DIVERSIFYING YOUR LIGHTING OPTIONS
The dark can be foreboding, even outright dangerous. The boogeyman might not be there, but that coffee table just might jump out and trip you if you’re not careful. In a power outage, it is important to be able to shed some light on the situation.
Even if there aren’t issues with the electricity, there are always jobs to be done that require you to be able to see what you’re doing, such as swapping out an alternator or changing brake pads on the family car or even checking out a weird noise in the backyard late at night.
There is a wide range of illumination options available on the market today. As you explore the different options, you’re going to run into the term lumens. This is how the brightness of light is measured. Simply put, the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. However, you can’t necessarily go by lumens alone, as several other factors will determine the actual performance, including run time, battery type, beam distance and beam type, such as spotlight versus flood.
We’re going to cover several of the basic categories of portable illumination, and pass along a few recommendations along the way.
These have come a long way since the old days of a hot, heavy light weighing down your forehead. Today, they’re small, lightweight LEDs that are far brighter than anything they had back then. Headlamps are great for when you want or need both hands free to work and there’s not an easy place to rest a light.
“…you can’t necessarily go by lumens alone, as several other factors will determine the actual performance…”
The downside is that the light shines only where you’re pointing your head, so not only will you not be able to see as well off to the side of where you’re working, there’s a tendency to blind anyone you look at until you get in the habit of turning the light off first. Look for one with a comfortable, adjustable elastic band. Some models allow you to switch between white light and a red filter, which can preserve your night vision.
The Rapid 1AA headlamp from 5.11 Tactical gives you plenty of options. It has both spot and flood lights, which can rotate 180 degrees for more directional control. You can even remove the light from the headband and use it as a handheld.
In recent years, many people, myself included, have come to realize just how handy it is to have a small flashlight as part of your EDC loadout. Whether you’re hunting for the tennis ball the dog rolled under the couch or trying to navigate a darkened hallway at the office during a blackout, having a light at your fingertips is definitely an advantage. There are a ton of models out there that take nothing more than a single AAA battery. These small flashlights are incredibly bright, and most have variable brightness settings. Some models are equipped with pocket clips, too, just like folding knives.
There really are a ton of different pocket flashlights available, with many of them being equally good when it comes to performance, battery life, and other features. I’ve been carrying the Thrunite Archer 1A V3 for several years now with zero complaints. What I particularly like is the illumination levels are easily changed by thumbing a button, rather than cycling through with the power switch.
As the name suggests, this category focuses on flashlights that are a bit larger than what you’d conveniently carry in a pocket. They are great to have for exploring your property at night, with some of them doubling as convenient impact weapons in case you discover something is indeed amiss behind the garage.
You might also consider one for the glove box in each vehicle. As for those families with small children, consider putting a dynamo (crank) powered light in their bedroom(s). This way, they’ll have a flashlight available in an emergency, but you don’t have to worry about them running the battery down playing with the light.
The classic option here is the 2-D-cell Maglite, updated with the LED rather than the small incandescent lamp. It is a heavy, sturdy selection that will hold up to plenty of use and abuse.
Sometimes a flashlight isn’t enough and a headlamp isn’t practical. A stationary work light is just the ticket when you’re struggling to fix a leak under the sink or working on a project in a dim basement. They typically have different settings, so you don’t blind yourself with a light that’s too bright for the work being done. They are usually rechargeable and offer several hours of runtime between charges. A magnetic base is always a great feature to have, as is a stowable hook. These increase your options for where you can put the light while you work.
The Flipmate from Streamlight is a great option for working around the house. It is compact and has a magnetic base. I keep mine attached to the side of a filing cabinet when not in use. The LED light bar rotates 270 degrees, shining the light just where you want it.
During a power outage, ambient light will be welcome. You’ll use a lantern when you’re eating dinner, playing board games, or even just relaxing with a good book. The traditional lantern is fueled by oil and this isn’t a bad option, but you need to keep in mind that you’re dealing with a flame and thus there’s some degree of risk. If the lamp gets knocked over, for example, you could have a bigger problem on your hands than a power outage. Rechargeable lanterns are safer, but also require you to be able to provide power for them if they run low.
Lehman’s has long been the source for what we might think of as old-fashioned equipment, including oil lamps. If you’d like to go with something a bit more modern, the Streamlight Siege or Super Siege models will light up the room quite well.
While these are single-use, they’re great to have, especially for families with young children. A power outage can be a scary thing for youngsters. Give them a small light stick and they’ll feel better because they can see what’s happening around them. You could also put one in the bathroom, rather than risking a flashlight tumbling into the toilet or sink. They come in several different colors, though they do differ in lifespan as well as brightness.
While you could pick up a variety of cheap novelties at the local dollar store, you’re far better served by purchasing Cyalume SnapLights. They’re pretty much the standard chemlight the world over. As the name implies, you simply snap the stick, then shake it to activate the light.
There are so many approaches to portable illumination, it just makes sense to diversify your options. A little of this, a little of that, and you’ll be able to light up the night no matter what you’re doing.
For a quick rundown of things to consider when choosing a flashlight, go to www.REI.com/learn/expert-advice/flashlight.html
A version of this article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of American Outdoor Guide Boundless.