All around performance and a compact design embody the spirit of everyday carry.
Some keychain flashlights feel unsubstantial in hand: too light, too small, too limited in scope. That’s not the case with the MecArmy illumineX-3, a small but well-built flashlight with enough features to make it our favorite choice, hands-down.
MecArmy calls its illumineX-3 the world’s smallest rechargeable flashlight, and we couldn’t find a (decent) product out there to suggest otherwise. The recharging feature is top-notch: twist off the top casing to find the mini USB port, where you can recharge the 10180 lithium battery in an hour.
The body is solid brass, and at 22.4 grams, it’s hefty enough to feel like you’ve got something of substance on you, but it’s also much lighter than some of the other flashlights we tested. The brass develops a beautiful aged patina with use, and one of the things we love about the illumineX-3 is the way it wears scratches and dings from daily use.
Light performance is stellar. Two settings offer a good mix of high (130 lumens) and low (8 lumens) output, and a max beam of nearly 60 meters makes it more than capable of handling the average user’s needs.
More than anything, the illumineX-3 is ideal for everyday carry: there are larger flashlights out there, but gram-for-gram it’s hard to beat this light’s convenience and light power.
With solid impact resistance and waterproof ratings, the MecArmy illumineX-3 is well-designed and built to handle everyday needs, no matter how punishing those are.
- Size: 1.7″ length, .5″ diameter
- Weight: 22.4 grams with battery
- Output: 130 lumens (high), 8 lumens (low)
Olight S Mini Baton
A heavy hitter with power and features best for those who need it often.
The Olight S Mini Baton is a beast of a EDC light. At nearly 65 grams, it’s three times heavier than the MecArmy light above, but that added weight comes with 550 lumens, far and away the highest output of any light we tested.
And for those who need that much power, the weight of the Mini Baton is no issue. It’s still compact, and an adjustable clip makes it easy to keep on a belt or a keychain. Multiple light settings give you the ideal distance and beam you need, and a strobe setting comes in handy for emergency situations.
We dig the Mini Baton’s gradual on-off feature: when you turn the light on and off, the light fades in and out instead of coming directly to full power. This might seem like a small detail, but when you’re outside at night, a full-powered beam from out of nowhere – even with a small flashlight – can be off-putting.
This thing is built to go through hell: of all the flashlights we tested, it has the most durable exterior, and the stainless steel’s PVD processing makes it incredibly scratch- and corrosion-resistant.
It’s powered by a CR123A battery, and the only drawback we found to such a high-powered keychain light is that it tends to get warm after being used on high. We’re okay with it, but for that reason, we recommend it for power users who need the high output.
- Size: 2.5″ length, .83″ diameter
- Weight: 64.9 grams with battery
- Output: 550 lumens (high), 60 lumens (med), 12 lumens (low), .5 lumens (super low)
Quick and easy convenience with a higher price tag.
The SureFire Sidekick is perfect for those who value practicality over aesthetics – it’s not the prettiest of the lights we tested, but it offers superb reliability and performance day in and out.
Unlike most lights we tested, the Sidekick is made of a durable polymer that holds up just as well as stainless steel and other harder materials. It’s weather resistant and resembles the bulkier key fobs offered by some carmakers.
If you’re looking for something minimalistic, this isn’t the light for you. Its unique body shape makes it feel lighter than it really is, but it does take up more space than most keychain lights. With 300 lumens output, however, this can be a welcome tradeoff, especially for parents and professionals who want good performance but without the heft of the Olight S Mini Baton.
The light settings are standard, but what makes the Sidekick worth the price is the convenience (rechargeable) and high-quality LED beam. It’s easy on the eyes, but offers a wide beam range and high output to make your surroundings as bright as you need.
The Sidekick’s aluminum core gives it a sturdy foundation, so if you’re more concerned about reliable performance and less about looks, the Sidekick is more than sufficient.
- Size: 2.5″ length, .58″ diameter
- Weight: 40.6 grams
- Output: 300 lumens (high), 60 lumens (med), 5 lumens (low)
Best AAA Option
Maratac Copper Nichia 219
Hand-finished copper and a sleek profile make this our go-to AAA-powered flashlight.
We first came across the Maratac Copper Nichia 219 over at HiConsumption, who recommended it because it’s not just copper-plated – it’s completely copper.
Sure, the Copper Nichia 219 looks nice, but it’s even more impressive in person. And don’t let the fact that it’s AAA battery-powered stop you from investing in this light: it’s sleek, convenient and at 39.8 grams, still weighs less than most of the lights we tested.
The pure alloy copper body has a beautiful profile, and unwrapping its foil packaging, you can see the detailing and shine of the company’s hand-finishing process. To put it plainly, this thing is a work of art.
But it’s also more than that: it’s a powerful light that offers solid output (138 lumens on high), but where the Copper Nichia 219 excels is construction and reliability. The parts are high-quality, from the 50,000+ hour LED light to the polished aluminum orange peel reflector.
The textured grip of the body and comfortable size of the flashlight makes it an ideal keychain option, but it’d work well for the car, house or anywhere else you need reliable illumination.
You might buy the Copper Nichia 219 for its good looks, but you’ll keep it around because of its craftsmanship and attention to detail.
- Size: 2.6″ length, .5″ diameter
- Weight: 39.8 grams with AAA battery
- Output: 138 lumens (high), 40 lumens (med), 1.5 lumens (low)
Best Minimalist Option
KeySmart Nano Torch
Mastering the “less is more” approach with stainless steel simplicity.
In 2013, a Kickstarter campaign for a lightweight key holder – KeySmart – raised more than $300,000. The company was able to turn one product into a suite of helpful everyday goods, and today they offer the Nano Torch for those who want to keep their flashlight weight to a minimum.
This bullet of a light clocks in at just over 10 grams, yet offers stable construction and reliable lighting. The stainless steel body is simple, and its twist-motion use is just as effortless. The Nano Torch’s petite size sacrifices power, with just 25 lumens, but in our testing, that was still plenty to light up most areas around the house, car, woods and back alleys.
If overall weight and size are your main concerns, the Nano Torch holds its own. We assumed that such a small light would feel cheap, but its build is surprisingly solid. Depending on the size of your keychain, it’s an almost unnoticeable addition, so for those looking to streamline their carry goods, the Nano Torch is a safe bet.
- Size: 1.7″ length, .3″ diameter
- Weight: 10.9 grams
- Output: 25 lumens
Best Budget Choice
Functional, reliable everyday carry lighting for under $12.
If you’re not ready to spend $50 on a keychain flashlight, check out the Glaree E03, a dependable aluminum alloy light that comes at a fraction of the cost of the Maratac Copper Nichia 219.
It’s powered by a single AAA battery and offers several light settings, including a 150 lumens strobe light for emergency situations. It’s light enough to not mess with your current keychain setup and just a bit longer and wider than the Copper Nichia 219.
A convenient moonlight setting with .1 lumens is ideal for situations that don’t require more than a phone screen’s worth of light. It may not be anything to write home about, but the E03 does offer solid performance and a heavy duty exterior – all for under $12.
- Size: 2.75″ length, .55″ diameter
- Weight: 21.8 grams with AAA battery
- Output: 150 lumens (high), 15 lumens (low), 0.1 lumens (moonlight)