Part of the Lore and Saga family of web sitesBushcraft and wilderness skills with Gary Waidson
ContentsRavenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness SkillsArticles
A low powered cliplight fastened to  my shirt front provides all the light I need.

Lighting in the camp.

Our eyes are remarkable things, able to work in light levels from blazing sunshine to the merest hint of starlight.

To make these adaptations requires some clever tricks and understanding how they work can help us get the best out of our night vision.

As you may know, the retina of the eye is made up of two types of cell, rods and cones.

Broadly speaking, cones are sensitive to colour and fine detail but only work well in good light, rods on the other hand don't see in colour but do need less light to see.

The rods can see in lower light because they produce a substance called Rhodopsin, sometimes called "visual purple" which is odd because it is actually red in colour.

Rhodopsin is extremely sensitive to light, so much so that white light actually bleaches the pigment from it and it takes about 30 minutes to regenerate fully. Much of it is actually replaced within the first five or ten minutes in the dark but while it is depleted the rods do not function nearly as well in low light.

The useful thing to know is that Rhodopsin is relatively insensitive to the longer, red wavelengths of light so using a low powered red light will preserve your night vision as it will not reduce the retina’s Rhodopsin supply in the rods but it will allow the less sensitive cones to become active and give more detail.

Another related fact is that the cones are most sensitive to the green  wavelengths of light so in the absence of a red filter for your torch, a green lightstick is useful because the cones can function under very little green light, which because it is so weak, does little to deplete the Rhodopsin.

I have a couple of electro-luminescent light sticks which I use. I have found that they run well on rechargeable batteries and will even use the remaining charge from cells that are too low to run other devices.

Chemical lightsticks can be used the same way but are much more wasteful being single use and requiring disposal after use.

Green lightstick
Candle Lantern in use.

If I need more light for complex tasks I use a small low powered LED cliplight attached to the front of my shirt and angled downwards.

Unlike a head torch this will not be shone straight into someone’s eyes if I look in their direction but still gives me light to work or move around with.

All of this may seem a little new fangled to people who know my liking for low tech equipment, but these lights produce less illumination than a candle and so preserve that all important Rhodopsin.

If I do need more light a candle lantern is my next choice.

I have a variety of lanterns ranging from the light backpacking version you see here to a delightfully old school “ Stonebridge Automatic Folding Lantern” which is my favourite if I haven’t got to carry it far.

What I appreciate about all of them is the  warm gentle light they produce.

A simple modification of a tent pole to provide a hanging place for a lantern.

What I never in camp use are gas or pressure lanterns.

Quite apart from the constant hiss they make, they produce a blinding white light which quite defeats any ability of your eyes to adapt to the surrounding darkness.

If I was trying to illuminate a field hospital I can see that they would have their uses but most people just hang them from a tree and then remain slavishly ensconced within the arc of their brilliance, afraid to step into the darkness because they are simply blind without the lantern.

As a result, they carry the lamp from one camp to another, allowing them to see where they are going, but dazzling every other poor soul within half a mile as a consequence.

They are an infernal menace and anyone bringing one into my camp is sure to get short shrift from me.

Stonebridge
Bottlelamp

In case you haven’t gathered, I really hate pressure lanterns.

It is quite easy to improvise a candle lantern from some items that usually get thrown into the rubbish bag. Empty plastic milk bottles and aluminium drink cans for example provide great lighting and can be disposed of with the rest of your rubbish when you have finished with them, that is a light weight option that is difficult to beat.

Even the old fashioned hurricane lantern, running on paraffin (kerosene.) with a simple wick, can provide good lighting around the camp, but turn it down a bit, save your fuel and allow your eyes show you their natural power in the dark.

Ravenlore is part of Lore and Saga Your compass for navigationFoodFireWaterShelterDirectionLinksProjectsTravelGalleryBushcraftContactPhotographyLore and SagaRavenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills
Contents Articles
Ice-Raven-LinkWaylandscape

Bushcraft and wilderness skills should always be practised with respect for the environment and other users of the outdoors. Leave No Trace.

All text, images and artwork on this site are the property of Gary Waidson and protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Bushcraft Navigation Set
Shelter
Fire
Water
Food
Direction
Travel
Projects
Shelter
Fire
Water
Food
Direction
Travel
Projects
Shelter
Fire
Water
Food
Direction
Travel
Projects
Shelter
Fire
Water
Food
Direction
Travel
Projects
Shelter
Fire
Water
Food
Direction
Travel
Projects