So, we’ve discussed the WHY. Now, let’s talk a bit about the HOW. There are…
Nothing is so gratifying as helping people see the light.
It is important to see and be seen in the wilderness. The access to light can mean recovery from underestimating the length or difficulty of a trail and facilitate getting back to the car after “last light”. It can add comfort and psychological warmth to being stuck out overnight. It can illuminate a wound so that first aid can be administered. In a rescue situation the light can guide Search and Rescue to you. Having a light includes light from a fire. That is light and warmth. In short, when something goes wrong, it is nice to have light.
Most of us prefer to use headlamps so that we can work with both hands free. The downside to them is that if you want to talk to someone and look at their face, it will temporarily blind them. Learn to move your head aside when talking to someone. Headlamps have increased in the amount of light they produce and give the user the option of using less than the maximum light. This can save battery life. Use the minimum necessary to accomplish a task and turn it off when not needed.
Headlamps are utilitarian but others can serve different purposes. If you are planning to be out overnight and need to study maps for the next day (or read a good novel) a lantern is convenient and spreads light all around the tent. If you are horse packing or have sherpa support, you might consider heavier, more durable lights that have longer battery life. Either a fire or a candle can provide light in emergency situations. They also add psychological light to difficult situations. But in these days of tinder dry forests and high winds both a fire or a flame can ignite a disaster. We recommend lighting a fire only as a last resort in an emergency.
Falling back on modern conveniences that require batteries, remember the batteries do not last forever. When you think about going into the mountains put battery operated devices in the same category as avalanche beacons and check for battery life. The advertisements will tell you that lithium batteries last longer. However, in my experience walking the dog, they do not do well in cold temperatures. When I take a lithium battery operated headlamp out of a comfortable environment in temperatures below 20 degrees fahrenheit, the light is bright to start the walk. But within about five minutes it begins to dim so that by the time I get home it is almost too dim to see.
This does not bode well for winter camping or hiking. Different devices use different size batteries. If you plan on needing to use them, it is a good idea to have extras along in each size. If you put the device (and batteries) away in storage or in a pack for emergency use, the batteries can leak and corrode the device so store them separately.
Illumination is an essential because it gives light and the hope of getting home.