Flashlights have come a long way in recent years. Long gone are the days of the dim, yellowy beam that would go out if you so much as looked at the light wrong being all you can expect. These simple lights do indeed have their place, but modern technology has far, far more to offer than that. The main driving force behind this revolution has been the invention of the white LED, bringing the inherent efficiency and reliability of semiconductor lighting to portable devices like flashlights. Initially due to the low output of these devices, they were useful for little more than fixing to key chains - fine for locating loose change at the bottom of your wallet or finding the keyhole in the car door - but not all that much use for actual lighting. This all changed however when high power LEDs called Luxeon Stars, produced by a company names LumiLEDs began to appear, initially in ratings of 1W, soon followed by 5W and more recently 3W ratings. These parts have the ability to give out as much as 50 times more light than your "standard" 5mm white LED, yet still using substantially less power than any incandescent source suitable for such a purpose. Of course, they too are essentially shock-proof - a huge advantage for something like a flashlight. Initially these were extremely expensive parts, only fitted to custom made or higher end products with three figure price tags. This however is no longer true, as the per unit price of Luxeon Stars has fallen - they have started to find their way into more and more products - some lights being found with them for under £10 now. It is also worthy of note that other companies such as Osram, ISP Korea and Nichia have started to produce high power LED's of their own, this is continuing to drive the prices of such parts downwards. The time has come where LED based flashlights are truly giving their incandescent based brethren a run for their money.
When it comes to area lighting though, a number of options are open. Until relatively recently, if you wanted lots of light from portable source, you only really had a choice of gas or paraffin. Clearly of course, these sources are not without their safety issues; both in terms of heat, and in an enclosed space, such as the tent you might expect to see them used in when camping, potentially toxic fumes. Fluorescent lanterns have been around for quite a while, but only in the last ten years or so have they started to reach points in terms of output and battery life where they can be actually useful for more than sticking to the inside of cupboard doors that don't have a light in them. Now however, they are very versatile devices, many capable of lighting an average sized room to quite useable levels on a very modest budget. When looking for area lighting, it is very hard to beat portable fluorescent lanterns when you are looking for the most lumens relative to financial outlay.
|LumaRay FL6 - 2006|
|LumaRay FL-6 - 2005|
|Heliotek HTE-1 Revision 2|
|Osram Dulux Mini|
|CMG Reactor 3|
|Dorcy 2AA 4LED Aluminium Flashlight|
|Princeton Tec Impact II|
|Energizer "IllumiFold" Fluorescent Lantern|