Lighting the Camp

Camp lights are useful for doing chores after dark, reading in the evening, traveling at night and providing enough low light to get settled for bed.  Camp lights can be divided into three types – flashlights, headlamps and lanterns.  Flashlights and headlamps provide (mostly) concentrated light while lanterns produce ambient light, the kind best for lighting the inside of a tent.  So most campers now carry either a flashlight or headlamp and a lantern.  Headlamps are now more popular than flashlights because they allow you to work with your hands free.  Modern headlamps have become very compact as the advent of energy efficient LED lighting makes it possible for the light to operate on batteries mounted within the lamp housing instead of the old types that required an external belt mounted battery pack.  There have been advances in flashlights as well, with high performance ultrabright LED and incandescent models now dominating the market.  Some of these cost nearly $150.00 with the average being around eighty bucks.  Examples of these are the Petzl Tikka XP  headlamp (120 lumens max, 120 lumens, 2 hrs/low light/100 hrs) and the Surefire G2X Pro Dual-Output LED flashlight (320 lumens, 2.75 hrs/15 lumens, 145 hrs).

It’s a fact that Americans like superlatives.  We want the lightest, strongest, smallest, largest, newest of whatever is made.  With camp lighting it’s no different.   Most folks want the smallest, brightest camp light possible.  In the quest for extreme brightness we’ve created lights that use significant resources in the form of batteries (according to David Wescott in the book Camping in the Old Style, a battery requires fifty times more energy to produce than it will return to the user).  Once they’ve been used, batteries go to the landfill where they leach toxic chemicals into the environment and then the process starts over, requiring us to extract even more resources to produce their replacement.  That may be an acceptable tradeoff for rescue lighting but do most campers need such extreme candlepower?  I doubt it.  Backpackers got by for years with the small Mallory plastic flashlight and a candle lantern.  I doubt anything more is required.

The Woodcrafters also valued dependable camp light.  Of course light output was limited by the technology of the day but they were content to light the camp with a glow not a glare.  In my next post I’ll cover the first of two classic traditional camping lights – the Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern.

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