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There are many situations where some extra light would come in handy, but it is not usually worth carrying a heavy-duty flashlight around just in case. If you are hiking on a dark trail, fiddling with the lock on your shed, or fixing a fuse during a blackout, you will thank yourself for keeping a keychain flashlight nearby.
Relying on your smartphone flashlight is fine until the light sucks up all your battery life, then you are left in the dark.
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A keychain flashlight is very compact and light, perfect to keep in a pocket or on a keyring. Even with some only being 1 oz in weight and a few inches in length, these high-end flashlights pack all the punch of their large-size big brothers. Thanks to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and advancements in LED engineering, you do not need to trade power for size or battery life.
Our Top Picks
The best keychain flashlights strike a balance between power, battery life, and size. Additionally, since these flashlights are designed for everyday carry, watch for extra features like clips or button locks.
Nitecore T4K Keychain Flashlight
Lumens: up to 4,000 | Battery: Rechargeable (USB-C) | Run time: up to 67 h
Keychain flashlights just do not come stronger than this one. Combining an incredible battery life with intense luminosity, this Nitecore T4K flashlight is the best choice if you need a powerful and compact lighting solution.
The T4K flashlight can emit up to 4,000 lumens of brightness when in “turbo” mode. Otherwise, it cycles through four levels of brightness much better suited for day-to-day use. These range from 1 lumen to 200 lumens. This keychain flashlight has a level for any situation, whether you need a low glow or a burst of sunlight. The beam is powerful too, reaching as far as 684 feet.
You control the keychain flashlight using just two buttons, guided by an OLED display. The buttons cycle through brightness levels, switch the light on and off, and activate turbo mode and the safety locks. On the display you get a readout telling you which level of brightness you are using, the estimated battery life remaining, and more. For easy carry, the flashlight has a sturdy belt clip as well as a quick-release clip to attach a keychain to.
Read our hands-on review: Nitecore T4K Flashlight Review
Fenix E03R Keychain Flashlight
Lumens: up to 260 | Battery: Rechargeable (USB-C) | Run time: up to 5h 30m
If you need a durable keychain flashlight to keep on hand for emergencies, this light is perfect for you. It is super compact, weighing less than 1 oz. – about the weight of a pencil. At the size of a USB stick, this keychain flashlight is effortless to carry in a pocket or in an emergency kit.
For the light itself, there are two LEDs. One emits white light, great for cutting through the dark, and at 260 lumens it will do just that. The other LED emits red light at 5 lumens, best suited for use in enclosed spaces where bright, white light could blind you. The red LED also has a flashing mode to use as a signal in emergencies.
To cap it off, the Fenix E03R flashlight has an aircraft-grade aluminum casing for extra toughness. It is also impact resistant and waterproof, making it a dependable source of light during power outages, floods, and more.
OLIGHT i1R 2 EOS Keychain Flashlight
Lumens: up to 150 | Battery: Rechargeable (micro-USB) | Run time: up to 6h
This is the most compact keychain flashlight we could find. It is under 2 inches on its longest edge, and it weighs less than half an ounce (0.46 oz.). If you want an ultra-portable flashlight, this one is for you.
Just because it is tiny, do not assume this flashlight is not powerful. It has a basic 5 lumen mode—activated with a twist—but if you twist the flashlight further you go up to the 150 lumen mode. The battery is also quite robust, charging in just 75 minutes when plugged in. You get a lot of light for only a little more than an hour of charging.
The OLIGHT i1R 2 EOS flashlight is durable too. Its casing is aluminum alloy, so it can brush off any bumps or scrapes without damaging any of the electronics. It is also waterproof to 2 m, so if you want a keychain flashlight for outdoor use or for emergencies, this one is an excellent choice.
Nitecore TUP Keychain Flashlight
Lumens: up to 1,000 | Battery: Rechargeable (micro-USB) | Run time: up to 70h
When you need a reliable keychain flashlight that will last for days on a single charge, look to this flashlight. It holds just under three days of battery life, and you always know just how long you have left thanks to the OLED display. This gives you info on the remaining runtime, the battery charge, and which brightness mode you are using.
There are five brightness modes, ranging from an “ultralow” 1 lumen to “turbo” at 1,000 lumens. In between are a selection of brightness levels perfect for casual use. For emergencies, or just quick access, with one button hold you can jump straight to either ultralow or turbo mode.
Weighing in at just under 2 oz., the Nitecore TUP keychain flashlight is very compact. On its side is a heavy-duty belt clip, which also works perfectly on your pocket, hat brim, or bag strap for hands-free use. The flashlight includes “lockout modes” to prevent it from getting bumped in your pocket and accidentally turning on, which helps you save battery.
SureFire Titan Ultra-Compact Keychain Flashlight
Lumens: up to 300 | Battery: Rechargeable AAA or alkaline AAA | Run time: up to 7h
This keychain flashlight is an excellent balance of battery life, brightness, and compactness. You get the best of all worlds with this flashlight. At the size of a laser pointer, you can take this flashlight on the go without it weighing you down.
There are three brightness levels: 15, 75, and 300 lumens, one for every scenario. The brightest at 300 lumens is more than enough for most outdoor use, but without blinding passersby. You also get a very even beam without dark patches, and it is wide enough to illuminate your whole field of view. For power, you can use rechargeable or disposable AAA batteries depending on how often you use the flashlight.
The casing of the SureFire Titan keychain flashlight is nickel-plated brass, making it incredibly durable as well as good looking. For rough conditions, the flashlight is weather resistant to keep out rain or water. To control the light, you just twist the body, preventing accidents where the flashlight clicks on in your backpack and drains the battery before you can even use it.
What To Know Before Buying a Keychain Flashlight
Consider these key features when shopping for a keychain flashlight.
Luminosity is measured in Lumens (lm), which represents how much light the human eye receives. You can compare the brightness of a given light source by comparing the lumen output. Flashlight brightness uses lumens, so the more lumens a keychain flashlight puts out, the brighter the beam is.
A typical smartphone flashlight only has an output of 10 to 20 lm. You can get specialized smartphones with flashlights that produce up to 100 lm. Compare that to an average nightstand lamp which produces around 200 lm, the brightness where you could comfortably read a book.
The LEDs in a keychain flashlight work with a reflector to create the focused beam of light you need to illuminate your surroundings. The reflector is a cone of reflective metal or plastic that surrounds the LEDs, directing any extra light forward into the beam.
If you look at a flashlight with the power off, you can spot the reflector: it will either look smooth or be textured with pockmarks, like reptile skin. The smooth version gives a narrow, bright beam of light. The textured reflectors create a wider beam at a shorter distance. For keychain flashlights, a textured reflector is usually the better choice, as a broad beam is handier for typical keychain flashlight uses than a long beam.
Batteries (Rechargeable or Disposable)
You will see keychain flashlights using one of two power sources: rechargeable batteries and disposable batteries.
If you plan to use your keychain flashlight frequently, rechargeable batteries are a good investment. This way you avoid shelling out money to keep replacing the battery. Keychain flashlights use lithium-ion batteries, which are long-lasting and energy efficient. They also never rupture like disposable batteries sometimes do.
Different flashlights recharge in different ways, but the most popular options are:
- USB charging – the flashlight plugs into your computer using a cable
- Designated charger – the flashlight comes with a charging station the flashlight clicks into
- Wall outlet – the flashlight connects to an outlet using a cable and recharges quickly
For a keychain flashlight you only need on-hand for emergencies, disposable batteries are a reasonable option. These flashlights often cost less up front and are an all-around cheaper option if you do not use the flashlight enough that the batteries need constant replacement. Be careful of alkaline disposable batteries: they can rupture and leak if they overheat, causing damage from the internal chemicals. Try and use lithium disposable batteries for your flashlight, which work better if you are storing the flashlight with batteries inside, such as in an emergency kit.
The furthest distance the beam of light from your keychain flashlight travels is the “beam throw,” measured from the end of the flashlight to the end of the beam. You will usually see this measured in feet. With a narrow flashlight head, a smooth reflector, and high lumen output LEDs, you can increase the beam throw by concentrating the light in a narrow beam. This way you get better visibility of whatever you aim the keychain flashlight at, even at long distances, but you trade off surrounding visibility for focused visibility.
There are two beam types: spot beam and floodlight beam.
A spot beam is narrow and bright. It lights up a small area and is effective even at long distances. This beam type works great for illuminating a path in front of you.
A floodlight beam is wide and spreads out the brightness more. It covers a larger area in a cone shape. This beam type is best for doing precise work in the dark, like fixing your car or handyman crafts.
Upgrading from your smartphone flashlight to a keychain flashlight means you benefit from improved durability. Keychain flashlights are available with many types of casing and construction options. These range from basic plastic to aircraft-grade anodized aluminum, the latter being known for its lightness and toughness. Other options include steel, copper, brass, and different types of plastic—metal casings are almost always more expensive than plastic ones, but are more resilient too.
Also watch for water-resistance in a keychain flashlight. Aside from basic accidents, having a flashlight you can use in any emergency is important. Flooding and thunderstorms can cause power outages, and if you need to make a repair, you cannot have your keychain flashlight dying on you from getting wet. Look for a waterproof or water-resistant keychain flashlight to be better prepared for such a situation.
Size and Weight
You want a balance in your keychain flashlight. The casing and design should give you a compact, lightweight flashlight for easy carrying, but they also need to keep the flashlight in one piece if you drop it. You also want a size that fits as comfortably in the palm of your hand as on your belt or keychain.
Compare durability with weight and find a good middle ground. Some flashlights will have a drop rating: at least 3 feet is a reasonable standard.
Modern flashlights have more than an on/off switch. Some keychain flashlights will include several modes that give you a selection of brightnesses. You can also conserve battery life this way by switching to a dimmer mode when you can get away with it. Fixing your car at night will need lots of light, but you could switch modes when you are just unlocking your front door.