Stargazing is one of the best hobbies in the world, but it has its dangers. It can only be done at night, so you'll often find yourself walking from your car or home to the perfect stargazing spot across dangerous terrain in the pitch black night. We’ve put together a list of the best flashlights on the market, to help guide your way over those dangerous twigs, branches, stumps, and anything else lurking in the darkness.
In this list, we’ve brought together the top five best flashlights on the market based on research and hands-on experience with most of the models. Below you can read about flashlights with disposable or rechargeable batteries, LED bulbs, and how each one feels in your hands based on its size. We haven't included any commercial options, but there are a couple suitable for the needs of pro-level stargazers and astrophotographers.
If you're looking to upgrade your kit for viewing the night sky, we recommend our list of the best cameras for astrophotography, along with our guide to the best telescopes available in 2022.
Best flashlight overall
If it’s options you’re after, this flashlight has them. There are five levels of brightness and one for strobe, though we can’t see that coming in handy too often for stargazing.
The build quality feels good in your hand, with a sturdy metal casing that easily fits in your palm. There are two buttons for switching it on or between settings, with the highest setting easily accessible from the back of the flashlight just in case it’s needed quickly.
While this is one of the pricier flashlights on our list, it’s not one that will let you down anytime soon and the rechargeable battery means that you won’t need to worry about replacing anything. It comes with a neat charging cable for ease of use, and a clip so you can hang it on your belt and get to it in a pinch.
This flashlight comes with a red filter in case you want the option for a red flashlight without the extra expense too. If you’re looking for something reliable that will fit anywhere, this is a great option, but we can see it being easily lost among your other gear if you don’t keep an eye on it or store it in a specific pocket.
Best budget flashlight
The MagLite LED 3-Cell flashlight is a monstrous-looking device. It gave us vibes of police truncheons from the 80s and certainly looks like something those in authority would be outfitted with. Weighing in at nearly a kilo, it’s also not the lightest flashlight in the world, though it won’t make your arm ache either.
The beam from this MagLite isn’t extremely powerful but it will still light your way and can provide a wide enough view to allow you to see everything in front of you and either side of your path. If you’re trekking through some potentially hazardous terrain, this torch will keep you safe, and that added size and weight gives a little more confidence on even the darkest forest trails.
The biggest downside is the fact that you need batteries to make this flashlight run. While they’ll last, you need to buy a quality brand or rechargeable batteries to make it worthwhile. The flashlight will eat up cheap batteries and leave you in the dark, which is horrible if you need to get back or still have a way to go on your path. If you’re only going to use this for short walks or will always carry a spare set of batteries though, it’s a great alternative that won’t break the bank.
Best premium flashlight
The Nightcore C17 is the flashlight of your dreams, providing you’ve got the money to buy it. While it’s not cheap, this flashlight is worth what you pay in reliability, build quality, and options. There are three light modes, each one increasing in brightness, and they’re easy to switch between thanks to the button combination on the base of the unit. It feels good to hold, barely sticking out of your palm, when held in a tight grip, but the bulb is slightly larger and provides a bit more oomph because of it. However, that added power comes at a cost.
Using this flashlight on any setting will soon have your hand feeling like it’s holding a burning ember, one that you could use to start tonight’s campfire. It never gets hot enough that you need to turn it off and let it cool down, but it was certainly enough to give us cause for concern while testing. When you’re on a dark path and you want to know what’s breaking twigs around you as you make your way to the top of the hill though, this is a flashlight that will reveal all.
Nothing can hide from the beam, and it can be focused to provide added clarity since it’s mostly used for hunting. The flashlight has built-in memory and will remember which setting you turned it off on, meaning you can quickly shut it down if you encounter a fellow stargazer before turning it back on to guide you both to your destination with ease.
A hugely versatile flashlight
Fenix is an incredibly reliable brand that works with rescue services on some of the flashlights they use in mountainous areas where there is no light to speak of except what you bring with you.
However, the PD35-TAC isn’t necessarily the most powerful device the brand has made. At 1000 lumens, it’s among the weaker entries on this list, but still provides a level of customization in light modes that makes it worth considering. It’s small and lightweight, so you can throw it in a bag without even noticing it’s there. You can use any of its beams to show you the way through dark paths with ease, but you won’t be able to see as far and wide as you would with some of the other flashlights on this list.
This device appears to be another option from the compact tactical range that many manufacturers produce, but it doesn’t look like the best in that line. A flashlight like the Thrunite BSS V4 is built to break through glass, but this one would likely smash in your hand, even though it’s made of metal. For a little more cash, you could feel more reassurance from something else, but if you don’t need that then this is a good option for a lower budget.
Best for pro-level night lighting
The final entry on this list is one of the most expensive flashlights on the market. However, if you’re nervous about the dark and want something that will ensure your environment is well-lit, or want something with all the bells and whistles regardless of price, the Fenix LR80R is it.
With six bulbs, you can basically turn night to day before your eyes, but that comes at a cost. This isn’t the biggest flashlight out there, but it’s certainly not small, and you’ll need to hold it at all times instead of packing it away. What sets it apart in more ways from other flashlights is its safety features.
The flashlight will dim when it gets too close to a surface to avoid overheating, can charge your devices through a secondary USB port, and has a locked mode that prevents any children from accidentally getting a face full of near pure sunlight. This flashlight is no joke, which is why rescue services use it, but it’s a safe bet if you can stomach the price and want the best value for money from an incredibly powerful device.
Buying a flashlight is an investment in your safety and often enjoyment when it comes to stargazing. It’s important to pick something that suits your needs in the field and your lifestyle. Consider whether you want to buy batteries or use a rechargeable device, and think about how much light you really need before picking up the most powerful flashlight on the list.