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Cheap Flashlight Faceoff: ThruNite Archer vs. Coast G32

The ThruNite Archer and Coast G32 are very good all-around flashlights for about $30. Which one is better?

The Coast G32, top, and The ThruNite Archer; (photo/Sean McCoy)
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When it comes to buying an inexpensive flashlight, you have a lot of choices. But there’s a lot of trash in the $30 and under price range.

So as a flashlight junkie who is constantly trying to find the best flashlights for many price ranges and uses, I dove headlong into trying the find the best budget flashlight. The task, which took me into big-box stores, specialty shops, and across the internet, boiled down to two strong contenders.

Meet the ThruNite Archer, a diminutive, pen-style light that is widely sold on Amazon, and the Coast G32, which you can buy on Amazon, REI, and at other outdoor outlets. We tested them head-to-head to see which one came out on top.

Out of the Box

First Impressions

Our team ordered one of each flashlight to kick off the testing. Both the Coast 32 and ThruNite Archer arrived at our office in a few days with packaging intact.

First, I opened up the Coast G32. I kind of hated the plastic bubble package. Why so much waste? Well, probably for shelf space display. But it’s disappointing that a brand like Coast won’t step up to something more sustainable than (nearly impossible to recycle) plastic containers.

Comparatively, the ThruNite Archer came in a small box. It contained a light and small amount of (also non-recyclable) styrofoam. Still not great, but better.

I dropped in some AA batteries and flicked on the Coast G32. Boom — a nice, clear circle of light appeared.

I put batteries into the ThruNite Archer and clicked the tail switch. Nothing. And no matter what I tried — flipping batteries, pushing buttons, whacking it — it would not turn on.

This was not good for the ThruNite, but I figured I must have gotten a lemon. I ordered another, waited a few days, and prepared for the test to continue.

ThruNite Archer: Take 2

The second ThruNite Archer arrived. I unboxed it and put in batteries. And again, nothing!

I shook my head as I searched the internet for answers. It seems this highly rated flashlight has a reputation for producing a lot of lemons. However, several users noted that whacking them on the tail sometimes fixes this issue. So I smacked the ThruNite Archer on the tail a few times and, voila! Let there be light.

And for a $30 flashlight, it was nice light. Let the testing continue.

Coast G32 versus Thrunite Archer flashlights
Our economical contenders: ThruNite Archer and Coast G32; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Head-to-Head Testing Methods

For transparency, I decided to test these flashlights head-to-head because I wanted to know which is the best budget flashlight. And I’ll always be looking, so if you have a different one you love, let me know!

I put these two flashlights through identical tests.

First, I submerged both in 4 inches of water for 5 minutes. That’s not a brutal submersion test, but it’s enough to ensure both lights are fairly water-resistant. Both came through with flying colors.

Coast G32 and Thrunite Archer flashlights in submersion test
The Coast G32 and ThruNite Archer, submerged in water; (photo/Sean McCoy

Next, I used the lights at night side by side. The performance was remarkably similar, with the primary difference being the interface of a zoom light versus a non-zoom but with more power modes. I also ran the lights for 5 minutes, then 30 minutes, on their highest setting. I found that they still produced very similar light.

Finally, I drop-tested both lights three times from 3 feet onto concrete. Then I dropped them from 6 feet three times onto concrete.

Both lights survived this fairly tough drop test. So I got the ladder out and moved it up. I wanted to see which would die first. More on this later.

Coast G32 Flashlight Review

First, let’s talk about the flashlight that worked from the beginning, the Coast G32. For $30, you get a 6.5-inch flashlight with a focusing lens and single tail switch. It has a nice, deep-carry pocket clip, knurling for grip, and comes in “gunmetal” gray. While not much better than black, gray will be slightly easier to find inside a pack in the dark.

The G32 is a relatively small flashlight, but it’s still pretty substantial in the hand. It weighs 5.4 ounces with batteries. It’s a nice size for backpacking. If you want an EDC flashlight that never leaves your pocket, it’s probably a bit too big. I’d say it’s perfect for an around-the-house flashlight — not so small it’s easy to lose, but not so big it takes up much space.

Coast G32 flashlight in hand
The Coast G32 in hand; (photo/Sean McCoy)

The user interface is very simple and intuitive. Press the tail switch once to turn it on. Press it again to turn it off. Each time you turn it off or on, it toggles between high (465 lumens) and low (155 lumens). It has a regulated output, meaning that it dials down the brightness once the LED gets hot after a few minutes. This is common and good.

At low power, it’ll run for 17 hours on AA batteries. It’s a “dual power” flashlight, meaning you can also run it with Coast’s ZITHION-X rechargeable battery (not included).

It also has a zooming lens. While this is a polarizing feature in the flashlight world, the zoom is really well-executed and results in a wide circle of light or, when zoomed, a tight beam that projects up to 134 m with a nice fall-off around the bright center spot.

I like this flashlight. And for $25, I really like it.

ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Flashlight Review

Now for the ThruNite Archer. This flashlight has been playing catch-up since day one, when the first model that arrived didn’t work. The second dead-on-arrival flashlight put it in the doghouse. But I’m going to be fair now that I have one working.

I must concede, it’s a nice flashlight, very light, and with robust, easy-to-use features. The user interface uses two buttons — a tail switch to turn on and off, and a side switch near the front that adjusts the brightness between five modes.

Thurnite Archer flashlight in hand
The ThruNite Archer; (photo by Sean McCoy

Although the five modes are intuitive and easy to use, five is a little overkill. The lowest mode is a barely visible “firefly” mode that won’t light past 1 foot, so it’s pretty much useless. ThruNite claims a whopping 15 days as the Archer’s longest runtime, which is based on “firefly” mode — so just ignore that. Realistically, the lowest useable light is 17 lumens, which the brand claims will run for 51 hours.

Most people will find themselves using the 70-lumen medium mode (11-hour runtime) or the 500-lumen/280-lumen regulated high mode (200 seconds/120 minutes). In medium power, you have enough light to walk a dog on a dark night. High gives you a nice bright center with a halo of dimmer light, which is quite nice, with a maximum range of 93 m.

But the Archer’s pocket clip is located in the very center, which kind of blows. It’s light enough to pocket carry (3.5 ounces on a postal scale with AA batteries installed), but it sticks out of your pocket halfway — so it isn’t really pocketable. You can clip it on a belt or pants, but it would still work better with the clip further toward the end.

I tried moving it, but in the most appropriate location near the tail, it just doesn’t stay attached properly. The best option was to move it toward the front of the light in an upside-down carry configuration. Not ideal, but it worked OK for deep-pocket carry.

Is the ThruNite Archer a good flashlight? I’d generally say yes, for the price.

Flashlight Death Test: The Long Fall

I took a step stool out to my driveway and climbed up two steps. I’m 5’8″, and I stood 2 feet above the concrete and reached above my head as high as I could. I’d guess this to be a bit over 9 feet high. I turned both flashlights on and dropped them onto their sides. Both survived two drops.

Man holds two flashlights while on step stool
The author holds up the flashlights for drop-testing; (photo/Sean McCoy)

“Well, let’s raise the stakes,” I thought. I held them up again, and this time directed the lenses straight at the ground. They dropped, and flash! The Coast died on impact. Amazingly, the ThruNite continued to shine.

Just to verify its durability, I climbed up again and dropped the ThruNite squarely on the lens from 9-ish feet. And again, it continued to glow.

Well, well, well — we have a winner.

ThruNite Archer vs. Coast G32: Who Wins?

So, which of these flashlights earns the top spot in our coveted best flashlight buying guide?

You just can’t argue with durability. And in this case, the ThruNite Archer eeked out a very close win.

But darn it, I really love Coast’s excellent zoom, especially in this lower power budget range. It gives this affordable light significant throw, or the ability to light a wide area.

I really don’t think you can go wrong with either of these flashlights. I would say that, even with false starts, the ThruNite is overall a slightly better light. But the Coast G32 is also a great choice and will likely earn a slot as the best budget zooming light in our flashlight buying guide during our next update.

If you need a cheap flashlight that’s super light, grab the ThruNite. Just be sure to order early in case you get a lemon. If you want a great zoom light for around the house, you won’t go wrong with the Coast G32. Just don’t drop it from a significant height onto concrete.

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