Lighting a campsite is a matter of personal preference as well as practicality. The two major considerations are the fuel to power each lamp and the likely location requirements.
Fluorescent and LED lamps:
• Fluorescent lamps that run off the vehicle’s battery consume ± 1-amp of current. If also running a freezer, electric current may be at a premium.
• LED lights consume about one-tenth the current of a fluorescent for the equivalent brightness. Incandescent bulbs are the least efficient.
• Location is limited as they are always connected to the vehicle or trailer via a cable.
• Ideal for locations that never change, i.e trailer lid, tent interior etc.
• Portable and practical because they can be recharged when the vehicle is back on the road and therefore does not drain unnecessary current from the vehicle battery while in camp.
• The gel batteries tend to stop working after about 50 charges. This is due mainly to the poorly designed and cheap charging circuits built into the average lantern. It is sometimes no more expensive to buy a new lantern than replace the battery.
• LED lanterns offer as much illumination, more reliability and with far less current draw. They are no more expensive.
Liquid fuel lanterns:
• Nice to play with, very bright and fuel efficient but noisy.
• Break easily and corrugated roads can shake them to pieces.
• Independent fuel source means that an additional fuel needs to be taken along.
• Provides a more orange light, which means that it has a lesser effect on the eye’s ability to compensate to darkness when the light is extinguished.
• Can run for 8-hours (Coleman Kerosene) non stop.
• Dirty fuel can render them useless or at the least, troublesome.
• The warm glow of a candle is impractical in the bush unless it can be protected from the wind.
• The Bush-Lite candle lantern does just that. A single candle lasts all night and the lantern can also accommodate a mosquito pad.
For years the only really good torch was a Mag-Lite. Now dozens of torch makers have copied Mag-Lite’s philosophy: To build high performance professional flashlights for everyone. Some outperform the Mag-Lite in terms of brightness and shape of beam but not many match Mag-Lite in terms of ruggedness. (www.mag-lite.com) And as newer and better models come along, it appears as if mag0Lite is fast asleep. Even their LED torches are, size for size and weight for weight, under-performers to say the least. I no longer have any Maglites in my overlanding kit.
I love torches and have collected them for years. I began collecting in 1985 when I bought my first Mini Mag-Lite when in New York City. I now have six Mag-Lites, including their latest 3-D-cell LED. The clever thing about Mag-Lite’s rather late entry into the LED torch market is that their kits enable just about any D-cell torch to be converted to LED. And amazingly I think the LED conversion does not only save heaps on batteries, but performs better too, the cold blue light providing much better penetration. My most used Mag-Lite is my Mag-Charger, a 3-D-cell sized rechargeable torch with really outstanding brightness. I have had mine and used it on every trip since 1992. In 1999 I was introduced to Streamlight, a range of brilliant torches. Their Stinger range of torches are very lightweight and of the range the Polystinger is my favorite.
Another torch that should be making headlines is Wolf-Eyes. This is a range of pricey but stunning torches. All of the range, performance wise, leaves the rest in a dim, under-lit shade. Especially inspiring is their big boy, the Wolf-eyes Dragon. The bulb is HID (High Intensity Dispersion) and takes about 4 seconds for the bulb to light to full strength, but the light makes even the awesome Mag-Charger look ordinary. It’s like the search-lights they used in London in WW2, but you can hold it in your hand. In addition to being superlative performers, many Wolf-Eyes torches have an LED torch in the tail-cap that double-up as a battery check devise. Clever! (www.smart-tent.co.za) (www.wolf-eyes.com)
Another torch with spectacular power and versatility if the LED-Lenser. I am busy testing this but initial impressions are that it my become my latest favourite.