Headlamps, Torches and Lanterns

A torch or headlamp is an essential part of your camping equipment for around the campsite or walking in the dark. You should also carry one with you every time you are traveling in the wilderness as a matter of safety. Sooner or later you are going to ne

A torch or headlamp is an essential part of your camping equipment for around the campsite or walking in the dark. You should also carry one with you every time you are traveling in the wilderness as a matter of safety. Sooner or later you are going to need it!

How to choose the right light source
Choose a light source that makes sense for the kinds of trips you will be taking.

 

Most bushwalkers carry compact personal torches or head torches. A larger group or car campers might carry an area light/lantern as well, to light up the campsite and eating areas.

Torches - Battery-powered torches are by far the most common type of light used in the bush. They are compact, lightweight and easy to use. And you can direct the light exactly where you need it.

Headtorches - Battery-powered headtorches work like traditional torches, but they let you keep both hands free. They usually fasten to your head via adjustable elastic straps. This can be a great bonus when you are trying to set up your tent, cook dinner or repair something in the dark.

Candle lanterns - Candle lanterns offer reliable, long-lasting performance. They are perfect for activities like reading at night or eating dinner, when you need a moderate level of area light, but you don't want to consume lots of batteries.

Lanterns - Designed to illuminate large areas, lanterns are good on longer trips with more people or when you are not required to walk far to the campsite. They are generally heavier and bulkier than the other options (although there are some light weight models available). Gas and liquid fueled lanterns are harder to set up and use than lanterns that run on batteries.

How to choose the power source
The power source a light uses affects how bright it is, how long it lasts and how easy it is to work with. It will also determine how much extra weight you have to carry with you to stay charged up. Another factor to consider is the battery/bulb combination. Halogen bulbs generally offer three times the strength in light and beam length than that of a standard bulb, yet they will also drain a battery much faster.

Batteries are convenient, easy to find and relatively inexpensive. AA and AA are lighter than C-sized batteries but won't last as long. Some headtorches use a 4.5-volt battery. This battery provides more burn time, but can only be purchased at specialist store. Some headlamps that require a 4.5-volt battery also will take an adapter into which you can install AA batteries.

Most non-reusable batteries use an alkaline power source. These batteries are powerful and have a long shelf life, but contain some nasty chemicals and should be disposed of properly. Nickel-cadmium batteries are rechargeable and work better in colder weather than alkaline ones, and work out cheaper in the long run. In really cold weather (below 0° F) only lithium batteries provide reliable power but are expensive.

Candles are lightweight, inexpensive and long lasting. They also provide a little warmth along with light. Generally they are not as bright as the other options and can pose a safety hazard if not used sensibly.

Some lanterns run on the same fuels used in cooking stoves such as compressed gas or liquid fuel. This can be convenient if you're already carrying a fuel supply for your stove. But you'll have to carry more fuel with you, and you may not be able to use the light while you're cooking.

Some questions to ask yourself

  • Do you want a light that's easy to carry?
  • Do you want one that has an adjustable focus?
  • Do you want a light that you can suspend or hang easily to provide overhead light?
  • Do you need one that can be held (or worn) when performing other tasks?

For general chores around the campsite, torches are convenient and easy to use. But for reading in your tent, sorting gear in the dark or walking at night, a head torch is far superior if not indispensable. Finally, remember to always pack fresh, spare batteries and a spare bulb. Even a spare torch can be a good idea.

 

Sourced from Paddy Pallin