Saturday, March 12, 2011

Camping and Outdoor Lanterns

What is a lantern

A lantern simply is a portable flashlight case with transparent sides to give to allow the light to be spread around the lantern 360 degrees unlike the spot-bean of the regular flashlight, it is like you taking a living room lamp with you. It usually bring fainter bean than the focused flashlight but you will gain the wide benefit of it's beam.

The lantern casing is always made from rugged material to withstand any abuse at any harsh environment. The lamp or the light source differs from model to model and according to your use and budget, there are two basic categories you might find out there, flame-based, and electric-based, flame type lantern basically run on gas or propane, and electric type runs on replaceable batteries or rechargeable, most commonly used now is the electric type due to it's durability and safety, and illuminated by Halogen lamp or a set of hight powered LEDs or even Fluorescent tubes or maximum efficiency.

Why do you need a lantern in camping

Most of campers and outdoors enthusiasts choose their camping or off-road trips in - woods, desert or lake sides - in the most isolated places they could find, way far from cities and roads, and at night you might find your only light source is the stars and your flashlights, so to light up the camp site you need the lantern's wide range of illumination. And if you are fishing or hunting at night you will need a dependable light source to aid you while you do.

How to Choose your lantern

There are some considerations to put in your mind before buying a good lantern, first, ask yourself what is your budget, and because most of the lanterns are relatively cheap, you will have a good buy without breaking you budget limits, generally speaking, a budget of $50 or less will get you a nice reliable model. Anyway, the baseline you should look for in a lantern is
  1. Power source, especially with battery powered models, i always liked the replaceable battery ones, because you can bring a few sets of batteries along with you, unlike the rechargeable types that need an AC power to recharge, although there are models which have a car charger that use the 12v lighter plug, and also solar powered models, the battery models is unbeatable in reliability. Models that runs on gas or propane, is prohibited in some areas, and not safe especially when used inside your tent, and quit noisy also.
  2. Efficiency. Always read the model specification chart before buying, the chart shows the estimates running time, of course the longer the better, but it depends on you needs versus price also, though, anything under 70 hours is useless in the outdoors. LED and florescent models have the best efficiency available in market.
  3. Illumination and brightness. It is what you're looking for mainly, some models offers up to 300-Lumen, but the brighter you will gain the less efficient it will be, but now most models offers hi-low setting, and i strongly recommend this option as it saves a lot of power when you don't need more than enough.
  4. Durability. Because you will use it in the wilderness, you will need it to be strong and durable and never fails when you need it the most.
  5. Price. As i said before, it depends on your budget, and most lanterns are not expensive.
Recommended Models

Rayovac SE3DLN Sportsman Extreme 300-Lumen LED Lantern
This model in my opinion, is one of the best lanterns in market, it offers 300 lumen thanks' to rayovac's extreme 4-watt LEDs, powered by 3 'D' batteries, and you can use it for 72 hours on high mode and 150 hours on low mode. Water resistant, casing made from durable rubber and hard ABS construction, with rubberized handle and also folding tent hanger to use it inside any tent. The construction itself is quit compact and offers a good grip in your hand. The notable disadvantages of this model is the tent handle which constructed by cheap plastic, it won't break easily, but also it won't take much abuse, unlike the main lantern's rugged material.

There are other issue in the battery chamber, personally i didn't find it that bad, but few users complains about it, in a particular review from a user called 'smgsmc', he said "There are differing opinions about ease of battery installation. As I originally reported, the problem is that the bottom cap consists of two pieces that are joined by a pivot. The inside piece, with the notches that lines up with the tabs in the battery compartment, is free to swivel about the outer piece that you actually grip. So you first line up the notches with the tabs, but when you try to seat the cap, the inside piece can swing out of alignment."

Final thoughts: However many users may ignore the above issues, including me, especially because this model is unbeatable compared to many other models with the same price of about $30.00, the lantern is bright(i mean BRIGHT), and the battery life is amazing, as i take only one set of batteries including the ones already put inside, and i never uses more, knowing that i could spend more than 7 days inside the Egyptian Sahara without using the reserve set. I strongly recommend this model, you won't regret buying it and using with your outdoor gear.

Coleman One-Mantle Compact Propane Lantern
This compact one-mantle lantern offers the feature of fully controlling the light output, yet the maximum output is quit bright that could easily light up a small camp site, with it's propane power source, the change of the mantles is fast(yet tricky) and takes seconds without disassembling all the lantern to do so. The handling is very good by a strong chain-handle that has a good grip when carrying and for hanging. The lantern also is pressure-regulated for consistent light, regardless of weather conditions, and runs by one 16.4 ounce propane cylinder. The Drawbacks for these Colman lantern and the most annoying, that the mantle is pretty much hard to find in most stores. Also the mantle is a little tricky to attach, but you will get used to it soon enough.

This lantern is lightweight, strong, bright and very good if you need something permanent to leave in a place and forget about it for a long span of time, like a lake house that you leave for months, it will spend years and years doing exactly what you expect it to do. It will withstand every harsh condition to put it in, and never fails.

both of the above models were used and tested by me, but for my most trips, i choose the Rayovac to go with me, the other Colman is a backup and mainly be used to lighten up extra area if needed.

Please share with us your thoughts and reviews about your own lanterns.

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