LED Assistance
March 29, 2008 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to buy a LED headlamp on ebay...they range in brightness from 8 to 30+ and the one I want is 8. Is that goint to be bright enough for pitching a tent in the dark? I tried to look up LED levels on the inter-web but all I found was scientific mumbo jumbo, can someone just tell me which one to buy please!? Thanks
posted by madmamasmith to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hi! I cave with LED headlamps so I really depend on them. :) I don't know what units your [8,30) range is in, but I strongly recommend getting a light with a single 1W LED or better. Princeton Tec's Eos headlamp is great for camping and I have in fact set up a tent in the rain using one. It's very small and light, very bright, takes 3 AAAs that last several hours, and it's very waterproof (in my experience with rain and cave streams).

I'm currently using an Apex. I love it but honestly it's complete overkill for camping use.
posted by mindsound at 7:20 PM on March 29, 2008

Those numbers you are throwing around, I'm guessing is the number of LEDs in the lamp, not the brightness. The number of LEDs is pretty much irrelevant to how bright the lamp is, since the specs availible for LED vary immensely, and even with identical LEDs, the brightness is also a function of how much power you decide to run through them.

That said, I'm confident I would not have trouble pitching a tent with an 8 LED lamp. Although I'm also confident I could do it in pitch blackness, but the headlamp should be sufficient. It would not be sufficient, for example, for cycling in the dark (you have to be able to see a fair way ahead of yourself), but a tent is a small thing and most of what you're doing is at arms length.

I'd suggest paying more attention to the falloff angle - you probably want a wider beam than a narrowly focused one. (Narrow focus means you can see things further away, but at arms length may mean you always have to be pointing your head directly at where you need light, and only get a small spot of light at that distance.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:27 PM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: But I'm cheap and I dont wanna pay more than like $10 for one. All the lamps on ebay are listed as 8 LED or 28 LED, I'm not sure if that's the wattage or what?
posted by madmamasmith at 7:28 PM on March 29, 2008

I'll also assume your numbers reflect the number of LEDs in the lamp. It's really hard to tell from just that number. I have a six LED headlamp that's far brighter than a lot of others I've seen with more LEDs.

My current headlamp is an Energizer brand one I picked up at Target for twenty dollars or so. It's got four white LEDs and two red ones. The two red ones are nice for preserving night vision while still being able to find your shoes to go pee. It has three white settings, all are fine for setting up a tent, but the stronger ones are somewhat blinding if you forgetfully look right at one of your fellow campers. It's like this one.

Some of my friends had really expensive camping store ones, and they were objectively brighter, but all in all, we didn't think they were worth the premium for setting up camp or even walking rather narrow cow paths.

A lot of the ebay ones I found can also be found on DealExtreme. They can take forever to ship, but the one reason to even bother going there is that they have customer reviews on these generic headlamps.
posted by advicepig at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2008

Response by poster: Dang, I hate when I'm asking a question at the same time that its being answered! Thanks for the info!
posted by madmamasmith at 7:36 PM on March 29, 2008

i have one of these (4LEDs, 3AAAs) and it's plenty bright and lasts forever. if the one you're considering is similar, go for it.

skimping on a headlamp isn't a great idea because adequate brightness really helps you work efficiently in camp, is a great help in emergency situations and, if you use it for cycling or skiing, lets you go faster. if you find yourself having to break camp in the middle of the night due to illness, rising water, an avalanche or a bear, a good light could save your life.

and really, what's $30 for something that pretty much lasts forever? a good-quality light will outlast much of your other gear.
posted by klanawa at 7:48 PM on March 29, 2008

2nding klanawa's suggestion. i have one and it's perfect for what you need.
posted by gnutron at 8:24 PM on March 29, 2008

If your concern is pitching a tent in the dark, pretty much any headlamp will do. However, I'd recommend that you spend the extra $10 or so to get a good quality headlamp. It will last for a very long time. If you buy a cheap one and it ends up less than bouncing around too much on your head or whatnot, you'll be kicking yourself. You'd probably be happy with something like this, if you don't want to spend much.
posted by ssg at 9:04 PM on March 29, 2008

If you'd like to educate yourself a little bit about lights, Dan over at Dansdata is a pretty serious flashlight geek. An hour or two spent perusing his site should teach you everything you need to know to choose a good one.
posted by Malor at 3:15 AM on March 30, 2008

I own a Petzl Tactikka which I particularly like because it has a little flip down red filter. Using that setting you preserve your night vision, which is really good on nights with at least some moonlight to see by.
posted by roofus at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2008

I'm going to second the recommendation on the Petzl Tactikka Plus, I have one and it works very well. It has three brightness settings from high to low, a red filter and a blinking mode.

posted by thewalrus at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2008

I bought a 3-LED headlamp from Walmart for $10 about three years ago. I've used it in many places, including camping in the pitch darkness, and it has been plenty bright. I don't really think you can go wrong here.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:40 AM on March 30, 2008

I've bought a few ultra-cheap ones for me and the kids. I see very little reason to spend any extra. The last one I got was $6, had 7 LEDs and ran off 3 AAA batteries.
Fine for tent erection, durable for most users, although my 2yro did manage to tear the lens off with vigorous chewing, but he is like that.
Friends have $40 and $80 versions. They are nice, and look a bit prettier, but I would rather have two $6 ones so if one got lost/smashed I still had a light and save the $30.
I would pay a few dollars extra for one that ran off AA batteries, as they are more successful for recharging, I have found, but that might be too heavy for head mounting.
posted by bystander at 1:18 AM on March 31, 2008

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