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DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 8:03 am
by mememememeitsme
I go cycling and take all my camping gear on the bike. It always weighs too much, and space is always a problem despite having front and rear panniers, handlebar bag, and the rear rack taking the tent on top.

Last time I went, I took a book I was reading, but discovered to my dismay that I could not in fact use the front light of my bike as a lantern due to the highly focused beam being totally rubbish for tent-wide illumination.

I looked all over for a decent solution, the best thing I could find being the Black Diamond Orbit lantern. It's a 1 watt LED powered by 4x AAA batteries. Here: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/gear/orbit.php

The problem is, it uses all those pesky AAA batteries, which I don't think are actually lightweight at all, and also, the thing itself is made of excessive material as it's more durable than it needs to be (for my application anyway). Plus, it costs money.

I came up with my own solution using crap I had lying around. Here is a photo of it unlit:

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It's made from the following:

1 x 35mm film case, transparent and acts as a diffuser, cost = free
9 x 5mm white LED's, cost = nearly nothing, probably $1/£1
9 x 100 ohm resistors, cost = infantessimally small amount, probably 10c/10p
1 x Standard USB cable, cost = free

I drilled 3 holes in the case cap so that the USB cable could enter, then come out and loop back in, thereby giving me a hook to hang it by.

Here it is lit, plugged into my computer USB port:

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So, why make a USB powered ultra lightweight DIY tent lantern you ask...

... Well I always have with me a Freeloader, which is a sort of universal solar charger and battery arrangement which can be used to power almost any portable electronic device. I have this with me anyway, to keep my phone alive, and charge rechargable batteries for my GPS. See the freeloader here: http://www.solartechnology.co.uk/produc ... loader.asp. I strap it to my bike while I ride around or leave it on the tent during the day (I have the additional 'supercharger' external solar panel option which is weatherproof and remote from the main electronics so it's safe if it rains).

The freeloader comes with a load of different plugs for various pieces of equipment which you swap onto the end of the little power cable that comes with it, one of which is a standard USB socket, into which I plug my lantern.

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This should be enough light for me to read by, and I'm thinking of making a different version with just 3 higher powered white LED's, or maybe a mix of white/orange to give a warmer colour.

Just thought I'd share. Peace.

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:49 am
by zelph
Awesome DIY project. It's just amazing how LED's have taken over the commercial lighting industry. The LED billboards along the higways are super bright and eyecatching.

I'll have to give more thought on being a freeloader :D Thanks a lot for the introduction to the "Freeloader" charger. I just may have to invest in one of those. My camera eats AA batteries for breakfast lunch and dinner :roll: Time for me to go back to rechargable ones.

Does your bike have a generator that can be used off the side of the tire to power your light and if you do have one can it be utilized to charge batteries as you travel?

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:45 pm
by mememememeitsme
Yeah the freeloader is good, I like the idea of using one power source to power as many things as possible to reduce the number of different sizes of batteries that need carrying, and duplicating batteries in devices that you probably won't ever need to use at the same time.

I don't have a dynamo on my bike, I have considered looking into that as an idea for providing power but I can charge via solar any time it's light, a dynamo only charges while you are moving, so if I camp for a few days and don't move the bike then I could be left with everything flat again.

I've already improved my camping lantern design, I've got some single 1-watt LED's and a smaller power socket, like the type found on nokia mobile phones, and I plan to make a single LED source lamp cast into clear resin, so it will be completely durable and even lighter weight.

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:40 pm
by zelph
"dynamo" that's a word I've not heard for a long time. :D

At one time(8yrs ago) I was trying to have all my electrical needs come from a 9v battery.

Your led's, wire and resistors can be inside of your film canister and then encase them with casting plastic. Make the casting plastic translucent white. I'll see if I can find a link to some led things I've made.

Found a photo of the flash light for the nine volt battery. Just press it down onto the terminals.

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Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:52 pm
by realityguy
I wonder if it would be a good idea to hit the thrift stores for something cheap(and not too big) that powers up with solar energy..say some of the yard lights,calculators,or something else as long as the panels aren't too big..Maybe a person could sew it on his hat! :lol: If the sun is out,you'll probably be wearing it! :idea:

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:30 pm
by zelph

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:02 pm
by realityguy
It would be interesting to see if it could keep some batteries charged for a night use flashlight or camp light using the leds...Since you ARE going to be out hiking all day...or sitting in the sun at a camp..
I noticed Eureka I think has a solar system that hooks up to some their tents that you can buy..or at least I think it's solar..powers lights in the evenings i believe..

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 12:33 am
by irrationalsolutions
ive been thinking about this topic since it was posted. now that i have my thinghts together i am ready to post. i wanted to really give it some thought.

i think the light is a great idea. leds use next to no energy. they are lite weight and easy to work with and take up to no space. so i think its a great idea and i will make one and then play around with it some and try different stuff along the same lines. again a great idea and thanks for posting it.

the problem i have with it is the charger. i dont see it working for hiking. it seems to be a great idea for biking and water hiking (kayaking). but for hiking i dont see it being able to work. i dont know where the rest of yall hike but where i go most of the time is heavily wooded. not enough sunlight to amount to enough to charge anything well. and if you are out during a long storm that would take away your power abilities also.

the way i over come this and will charge the one i make weights 1lb. it a crank radio. im going to take it anyway so why not use it to chrage things also? mine isnt working right anymore i found out last night. but it has had a long hard life. it survived many drops and dunks. so i ordered a new one today. its different so i dont know that it will charge everything but it will charge stuff. and the reason i say 1lb is because that the advertized weight of the new one. its lighter than the old one.

sorry im not trying to steal your thunder. like i said i really like the idea of the light. its a great idea! the charging system is what i have been thinking about the most. i think the charger is also a great idea. i might get one myself for home use in case we get something like a hurricane and i need it for the house. i just want everyone to think about the charger a little more. again thanks for posting the idea its something that will help me out.

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:49 am
by Mister Krabs
realityguy wrote:It would be interesting to see if it could keep some batteries charged for a night use flashlight or camp light using the leds...Since you ARE going to be out hiking all day...or sitting in the sun at a camp..
I noticed Eureka I think has a solar system that hooks up to some their tents that you can buy..or at least I think it's solar..powers lights in the evenings i believe..

I think it's a battery, checking ....

ya, it's a battery. Eureka E!nergy tents, it's the E! power system.

seems gimmicky to me.

Re: DIY Ultra lightweight camping lantern

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:01 pm
by realityguy
seems gimmicky to me.
Then I double that notion..okay..Which one of you wants to patent a solar system for tents? :o ;)