Camp Lighting: Flashlight & Lantern Guide

May 24, 2006
Filed under Camping Gear, Lights & Lamps

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Coast Digi-Tac II
Coast Cutlery offers a variety of LED flashlights. The new Digi-Tac II uses Coast’s Power Transfer Technology to convert 1.25 watts of power into 4.5 watts of light, all from AA batteries. It’s a handy, solid light-cone producer with a softer wash of bluish-white light — great for close-up work and as a mini spotlight-like flashlight. Like all Coast flashlights, the Digi-Tac II comes with a sturdy nylon belt pouch that includes a handy carabineer. MSRP: $49.95. 800/426-5858; coastcutlery.com

Imagine you are boating at night. As you fumble to turn your flashlight on, it falls overboard. The Coleman Auto-On WaterBeam flashlight turns itself on as it bobs upon the surface. It features moisture-activated “on” circuitry. This could mean that it would also light up when taken out in the rain, but it’s a very handy and inexpensive marine-environment (canoe or kayak trips) flashlight. Produc-ing a yellowish, uneven, ringed light pattern, its watery virtues are its highlight. Available in yellow or orange for greater visibility. MSRP: $12.99. 800/835-3275; coleman.com

eGear offers its 3-watt Luxeon Tactical Light that projects a very pleasant, full, soft circle of light — illuminating the scene evenly. The lithium battery power source provides up to three hours of burn time. The bulb never needs replacing and is cool to the touch. It comes with a lightweight nylon belt pouch. This ranks a favorite of those tested. MSRP: $65. 800/582-3861; essentialgear.com

INOVA’S T4 is a tactical/police 4-watt rechargeable LED flashlight, capable of generating 100 lumens throughout a two-hour, constant, non-dimming light output. It creates a small circle of strong light with a slightly dimmer, but even wash spreading out beyond that central core. The body is milled from solid aluminum. Sadly, the T4 is not water-resistant. MSRP: $130. 401/294-2030; inovalight.com

The Stealthlite 2460 Recoil LED Submersible from Pelican is a flashlight that actually fires the light beam backwards toward a reflective cone that then disperses parallel light rays outward. The 2460 produced a quasi-spotlight center of even light with a slightly dimmer outer halo — nice, broad coverage. It’s rechargeable (but also can use four AA batteries) and waterproof down to 500 feet. It’s designed to cut through fog and dust with up to seven hours of useable light. MSRP: $120.95; 12V recharger/$12.15: 310/326-4700; pelican.com

Three multibulb LED mini lights make up the Premierlight arsenal: The PL-B features a small compass in the end cap and a very even, but only moderately bright cone of light. It also features a switch-activated S.O.S. signal. The PL-10 offers three subtle ranges of light brightness. The PL-7 is the most versatile with its six-bulb white light, red center light and flashing S.O.S. pattern. Each comes with a handy belt pouch. MSRP: $19.99 to $59.95. 913/362-1099; premierlight.net

PrincetonTec has long been associated with waterproof lighting products. The company offers several flashlights at the larger end of “mini” that are waterproof and come in a solid, impact-resistant housing. The Impact XL ($34.99) produces nearly as broad coverage, but less brilliant than the Surge ($33.99), which has 7.5 watts of power and produces a solid wash of yellowish light that broadcast across a fairly wide arc. It had a center halo, but the overall cast of light more than made up for that. 609/298-9331; princetontec.com

The E1L and E2L Outdoorsman lights from Surefire are the one- or two-battery-powered versions of the same general LED flashlight. The Lumamax is similar to the E2L with the added feature of a dim/bright option. Each is quite rugged in its “military specification hard anodized finish” and comes with a stout metal belt or pocket clip. MSRP: $98/E1L; $125/E2L and Lumamax. 800/828-8809; surefire.com

Coleman Northstar

For its size, the eGEAR 12 LED Mini Lantern really cuts through the darkness. Four AA batteries power the lantern and a dimmer switch controls the amount of light emitted. It’s lightweight (less than 13 ounces with batteries) and can be used for most lantern applications. Heavier, sturdier, but not necessarily brighter, the 12 LED Lantern is basically the larger model of the Mini. It’s powered by four D batteries, and produced a softer, bluer cast of light. Its ruggedness makes it a good choice for outdoor use. It, too, has a handy dimmer switch. MSRP: $35/Mini; $50/12 LED. 800/582-3861; essentialgear.com

In the Premierlight Lantern, 20 LEDs are aligned along a translucent cylinder and powered by three D batteries (burn time advertised at more than 1000 hours). Its durable polycarbonate housing features a rheostat dimmer switch for controlled lighting options. It created a blusish, subtle wash of light, adequate for reading within a few feet of its globe. A push on the cap’s button turns on six red emergency LEDs. Push the button again and the red lights flash a repeating S.O.S. signal. MSRP: $44.99. 913/362-1099; premierlight.net

No bigger than a household light bulb, the Athena MasterGlow Mini Camp Lantern features a piezo-electric ignition and a single mantle that delivers up to five hours of light on one tank of fuel. The Masterglow works on either butane or high-performance blended fuel. It comes with an adapter cap to accommodate different cylinders. The case has a screw-on lid that doubles as a base when unscrewed and inverted. Curved support arms rotate out from the cap to make a sturdy base. This is a good lantern for going lightweight. MSRP: $41.95. 800/272-8603; athenabrands.com

From Brunton comes the new and very cool three-mantle Orion lantern. It’s a sleek, propane-fueled device that burns bright and has cross-hatching on the otherwise clear glass globe to keep the glare down, a nice feature. It uses a piezo-electric ignition system and burns for a little more than four hours on a standard 1-pound propane bottle that settles into its base (feet extend out beyond the base for added stability). Brunton fuel canisters feature a nifty hot-water-activated fuel gauge strip that displays fuel levels. A lightweight plastic clamshell case is used for storage and travel. MSRP: $89. 307/857-4700; brunton.com

The Matchless Double Mantle Lantern with 2 Globes from Century offers push-button, piezo-electric ignition system for match-free (no burned fingers) lighting, and features an unbreakable stainless steel mesh as well as a glass globe. Standard accoutrements include a wire handle and molded base. And the fuel delivery system (it operates on standard 1-pound propane bottles) is pressure regulated for all weather-use. MSRP: $29.99. 815/332-4951; centurytoolmfg.com

From Coleman comes the Northstar series of gas-powered lanterns. The Northstar Perfectflow Instastart ($40) propane-powered lantern needs no match and has an Instaclip mantle that’s easy to mount, all on a base that accepts the standard 1-pound propane canister. Considered one of Coleman’s brightest lanterns, it, too, flooded the area in clean, even light. Coleman’s newest and brightest propane entry, the Pinnacle Lantern is expected to hit the shelves early this year and features a base that also serves as the fuel bottle container. It will also come in a water-resistant “marine” version. 800/835-3278; coleman.com

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