Having good illumination is important for everyday uses but it is especially important during an emergency. Ideally I recommend having two forms of illumination: (1) portable spot illumination using a flashlight and (2) area illumination using a lantern. LED technology has been a complete game-changer for lighting. The current lights have more illumination and require much less power. Gone are the days when decent illumination required a huge aluminum flashlight with four D cells. Now you can get more illumination in a much smaller package. These are the basic categories of lights:
- Lanterns provide portable area illumination and are normally powered by batteries or propane (details). Propane lanterns are normally larger and can provide extreme levels of illumination (detailed article).
- Flashlights come in two types: (1) Tactical lights that can be used for self-defense, and (2) Non-Tactical that are used purely for illumination.
- Headlamps are very handy when hiking and for freeing your hands when you need light. Some provide multiple colors of light and most are secured on your forehead or hat using elastic straps.
- Candles are readily available, reliable, extremely long shelf-life, long burning, and they just look cool while burning.
- Hiking: When hiking you should carry a leadlamp, flashlight, and spare batteries.
- Getting Started with illumination.
There is an entire science with lights including lumen output, beam pattern, battery type, housing type, and candela output. Stores may have an entire section with different styles of flashlights. The different lights have different functions, capabilities, and are designed for different needs. You need to make an informed decision when selecting a flashlight. First, decide how much illumination you need and how you need the light distributed (see Lumens & Candelas).
There are many factors to consider with lanterns and flashlights. Do your research and take your time selecting the best device for your needs. While cost is always a factor do NOT let this be the only factor. Good devices can be expensive and there is a reason for the high prices. You may have to use a device to save your life so choose wisely. Be sure to make reliability and durability key factors in your decision.