A good flashlight is always one of the most essential tools to bring on camping trips.
But what’s the best camping flashlight to take with you: a headlamp, a lantern or a traditional handheld model? Packing all three is an option, but they would occupy a lot of space and weigh down your backpack.
Instead, the best flashlight for camping is one that can handle all the usual campsite tasks, simplify your packing list and keep your backpack light. And our recommendation that can do it all is the Nitecore HC35.
Best Camping Flashlight: Nitecore HC35
The Nitecore HC35 offers incredible versatility. It features a 90° angle head and can attach to a headband (included) so it works as a headlamp, allowing you to use both hands to cook or build a tent. It also comes with a pocket clip so it can be hung on backpack straps and shed light if you’re hiking in low light, and the bottom is magnetic, so it can be stuck to a car, a pole or any metal gear you have.
There are quite a few flashlight models that offer all of these functions and are great for camping, but we like the Nitecore HC35 the best for its combination of power, battery life and easy rechargeability.
The HC35 is one of the most powerful 90° headlamps on the market, going up to 2700 lumens. That’s strong enough so the light will reach up to 134 meters (nearly 450 feet), making it great for hiking or looking around the campground if you hear something strange out in the darkness.
It uses a large 21700 lithium-ion battery with 4000mAh, providing up to 50 days of uninterrupted runtime when it’s in its low 1 lumen mode, which can be perfect for using inside a tent. (On the other hand, the battery will last only 45 minutes if the flashlight is set at maximum power.)
The HC35 has five different brightness levels, and it provides a flood beam pattern, meaning that it’s best at covering a wide area instead of a long distance. This is useful for close-up work and for lighting up the campsite without targeting one specific spot. The style fits camping perfectly, since the light can be enjoyed by your entire group and it won’t hurt your night vision. If you want to look further into the distance, though, traditional handheld flashlight models are generally your best option.
The HC35 is rechargeable via Micro-USB, so if you have other items in your kit that use that port, you’ll only need one cable. While USB-C is a more universal choice, most 90° flashlight models don’t use it yet. If streamlining is important to you, consider buying compatible Nitecore batteries that have a USB-C charging port in the battery itself.
Another advantage is that, contrary to some of its competitors, the HC35 doesn’t need proprietary batteries. It can use 21700s from other brands, or even 18650s and disposable CR123s, making it even more versatile for both camping and emergency situations.
At $99.95, the Nitecore HC35 may seem expensive for budget-minded campers. If that’s simply too much money to spend, check out Wowtac’s A2S headlamp. It has a smaller battery and less overall power, but for $30 it’s still an excellent choice for your camping trip. You can also look at Nitecore’s HC30, a smaller, older model going for about $65.
Finally, while this type of flashlight can fit all your basic camping needs, there are other models you may want to consider. The Fenix PD32 v2.0 (about $70), for example, is a good option if you want the capability of lighting areas further in the distance: it reaches 395 meters, and is still nice and compact.
If instead you want a model that’s ideal for shedding light from the middle of the campground or inside a large tent, look at Fenix’s CL26R rechargeable lantern ($60). Just don’t let the darkness take over.