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PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
Here in northern Wisconsin, summer days are long. The sun rises around 4 a.m. and doesn’t set until after 9 p.m., providing all the light we could possibly want for farm chores. This also means that
during the winter, nights are long. During the peak of winter, the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 8 a.m., and it’s dark by 5 p.m. Regardless of how you time it, you wind up doing some farm chores in the dark.
That’s why I find it important to prepare plenty of flashlights before winter sets in. When you’re walking between outbuildings in the dark or trying to keep the driveway reasonably clear during a heavy evening snowstorm, you need to see what you’re doing.
Preparing a flashlight stockpile involves several factors. These three tips will help guide you toward bright and cheerful winter nights.
Use LED Rather Than Incandescent Flashlights
Should you use incandescent or LED flashlights? Based on my experience, I side with LED flashlights. They use significantly less power than incandescent bulbs (which means batteries last longer), and I’ve found LED flashlights are much brighter than similarly powered incandescent flashlights. The bulbs also last much longer (practically speaking, they almost never burn out). It seems that a good LED flashlight could last for decades.
If you’re looking for an LED flashlight, you’ll find that brightness is measured in lumens. The greater the number, the brighter the flashlight.
Consider Battery Types
Consider the types of batteries and battery life when choosing flashlights. How easy will it be to stock up on spare batteries? AA and AAA batteries are easy to find, and I’ve found they produce more than enough power and last a long time when used in LED flashlights. AAA batteries power one of my flashlights. Because I use this flashlight typically for a few minutes at most each day (when walking to and from my barn at in dark hours), I need to change the batteries only once a year.
Larger, more powerful flashlights use six-volt lantern batteries, which are expensive but long-lasting and good for prolonged use. If you need to power bright lights for a long period of time (say, during a power outage), lanterns powered by these batteries are a good choice. The only problem? These batteries are not as commonly used as AA and AAA batteries, so in a pinch, you won’t be able to pilfer a battery for the lantern from, say, a TV remote control.
Similarly, some small flashlights use button cell batteries, which are smaller and lighter than other batteries. If the convenience of using common batteries is something you value, stick with simpler flashlights that use AA or AAA batteries.
Keep Multiple Flashlights Handy
Small flashlights are relatively cheap, so it makes sense to stockpile a half-dozen or so to keep them in convenient places. Keep one in the barn. Stick one in the garage. Tuck one away in the glove compartment of the farm truck. Pick up one with a clip you can slide onto a typical ball cap for hands-free operation. By storing flashlights in multiple locations, you’ll never be far from a light source in the event the batteries in your main flashlight run dry—or you just walk to the barn empty handed at dusk and realize when it’s dark that you can barely see your way back to the house.
Keep this advice in mind, and you’ll practically turn darkness into daylight this winter.