The search for the ultimate camping light has been a long and ongoing quest that has revealed a lot about lighting and the fact that modern man still has a long way to evolve in respect of simple everyday utensils.
We may be able to put a man on the moon or collide atoms at the speed of light, but man, let’s not forget that we still kill mice with a piece of cheese and a steel spring and we still make under-performing mobile lighting.
The newest style low-energy-consumption, multiple-LED, variable-switch, matchbox-sized camping lantern has come and gone from the camping kit. Another disappointment and another eighty bucks down the drain.
Not that it didn’t work. It worked fine. Came in a pretty blue aluminium and plastic housing with 8 Ultra Bright Nichia LEDs’ with a claimed 7.5 hours battery life, 185 Lumens, hanging hook, emergency mode, and water resistant as well. Yep it was smallish, robust, lightweight and it made light. It just didn’t make great light. It threw a diminishing circle of light around the campsite in about a 10 metre diameter. The loud and vocal claims of the camping store salesman, stating that it was 2010 and mankind had made enormous advances because of lights like this one, proved untrue in the field.
We were really looking for that intense radiated beam that cannot be stared into and doesn’t require you to squint in order to see as you walk back in from the dark.
We were looking for the sort of light intensity that only seems to come from burning or electrocuting something.
So we have gone back to the little Coleman mantle burner for night time duties. Which is a shame because it means we burn up disposable gas bottles and we have to carry a lantern with a glass diffuser (the only glass we carry). We have to carry spare mantles and we have to build the thing every time we use it, ie: fit the unit to the gas.
We can, however, see at night. We can see because of that horrible gas mantle, which used to be made from asbestos, and is now made from something else - probably equally as horrible. That gas mantle has a big surface area and it makes fire, it actually burns oxygen and gas and it has a bright flame – not as bright as the old asbestos jobs – but bright enough.
It's not perfect. It has a variable control knob that allows it to be adjusted for a brighter or softer flame. We sometimes run this lantern at less than 100% power which means it's got the edge on the battery jobs - we never find them too bright - we just move them around constantly attempting to extract every last drop of light.
Because we live in the 21st Century we expect something that burns as bright and long as a pump up kerosene lantern with a gas mantle. And we would love to use one of those at night but they are bigger and it would involve carrying kero or LPG to run it on top of the myriad of fuels, batteries and gas bottles that we already cart around.
So until we find something better we’ll continue to squash mice with springs of steel and burn gas mantles to see at night.
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