View Full Version : Whats the deal with Light?

2006-12-14, 22:56
Okay ....
I've been meaning to post this one for quite ways now...
but you know how it goes. Too much to do, not enough time in a day, etc.

So here goes.

Almost unfailingly, I see a huge trend not just around here... but everywhere among backpackers to be making serious choices when it comes to flashlights and headlamps. Wide beams, focused beams, 9 bajillion lumens, tactical lights, every color of the rainbow LED etc etc.

So here is my question. Seriously... what is everyone doing that they need so much light?

I am not against headlamps by any means. But really do you need one unless you are on trail after sun down? Or big powerful flashlights for that matter?

All I have ever used is a maglite solitare, pelican L1 and photon freedom micro.
Its plenty of light for me.

So. This is not a slam to anybody with a big powerful light. But convince me, educate me if you will, explain to me ... what exactly you do with that light, and what aspects of hiking life does it make better?

2006-12-14, 23:05
Whats the Deal with Light?

I thought there was going to be a Seinfeld punch line to follow!

2006-12-14, 23:22
I used to carry just a AA maglight for everywhere but base camp until I went hunting with a couple of guys who carried those blue LED headband lamps. One of them shot a little bull elk about sundown and got us together to pack it back to to our dry camp, maybe 1/3 ,1/2 mile away. By the time we got it quartered it was pretty dark (hunting 's better with no moon) these guys had strapped on their LEDs to finish slaughtering the bull and about blinded me all the way back to camp as I followed them. My maglight seemed like one of those glow-in-the-dark watchfaces. Looking into their faces to talk was like looking into car headlights. Maybe it's just a power thing? anyway, LEDs are a more efficient light generator than incandesent by a long shot. I'm sold; they're lighter , last longer and are more rugged.
If I'm not going to bed at sundown, being able to see is a good thing. Once I'm in my hammock, one of those button LEDs is plenty to check for spiders, zombies and such.
I tossed my maglight into my tool bag and then converted it to LED with one of those Campmor kits. Now it's annoyingly bright too.

2006-12-15, 01:23
Turk, thank goodness you brought this to "light"! I have been waiting to talk about this as well. I have a fixation with flashlights. Head lamps too. I have over 70 different flashlights or headlamps mixed in with all of my autos, camper, trailer, hiking gear, hunting gear, fishing gear, house, tool kits, briefcase, desk drawer, everywhere. I have way, way, way too many, and I am always looking for more, different, newer, brighter, lighter, different shaped, bulletproof, waterproof, camo, flourescent, incandescent, light emitting diode, ultra lightweight dual beam rechargeable flexible rigid stand alone floating blood tracking bore inspecting xenon lithium chromium aluminum o-ringed super modified and improved ones. GOD I LOVE LIGHTS!!!!! I know I will probably never get over this fetish. :evil:

The deal with lights is this. Most all of us have a little expendable income. What is so wrong with buying the boy a new toy now and then. Flashlights are always improving, our sports always changing. Look at you and your axes, hi-tech backcountry stoves and gear, packs, knives, cell phones, need I continue? Your axe is my light. I see a cooler one, Ive got to have it. Period. I will have it. Maybe I am scared of the dark. Doesn't matter... whatever the reason, lights are fun, usefull and relatively inexpensive to upgrade each year, or month, or week! :biggrin:

My point is this, why not. Why not spend a little cash and pick up a new toy every now and then, something to show off to your buddies, light the way down the trail, spot that porcupine in the tree with, etc... A bright light is a weapon. I have a light that will burn your retinas. My friends talk every year about that light. " Hey do you still have that bad ass light?" Yes I do, wanna see it, it's going to cost you a beer. A long lasting LED light is your friend, always there, doesn't cost you an arm and leg in batteries. A seven cell maglight is more than a weapon, I call mine my "CRD". (Conflict Resolution Device.) Also makes one heck of a baseball bat if needed.

You are totally right. You only need one light. Maybe a micro backup in case of failure. You can jackstrap an AA minimag to your temple and find your way to camp. Done it. (Sucks) Or you can "click" on your new headlamp and see more of the trail, more comfortably, for longer.

Like a gun. Like a knife. Like an axe. A light.

2006-12-15, 01:32
What is the minimalist light you would need for getting to your campsite after dark, in like Appalachian trail type switchback conditions. I like to set up camp by candle lantern, but I carry a headlamp just in case I get stuck on the side of a hill after dark. It's king of heavy. So what is the minimalist headlamp, just for emergencies?

2006-12-15, 04:36
What is the minimalist light you would need for getting to your campsite after dark, in like Appalachian trail type switchback conditions. I like to set up camp by candle lantern, but I carry a headlamp just in case I get stuck on the side of a hill after dark. It's king of heavy. So what is the minimalist headlamp, just for emergencies?
The minimalist headlamp is when you rubber band a peice of tinfoil to the back of your head to act as a reflector and then set your hair on fire.

I don't like headlamps they bother me. Now that I think about it, it might be a leftover bias from the days when they weighed 5 lbs. Be that as it may, I don't like them.

I have a small LED lamp that I bought when they were new (LED's). They don't make them anymore, but I wish they did, as my xmas shopping would be done, everyone would get one. It's flat and folds, so you can set it upright if you want to, or use it in a hands free position by folding it closed on your collar. It uses 2 AA batteries and has a high and low setting. It has small plastic tubes that the LEDs shine into so the light is more defused (sp?).
It has more than enough light for me to do anything I might want to, and it is one of my most prized possessions.

-I also carry a small (1 AAA) LED light in my pocket now as a precaution.

SGT Rock
2006-12-15, 05:01
I am sort in the same boat here. I think it is keeping up with the Joneses syndrome in some ways. For me, I try to set up a system in how I hike so I don't even need to use a headlamp or light at night most of the time.

That said, I started with the AA Mini-Mag. To use hands free I got one of those headband things. Then I got tired of changing bulbs and was also working on trimming the weight, so I went to a pair of the LED key-chain type lights. The problem I had with those were they sometimes didn't give me enough light for some chores like the occasional night hike in total darkness or tying to hang a food bag in same conditions. Plus I found that changing the battery in one of these could be a real chore and often didn't work so well. Leads to the LED itself could get bent up or even rusty and degrade the efficiency of the light.

Finally I moved to the Ptzyl Zippka. It uses regular old AAA batteries, Has a dim setting so I can read without being blinded by looking at the page, and it has a bright setting in case I need to do something that requires some light - but not so bright it is annoying. The built in retractable sting for head-wear is actually sort of handy.

My complaints - I don't need a flashy light, and the dim setting is still a little brighter than I want. It also weighs more than I like, but I can live with that. The biggest annoyance is the price - wow. That is why I don't go around trying to convince people to get one.

2006-12-15, 07:00
All I carry is a little LED Microlite II. I hardly ever use it too.

2006-12-15, 07:08
The minimalist headlamp is when you rubber band a peice of tinfoil to the back of your head to act as a reflector and then set your hair on fire.

I love that DK.

Speaking of Pelican lights Turk, I love the VB3 (http://www.cases4less.com/detail_pelican_pel-2220.html). It has a spring clip deal that lets you clip it almost anywhere. I can clip it on an elastic headband or shirt pocket (http://www.autosportcatalog.com/images/originals/pelican.cliplight.jpg) and use it just like a headlamp, or clip it on a branch, guyline, etc. to light up an area

2006-12-15, 08:25
The flaming hair trick only works once.:angel:

I carry a few photon lights in various pockets so they're easy to find. A handful adds up to an ounce or two and provides backups. I get the kind that clip to the brim of my hat.

When it gets dark, I go to bed.

2006-12-15, 09:13
Two photon lights and a Princeton Scout headlamp. For a thru hike I'd ditch the scout and it's coin cell batts for a AAA led light to simplify resupply. I've also carried a CMG AA LED but I've decided it is just extra weight. While hunting I also carry a Surefire Nitrolon with a blue filter for bloodtrailing.

bird dog
2006-12-15, 12:23
I have a Black Diamond ION but found that it is inadequate to do anything other than read at night. So, I just bought a Streamlight that is a green LED. It weighs two ounces, has a dim and bright function and uses AAA batteries that are easy to come by at small mom and pop stops on the trail. The green color light helps to save my night vision, and the light has a clip built into the barrell that allows me to clip the light onto anything. I love this light.

For work, I have several lights. I have a rechargeable three cell mag-lite (Gets as much work as a CRD as it does an illumination device), and a small rechargeable Streamlite. I also own a few assorted streamlites that attach to handguns, rifles, and the like.


2006-12-15, 15:30
When it gets dark, I go to bed.

I like that strategy

2006-12-15, 16:28
I carry a single flashlight. The one I carry now has 3 LEDs and a hand crank to recharge - no batteries. I have found I seldom use it unless it is an overcast, new moon night, i.e., really, really dark and I gotta pee at the wee hours of the morning. I prefer to night adapt my eyes and not use any artifical light. Also, I go to bed instead of trying night time activities, especially hiking. Hiking with no trail is a sure way to get injured.

2006-12-15, 16:43
Door kickers have a saying about guns, two is one, one is none. Whitewater paddlers say the same about paddles. Our team SOP was always have three light sources, that may be over kill for a hiker, but two isn't, me thinks. Carry whatever you will for a primary light, I like a small headlamp, just bright enough to walk down a trail and at least one of those little photons. If I can't carry that much weight I'll stay home. I've had one of those little photons on my keychain for three years and I pull it out to keep from tripping over stuff at night several times per week and I have yet to change the battery.

2006-12-16, 00:20
I have had a photon light (red) on my dog tags for years. If i need a bright light for what ever I have a surefire Elite (1 cell) and a M-2.

2006-12-17, 01:43
I carry two lights - a 5 LED headlamp I purchased at Meijer (couldn't even tell you what brand, cost $24) and a cheap LED light/keyring for a backup that I found at a Cracker Barrel restaurant store.

Being a night owl I'm forever doing things at night, and I've found the headlamp to be the greatest piece of equipment I own. I do everyting with it. I garden with it. Fix my car with it. Fix plumbing in my crawlspace with it. Night hike with it, set up camp, cook dinner, scope out the trees/forest to see what the dog is barking at. (Even a dim headlight reflects eyes very well due to the almost line of sight angle of reflection) I have no fear whatsoever of arriving at a campsite after dark - I am not the least bit hindered when I am wearing my headlamp.

It _excels_ for auto work. Forget trying to adjust from bright sunlight to a dark engine crevice while looking for that bolt you just dropped. Forget trying to position that bulky trouble light so you can see, the one that rolls upside down every time you let loose so you can use two hands to wrench or the cord torsion turns it so it shines in your eyes. Eveything I do, the headlamp shines right where I need to look and my hands are free to work.

My only complaints with the headlamp I have is I'd like to have a red lens for night hiking, and it has a push on/off switch that tends to switch on when in your pack, draining the batteries. (I carry extra AAAs for just such an emergency) Other than that I love the thing.

2006-12-17, 20:21
Homemade, attaches to 9v battery terminals

LED plus resistor attached purchased on e-bay

soldered it to terminal unit, then used heat shrink tube to cover all

I use 9v batterys for all my stuff. One battery fits all. Its used on a very very small weather radio that I carry inside an altoids tin(my survival pack)


2006-12-17, 21:14

I'm with Iceman - I have too many lights - and I want more! I have Photon II I carry on a lanyard. I also carry a UCO candle lantern and an Energizer 6-LED headlamp (about $15 at Wal-Mart). Wal-Mart also sells a small flashlight that uses two lithium batteries - VERY BRIGHT! My daughter just gave me an early Christmas present - a SOL Lightcap -- a water bottle with a red and a white LED in the cap -- with a solar panel in the cap -- that powers a rechargeable battery there. The battery charges all day and powers the LED's at night. The water bottle disperses the light in a very pleasing way. The cap gizmo is pretty heavy for just a white LED and a red one, but I like the setup anyway. I'm with Take-a-knee -- if I can't carry a few extra ounces for light, I need to stay home.

Frankly, the light doesn't have to last very long at night for me. After a day's hike, I can't stay awake much longer than the time it takes to eat and wash up!

2006-12-17, 22:18
Homemade, attaches to 9v battery terminals

LED plus resistor attached purchased on e-bay

soldered it to terminal unit, then used heat shrink tube to cover all

I use 9v batterys for all my stuff. One battery fits all. Its used on a very very small weather radio that I carry inside an altoids tin(my survival pack)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v228/obijiwa/2004_1217danspics0011.jpgWay cool. I like your approach, but do you use a rechargeable 9v or buy a fresh battery each trip?

One thing I don't like about batteries is the uncertainty of knowing how many hours are left in them, and since I don't use them for this reason, I am even less likely to know. You could get into a very small solar recharger, but what do they weigh, and do I really want to go that route? It's sort of a go big or stay home thing. It would be different if I was doing a serious expedition or something, but I am basically just going for a long walk in the woods without thinking too much about electrons. BTUs I don't mind so much. It's just me. Fire good. Electrons bad. I would prefer if my watch was a windup, but where do you get a cheap lightweight one of those today?

2006-12-17, 23:44
JAK, I believe Seiko still make the "Poor mans' Rolex" self winding dive watch. I bought one in 81 and used it for 15yr before I bought another. The first watch could probably be repaired and still used. It ain't tiny or lightweight since it is a dive watch. I've been down to 90 ft several times with mine.l

2006-12-18, 00:40
Homemade, attaches to 9v battery terminals

LED plus resistor attached purchased on e-bay

Now THAT is a cool idea! :adore: How many hours of light do you get on an alkaline 9v battery?

lucky luke
2006-12-18, 03:03

iŽll go back to the original topic here. i use a petzl tactikka after many years of experimenting and soldering leds... i simply gave up making my own. i want a VERY bright beam, because i am a mountaineer and i need distance to find a fairly flat spot for camping. that is my only reason for a bright light. i walk almost always, even in very dark forests without light. in camp i am usually stuck in the tent anyway, so thats where i want very little light for cooking. for that the petzl is way too bright. usually i place my headlamp in front of the waterbottle and make a lamp this way with indirect light. or in my vaude tent the side-pockets make nice yellow light.

in summer my headlamp stays at home most the time.

lucky luke

2006-12-18, 06:26
thanks luke. Well said.

2006-12-24, 21:12
in boyscouts, i had one of those huge lantern battery powered lights. in the army, i had a 2 x D-Cell monster that i eventually gave up for a mini-maglite. i even made a blue, red, and yellow lens for it. later on, i was introduced to headlamps, but got sticker shock, so i bought a head strap thingy to hold the mini-maglite. it worked until i saw a micro-maglite (AAA batteries) and had to have it. then i found an Ion on the AT one day. didn't find out til later how much they cost! finally found a cheap headlamp at walmart and have used it for a couple years. it has two adjustments, high and low, and works great. i wish the low went lower though... when i read at night, or even cooking late, that's all i need. the higher beam is useful for walking at night, but i am usually in bed after dinner, reading... once in awhile, an animal walks by and i wish i had a more powerful spotlight function, so i could see it better, but it's fine. i was also the hero for my family during Rita for having them (headlamp, mini-maglite, micro-maglite, and ion light: gave one to each member of the family). alcohol stove was a hit too.

after Rita, i bought another headlamp, in case we needed it. this one has a red light and a white light, and the light tilts. i've used it camping, but prefer my old headlamp. i carry an ion too, but it usually stays attached to it's mini-biner inside my HH. that way, i always have an 'overhead light'.

my daughters were so impressed with their loaners that i've since gotten them each their own light. they come in pastel colors now too (not just basic black).

and to answer one of the original questions about the micro maglite (AAA battery model), i used one once in the Smokies (non-AT portion) on a night hike for 4 hours and 8 miles... it was starting to fade toward the end, but it threw enough light to walk by.

2006-12-24, 23:32
Seeker, good to hear from you again, you must have been busy.

2006-12-26, 14:53
Once it's dark I don't move around much - even at home. I have one of the petzl's - with the retractable strap - and a Walmart headlamp that weighs much more but works wonderfully. Generally I need a light to find small items after dark (what did I do with my lipice?) and in case I have to visit nature in the dead of night. If I had to night hike - say summer in the desert - I might look at light more seriously.

2006-12-26, 20:49
Turk, santa did bring me one new light, a Streamlight micro button cell led, in camo nonetheless...very exciting...just thought you may like to know...(Now at 71 flashlights, or there abouts...) Lights rule!

2006-12-26, 23:16
71 flashlights seems a bit excessive. And may be confirming Turk's 1st post.
OTOH, It's a wonderful time to be alive and it's great to live in a free country that allows one to aquire 71 battery powered illumination devices without permit or licencing.
Were I you? I might seek PRIVATE counceling (not public). This may not be available to Turk on his side of the border.:bike:
Happy Festivus to all!!!

2006-12-27, 10:13
Mutinousdoug, you are probably right. No...you are right. I do need counseling. I was thinking that maybe I was "scarred" as a young boy, maybe couldn't find a light while in the dark, something along those lines...

Just to be sure that I truly have a sickness or disorder, I will seek professional help as soon as I break the 100 light barrier.

Thanks for caring! :top:

lucky luke
2006-12-27, 16:07
LOL! :congrats:

Just to be sure that I truly have a sickness or disorder, I will seek professional help as soon as I break the 100 light barrier.

just how far away are you? :ahhhhh: :D

lucky luke

2006-12-27, 22:30
LOL! :congrats:
Just to be sure that I truly have a sickness or disorder, I will seek professional help as soon as I break the 100 light barrier.
just how far away are you? :ahhhhh: :D
lucky luke

A bit. I think. Probably. I hope.

2007-01-18, 14:53
a bic and a sip/loc bag,some foil no hair.

2007-01-18, 15:05
I have a tendency to be wandering around at night looking for firewood.

I agree folks go overboard on flashlights on the other hand if you wanted to get just ONE really good one thanks to all the flashlight fanatics there are some really good ones to buy.

When I am backpacking I usually bring my Black Diamond Moonlight. I think it cost 20 bucks. The batteries last a long time and it leaves my hands free to do such safe activities as chop firewood at night.:flute:

I liked the Moonlight so well we have 4 now. We use them every day on our farm cause this time of year doing chores it's dark. Also I like to go on a 2 mile hike in the evening about 9pm and it helps. I got 4 because we are forever misplacing them and I figured with 4 we'd be able to find 2 at any one time.

The other flashlight I have is a Surfire G2. I seldom use it but a few times ended up on the trail at night and since it was all rocks it is easier to spot the cairns since there was no treadway and the Moonlight doesn't have the range. It is also good for taking pics in caves.

2007-01-18, 17:33
I also have a G2 Surefire, it is reasonably priced. It sucks the batteries quickly, so if you use it much it starts to cost you. I have an LED head with the nicad conversion for mine, it is the around-the-house walk-the-dog light. My next surefire will be the Chrona (?), red, white, and blue LED's, an update of the aviator basically. Surefire incandescent bulbs have a high (1-2%) failure rate due to impact, have a spare. Surefire brand batteries suck, buy duracells.