Nov 282012
 

The best way to free up your hands when caching at night is to use a head lamp.  I can’t imagine night caching without one.   Over the years I’ve tried a variety of head lamps.   I don’t know that there is one perfect head lamp for all tasks so at some point you will most likely make some kind of a compromise when selecting a head lamp.

Here are what I consider the most important criteria for a head lamp:

  1. Output
  2. Beam type
  3. Battery type
  4. Comfort
  5. Price

Head Lamp BeamMost flashlights you buy today will give you the lumen output on the package.  When it comes to head lamps they range anywhere from about 12lumen on the low end to over 100lumen on the high end.   For geocaching I prefer something more in the middle.  Output is just one criterion to evaluate when you are picking a head lamp for your needs.  For instance the Irix has a maximum of 35 lumen output compared to the 50 lumen output of the Irix II but the Irix is my preferred head lamp.  The beam type is the deciding factor for me.

What is beam type?  The head unit of a flash light, head lamps include, contain three basic elements that affect the beam type.  These are: light source, reflector and lens.  The characteristics of those elements determine the type and quality of the light emitted by the head lamp.  A spot beam tends to be narrower but will throw the light to objects further away.   A wide spread beam has a smaller or non-existent hot spot in the centre.   The lights are ideal for working up close like reading or working around a campsite.  The broader the spread the higher lumen output you will need in order to achieve the same apparent brightness on distant objects like fire tacks or when searching for a cache.

Just about all head lamps you can buy today use LED as the light source.  Fire tacks are much easier to spot when using and LED light.  The colour quality is also much better from and LED.

As I mentioned in my post about choosing flashlights I prefer a light that uses AA batteries.  These batteries are easier to come buy than CR123 batteries which are the kind used in higher end flashlights.   Low end flashlights tend to use AAA batteries. This is primarily done to conserve weight.   I also like AA batteries because that is what my GPSr uses.  I have standardized on one battery type for my main geocaching tools.  Higher output head lamps consume power faster then low output types.   This can be mitigated by having a head lamp that has variable output.   The Irix head lamp I use has variable output.  It will last for 3 hours at high on one fully charged AA battery.    I usually get about 6 hours of caching on one battery.   My 100 lumen head lamp uses batteries about twice as fast.   In that case I need 2 AA batteries for 6 hours of geocaching.  I use rechargeable batteries and I always carry a Powerpax Slimline with extra batteries.

If you are like me you’ll be walking around with your head lamp on for a few hours at a time.  It’s important the light is comfortable on your head.  This includes if you are wearing a hat (baseball hats tend to cause a shadow at your feet which is not ideal). If you’ll be wearing a bicycle helping or other kind of hard hat you will want a head lamp that has some kind of slip resistance.   The larger the headlamp the less comfortable it will be on your head.  The lighter your head lamp is the happier you will be.

teamvoyagr night caching

By Gregory Pleau

The first thing most cachers do when thinking about a head lamp is to consider price.   I think price is important but it should come lower in the priority list.   When I started night caching I bought a small head lamp that was within my “budget”.   After about six months of night caching I bought a larger, AA, head lamp that was in my “budget”.    This was a budget based head lamp and it just didn’t have the performance or quality I wanted so I went in search of a head lamp that met my needs first and my budget second.  The price of my poor choices was more than had I just bought a quality head lamp in the first place.  Learn from my mistakes and buy the best head lamp you can afford based on your needs.

Jun 282011
 
Link Flashlight Comparison

Link Flashlight Comparison

In a recent poll we conducted 94% of the respondents said they have cached at night. With numbers that high it’s no wonder that a flashlight is an essential part of your geocaching kit. How do you decide what kind of flashlight to carry? I do a lot of night caching so I carry four different lights for different purposes.

When I started caching I used a handheld Energizer LED light. This light served me well in the beginning. It wasn’t long before having to maintain two sets of batteries, AAA for my flashlight and AA for my GPSr became an aggravation. I started looking for a quality flashlight that used AA batteries. This was not as easy as it seems.

There are a number of high end flashlights that cost over $100 dollars. These lights typically use a lithium CR123 which cost something around $9 each. Rechargeable versions cost about twice as much. Not only are the batteries expensive they are not universally available.

I was introduced to the Icon line of quality flashlights. My favourite of these lights is the Link flashlight. The Link uses a single AA battery and puts out 50 lumens of light on high and 6 lumens on low. At the lowest setting one AA battery will last an astounding 70 hours! I only put my lights into high power mode when I’m searching for a cache.

When caching I carry three Icon flashlights:

I also carry a UV flashlight for those times when the cache requires it.

As mentioned previously my first criterion when upgrading my flashlights was standardizing on the type of battery to use.   Every handheld GPSr I’ve ever seen uses AA batteries.  That means I’m already carrying AA batteries so that’s what I standardized on.

Once I settled on my battery I started looking for flashlights that had good lumen output.  A 100 lumen flashlight is bright enough for me to light up any area I’m searching for a cache.  If you are doing a night cache that uses FireTacks it is possible for your light to be too bright.   FireTacks are most visible when they are at the end of your flashlight’s range.  If your flashlight illuminates the area around the FireTack too much you will lose contrast making it harder for you to spot the FireTack.   The lower lumen output combined with the distance from your eye make headlamps best choice when hunting down FireTacks.

The Rogue and the Link both have aluminum housings and are waterproof to 1m.  These are important considerations if you are going to be out in the field caching.  The real world has a way of being hard on flashlights.

Link Attached to Backpack

Link Attached to Backpack

A feature I find very helpful is the carabiner like clip on the Link.  I know the light is always handy because I clip it to the outside of my backpack.  I find the light helpful during the day to look inside trees or logs.  You can clip the link just about anywhere.  On a recent camping trip I hung it from a loop at the top of my tent and had ample light when getting myself situated at night.

If you are just starting to geocache you may not yet fully appreciate the difference in various flashlights.  There will come a time after a few night time caching runs that you realize you need a better light than you find in your local hardware store.  When that time comes you’ll want to find a flashlight that means these criteria:

  • Standard battery size
  • Ample lumen output (at least 50 lumen)
  • Rugged design
  • Waterproof

You will likely be happy with your flashlight if it meets the criteria listed above.

No matter what flashlight you buy it won’t do you any good if you run out of power.  Make sure you take extra batteries into the field.  The Powerpax Battery Caddy is a great way to keep your batteries organized.

Rember to, Grab a Light and Cache at Night!