'But I'll just use my phone,' you say. There are a few reasons why you shouldn't, which we'll get to in a moment. Like a tyre inflator or jump starter, a torch is a very thing to keep in the car. This isn't always for instances of breakdowns after dark, often a torch comes in handy if you're on a road trip somewhere and stop to explore someplace at night, or are parked up at a campsite.
What to look for in a travel torch
Lumens: By its very nature, a torch needs to be a light source. This is a very simple concept that cannot be argued with. But how many lumens is best? It depends on what you need. Torches 500-lumens-plus are fantastic outdoors and often feature a focused beam to see long distances that's ideal for searching. But it can be overkill for some who just want something that will allow them to check something under the bonnet or hook up jumper cables.
IP rating: An IP (ingress protection) rating determines how well protected an electrical device is from substances such as dust and water (for a detailed explanation of IP ratings, click here). For a torch you plan you use outdoors, a rating of IPX4 is a minimum starting point. IPX4 will cope with drizzle and light moisture. For the best protection, IP67 or IP68 is needed.
Build quality: IP ratings are an indicator of build quality, but not totally. A cheap torch may be IP67 and with 2000 lumens but for how long? Longevity is just as important as performance because the last thing you want is pulling a dead torch out of the glovebox. Established industry specialists such as Ledlenser and NEBO produce some excellent torches at a reasonably good price.
Rechargeable: A torch with a rechargeable battery is more convenient for you and better for the environment. It's preferable to those without.
Size: Size is important. These days you don't need one of those enormous handheld units that use four C or D batteries. There are some very powerful units the size of a glue stick that fits in your glovebox without displacing the existing miscellaneous gear already residing there.
A torch instead of your phone flashlight
In an after-dark breakdown scenario where you need a torch, your phone may have either run out or is low on battery. Thus, an alternative is wise.
Torches are brighter than phone flashlights, which are pretty useless for illuminating anything further than a metre or two away.
Torches are often tougher than your phone. And besides, do you want to use your expensive phone for whatever outdoor undertaking you need it for?
For use in a dire emergency, some torches feature an SOS function.
The best travel torches
NEBO Slyde King 2K
Compact, bright, and well-made, this torch offers a lot, including value from well-known brand NEBO. It has a host of light modes the brightest of which throws the beam a distance of over 400 metres. Slide the handle and it becomes a work light. It feels good to hold too, and tough thanks to an anodised aluminium body. We also love the magnetic base, which allows the torch to stick to the inside of a car bonnet, or above a wheel arch without a clip, for example.
|Max run time||20 hours|
|Size/weight||15.9cm x 3.5cm/454g|
NOCO Boost X GBX45
One of our top-rated travel torches isn't a torch. It's a portable jump starter from industry leaders NOCO, which happens to feature a 100-lumen flashlight. It's a fantastic little unit because it can jump-start almost any non-commercial vehicle engine; it can act as a power bank for your devices; it's USB-C rechargeable (flat to full in under an hour); is built like a barn door; very light and compact; and even features an SOS function on the torch. It's all you need in one.
|Max run time||Not given|
|Size/weight||17.2cm x 8.4cm x 5.3cm/1250g|
Best build quality
This German Ledlenser has half the output of the NEBO above so what's with the price difference? The MT10 is of truly impressive build quality and also bears some excellent features. The MT10 has Ledlenser's Advanced Focusing Optics lets you switch between flood and focus beams instantly. Moreover, it seems to make more efficient use of each lumen, giving a better quality, clearer beam than what you get in cheaper torches with the same brightness. The MT10 has a long run time and a seven-year warranty.
|Max run time||144 hours|
|Size/weight||12.8cm x 3.2cm/156g|
A torch's power to weight ratio doesn't get much better than seen on this thumb-sized torch. The 1000 lumen headline concerns the torch's Turbo mode, which can be used for up to 30 seconds. For the most part, you use up to 500 lumens, depending on the mode. Like the Slyde King 2K above, it has a handy magnetic base but is also has a neat wireless charging pad.
|Max run time||6 hours|
|IP rating||Not given - ‘water and impact-resistant'|
|Size/weight||6.7cm x 3cm/62g|
Silverline LED Wind-Up Torch
Best battery-free option
The Silverline Wind-Up Torch's brightness is peanuts compared to the others here but it's designed as an emergency light source. It weighs almost nothing and is reliable. Wind it up with the foldaway handle for one minute and you get an impressive 30 minutes of run time.
|Max run time||1 min wind = 30 min run time|
|Size/weight||14cm x 6cm/140g|
AA Heavy Duty LED Torch
Best budget option
The AA torch is quite an old school unit compared to most others here, but its reliability, value, and efficiency deem it worthy of a place here. It is C battery-powered (included), but in return, it has a reasonable run time. When the included batteries need replacing you can always do so with rechargeables. The base with six angles is handy for various instances and so too is the 180-metre beam.
|Max run time||15 hours|
|IP rating||Not given - ‘weatherproof’|
|Size/weight||19cm x 11.2cm x 16.5cm/880g|
Most motorists do not need this torch. It's a long-range spotlight that only a few of us need. For the output it provides and the toughness it bears, this is quite a compact torch. It has five light modes: Turbo, High, Medium, Low, and Strobe. Turbo offers 1500 lumens of concentrated light for a short time capable of reaching 925 metres.
|Max run time||61 hours|
|Size/weight||18.4cm x 6.8cm (head) x 2.6cm (barrel)/220g|