Over the last year, I’ve been on a quest to find the best affordable EDC flashlight. If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’re on a similar quest.
A good flashlight has always been one of my everyday carry essentials, but there are so many crappy pocket lights on the market that finding a really great one is not easy. We’ve tested out a lot of them in an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff and arrive at the five best EDC flashlights under $20. We do this so that you don’t have to.
Ultimately, the best EDC flashlight for you depends on your needs and preferences. There are countless possible measurements by which one can evaluate a flashlight. For our purposes, we evaluate flashlights based on the following criteria:
- Light output: How bright is the flashlight? Light output is measured in lumens, and typical EDC flashlights range from as little as 20 lumens right up to the glaring 1,000-lumen range. This is an important consideration, but remember that brighter isn’t always better.
- Runtime: How long does the flashlight last on each output mode before the battery needs to be replaced or recharged?
- Power source: What type of batteries does the flashlight use? Most EDC flashlights run on AA or AAA batteries, but some are compatible with other types of batteries including rechargeable lithium ion batteries.
- Durability: How well does the flashlight take a beating? Consider impact resistance—the height from which a flashlight can be dropped onto concrete and still function—as well as water resistance.
- Pocketability: Is the flashlight comfortable to carry? An EDC flashlight should be lightweight and compact enough to carry in one’s pocket without it feeling bulky or uncomfortable.
Without further ado, these are our top picks in the world of affordable EDC flashlights:
The Streamlight MicroStream has been a personal favorite of mine for a long time, and you might even say it’s the reason I wanted to make this list.
It’s one of the most simple and effective EDC flashlights I’ve yet encountered. Scroll through my Instagram, and you’ll see that I’ve been carrying one of these things for a long, long time.
Here’s what’s great about this flashlight: IT HAS ONE SETTING.
The MicroStream runs on a single AAA battery, and it puts out 45 lumens. That’s it! It’s not going to blow most flashlights out of the water with its brightness, but it emits just the right amount of light for me in most situations.
You get around 2.5 hours of runtime out of each battery. I pretty much always keep extra AAAs around, so the MicroStream serves me well. Just FYI, Streamlight also makes brighter versions of this light that are USB rechargeable—but not for under $20.
Measuring 3.6” long and weighing just 1.1 oz, the Streamlight MicroStream is the perfect size for everyday carry. It’s so light you can forget it’s in your pocket until you need it, and the barrel fits very comfortably in an average-sized hand. The tail switch has more resistance than most, and can be partly compressed to use the flashlight in ‘momentary on’ mode.
The MicroStream is also a tough little flashlight, with anodized aircraft aluminum and a sturdy pocket clip. It has a IPX4 water resistance rating, which is not the most impressive rating, but I’ve personally dropped my MicroStream in at least a couple of lakes, and it keeps on shining.
Olight i3T EOS
Another great 1xAAA pocket light, the Olight i3T EOS scores points for quality construction, and for the simplicity of its design. It’s a trim, lightweight flashlight that’s perfect for everyday carry. The Olight i3T EOS measures 3.5” and weighs in at just 1.4 oz.
The Olight i3T EOS has a slender profile and is made of high quality anodized aluminum that has a soft matte finish. It has a very comfortable grip, with a helix pattern along the barrel of the flashlight that does a good job keeping it secure in your hand. The tail switch had some great grip texture too, and it includes a momentary-on function.
This flashlight produces a soft, balanced beam with two settings: low (5 lumens) and high (180 Lumens). The tail switch (which, I must say, is satisfyingly ‘clicky’) takes you through the two modes in a low-off-high-off cycle. A single AAA gives you 16 hours of continuous runtime on low, or 21 minutes on high.
Admittedly that’s not the most impressive runtime on the high setting, but I find that the 5-lumen low mode is actually what I use this flashlight for the most. It’s just the right amount of light for reading in your tent while camping, jotting notes or checking a map at night.
Lumintop EDC AA
Lumintop makes some great flashlights, and their EDC AA model is—as you might’ve guessed from the name—a great one for everyday carry. As you might also have guessed from the name, it runs on one AA battery, which gives it a longer runtime than your typical AAA flashlight.
Consequently, the Lumintop is a little thicker than most of the other flashlights on this list, but at 3.59” and 1.77 oz it’s still a very comfortable carry. The barrel has a great checker-pattern textured grip to the black anodized aluminum. It has five modes: low, medium, high, turbo and strobe.
In addition to standard alkaline AA batteries, the Lumintop EDC AA also supports Type 14500 lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and NiMH rechargeable batteries. That gives you a lot of options, and the runtime on various settings depends on what type of battery you use. Turbo mode, for example, puts out 180 lumens on a basic AA, or up to 600 lumens on a 14500 battery.
All that makes this one of the most versatile EDC flashlights on the market.
I’m honestly shocked that it costs less than $20. It also comes with a glow-in-the dark silicone diffuser, which fits over the lens and gives the light a nice, soft glow.
My only minor complaint about the Lumintop EDC AA is that with so many settings, the process of clicking through all the modes to find the light level you want can be a little clunky. That said, the flashlight does have a memory function, so if you leave it off for more than a few seconds, it will return to the most recently used mode.
One of the chief virtues of the Coast G19 flashlight is its simplicity.
It has one light mode, which throws a healthy 54 lumens, and it gets 2 hours and 30 minutes of life out of a single AAA battery. It’s also compatible with Coast’s ZX100 Rechargeable Battery.
The Coast G19 is 4.02” long and weighs 1.5 oz. It’s a little longer than the flashlights listed above, but still super lightweight, and by no means too big to pocket comfortably. If anything, that small additional length makes it a little easier to handle without it getting lost in one’s palm. It has some very grippy diamond knurling along the barrel.
The big selling point of the G19 is its inspection beam optic, which casts an exceptionally crisp, clear beam with edge-to-edge brightness. It’s not brighter in the middle and soft at the edges like a normal LED beam.
For me, this flashlight isn’t my first choice to take camping or backpacking, but it’s perfect for use around the house. I keep one in the glovebox of my car, and the perfectly uniform beam makes it great for any job that requires crisp, clear light in the darkness.
Worth noting is that the Coast G19 is the cheapest flashlight on this list by a wide margin. On a good day, you can get one on Amazon for less than $10, which is a pretty unbeatable price for such a well-made flashlight.
Energizer LED Tactical Flashlight
The LED Tactical Flashlight is Energizer’s foray into EDC flashlights, and it’s a surprisingly successful one. Of all the flashlights I tested for this list, this is the one that caught me the most off-guard with its quality.
The only strike against this flashlight is its size. At 4.4” long and 0.8” thick, it’s the longest and girthiest flashlight on this list. How comfortable it is to carry depends on the size of your pockets, but you can always clip it to your belt instead. Personally I like a smaller EDC flashlight, but some folks might actually prefer a larger one like this.
Energizer makes several flashlights in its tactical LED family. This one (officially known as the Mini-Tac 140) puts out 140 lumens on high. It also has a 20-lumen low setting and strobe mode.
With only three modes, clicking through them is relatively easy. I like that the Energizer cycle has high output first in the lineup. A lot of flashlights make you click through the lower modes first to get to high. The beam is soft yet vivid, with a slight yellowish warmth to it.
The Energizer LED Tactical Flashlight gives you pretty good lifespan out of a single AA battery, lasting 5 hours on high or 10 hours on low. It’s made of rugged aircraft grade aluminum with a crosshatch-pattern grip, and has IPX4 water resistance. It’s not meant to be submerged, but handles rain well.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.