best handheld torch

Best torch 2020: Our pick of the best rechargeable LED flashlights and high-powered torches

Learn how to choose the best rechargeable LED torch for you with our bite-size reviews and handy, jargon-free buying guide

You’re packing for your next outdoor adventure when you reach for your trusty torch. It’s about to go in the rucksack but, wait, you’ve just noticed it’s run out of batteries. Worse yet, not only are they some obscure size you’ve never heard of, but it turns out they’re obscenely expensive, too. There’s one obvious solution: arm yourself with a rechargeable torch that doesn’t chew through expensive disposable batteries.

We’ve gone out into the night and tested a heap of portable torches from mini-sized keyring models right up to nuclear-powered (okay, not quite) handheld floodlights. After a series of demanding real-world tests, we’ve picked out the best torches below. Take your pick – every one of these torches excels at the job they were designed to do.

If you’re not sure what to look for and have absolutely no idea what all the features and buzzwords actually mean, fear not. Scroll down the page and you’ll find our buying guide, which will answer all the key questions you might have.

The best torches to buy

1. RovyVon Aurora A3: The best keyring torch for extreme brightness

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for one of the smallest and brightest rechargeable LED torches on the market, step this way. The Aurora 3 from Shenzhen-based RovyVon is about three quarters the length of a pinky finger and about as wide. And yet this titchy pocket titan’s “high” mode is capable of generating a whopping 650 lumens of illumination.

The aluminium-clad Aurora 3 provides three floodlight-style beam strengths in all – a dim output for reading, the aforementioned high beam and a mid-strength beam for general use. It also features a strobe function for those in an emergency. It should be pointed out that the full beam is gradually reduced to 65 lumens after about two minutes. This is to protect both the user and the internal components from the high level of heat it generates.

The Aurora A3’s 130mAh lithium polymer battery takes about 45 minutes to charge using the supplied micro-USB cable and provides a running time of up to 38 minutes on the mid-strength beam. This is a staggeringly bright little torch that tucks into the smallest of pockets. Alternatively, attach it to a keyring or wear it around your neck using the supplied chain. A top buy for general night-to-night use.

Key specs – Length: 55mm; Width: 14mm; Max lumens: 550; Min lumens: 20; Max beam distance: 80m; Max runtime: 38mins

(Upgraded) RovyVon Aurora 650 Lumens Super Bright Outdoor EDC Mini Keychain Rechargeable LED Flashlight,Hard Anodizing Aluminium Alloy Built-in Li-ion Battery,Water Resistant, A3(Red)

2. Ledlenser MT10: Best all-round torch under £100

This stupendously bright 1,000-lumen pocket model ticks every box and then some. Most LED flashlights come with a variety of flashing modes that get in the way of everyday use. By contrast, this one defaults to the function that matters most: beam strength. Turn it on and each tap of the robust thumb button makes the beam gradually soften from ultra-bright to dim – a classy touch that suggests a lot of thought went into its design.

Because the torch is customisable, users can easily reverse the process so the torch starts on a low beam instead. There’s a strobe function, too, but, given that it’ll hardly ever be used, it’s hidden away under a different custom mode. However, the best thing about this torch is that it comes with a multiple-focus beam that’s easily adjusted by sliding the front barrel forwards or backwards.

The splash-proof MT10 measures just 12.8cm in length and uses a single Xtreme LED that burns for a gobsmacking six hours on full beam and an even more impressive 144 hours on low beam. To charge, just plug it into the nearest USB 3.0 power source. it even comes with a useful battery indicator. Although this torch will easily fit inside a small jacket pocket, Ledlenser has seen fit to include a natty integrated belt clip and even a separate nylon hip case.

Key specs – Length: 125mm; Width: 30mm; Max lumens: 1,000; Min lumens: 10; Max beam distance: 180m; Max runtime: 144hrs

3. Nitecore MH23: Best pocket torch for long-range illumination

Price: £96 | Buy now from Amazon

While this superb rechargeable pocket-sized entry is a couple of centimetres shorter than the Ledlenser MT10 and almost twice as bright on full beam, it doesn’t have an adjustable beam, which is extremely useful for a variety of scenarios. Nevertheless, in some situations, this would probably be a better choice than the MT10, not least because its highest beam setting is easily bright and narrow enough to dazzle a fox 270m away.

The MH23 comes with five different beam strengths, from one lumen – just bright enough to see by without attracting attention to yourself – to a mind-bending 1,800 lumens. It also features emergency strobe and SOS, plus a very cool locator beacon built into the torch button that gently flashes intermittently so it can be found in the darkness of a tent.

This torch sports very impressive running times: 330 hours in Ultralow mode to 30 minutes in full Turbo mode. Mind, most users will probably find that the Mid (260 lumens) and High (760 lumens) modes are the most practical for everyday use since they are capable of running for five hours and two hours respectively. A top premium choice.

Key specs – Length: 111mm; Width: 31mm; Max lumens: 1,800; Min lumens: 1; Max beam distance: 294m; Max runtime: 330hrs

Nitecore MH23 Torch – Black

4. Ledlenser MH5: Best head torch for orienteering

Price: £31 | Buy now from Amazon

The headtorch is a camping, orienteering and caving essential – without one, you’re bound to stumble over your guy ropes, trip over a rock or bang your head on a stalactite. It’s also a very useful item to keep in the car for nighttime emergencies.

This excellent model from Ledlenser features two different outputs – 20 lumens for general low-light use and 400 lumens for brightening up the landscape. Rather ingeniously, it also incorporates a focus system that adjusts from a wide floodlight to a narrow 180m beam simply by turning the front lens dial. Its rechargeable lithium-ion battery should provide about four hours of burn time in High mode and up to 35 hours in Low mode.

It can also be used as a hand torch and even attaches to clothing with the provided metal clip. But removing the main plastic housing from the head strap attachment requires quite a bit of force and the rechargeable battery compartment is equally tricky to open for the first time. On the plus side, the rechargeable battery can be replaced with a standard AA alkaline battery, should the need arise.

Key specs – Length: 75mm; Width: 50mm; Max lumens: 400; Min lumens: 20; Max beam distance: 180m; Max runtime: 35hrs

Ledlenser Outdoor Adventure MH5 Rechargeable Headtorch Headtorch-400 Lumens, Blue-White, 1 SIZE

5. MecArmy PT10: Best compact torch

Price: £47 | Buy now from Heinnie Haynes

This rechargeable aluminium-clad 800-lumen pocket model is just 7.7cm long but its three Cree XP-G2 LEDs are easily bright enough to illuminate a tennis court. Its diffuse, ultra-wide white beam is perfect for revealing the route ahead and to both sides. Ingeniously, instead of switching on at full pelt, the first time you press the button, it emits a soft glow so you don’t draw too much attention to yourself.

Hold the button down and the beam strength jumps a notch higher, then higher still and then, when you think it can’t possibly get any brighter, it reaches full power and everything looks like it’s in broad daylight. Well sort of. Furthermore, if you double-tap the button, it skips straight to full beam. Finally, there’s strobe mode for really attracting some attention or disorientating an assailant.

The only issue with this model is that the on/off button is very sensitive, which means it can easily be switched on if the button is resting against another object in your pocket, drawer or a suitcase. But, thankfully, it charges up in about 90 minutes using a standard micro-USB cable (provided). You can safely expect about 18 minutes of use on full beam (not especially great) and up to 17 hours on low. It’s waterproof to 2m, too.

Key specs – Length: 77mm; Width: 22mm; Max lumens: 800; Min lumens: 10; Max beam distance: 126m; Max runtime: 17hrs

6. Petzl Actik Core: The best head torch for campers

Price: £54 | Buy now from Amazon

Petzl is a market leader in head torches and this model comes with three beam strengths that are assigned very easily by repeatedly pressing the orange rubber power switch. Press once for low beam – which is perfect for reading without disturbing a partner – twice for brighter, and three times for a maximum power of 350 lumens (bright enough to illuminate subjects up to 95m away). Full beam has a runtime of around two hours while low beam keeps going for up to 160 hours.

It also has a softer red LED beam to help preserve night vision and prevent dazzling others. A double-tap of the red beam activates a pulsing strobe that runs for up to 350 hours – a very handy signal if in need of help. To recharge, simply plug the supplied micro-USB cable directly into the enclosed battery and attach it to the mains or a portable USB power bank. And if you don’t have access to a power source, simply replace the removable rechargeable battery with three normal AAA batteries.

The Actik Core can be angled up or down and comes with a comfy reflective head strap replete with an integral emergency whistle that’s surprisingly loud. In the pantheon of wilderness gear, this rechargeable model is a mini triumph. It’s light as a feather, easy to use, not too expensive and extremely versatile.

Key specs – Length: 55mm; Width: 40mm; Max lumens: 350; Min lumens: 5; Max beam distance: 95m; Max runtime: 160hrs

Petzl Headlamp, Red

7. Coquimbo COB LED: Best LED lamp for working

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

This rechargeable work light is just the ticket for those unforeseen moments, like when the car suddenly breaks down on a dark road and you’d rather not risk using your phone’s torch function in case you drop it into the engine bay or use up its valuable battery power.

The Coquimbo’s narrow beam arm articulates to any angle and comes equipped with a magnetic base and handy hook for hands-free siting. It features five beam modes: high, low, single LED, static red and a flashing red mode for warnings and emergencies. High mode is the one you’ll likely use most since it provides a broad, bright and diffuse 600 lumen glow that is perfect for most situations. The Coquimbo is charged via USB and has a runtime of about 40 minutes in high mode.

Key specs – Length: 148mm; Width: 40mm; Max lumens: 600; Min lumens: N/A; Max beam distance: 5m; Max runtime: 40mins

USB Rechargeable Work Light, Coquimbo COB LED Torch Foldable Inspection Lamp Magnetic Work Light Portable Flashlight with Magnetic Base and Hook for Home, Workshop, Emergency Use (27×4.5cm)

8. Olight X7R Marauder: The ultimate high-power torch

Price: £253 | Buy now from Amazon

There’s something about ludicrously bright torches that really appeals and this expensive but monstrously bright heavyweight hitter is a case in point. The Marauder is almost the size and shape of a drinks can but, at 665g, is considerably heavier. Nevertheless, it feels fabulously substantial in the hand and is exceedingly well made from beautifully machined aluminium. A handy holster is included for easier transport.

Waterproof to 2m, it has six beam strengths from ten-lumen candle-light all the way up to a truly astounding 12,000 lumens. Yes, you read that correctly. This monster is so bright at full power that it will illuminate an entire football ground. There are other models out there that have a longer throw – the Nitecore TM36 has a whopping beam distance of over a kilometre – but this torch is more useful because it lights up the entire area. Just as well the manufacturer saw fit to include a dimming proximity sensor because the beam on this thing gets so hot at full power it could feasibly set fire to combustible objects.

At full pelt, its three Cree XHP70 CW LEDs will run for about three minutes, but this increases dramatically the lower you go. The 7,000-lumen setting, for instance, will give you 120 minutes of light up time while the lowly ten-lumen setting will keep on running for up to 30 days. The battery itself is of the built-in variety and is charged via USB-C.

Key specs – Length: 129mm; Width: 52mm; Max lumens: 12,000; Min lumens: 10; Max beam distance: 380m; Max runtime: 30 days

Olight Super Bright Powerful Torch X7R , LED 12000 Lumens, USB Type-C Fast Charger Port ,Your Best Camping Search Rescue Flashlight ,Black

How to buy the best torch for you

Why do most modern torches use LED technology?

If you’re wondering why the vast majority of today’s torches use LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, there’s a simple answer: they’re hundreds of times more energy-efficient than the filament bulb you used to have in your old Eveready torch. To be more precise, the average LED consumes about 12% of the energy used by halogen and filament bulbs to emit the same amount of light, and will go on burning for hours, if not days, on the same set of batteries. What’s more, the average LED has a life span of up to 50,000 hours, compared to, say, a filament bulb, which fizzles out at around 2,000 hours. Rest assured that whichever model of torch you select will likely provide many years of useful service.

What size or type of LED torch should I buy?

LED torches come in a myriad of sizes and shapes. If you simply need a flashlight for day-to-day or holiday use, consider a pocket model. These measure around 7cm in length yet still provide enough light to see where you’re going. They don’t cost much, either. Most pocket models come with a variety of beam strengths from ten and 800 lumens and many even have extra features such as strobe (supposedly handy for disorientating assailants) and SOS signaling.

If you enjoy outdoor pursuits, consider taking along a larger pocket-sized model (around 12cm in length) with a higher lumen specification of around 1,000 lumens. Some of these models also provide several focus options, which allows you to narrow or widen the size of the beam. The hands-free, head-mounted variety is also an invaluable option, especially if you’re camping, caving, climbing or orienteering.

If you work in security, the hunting industry or the rescue services then you’ll almost certainly require a heavyweight floodlight-type model in excess of 1,500 lumens. These monsters are heavy and large (often more than 20cm long), but they have the power to turn night into day at the press of a button. They can usually be set to provide either a football stadium-like super-wide beam or one that sharpens to highlight subjects up to a kilometre away.

Finally, don’t underestimate the versatility of the humble keyring torch. These titchy beamers will not only highlight the route ahead but they’ll illuminate your front door keyhole, provide light when the car has broken down in a country lane and guide you to the fuse box when the lights go out.

Rechargeable vs disposable batteries

Until fairly recently, most LED flashlights used disposable batteries and many still do. Cheaper models invariably draw their power from ordinary alkaline batteries (AA, AAA etc), while the more expensive models use dearer but much longer-lasting lithiums (usually of the CR variety).

However, disposable batteries are not only costly (especially the lithium variety), but they ultimately end up in landfills and that’s a bad thing for the environment. The latest trend, therefore, is towards rechargeable lithium batteries that can be recharged very conveniently using a simple micro-USB cable attached to a mains source, a computer or a portable USB power bank. The torch itself may be more costly but you’ll save a heap of sterling in the long run – and help save the planet, too.

Learn how to choose the best rechargeable LED torch for you with our bite-size reviews and handy, jargon-free buying guide