How many movies have we seen where at the most critical possible time, a flashlight’s batteries fail? Batteries, while a convenient thing for powering portable devices have a bad habit of dying out, and while movies do this for tension or comedic effect, it does seem like this happens when you absolutely don’t want it to. Today, we’re going to learn a bit about how the rechargeable flashlights work, some factors to consider when shopping for these, and look at TOP 5 of what we feel are the best Best Rechargeable Flashlights out there.

While a battery that never runs out is impossible, as far as modern technology and science would have it, rechargeable batteries go a long way towards taking the bite out of this problem. Only you don’t see a lot of rechargeable flashlights out there, do you? You’d think the technology either doesn’t exist or is rare.

Sure, you can make any flashlight “rechargeable” by using rechargeable AA/AAA batteries, but those actually tend to suck, because their ability to take on a charge diminishes very quickly after a few uses. They tend to not have a very long-lived charge either, compared to standard high-performance batteries.

However, rechargeable flashlights, which can use USB and hold a long-lived charge, are indeed a thing. It’s surprising it took so long for this technology to catch on, but today, there are a lot of these solutions out there.

What’s a Rechargeable Flashlight and How It Works?

Like the name would convey, these are flashlights which can be recharged and not by putting rechargeable batteries in a standard flashlight. These usually use either a cradle or a standard micro USB interface just like Bluetooth speakers and smartphones.

The batteries themselves are a little complicated, so we need to understand the concept behind batteries as a whole. Batteries, no matter the type, produce a charge by an imbalance of ionization/charge in one cell, compared to another. The positive and negative bridges between them, when a circuit is completed, causes the battery to seek balance, and the discharge is a useful voltage.

The chemistry used to produce this effect varies, the earliest batteries using simple vinegar or salt and acid. Modern batteries utilize special formulae, with rechargeable cell batteries being lithium-ion (shortened as Li-ion in most cases). The recharge is achieved by overcharging the other cell to create an imbalance. Many of these have multiple arrays of these cells, and it simply alternates which side the imbalance is enforced on by applying a source charge.

There’s usually some simple circuitry inside to handle how the poles will flip, so it always gets the right positive and negative voltage directions. 

A Caveat About Rechargeable Technology

This is less of a problem with Li-ion batteries than with older takes on the concept (see NiCad and other approaches), but it can still happen: if you drain this half-way and then charge them again, the cells can eventually equalize and stop holding a full charge. Some rechargeable Li-ion batteries claim it doesn’t happen, but it will. It simply takes some time for it to happen with modern designs. They call this “battery memory” and it’s probably something that can never be abated, no matter what future innovations in power storage come into being.

ANSI FL1 Standards for Flashlights

Performance and durability standards are enforced for flashlights as per ANSI FL1 guidelines.

  • Light Output – High light output is 180 lumens, medium 95 lumens, and low 45 lumens.
  • Beam Distance – High beam distance is 261m, medium 190m, low 134m.
  • Impact Resistance – High impact resistance is 17,000cd, medium 9,000cd, low 4,500cd.
  • Battery Runtime – Battery runtime is affected by distance and output, with high at 2h, medium at 3h45min, and low at 7h15min.
  • Water Resistance – Water resistance is regulated by IPX waterproof standards, which is too lengthy a set of standards to fully explore here, but a comprehensive chart for this is easy to find.

These ANSI standards are put in place to regulate quality, reliability and keep compliance with things like OSHA standards and fair competition regulations. With a device that can have a bearing on your safety, standards, and regulations like this are absolutely mandatory. No corner-cutting can be tolerated.

What to Look For When Buying

There are a handful of important factors to consider when shopping for a flashlight, and your intended use will greatly affect which of these has the highest impact.

  • Bulb Type – There are a few different types of light source available in flashlights today. LED more or less don’t burn out (alright, they do eventually, but usually something else breaks long before this), and they’re very bright. Incandescent bulbs produce softer, more diffuse light, but use more power, and burn out. These are old-fashioned filament bulbs of Edison fame.
  • Beam Type – The type of light a flashlight casts can vary. Floodlights brightly illuminate a wide area, where spotlights are focused, better for searching. Many are adjustable between broad flood or narrow spotlight, and if you can get adjustability without it doing neither well, it’s best to aim for that.
  • Regulated or Unregulated Output – Adjustable brightness, more or less, is also helpful.
  • Battery Types – Obviously, there are a host of power sources, but in this case, we want rechargeable batteries, and preferably built-in, modern ones.
  • Charging Mechanism – How do we recharge it? If it uses a standard USB interface, you can use any charging cable on it. This means you don’t need a proprietary mechanism that breaks and needs to be replaced at greater expense.
  • Modes – Different modes such as strobe, flicker and so on can be useful for distress signaling and other scenarios, though these are often annoying.
  • Controls – Easy controls that mean you don’t need to cycle through different modes in a linear way, and a simple way to control the beam is helpful. This is often where a lot of designs fall short.
  • Operation and Battery Life – Along with controls being easy to use, you want longer battery life obviously.
  • Size/Weight/Shape/Materials – You don’t want a flashlight to weigh a ton, and if it can be small without sacrificing power and beam distribution, that does help. Not all flashlights need to double as weapons. Materials being rigid and water resistant (aluminum, steel or titanium with a rugged, comfortable outer shell) also helps a lot.

Personal Experience

Unless you count the flashlight in my cell phone, I’ve not, until very recently, owned one of these rechargeable flashlights. I have, however, had professional flashlights in which I installed rechargeable batteries. And, to be honest, I’ve not had the best experience with that particular arrangement.

Rechargeable batteries use some weird recharging equipment, they charge slow, and they often don’t hold a terribly long charge. That is to say, classic AA/AAA form factor rechargeables don’t.

So, at one point, when first moved to Florida, didn’t have a car, and had to walk regularly through a questionable block, to a convenience store often at night, I decided I wanted a more reliable flashlight. So, I tried strapping the rechargeable battery of a dead phone to a flashlight.

This seemed to work at first, but I wondered why the bulbs burned out so often, and I hadn’t taken into account that the voltage coming out of a phone battery is about 5v, but most flashlights use 1v signals from AA/AAA batteries.

Since, as I said, rechargeable AA/AAA batteries have mostly seemed like garbage to me in the past, I just abandoned all hope of this technology going anywhere.

I recently got ahold of a USB rechargeable flashlight, and while the batteries are indeed AA form factor, they’re packing li-ion technology comparable to cell batteries now. For all my hatred of these types of batteries in the past, I had to swallow my pride, and admit that the form factor of the battery means nothing because you can put that lithium-ion goo in any casing you want.

Top 5 Rechargeable Flashlights

Below, we’ll look at the best rechargeable flashlights we’ve gleaned from the Internet, talk you through their differentiating features, pros, cons, and answer some of the most popular questions frequently asked by consumers.

PeakPlus Super Bright LED Tactical Flashlight – Great Multi-Purpose Flashlight for Security, Camping or Personal Safety

PeakPlus Super Bright LED Tactical Flashlight: photo

Right out of the gate, we have a more traditional flashlight design, using a single lithium-ion AA battery. With multiple zooms, adjustable beam, a solid grip, and LED lighting, this is definitely a solid flashlight. It has one major flaw that I don’t understand the presence of, which we’ll get into in a moment.

Features

  • Lighting Type: LED
  • Power Source: AAA Lithium-Ion Rechargeable (or 3 standard AAA batteries)
  • Recharging Method: External charger
  • Adjustability: 1-2000x Zoom Lens
  • Light Modes: 5 light modes
  • Extras: Adapter, charger
  • Material: Titanium

Performance

I like most things about this flashlight, and the one I have now is very similar to this one, in many respects. But the thing that baffles me is, despite featuring a rechargeable battery, it uses the older battery charger to repower it. Why?

As we’ll see from other entries on this list, a USB charger component could be added to this with no real compromises made, so the annoyance of having to take the battery out to charge it is just pure laziness of design these days.

Still, as a flashlight, it works really well, and the adjustable zoom is nice. I use mine to scare away panthers. True story – we have giant jungle cats here in Florida we have to scare off. It’s not all mouse theme parks and beaches.

Pros Cons
  • Solid construction.
  • Excellent grip. 
  • Easy to use. 
  • Very adjustable. 
  • Rechargeable battery included.
  • Dated engineering makes you use an old method of recharging, instead of the standard USB charging everything else does these days.
  • The included rechargeable battery is an off-brand, expect to have to swap it out with a better one at some point.

Conclusion 

This is a good flashlight, but I have a hard time really calling this a rechargeable flashlight so much as just a flashlight that, thanks to Li-ion batteries coming in AA/AAA form factor, can use a rechargeable source. With the recharger being a dated, annoying-to-use approach, I’m not completely comfortable recommending this one in the current context. That’s a shame because the flashlight itself is nice.

PeakPlus: Check the current price

Anker [Rechargeable] Bolder LC40 Flashlight, LED Torch – Proof USB can be used!

Anker Bolder LC40 Flashlight: photo

This is a very similar unit to the previous one, but with an actual USB charging port. It’s a little more flimsy in construction I’d say, and the lumen output of 400 is a bit lower, though once you get past 250 with a directional beam like this, it becomes kind of moot.

Features

  • Lighting Type: LED
  • Power Source: USB-charged Li-Ion
  • Recharging Method: USB
  • Adjustability: Light Modes Only
  • Light Modes: 5 light modes
  • Extras: Charging Cable
  • Material: Aircraft aluminum

Performance

This one almost kicks the previous one’s butt, were it not for the absence of zoom. The USB charger, the better (less linear) approach to adjusting the strobe settings, the lighter grip, all of these make an excellent flashlight I can honestly call rechargeable by nature.

If it just had the other unit’s zoom, it’d definitely be the #1 on this list for me. Still, you may not need zoom, if you don’t have to frighten off jungle predators because you live somewhere that isn’t Florida. In that case, this is a good flashlight from any angle you look at it.

Pros Cons
  • Solid construction.
  • Easy to use. 
  • Good light mode control. 
  • USB recharging. 
  • Aircraft aluminum is light but rugged. 
  • CREE LED – CREE is a name in lighting, look them up. They make all the street lights ever.
  • Lacks zoom.
  • A grip is a bit lacking.

Conclusion 

I like this flashlight, especially since it has USB charging out of the box. Why don’t they all do this? It also means you can carry extra power in the form of power banks for even longer lasting battery life.

I recommend this for the average consumer without any hesitation, but the lack of a zoom is a wee bit of a downer.

Anker Bolder LC40: Check the current price

STANLEY SAT3S Rechargeable 300 Lumen Lithium-Ion LED Satellite Work Light with USB Power Charger – Unique Utility Light

STANLEY Rechargeable Flashlight with USB Power Charger: photo

This one’s something special, offering four light sources with a unique fold-out system that reminds me of something like a robotic flower. This thing, appearance-wise, would be right at home as a prop on the set of a sci-fi blockbuster.

With a name like Stanley, you know you’re getting the best utility stuff you can. Let’s take a look at what this one’s packing, aside from the decent 300 lumens it puts out.

Features

  • Lighting Type: LED
  • Power Source: USB-charged Li-Ion
  • Recharging Method: USB, 12v adapter, 120v adapter
  • Adjustability: Flashing panels
  • Light Modes: Flash, standard
  • Extras: None
  • Material: Steel, vulcanized rubber, dura-plastic.

Performance

I like the idea of this flashlight, but I can’t see using this in my garage or workshop simply because I have power outlets and other, more stable lighting sources in there. But, if the power were to go out (hello hurricanes), this would come in handy for certain.

Campers would probably get a lot of use out of this one, I think even more than electric lanterns due to the sharper, higher luminance it can produce, as well as how directed it can be.

Pros Cons
  • Solid construction.
  • Easy to use. 
  • Good light mode control. 
  • USB recharging.
  • A bit task-specific and not that useful as a true flashlight, meaning that it’s more incidental.

Conclusion 

This is a neat idea, and the design looks really cool, I kind of want to use a design like this for some sci-fi prop in a game I make in the future. As a device, it has a lot of potential uses, but I feel like this is a very incidental design. Not being much of a camper/hiker/nature enthusiast, I wouldn’t see a lot of mileage out of this. And, it advertises itself as great for cookouts, but here, if you try to have a picnic, the mosquitoes picnic on you.

STANLEY: Check the current price

Anker Super Bright Tactical Flashlight, Rechargeable – Interesting modular design.

Anker Super Bright Tactical Flashlight: photo

This one seems to be a half-way point between the first and second designs on the list, with different modules for lighting, zoom, luminance and charging method. It takes a rechargeable Li-ion battery (but can use standard batteries), while also providing a micro USB charging port.

This is an interesting concept, but it has problems we’ll look at in a moment.

Features

  • Lighting Type: LED
  • Power Source: USB-charged Li-Ion or standard AA
  • Recharging Method: USB
  • Adjustability: Zoom
  • Light Modes: 5 flash modes
  • Extras: None
  • Material: Aircraft aluminum

Performance

As a flashlight, this works well, but there are problems with this awkward implementation of the charger. It’s an internal component that requires the backend of the flashlight to be taken off. I have to ask why these flashlight companies have such a hard time just implementing a normal charger on the back of the light, and running with it.

At least it has zoom, but this is a really awkward way to handle the charger, and I fear what’d happen if an uninformed user tried to charge a plain battery. This could cause a fire.

Pros Cons
  • Solid construction.
  • Easy to use. 
  • Good light mode control. 
  • USB recharging, though awkwardly.
  • USB charging requires disassembly.
  • Potential hazards if someone unknowingly tries to charge a non-chargeable battery. It could explore, catch fire, all number of things.

Conclusion 

As a flashlight, this thing is not bad. But, I don’t like how the charging port is implemented with it, and I feel that this is a bad flashlight to hand to someone who doesn’t understand the differences in batteries, as I said above.

As a result, while this one has its merits, I’m wary about recommending it to people without the caveat to being careful with the battery in it.

Anker Super Bright Tactical Flashlight: Check the current price

Streamlight 66134 Stylus Pro USB Rechargeable Penlight – Nice portable solution.

Streamlight Stylus Pro USB Rechargeable Penlight: photo

This penlight knows how to implement a USB recharging option, though it’s placed a little oddly on the side, near the light source. Still, it’s compact, elegant, and simple. Sometimes that’s all you need in a flashlight.

The portability, fitting in a pocket or purse, makes this a nice practical go-to solution.

Features

  • Lighting Type: LED
  • Power Source: USB
  • Recharging Method: USB
  • Adjustability: Brightness
  • Light Modes: High and low modes
  • Extras: None
  • Material: Aircraft aluminum

Performance

This is a run of the mill LED flashlight in pen form, rechargeable via USB. But sometimes all you need is a nicely-portable, bright flashlight you needn’t feed batteries to. It has brightness adjustment but doesn’t have zooming or flash/flicker. I’d say this hurts it, but honestly, do we really need the seizure-inducing flickering on a run of the mill, daily-use flashlight?

Pros Cons
  • Solid construction.
  • Portable. 
  • Built-in USB recharging. 
  • Simple.
  • Lacks flash modes, for those who need them.
  • Lacks zoom or other beam control.

Conclusion 

This nice little penlight is something I am very happy to recommend for what it is, a simple portable flashlight for emergencies and simple utility applications. It lacks a lot of bells and whistles, meaning it’s not ideal for camping or the like.

Streamlight: Check the current price

Comparative chart of Rechargeable Flashlights

Product Features

PeakPlus

Lighting Type: LED
Power Source: AAA Lithium-Ion Rechargeable (or 3 standard AAA batteries)
Recharging Method: External charger
Adjustability: 1-2000x Zoom Lens
Light Modes: 5 light modes
Extras: Adapter, charger
Material: Titanium

Anker Bolder LC40

Lighting Type: LED
Power Source: USB-charged Li-Ion
Recharging Method: USB
Adjustability: Light Modes Only
Light Modes: 5 light modes
Extras: Charging Cable
Material: Aircraft aluminum

STANLEY

Light with USB Power Charger
Lighting Type: LED
Power Source: USB-charged Li-Ion
Recharging Method: USB, 12v adapter, 120v adapter
Adjustability: Flashing panels
Light Modes: Flash, standard
Extras: None
Material: Steel, vulcanized rubber, dura-plastic.

Anker Super Bright Tactical Flashlight

Lighting Type: LED
Power Source: USB-charged Li-Ion or standard AA
Recharging Method: USB
Adjustability: Zoom
Light Modes: 5 flash modes
Extras: None
Material: Aircraft aluminum

Streamlight

Lighting Type: LED
Power Source: USB
Recharging Method: USB
Adjustability: Brightness
Light Modes: High and low modes
Extras: None
Material: Aircraft aluminum

FAQ

Can I make a rechargeable flashlight?
You can put rechargeable batteries in one.

How to repair these devices?
If it comes apart, just swap the battery or bulb out.

What’s the best for the money?
Probably the penlight.

What’s the brightest flashlight?
The Stanley.

What makes the best rechargeable flashlight?
Proper USB charging, hands down. A lot fail to get this right.

What’s your suggestion for home?
That penlight.

What’s the best for a truck? A car?
The second one on the list. It’s very balanced.

Which flashlights are used in law enforcement?
Military contract design, but the second one on the list is a lot like them.

Are there any models of a flashlight with a laser pointer? If yes, can you recommend one?
I haven’t seen one with that feature sadly.

What’s the best with a magnet?
I’ve not seen one with a built-in magnet, but you could affix one to any of these.

Can you suggest a rechargeable flashlight with a USB port?
The second one or the penlight on this list are definite candidates?

Is there anything like a flashlight with radio?
I’m not sure how radio would help, so no.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Flashlights can save your life.
  • Good fallback if the power goes out.
  • Good for camping or hiking, or safety in dangerous places.
  • Good for scaring away animals.

Cons

  • Many of them badly implement the rechargeable feature.

Conclusion

All of these are decent flashlights, but it’s pretty obvious why rechargeable ones aren’t as widely-known as they could be. A lot of them don’t manage to implement it properly and expect you to just put a plain rechargeable AA/AAA battery in.

I would have said, a while back, that this was unfortunate, but those have gotten a lot better in recent years. I don’t like how it’s handled with a couple of these, but they’re still good flashlights, and perhaps the sleekness of other rechargeable implementations have spoiled me.