A firefighter needs equipment that can withstand the demands of the job. They need tools that can be depended on. There are a huge number of choices when it comes to firefighter flashlights, but which flashlights can a firefighter rely on when it matters?
The 10 best firefighter flashlight choices are:
- Streamlight 90540 Survivor LED Right Angle Flashlight
- Streamlight 44450 Fire Vulcan LED Standard System Flashlight with AC/DC Charger
- Streamlight 88850 PolyTac LED Flashlight with Lithium Batteries
- Streamlight 88854 PolyTac LED Helmet Lightning Kit
- Nightstick NSP-4650B Helmet Light
- Streamlight Knucklehead Work Light
- Streamlight Survivor Rechargeable 90509 Flashlight
- Streamlight Vantage 180 X
- Nightstick XPP-5422 G
- Nightstick FDL-300R-K01 Helmet Light Kit
A firefighter’s flashlight is one of the most important tools of the job. Contrary to TV shows, most fires are fought in low visibility smoky environments – lighting is essential to getting things done. So, let’s take a look at what a firefighter’s flashlight is, how they work, why they are needed, our top 10 choices and then how to choose a flashlight that works for you.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
What Is Different About A Firefighter’s Flashlight?
It’s important to note that a regular flashlight won’t do the job for a firefighter. A firefighter’s flashlight typically commands a high price premium, but that’s because it has to be designed to take a crazy amount of punishment on the job.
The flashlight can’t break when it’s dropped or bashes into something while you’re fighting fires. They can’t overheat and explode either (which is what could happen to the batteries in a household flashlight). They need to be waterproof because well, fires get put out with water.
All this means is that a firefighter’s flashlight has to be as tough as your average firefighter is. In addition to the ruggedness of the firefighter’s models, they are also brighter and often have a few more functions when compared to a household flashlight.
A firefighter’s flashlight is, in fact, an investment in a firefighter’s safety and wellbeing and their ability to do the job. They might seem expensive at first glance but if you buy the right one, it might just save your life later on down the line.
The 10 Best Firefighter Flashlights
So, let’s take a look at our top 10 firefighter flashlights.
A classic handheld right angle flashlight that was built for hazardous work. It’s our top pick and it won’t break the bank.
What we like: It’s very easy to use with gloves. You have a wide choice of beam modes including an ultra-intensity beam that cuts through smoke like a knife through butter. It’s also among the lower cost models out there.
What we don’t like: We’ve had no problems with this light but it appears some customers have and they’ve not been happy about the support from Streamlight on their 2-year warranty.
You can find the Streamlight 90540 Survivor LED Right Angle Flashlight on Amazon.
A solidly built and almost unassuming flashlight, the Vulcan model is excellent.
What we like: One of the highest levels of beam intensity on the market. It’s very rugged and it won’t break easily. It also offers a solid level of brightness. The 8 operations modes are very easy to scroll through even when working in gloves. It’s also ultra lightweight when compared to many other flashlights.
What we don’t like: The non-standard batteries mean that you have to ensure you always have spares on hand.
You can find the Streamlight 44450 Fire Vulcan LED Standard System Flashlight with AC/DC Charger on Amazon.
A very stylish and traditional flashlight that really delivers the goods.
What we like: You’ll never break the bulb in this flashlight because there isn’t one – LED is always a better idea. LED lasts much longer than traditional bulbs too. The waterproofing is superb and so is the durability of the construction – you’ll have a hard time breaking the rest of the body too. The tail cap switch makes operating it easy.
What we don’t like: Some reviewers have said that their Streamlight PolyTac lights have “just stopped working”, we couldn’t replicate this but we’d suggest buying from Amazon for an enforceable warranty.
You can find the Streamlight 88850 PolyTac LED Flashlight with Lithium Batteries, Black on Amazon.
A no fuss helmet kit which comes from our favorite manufacturer, what could go wrong?
What we like: A 50,000 hour lifetime with 275 lumens of LED light is nothing to be sneezed at. It’s an excellent flashlight to use and the controls are very responsive. The bright yellow exterior makes it much easier to find when dropped than some other flashlights. It clips on to the helmet easily with “no tools required” and it stays there too.
What we don’t like: It’s another specialist battery and that means you won’t find any spares in the fire station, bring your own.
You can find the Streamlight 88854 PolyTac LED Helmet Lightning Kit on Amazon.
One of the better helmet light kits out there and it’s also very reasonably priced.
What we like: An extra bright flashlight with a 220 lumens output. The floodlight’s 45 degree angle also pushes through an impressive 100 lumens on the periphery. The inclusion of a 15 lumens survival mode is a nice touch and the fact that it works with pretty much every helmet design on earth out of the box is good.
What we don’t like: The need for an Allen key/wrench to attach it with is a pain.
You can find the Nightstick NSP-4650B Helmet Light, Black on Amazon.
The Knucklehead is best in class, but it comes with a price tag to match the service provided.
What we like: The unbreakable lens system and LED light which shock resistant and guaranteed to last 50,000 hours. The single parabolic reflector set up offers the tightest long range beam setting of any flashlight we tested.
What we don’t like: The price tag. There’s no getting around it, this light is a substantial investment and you should make sure you really need it before you buy it.
You can find the Streamlight Knucklehead Work Light With Charger on Amazon.
This is the more expensive, rechargeable version of the #1 pick. It has a wider range of charging options means that you can have more control over when this flashlight is ready to run.
What we like: The dual power source system makes certain you should never run out of power. The super bright beam mode makes it really easy to work in smoky environments and the 13 hours battery life at 60 lumens makes the “low brightness” mode one of the best ever.
What we don’t like: This light is on the pricier side of the market but with an amazing number of 5-star reviews, it’s worth it.
You can find the Streamlight Survivor Rechargeable 90509 Flashlight on Amazon.
An attractive and highly versatile flashlight with serious functionality.
What we like: The design is chemically resistant and for certain fires that can be a real blessing. The steel clip makes it super easy to attach this to your gear whenever you need to. It’s got one of the best levels of waterproofing of any model that we’ve tested too, it even has a handy turnout gear attachment hook.
What we don’t like: We found that this light was particularly awkward to operate when wearing gloves.
You can find the Streamlight Vantage 180 X on Amazon.
You won’t lose this bright yellow dual angle light.
What we like: The parabolic reflector system makes for a super bright flashlight beam that really penetrates at long distances. You can run both the floodlight and the flashlight at the same time, though at the price of draining the battery faster. The dual body switches are a nice touch too.
What we don’t like: We also struggled to operate the buttons on this light while wearing gloves which is a shame because otherwise, this would be one of our top picks.
You can find the Nightstick XPP-5422G on Amazon.
Last but not least, this tactical helmet light kit comes in a distinct orange hue.
What we like: Safe and rugged. Comes with good quality lithium-ion batteries. It’s very lightweight. The multi-angle helmet mount works well but it does mean you can’t swap it around easily between helmets.
What we don’t like: We’ve found that if you screw this light on too tight then when things get really hot, it switches off. Yet, it functions fine if the screw is a bit looser. It’s frustrating but not insurmountable.
You can find the Nightstick FDL-300R-K01 Helmet Light Kit on Amazon.
Best Flashlight In Smoke
Our top pick makes a re-emergence for the best flashlight in smoke. It’s the most important thing in a firefighter’s flashlight and the ultra-intensity beam is a real winner for us. So again, we’d choose the:
You can find the Streamlight 90540 Survivor LED Right Angle Flashlight on Amazon.
How Does A Firefighter’s Flashlight Work?
In many respects, your firefighter’s flashlight operates in the same way as a household flashlight. They are battery operated to generate a power source for a bulb that needs power to light up. The majority of differences are in the build quality but there are a couple of other differences:
- The bulb quality is much higher. Not only will they produce a lot more light than a household flashlight (typically a household flashlight might reach 25 lumens of brightness, whereas a firefighter’s model will easily do 160 lumens) but they are designed to last longer and be much more resistant to impact damage.
- The batteries are shielded. This stops them from exploding when the firefighter is subjected to intense heat.
Why Do Firefighter’s Need A Flashlight?
OK, now we’ve got a basic understanding of what a firefighter’s flashlight is and how it differs from an ordinary flashlight, we ought to look at why it’s needed. So, these are the basic reasons:
- Smoke. Where there is fire, there is smoke. In smoky conditions, visibility can be next to nothing. This is the main reason why a good firefighter flashlight that can cut through the smoke and give you some visibility is so important.
- Fires can burn for hours. You need a flashlight that you can rely on for the same length of time. A household flashlight would quickly lose charge or the bulb would disintegrate. That can’t happen if you want to ensure that the fire doesn’t spread.
- The aftermath of a fire is often very dark. Fight a fire at night and when the fire is out – the place is likely to be very dark. There will often be no electricity. The wreckage is likely to be full of hazards that you need to be able to see to avoid.
- They can help you keep your concentration. A flashlight provides a tightly directed beam of light, this can help focus a firefighter’s attention on a specific task or in a specific direction. This is particularly useful if you’re on a search and rescue mission. A firefighter’s flashlight may have a “zoom” function that makes this even easier.
- You can use them to signal for help. This is really important; a firefighter’s job is both dangerous and hard and there may come a moment when something falls on your or you injure yourself and are unable to free yourself. At this point, your flashlight is an essential tool for attracting the attention of fellow crew members so that they can come to your aid. Most firefighter’s flashlights will come with a built-in SOS function to make this really easy.
What To Consider When Choosing A Firefighter Flashlight
There are some significant criteria that you will want to consider when you go out to buy a firefighter’s flashlight and it’s worth being clear about exactly what you want before you spend any money. So, let’s take a look at each of them.
Size And Weight
This should be obvious but you want a flashlight that won’t add even more to the heavy gear you need to carry – that means it can’t be too large or heavy. However, it must also fit in your hands when you’re on the scene otherwise, it’s a bit pointless.
This means you should experiment with a few different sized models before you go out and buy a firefighter flashlight – otherwise, you risk getting the wrong size.
When it comes to choosing a firefighter flashlight for your helmet – make sure you aim for something as small and lightweight as you can, as long as it produces enough light and you can use it easily (as the controls are accessible and easy to touch in gloves).
Shape Of The Beam
There are different options when it comes the shape of the beam on a firefighter flashlight. You can find adjustable, wide, spotlight, narrow beams and even hybrid choices. If you opt for an adjustable beam, you’ll probably find that you set it prior to arriving on scene and then use the same choice over and over again.
That can mean it’s better to choose the kind of beam that you value the most in the first place. A hybrid beam offers a strong spotlight with a wider more diffuse beam around it – this can be very useful if you want to be able to see something in a very specific direction without losing the benefit of your peripheral vision.
You may need to experiment a little to find the right beam color. Blue light has a stronger, brighter tone than white light but it is subject to being scattered in smoke or fog – that means it can make the smoke brighter and instead of helping you see – it can make it nearly impossible to do your job.
So, you may well find that white or even amber light is more conducive to your work.
Light output, as we touched on earlier, is measured in lumens. A firefighter’s flashlight should be a minimum of 160 lumens of output. This is one of the key differences between a firefighter’s equipment and the household flashlight. This strength of light lets you cut through the darkness anywhere.
Peak Beam Intensity
This can be quite confusing at first – the peak beam intensity is NOT the same as light output. In fact, it’s not measured in lumens but rather in candelas. You should be able to adjust the beam intensity on your chose product but at a minimum, the maximum beam setting should offer 16,000 candelas.
How Does It Mount On Your Gear
If you intend to mount the flashlight on your firefighter’s gear, then you ought to make sure that it will before you purchase it. Some have bands or clips that are designed to make this process as painless as possible – it’s not always an essential option, but it might be. You may even find that there are magnetic attachment settings.
How Is It Powered
All flashlights, even ones used by firefighters, are battery-powered, but what kind of batteries? Rechargeable batteries may be nicely environmentally sensitive but what do you do if you don’t have time to charge them between one call and the next?
At the same time, disposable batteries can start to feel criminally wasteful if you’re dumping handfuls of them in the trash each week. The cost also adds up quickly with disposable batteries.
While this is definitely a choice for the individual firefighter, you might want to opt for “dual-fuel” which is a system that allows you to use both rechargeable and disposable batteries. That way you can swap them out if you have to and reap the benefits of both systems.
You want to look at how long your flashlight can sustain a 100-lumen brightness before the battery goes from 100% to 10% charged. You should be able to get 2-3 hours of life out of a modern flashlight with a high-capacity battery pack. If you can’t get that out of a flashlight, it’s probably not suited to firefighting.
How Well It Works When You’re Wearing Gloves
You’re going to be operating your flashlight, in many instances, with thick structure fire gloves on. You want buttons that are easy to differentiate between and easy to operate in those gloves.
The same goes for any adjustable mounts or directional head attributes. You want to be able to reach out and make adjustments without losing sight of what you’re doing and any potential dangers.
This seems moot but while most flashlights designed for firefighters have some level of waterproofing, they can vary in just how much protection they provide. We’d recommend that they meet the IPX7 standard as this will mean it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for at least half an hour and still work afterward.
Your flashlight must be shockproof and should be able to sustain falls of at least 3 feet (and ideally 6 feet – a fall from a helmet is going to be more than one meter). You don’t want to be replacing your flashlight every other shift.
One thing that you’ll quickly learn is that this isn’t a cheap piece of equipment. If your budget is really tight, you might be able to get away with a $50 model for a short while until you can replace the flashlight, but really $100 is the minimum to spend and many firefighters can spend up to $200.
Take a good look at the model you want to buy, make sure it has all the features you want but don’t pay for things that you don’t need. The perfect flashlight for you is quite possibly not the perfect flashlight for us.
You want to spend enough that you get the right level of support from your flashlight but you don’t need to throw money away, either.
We hope that our 10 best firefighter flashlight choices have been helpful for you in selecting the right flashlight for your needs. Most firefighters will own at least two flashlights and they will change them in and out over the course of their careers as their needs change.
There is no perfect firefighter flashlight, just the perfect firefighter flashlight for you.