Lights and Lanterns

If you're paddling north of the 60th parallel during the summer, you're likely to be getting close to 24 hours of daylight.  For the lucky paddlers that get to venture this far north, you can skip this section.

For the rest of us, a reliable source of light is a necessity.  Whether it's answering the call of nature in the middle of the night, or those times that the first campsite on the route isn't discovered until it's almost dark out.  It's bad enough having to set up camp after sunset ... doing it without a lantern or flashlight would be the ultimate in adversity.



There are two basic styles ... handheld and headlamp style.  Many people swear  by the headlamp type, since it leaves the hands free for cooking, paddling, erecting tents or digging through food packs and equipment packs in the dark.  There is little doubt that it's a real advantage not to have to hold your flashlight in your mouth while you perform these activities. 

The most popular type of headlamp seems to be those manufactured by Petzl.  They are available in  battery-powered or rechargeable models.


I normally hesitate to endorse a specific manufacturer, but as far as regular,  hand-held flashlights go, I have yet to see a light that comes close in durability and reliability to the Maglite.  These lights are manufactured from sturdy aluminum, are completely waterproof, cast a nice, bright beam and have a spare bulb stored inside.  Best of all, the small (AA) size has no switch.  The light is switched on simply by turning the head.  Trust me, any flashlight that has a switch on the outside will eventually turn itself on inside a day pack ... it's a law of the universe.




A lantern is optional as far as equipment goes, but if weight isn't a concern, it can be a nice item to have along on your trip.

The lowest-tech lantern you can get is a small candle lantern.  These lanterns are collapsible, weigh next to nothing, and hold an eight-hour candle inside a glass wind-screen.  They cast a surprising amount of light (although not enough for reading) and also give off a fair amount of heat inside the tent if it's zippered shut.  The real beauty of the candle lantern is the low-tech aspect.  No switches, no batteries, no bulbs, no moving parts ... if you have a candle lantern in your pack, you're assured of a source of light. 



Although they're a little bulky, regular camping lanterns can be used also.  We tend to reserve these for the base-camping type of trips where we're going to be set up for a while and may want to have a game of cards or such during the nighttime hours.  Our lantern uses camp fuel (naphtha) , which we bring along for our cooking stove anyway, but lanterns are also available which use propane cylinders.  Propane cylinders are handy and convenient, but they are heavy and also they're another item which has to be packed out for disposal.  A word to the wise ... bring a few spare mantles.  They tend to disintegrate frequently from the inevitable bumping and banging that occurs on a canoe trip.