How to Choose the Right Kerosene Lantern for Camping?

Camping is fast becoming one of the most popular activities in America. Many people are eager to get in touch with nature and become more environmentally conscious.

What better way to do that than to go camping? Records show that more than six million new families have started camping since the year 2014.

Anyone can find enjoyment in hiking an old trail or watching the sunset from the top of a mountain.

Whether you’re a novice or an expert, you should always be prepared with the right essential supplies when you go camping. One of these essentials is a kerosene lantern.

Why are Kerosene Lanterns a Good Option?

Kerosene lanterns have been in use for decades. They provide a reliable source of light without the added hassle of needing a lot of assembly or parts.

When you are out camping, the last thing you want to do is have to worry about finding an electrical outlet or searching for spare batteries in the dark. When you use a kerosene lantern, all you need is oil and a lighter to make it work.

Using such basic supplies as this is what makes kerosene lanterns so reliable and keeps you from worrying about any malfunctions or electrical problems.

Along with being relatively easy to operate, kerosene lanterns are also very efficient devices. You only need to use a small amount of kerosene oil for your lantern to operate for the duration of several camping trips. This is especially true when knowing that kerosene lanterns only need to be half full.

By doing this, the lantern will operate more efficiently by burning the oil slower. Not having to use much fuel will also benefit you by making room in your supplies for other camping essentials. This is an important factor if you will be going camping for days or weeks at a time without having a chance to restock your supplies.

Kerosene lanterns are definitely good to use daily or even in the event of an emergency when you need a backup light source. But, you want to make sure you bring along the right kerosene lantern for you.

Types of Lanterns

There are several different types of lanterns. The type of lantern you decide to get for your camping trip will be determined by what you will need it to do for you. Before deciding what type of lantern will work best for you, you must know what kind of camping you will be doing. Will you be inside an insulated cabin, or sleeping beneath the wide-open sky?

Will you need to light up your campsite for the night, or find your way along a narrow trail on the side of a cliff? These are all factors in deciding what type of kerosene lantern will work for you.

There are three main types of kerosene lanterns.

They are called flat-wick, central-draught wick, and gas mantle.

These three main lanterns should be able to support any of your camping needs. You may think that kerosene lanterns are an outdated way of generating light or that they may be a fire hazard.

Rest assured that kerosene lanterns are still widely in use today, and not just for camping. With nearly 1.6 million people worldwide using kerosene lanterns in their daily lives, they are still very capable of generating light.

1. Flat-Wick Kerosene Lantern

The first type of kerosene lantern you should know about has a flat-wick. The wick in this lantern is positioned in the reservoir which is then filled with the kerosene oil. It held in place by the wick feed, also known as the burner, and absorbs the oil.

The wick, which is often made of cotton, must completely absorb the kerosene oil before being ignited. This may take up to several minutes. The flat-wick lantern also has a dead flame variant, which means that it is designed to take in cold air and push out hot air.

This type of lantern has a large flame that is protected by a glass chimney, and its brightness is adjustable. With this lantern, setting the flame too high can cause it to smoke a lot and also for the glass chimney to get covered in soot.

Keep in mind that flat-wicks have the lowest light output out of all the kerosene lanterns, and therefore would perhaps be the best used to light up a table or workspace, anything that doesn’t require long distant visibility.

2. Central-Draught Wick Kerosene Lantern

The kerosene lantern with a central-draught wick has a tubular-shaped wick. This tube shape is formed by placing the wick through a tube-shaped burner.

A flame spreader must be used with this type of lantern. It is found inside the round wick and is designed to take the air that is being drawn into the burner and redirect it to the fuel covering the wick.

This wick being placed into a tubed shaped burner is what allows the flame to be circular and for it to shine more brightly than a flat-wick. The flame is also much steadier and more controlled than a flat wick lantern. Making sure the central-draught wick is even with the burner will ensure that the flame is at its brightest.

3. Gas Mantle Kerosene Lanterns

The last kind of kerosene lantern is called a gas mantle. This type of lantern doesn’t have a wick at all but instead, the mantle is what is caught on fire.

The mantle is a very thin, small, white sack that is made of silk or rayon. It gives off a bright white light, almost like a light bulb. Just imagine an old London streetlamp piercing through the fog, and that’s what it looks like. The gas mantles give off the brightest light out of the three types of kerosene lamps.

However, there are drawbacks to using a gas mantle while camping.

For starters, the mantle is so fragile that attaching it to the lantern could take several minutes of careful maneuvering. Once you attach the mantle, you must light it on fire and that makes it even more fragile because the outside layer of the mantle becomes withered, almost turning to ash.

Because of these things, it would not be the best lantern to use if you needed a light very quickly.  Also, this mantle must be lit in a well-ventilated area due to the fact that it may give off smoke and chemical fumes when it is first lit and the mantle begins to burn.

This would be an inconvenience depending on where you are at when you are in need of your lantern. Another factor to consider is that mantles are not reusable. Since they are burned up when they are heated by a flame you must be willing to purchase and transport multiple delicate mantles if you choose to use this type of lantern.

Gas mantles produce more heat than flat-wick or center-draught wick candles. A couple of gas mantles could easily warm up a small room, as long as you safely lit them outside first. Some gas mantles are pressurized.

This means that fresh air is mechanically or manually pumped into the reservoir and allows the kerosene fumes to be forced up the lantern to the mantle. These accumulated kerosene fumes then allow you to light the mantle.

When using a gas mantle the mantle heating up is what causes the flame to be so bright.  Because of this, we are not using a large flame as the source of light. As a result, gas mantles use up fuel slower than a center-draught lantern, but faster than a flat-wick.

Which Type of Kerosene Lantern is the Best?

It depends on your needs. Among the three kerosene lanterns, the gas mantle would be the most challenging to use.

However, if you need to have high visibility when camping or hiking, I would suggest using a gas mantle. Though it is slightly harder to operate than a flat or center-draught wick, the added heat source would be beneficial to you during an outdoor camping trip.

The center-draught lantern is easier to light than a gas mantle and it also has a more contained flame than a flat-wick. Since it does give off an adequate amount of light it would be a practical portable lantern as well.

The greatest difference between the flat-wick and the center-draught wick is, obviously, the wick shape. Having a lantern with a center-draught wick will provide you with 3-4 times the light as a flat-wick. As a whole, kerosene lanterns with a mantle instead of a wick have the brightest light.

Another difference to consider when choosing a lantern is how long it will take you to get the lantern to start producing light. The gas mantle lantern will take some time because of the delicate mantle.

Our Final Choice

I would say the best kerosene lantern that can meet all your general camping needs is the central-draught lantern. Any camper would be able to ignite it very easily and quickly if they needed to. These types of considerations all come into play when deciding which type of lantern to choose when you go camping.

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