The Goal Zero Torch 250 is way more than just a flashlight, and it has completely changed the way I look at flashlights. Here’s why….
Goal Zero supplied us with a review sample of their Torch 250 to test and I was expecting to find their usual, a quality product that holds up to the elements and does what it promises.
What I found was a completely new way of thinking….a complete mindset shift.
The Goal Zero Torch 250 is so innovative and so different from everything else out there that it forces you to think differently about a flashlight’s role in survival and prepping. Should a flashlight be just a simple way to see at night, or could a flashlight be more?
After all, the #1 rule of bug out bags, or packing for a camping trip in general, is that everything in your pack should have at least three uses.
And, once you think about it, a flashlight is the best portable power source you’ll have out in the bush. But no one has ever capitalized on this…
- Our Goal Zero Torch 250 Review
- First Impressions
- Out Of The Box
- Goal Zero Torch 250 Specs
- Charging and Run Time
- Using The Goal Zero Torch 250
- Putting The Goal Zero Torch 250 To A Real World Test
- Disassembling The Goal Zero Torch 250
- Most Asked Questions
- “What Is An 18650 Battery And Why Should I Care??”
- Overall Opinion
- The Real World Pros and Cons
- Final Thoughts
Our Goal Zero Torch 250 Review
Before I start this Goal Zero Torch 250 flashlight review, I should confess that I always thought a flashlight should be small and bright and last a long time… and that was about it.
If I ever needed a flashlight I would usually buy the cheapest one available. Sometimes I would splurge a little for features like zoom or a couple of different modes, but that was really about it.
Given that, I was honestly curious what would make me pay $67 for a flashlight. After playing with the Goal Zero Torch 250 for a couple of weeks I now understand EXACTLY what that is, and I don’t think I’m EVER going back.
The green and black packaging is simple yet descriptive, and the only item in the box is the Goal Zero Torch 250.
When I opened the box I was staring at a completely different type of beast, something I honestly didn’t expect.
Was I even looking at a flashlight? Maybe, yes. Of course. It’s obviously a flashlight with its multiple light options. But I really felt like I was looking at so much more.
The Torch 250 is not only a flashlight, but also a portable solar power bank. And a powerful one too, one that I would come to learn is capable of charging nearly anything via USB, including your smartphone.
With two separate flashlight options and a flood light, I knew this would be a good flashlight too. There was no doubt there. But the built in female USB port and multiple charging options is what really intrigued me.
In short, I was looking at the future, or at least a small part of it. A technological marvel that felt as promising as Doc Brown’s pimped out Delorean.
Here in front of me was a mini solar panel that charges top-of-the-line lithium 18650 batteries in the body and shape of a flashlight, AND it has USB ports for unloading all of that energy into other devices on demand.
Why is this such a game changer, you ask? Simple. It turns your single use item (a normal flashlight) into an indispensable piece of multi-use gear.
One of the most basic rules of prepping, and especially when it comes to bug out bags, is that every piece of gear you own should have at least three uses. Anything less and you could find a better solution, because essentially you’re wasting space with mediocre gear.
With the Torch 250 by Goal Zero you get (at least) three pieces of gear forged into one, possibly many more depending on how you want to count it.
Out Of The Box
I was Immediately drawn to the massive solar panel along the top. My first though was, “Goodbye dead flashlight batteries! Nice knowing you, ya money sucking b*stards!”
You can also connect a portable solar panel, such as the Nomad 7 or Nomad 20 from Goal Zero, to supplement the built in solar panel to significantly reduce charging times.
You also have two other options to power this unique flashlight. On one side is a handle that lets you manually crank the Torch 250 and charge the batteries via a dynamo motor.
The handle is held into place by a magnet so it won’t flip down by accident, and is easy to flip open to hand crank. It came in the mail about 95% charged and after about 20-30 seconds of cranking it appeared to be fully charged based on the four blue LED indicator lights.
If you’re near a computer with a USB outlet, or if you’re like most people and own at a bare minimum about a half dozen or so cell phone outlet-to-USB chargers, you can also use the built in USB cable to charge the Torch.
Like the handle on the opposite side, the USB cable locks into place with a magnet and has a nice secure snap to it.
There are three buttons on the bottom that work the lights: Flood, Spot, and Red. Each one presses twice for different modes (high/low, and in the case of the Red button, flashing).
There are four blue LEDs that indicate the current battery level. In the picture above it was actually flashing from 3 to 4 because it was laying in the sun charging. Also pictured above is the game changing 1.5V female USB port that lets you charge nearly anything via USB.
Just below this port are two hooks locked into place that can be pulled out to tote the Torch or hang it from something. It’s a unique and innovative two hook system that let you use the hooks separately or overlap them together to form a complete handle.
On the back of the Torch 250 is a flood light with 22 LEDs that turns this flashlight into a lantern with the touch of a button. Not only is it bright, but it’s also extremely energy efficient, running up to 48 straight hours on a full charge.
All of this was neatly built into a rugged trapezoidal outer shell. I did feel that this shape was kinda awkward to hold at first but I quickly got used to it. After a few days in the bush it felt odd to go back to a regular round flashlight.
Goal Zero Torch 250 Specs
The Goal Zero Torch 250 boasts a powerful 4,400 mAh lithium 18650 battery, 250 total lumens output, and a 1.5A female USB port that can charge smartphones or other gear.
The Torch has a white light for normal use, a red light for emergencies or for when you want to keep your eyes adjusted to the dark. As mentioned above, it also has a large flood bar measuring 4.5″ x 2″ on the side that turns the Torch into a high efficiency lantern.
The water-resistant torch measures approximately 10″ long x 3.5″ wide x 1.75″ thick, and it weighs 14.4 ounces. It’s body is composed of matte black plastic with a rubberized coating.
Charging and Run Time
Charging by the USB is the fastest and easiest option, assuming you have access to a USB port or an outlet (and appropriate adapter).
The hand crank takes about one minute of cranking to give two minutes of charge yet doesn’t really seem to fully charge the battery from 0% to 100% but instead gives a burst of energy or a top off of power instead.
The solar panel is the slowest but most passive way to charge the Torch 250. You can also connect a portable solar panel, such as the Nomad 7 or Nomad 20 from Goal Zero, to supplement the built in solar panel to significantly reduce charging times.
A Note On Solar Panel Charge Times:
Charging via solar panel can be slow without a booster panel, but after a lot of research I fully believe this is simply a limit of modern technology and not a fault of Goal Zero.
Keeping the Torch 250 on a table by a window is a great way to make sure it’s always ready and, once you drain it, a day in the sun will charge it enough for an average night’s run plus some.
Without a booster panel it won’t fully recharge to 100% in a single day by solar alone, because charging takes 23-46 hours with the built in panel depending on the strength and angle of the sun. If the Torch gets 12 hours of sunlight per day it will take about two to four days to fully charge.
Whereas, even the Goal Zero Nomad 7 cuts this time down to 7-14 hours, and the Nomad 20 makes charging the Torch 250 via solar as fast, if not faster, than the outlets at your house.
According to Goal Zero, their Nomad 20 panels are the largest solar panels you can use to charge the Torch 250.
The actual run time really depends on what you’re doing with it, but you can expect roughly 7 – 48 hours of constant run time.
The spot light uses more energy than the flood lights, with the spots on high lasting about 7 hours and the floods on low lasting an incredible 48 hours.
You can charge your phone about twice with it, or a GoPro about three times, or most GPS devices about once or twice before needing to recharge the Torch 250.
Using The Goal Zero Torch 250
Pressing the Flood button once turns the flood light on full brightness, and pressing it again dims them to save battery power. Pressing it again turns the LEDs off.
These LEDs are quite bright, and they will definitely light up any area just like a regular lantern with a reflector. You can light up a tent or a table or under a sink or under the hood of your car and work comfortably.
On the top of the torch is a more traditional flashlight, a spot light, with one large white LED in the middle. Just like the Flood, pressing the Spot button once turns the flashlight at max brightness, and pressing it again dims the brightness a bit. Pressing a third time turns the spot light off.
Pressing the Red button once activates the red lights. They look much like the spotlight but slightly dimmer and there are two of them focused into one illuminated area. Unlike the other two lights, pressing it again makes them flash instead of dim. Pressing Red again turns the red lights off.
If you bring your own standard USB cord the Torch 250 has a place for you to plug just about anything in to be instantly powered or charged.
This is great for charging your phone or running any other gear that can be powered by a standard female 1.5v USB.
The USB port is one of the best features and transitions the Torch 250 from a simple solar powered flashlight into a multi-use piece of gear that should be on everyone’s list.
Putting The Goal Zero Torch 250 To A Real World Test
I put the Goal Zero Torch 250 to a real world challenge through several days of actual use.
I set out with a fully charged Torch 250. On the first day it lasted well into a long and hard night and still charged my cell phone afterwards.
By the morning it was still working but needed a charge. Nothing that a day in the sun can’t solve.
Note that I could have cranked it too, but this feels more like a quick surge of power (one minute of cranking gives you about two minutes of light) and not a way to fully charge the battery because it seems to top off at about 10 minutes of run time by cranking alone.
So I laid the Torch on a rock in the sun for the day as I went about tending to other things. By that night it was 3/4 charged and would easily last through the night of use in the tent and around camp, with plenty of power left.
After charging in the sun for the next day it was back to max charge. This continued for several days and I never ran out of power.
I used the lights and USB charge port whenever I needed them, and I used it conservatively like I felt most people would. For example, if I could use the low power I would, but if I needed more light I wouldn’t hesitate to flip it to High. And many I didn’t worry about it and just used the high settings.
I also charged my smartphone at least three times, and an mp3 player once. It also ran a small usb powered fan for a little while, which was a nice treat during a 98F and very humid day.
It held up well and passed our real world tests.
Disassembling The Goal Zero Torch 250
The case is held together with 8 screws and is fairly easy to open. Things are very neat and clean inside, everything is held down with screws instead of the glue that cheap manufacturers use. This makes everything much more repairable!
The battery pack is connected to the circuit board by a removable connector, which makes me think that it could be replaceable. Removing the battery pack requires unscrewing a couple other components but it isn’t a big deal.
The battery, by my own experience and also confirmed by Goal Zero, are top tier 18650 lithium batteries made by either LG or Samsung. They are used in parallel.
Most Asked Questions
While we were testing the Torch 250 we asked several people that we ran into what they though and we let them play with it for a while. Everyone loved it and they all seemed very impressed. More than a few pretended to tuck it under a shirt and run away.
They all had a few questions for us, here are the most common.
Q: How long will it hold a full charge if you’re not using it?
A: For many months, possibly up to 6 months. Goal Zero recommends charging it every three to six months to keep the batteries at peak performance.
Q: Should I keep the lithium batteries on charge or let it die and then charge it?
A: It doesn’t really matter. The Torch 250 has charging and low-battery protection built-in and Goal Zero says that you can keep the flashlight plugged in all the time or you can charge it every 3 – 6 months. It’s up to you because these batteries are quite possibly the best in the world (I’m not exaggerating that either, you can google it).
Q: Is it waterproof?
A: It is not 100% waterproof, but it is water resistant. What that means is you can get it wet (like from a splash of water or a light bit of rain) but it can’t be submerged.
Q: How far does the light shine?
A: The spotlight is bright and nicely focused. At about 200 feet, I would estimate the illuminated area is still about 15 feet across and is easily bright enough to walk with. The flood light is concentrated within a few broad feet and lights up a wide area such as a desk, a tent, or under a hood. The floodlight uses very little power but puts out a lot of light.
Q: Are the batteries 18650?
A: YES! The Torch 250 uses top tier 18650’s and that has been officially confirmed by Goal Zero for us. They also use them in many of their other products. They are made from a top of the line manufacturer too, possibly LG or Samsung, so these batteries are quite literally the best batteries in the world.
“What Is An 18650 Battery And Why Should I Care??”
For those that don’t know, the 18650 battery powers most high end lithium power tools, most laptops, most high end flashlights. It even powers Tesla cars (yes, that Tesla), their powerwalls, and is now going to one day soon be the battery backup of the entire California power grid!
All of that reputation, power, and quality is right in your hands with the Torch 250!
The 18650 has a following that can only be described as a cult (the good kind) and their reputation is well deserved. The world’s power problems are being solved every day by one simple 18650 battery at a time.
I’m very impressed. I will be taking the Torch 250 with me from now on. In fact, it has replaced my flashlight, my lantern, my lantern at home, my power pack, and my small solar panel.
Whether you want a versatile flashlight, a small solar panel, or a top of the line power bank, the Goal Zero Torch 250 is for you. If you need something for camping, survival, prepping, or just natural disasters, or maybe something for your vehicle, the Torch 250 is a great choice.
Frankly it’s the best choice on the market, everything else pales in comparison.
If you’re looking for the best flashlight for camping or survival you’re probably more concerned with getting home or rescued than anything. With the Torch you’ll be able to see at night on the trail and at camp, and you can keep your phone, GPS, emergency beacon, and other devices charged so you can know where you’re at and call for help if needed.
The red light is useful for emergencies or for when you need to preserve your night vision, like when you’re walking through the woods and want to see where you’re going and also what’s in the shadows.
The run time is impressive, up to 48 hours for the flood light on low. But it’s most important feature is the ability to recharge anything via USB, which it does perfectly.
The solar panel can recharge the 18650 batteries pretty fast with all things considered, and the ability to add additional panels for faster charging times is icing on the cake.
I will be buying a Nomad 7 or a Nomad 20 soon, which should greatly decrease the solar charging time and will be a great stand-alone addition to my preps. Not to mention their reviews are stellar.
For non-emergency topping off of the batteries, charging the Torch by USB every 3-6 months is as easy as charging any cell phone, or if you leave it in a windowsill all the time it’s truly set and forget.
I really like the the built-in two piece hanger system too. It allows you hold it like a lantern or hang the light on a cord or branch or inside your tent. When both hooks are together they form a D-ring handle that’s comfortable to use.
It has some minor flaws but none of them serious. My only real complaints are that the 4 blue LED’s that indicate the battery charge level are kinda bright and are lit up whenever the Torch is being used or charged. This extra glow is a little irritating, more so when you’re using the red lights.
Also, the light is somewhat awkward to hold at first, but you do get use to it and forget about it after a bit. Nor are the USB ports sealed against dirt, which was really freaking me out at first but I must admit it never gave me a bit of trouble.
Beside those minor complaints, I highly recommend the Goal Zero Torch 250 and give it 4.8 out of 5 stars.
The Real World Pros and Cons
First, the cons:
- Charging by solar can take a while, but again, this is a limit of modern technology and not a fault of Goal Zero. Fixable with a Nomad 7 or Nomad 20 portable panel.
- The USB ports have no dust covers and dirt could get in them. I never actually had any problems with the ports, but it did worry me.
Now, the pros:
- Both the spot light and the flood light is blindingly bright. It’s very easy to walk with or work under these lights.
- There are two power settings (high and low) for both lights. This lets you save the battery whenever possible.
- The red flashing emergency lights and ability to leave it in a glove box or a trunk for months without any worries make it a great vehicle emergency flashlight.
- The multiple charging options and ability to extend the solar panels with a portable addon means you’ll never be without power.
- The batteries are top of the line and will last a very very long time, it’s impossible to find any better batteries. They did their homework and chose wisely.
- It’s best feature is the ability to charge smart phones, tablets, and other devices with the built in USB port. A fully charged Torch can fully charge your average smart phone or GPS about twice, and that is life saving in a survival or emergency situation.
Overall, I am very happy with the Torch 250. Honestly, I have to say that this is now my favorite flashlight. It has already replaced my backpack flashlight, the emergency flashlight in my house, my backpack lantern, my lantern at home, my power pack, and my small solar panel. This one piece of gear has saved me a lot of space and weight.
The Torch 250 is one of those things you see and know you want, but because of its price you always put it off. My advise is to get it because it’s multiple uses make it an invaluable tool. It’s literally a flashlight with a built-in generator that fits in your backpack!
Power outages happen. Emergencies happen. SHTF happens. Having a well-built and dependable flashlight on hand and ready for action can go a long way toward keeping you and your family calm and safe.