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058 Candle Lanterns 2009-03-18

candle lanterns

I was rummaging through some gear searching for a missing coffee cup, when I came across a candle lantern. Stopping for a second I began to wonder why I was not using it any longer.

Since the mid-70s I have used a candle lantern while camping. My original lantern was was a unique folding contraption. With an aluminum frame and mica windows the lantern burned "pink ladies", a thin six inch tall candle. Many dark tent nights were improved by the dim glow of the candle. Of course it was fragile and mine leaked candle wax constantly, but that was the price you paid for a little light.

I think it was the early 90s when I purchased a huge upgrade replacing my old candle lantern with a new collapsable lantern. It was tubular with an aluminum frame and glass globe. The real trick was the candle was pushed upward by a spring (instead of pushing the candle up manually). Now, that is technology.

Throughout the 90s I religiously used the lantern. Being an evening reader, I spent many hours positioning my books in just the right light so I could see to read. I also occasionally used it to re-warm a sierra cup or take the chill off the night air.

Many fond memories returned as I fiddled with the lanterns, but for some reason I had stopped using them. Growing older, I have tried to lighten my load as I am just not as strong as I used to be and I have converted to lighter gear. The lantern was unessential and thus left behind, but that was only part of the answer.

In the late 90’s the light technology exploded. For years I had used an old Micro headlamp. The light was heavy and would barely shine for two hours on two AA batteries. Sure I could read by it, but I needed it for camp chores and navigation, I had to use another source for reading - the candle lantern. Being a gear head I quickly snapped up the first LED lamp, a Tikka. Out of the small headlamp came a beam that was strong enough to read by and burned for around thirty hours. What a revolution! My candle lantern died.

Now days I use a light that burns a hundred hours on low beam and comfortably uses rechargeable batteries. But, the headlamp is not warm and cozy like the candle. I think I will put the candle lantern back in my car camping gear box. Who knows I might get an extra kiss from my wife, if the dog doesn’t knock it over!

Happy Trails.


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