With the advent of cheap but powerful LED technology, there's been an explosion of companies making incredibly bright handheld lights. Just like with the knife market, you can now get everything from cheap $5 no-brand lights to fancy $500 custom lights that are true works of art. Like every other part of this gear game, what appeals to me is getting the most reasonable performance for the price as possible. I don't need 1000 lumens, or even 500. I don't need a program that cycles through turbo, high, medium, low, moonlight, strobe, blink, and SOS. So here's a list of lights that I'm interested in, which exhibit all the attributes that I look for in EDC gear.

Note — Wherever lumens and runtimes are given below, those are manufacturer numbers, and not measured by myself.

Brand Overview

There is just a cornucopia of different light brands on the market right now. Many of them are Chinese companies that produce a lot of very similar models, although each typically has a couple models that show off distinguishing features. Here I'm speaking of Fenix, FourSevens, Nitecore, Olight, Thrunite, etc. These are all high quality brands that give you a good light for a good price, and when it comes to a basic 2×AA or 2×CR123, for the most part you can get reasonably the same thing from each company.

Not a lot of good production lights are made in the United States, if that's something that matters to you. Maglites are built in the United States, as are SureFire and some Streamlight models. ArmyTek are built in Canada.


Among the earliest to get upgraded to an LED module, the Maglite Mini AA LED is a nice reliable light for the money. It seems reasonably tough, in the old tradition of Maglites, and of course it takes the ubiquitous (and cheap) AA batteries. The high mode isn't terribly bright, but it works well for close quarters (as does the low mode). The user interface is very simple, just twist off and back on again to change. The only change I would make is to make low the first mode instead of high, but that's just my style.




Mini ML
Atom AL


Model Batteries Outputs Notes
Microstream 1×AAA 35 (2h 15m)
Stylus Pro 2×AAA 65 (6h 30m)
ProTac 2L 2×CR123 180 (2h 30m) 10 (50h) Modes: H - S - L


Model Batteries Outputs Notes
1910 1×AAA 72 (1h 45m) 14 (4h) Modes: H - L
1920 2×AAA 120 (2h 45m) 12 (9h 30m) Modes: H - L


Model Batteries Outputs Notes
LightStar 80 2×AAA 80 (5h) High CRI
LightStar 300 2×AA 300 (3h) 100 (24h) Modes: H - L • Turn off & back on to switch modes
LightStar TruColor 2×AA Modes: H - L • LightStar 300 with High CRI LED