Sunday, February 14, 2010

Headlamp vs. Torch: A discussion of proper light usage

Contributed by Joe (yes, not-contributed by Joe)

Joe: last night i was coming down from El Cajon Mountain at night.
we started at dusk and before we got to the road it was stargazing dark.
two of us had headlamps, one had a dim hand light, and i had the P2D.
(one hapless guy had nothing. he walked in the middle of the pack.)
(to be fair none of us expected to be out that late. i would have brought Streamlight if i had.)
(by "none of us expected to be out that late" i mean "we arrived at the foot of the mountain at 8:30 AM.)
Me: "In our defense, it was unexpected, so it was ok that we were unprepared for it."
Joe: uh huh.
we were walking over uneven terrain. not treacherous, just with lots of little rises and dips, and there were bits of light scrambling.
i discovered that
when i held the P2D low, basically just holding it in my hand as i left my arm swinging like normal walking, the bumpy ground was full of shadows and hilights.
i could see the 3d-ness of it.
relief might be the right word?
Me: relief.
Joe: but basically i could see the terrain,
the topography of it.
if i held the P2D at my temple like a headlamp,
the shadows all disappeared,
because the light and my eyes were inline.
Me: yeah that's a thing, and a part of using a light; that's one reason I often don't care for headlamps.
holding it away allows you to see relief on the ground better and you can see farther because you get less backscatter from atmosphere, holding it in line with your eyes allows you to check for reflections like eyes.
so what did you conclude?

Joe: i concluded that a headlight will never be my only (or even primary) source of light when covering rough terrain
*that i will never plan for a headlight to be my only.
Me: good lad.
and that's an important lesson.
if you go on an Online Forum,
you'll find that it's full of lots of Opinions.
lots of People have an Opinion, and they really like the one they have,
and many say, I have a Torch, I don't need a geeky headlamp. others will say, once I tried a Headlamp I never bought another torch because they're pointless.
as is usual with such Opinions, both are Wrong.
both do good things, both are necessary at different times, and having and respecting both is the only correct answer.

Joe: yeah a headlamp is nice for close work
in fact it is nice for work that needs a hand and then another hand, where neither of those hands is holding a torch.
Me: yep, if you're, like, carrying stuff and doing ... hand stuff, a headlamp is great.
Joe: and if i were serious about crossing some ground and didn't mind being a bright obvious target (and annoyance to sleeping animals), i could easily see using one of each.
headlamp for the basic business of one foot in front of the other, walking on the mud not the three inch deep puddles; torch for finding a path, terrain relief, and mid-range looking & seeing.

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