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Our Favorite Flashlights Go Head-to-Head: Fenix PD36R PRO vs. PD35R

The Fenix PD35R and PD36R PRO are two top-tier flashlights for hikers, hunters, or everyday use. So, which one is for you?

Fenix PD35R and PD36R PRO flashlightsThe Fenix PD35R, top, and slightly larger PD36R PRO flashlights are two GearJunkie favorites; (photo/Sean McCoy)
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In the red corner, pushing out a whopping 2,800 lumens to an impressive 1,247 feet, we have the Fenix PD36R PRO. In the blue corner, the challenger. Slightly smaller, and with a little lighter punch, the PD35R sneaks under the radar with a remarkable runtime, functionally good power ratings, and a remarkable price.

So, which one is right for you?

We’ve argued about these two flashlights for years. That’s because, back and forth, they’ve traded the top slot in our Best Flashlights buying guide. And while there are other great contenders from different brands, these two return, over and over, for a great mix of user experience, performance, and value. They aren’t massive light cannons, but instead, these are the perfect size for most people — from hikers to hunters to law enforcement.

Fenix PD36R PRO vs. PD35R

First, let’s note that they are very similar lights. Both are about 5.5 inches long, weigh around 5 ounces, and have USB-C rechargeable batteries.

Both have dual tail switches, which allow easy operation even in the dark or with gloved hands.

And both have plenty of power — well beyond 1,000 lumens — for the vast majority of uses in the outdoors. They are a gold standard of pocketable flashlights.

Which is better? We’ve struggled with this question internally. Here are a few points to help you decide.

First off, the PD35R is significantly less expensive. It retails for $120 and regularly sells for $90 or less. The PD36R PRO retails for $156. You will see it regularly on sale for about $120.

So, if the price is a major consideration — and let’s be real, it is — that’s a notch in the PD35R column.

The PD35R doesn’t only win on price. It also has a lower-lumen “eco” mode, at 10 lumens, versus 30 lumens for the PD36R PRO’s lowest mode. That means the 35R also can run much longer, 100 hours versus 42 hours for the 36R (at higher output).

So, for those who value a super-low light with incredible run time, the PD35R would be a top choice. If you plan to mostly use the light at low output for seeing in a tent, for example, the PD35R will give you a lot longer runtime.

But for most users, higher output — the medium numbers of about 350 lumens — are the most realistic use case.

Where the PD36R PRO Dominates

This is where the PD36R PRO versus PD35R races gets interesting. The PD36R PRO will power out 350 lumens for a whopping 8 hours and 15 minutes. That’s a healthy battery life for a relatively small flashlight. For comparison, the PD35R can push 350 lumens for just 4 hours and 45 minutes.

And as the lumen output climbs, the PD36R PRO continues to dominate. It has a much higher “Turbo” threshold of 2,800 lumens. The 35R maxes out at 1,700. And while neither turbo setting has a long run time, the intended use of a blast of super-bright light for a brief moment gives the PD36R a strong leg up.

At “high,” the PD36R can run 1,000 lumens for 3 hours, 55 minutes. The 35R can only match that power for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Our Top Flashlight Choice: The Fenix PD36R PRO

So, as I finalize our Best Flashlights of 2023 article, the choice remains clear. The 36R is a superior flashlight, and it will remain our top choice.

But if you don’t mind some very minor performance differences, the PD35R is still a fabulous flashlight. And if you can get it for under $100, you’re getting a heck of a lot of value at a reasonable price.

The Fenix PD36R PRO is the author’s favorite flashlight of 2023; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Check out our complete flashlight buying guide for several other good flashlight choices for various uses and prices. Or, if you need a great flashlight, grab a PD36R PRO. After more than 6 months of regular use for hunting, backpacking, and around the house, I’m confident you’ll love it.

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