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Camping Lanterns - You Don't Want to be Alone in the Dark

Mar 11, 2008
A camping lantern is simply a portable lighting device. The type of device and the source of light vary, along with its durability, safety, and light output. Although the lantern has existed for most of recorded history, household electricity has relegated is use to outdoors activities such as camping. There are several different types of lanterns currently used for camping.

Kerosene Lanterns

Also called a hurricane lantern, the kerosene lantern has been in use since the nineteenth century. It is a simply but resiliently designed lantern, and generally consists of a glass globe with metal handles and chimney. The shape and design allow for good air flow, which makes for a bright, uninterrupted light. The drawbacks are a considerable risk of fire and, when used in an enclosed area, possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

White Gas Lanterns

Most famously made by the Coleman Company, manually pressurized white gas lanterns have replaced kerosene lanterns because they have less danger of fire and emit a much brighter light. Because white gas is still highly flammable and may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, these lanterns are not recommended for small, enclosed spaces such as tents and cabins. Despite this, they are very convenient and very popular with campers because they light a very large area with a clear, steady light. Many campers and outdoors enthusiasts attach a degree of nostalgia to white gas lanterns because they have been a popular choice in camp lighting for several generations.

Fluorescent Lanterns

Fluorescent lanterns, powered by batteries, are beginning to replace fuel burning lanterns because they are so much safer. Although they produce a dimmer and slightly yellowed light, they are much easier to use and can even be worked by children. Because they do not get their light from combustion, they can be used inside tents.

LED Lanterns

Also battery powered, LED lanterns produce a much brighter, whiter light than fluorescent lanterns and use far less energy. As with fluorescent lighting, LED light is safe, durable, and easy to use. Although LED lanterns were originally more expensive than the other choices, the average price has dropped sharply in the last few years. They are currently in the same approximate price range as fluorescent lanterns.

Choosing a Lantern

When choosing a camping lantern, there are several factors to be considered. First, in what area do you want to use this lantern? If you need an indoor light, fluorescent or LED lanterns are the safest choices. If you are planning to light an outside area, any type will suffice. Second, how available are the three different fuel sources where you plan to camp? Batteries are readily available throughout the United States, as is white gas lantern fuel. Kerosene, while easier to find in third world countries than the other two types of lantern power, is growing scarce in some areas of the United States. Last, you should consider overall cost. Although all four types of lantern can be found in almost any price range, LED lanterns will cost the least to operate over their lifetime because they use only a fraction of the power of any other type of lantern and do not usually require replacement parts.

Convenience is another factor. Batteries cannot evaporate, as kerosene or white gas does, and they do not require the special storage that liquid fuel would. They are also easier to transport and therefore an obvious choice for backpackers. Although kerosene and white gas lanterns are not difficult to light, the battery powered variety is the easiest to start, requiring only the push of a button.

Last, safety is an important concern. Although many outdoor enthusiasts prefer the nostalgia and tradition of old-fashioned kerosene or white gas flame lighting, using these types of lanterns requires tolerating a great deal of danger. If camping with children, either type of battery powered lantern is an appropriate choice. A child will be able to take an LED or fluorescent lantern into their tent, light it with no help, and use it without any danger.

People who enjoy the nostalgia of a traditional fuel lantern but need a safe choice for indoor areas may want to consider having several different types of lanterns. A white gas lantern can safely illuminate the outdoors, while an LED lantern provides safe indoor lighting.

Although choosing a lantern seems like a small decision, it can have a huge impact on your camping trip. Concerns like safety, cost, convenience, and usability affect the day-to-day rituals of an outdoorsman. As with every other camping purchase, it is important to evaluate your needs and choose wisely.
About the Author
William "Cole" Doggett is a knife expert and owns an Internet knife shop, Knife & Supply Company, LLC at http://www.KnifeSupplyCompany.com. Check it out for a huge selection of Camping Lanterns to keep your campsite perfectly lit. Also, take a look through the huge selection of Camping Supplies for great deals!
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