A reliable, durable torch is an essential tool, whether it’s kept at home in the case of a power cut or kept on hand for nightly dog walks. A bright LED torch can bring a big sense of security for some people, so it’s worth getting one you can trust.
These modern torches tend to be brighter than traditional models. Plus, as they’re more energy efficient, they’re a very popular choice. LED torches are available in a range of sizes and offer lots of features that might suit you.
So, if you’re considering purchasing an LED torch but you’re not sure what to look out for, here are some things to consider:
Torch Brightness and Lumens
A torch’s brightness is usually measured in lumens, and LED bulbs tend to be very bright. In general, the higher the lumens, the brighter the torch and the more impressive its beam strength.
That said, some of the best torches use specially developed technology, such as the Ledlenser Professional LED Torch. This model only produces 450 max lumens yet incorporates ‘Smart Light Technology’ so its beam range reaches up to 420 m.
As you can see, lumens can be a helpful indicator of a torch’s potential, but they may not tell the whole story. It also depends what filters and technologies are involved. Therefore, don’t feel pressured to spend lots of money on a torch with a high lumen count, as reviews on other products might indicate cheaper models that are just as effective.
For everyday use, such as camping or searching for things in the shed, 450 lumens should suffice. Higher lumen torches are helpful if you live rurally, and some of the torches recommended on this page can deliver around 4000 lumens!
Some torches come with blinking, strobe and SOS modes which are handy for attracting attention in an emergency.
The higher the lumens and power output of the torch, the quicker the battery will drain. This will be an important factor depending on your intended usage – torches for long hikes will be different to torches for home use.
Batteries and Battery Life
Torches either come with built-in rechargeable batteries, removable rechargeable batteries or disposable batteries.
A rechargeable torches with a built-in battery can be very handy. Often, these are USB rechargeable torches meaning they can even be charged from the USB port in your car. A rechargeable torch will get rid of the necessity of needing to keep spare batteries around; however, the downside is the time required to recharge. Plus, with a USB rechargeable battery you may need to replace the entire torch if the battery fails.
Torches that use disposable batteries are generally the cheapest to buy, and the output is relatively even, up to when the batteries run out of juice. They usually have a good run time (although there’s always the risk someone will remove the batteries to use for another device!).
Buying disposable batteries can be expensive, and it’s not as an environmentally-friendly choice as using a rechargeable torch. Standard batteries often release chemicals when they are disposed of.
A rechargeable model could prove cost-effective in the long run, when you think of all the batteries you’d need to buy otherwise.
Some torches have an eco-mode which can prolong battery running time. When manufacturers advertise the maximum run time of their torches, the figures shown usually refer to the torch being used on its eco or lowest-power setting. Regardless, it’s a good reference to have.
The Importance of Durability and Weatherproofing
If you’re going to use your torch on camping or hiking trips, durability and weather resistance are key. Even for nightly dog walkers, sometimes you’ll be caught out in the rain, and you’ll need your torch to be resilient.
Remember that ‘resistant’ and ‘waterproof’ mean different things:
A torch that is resistant to water can withstand splashes and a short amount of time in light rain.
A fully waterproof torch can withstand being submerged in between 1 and 2m of water. It can be used in heavier downpours. If you’re camping outside in the UK summer (a season not known for its reliably dry weather…) you might benefit from having a waterproof torch. These do come with a higher price tag though.
The torch’s IP rating will indicate how waterproof it is – it’s worth running the IP rating through Google before purchasing a torch, to check exactly what type of weatherproofing you’ll be getting.
Here’s a guide to IP ratings:
IP ratings often have two numbers after the ‘IP’ – the first number indicates the product’s protection from solids and the second from liquids. Here I’m just going to show you liquids, as this is most relevant to LED torches. Here are the most used IP ratings and what they mean…
0 – Not protected
1 – Protected from dripping water
4 – Protected from splashing water
5 – Protected from water jets
7 – Protected from immersion of up to 1m
8 – Protected from immersion beyond 1m
Your torch should also be able to withstand the odd knock and bump. The more durable models will have an aluminium body.
Finding the Best Size and Weight for You
LED torches are available in a range of sizes and weights.
If you’re going to be carrying your torch in a backpack, you will want a small torch under 25 cm. Even 25 cm might be too big for some bags, but it’s certainly more likely to fit. You also might want to specifically choose a lightweight model. Some torches actually come with belt clips which can be great for camping and hiking; they’ll attach to your belt to be used hands-free. This should eliminate worries about the torch being cumbersome to carry.
If you’re keeping your torch at home in the event of a power cut, a powerful and larger model is a great option – it’s less likely to get misplaced and will come to the rescue in a whole host of scenarios!
Practicality and Usability
If you’re going to be using your torch with gloves on, or in wet conditions, there are a couple of things to look out for.
A larger power button will make the torch much easier to use. This is true of general use, but especially if you’re wearing gloves.
A button that is relatively large and pronounced will make your life a lot easier. It will make it easier to turn the torch on in the dark (because you can feel the switch), and more convenient to click through the different brightness settings.
Even many of the best torches require you to ‘scroll’ through the different light modes by repeatedly clicking the power button. It can take a while to find the mode you want, so I’d recommend getting used to how it works before you take it outside to use in the wilderness. You don’t want to be caught in an emergency where you’re fumbling about with the buttons.
Checking the type of grip that the torch has is also worthwhile. If you’ll be using it in rainy conditions, a rubber or textured shaft will make the torch less slippery and easier to use. A textured torch will also be less likely to roll off a surface and break.
Hands Free Torches and Head Torches
There are several situations in which being hands free with a torch can be useful.
- When using a torch in the great outdoors, it can be frustrating to have to hold onto it all the time. If you need your hands for something else, keeping hold of a torch can be very inconvenient. For this reason, you may want to consider either a head torch, or a torch with a belt or pocket clip.
- When camping, it’s useful to have a torch with a hanging loop that can attach to the top of the tent. A torch with a magnetic base can also come in handy when cooking or washing up, and can be attached to most metal surfaces.
- Even around the home, using a head torch can make many jobs easier. A head torch is often helpful when doing DIY, and it can also be useful when the power cuts out and you need to locate the candles in the under-stair cupboard!
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