To keep it short and sweet, a lumen is just a measurement of how bright a light source is. The higher the number, the brighter the light. A standard 60w household light bulb is roughly equivalent to 800 lumens.
When it comes to EDC flashlights, more lumens can be a blessing and a curse, all wrapped up in the same package. More light is great, but it comes at the cost of battery power, heat, and shorter run times. Your natural night vision can be blasted away into temporary blindness, if you accidentally shine a 1,000 lumen light off your front door, while fumbling for your keys.
On the more tactical side of things, if you’re trying to read a map but you negligently discharge your super awesome 2,000 lumen flashlight, you’re going to have a bad time. Ask me how I know.
It’s one thing to have a flashlight that can literally light up the night, but if it doesn’t have some kind of power level adjustment or brightness settings, it really isn’t the best choice for an EDC light. I bought a SureFire P3X Fury light when they first came out in 2013, but I very, VERY rarely use it for anything because it only has one brightness output. 1,000 lumens is awesome, but it’s just way too bright for everyday tasks. All that being said, don’t get too wrapped up in trying to find the highest lumen output (aka brightest) light possible. For the most part, around 100ish lumens will serve you just fine for most tasks.
One use case, on the other side of that argument you might want to consider, is self-defense. There’s a big difference between getting blasted with 1,500 lumens versus 40, so if a light is going to be one of your primary sources of self-defense and protection, you’ll want a light that can do both high output and low output.
According to Enclosurecompany, “IP (or ‘Ingress Protection’) ratings are defined in international standard EN 60529 (British BS EN 60529:1992, European IEC 60509:1989). They are used to define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies (tools, dirt, etc) and moisture.”
An IP, or Ingress Protection, rating is common for consumer products and is typically displayed as “IP” followed by two numerical digits. The first of the two digits indicates the level of protection that a particular device or product has against solid materials. The second number indicates the product’s waterproofing or lack thereof. The higher the number, the better the resistance for both dust and water. A product labeled “IP68” means that it is completely dustproof and fully submersible in water for long periods of time. If you see an X in the rating, it just means that the resistance to that type of material was not tested. IPX5, for example, means that the product was not tested against dust, but it can handle some water in certain circumstances. Here’s a handy visual aid I put together to help you understand the different levels of water protection offered from 1 to 8:
Basically, the main takeaway from this is that IPX7 or IPX8 are the only two levels that are technically “waterproof,” with level 8 obviously being the best level of protection. IPX8 and IP68 are basically the same, but the X indicates the product wasn’t officially tested against dust.
The Ingress Protection rating of the lights you consider should be a big decision point on which light you ultimately get. Keep in mind that batteries and electronics typically do not mix well with water. If you’re in a situation where you need a light and it happens to be raining sideways but you went cheap on the IP rating, you may find that your light dies right when you need it most.
If you’re in the military or law enforcement, you shouldn’t carry anything less than IPX8. We all know the terrible conditions you have to work in, so you’ll need a flashlight that has the ability to handle that harsh environment too. You should be concerned about much more important things than trying to keep water out of your flashlight, so don’t cheap out on this one.