As part of our effort to be prepared for everyday emergencies, we went on a hunt for the best cheap flashlight. Our target was a durable, inexpensive high lumen flashlight that we could give to children and not worry if it was lost. It needed to be a flashlight bright enough for a light source during power outages and lighting around the yard at night.
There are a LOTS of cheap flashlights available, and many crazy expensive ones. Many flashlights require specialty batteries, which bumps up the cost. If your special batteries go dead, the light is useless. After comparing and testing an assortment of cheap flashlights, this is our recommendation for the “best flashlight for the money”. It is small, durable, bright, inexpensive, and multipurpose.
Our Pick for the Best Cheap Flashlight? The KOOTEK XPE-Q5 LED
Summary: We recommend the Kootek XPE-Q5 LED flashlight. It is a low cost, super bright LED light. It uses one AA battery or 14500 batteries which is not included. This zoomable, compact flashlight is water resistant (IPX6 compliant) but it is not waterproof. It is listed at 700 lumens but is more like 300 lumens and measurably brighter using a 14500 4.6v battery.
The case is aircraft grade aluminum with a belt clip and a manual focus. The flashlights are about 3.7 inches (90mm) long x 0.83 inches (20mm) wide and weighs about 2.1 ounces (without the battery). It has 3 light modes – bright, dim, and strobe. We suggest you buy one five pack and test them out, and get more later. This is our choice if you need cheap flashlights in bulk. A 5 pack is only about $3 each and they use the widely available AA battery.
Pros: Small, lightweight and powerful flashlight. It’s just the right price to leave them stashed around the house, in the car, and in emergency kits.
Cons: It gets hot if the unit is left on “high mode”. It doesn’t have a seal ring. The adjustable focus goes from wide (where the LEDs are not visible) to a narrow beam of light (where the individual LEDs are visible). This is a pro and con as narrowing the focus increases the “throw” of the flashlight to at least 300ft (about 100 meters) but the visible LEDs may bother some people.
Put your cheap flashlights in bedrooms, kitchen drawers and tool kits. Also, put a budget flashlight in each emergency kit, 72 hour kit, first aid kit, get home kit and bug out bag. If you or the kids lose one, you aren’t losing an expensive flashlight.
We recommend three for every vehicle. I was on the way home and came across a deer accident. In clearing the road, vehicles were not slowing down. I put one flashlight facing traffic in each direction with strobe on, which did slow down traffic more than normal hazard lights.
The Kootek is about 200 lumens so it is very bright with a fully charged AA and a bit brighter with a 14500 3.6v battery. The light color or hue is a fairly clean white and varies toward blue (known as “cool white”), however, given the variance in production each one might have slightly different color hues. You can see all the individual LEDs when it is not diffuse, as noted in the CONS above.
The Kootek flashlight has a decent range (throw) of about 300ft (100 meters) fully focused. Although the LEDs are visible in the narrow focus, the brightness is just right for close tasks like pulling a sliver. The wide focus works better for a night-time tire change or lighting up a room. The strobe is disturbingly bright and is a good alternate to a road flare. The lower intensity is good for enough light to see your way around the house in the dark.
When we first ordered a 5 pack of the Kootek we were suspicious that a flashlight under $5 would be any good. When we got it we were pleasantly surprised. The case feels solid. The three modes are toggled using the thumb button (tail cap) on the back. The flashlight doesn’t remember the last mode.
Some advertisements say that they are 700 lumens (brightness). In testing it is actually about 200 to 400 lumens (depending on the AA vs 14500 and focus). The smaller barrel of the light is not the standard size for a tactical mount.
We have purchased 10 of these so far. The brightness is just right for close tasks like pulling a sliver. The wide focus works better for a night-time tire change or lighting up a room. The strobe is disturbingly bright and is a good alternate to a road flare. The lower intensity is good for enough light to see your way around the house in the dark.
The video below shows a comparison of the Cree and the Kootek. (If video doesn't load, make sure adblockers are turned off.)
Overall this is a good, affordable flashlight. We recommend you combine the Kootek with rechargeable AA batteries and a good AA charger. Rechargeable batteries and a good charger can easily pay for themselves in a few years, and save you a lot over time.
Alternate EDC Flashlights
- Nitecore Tini 380 better for EDC. Keychain flashlight, smaller, lighter and brighter but more expensive (about $30) and re-charges using micro USB.
- Lumintop EDC01 smaller, brighter, more expensive (about $11) AAA flashlight- not as bright as the TINI380.
- Sofrin SF14 or Lumintop Tool AA (both are about $17) and produce the same lumens with an AA battery, are really bright with the 14500 3.7 battery, and the cases for each are very similar.
For information on rechargeable batteries and battery chargers for your cheap flashlight, check out “Best Battery Chargers and Batteries” post. The post “Brightest Flashlight – AAA, AA, Tactical, Keychain and Spotlight” features more info on the brightest flashlights in several different categories.
See also: “Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) – What You Need to Know” for info to protect your LED flashlights from EMPs.
You may also find other posts on General Preparedness, First Aid and Food Storage useful, including:
- 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out
- Emergency Heat During a Power Outage and other Winter Storm Preps
- When the Power Grid Fails – 10 Things You Need to Prepare
Originally published in 2014, updated at least annually. Last update: Nov 2018.