Monday, 27 September 2010

Let there be light

I won't question the story about God creating day and night three days before he created the sun, stars and the moon :o) Let's just stick to lights at night.

We all live in an enlightened world. Even when the sun sets there is no need to carry a lantern, candle or torch around. There is always a light-source close-by: Either it be your beloved design-lamps in the living room, the street-lights or at least the head-lights of your car. Technology doesn't leave you in the dark in your daily live. One of the reasons why nightcaching is so much fun is that you have to leave that comfort zone. You have to go out there and bring our own light but which one?

There are three types of torches which should be considered for nightcaching:
  • Headlamps
  • Normal torches
  • and portable floodlights
Since the introduction of LEDs headlamps are really a bargain: They are cheap, bright and have a long battery life. There is no need to buy a fancy product - the $10 from Kmart or BigW will do just fine. The main purpose of these lamps is not to find reflectors or other things. It's more about not stumbling over your own feet or poke your eye with a branch in the dark. The one I have was about that price and I still use it. The only thing why I am considering buying a new one is because it runs on AAA batteries and the rest of my stuff uses AA. And here is a free piece of advise :o) wear a base-cap. That reduces glare from the lamp and it also is more comfortable than the strap directly on your head.
Stefan and I deep in the forests of Bavaria
Normal torches is not the best wording. What's normal? Well. Let's just define it as a torch you carry in your hand and which isn't too big. There are A LOT of companies offering LED torches and there are some websites which try to give you an overview of the market. You can basically spend any amount of money for a torch so the question is how much is enough?
Again the question about the batteries comes up: Do you want to use AA or is it ok to add another type of batteries? A lot of torches run on 18XX0 Li-Ion. The huge advantage is that you have much more "power" in a similar cell as the AA. The disadvantage is that you need a second charger and if you place these batteries accidentally into another device it's toast. I'm just sticking with AA because I love to have the same batteries for all devices however that is a personal decision.
Ok. We figured out the type of battery but how much money do you have the spend? I bought myself "the" standard nightcaching torch: The Fenix LD20R4. It was about 80 AUD and in the same price-range are a lot more torches like the EagleTac P20A2 Mark II or the Olight I25 Infinitum. So if you can't find a nightcache with any of those lamps then the cache is of very poor design (Keep that in mind if you build a nightcache: it's not about showing which fancy light you bought yourself. The challenge shouldn't be within the equipment). You can buy less quality but the same brightness for - of course - less money. However in my opinion you shouldn't need a torch which is brighter than the mentioned ones which means you don't have to pay more than 80 AUD on a torch.

My Fenix LD20 R4 - the very one I use
 If you are a little bit nuts and/or have too much money, you can also spend heaps of dollars on a floodlight. Don't get me wrong - I know it's fun to have useless stuff at home otherwise I would never had a GPSr before 2000 (by the time "Selective Availability" was till turned on). So you don't need it but nobody can blame you if you want to have it. There are different types starting from normal car headlights up to High Intensity Discharged (HID) lamps which can cost thousands of dollars.however buying of the shelve is never as much fun as building the stuff yourself :o)
As you can see below I did build myself a flooder long before you could buy good LED torches. It is powered by a 12V lead gel battery ... yes: lead as in very heavy and not really usable. Obviously I didn't bother to bring it down-under so it sits in a storage close to Frankfurt. Another project which is really cool is the 500 LED torch. It fits the profile: large, expensive and completely useless for nightcaching.

My first self-made floodlight: 35W 12V Halogen
Ten years ago buying a torch wasn't that hard: You just went for a Maglite. If you don't like gyms, it's worth to grab the good old 3D brick, use it and do some work-out along the way. Beside the extra weight it is still quite good for finding reflectors even compared to modern LED torches.
Anyway. The market changed over the past years and new torches get released by Chinese companies as you read this post. There might be already the next model on the market and it is as hard to keep track of it as with mobile phones or computers. 

Just remember that you don't need to spend a lot of money in order to have a good and reliable torch.


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