Universal lights for camping

Submitted: Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 15:14
ThreadID: 66976 Views:2733 Replies:13 FollowUps:15
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We are after a light/lamp to throw some light on food preparation area/tent etc Currently use head lamps/torches and a battery lantern. Don't want to carry anything too cumbersome. Like the look of the versa lite 12-240V hybrid - anyone used them? However, with fridge running off second battery in troopy not sure about the power drain?

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Reply By: Member - Mike DID - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 15:25

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 15:25
Once the flourescent tubes used to be the most efficient lights, but these days the LED ones are brighter for the same current, are more robust and don't cause radio interference.
AnswerID: 354927

Reply By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 15:51

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 15:51
That type of light is one of the most effective units around Rossco , for lights which operate from 12v.

Last november I wrote report on Primus Nova battery lantern (on this site) which outputs 300 lumens. (still a picture in my members photos)

This is probably the most effective of the LED types and will serve you well however to get enough good light for food preperation you need to use both such that the light comes from above the food.
(the primus has a base mounted hook for hanging upside down )

Recently Anaconda introduced a knockoff copy of the Primus for $99 retail instead of $60.

Go with the Versa lite - if cable and car connection is not an issue.
Robin Miller

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AnswerID: 354931

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:54

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:54
One of my daughters bought one of those Primus Novas a few months back - the light output is amazing, and she camped for two weeks around tasmania and its still on its first set of batteries.
FollowupID: 623051

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 22:12

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 22:12
Good product Phil - glad she is happy with it.

Pity they didn't come with a charging arrangement - as alkaline D cells cost a few bucks.

I give mine a few hours on a home made charger I always carry in the car - really just a 100 ohm 5 watt resistor from cig lighter to plastic battery holders from jaycar.
Carry aaa aa c d size holders with common plug and often freshing up someone batteries.

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 23:17

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 23:17
I don't like cost of the Dcells but I guess if you don't need to replace them often, its OK.

I'm a bit like you - have a bunch of things that run off rechargables, but I have a son who is into electric helicopters and R/C cars and he hands me down his old battery chargers. They are neat bits of gear - can program them to charge or discharge anything from 1-25 cells.

I remember his first R/C car had the 6 cell sub-C NiCads and we used a resistive wire lead to charge them. I'd sit there watching the DMM, and waiting for them to warm up to make sure they were fully charged and we didn't trash a pack.

But she bought the light herself on the recommendation of one of the staff at Snowys and he was spot-on - a really well designed light.
FollowupID: 623105

Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 08:24

Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 08:24
Ok Phil - I think main reason I have a little charge system for alkalines is so I don't get caught short with 1/2 flat ones during those casual trips , always buy new ones for serious trips.

When in Perth the other week I discovered a relative imports R/C Helo's and Jets and we had a play with various models - including a twin fan F18 about 5ft long - what powerful engines they have these days and yes some great charging systems and batteries .

I love the 14v 2ah li-ion i carry after it assisted me to start the car recently and it turns out that these planes use them so I might work on a deal to get some serious capacity with Li-ion .

After a reply by yourself some months ago I brought an Overlander main battery just to try out , even though my orbital is working fine. Not quite as gutsy as Orbital but it seems to be doing the job and has given me extra capacity for camping as well.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Muddy doe (SA) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 16:15

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 16:15
Best you can do in my opinion is a 12v Versa lite twin tube 11 watt flouro twinned with a 17 AmpHour jumpstarter pack from Superthief Auto.

Should set you back about $150 total and you have a fantastic general light source to hang in a tree or put on a pole with the powerpack to keep it running for at least 12 hours between recharges. If you set them up nice and high you will be amazed at the light they throw out.

The powerpack will usually nicely do a 2-3 night weekend trip of 4-6 hours use each night and then stick it on the 240v when you get home ready for next trip.

For longer trips it depends on your setup but they can be recharged while driving or of course you can use a generator. You can use them from the car battery when camped but you get limited by cord length. They do only use the 1 amp though (about a quarter of what most fridges us) so should not impact on your battery that much.

By the time you get to similar light outputs from LEDs you are up around 2 Amps compared with 1 Amp with the flouros.

I don't use anything else these days. The Gas lamp is long retired. I tried a couple of LED wands with the onboard battery but found them very directional in the light output as well as quick to go flat.

Another advantage is that you can use the jumpstarter pack for jumpstarting if you get stuck (provided of course you haven't had the light running all night!).

AnswerID: 354939

Reply By: Member - Warfer (VIC) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 16:50

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 16:50
Nothing wrong with these light either...Northstar Dual Fuel
AnswerID: 354943

Follow Up By: curious - Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 09:54

Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 09:54
Warfer, I've got a Northstar Dual Fuel as well; brilliant light and very durable.

Have you had any problem with breaking mantles? I'm breaking them every trip (even using hairspray on the mantle for travel protection) and on investigating, found that the upper metal tube to which the top of the mantle attaches, has become loose. This means that it can vibrate whilst travelling and would appear to be the cause of mantles breaking just below the top connecting wire. Solution would appear to be bronzing the top tube to the domed head but I haven't tried it yet.

FollowupID: 623134

Follow Up By: Member - Warfer (VIC) - Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 15:32

Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 15:32
Hiya Pete

The occasional mantel does get broken,Use hairspray as well,But has to be reapplied after every session dont forget ~(*--)
I have the green Coleman soft cover for the light plus i only carry it behind the driver seat..With soft stuff around it...

As far as the metal tube how long hav you had it ?????? If within warranty or even out actually take it to a Rays Outdoors and a Coleman Rep will generally look at it for you...Most times they are very reasonable and fix it for nothing...

FollowupID: 623206

Follow Up By: curious - Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 10:10

Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 10:10
thanks for the feedback and advice. I've had the lantern 2 years, never used to break mantles and I also have the soft bag etc. Despite the hairspray each time, a mantle seems to last only one trip and as you've done, I pack it amidst soft stuff.

I'll take it to Rays and have it checked out. Coleman products seem to have good backup, parts & support so I'll contact them.

Thanks again. - Peter
FollowupID: 623310

Follow Up By: Member - Warfer (VIC) - Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 11:21

Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 11:21
Yep your ok Pete they hav a 5 year guarantee,although i never got asked for a receipt...Goodluck with it.
As there is movement in the top bit and there should not be,thats obviously causing the breakage..

Another thing to remember is when you pull it apart,the outside wire bit (to protect glass) has two loops on it,make sure those loops have the handle go through them when you put back together,that was noticed by another exploroz member while away...i had not done it..

FollowupID: 623324

Reply By: Member - Rick P (NT) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 18:36

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 18:36
You could also look at the Narva Inspection light available at Repco, it's a hand held led light, has a built in hook to hang it anywhere, then charge it in the cigarette lighter during the day. The cigarette lighter charger is optional but you get a 240v charger with the unit. Cost about $150, but plenty of light for what you want it for and goes for hours.
AnswerID: 354962

Reply By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:10

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:10
Hi rossco44, I have made my own using a small diachroic down light. These are 12 volt and I run it off a cig lighter outlet. The bulbs do get rather hot so you need have some thought about how you make up the fitting. Mine is mounted on a piece of folded aluminium that can sit over the rear door and shines down on the stove table.

AnswerID: 354969

Follow Up By: robak (QLD) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:16

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:16
Aren't the standard dichroics 50W and very inefficient (hence the heat output), and therefore will chew though your battery quick smart?
FollowupID: 623060

Follow Up By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:41

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:41
Hi robak, I use a twenty watt dichroic lamp.
The heat is part of the science behind their high light output. Internal heat is focussed by the rear reflector (which consists of heaps of prisms) back onto the filament. The high temperature of the filament is why the lamps put out so much light for the power consumption. Don't take any notice of the wattage of the lamp as this is an 'equivalent' light output and does not indicate the actual power consumed. Sorry, can't remember the actual power consumption. They are really great for a cooking light.

FollowupID: 623068

Follow Up By: robak (QLD) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 23:27

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 23:27
Thanks Kiwi Kia, but I am still not convinced they use little power.

Since 1 joule = 1 watt x 1 second, your lamp uses 20 joules of energy per second. The 11watt flouros would only use 11 joules of energy per second.

The quality of the light might however be brighter from a dichroic (but I doubt it uses less energy.)


FollowupID: 623106

Follow Up By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 07:07

Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 07:07
I may have to get off my butt and actually do a test to see just what the correlation is to actual power usage and the labelled wattage of a lamp. If you have a normal mains transformer (230 - 12 volt) there are significant losses in the transformer, I know that has nothing to do with the lamp wattage but just thought I would toss that in. :-)) I am sure though that the light output of a diachroic is far in advance of that from a small fluorescent and that is what was being sought after. Also, you can get 10 watt diachroic lamps. If I get an opportunity I will do an actual current check today and get back to you. I am supposed to be mixing concrete but ... there's always tomorrow.

FollowupID: 623116

Follow Up By: robak (QLD) - Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 10:20

Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 10:20
It would be interesting to see the the current draw to the dichroic. The versa lights flouros claim a 1 amp current draw. The advantage that I see dichroics have is that their light is focused in the one direction whereas the flouros throw light to all side and where it is not used it is wasted.

FollowupID: 623142

Follow Up By: Member - Kiwi Kia - Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 13:01

Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 13:01
Ok guys, one dichroic connected to a 12 volt car battery;

1 x 20 watt lamp

12.8 volts battery x 1.64 amps into lamp = 21 watts

Very good light for cooking and then change to an extra low consumption led for bumbling around after dinner :-))

I did not have a 10 watt lamp handy to try out also but it should be of similar efficiency - say 10.5 watts = 820 mA.


FollowupID: 623182

Follow Up By: Member - Mike DID - Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 12:15

Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 12:15
A dichroic reflector reflects the light where it's wanted but lets the heat pass through it - this prevents overheating of the object being lit up, because all incandescent lights put out more heat enrgy than light energy. So you have to be careful that the heat can escape from the BACK of the reflector.

ALL light bulb wattage ratings are based on the electrical power they use, not the light output (measure in lumens or lux).
FollowupID: 623338

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:39

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:39
I also recommend the Versalite fluro. (or the Piranha fluro which is the same.

Fluros attract insects which may be a problem around the food preparation area but you can buy a yellow filter for the Versalite which slides inside the perspex cover and eliminates insect attraction.

If you can source an LED lamp or wand, these are also good.
While not as bright as the Versalite they do not attract insects.

Both styles are low current draw.


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AnswerID: 354974

Reply By: Von Helga - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:42

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:42
If you have a Jaycar nearby (or online) then get the $49.00 odd cordless LED light with DC and AC recharge option, works as a strip light or torch.
I will be getting one the day my ARB fluros stop working.
You won't be sorry
AnswerID: 354976

Reply By: Member - William Harold B (WA) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:54

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 19:54
Hi rossco44.
There are a number of lighting options.
If you are running your fridge off a cigaret lighter outlet, you can get a 5amp male to 2 femaile ends which will allow you to get an led or fluro lamp to run off that extra outlet. They draw very little current but you need the high amp take off to run your fridge without any over heating of the wires
AnswerID: 354978

Reply By: blue one - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:04

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:04

Get a Coleman North Star into ya

AnswerID: 354981

Reply By: rossco44 - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 21:44

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 21:44
Thanks all you bright sparks for all the info - now to write a shopping list for next trip to a big smoke location! Will keep you posted re outcome of final decision following our planned trip in May - like the sound of both the Versalite and Primus Nova (Robins full report useful)- the design features of the latter sound suited to our use.
AnswerID: 355016

Reply By: Member - Pedro the One (QLD) - Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 22:59

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009 at 22:59
Hi Rossco ........

I done did my own thing :

Got an old desk lamp from the shed [or a 2nd hand shop/tip/mate/anywhere] (BC or ES is OK).
Cut off the 3pin plug and bung on a cigarette lighter plug (but alligator clips/ spade terminals will do.)
Best lamps are those with an INLINE switch in the cabling, but a SWITCHED SOCKET is just as good.

Buy a 12volt CFL lamp (matched to your socket type, of course!)from any reasonably large electrical supplier ( around $20 each) - BINGO, a great camp lamp .............

For a shade, if required, a one litre Goulburn Valley fruit jar (placcy!) with a hole cut in the lid, put the socket through as though it were a lampshade, screw the inner retaining ring back on and voila ..... a diffused light ............ hooked up to ANY 12v power source - simple, inexpensive and very effective. Hang or hook it to suit your needs,

When finished with, unscrew the socket from the green lid, shove the lot into the jar, screw the lid back on ... packed!!

I have three or four of these, great inside tents, too.....

AnswerID: 355043

Reply By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 13:52

Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 at 13:52
I use a strap on 'head light' for cooking, it leaves your hands free and the light is always where you are looking too.
Use a 12v light for area lighting which does not attract insects and is bright with very low power drain. Image Could Not Be FoundMainey . . .
AnswerID: 355326

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