A hiking flashlight is an absolute necessity regardless of the length of your hike or the time of day you will be hiking. There are many varieties to choose from. We will discuss some of them.
First, let’s establish the absolute need of some type of hiking flashlight.
Imagine that you are taking a short day hike and will be returning to your vehicle hours before dark. No need for any type of light, right? WRONG! Imagine on this hike that a sudden, unexpected and violent thunderstorm comes out of nowhere. You must seek shelter or risk being struck by lightening. The thunderstorm lasts until after sunset. Hmmm, sure would be nice to have that hiking flashlight as you try to find the route back to the trailhead after dark.
Okay, so you are hiking in perfect weather conditions. There is not a cloud in the sky and no rain is expected for days. Should be okay to do without a light source, right? WRONG AGAIN. You are enjoying your day hike when you lose your footing and fall. You have injured your ankle. After resting awhile and catching your breath, you attempt to walk out. It becomes immediately apparent that you will not be able to walk on your painful, swollen, possibly fractured ankle. Unfortunately for you, this is a seldom used trail and you haven’t seen another hiker all day. Night falls, it is very dark, you begin to hear those things that go bump in the night, but have no light source. It is going to be a very long night.
These examples are not far-fetched. Each of these scenarios happen frequently. Don’t be the hiker caught unprepared. Be certain that no matter how long (or short) the hike that you prepare yourself with the Ten Essentials which of course includes a hiking flashlight.
Hand-held or Headlamp?
Now that we are clear on the necessity of a hiking flashlight, let’s discover some of the varieties available. For our purposes, we will identify a “flashlight” as any battery operated mechanical object that emits light from one or more incandescent bulbs or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). On this page we’ll discuss the hand-held variety.
Before you decide on the hiking flashlight that you want, be sure to read our page on headlamps. Also on that same page, be sure to read about my favorite little accessory under the caption of ”Button or Keychain-type LEDs as a Backup”
Hand-helds—Traditional and Readily Available
Hand-held flashlights have come a long way in both decreased size and increased quality. Long gone are the days of carrying your father’s yellow heavy plastic light that uses two or three D-size batteries. Hand-helds are now sleek, light, durable and reliable. They are even available in a wide variety of colors. In the ultralight realm is the ever-reliable aluminum cased 2AA hand-held weighing just over 4 oz. and at just over 6 1/2 inches long it will slip nicely into your pocket.
There is even one model on the market that uses only a single AAA battery, is only 3 inches long and weighs less than one ounce, including the battery. This bare-bones model will only illuminate for approximately 3 hours of continuous use. Because of that, it would probably better serve you as a back-up rather than your primary light source.
Better quality hand-helds are shock resistant and sealed with O-rings to make them water resistant. Often the head of the flashlight will twist providing a light beam from flood to spot and sometimes have a compartment in the end-cap that stores an extra bulb.
More than one type of bulb?
Let’s consider the benefits of different types of bulbs:
• Incandescent or
***IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a good time to point out that you should ALWAYS have on hand at least one extra bulb and at least one extra set of fresh batteries. This applies regardless of the size or type of illumination device that you carry.***
Incandescent bulbs are common, easy to find, inexpensive, but are less durable than LEDs. Because they emit most of their energy in heat (rather than light) they tend to decrease in brightness as they age. This can be prevented by using the newer gas-filled bulbs where the soot produced by the heat generated is deposited on the filament rather than the bulb.
LEDs are plastic light-emitting diodes, and not bulbs at all. They are more durable than incandescent bulbs but initially more expensive. Because of LED’s longer battery and bulb life, they are likely less expensive in the long run.
Whichever type you choose, be sure to carry it with you whenever you hike. If caught on the trail after dark, or worse still, having to spend an unexpected night in the backwoods, you will be so very glad that you have it. If you never need to use it, it is so small and lightweight that you will never be caught wishing you hadn’t carried that extra one-fourth of a pound. There is no good reason to leave this one behind.
Return from Hiking Flashlight to Ten Essentials
Return from Hiking Flashlight to Ultralight Backpacking