A source of light is a very good thing to have while on a hiking / backpacking trip. Even if it’s just a day hike cause you never know, you may decide that you want to spend a little extra time out on the trail, and then find yourself making it back to the car in the dark. Even on a backpacking trip, you may need to get up to answer the call of nature in the middle of the night, and the moon doesn’t shine so bright every night.
So, the answer to it all, a light. Whether it be a flashlight or a headlamp or a lantern. There are many different options to choose from now-a-days. There are the many small flashlights that run off different sizes batteries and come in all shapes and sizes. As well, there are quite a few different headlamps to choose from, which as well, run off of different sizes and types of batteries and offer different features. Then there are the lanterns. Of course there are the lanterns that run off of fuel, but they also offer lanterns that run off of batteries, which are lighter an more convenient, as well as safer (not flammable liquids).
Flashlights – Flashlights have been around for quite a few years. They have also evolved over time and now some are very small and lightweight lightweight. Many of the flashlights are going towards LED style lighting, which are more energy efficient, brighter and last longer than the incandescent type of bulbs. The materials that the actual flashlight is made of is typically either aluminum or plastic / polymer. The aluminum handles are usually powder coated, which is just paint over the aluminum body, or and anodized aluminum, which is a stronger finish than the powder coating. The plastic, or polymer handles are easily mold-able, so these are able to be offered in a wide variety of shapes.
Headlamps – Headlamps are basically a small housing unit which houses the actual bulb, as well as the batteries. The housing is attached to an adjustable, elastic band which fits around the head, and allows for hands free lighting. This is usually what causes the headlamp to win out over the flashlight. It is quite nice to be able to just have the lamp shine wherever I am looking, and have my hands free. These are offered with red lamps as well, which is very hiker friendly in a shelter full of people in the middle of the night. These typically have different modes to allow different amounts of brightness, as well as save on battery life. (Just watch out for the bugs that swarm around the light if you are sitting still!)
Lanterns – These are good for hanging around camp, or inside a tent to offer a large amount of lighting for an entire area. These are nice in that they are also “hands-free.” Some of these are able to run of of canister fuels, which would be great if you are carrying a canister for your stove. The only down fall to this is that you will have to be sure you carry enough fuel, and that can add up. Another alternative is the battery-operated lanterns. These are sold in various sizes and designs, the same as the flashlights, and the headlamps. One very cool option is the flashlight / lanterns, such as the Eureka! Glide 51 Flashlight / Lantern. The head of the flashlights telescope out turning the flashlight into a lantern which can then be hung up or set on the ground. Another method to this, is the flashlight in which the head of the light is removed and the light is set on its base, like a candle, such as some of the Mini LED Maglites.
All of these options are available as battery-powered. This is very nice because carrying a few extra batteries is much lighter than carrying a bunch of extra fuel! Also, the lithium batteries weigh even less than the everyday alkaline batteries. However, not all lights will accept these lithium batteries, and if used in the lights that are not made for them, the batteries will ruin the light.