Ask 100 campers about their lantern of choice and you’ll get 100 different answers.
If you include Mrs Muz in the mix, however, you’d get 99 different answers plus 30 seconds of silence followed by: “I dunno. What do you think?”.
Nevertheless, camping lanterns are ten-a-penny these days and with so many options available you really are spoiled for choice. So you pays your money and takes your pick.
But here’s one to consider seriously if you’re in the market for a new one. Outwell’s Great Bear is a multi-function effort that covers a few different bases – it’s a general purpose lamp, a torch and a dedicated reading light all rolled in to one sturdy unit.
Powered by three D-sized batteries housed in an internal cassette, the main lantern unit is powered by a rubberised button on the top. Press it once and 15 LEDs on one side of the unit burst in to bright white life, giving a nice glow for that late-night card game. Press it again and the opposite side joins the party.
One of the remaining sides is powered by its own rubberised button, and if you press this twice it lights another 15 LEDs. But hidden up the Great Bear’s sleeve is the option to detach this third side and use it as a three-LED torch with the first press of the button.
The fourth and final side features a ratcheted reading lamp that automatically lights up when you flip it up. These 12 white LEDs cast an arguably brighter light because the plastic lens doesn’t feature the opaque diffuser seen elsewhere, but because you can angle it from about 45 degrees to vertical it doesn’t have to nuke your retinas.
Pop all of these on and you’ve got an excellent light source that will pretty much light up the whole tent for up to 50 hours of judicious use. And when you want to nip out for a call of nature all you need to do is whip the torch out of its tough rubber retaining band and head on out without everyone you leave behind fumbling around in the dark. It’s not that kind of party.
This torch is probably the Great Bear’s weakest link because it casts more of a diffuse glow than a strong beam, but it’s perfectly adequate for light use. Light use. It’s a light, innit.
Because D batteries have a little bit of weight to them, this lantern isn’t exactly feather-light but it’s not too bad at all. It also features two rubber-coated metal handles which flip up from either side so you can carry it around like a modern-day Florence Nightingale or hang it up in the centre of the tent without pulling the whole thing down around your ears. The handles don’t lock in to place so they flop about a little bit, but that’s forgiveable.
Having looked at a number of lanterns over the years, and being the proud owner of roughly a million different ones, the Outwell Great Bear is certainly up there among my favourites. Its versatility alone makes it worth a good look.
Finally, I want to lay a myth to rest.
Yes, this is a Great Bear.
Yes, I’ve been in the woods with it.
No, it doesn’t. It’s an inanimate object.