Updated: Dec 20, 2019
This post may seem familiar and that might be because I did a previous post here about my key-chain lights at the time. However, I wanted to give it an updated format and turn it into a running compilation list like my utility knives and screwdrivers. In that same theme, I will be updating this list as time passes with ratings for different key-chain flashlights. I will be ranking the lights in five areas: light, portability, ease of use, affordability, and whether or not it is rechargeable (0-1 scale). Let's get going!
Lumintrail Key-Chain Light
At close range, which is where most of your use will more than likely be, this light provides a pretty intense hot spot perfect for seeing the doorknob that you are trying to manipulate. After about 10 feet this starts to fade but it still gives you a good area of light to see what is there.
Most of these key-chain lights are going to be pretty small by nature but some have a little bit of an advantage when it comes to carrying them. This little light comes with a clip as part of its construction which allows for you to easily remove it and attach it to other items rather than having do deal with the hassle of a split-ring. This is just a nice feature.
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
By pressing down on the body of the light you gain access to momentary light. However, that is contingent upon continued pressure. If you want continuous light you have to use a small switch just above the button. This is not a major problem it is just a tad bit difficult to get your nail on the switch sometimes.
This light, in particular, comes in a pack that includes this light as well as another small EDC friendly magnetic flashlight that I like as well. If you do not want the combo pack there are plenty of similar lights that come in multi-packs that you can get for a pretty cheap price.
The two main highlights of this light are the integration of a spring clip and its combination with another flashlight. Other than that this light is pretty standard and a great starting point if you just want a little bit of extra light on your key-chain.
Starting at close range and then extending out, the Pocket Lumen does a fantastic job of maintaining its beam without creating an uneven pattern of light. It provides a consistent wash of light for you to work with on a small scale.
While the PocketLumen does feature an integrated loop that you can use as an attachment point there is a flaw in that design. If you plan on sticking it on a key-ring and leaving it then you will be good once you get the split ring wide enough to go around the loop. Otherwise, your best bet is to use something like a small carabiner to give it versatility and make the attachment/detachment easier to manage.
Ease of Use: 5/5
The PocketLumen features a rather simple, yet unique twist mechanism to control the light. Rather than tightening the two pieces all the way down you can keep it tightened when not in use, and slightly loosen the end when needed to provide light. This is also easy to manage one-handed as the end with the light is knurled and shorter which allows for your thumb and index finger to activate it while holding the body secure with the rest of your hand.
There are some cheaper lights out there but also some incredibly more expensive as well. The PocketLumen retails at $17 but you can usually find it for $13 which I feel is a pretty fair price point for this flashlight.
My favorite feature on the PocketLumen is the different twist mechanism that it employs. I dislike having to keep my light loose so this is a big plus in my opinion.
Slughaus Bullet 02
The Bullet 02 feels a little bit dull at close range but will still give you the light you need to manipulate the tools around you. I was surprised to see how well it maintained its light at a distance as I expected it to fade far sooner than it did.
The Bullet 02 is one of the smallest lights that you can carry. Slughaus marketed this light as the smallest there was, which might have been true at the time, but I believe there is one smaller now that will be coming to the site soon. Like most of these lights, you just clip it onto your key-ring and it will pretty much disappear. The only time you will notice it will be when it is needed.
Ease of Use: 5/5
The Bullet 02 comes with a standard one mode twist mechanism. You twist the cap and get one setting meaning that there is virtually no room for error. Because it is so small it might be harder to get a grip when using one hand but it is possible with a bit of practice.
I feel like ~$10 is the sweet spot for key-chain flashlights. There are obviously some that are more due to some of their features but it seems like most should stick to a price point around this level. I have a hard time justifying a light costing more than $20 when I will just stick it on a key-chain and barely use it, but that is me. For some people, their main light is one that clips to their keys so obviously you want higher quality there.
The Bullet 02 is a pretty unique design and has an incredibly low profile so that might be very appealing to you.
The PISA light gives one of the widest areas of light among my collection, which means that you will have no problem seeing what you are looking for. As you move farther away the beam continues to grow without sacrificing too much intensity. This makes a great little area floodlight when moving around in the dark.
Not much to say here, the PISA light operates like most other key-chain lights in that you use its split-ring to attach it to whatever you want.
Ease of Use: 5/5
Once again, this light features a standard twist mechanism like most of its competitors.
I backed this light on Kickstarter as a multipack and for a while, you could only purchase it through Etsy. For the past several months they have been out of stock, but I just received a message that they are available through Amazon Australia. Otherwise, for a rechargeable light, $16 feels pretty fair.
The PISA light is the first rechargeable light on this list, which makes it incredibly useful as you can avoid having to buy the tiny little batteries that most of these lights use. It also seems to be most like the Olight I1R EOS which will be featured later.
The Keymate features a long thin LED strip that helps to throw the light in a large area. The biggest asset it offers is simple navigation of its three modes: low, high, and strobe. I have found that the low mode will get most jobs done, but if you need a bit more, the high is just a click away.
This light gets some props for having a clip integrated into its body, which makes attaching and detaching it easier. On the other hand, it is a bit bulky meaning that it will definitely stick out more and be more noticeable.
Ease of Use: 4/5
The KeyMate is not like your standard key-chain light when it comes to using it. Of course, put simply you point the light at the area needing illumination and turn it on, but because of the unique design you have to old the body longways in order to utilize the light and the button is on the reverse side of the light. This is not a terribly inconvenient way to use a flashlight, it is just different and you have to get used to it. Beyond that, once the light is on you simply press the button to cycle through its modes.
At $18 the Streamlight KeyMate is on the higher end of pricing for key-chain lights, in my opinion, it isn't terribly overpriced just close to the limit of what I am willing to invest.
This is one of the most interesting designs that we will see on this list, I will be completely honest and admit that I purchased it solely because of its key shape.
Hyper Tough Key-chain Light
I was really surprised by how much light this put out. I expect that the performance is due to the fact that this is meant as a small work light that you can mount to something, as well as the fact that it is only the second light on the list to use SMD LEDs (Surface Mount Light Emitting Diodes). If you use this light for something like illuminating the area under your desk, you will feel like you turned on a full-sized flashlight. Then moving out farther, the Hyper Tough also floods a large area around you making it another good option for your carry.
This key-chain light is a bit large for my taste. While it does feature a nice split-ring and chain attachment point, this causes it to dangle and be more noticeable than some of its competitors.
Ease of Use: 4/5
This is another light that features a different position for its LED, you have to press the button under the LED and point face at your target. Once again, not terrible just different. However, there is a magnet located on the back of the light which makes it great for sticking somewhere when you need both hands for a task.
For under $7 you can get a pack of two of these meaning that they are incredibly handy when it comes to stashing them in some extra locations that might need a bit of quick lighting. Obviously, for that price, you are not getting the best of the best but these lights perform pretty well.
Has an integrated magnet on the back which allows for hands-free usage.
Olight I1R EOS
I like the hotspot that this light produces. At both the low and high output, there is a noticeable bright spot at the center but the resulting fade is less than what I would expect. This means that you get a good amount of light concentrated at one location while also having decent light around the area you are aiming towards.
Like most of these lights, the I1R EOS incorporates a split ring at the rear so that you can easily attach it to any key-ring or similar setup.
Ease of Use: 4/5
With a simple twist mechanism, the I1R EOS should have no problems in usage. However, I have noticed that if you twist a little bit too far the light will occasionally go out. Sometimes this is just momentary but if you stop at the right spot it will stay off until you make an adjustment. Not a major problem but something that I have heard about others experiencing as well so it could be improved.
At $20 I really did not want to buy this light on principal alone. I know that some of that increased price comes from a better quality but I just have a hard time justifying that price on a back up key-chain light. Luckily I was able to find it as a flash sale on Amazon which dropped it $3. That felt good enough for me so I picked it up. I would keep an eye out for sales on this item.
Overall: 4.3/5 Highlights:
It is nice to have two modes of light output as well as the ability to recharge the light.
Streamlight Nano Light
The Nano Light is decent for its size. I definitely think it could be brighter and have a wider throw but I don’t feel completely robbed but it could definitely be better, especially as the market is getting smaller and brighter.
The Nano Light feels like it wants to disappear when it is clipped to something as it is just so small and light. The small carabiner is a great addition as it makes attachment and detachment a breeze.
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
Similar to most lights, the Nano Light features a twist operation at the end of the body. Luckily it gives a slight texture for your finger to catch.
I can justify this light being $10 for the current market. That being said, there are way better lights out there that are key-chain friendly and also feature a rechargeable battery so I think that within the next couple of years that price point will feel less and less correct.
Overall: 4.15/5 Highlights:
There really isn’t much to add back in this section. It’s a pretty decent light but it could be better.
Slughaus really stepped up their game with this light, it throws out a ton of light in a small package. For the most part, this light is going to be great for very near objects like under your desk or your door at night. Even though that is where this light shines, it could almost be your normal flashlight as it will probably get the job done under most circumstances.
Quite obviously, you can just stick the Bull3t on a key-ring like most of these lights, but I have also found that just carrying it in your fifth pocket is another option. The weight and size mean that it still feels secure when loos in a pocket but does not take up a significant amount of real estate.
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
Like most flashlights of this size, the Bull3t employs a twist mechanism. I would always prefer pretty much any other option but I will say that Slubhaus redesigned their threads so that the flashlight will not come apart as easily when stored.
At $25 for an aluminum version and $45 for a titanium version, these definitely are not the cheapest options. However, you do get a really solid light in terms of build quality and light quality. I also picked them up on Kickstarter which helped me a lot.
The best part of his light is the overall build quality, it feels solid in your hand and you don't have to worry about it flaking out on you. I also like the availability of a titanium option. If I had not been able to pick it up at a discount on Kickstarter I don't think I would have sprung for it but it is nice to have in some cases. http://bit.ly/2Viy2BR
Malboro & Kane SUB
For the most part, the SUB is going to get the job done as a key-chain light. You are going to be able to see the key-hole on your door late at night or under your desk when you drop something. My complaint is that it has a very low perceived lumen output and is also a relatively narrow pool of light. With modern-day LED technology I would expect them to be able to put SMD LED instead even in such a compact package.
The SUB was designed to be the world's smallest light and currently, it is the smallest one in my collection as it just beat my previous one. You pretty much completely forget that the SUB is even on you whether you keep it on a key-chain or in a pocket.
Ease of Use: 3.5/5
As with most of these lights, it operates off of a twist mechanism which is pretty simple. The only problem I really notice is that due to how small the light is it can be somewhat difficult to get a grip and activate the light.
At around $20 dollars during the Kickstarter, it was not a terrible price but I don't think that it completely lives up to the price when compared to competitors. Currently, they are not available outside of Indigogo In-demand where it still has the same price point for aluminum and $30 for Titanium.
The SUB requires 3x AG2 batteries which can be ordered in large packs online but does require a slight bit of installation. I understand why the SUB does not incorporate a rechargeable battery due to the small size but that would always be nice.
The SUB is definitely a tiny light and I am sure that for some people it will provide just the right amount of light for the price and size.
Olight I1R 2 EOS
As with the previous generation, the I1R 2 EOS produces a great amount of light in a small package. The hotspot is perfect for illuminating a door at night while there is plenty of light to provide wide coverage under your desk and dark corners. While I still prefer full-sized lights for my normal usage, the I1R 2 EOS is probably good enough for most everyday tasks.
I have been carrying this light for a while now on my keys using the split-ring present. This has actually been one of the longest stretches I have gone with a single light on my keys as they typically get removed rather quickly.
Ease of Use: 5/5
Olight kept the same mechanism in its upgrade. You still twist the light clockwise to engage the low and then high modes. They also fixed the slight issue that I had where the I1R EOS would occasionally turn off if you twisted too far. The main update that was made is that there is now a spring attached to the front portion of the light keeping it from separating. The front and rear of the light both have machined grooves which helps ensure you have a good grip when using the light.
The I1R 2 EOS is normally listed at around $15 which is already cheaper than the original version. That alone is an improvement in my opinion. I have also seen them on sale several times since it was released this fall.
Overall: 4.9/5 Highlights:
Olight did a fantastic job of improving upon their existing design. The addition of the spring was a great change and gives me a little bit of reassurance. I think that this is probably one of the best well-designed lights that you can put on a key-chain.
Coming Soon: Additional Options: