A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Let's talk camping! But first let me talk about about my first camping experience with my Mother and Father.
I was all of 6-years old when I went on my first camping trip. My parents loaded their brand new 1953 Dodge 2-door stationwagon with all the necessary equipment of the day and believe it or not packed all four of us kids in the car and away we went. In retrospect we may have looked a little like the Beverly Hillbillies going down the road. But we were on our way to Estes Park Colorado and I remember the trip to this day - and they are good memories.
Now let's talk a little of the equipment. First there was the car. We got to Colorado just fine but the car seemed to have a little trouble getting up the hills ( I know today we were not all that far from Denver). I guess the car did not have a lot of power but gee my Dad had to stop quite often on the ride up because of something he called vapor lock. We did make it. The tent was really pretty big for the day and made out of heavy canvas which was probably little better than the canvas used by the troops during World War II and had some kind of water proofing which rubbed off on my Dad so when he got done putting up the tent he was green from head to toe. Boy did he look funny. Now we had the basic structure which actually kept most of the rain out (sort of).
We had a trusty Coleman cook stove fueled with white gas. To this day I don't know if the stove was just finicky or my Dad did not quite know what he was doing but more than once he had some very large flames shooting up from the stove while my Mom was getting a little irritated since she was probably trying to prepare food for 4 hungry kids ( or were we brats?). My Dad apparently did not trust a gas lantern in the tent and based on our experience with the cook stove that was probably wise. We did have a battery powered lantern whitch used, as I recall, one of those big batteries with the coil terminals and the head of the light looked more like something that came out of a car and kind of swiviled so light could be directed. We were not allowed to use the light much and I do not recall we even had a regular flashlight at all. At the time, the electric lantern used 50 year-old flashlight tecnology - unchanged since the tungsten filament was introduced in 1907.
Now we find ourselved in the year 2010 and all incondescent flashlights still in use continue to use 1907 technology now a century old. The only real change made in terms of incondescent flashlights was use of better body material and sometimes unique shapes but the technology for all incondescent flashlights consists of a flashlight body, a battery source for power, and a tungsten filament bulb. All incondescent flashlights regardless of brand or for that matter no brand at all enjoy the same weaknesses.
LED FLASHLIGHTS - THE PRESENT 2010
Simply put, GAME OVER for the century old incondescent flashlight. In marches the now popular LED (Light Emitting Diode). But while it may be the end of the road for the venerable old flashlight there are some characteristics that are the same:
The above is about all that remains the same - it is a new ball game! So, now is the time to spend a little time exploring what I like to refer to as LED Myth. When I mention LED the most common response is "Oh I know what they are and as a matter of fact it is really great, I have one just like you are talking about". When looking for that new LED light you might want to take these myths into consideration:
Here is the myth: All LED Flashlights are a bright white in color. Some packaging may remind you the flashlight is "bright", "brighter", or even "brightest" which can all be true statements when compared to something. Sad news is this attribute tells you absolutely nothing about the performance of the flashlight
This myth is completely untrue. First of all, LED's are harvested from a wafer by the chip manufacturer. Diodes closest to the center of the wafer are of a much finer quality and brightness than diodes away from the center. All diodes are harvested from the wafer and the manufacturer sells all of its production to someone. As a simple rule when you see a LED Flashlight with many LED's that should immediately tell you they are both small and of poor quality and in all likelyhood the price of that device is quite low (or it should be). So the point is while a manufacturer can honestly indicate who the LED Manufacturer is, it tells you nothing about what quality was purchased and for sure tells you nothing about how is was engineered into the LED Flashlight being sold.
In addition, as indicated above it is a whole new ball game for flashlights. For over a century (yes I mean 100 years!) flashlight manufacturerers only really had to engineer the outside of the flashlight and the internal components of the flashlight using current materials but nothing, and I mean zero was changed on the flashlight since 1907 when the flashlight began to use the tungsten filament bulb. Oh, and did I mention that until the last few years when the alkaline battery became the standard, we used 1887 battery technology pretty much unchanged. The LED is an electronic component and needs to be engineered into the product and that is no easy feat. As a case in point, General Electric Corp. ran both a LED development and CFL (compact florescent light) programs and after several years and millions of dollars dropped the LED program completely. Then there is one leading flashlight manufacturer who gives all indication they have figured out they don't really want to play in the LED arena and today while you still see their products for sale, they are at an ever lower and lower price with no material product change or improvement since 2007.
This could not be more wrong too. If you see a flashlight with a fairly decent number of Lumens (amount of light) you will note that manufacturers suggest battery life is generally in the 3-6 hour range. However, here is a tip. Some may indicate a dual light setting at say 100 lumens which you may have wanted and then a low setting at say 5 lumens (5 lumens is about enough light to light a door enough to put a key in). Then you may see the package may say up to 100 hours on the battery with a small asterisk and when you look more carefully you find it will indeed work for 100 hours at the low (5 lumens) and perhaps as low as 1 hour for the high setting which may not be exactly what you had in mind.
There can be a couple of reasons for this. if your battery is low while the light output remains a bright white you will get a diminished light output as it does not turn the pale yellow we see with the incondescent flashlight. But there may me another reason. While the LED is very efficient by converting about 90% of the enery into light, the other 10% of the energy is released as infrared protons - commonly known as heat. Many of the LED flashlights on the market today ( I hate to tell you this) are less than completely engineered and have no type of heat sink or other method to get rid of this small amount of heat and you will see the light output of the flashlight be reduced to about 50% after as little as 15 minutes of continual use - a very bad thing. If you have a LED flashlight this would be an easy thing for you to check yourself - but to be fair make sure you use fresh batteries please.
THE SOLUTION TO MYTHS
I previously mentioned the fact that LED Flashlight technology is a new ballgame and I also talked about the need for engineering to make the LED work effectively for the flashlight we all know and love. Well, there happens to be a company called LED Lenser which has only made LED Flashlights and has been engineering LED Flashlights since 1999 and IS the world's leader in LED Flashlight technolgy. Now you may be about to say something like "who cares, I have never heard of these people". Well, allow me to expain.
First of all, if you say you have never heard of this company before that does not surprise me. The company was started in 1999 by a couple of engineer brothers committed to developing an LED Flashlilght. To that end given the product they have created and I am proud to have on my website, I would give them an A+ for engineering. However, these two guys must have slept through or just skipped Marketing 101 as they have never spent a dime on advertising so it no suprise they are relatively unknown and should be awarded a "F" for marketing. On the other hand, they must have done something right since at least some of their products can be found in over 10,000 retail outlets nationwide. But engineer they have.
When I first researched them in 2008 when I was thinking about selling their product I read on ledlenser.com they indicated that back then they had over 145 patents related to LED Flashlights. To suggest this is an evolving technology would be an understatement since you can go again today to ledlenser.com and find they now indicate they have over 200 patents related to LED Flashlights in 2010.The LED Flashlight myths I talked about above (by the way there are more myths than I listed but had to quit someplace) are essentially engineering hurdles which LED Lenser has addressed and overcome already while others making LED Flashlights have hurdles yet to engineer and hence remain a hurdle to them. No one said it would be easy.
OK, but why is all this important. Well, I have written this especially for the camping section we created. We want you to be just as knowledgeable as you can be since when you purchase gear for camping or for that matter any particular purpose I would assime you want to get the best results possible without the disappointment of a product not meeting your expectations. But camping to me is "away from it all" and when you find half way through your trip the equipment you have is just not up to the job it may be difficult if not impossible to run to the nearest store and get a replacement product better suited to your needs.
Please take a look at the camping section we have put together and brouse the other products we offer from LED Lenser. We carry only the LED Lenser flashlights as we decided to only carry the industry leader in LED Flashlight technology. We hope you find just the right light for your needs or if a little skeptical , do what some do and that is to buy one to try it and come back for more! Here you can get the very best technology and have just a little better than we had as I recall my first camping trip in 1953!
Note: All prices in US Dollars