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LED Flashlights!

The Half Ass Expeditions Guide to Backpacking

     Of all the gear in my pack, flashlights have been the most swapped out piece equipment on the list. Seems every trip features a new light source and first night out usually included an illuminating session of show-and-tell. It's "photons front and center", so whip it out and let us have a look at yours...

     Once you're out there in the dark, stumbling about, tripping over gear and groping through the food bag trying to feel the difference between that rice dinner and your sack of gorp, you'll appreciate the value of a good light. There have been many new flashlights over the years but the recent wave of LED lights are the giant leap backpackers have waited for. Size matters and smaller wins, hands down! But LED flashlights offer a bonus; much longer battery life and "bulb" burn time.

     Actually, LEDs are not bulbs at all, they're light emmitting diodes. The light is generated when current flows across the junction, and collomated into a distinct beam thru the optical properties of the diode material. Charateristics such as radian angle and output luminecence can be set by controlling parameters during fabrication, leading to a wide varity of LED products on the market. Dr Blanteev explains: "Recent advances in bandgap device development has allowed for viable illumination using heterojunction technology at commercialy competitive prices. Halogen is totally obsolete"

     There are lots of great LED flashlights to choose from and it seems every major outdoor equipment manufacturer has a new LED product line. This year (2003) I've gone totally LED for the first time. I typically carry 3 light sources with me when I go winter camping. In 2000, I phased out that heavy candle lantern. I was sick of wax, burned fingers and soot. Now I'm sick of changing bulbs and batteries thus LED flashlights represent the latest technology advancement that has impacted my pack list.

Homer loves lithium     The search for a better light also means the search for a better battery. Winter usually means cold flashlights. Cold flashlights mean cold batteries. Regular alkaline batteries do not perform well in the the cold and they sometimes require some warming up to work properly. If you want to get the most from your battery, then go lithium! Lithium batteries not only work better in the cold but also last longer and have twice the shelf life. Of course, you have to pay the price and lithium is quite a bit more expensive than alkaline but you'll find it is worth every penny.

     It is hard to imagine a better light source for backpacking than LEDs combined with the power of lithium. Another fine example of better campimg with technology.

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Copyright 2003 Timur Novasch and Half Ass Expeditions