Camp Lighting Buyer’s Guide

May 29, 2008
Filed under Camping Gear, Lights & Lamps

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BRUNTON POLARISNo matter where you are, whether it is the forest, mountains, desert or seashore, life quiets down after sunset. Families tend to huddle around the campfire; the flames heat those around it and shed a dancing light on smiling faces. Tall tales and sticky s’mores get passed around. It’s magic. And when the embers die down and you venture back to your bed outside the campfire’s enchanting circle of light, lanterns and flashlights allow you to carry that reassuring magic into the darkness with you. If you haven’t updated your “light” gear lately, see our selection of what shines anew in our Camp Lighting Buyer’s Guide.


The new Polaris from Brunton is the first LED camp lantern we have seen that offers a more natural light (better replicating the light temperature or color of a propane camp lantern) than the typical white glaring light we’re used to seeing out of a LED-equipped device. The lantern uses a three-watt Cree LED, and its design spreads out the light over a 360-degree field with no dark spots. Brunton says the lantern will run for 50 hours on high output (using three C-cell batteries). The Polaris is safe to hang inside the tent or camper using its anodized aluminum clip. Size: 7 inches tall. Weight: 16.7 ounces. Output: 95 lumens. MSRP: $40. Brunton: 307/857-4700; /brunton.com/.


The new RedHead Double Mantle Propane Lantern from Bass Pro Shops comes complete with a ventilated steel hood coated in a baked-on enamel finish, a heat-resistant glass globe and molded plastic base. The base will hold any 16.4-ounce disposable propane cylinder. The lantern features double mantles for a bright light that adjusts with an easy to use regulator control knob. Size: 20 inches tall (with fuel cylinder). Weight: 3.4 pounds (with fuel cylinder). Output: 200 lumens. MSRP: $30. Bass Pro Shops: 800/BASS-PRO; /basspro.com/.


A new high-performance light from Coast, the P7 Model, is powered by four AAA batteries that will keep the torch lit for up to 96 hours. Maximum beam distance is rated at 196 meters, thanks to the Lenser Advanced Focus System that allows the user to go from a spot to a flood beam using only one hand. This mean no dark spots, hot spots or “eclipse” effects that are common with other flashlight focusing systems. The flashlight features a tactical-style rear switch. This light was designed for the serious outdoorsman who requires professional quality. Size: 5.5 inches tall. Weight: 6.6 ounces. Output: 138 lumens. MSRP: $120. Coast: 800/426-5858; /coastcutlery.com/.


The 4D and 8D may look like traditional Coleman lanterns, but inside is the latest in LED technology, featuring new Cree XLamp XR-E-LEDs and conical reflectors to diffuse and disseminate the bright illumination over a wide area. Model 4D is a personal-size lantern, powered by four D-cell batteries; while the big brother 8D unit stands about three inches taller, is well suited for larger duties, and houses twice as many batteries. Both lanterns are constructed with weather-resistant ABS housings and have chrome plated globe guards for durability. The bail handle makes it easy to hang the lantern high so it can spread a wide flood of light. Size: 11 and 15.25 inches tall (4D and 8D models). Weight: 1.8 and 3.26 pounds. Output: 140 and 165 lumens. MSRP: $25/$30.

Small and lightweight, yet still weather-resistant and multifunctional, the Coleman 3AAA LED Multi-Color Flashlight is designed for years of service in all kinds of outdoors activities. This handy light features a rugged anodized aluminum body and employs the latest in LED technology. A twist of the front housing switches color options from bright white light for general operation, to red light to protect night vision, to blue for map reading. Rated operating time is 6 hours in white mode; 50 hours in red or blue mode. Size: 7.2 inches tall. Weight: 4.8 ounces. Output: 65 lumens. MSRP: $30.

This new triangular-shaped lantern from Coleman features a telescoping pack-away design. The Exponent CR123A Lithium Pack-Away Lantern is perfect for lightweight personal use in a tent or other small area (such as a travel trailer) that requires a bright area lantern in a compact, self-protective, weather-resistant case. This new lantern employs the most advanced technology, using Cree XLamp XR-E LEDs. Three CR123A lithium batteries (included) provide a run time of 5 hours on high and 12 hours on low. There’s a strobe setting for use in emergencies. Size: 4 inches tall. Weight: 4.8 ounces. Output: 100 lumens. MSRP: $60. Coleman: 800/835-3278; /coleman.com/.


Freedom from dead batteries is what the Indigo is all about — it features a hand-crank AC alternator, which charges an internal Ni-MH battery pack. On nightlight mode, 60 seconds of cranking provides two hours of light. On the single LED mode, you get one hour of light from one minute of cranking, and on maximum bright mode, you get five minutes of light from a minute of cranking. When the power grid is available, an included AC adapter permits charging from a 120-volt AC outlet. In addition to the lantern light, there is a directional light that will shine up to 35 hours continuously. A handle permits hanging the lantern, and rubber feet allow placement on uneven surfaces. Size: 8 inches tall. Weight: 15.9 ounces. MSRP: $40. Freeplay: 866/697-7529; /freeplayenergy.com/.


New from Gerber is the Omnivore VBT (Variable Battery Technology) Flashlight. With VBT you get the flexibility to power this flashlight with whatever batteries you happen to have on hand: AA, AAA, or CR123. Just drop the batteries into the Omnivore and light up the night. Lightweight and compact, Omnivore is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum for durability. Size: 4.5 inches tall. Weight: 4 ounces. Output: 66 lumens. MSRP: $40. Gerber: 800/950-6161; /gerbergear.com/.


Built tough enough to last a lifetime, and now available with the new MAG-LED Technology, the Mini Maglite LED comes in two models: two AA batteries and three AA batteries. Both offer a powerful light beam that is focused by rotating the flashlight head; a combination of a highly refined reflector and a high-quality LED for a brilliant adjustable beam; a proprietary system that balances high brightness with efficient power usage; and Candle Mode, which allows the flashlight to be disassembled and placed upright in its own head to act like a candlestick. Size: 6.6 and 8.59 inches tall (2AA and 3AA models). Weight: 2.4 and 2.88 ounces. Output: three watts. MSRP: $22 to $35.

The Maglite LED 2, 3, and 4 Cell D flashlights are available with the new MAG-LED Technology. Features include many of the same high-tech ideas found on the Mini Maglite LED; as a bonus the flashlights offer Interchangeable Light Sourcing that allows the use of either the installed LED module or the Krypton lamp stored in the tail cap. Size: 10, 12.34 and 14.72 inches tall (2D, 3D and 4D models). Weight: 14, 15 and 17 ounces. Output: three watts. MSRP: $30 to $46.

Maglite LED Upgrade Modules can be used to upgrade most existing_C- or D-cell Maglite flashlights_to the new MAG-LED Technology. Unlike other LED-retrofit kits for Maglite products, these modules are factory engineered and authorized. MSRP: $18 to $27. MAG: 909/947-1006; /maglite.com/.


The Primus EasyLight Lantern is compact for easy transport and use in camp, and it comes in a durable plastic box to protect it from the normal bumps and knocks of life. The lantern is constructed from corrosion-resistant materials and is virtually maintenance free. A piezo-electric igniter makes it easy to fire up the lantern, and it burns almost noiselessly. An adjustment knob allows control of the illumination up to about 80 watts. Size: 5 inches tall. Weight: 6.8 ounces. Output: 80 watts. MSRP: $65.

If it’s a rechargeable flashlight you’re after, the Primus PrimeTorch 801 features the latest technology with its three-watt Luxeon LED that offers dual output in a choice of either 20 or 90 lumens. A battery charger is included with the flashlight, and with a full charge, the burn time is 35 hours on the low setting. A wrist lanyard is standard. Size: 10.2 inches tall. Weight: 7.1 ounces. Output: 20 or 90 lumens. MSRP: $100. Primus/North American Gear: 307/332-0901; /primuscamping.com/.


The Genesis flashlight from Princeton Tec features a combination of a bright three-watt Luxeon LED and a sophisticated lens system. This lens technology efficiently gathers all of the available light from the LED and projects it forward, providing up to 47 lumens of output. The Genesis has an elastomer-covered handle that provides both durability and a firm grip. Powered by a pair of CR123 lithium batteries, the Genesis is current-controlled to provide constant output and the tail cap switch offers momentary and constant power. Waterproof to one meter, the Genesis offers a burn time of 1.75 hours of constant light output and 20 hours of total light output. Comes with a holster, lanyard ring, roll-control ring, belt clip, and red, green and blue lens filters. Size: 5.25 inches tall. Weight: 5.5 ounces. Output: 47 lumens. MSRP: $85. Princeton Tec: 609/298-9331; /princetontec.com/.


When you need lots of light, there’s nothing quite like two blazing mantles. The Stansport 170-200 double-mantle lantern features matchless ignition and a fully adjustable control knob, so you can dial in just the right amount of light for your needs. The top is two-tiered for heat dissipation, and the globe is protected by a wire guard. A wide footprint provides stability, and a wire bale allows you to hang the lantern high enough to spread the light over a wide area. Size: 11 inches tall. Weight: 2.5 pounds. Output: 600 lumens. MSRP: $40. Stansport: 323/269-0510; /stansport.com/.


The Stinger DS LED is a new version of Streamlight’s most popular professional-grade rechargeable Ni-Cd flashlight. One of the new features is the choice of two switch locations; one on the body of the light, the other on the tail cap. These switches independently control the unit’s variable light levels and strobe function. A deep-dish parabolic reflector focuses the light into a long-range beam that still provides ample peripheral illumination. Constructed of 6000-series aluminum with a tough anodized finish and non-slip rubberized grip, the Stinger DS LED is a fist full of flashlight that will operate up to 1.75 hours per charge on full power. Size: 8.85 inches tall. Weight: 12.8 ounces. Output: 80 lumens. MSRP: $193.

Perfect for carrying in a pocket, pack or purse, the new ultra-compact Stylus Pro LED penlight from Streamlight combines a 0.5-watt High-Flux LED with the company’s proprietary Micro Optical System technology to produce an exceptionally bright light while also maximizing operating time. The Stylus Pro is constructed of machined aluminum with an anodized finish and an unbreakable polycarbonate lens with a scratch-resistant coating. Internally, a polymer body liner and shockproof switch housing protects the unit under extreme conditions. Multiple O-ring seals ensure waterproof performance. The LED is rated for 30,000 hours of operation at an output of up to 24 lumens with a rated runtime of 7.5 hours on a pair of AAA alkaline batteries. A push-button tail cap switch makes one-handed operation easy. Size: 5.3 inches tall. Weight: 1.64 ounces. Output: 24 lumens. MSRP: $30. Streamlight: 800/523-7488; /streamlight.com/.


Designed and constructed to military specs, the dual-stage L1 LumaMax from SureFire offers a high-output beam (65 lumens) as well as a lower-output (10 lumens) beam that lasts for up to 16 hours on a single three-volt lithium battery. All this is possible because of a super-efficient LED, and everything is protected in an O-ring sealed, hard-anodized aerospace-grade aluminum body. Dual switching-push the tail cap for momentary on, twist the tail cap for constant on-allows precision control, and helps prevent accidental activation during transport or storage. A stainless steel pocket clip allows for easy and secure carry. The L1 is available with a standard white LED or a night-vision friendly red LED. Size: 4.52 inches tall. Weight: 3.2 ounces. Output: 65 or 10 lumens. MSRP: $135.

SureFire engineers its lights with tactical applications in mind, so it comes as no surprise that the G2 LED beam is four times brighter than that of a much larger two-D-cell flashlight. Its efficient, electronically controlled LED generates useful light for hours on a single set of two lithium batteries. Runtime is rated at 3.8 hours at 40 lumens (50 percent of maximum), and as much as 12 hours down to one lumen. A corrosion-proof Nitrolon polymer body, aluminum bezel, and O-ring seals guard against the elements, while a non-slip, molded grip makes it easy to hold onto the G2 LED in any weather, even while wearing gloves. The lockout tail cap prevents accidental activation while permitting push-on momentary or twist-on constant switching. Available in a black or yellow body. Size: 5.14 inches tall. Weight: 4.3 ounces. Output: 80 lumens. MSRP: $65. SureFire: 800/828-8809; /surefire.com/.


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