Top 5 Compact Flashlights for Everyday Carry

You can never have too many flashlights laying around. Years ago, the only options really available were big, bulky lights that used giant batteries. The batteries didn’t last long, and the light wasn’t very bright either. Then along came LED technology and the flashlight industry changed rapidly. Batteries also improved with the ability to be recharged, instead of having to buy them in bulk to keep the flashlights running.

Now we mount flashlights on our weapons, carry them in our pockets, and have them in our cars and homes. With so many options it’s hard to find an excuse not to always have a light on you. But when it comes to choosing the size of a flashlight, it’s a little bit like choosing a CCW gun. Do you go with the smallest, most compact one you can find? Or is there a middle ground where the battery length and lumens blend together for an ideal carry light?

The larger the battery the longer the run time, but with brighter lumens, the run time starts to decrease again. And you thought picking out a flashlight would be easy! Well don’t worry, we can sort through the nitty gritty to give you some of the best options on the market.

In this top five list, I included a few different sizes of lights for plenty of options when it comes to everyday carry (EDC). All of them are in the compact range, but even then, the sizes can vary significantly. Which one you choose will depend on how you dress and what works for your lifestyle.

5. EDC PL by 5.11 Tactical

This light is fifth on my list because of its size and battery type. This thing is on the small side and isn’t ideal for emergency situations, but it’s better than no light at all. The benefit is that it’s smaller than a cigarette lighter, making it ideal for carrying when everything else is too big.

The EDC PL is 3.4 inches tall and .66 inches in diameter. It’s only 55 lumens, so it’s not very bright. But if you want the convenience of carrying a light that doesn’t take up any room at all, this thing is a winner. It runs on one AAA battery making it super easy to replace. The runtime is listed at just under four hours which is good for such a small battery. I’ve used mine on and off for those little things when you need a light for a few seconds.

511 EDC PL Flashlight
The 5.11 EDC PL flashlight is small and compact. It runs on one AAA battery. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
The same battery has been in it for more than a year. It has a pocket clip on the side, but it’s so small that I have never used the clip. It works better to just drop it in your pocket and move on. The activation button is a push-button style on the back of the light.

Because it’s so short, this could be more difficult for people with large hands to activate. It’s listed as IPX-4 water resistant which means you can use it in the rain, but not submerge it in water. Made from aircraft aluminum, it will hold up to some tough beatings and it’s inexpensive. I prefer a larger light, but this one comes in handy every now and then.

4. NEBO Inspector RC

The NEBO Inspector shows how much brighter of a light you get when the battery is just a little bigger. This one is about the same diameter as the EDC PL but twice the length. It has three light modes: Low, Strobe, and High. The low setting is 120 lumens with a run time of three hours. On high, you get 360 lumens and a one-hour run time.

The Inspector RC uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but you can also use two AAA batteries instead. I absolutely love it when companies make rechargeable batteries that can also run on standard batteries. It’s the best of both worlds and is a lifesaver in the event you don’t have time to recharge your light. I keep two AAA batteries in my backpack so I can swap them out should I need to.

NEBO Inspector flashlight.
The NEBO Inspector is a great flashlight that is slim and rechargeable. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
This light includes a pocket clip which is needed on this one. Unlike the 5.11 EDC, this light is long and skinny, making it a little hard to carry. I found when it’s in my front pocket, getting in the car will start to push the clip off my jeans. This one really works best for BDU-style pants that have leg pockets.

It’s also great for backpacks or cars. It comes with a USB charging cable making it easy to recharge just about anywhere. This one is rated for IPX-7, meaning it’s still not submergible, but it can withstand more water exposure than the EDC mentioned above. At $35-$45 it runs about the same price as the 5.11 EDC.

3. TMT A2 by 5.11 Tactical

Here is another 5.11 light that is a little larger than the last two. The TMT (Tactical Mission Torch) steps out of the micro-size and falls more into the regular compact-size of light. It runs on two AA batteries which again makes it simple and easy to replace. I’m not a big fan of specialized batteries that take an entire sales team to find replacements for.

The 5.11 TMT flashlight.
The 5.11 TMT flashlight runs on two AA batteries. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
The TMT has two power modes, Low and High, and a Strobe mode. On High, you get 220 lumens with 1.5 hours of run time. The Low setting is a surprising 12-lumen option with a 57-hour run time. I was a bit confused at such a low setting when I first started using this light. But after a while, I started to appreciate the extra low setting.

I never use the Low setting on most lights because brighter is better right? But if you need to read something in your car and don’t want to blind yourself with the reflection on the paper, this low setting is perfect. And at 57 hours, you could just about read a book with it. This one is about six inches tall and one inch in diameter making it larger than the first two, but still compact enough to carry. It sells for about $65-$85.

2. Streamlight Strion DS HL

And continuing to move up in size, we have the Streamlight Strion DS HL flashlight. Like the others, the Strion is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and has a high-temperature glass lens. This light has three power modes: High, Medium, and Low, along with Strobe mode. The High setting is 700 lumens with a run time of 1.25 hours.

What sets this light apart from the others is the charging capability. Because it was designed as a duty light, it comes with a wall and vehicle charger. It is made to mount on the charger when not being used to ensure it stays charged. If you use a flashlight frequently and don’t want the hassle of remembering to charge it, this one is great.

The Streamlight Strion flashlight.
The Strion is a small duty flashlight from Streamlight. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
It also has two activation buttons, one on the back of the light and one on the side. This is a nice addition that allows you to cycle through different modes regardless of how you hold it. While it uses a rechargeable battery, Streamlight does sell additional batteries and a small charger for charging the battery when it’s not in the light. This gives you the option of replacing a dead battery if you don’t have time to place the flashlight on the charger. It’s just over six inches in length and the front part of the light is a little over one inch in diameter.

1. Streamlight Wedge

Now we get to the number one light on my list. The Streamlight Wedge has been my favorite go-to light since it came out. It isn’t a replacement for a duty light for those who use one regularly at work. But for keeping a compact light in your pocket, this one is the perfect blend of size, brightness, and shape.

Instead of being round, the wedge has two flat sides which help keep it in your pocket better. And, instead of a push-button for activation, it uses a toggle switch built into the side of it. When you flip it on, the light activates in the Standard mode of 300 lumens. If you push the toggle switch further, the light gives you a temporary burst of 1,000 lumens. When you let go, it goes back to the 300-lumen setting.

Streamlight Wedge flashlight.
The Streamlight Wedge is one of the best everyday carry flashlights you can buy. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
This is a great feature because you can have a bright light when you have a specific need for it. It comes with a USB charging cable and has a charging port on the back of it making it easy to plug in. The pocket clip can be mounted on either side just like a pocketknife. The Wedge is about five-and-a-half inches long and one inch wide. It’s the most comfortable flashlight I have carried so far. I carry mine daily and keep one in my backpack as well.

Don’t Get Stuck in the Dark

Flashlights may be one of those things we just don’t think much about. But anyone could find themselves in a circumstance where a flashlight is needed, so carrying one every day only makes sense. Just make sure you find a quality light that will work when you need it to.

There are plenty of options so find something that you don’t mind packing around every day. If that means a small micro-sized light, that’s still better than nothing. If you carry a pocketknife, the Wedge light will feel just like a pocketknife in your other pocket. With flashlights, you do get what you pay for, so keep that in mind when you go shopping. Test it daily, keep it charged, and above all else, don’t get stuck in the dark.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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