Everything You Need To Know About Torches (2022)

Feeling in the dark about torches? Let us shine a light on everything, from how they work, to the different torch types available so you can pick the right one for you, in a flash.

What is a torch?

A torch is a portable handheld electric lamp which is battery powered. They’re also referred to as flashlights in the US, whereas torch is the more popular name in other English-speaking countries.

Throughout history, people have had a need for light sources which could move with them, which led to the evolution from candles to oil lamps and kerosene lamps. However, these methods of lighting are potentially dangerous, as they have a flame as the light source.

The invention of the incandescent electric light bulb and dry battery at the end of the 1800s provided a solution to this risk, and enabled the invention of the device used today.

When were handheld torches invented?

The first dry cell battery was manufactured by the National Carbon Company in 1896, after German physician Carl Gassner invented it in 1888. It’s a type of electric battery which was an improved version of its predecessor, as its electrolyte was a paste instead of a liquid.

Thanks to this, it could work in any position and wouldn’t break or spill as easily – making it ideal for a portable light source. So in 1899, British inventor David Misell developed the first model.


Torch or flashlight?

Before it was invented in the 1890s, the word torch was used to describe a stick which could be lit and used as a light source.

When flashlights became widely used across the globe, they were originally known in Britain as electric torches. The word electric was later dropped, as it became synonymous with what Americans referred to as a flashlight.

But this device was originally named a flashlight when it was first invented, because the zinc-carbon batteries which powered it couldn’t provide constant currents for extended periods of time – which meant they had to keep being turned off.

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It was given the name by Russian inventor Conrad Hubert, who brought Misell’s invention to market. However, it’s now argued that because modern-day models no longer have to be turned off, so they no longer ‘flash’, this name shouldn’t be used.

How do torches work?

Modern-day devices most commonly feature LED bulbs. In order for electrons to be produced, the light must have some type of power source, so they’re powered by batteries, which can be either disposable or rechargeable.

Alkaline batteries are very affordably priced and able to last between four and 10 hours on one set, while rechargeable batteries are powered by lithium-ion.


The different parts

The tube part is the section that holds the different parts of the device, which is called the case.

The bulb is the source of illumination, and is usually either a tungsten filament incandescent bulb or – more commonly in newer models – an LED bulb.

The batteries rest on a small spring that’s connected to two contact strips, which are thin strips of metal – often made of copper or brass – located throughout the device. This makes the electrical connection between the batteries, the lamp and the switch. These parts conduct electricity and complete the circuit.

When the switch is pushed to the ‘on’ position, it begins a flow of electricity powered by the battery.

The reflector part at the front is formed of plastic and coated with a shiny aluminium layer which bends around the bulb, to direct the rays forward so they provide a steady light beam. This is then covered with the lens; a clear plastic at the very front of the device which protects the glass bulb from breaking.

When the switch is pushed into the ‘off’ position, the contact strips are moved apart and the path for the electrical current is broken, which stops the device producing light.

Types of Torches

Tactical torch

Penlight

Keychain and clip torches

This light is designed for tactical use, for example in the military or police force. Some models can be mounted to a weapon. They’re generally smaller than typical models, and emit a lot of light. A lot of models are made from aluminium for robustness.

These are small devices shaped like a pen. They’re often used in the medical industry to check areas of the mouth, throat and to assess pupil response.

These are smaller, more lightweight models which offer even more portability thanks to the keyring/clip. This means it can be attached to anything, from a set of keys to a rucksack – ideal for activities such as camping.

Rechargeable torch

Right angle torch

Head torch

These feature a lithium-ion battery which can be charged once it’s flat, instead of having to be replaced. This reduces the cost of buying batteries and means they’re more environmentally friendly. Models that can be recharged are generally more expensive, but they often provide more light.

This design is either front-facing or features an articulating head, so the user can adjust the angle and positioning of the light. It will typically attach to the user’s chest to light up the area in front of them. This model is often used by firefighters, as it’s a hands-free device.

This light is affixed to a headpiece, so it can still illuminate surroundings while leaving the user’s hands free. It’s ideal for outdoor activities such as caving, hiking and camping, as well as work environments to increase productivity and quality.

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Click to shop for rechargable torchesClick to shop for right angle torchesClick to shop for head torches

Maglite Torches

A Maglite, also spelled Mag-Lite, is a brand manufactured in the US by Mag Instrument. It’s made from aeroplane aluminium, making it weather and shock-resistant.

It was first made in the early 1970s by Tony Maglica, after he discovered the police were having issues with the torches being used at the time. They were usually made from plastic and broke too easily, so Maglica designed a product so sturdy that it could also serve as a club. His design was patented in 1979.

This model features a twisting head which can be adjusted so the beam can both flood a crime scene as well as narrow in to focus on a small area.

That’s why the Maglite is now used by professionals worldwide and is one of the most famous lights used by the army, the police and emergency service professionals.


Click to shop for Mag-Lite torches

Torch performance

Light output

This is measured in lumens, which is the unit of measure of the total amount of visible light produced by a source, meaning this indicates how bright it is. The more lumens it produces, the brighter the light will be.

Basic models are usually 10 lumens, while high-specification lights can be over 18,000 lumens.

LED (light-emitting diode) lights tend to be the preferred choice, as they offer greater energy efficiency, better battery consumption, increased brightness, and better impact resistance than incandescent light bulbs.

Here are some examples to show what lumens are best in different circumstances:

0.5 to 20 lumens

20 to 35 lumens

35 to 100 lumens

100 to 1000 lumens

1000+ lumens

This amount of light is fine for walking in the dark or trying to find a keyhole.

This is the brightness level needed for general use in a house, office or garage.

This is more ideal for outdoor use, including camping and hiking.

This level is used by security guards, police officers and firefighters.

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This is the amount of light needed for search and rescue scenarios and extreme outdoor activities such as caving.

Shop for 0.5 - 20lm torchesShop for 20 - 35lm torchesShop for 35 - 100lm torchesShop for 100 - 1000lm torchesShop for 1000+lm torches

Beam distance

A device’s beam distance is measured in meters, and refers to how far the light will be able to reach before diminishing to the equivalent of the light from a full moon.


Run time

This refers to the amount of time it takes for the light output to decrease to 10% of the rated output of new batteries, and is measured in hours (rounded to the closest quarter-hour).

Light output can either decrease gradually over time with use, or remain constant before suddenly decreasing.


Impact resistance

This is measured in meters, and is when lights are tested by dropping them six times on to concrete at a rated distance. It’s done to make sure the device is still fully functional after occasional accidental drops.


Water resistance

Water resistance is important if the device is intended to be used in the rain or around bodies of water. It’s rated using the IPX system.

An IPX4 rating is splash resistant from all angles. IPX7 refers to resistance from temporary immersion, meaning the device can withstand up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1m. IPX8 is submersion up to four hours at a specified depth.

Powering the torch

There are several different ways in which a torch can be powered and/or charged:

Solar charging

This type is ideal when using the device in remote areas with no power. But there are important things to consider, such as that it takes a long time to charge and can also be at the mercy of the sun, so it can be a struggle if it’s a cloudy day. This type should mainly be used when in a power-free location for an extended time.

Micro USB

This is the most popular way to charge because of the versatility it offers, with USB ports being in computers, cars, electrical devices and plug adapters.

Everything You Need To Know About Torches (18)

Battery powered

Torches are usually powered by batteries, in order to make the tool easily portable for the user. Here are a few of the most common battery types found within torches sold today:

AA

AAA

CR123A

These can generally be purchased anywhere and are quite small.

These are even smaller than AA. This is the reason AAA are often used in keychain and other small models.

This type is very compact and often used in small devices. They can keep their charge for 10 years, so are ideal for irregular use.

Click to shop for AA powered torchesClick to shop for AAA powered torchesClick to shop for CR123A powered torches

How long to LED torches last?

LED technology differs with each company and manufacturer, so it’s difficult to know exactly how long a device will last. In general, an LED model will last much longer than one that’s incandescent.

Also, because LEDs are more energy efficient, each fully charged set of batteries should last twice as long as devices with incandescent ones.

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Popular torch brands

For torches, here are some of the most popular brands – click on the buttons below to see the wide choice of products available:

There’s also a great range of accessories available, as well as an extensive lighting collection.

Everything You Need To Know About Torches (23)

Everything You Need To Know About Torches (25)

Everything You Need To Know About Torches (27)

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FAQs

What should I look for in a torch? ›

The main housing of a torch should be strong, light, durable and if needed weather-proof. Torches are generally made of metal, plastic or rubber. Many modern metal torches are made from aluminium alloy which, although not as strong as steel, is much lighter.

What are the different types of torch? ›

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  • Propane torches. Propane torches are the most common type and are used by professionals and DIY homeowners alike. ...
  • Brazing torches. ...
  • Mapp Gas Torches. ...
  • Oxy Acetylene Welding torches.

What is the difference between a torch and a flashlight? ›

A torch is a portable handheld electric lamp which is battery powered. They're also referred to as flashlights in the US, whereas torch is the more popular name in other English-speaking countries.

What is the best type of torch? ›

Best torch: At a glance
  • Best LED task light for DIY use: Gtech 20V Cordless Task Light Bundle.
  • Best low-cost keyring torch: Olight i1R 2 EOS.
  • Best head torch for orienteering: Ledlenser MH5.
  • Best compact torch: MecArmy PT10.
  • Best head torch for campers: Petzl Actik Core.
  • Best budget LED lamp for working: Coquimbo COB LED.
5 days ago

What does LM mean in torches? ›

Measured in lumens. This is a measure of the intensity of the light coming out of the flashlight, on the highest brightness setting powered by new batteries.

How many lumens is a good torch? ›

100 Lumens: Standard for now a days average flashlight. An average 100 lumens flashlight is able to provider 5 -10 hours runtime using 2x AA battery. This amount of lumens is technically enough for urban and suburban use.

Can a torch stay lit in the rain? ›

For solar-powered tiki torches, rain will not affect the torch when you do not want to use it. Leaving them out is fine to do because they do not have any fuel source other than the sun, making them safe in that respect.

How do torches stay lit so long? ›

Torch is a rod-like piece of wood with the rag wrapped around one end, which is dipped in some flammable fluid and lit. If that fluid is mixture of sulfur and lime that torch will not extinguish if put into water.

How long do torches last? ›

The average torch will burn for about 20 minutes.

How long does a torch battery last? ›

As a very general estimate, a low-lumen flashlight (under 50 lumens) will run for about 20-50 hours. A flashlight with 50-150 lumens will run for about 6-12 hours on it's highest setting, and high lumen flashlight or headlamp (over 150 lumens) will run about 2-8 hours on their highest settings.

Why is it called a torch? ›

Etymology. From the Old French "torche" meaning "twisted thing", hence "torch formed of twisted tow dipped in wax", probably from Vulgar Latin *torca, alteration of Late Latin torqua, variant of classical Latin torques "collar of twisted metal", from torquere "to twist".

Which type of battery is used in a torch? ›

Torch batteries may come in the form of button cells, AA, AAA, C, D, or 9V, as well as less standard sizes, such as 2/3AAA or AAA.

What is the most powerful torch? ›

SUPER BRIGHT: The MS18 is the brightest powerful flashlight in the World. With a solid build and blinding brightness, MS18 rechargeable flashlight comes with 18pcs XHP70 2nd high lumens LEDs, max output is up to 100,000 lumens, and the max beam distance is up to 1350 meters (Nearly 4429ft).

How powerful should a torch be? ›

At 300 to 500 lumens, you have a quite powerful torch, that will let you see clearly much farther, particularly if it has a variable beam with a tightly focusable spot (see the LED Lenser TT). However, I would put the sweet spot for a general purpose handheld torch at 600 to 1,000 lumens.

How bright is a good torch? ›

Flashlights within 20-150 are ideal for home use and some outdoor activities. An average flashlight emits 100 lumens, which makes it ideal for urban and suburban areas.

Is 5000 lumens too bright? ›

Is 5000 Lumens Bright Enough? A 5000 lumen LED is a very bright light source, and is likely to be too bright for some applications. For example, it would be too harsh for general room lighting where a more subtle level of illumination is required.

Is 8000 lumens too bright? ›

A level between 4,000 and 8,000 lumens is ideal. This is a wide spread so you can choose the amount that is right for your bathroom size.

How Far Will 2000 lumens shine? ›

The brightness of an 2000 lumen torch (UK for flashlight) is the power of light of 2000 candles. This level is regarded as a very bright level of torch suitable for most outdoor tasks. The throw of light can be up to a 200m distance depending on the beam width of light.

How many lumens is a police flashlight? ›

How bright are police flashlights? The lumen output of the best police flashlights can vary and most top-rated police flashlights would be 1000 lumens or above. If an officer is looking for a small rechargeable police flashlight such as a penlight 400 lumens would be sufficient.

How far can 300 lumens reach? ›

A typical 300 lumen torch is regarded as a bright level of torch suitable for hunting, sailing, hiking and tactical tasks. The throw of light can be up to a 50m distance.

How many lumens is the sun? ›

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. Multiplying the figure of 1050 watts per square meter by 93 lumens per watt indicates that bright sunlight provides an illuminance of approximately 98 000 lux (lumens per square meter) on a perpendicular surface at sea level.

Is 5000 lumens good for a torch? ›

The 5000 lumen limit has currently proved to be suitable for everyday use, safe and very durable.

Is 1500 lumens bright for a flashlight? ›

For me I would say the sweet spot in all my tactical flashlights are around 1,000 to 1,500 lumens. I find that this is a good amount of light, I great beam distances on these flashlights and the strobe is powerful enough that I feel comfortable using it as a non-lethal self defense option.

How powerful a torch do I need? ›

At 300 to 500 lumens, you have a quite powerful torch, that will let you see clearly much farther, particularly if it has a variable beam with a tightly focusable spot (see the LED Lenser TT). However, I would put the sweet spot for a general purpose handheld torch at 600 to 1,000 lumens.

What are the characteristics of a torch? ›

A torch is a stick with combustible material at one end, which is ignited and used as a light source. Torches have been used throughout history, and are still used in processions, symbolic and religious events, and in juggling entertainment.

How many lumens is a police flashlight? ›

How bright are police flashlights? The lumen output of the best police flashlights can vary and most top-rated police flashlights would be 1000 lumens or above. If an officer is looking for a small rechargeable police flashlight such as a penlight 400 lumens would be sufficient.

How Far Will 2000 lumens shine? ›

The brightness of an 2000 lumen torch (UK for flashlight) is the power of light of 2000 candles. This level is regarded as a very bright level of torch suitable for most outdoor tasks. The throw of light can be up to a 200m distance depending on the beam width of light.

How many lumens is the sun? ›

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. Multiplying the figure of 1050 watts per square meter by 93 lumens per watt indicates that bright sunlight provides an illuminance of approximately 98 000 lux (lumens per square meter) on a perpendicular surface at sea level.

Is 8000 lumens too bright? ›

A level between 4,000 and 8,000 lumens is ideal. This is a wide spread so you can choose the amount that is right for your bathroom size.

How bright is 9000 lumens? ›

This powerful light has a considerably higher lumen output than most traditional flashlights and can throw light extremely far distances. On its highest 9000 lumen mode, the beam can reach a maximum of 938 feet (286 meters).

How Far Will 1000 lumens shine? ›

A 1000 lumen flashlight is quite bright and, depending on the lens or reflector design, powerful enough to reach a distance of 200 meters or more. This type of flashlight allows you to see objects from a far distance.

How bright is 400 lumens? ›

An 400 lumen LED downlight is bright enough for most homes and regarded as an average recessed light output providing a good general beam of light. This level of output is recommended up to ceiling heights of 9ft high. Any higher then the light is spread too thinly to be more than a wash of light.

How Far Will 2200 lumens shine? ›

The Stanley Rechargeable 2200 Lumens LED Lithium-Ion Hand-Held Portable Spotlight is the perfect answer to this need. It has both a high-beam and a low-bean with an easy to reach switch. Its focused beamed reaches out to more than enough distance to illuminate the trees 100 yards from our front door.

How bright is 600 lumens? ›

Lumens is the unit measurement of brightness, with 1 lumen (lm) equalling the brightness of 1 candle, so 600 lumens has the brightness of 600 candles.

Can a torch stay lit in the rain? ›

For solar-powered tiki torches, rain will not affect the torch when you do not want to use it. Leaving them out is fine to do because they do not have any fuel source other than the sun, making them safe in that respect.

How do torches stay lit so long? ›

Torch is a rod-like piece of wood with the rag wrapped around one end, which is dipped in some flammable fluid and lit. If that fluid is mixture of sulfur and lime that torch will not extinguish if put into water.

How long can a torch burn? ›

Light the torch with a steady, open flame like a lighter or a campfire. It will take 30 seconds or so to light, but soon the entire torch head will be engulfed in flames. The average torch will burn for about 20 minutes.

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