There’s no single answer to the question, “What’s the best kind of emergency flashlight?” It depends on the kind and likely duration of the emergency. When your home loses power and you need only enough light to locate candles or a lantern and a box of matches, a cheap flashlight with an incandescent bulb (and spare bulbs and batteries) will do fine. For longer, more complex emergencies, you need something more.
In preparing for any recurring or long-lasting emergency, consider an LED (light-emitting diode) flashlight. LEDs consume less energy and last longer than incandescents. The best ones provide steady lighting, even when their batteries drain.
Small LED flashlights weigh less than an ounce and will fit on a key ring. Pocket flashlights are a little bigger, and they boost voltage as the battery drains, keeping the light constant.
Glove compartment flashlights are a little larger than pocket-size. The best ones can intensify the lighting for changing a tire or checking an engine.
Standard household flashlights are larger still. Choose one with a plastic case rather than metal if you plan to use it around electrical wiring.
If you’re suddenly confronted with a bear in the wilderness or an assailant in a parking lot, your best light source might be a tactical flashlight. Designed mainly for first responders and the military, these relatively pricey (costing up to $200) flashlights can throw a strong enough beam to temporarily blind an antagonist.
Light from the turn of a crank
In a major disaster, such as one of the tornadoes that ripped through the Southeast this spring, the intensity or quality of light might be less important than the assurance you will have it as long as you need it. A crank flashlight will give you that assurance. When its light dims, you simply turn a handle to recharge it.
Save batteries and your flashlight, too
What’s worse news in an emergency than a flashlight with dead batteries? How about a flashlight with long-dead batteries that have leaked enough acidic crud to kill your flashlight, too?
To prevent either condition, take the batteries out of any flashlight you don’t plan to use for a while and store them in a clear plastic bag next to the flashlight. Better yet, leave the batteries in their original packaging until you need them—they’ll stay fresher that way.