output of the bulb. (Focus is not considered.)


"Lumens" of LEDs is a measurement of all the light inside the "beam angle".


"Candela" or "Peak beam intensity” is a measure of the brightest spot in a focused beam.


Flashlights come with several kinds of bulbs. The biggest differences are the amount of brightness, longevity of the bulb, and the cost. Here’s a rundown of bulb choices:

  • Incandescent: Streamlight uses premium gas-filled lamps for high performance. Both xenon and halogen lamps provide high output for their size and a white, natural-appearing light. Halogen lamps blacken less as they age and may have longer life than xenon. Both require periodic replacement and can fail on extreme impact. They are easily focused — most powerful, highest performance, top choice for long distances.
  • LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes): Solid-state construction. A high-intensity "solid-state" bulb which lasts up to 100,000 hours. Do not require periodic replacement. Able to run for very long periods of time on very little power. Available in various colors including Ultraviolet.
  • C4® LED: We pair LEDs with a Streamlight-engineered reflector and other technology to increase the brightness and create an intense beam of light that pierces the darkness.
  • Combination C4® LED/LED: Combine the brightness of Streamlight's C4® LEDs with the long running times and less intense beams of regular LEDs.