Camping Tech

are so cool

I like technology. Anything designed for effective functioning has a special kind of beauty.
And this is no better illustrated in the technology we carry on our backs when we hike and camp.


From the humble candle to the gas-powered lamp. Each item with its own brand of cool. Candles are quite fun but are less functional in camping because of the open flame.

I tried a candle holder with a glass screen. This created light successfully. However the required a rigid holder and I broke it on a hike. Still, it made a fun exercise to paint the light of the flame.

Oil candles are not a popular camping technology, as far as I know. But this simple flame provides ambience. These lamps also provide a pleasant watercolour challenge. In the second painting below I was just finishing my wash on the candle when I received a phone call that pulled the plug on the painting, and the pizza – forever a reminder of a particular phase in my history:

Paraffin Lamps

Paraffin lamps are another beautiful technology. Simple and functional they are another great topic for a watercolour painting.

Gas Lamps

Gas lamps are more traditional camping technology. Although they were high risk I remember using this little gas lamp in my tent when hiking.

Then the gas companies released canisters with shut-off valves. We could screw appliances on or off. Below is the screw-on lamp.

Here are two lamps I do NOT carry in a pack. The first is the big bottle lamp we used to use in family camping outings – now kept for those times when the grid goes down. The mining lamp was a wedding gift from the prof who supervised me through a masters degree in materials science.


The Alpine Age of rock-climbing stimulated massive innovation in cooking technology. Gas cookers could not muster enough heat to cook above a conservative height on a mountain. Here is the first Coleman pressure burner I used for hiking:

At this time most hikers used a variant of the stove below. You would pour a little fuel into the burning cup which would be enough to warm up the system enough to create enough pressure to drive a jet of flame. This was a neat little stove that was popular with hikers and climbers for many years.

The rocket

The mountain tech designers then separated the fuel tank from the burner. They put a pump on the fuel tank. I used an excellent stove with a pump-up fuel bottle for many years. Here is a watercolour of this cooker and the pots I carried with me for decades. I did the painting in Spout Cave in the Cedarberg a while back. Sadly this kit was stolen from my bakkie.

Here are a couple of watercolours of my current setup:

My friend Hagen then told me about ‘Gram-weenies’ those obsessed with weight who shave off as many grams as possible from the weight they carry in the mountains. As a result I bought this little burner:

So there you have an abridged history of portable light and heat.

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