This week, we’ll carry on with ways to light the darkness, prepper style. We’ll begin by taking a further look at the mantle-style kerosene or gasoline lamps we discussed last week. As I said, the McLene compound is awash in kerosene. A quick trip to our local oil distributor could easily see me coming home with a drum-full.
Now to be fair, I don’t usually buy that much at any one time. We generally get an extra gallon or two on occasional shopping trips to town. We’ve found a standard-wick lamp can run on a gallon of kerosene for over 25 days, eight hours per day. An Aladdin-style lamp works with kerosene as well, and can usually provide pretty good light for 12 hours on a quart of fuel. For a good comparison of oil, kerosene and white gas lamps and lanterns, check out this YouTube video.
I only have one major disagreement with this video: I’ve always found Aladdins to be more finicky than the presenter suggests. You have to really let them warm up for quite a while before you adjust the light higher. If you don’t, you’ll quickly soot-up the mantle. In theory, you can burn that soot off by turning down the lamp for a few minutes, but I’ve had plenty of mantles that never completely lose the soot and that means lower light output and a shorter mantle life.
Nevertheless, mantle-style lamps and lanterns are the best combustible light sources going, and the prudent prepper should keep a couple around.
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We’ve surveyed candles and kerosene/white gas lanterns, so what’s next? Well, if you take a trip over to the Coleman website, you’ll see they’ve already decided the future.
It used to be Coleman put out a variety of mantle-style lanterns – but not so much anymore. Instead, they have dumped the vast majority of combustible-fuel lanterns altogether and switched over to battery-powered LED (light emitting diodes) – and for good reason. LED lamps simply produce more light using less power for longer periods of time. They’re more robust – meaning they can take hits that would knock a mantle or incandescent bulb out of service – and they no longer pose the fire danger of combustion lighting.
I’m a big fan of LED; but being of a self-dependent mind-set, I don’t limit myself to them. Always remember that dependence on one way of doing anything is a dangerous strategy in an emergency situation. For example, I once went to a large outdoor camping event with a brand-new LED lantern. It was great: convenient, powerful, easy to carry. It was so good, in fact, that when it was left outside the tent on a communal table filled with other, more conventional lanterns, it was the only one missing in the morning. (Apparently someone else decided it was “Best of Show” as well.)
Another, even more important use for LED is in the arena of hand torches or flashlights. There’s simply no comparison between the old incandescent bulb flashlights and LED. An LED handheld flashlight can now produce over a million lumens and throw a light over a mile, something no handheld incandescent could ever hope to do.
So which flashlights do I recommend? Sorry to say I can’t help you much there. As I write this piece I have at least a dozen flashlights within 50 feet of me. My personal favorite is a Duracell 1000. It’s powerful enough to light up an area 600 feet from my front door, and it has an adjustable-width beam. It’s heavy, about ten inches long, and would definitely ring your chimes if I hit you with it. I’ve had it for a couple of years, haven’t had to change the C cells yet, and it’s worked well in blowing rain and snow. But a look at the reviews on Amazon suggests that dependability of the Duracell 1000 is pretty spotty, with switch failures being the usual culprit.
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I’ve noticed the same lack of quality consistency in most of the other brands I own, with one exception: the GearLight LED Tactical Flashlight S1000. The GearLight has high approval ratings and is inexpensive to boot. A two-pack is less than $20 plus shipping. If you want a good pocket tactical flashlight, I suggest you give it a try.
So why bother with candles, fuel lanterns and all that 19th-century horse-and-buggy stuff when you can light up your world with 21st-century gear?
Simply put, all of these LED lighting sources require electricity to make them work. That’s fine and dandy when the power is on and stores have inexhaustible supplies of batteries for every make of light. But suppose the power goes off indefinitely? Batteries are one of the first things to sell out when a hurricane is coming, and even the best battery loses efficacy in storage. The folks over at Energizer batteries say (optimistically, in my opinion) their batteries will last from 10 to 20 years in storage depending on type, and their rechargeable batteries have a charged shelf life of up to a year, with a battery life of up to five years. I’m not as big a fan of rechargeable batteries as some folks I know, but we’ll save my doubts for a later column. Nevertheless, you should always maintain a supply of batteries with your survival gear.
Having multiple means of illumination is prepper-basic. The self-dependent 3-2-1 maxim (“three equals two, two equals one, and one equals none”) doesn’t just apply to the number of tools you should have on hand in case one fails; it also applies to, and is amplified by, the types of different tools you have that can perform the same function.
Fuel-fired candles, lamps and lanterns will not only light up your world if you run out of power, they also have an ancillary but potentially life-saving effect no LED can match. Because the combustion method of light production is less efficient than an LED, that inefficiency presents itself as heat. A single mantle-style lamp can heat a small room, and a few tea candles – used correctly – can keep your car interior warm enough for survival if you’re stuck in a blizzard.
So that’s all for now on lighting. Next week, I’ll provide my annual prepper Christmas shopping wish list to help you select gifts for all those nut-job wacko survivalists in your life.
So until then, stay warm and well-lit, and get prepared.