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Choosing a lamp
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Choosing a lamp

Revised 06/01/2018

Your lamp is without any doubt the singular most important piece of kit that you will acquire for venturing underground. The problem is that there are probably more different caving and mining caplamps available than ever, someone commented a short while ago that they went underground in a party of about 20 people and everyone had a different lamp.

 The purpose of this page is to help a prospective buyer in their choice, and what is said here applies whether or not you decide to purchase one of my lamps, or one from elsewhere.

 Mining Lamps

 These constitute by far the greatest number of caplamps being sold worldwide and include such lamps as the Oldham DL16, the Raptor Pro, Gokang, Halo, TJL etc. By mining lamps I mean lamps designed specifically for use by working miners and to conform with the safety standards pertinent to this.

One thing that they all have in common is that they produce a very tight narrow beam of light.

The output in lumens is usually quite low, about 75 lumens, but due to the concentration of the light and narrowness of the beam they have a very high lux to lumen ratio. In practical terms this means that they are capable of quite good distance vision but only for a small area. This effect would be most noticeable in say large slate chambers and similar surroundings.

Also, these lamps are designed to conform to safety standards in particular use in coal mines, issues that do not affect recreational exploring or caving but are often reflected in the cost.

Regardless of this, many people use these for recreational mine exploration and caving and consider them suitable for their needs.

 Caving Lamps

 By this I mean lamps designed for recreational activities which include the recreational exploration of abandoned mine workings.

These include of course my lamps together with the Stenlight, Scurion, Petzl Duo, Little Monkey, Pulsar, El Spelio,  and probably a few more, together with Oldham conversion kits such as the Retro 2, Bisun, and CustomDUO.

The Scurion is a very well designed lamp, and was basically the first of a series of lamps which all reflect the basic Scurion design of one beam emitter plues one bare or 'wide angle'. The Scurion and most of its clones have the ability to power both emitters at the same time, so quoted maximum outputs reflect this.

My high power lamps are somewhat unique in that they have arrays of two or three emitters wired in series and as such are to the best of my knowledge the most powerful lamps commercially available.

Chinese Bike Lamp/head torches

On the face of it these are extremely good value as they can be quite powerful and be purchased of eBay for as little as £15 without the batteries. Some people buy them and fit home made helmet brackets. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues.

Poor efficiency, usually reflected in short burn times.

No carefully set 'walk mode' being optimum for general underground use balanced against battery draw.

Lack of good waterproof integrity

Unwanted strobes and flashes

Poor general construction, unsuited to the underground environment.

Unsuitable Lithium Ion power packs, roof contact and water can produce disastrous results.

Poor beam patterns due to cheap plastic optics.

Regardless of all this they seem to be appearing in increasing numbers.

Some people are buying good quality headtorches such as the Fenix, these probably represent good value while being rugged and waterproof.

 Lamp designs

 This can be narrowed down easily to lamp type and battery type.

 There are two schools of thought on lamp type, the ‘beam man’ and the ‘area light’ man for want of a better description. Many people prefer the throw or distance vision of a well defined beam providing peripheral illumination is adequate. Others, mainly the caving fraternity take the opposite view. This is quite understandable. Imagine thrutching about it a tight wet system with plenty of calcite formations to throw the light back at you with a lamp that produces a tight beam of intense light. The Scurion addresses this problem neatly by the fact that their lamps all have 2 emitters, one as a bare emitter, and the other behind a reflector with the ability of the user to vary the degree of each according to personal taste.

In considering this we have to return to the argument concerning lux and lumens. This can best be illustrated by example.

 Suppose a lamp has a very tight narrow beam that enables good vision up to say 50 metres, and yet the lamp only produces 75 lumens.

If the beam is too tight for a user and they want a broader beam then in order to maintain the distance vision we would need to double the output to say 150 lumens. This is not rocket science.

 Battery choice is very much as personal thing with some preferring the helmet mount type that balances nicely the weight of the caplamp and has no trailing wires to get caught on anything. Those that prefer the belt mount type generally express fear of their helmet dropping down a winze or sump and loosing their light. The current demand for belt mount batteries is negligible