Ask anyone who has done both, and they will tell you that there’s a difference between bike camping and car camping.* The biggest difference is that a bike camper is generally more concerned about the overall weight and bulk of gear, whereas a car camper can stuff loads of large and bulky items even in a small car. Bike campers tend to look for smaller, lightweight versions of camping gear. And they’ll simply eschew some items considered “essential” to your average family car camper.
One of those “leave behind” items is a lantern. Most bike campers will use a headlight, as they are lightweight and will point in the same direction as one’s eyes. Like most bike campers, this is what I generally use. But there are drawbacks to headlights, especially in a group camping setting. You’ll find this out when everyone ends up pointing their headlights into each other’s eyes at a picnic table. Here is where a lantern would be handy.
I hadn’t thought about a camping lantern in some time. Then a representative from Dorcy, a flashlight/lighting company, asked me if I would like to try out some of their new battery powered lanterns, and keep said lanterns after reviewing? Well, sure!
The first lantern that I tried was the 160 Lumens 4D LED Twin Globe Lantern, which is the biggest and most powerful battery powered lantern they stock. I brought it out on my camping trip to Oxbow in June. How did it do? Very well. Even with one of the two LED “globes” on, it was hella bright. Bright enough that my fellow campers groused about it a bit.
If I was most concerned about brightness, this would be a go-to lantern. But it’s big. It looks big even in the humongous front basket of the Crested Butte.
Next up for testing was the 6 LED Dynamo Lantern, which was the one I was most interested in, initially. It’s because it can be powered with a hand-crank, which means no batteries and no need to charge (though one can charge it via USB plug, a bonus.) This means it’s a good emergency lantern, for use if we ever get the Big One that has been threatened for years, or in case of nuclear/zombie apocalypse or general societal breakdown. To test it, I cranked it for about a minute, and left it on. I came back about 12 hours later, and it still was giving out a good amount of light!
The only drawback for me is that it’s still a bit big and clunky, so it hasn’t come along on any bike camping trips.
The winner of the trio for me is the Warm White LED Area Lantern , the one that I expected the least from. It puts out a good amount of light and even has an “amber” night light mode, when one just needs that little bit of light. And it is pretty small, too. Note how much space it takes up in the smallish basket on my Bridgestone XO-3. (The yellow thing is my sleeping bag.)
I’m not going to be taking a lantern with me on every camping trip. I doubt I’ll take one on my solo camping/touring expeditions, unless it’s autumn or winter when there’s more night than day. But in group camping expeditions, or for “lightness be damned” trips, I think I’ll be grabbing that Warm White LED Area Lantern quite a bit.
*There is also a difference between car camping and hike-camping. While bike camping shares many similarities with hike-camping, we’re concentrating on bike camping this time around.