When shopping around for flashlights, you may have run across the term “lumens” when reading the packaging. When it comes to light, most people are familiar with “watts” which is how light bulbs are rated for the public. But what are lumens in flashlights and why are they important?

The Definition of Lumens

A lumen is a unit of measurement for the amount of light generated by bulb or flashlight.

Lumens is an important feature of a flashlight

As horsepower describes the amount of engine power available, lumens describes the amount of light output as a measurement of candle strength. Therefore, one lumen provides enough light to illuminate the same area as one candle or candela.

While the term lumens has been around for a considerable amount of time, until recently it was rarely used in the United States and certain other countries. Most people are more familiar with the term “watts”.

Difference between Lumens and Watts

Up until 2012, packaging for light bulbs used the term “watts” to describe the amount of power that the bulb used for illumination purposes. A 100 watt light was brighter than a 60 watt light because it used more power. With the introduction of LED lights, power was no longer the primary consideration, and instead, lumens became the new standard. LEDs use a fraction of the energy compared to incandescent light bulbs.

Therefore, lumens became the more appropriate term plus it is used worldwide which helps create a single standard that requires no translation.

Understanding Lumens in Flashlights:

When shopping around for flashlights, lumens are a very important consideration. You will need to be familiar with the amount of light required for the different types of flashlights available.

Tactical: The tactical version is a high lumens flashlight designed to blind or disorient a potential assailant. Plus, many tactical flashlights offer low lumens setting so you can successfully navigate at night. For tactical flashlights, you’ll need at least 130 lumens on the high setting to do the job with a low light setting of 5 to 15 lumens for navigation.

Camping: For camping purposes, you’ll need a flashlight that offers many hours of light as you find your way around the tent. One popular version is the lantern flashlight that offers different settings of brightness to meet your needs. However, a standard flashlight is very handy when you need to find something without disturbing other people. 5 to 100 lumens are best for camping purposes.

Emergency: The purpose of the emergency flashlight is to attract attention to your location. You’ll need the brightest LED flashlight lumens with a pulse or strobe setting which can be seen for miles away. Also, you’ll need a low-level setting if you get lost at night and need to find your way around.

There are also military and night vision uses for flashlights that have specific requirements usually based on government standards. Durability and versatility are vital for military flashlights which in many respects are similar to tactical flashlights found in retail stores. For night vision equipment, the flashlight must not be bright enough to interfere with the operation while still providing enough luminescence to see around you.

All in all, understanding what lumens are and the brightness you need for your flashlight will help considerably when choosing between different models.


My name is John Winger, I was born and raised in Virginia. I spent a good part of my early adult life in the US military, namely the Army and served in Iraq. I saw my fair share of combat missions and thanks to that experience I have a better understanding and appreciate for what my country means to me and the world.


  1. John – I was reading an article on Pointoptics about super-bright flashlights and it seems that there are lights available on the market that delivers as much as 25,000 lumens! In some cases even more, but then they seem to be of poor quality and don’t stay available on the market for long. You mentioned that you think a minimum of 130 lumens is sufficient for a tactical flashlight. As technology has developed and flashlights seem to be getting brighter would you recommend getting as high a lumen number as possible for security reasons, or is there a point where it becomes all the same?

    • Hi John ,
      I was just reading your query , although it is a 2 months old query but i hope my suggestions will help you in future . It is always good to have a high lumen flashlight available in the market , but one should look for the light settings in the flashlight before buying . if the flashlight does not have a low light setting feature , then you should not buy it. Because you dont want a high output from your flashlight all the time . if it is not equipped with this feature , it will drain your battery very soon and leaves you helpless in emergency .

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