Everything you need to know about a flashlight.

Including where they came from, how they have evolved over time, the different power options available and the things to consider when purchasing a flashlight, So what is a flashlight.

what is a flashlight

Humble Beginnings

Light has been used to guide us since early man with the primitive use of a naked flame on a tree branch, many thousand’s of years later this developed into the use of gas lantern’s that use a flammable liquid to keep the lantern alight, but in the year 1899 the modern torch or flashlight as we know it was invented, by David Misell an English inventor who used three D batteries in the handle to power a single incandescent light bulb with a simple on/off switch.

Since that we have seen massive leaps forward the greatest being the use of an LED (light Emitting Diode) and the use of lithium ion batteries which can generate and store a lot more power that a standard acid battery.


flashlight patern



The Evolution Of The Modern Day Torch Or Flashlight

Since the invention of the first flashlight in the year 1899, we have seen many updates and improvements to its design, the first evolution of the modern day torch was just as simple as a row of dry cell batteries in it handle and a small dull filament bulb controlled by a simple on/off switch never the less this item was massively popular and in 1922 had sold over 10 million units in America alone, this simple flashlight design was used extensively in both the first and 2nd world war,

a few decades later in the late 1970 early 1980 the world-famous Mag-lite hit the shelves and has kept a large share of the market ever since although the original Mag-Lite was not really that much of an improvement over its predecessors it managed to generate a huge following and has developed with time.

The first LED flashlight was designed in 2001 and released shortly after the introduction of LED flashlights was not really a massive success at first, but when the use of better batteries and rechargeable batteries where used together with the LED’s they changed hand held flashlights and torches forever giving a massive improvement over filament bulbs and normal dry cell batteries.





Power Source Options

Modern LED flashlight most common power options:-

  • The 18650, 3.7V Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Single use AA or AAA batteries
  • Built in rechargeable battery
  • Hand winding power source with a small power storage unit


There are advantages and disadvantages to all these options and I will go through them now.

The 18650 3.7V rechargeable battery

For me I personally find this option best the battery options are vast and can offer the user many benefits, with Li-ion the battery will give it’s all until it needs recharging so you will get very little drop down in light output until the battery is almost complete spent, this I find very useful and as long as you have a spare on change or at hand it’s no problem,

the downside’s being you will need a specific battery charger if you can not charge the battery inside the torch which is sometimes built in, also this type of battery will not hold it full charge forever so be aware that if a fully charged Li-ion battery is left for a period it will slower drain down to nothing.


Single use AA or AAA batteries

This can be the simplest option for your LED flashlight or torch the batteries are readily available and can be purchased in many shops, if you plan on keeping a torch in case of a power outage or emergency this can work out fine, the disadvantage being this battery will need to be disposed of after use and they are expensive to buy if you intend on using the flashlight over and over again.

Built in rechargeable batteries

This option has the benefits of a Li-ion battery but more downsides because you can’t just replace the battery with a charged one when it is flat, as with all rechargeable batteries it will go flat after a period and also when the battery is no longer rechargeable which will happen with all rechargeable batteries you will need to throw the battery and the torch out because it’s a single sealed unit.

Hand winding powered batteries

This option is great for a power outage or emergency’s as you don’t have to worry about the battery being flat, you just wind the handle and charge the battery by hand and this will power the flashlight / torch, the problem being this will only hold charge for a short time before you will need to recharge the unit again.


Brightness Factors

LED flashlights will in most cases be advertised or display a Lumen number to represent the amount of light output they can generate this is like most things advertised the perfect lab conditions scenario so yes it does serve a purpose but it’s the best case scenario, to put Lumens to scale I have created a simple scale below so you can understand the power they can generate,


  • a standard non halogen household 25 watt bulb = 220 + lumens
  • a standard non halogen household 40 watt bulb = 400 + lumens (this is a typical household bulb)
  • a standard non halogen household 60 watt bulb = 700 + lumens
  • So imagine having that brightness of a household bulb in your hand that you can point and focus on an object in the dark.

>>Check out my post on the lumen scale compared to known light sources<<

Things To Consider

Other things that you need to consider if you are thinking of buying a new torch are:-

If you need a waterproof flashlight for outdoor use or even underwater use,

If you will need the flashlight to have the ability to focus in and out,

if you have a need for different lighting options i, e flashing, dimmable and SOS mode


So now you know how the flashlight has evolved and where it came from, you know the main battery options available and their advantages and disadvantages, a rough understanding about the lumen scale and other things to consider when looking to buy a flashlight.

so to conclusion  if you are looking to purchase a flashlight you need to know the task you are buying the item for, how often you are going to be using it and where you are going to be using it, after you have done this you will be able to make the right decision on which product to choose.



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