Some emergency rechargeable flashlights are designed to provide relatively brief light at the start of a power outage. They're left plugged into an AC outlet, then turn on automatically when the power goes out. After that, a rechargeable model can serve as a handheld flashlight to help you find candles or a lantern (or go out to start your portable generator). Or you can leave them in place like a nightlight.
Owners reviewing rechargeable flashlights at Amazon.com give reasonably high marks to the Intermatic Three-Way Emergency Power Failure Light #PR3C (*Est. $12). Owners like the six-year warranty as well as the pass-through outlet, which lets you plug in other devices. The main complaint is that the flashlight stays bright only for about 15 or 20 minutes; after that it's dimmer -- though it can still serve as a nightlight. We found similar complaints about other models.
A solar-powered flashlight isn't as reliable for emergency use, since the sun may not be shining enough when you need to recharge it. As an extra flashlight, however, the fairly new 6-LED BoGo Light is getting quite a bit of attention because when you buy one, the manufacturer also sends one to the developing country of your choice -- or to United States servicemen in Iraq or Afghanistan. Articles at Newsweek, The New York Times, National Public Radio and elsewhere praise this program. Villagers can replace relatively dangerous kerosene lamps with solar BoGo flashlights. Experts estimate that about 2 billion people in the world live off the electrical grid, and in some African countries, a third of a household's income goes to kerosene.
The 13-ounce BoGo Light needs about eight hours of sunlight to provide four to five hours of light. Reviews -- and villagers -- say the light is bright enough to read by. The solar panel should last 20 years, and the three AA rechargeable NiMH batteries can be recharged up to 1,000 times. The hard ABS plastic case is water- and shock-resistant, and comes with a hook for carrying on a backpack or to illuminate a room. An even better BoGo Light will be available later in 2008; see The Buzz section below.
Most rechargeable flashlights have a shorter runtime per battery charge and are pretty expensive for the light you get. The halogen MagLite RX1019 (*Est. $90) gets top rating among owners reviewing flashlights at Amazon.com, but owners say it only provides about two hours of runtime, then must be recharged for another two hours. Some owners recommend the Streamlight Stinger Rechargeable Flashlight 75014 (*Est. $85) as a brighter yet lighter-weight alternative. At 10 ounces, it weighs only about a third as much as the MagLite RX1019, but it has only half the runtime -- about an hour.
Rechargeable flashlights with removable batteries let you replace a drained battery with a freshly recharged one (as long as you have at least two batteries). This gives you unlimited runtime, as long as you have access to an AC outlet for the charger. The best buys usually come bundled with other cordless tools. These kits usually include two batteries and a charger, plus a cordless drill, flashlight and possibly more tools as well. We cover these in our reports on cordless drills and circular saws.