Over the years I’ve used a wide variety of lanterns and lights in camp. For winter trips I’ve just used candles to light up the inside of the wall tent. On solo or non-guided trips I carry a small headlamp to read with, but for guided trips I like to have a lantern of some sort so people can hang out and socialize after the sun goes to bed. This summer I’ve found a new lantern that is just what I’ve been looking for all these years.
On guided canoe trips I usually carry an 11 pound propane tank that I use to power a 2-burner propane stove. Because of ease of use, I’ve used it in conjunction with a Coleman propane lantern as well, but the length of the hose always limited how high I could hang the lantern. For the record, I’ve always hated the small, disposable propane cylinders. Our town has an excellent recycling program, but these end still up in the landfill which is something I can’t stomach.
I’ve also used white gas and dual fuel coleman lanterns. I find the white gas expensive, but the dual fuel models are inexpensive when run on unleaded gasoline. But then I’m forced to carry gasoline, which can leak, smell, etc. Since I don’t carry an outboard motor, I don’t want to carry gasoline with me. That being said, I do use the dual fuel lanterns at our home base.
I’ve carried Deitz Hurricane-style oil lamps, but they don’t put off a lot of light compared to other lanterns, and mine have been known to leak so they have to be transported in their own container. I use them at home, but no longer on trips.
I’ve never liked big flashlights for the same reason I don’t like the disposable propane cylinders – I don’t like disposing of, or buying, batteries.
But this summer I’ve found the lantern I’ve been looking for. The Freeplay Indigo is an LED lantern that can sit on a table or be hung from above. It’s got a hand-crank on it to keep the internal batteries charged, and can also be charged by plugging in the AC/DC adapter. The lantern has a dimmer, so you can reduce the power you use to make it last longer, as well as a single LED light used as a flashlight that’s mounted on the side.
Before going out, I charge it overnight with the adapter. While in the field, I crank it for a few minutes a day to recharge it. I don’t carry batteries, propane, or liquid fuel. It’s small enough to ride i my pack – I keep the globe from getting scratched by transporting it in an old sock. I’ve been using one since May and so far it’s been fantastic. If you’re looking for a good source of light for your outdoor endeavors you might want to try one. They’re about $36 at Target.
What I’d like to see in the next few years is a standalone hand-crank charger that plugs into a variety of different appliances. You could charge a lantern, some batteries for a camera or camcorder, or any other battery-powered device you bring with you when you leave the grid behind. If this is already out there please email me with details.