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Field Test: Light up your camp

Alan Kesselheim reviews nine lighting solutions including headlamps, flashlights, and lanterns for camping adventures.

Used to be that headlamps were the breakthrough, and competing designs strove to have the brightest beam, longest-lasting batteries, best strap system and whatnot. Now, it seems, every light hankers to be a lantern, even if it starts out as a headlamp or a flashlight.

I don't know if that reflects a difference in camping styles, with more base camp situations, or if it's simply the evolution of lighting systems and preferences. Whatever the reason, I'm on board. Lanterns are nice, and being able to leave a lamp on the table, hang a lantern from the top of a tent or mount a light on a kayak deck, it's the current rage.

The other coming wave in lighting is rechargeable batteries. I get the environmental benefit, and the savings over a lifetime of use. That said, I'm not a fan of having a drawer-full of mystery charge cords I have to repeatedly sort through before I go in search of another available outlet to power up yet another device. Never mind the task of keeping track of what's currently charged and ready for action. That lifestyle feature of the new age ranks right up there with the maddening list of passwords I have to maintain in the desk drawer downstairs. Someone please come up with a better system!

Unless you only travel in the Arctic summers, lights are key to happy, safe existence in the backcountry. Consider this selection of the best of the best, with a nod to the 'lantern wannabe' trend.

Click the links below to read about more camp lighting solutions:

The Flashlights

Versatile flashlights for multipurpose use on camping trips.


The Headlamps

No-frills headlamps that get the job done.


The Lanterns

Diffuse lighting solutions to brighten up your campsite.


Related:

—Field Tested Four Biomass Fuel Stoves

—Field Tested: Three Person Tents

–Weather Tough Wheelies