A small flashlight is a valuable piece of equipment for the ultralight backpacker. It will allow night hiking (that's the voluntary kind, and the "it's-only-another-mile-or-two-to-the-next-shelter" kind).
Setting up camp, and leaving early in the morning are also possible, even without the aid of a full moon.

Not unlike the backpacks, the flashlight itself serves only as a container: It is there to store the batteries & bulb, provide some sort of on-off switching mechanism, and sometimes: a reflector for the bulb, flood capability, head or clip attachments.

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 What Size Battery?

For all practical purposes, we recommend a flashlight using at least size AAA batteries. There are many different battery sizes and types available, and therefore a whole page is dedicated to batteries. For further information on batteries Click.

To summarise the whole battery debate in one sentence:
Use lithium batteries; they're more expensive but last a lot longer and are lighter, and have a longer shelf life!
....well, okay, make that two sentences:
Try and use only one size battery for all your power equipment.

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 How Heavy?

As with all ultralight equipment the motto is: the lighter – the better. Luckily for us, the LED flashlights have become better and better (and more affordable).

The LED type lights are now the recommended ULTRALIGHT flashlight.

They offer good light output and available in many different styles (such as headlights), and with multiple LEDs, sometimes as many as 10 and more.
The 'bulbs' (LED) lasts a VERY long time, and power consumption is very little!!

Our motto: A flashlight should not be heavier than the batteries it holds!
This theory will eliminate the all-so-popular Mini-Maglite: The 2 x AA Mini Maglite weighs 59.3 grams (2.09 ounces), and has a 2 x AA (or UM3) battery capacity. The AA lithium batteries weigh approximately 13.5 grams each so 2 x 13.5 grams equals 26 grams. The flashlight (the container) weighs double the batteries! For a graph showing this, Click.
Of course the Mini Maglight is extremely robust (you can literally run it over with a car). But as a ultralight piece of equipment it doesn't score the highest points. Not at least because of the relatively short bulb life. See next chapter: bulbs.

A special purpose light like the Petzl Micro Headlight is a good alternative to the handheld lights; the problem with these headlights is that although excellent for setting up camp, there is argument that for night hiking it is advisable to have the light source as close to the ground as possible so as to throw shadows, and reducing the risk of tripping over stones and branches, etc.

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 The different Bulbs

 The Bulbs










 The best choice at the moment. VERY light, and uses very little power. Available in many colours, including white.  The most basic of bulbs. Cheap & good. Low power consumption.  Our favourite. The bulb acts also as reflector. Ideal for a pen light. Makes the flashlight small, because no need for a bulky reflector.  Super bright bulb. Uses quite a bit of power though.  The halogen bulb shown here is for the Maglite. Others are available also. Normally has a 'shorter' bulb life.

What ever your choice of flashlight, make sure to take spare bulbs along your trip (not necessary with LED lights). First check to see which type and what size of bulb you need. Be careful when buying the bulbs. The choice is huge!
Bulbs are rated with two main numbers: voltage and amperes.

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 Volts & Amps

  • Voltage - The voltage is determined by the amount and type of batteries your flashlight uses. Keep in mind that the nominal voltage for the bulb is usually slightly lower than the actual nominal battery voltage: take a two AA battery flashlight; 2 x 1.5V = 3V nominal battery voltage, the correct bulb will probably be stamped with 2.2V. This is excellent, because it takes into account that the battery voltage will drop below the nominal voltage as it is drained. If you use a bulb with a much lower voltage rating than your battery voltage is, you will blow the bulb up. If you use a bulb with a much higher voltage rating than your battery voltage is, you will not get enough light from the bulb.
    Rechargeable batteries have a lower voltage than non-rechargeables. Your 1.5V non-rechargeables are only 1.2V or 1.25V in the rechargeable version. Your size 9V non-rechargeables are only 8.4V in the rechargeable version. You should take this into account when fitting a flashlight with rechargeable batteries. Taking the example from before - take a two AA rechargeable battery flashlight; 2 x 1.2V = 2.4V nominal battery voltage, the correct bulb will be stamped with about 2.0V.
    Special Note for Maglites: The 2 x AA Mini Maglight and 1 x AAA Solitaire and 2 x AAA Maglites have their own unique bulbs, which are really only compatible with 1.5 V batteries. Mag Instruments (the manufacturer) does not recommend the use of rechargeables.
  • Ampere - The ampere (or amps, or 1/1000 of an amp = 1 mA) will determine how bright the bulb is. You could say it's the power of the bulb when combining the amps with the voltage. Keep in mind that the higher the amps the faster the battery drains. Flashlight manufactures normally take this into account when choosing the bulb for their flashlight. You don't want a super bright bulb, if the light dies after only 30 minutes! A slightly less bright bulb that lasts 4 hours would be a better choice.
    Special Note for Petzl Micro Headlamp: The optional halogen bulb is really not recommended for 'permanent installation' since the batteries just don't last long enough.

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 Some choices....




Quick Rating:

Maglite Solitaire®, no lanyard

1 x AAA

12.4 g
0.44 oz

Rayovac Pen Light (2.3 g metal clip removed)

2 x AAA

8.0 g
0.28 oz

Mini Maglite®

2 x AA

59.3 g
2.09 oz

Kriana Krill 180 Xtreme®

2 x AA

25.9 g
0.91 oz

Kilite® LED

2 x LR44

19.2 g
0.68 oz

GE Navigator®

2 x AA

71.8 g
2.53 oz

Headlight Petzl Micro

2 x AA

90.3 g
3.19 oz

Headlight (Wal-Mart at $7.00)

4 x AA

139.2 g
4.91 oz

Brinkman MaxMillion®   Spec. 6V  1590 g
56.0 oz

Click on image to see all above items in more detail:

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Last updated: 4 September 2003