Anyone still use the cap style carbide lights?

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Postby ArCaver » Sep 16, 2006 7:35 pm

It's not just short people. It annoys me, too. Wait, maybe I'm short...

By the way I haven't seen too many Hollywood movies with carbide cap lamps. And if your light flickers, fix it.
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Postby NICKSCAVE » Sep 17, 2006 8:46 am

I love carbide lights. I always take one when I'm surveying or camping in a cave for heat. They are great for drying wet muddy coveralls when you are sleeping. Hook your coveralls on a rock or a ledge and put the carbide under a leg and presto! dry coveralls for the next days survey.also great for cooking bats and cave crickets when you run out of food. Just kidding, I never eat crickets because their legs get stuck in my teeth.
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Postby ArCaver » Sep 17, 2006 10:52 am

There's yer problem. You gotta pull the legs first.
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 17, 2006 11:36 am

I like shining my light in short people's eyes. I do it for my personal amusement!
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Postby NZcaver » Sep 17, 2006 1:28 pm

ArCaver wrote:It's not just short people. It annoys me, too. Wait, maybe I'm short...

Yeah, I'm sure we all periodically have to remind our fellow cavers not to shine lights in our eyes (I'm occasionally guilty of that too). This isn't limited to LED's though - bright halogens or carbide flames thrust in your face can be just as bothersome. Usually the universal sign-language of "shading the eyes" does the trick, without a word being spoken. :wink:

By the way I haven't seen too many Hollywood movies with carbide cap lamps. And if your light flickers, fix it.

Er, I meant mankind using fire for light - not carbide specifically.

I don't deny that carbide lamps are a great heat source, especially for slow trips (like surveying) in really cold caves. When you weigh-up the light quality, fuel source, and any temperamental issues some carbides are known for - they might still the best choice in some circumstances based on the heat factor alone.

My 2 cents... :grin:
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Postby cob » Sep 18, 2006 7:50 am

NZcaver wrote:I don't deny that carbide lamps are a great heat source, especially for slow trips (like surveying) in really cold caves. When you weigh-up the light quality, fuel source, and any temperamental issues some carbides are known for - they might still the best choice in some circumstances based on the heat factor alone.

My 2 cents... :grin:


I once led a survey trip into a very wet and muddy cave, 2 teams totalling 7 cavers (pre-LED days), and 21 lights, 4 of which were carbide. We came out with 6 working lights, including the 4 carbides. One by one the electrics failed, and being so far from soldering irons, blow dryers, and the requisite AC electric... The old tried and true carbides kept on going. That is when I came over to the dark side.

The greatest advantage of carbide over electric is that, short of a drop that cracks the stem, water reservoir, etc, a carbide lamp can be fixed in cave. The notorious "temperamentality" of carbide is usually just ignorance in action (overfilling, failing to clean the tip, etc) The only real disadvantage (to me anyway) is dealing with the dump (much easier to just throw spent batteries in the pack)

All that said, electric technology has advanced alot since those days (the Sten rocks). I have an Apex for backup and have so far been impressed (including with my depth perception when using it) BUT... I am still distrustful of electric and like arcaver I don't like the quality of light.

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Postby potholer » Sep 18, 2006 10:27 am

The notorious "temperamentality" of carbide is usually just ignorance in action (overfilling, failing to clean the tip, etc)

...or using an Ariane generator?

I must say, I do miss my carbide (which usually worked very well), but I did tend to do preventive maintenance, whereas for many people, 'maintenance' involved trying to clean out the generator just before hoping to use it, assuming they could actually open it.

A lot of people I know used rechargeable electrics (FX3/Headlite) for sporting trips in the UK, while still using carbide for long summer trips on the European mainland, and if anything, among my friends, it's that latter market that LEDs have killed most effectively, especially with the serious weight reduction compared to carbide when carrying lights and their fuel up mountains.
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Postby ArCaver » Sep 18, 2006 12:56 pm

The only real disadvantage (to me anyway) is dealing with the dump (much easier to just throw spent batteries in the pack
)

The spent carbide is a bit of a pain in the cave. I add it to my compost when I get home.
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Postby Zach » Sep 19, 2006 3:49 pm

i too dislike the quality of the led lights, i think the light is harsh looking and really kind of dim not to mention the blinding ability of them

the warm glow of a carbide light on the other hand is assuring and lights up the area effectively.
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Postby NZcaver » Sep 19, 2006 5:33 pm

Zach wrote:i too dislike the quality of the led lights, i think the light is harsh looking and really kind of dim not to mention the blinding ability of them.

Hmmm... so you find LED's to be both dim and blinding? :?

Obviously carbide is the best option for you, then. :tonguecheek:
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Postby NZcaver » Sep 19, 2006 6:35 pm

So anyway... it seems carbide lamps are undeniably the kings of generating heat in a cold cave, as well as apparently giving off a light many cavers find pleasing.

But for you happy carbide cavers out there, here's some issues you might want to think about before "lighting up" a newbie caver -

For beginners, downsides of carbide also include a possibly greater risk of
a) burning hands+gloves, especially on vertical work.
b) melting traverse lines.
c) having a light that might just go out for no obvious reason while they're in the middle of some manouvre *before* they have developed a caver's skills for memorising their immediate surroundings.
d) carbonising the cave roof, etc.

(Potholer posted this advice on the UK caving DB recently. Since it's relevant to this thread, I hope he doesn't mind me re-quoting it.) :wink:
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Postby potholer » Sep 19, 2006 7:25 pm

I should stress that that was specifically in a "suggest carbide to beginners?" context, and the points in question were things that might be extra hassle while someone was learning to cave.

Minimising things for someone to worry about can be useful, especially when people end up doing SRT *very* early (possibly playing on ropes in a tree before actually getting underground).

Personally, I'd find it hard to recommend anyone use a system that I and most of the people I know have basically abandoned even for long Alpine trips and expedition use, and I don't think my judgement is excessively clouded by my partly subsidising my caving by helping people make the transition.

Admittedly, the sheer price of carbide over here doesn't help - buying in small quantities in the UK, it's close to $10/kg. Buying a ~70kg barrel in Europe on a summer trip and bringing it back is much cheaper, but was only ever really practical if taking a van over.
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Postby Zach » Sep 19, 2006 9:05 pm

blinding in the since of being blinded when having somone with an led shining in your eyes is blinding,

you looked into the context to much or something there, or didn't get the meaning yeah..... :doh:

i agree that beginners really shouldn't start out on carbide, there is a lot more too them than an electric light
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Postby NZcaver » Sep 21, 2006 2:06 pm

Zach wrote:blinding in the since of being blinded when having somone with an led shining in your eyes is blinding,

you looked into the context to much or something there, or didn't get the meaning yeah..... :doh:

Yeah, that must be it.

But I'm still trying to figure out why you find LEDs "really kind of dim." Perhaps you mean the older type? Many of the latest LED caving headlamps are fairly efficient (even blinding :wink: ) - anything but "dim." Take a look at this Swiss website (and they love carbide in Switzerland...) http://www.melzer.ch/html/no_more_carbide.html

Anyway, I'll make a deal with you. If we're ever caving together I'll try not to blind you with my LED - if you do your best to avoid blinding or burning me (or anything else) with your carbide. :flamed:
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Postby icave » Sep 22, 2006 12:03 pm

I've never had to skedadle out of a smaller passage because someone incorrectly loaded their batteries into a LED light. Carbide on the other hand......

Modern LEDs do rock. The 4 small LEDs on my Apex seem brighter than the 8 on my DUO. They also have a much nicer color temperature.

I still love the soft glow of carbide, but the light output just can't compete with some of the modern LEDs. Last time I used carbide I had problems seeing well because my eyes adjusted to the level of the LED lights others in my group were using.

I find that it's best if everyone in a group has similar strength lights, as caving with people using brighter lights can be a real pain. Of course, you caould just make sure you have the brightest light, then it's not a problem.

I do miss carbide. Nothing says were ready to head underground like the POP of the lamp lighting.
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