Most high-end flashlights today use rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion batteries that require you to remove the battery to recharge it in a charger. For people that use their lights for long periods of time and have to swap out batteries, this is the best way to go. But for casual users who only need to use the light for a couple of minutes at a time then the convenience of a rechargeable flashlight out weighs the cost savings of an external charger.
Each manufacturer implements different methods for charging their flashlights. There are three primary ways manufacturers implement their connectors: micro-USB port on the light, a proprietary connector, or a charging dock that the light attaches to in a proprietary way. Each method of charging has its own pros and cons.
The micro-USB port is great since micro-USB cables are pretty much ubiquitous. Almost all Android phones use them now, so that means if you have an Android phone you can also charge your light that has a micro-USB port. However, micro-USB has a couple of issues. A micro-USB doesn't play well with water, so you almost always have a rubber cover to protect from the elements. While the cover is typically easy to open, closing the cover means poking and prodding until you have every bit of the cover tucked into the body, which can be frustrating at times. Additionally, most tail-switch flashlights require you to turn the light on after you plug in the micro-USB connector. Turning the flashlight on completes the circuit for electricity to start flowing to the battery. All of these things just lower the convenience of the micro-USB plug.
The proprietary connectors improve over the fiddlesome aspects of the micro-USB connectors by making them water proof and easier to attach and detach from the light. Klarus makes a great proprietary connector that easily clicks into place and can be found on their RS series lights: RS16, RS11, RS20 and their XT series of lights: XT12 and XT15. However, since these connectors are proprietary, if you travel you have one more cable you have to lug around with you. More than likely this is the only cable of its kind that you own so if you lose it or your pet chews it you won't have a quick replacement for it.
Proprietary docks also suffer from the travel issue, but they skirt the cable issue because they usually use micro-USB cables to connect from the power outlet to the dock. However, they are the most convenient when it comes to attaching and detaching the light to the power source when it is time to recharge. You drop your light onto the dock it will automatically begin charging. This feature also makes them ideal for keeping on your nightstand for quick access. Olight has their charging base the Micro-Dok which comes with most of their rechargeable lights like the S10R II, S15R, S20R, S30R II Batons. Fenix also has a great dock for their RC15 work light.
The type of connector that you need will factor into the decision of which flashlight is the best rechargeable flashlight for you. If you are always traveling and don't want to be lugging yet another cord or dock, then you will want to purchase a flashlight that has a micro-USB connector. If you don't want a dock, but you do want the convenience of easy connecting and disconnecting, or you need your flashlight to be waterproof without having to ensure the rubber cap is closed, then a proprietary connector will be your choice. If convenience is the most important consideration, then you will want to look at one of the flashlights with a dock. This choice is just one more consideration for your rechargeable flashlight purchase.
Olight S20R Baton
The Olight S20R Baton has to be one of my favorite lights. I love it because it is a cost effective rechargeable light that is great in almost every situation. I used it during the winter to help light my path while snow blowing at night. I had it attached to the brim of my hat and it was the perfect compliment. I was able to clear out the snow (we had 30 inches that weekend) even after the sun went down.
The S20R Baton is a rechargeable light which means you can recharge the battery while it is still in the light. It comes with a 2600mAh 18650 battery. Most rechargeable lights have a USB port that you just plug into the light just like your phone. However, the S20R Baton actually comes with a dock that you stand the light on to recharge the battery. Just drop the light on the dock and you are done. No looking for the cord and trying to get it aligned correctly. It really is a small annoyance that is being mitigated by the dock, but once you have used it you wonder why all flashlights aren't recharged this way. It is brilliant really.
The S20R Baton has a 4.27" (108.4mm) long, 0.91" (23mm) diameter body made of aluminum that has been hard anodized in flat black. It has a side switch near the head and a clip that allows you to deep pocket carry it or attach it to the brim of a baseball cap. Like many Olight flashlights the S20R Baton has a stainless steel bezel with a cool blue trim where the bezel meets the lens.
Speaking of brilliant, this is a bright light. The S20R Baton has 5 modes. High which is 550 lumens and will last for 2 hours. Medium which is 120 lumens and will last for 9 hours. Low which is 5 lumens and will last for 120 hours. Moonlight which is 1 lumen and will last for a whopping 480 hours. And last it has a Strobe feature which flashes high for 3 hours. From off you can long press the button to get to moonlight mode. You can single press the button to turn the light off. From off you have direct access to high by double clicking the button. A long press while on will switch modes. Double click the button while on will put you into strobe. This is one of my favorite flashlight user interfaces (UI). It is easy to use and explain to others who might need to borrow a light.
While my wife loves gadgets, flashlights are not interesting to her. The fact that she regularly grabs the S20R Baton says that this is a usable flashlight. She appreciates the recharging dock and the easy to use UI. These are the same things that I love about it. If you are looking for a cost effective terrific rechargeable flashlight that fits in your pocket then you should definitely consider the Olight S20R Baton.
The Sunwayman C23C is a sweet little flashlight. It fits in the Every Day Carry category of flashlights because of its small stature. It is rechargeable via a USB port on the side which makes it convenient to keep powered. The head on it is a little larger than the body. The clip placement is awkward because it faces the head of the light. This makes it difficult to put in your jeans. Also, the C23C's clip only faces the front so you can't turn it around for clipping to the bill of a hat for hands free use. These are pretty much the only complaints I have for this light. The looks are fantastic. It looks like a lightsaber from Star Wars, especially in silver.
This little guy sports a 1000 lumens turbo mode which will step down to high after three minutes of use to save your hands from frying. High is 580 lumens and will last for 2 hours. Medium is 130 lumens and will last for 10 hours. Last low is a very bright (for low) 40 lumens and lasts for 35 hours. The C23C also has strobe, SOS and Beacon modes. The light is activated by a side switch. Click for on/off to last mode. Click and hold to change modes while on which cycles through Turbo, High and Medium. Double click to get to strobe and click and hold to go to SOS and Beacon. While off, if you click and hold it will take you to low.
The 1000 lumens will reach out to 208 meters via its smooth reflector and tempered glass lens which will resist scratches and impacts. However, if the glass ever does become dirty or broken, you can easily replace it by just unscrewing the bezel.
The C23C's body is made of an aluminum alloy and the bezel and clip are stainless steel. The body has been hard anodized to MilSpec Type III and meets IPX6 standards for water resistance.
Sometimes looks are everything. If you are looking for a cool every day flashlight that is rechargeable then you will be interested in taking a look at the Sunwayman C23C. This guy really packs a punch in a small package.
The Klarus RS20 is a great personal flashlight. It has a proprietary recharging port that is actually easier to use than a micro-USB port but it is less convenient when you need to travel with your light. However, due to the design of the connection it is easy to attach and detach which makes it a good trade off between dock and micro-USB. The RS20 also has a proprietary battery which is a 2600mAh 18650 battery. You should only use Klarus batteries with the RS20 since the charging feature won’t work with non-Klarus branded cells.
The RS20 also has a second light on the side. This light is covered by a frosted plastic lens which creates a floody beam of light that is good to read a book or provide lighting inside your tent. The primary light is a CREE XM-L2 U2 LED with a massive reflector that provides 316 meters of throw from 1050 lumens. The RS20 has a tight hotspot and not much spill which will allow you to see what is making noise off in the distance.
The RS20 has two side buttons, one side button for each light. To turn the lights on you hold their respective button for one second and then release. If you want to turn them off just click the button. To change modes you click and hold the button for one second and then release to change modes. Both lights, primary and side, switch down incrementally with each mode switch. The primary light has four modes. High produces 1050 lumens for 2.5 hours, Medium makes 330 lumens for 5.1 hours, while Low is 10 lumens for 154 hours, and Moonlight is 1 lumen for an amazing 1646 hours. The side light has three modes: High which is a bright 22 lumens for 2.9 hours, Medium is 80 lumens for 7.8 hours and Low is 10 lumens for 75 hours. If you double click the primary button you get strobe. The strobe uses a random pattern making it even more disorienting for anyone that is trying to attack you. If you hold down on the primary switch while in strobe you will get SOS on the primary light. The secondary side light only has SOS which you activate via double clicking the secondary button.
The Fenix UC35 is a tactical flashlight. This flashlight is meant to help you stay out of trouble. Fenix says this light is for hiking and camping as well, but lets be honest, this light is for urban warfare. When things get bashy, this is the light you want in your pocket. Whether it is strobe to the eyes or bezel to the face or arms, this UC35 is meant to fight off unwanted attention. It makes every day carry easier and more convenient by also being rechargeable.
The connection to the UC35's charger is micro-USB. Just connect the cable, click the tail cap and it starts charging. You know when you need to charge because the side button will blink red when the battery gets below 1/3rd of its capacity. While the light is charging the side button is a steady red and switches to a steady green when the battery has been fully charged. The UC35 comes with a 3200mAh 18650 and can use any 18650 battery you may already have or 2 CR123A batteries if you are in a jam.
The UC35's body is made of aluminum and has a hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish. However, the knurling on the body is pretty sharp so if you are moving the light around in your hands often you will feel it. This is the only light in this group that I noticed some tingling in the hands after use. The UC35 is water tight and meets IPX8 waterproofing standards.
The UC35 has two switches, one of the tail cap for on/off and one on the side for mode switching. The tail switch can be clicked for on/off or give it a half press to get temporary light. The UC35 features a CREE XM-L2 U2 LED which is digitally regulated to maintain a constant brightness. The LED pumps out 960 lumens on Turbo for 1.5 hours, High is 480 lumens and lasts 2.5 hours, Medium is a healthy 180 lumens for 9 hours, Low is 50 lumens for 38 hours and Economy mode is 14 lumens and lasts 150 hours. Click the side button once to switch modes. If you long press the side button you get strobe mode which has a random pattern for maximum disorientation of any would be attackers.
The Nitecore TM26GT is a luxury spotlight. This monster rechargeable flashlight kicks out 3500 lumens in Turbo mode to reach out 704 meters. It has a nifty OLED screen which tells you the status of the light. The status includes lumens being generated, the charge left on the batteries, the voltage the batteries are achieving, the remaining runtime and the internal temperature of the flashlight itself. The charge connector is an AC connector like you would find on older laptops. This brings power more quickly than your typical USB connector and when you have 4 batteries to charge at the same time, you really need the extra flow. The TM26GT is rated IPX8 which means it can be submerged in 2 meters of water.
The TM26GT sports 4 CREE XP-L HI V3 LEDs and each LED has a dedicated driver and reflector. The dedicated driver ensures the optimal amount of power is delivered to each LED and protects the flashlight from over heating. The reflectors are smooth to project the beam out to 704 meters. The LEDs kick out 3500 lumens for 1 hour and 15 minutes on Turbo, 1700 lumens for 3 hours on High. But the real benefit comes at Medium where you get 540 lumens for 9 hours and 45 minutes. Low delivers 95 lumens for 48 hours and Ultralow gives you 3 lumens for over 1000 hours. The TM26GT includes strobe, SOS and location beacon modes.
If you are looking for a spotlight with integrated recharging built in, then the Nitecore TM26GT is the light for you.
These are just a few of the lights we have on offer, so be sure to check out our full selection of rechargeable flashlights. Some honorable mentions that didn't get full coverage in this article but are worthy of your interest would be the Fenix BC30R which is a bike light, Fenix RC15 a work light with a dock that is great for your truck or garage, Jetbeam BR10 GT the least expensive rechargeable with an 18650, Nitecore TUBE the best keychain light available today, Nitecore MH10 a great utility light, Nitecore MH12 practically a clone of the P12 with a charger built in, Nitecore MH20 one of the greatest lights of 2015 (read our full review here), Nitecore MH27 brings rechargeable to the multi-color LED lovers, Olight S10R Baton II the smallest Olight rechargeable, Olight S30R Baton II the big brother in Olights rechargeable line, Olight SR52-UT Intimidator a long throwing work horse, and the Olight SR96 Intimidator which is a terrific spotlight for search and rescue situations. What ever your need, we have a rechargeable flashlight for you.
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