Torch singers


I love Torch singers

May I also sing the praises of torches?

I am speaking, of course, of the flashlight; also known as torches by the mushy-pea-loving peoples of the world.

For my trips, I carry a humble, yet rugged Mini Maglite.

Priced at slightly under $10.00, these venerable flashlights are compact, durable and reliable. Under X-ray, it probably looks like a Glock silencer to the baggage screeners, but I love it anyway. I have three Mini Maglites these days. I am always misplacing one; (it is probably hidden under magazines next to my car keys and reading glasses,) and so I always have a backup. And one for parts, which also brings into question just how reliable they really are.

In the world of cheap backpacker haunts, reliability of the electrical grid is largely a dubious legend. The power goes off a lot. Cafes serving the banana pancake crowd have candles on the tables for backup, not for ambiance. Lest I sit in the dark while eating my Tom Yum, I carry a flashlight with me wherever I go.

It’s not that I am afraid of the dark, it’s that I am afraid of unspeakable experiences when I go the unlit loo. I have enough trouble doing the comic balancing act while taking care of business in third world squat toilets, and since I occasionally have a case of travelers diarrhea (Montezuma’s revenge, Turkey-tummy or the ‘Hershey squirts’), the last thing I need is to be suffering in the dark. I want my suffering to be illuminated.

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What I have learned so far: Always carry fresh batteries, drink plenty of bottled water, avoid steam table food and look to see if she has an ‘adam’s apple’.

While I was napping, flashlights such as mine had become decidedly old school. Everyone has gone to LED’s.

I have missed the technology bus yet again.

LED (Pronounced “El –Eee- Dee”) is a fancy way of saying “Light emitting diode”. Once upon a time, I found myself wandering the back alleys of Istanbul with a group after midnight. The only thing that helped us read signs and find our way back was a keychain LED light in the Photon brand.

These handy devices are de rigueur for dweebs everywhere and one of our group had one on his keychain. It is truly astonishing that such a tiny device works so well (women have often said the same thing to me) .

I was recently given an off-brand LED flashlight. I used it while camping far away from city lights and it worked. Nothing to rave about though. The cold, industrial appearance of the light beam takes some getting used to; it is nothing like the warm, yellowish light of traditional flashlights. The jury is still out.
The mail brings word of several brands of inexpensive, metal flashlights for under $20.00 that sport LED illumination.

I hope that the Maglite folks get with the program and offer double-AA LED lamps soon, everything seems to be going that way. One company is offering a kit to retrofit the Mini Maglite to LED, but for $27.95. Ouch!

I am probably the last one in my state to own a Petzl headlamp
that uses traditional bulbs, not LED’s. Mine old hasn’t broken, so I keep using it for setting up my tent in the dark (is there ever a better time?) and looking like a nerd.

I am coveting a new LED flashlight, and a trip down to REI may be in order. Just what I don’t need: more stuff.

You can LED a travel writer to water, but you can’t make him think.