I know flashlights and headlamps are all the rage these days but lanterns should definitely be included in your emergency preparations, maybe even before all other types of lights. After all, the lighting we’re so accustomed to in everyday life is essentially the same as a lantern in that they spread the light in all directions (not focused like a flashlight) and are invaluable to your comfort and normalcy factors of life.
So, the question is: what to get and what are the differences?
Essentially, there are four types of lanterns: liquid-fueled, gas-fueled, battery-powered, and candle-powered. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of each. In general, liquid- and gas-fueled lanterns produce a brighter light and, depending on the fuel source, and can be fairly inexpensive to operate. Battery-powered lanterns, on the other hand, are better to use if you have young children because they will not cause immediate burns when touched… unfortunately, I’ve experienced this pain first-hand and it is NO FUN. Candle lanterns are another option but are not widely used and probably not worth discussing any further.
FYI, I keep and use all three of the following lanterns and recommend you consider doing so as well.
It used to be that kerosene lanterns (like the one pictured) were the most popular lanterns in use, mostly because of the widespread availability of kerosene. In recent years they have gone out of favor but I still keep a few of these around because they are easy to use and quite reliable. Unfortunately, they do tend to smell a bit and may even be a bit smokey but, once you get the hang of using them, they are an inexpensive and useful lantern option, albeit probably not the best bet for use indoors.
These days, many lanterns operate on Coleman white gas, which is cleaner than kerosene and widely available. The only problem is that it is (usually) significantly more expensive than kerosene. Another option are lanterns than work on gasoline and even dual-fuel lanterns than run on both Coleman fuel and gasoline. In fact, these may be among the best options for emergency preparedness for the simple fact that they can use more than one fuel source.
When my family and I go “car camping” the odds are very good that I’ll take along my trusty propane lantern (like the one pictured) to use. I like these more than the liquid-fueled lanterns for the simple fact that they’re very easy to use and produce no mess. Comparatively speaking, gasoline lanterns are typically more expensive to operate than liquid-fueled lanterns simply because of the convenience.
With regards to emergency preparedness, however, such lanterns could prove quite useful. Since propane is a very familiar fuel source for most homeowners, including a simple propane-fueled lantern could be just the thing for short-term emergency lighting. Although I’ve never tried to do the math, I would suspect that a simple propane lantern would run for many, many hours on a 20 pound propane tank. I know that a small one pound tank will run my lantern for many hours without fail.
For those of us who have young kids, you may want an option that will help keep them safe from potential burns. Battery-powered lanterns are great for this exact problem. When we go camping, for instance, I always include a battery-powered lantern or two specifically for the kids to carry around (back and forth to the bathroom and wherever else they go) and I don’t worry about them burning themselves.
In an emergency situation, the last thing you need is to compound the situation by having to deal with a second or third degree burn to your children from a simple lantern accident. Keep a few of these lanterns around and you’ll be set.
The lantern featured runs on D-cell batteries, which means it will last for many dozens–if not hundreds–of hours. There are also smaller lanterns that run on AA-cell batteries which can be recharged if you have the capability; I also keep a few of these around as well. Whatever you do, be sure you purchase an LED-style lantern as these will be far more battery-friendly. You might also look into rechargeable lanterns if you have the ability to recharge them.
How to Increase Output Easily
Probably the easiest way to get more light out of your lantern(s) is to place a mirror behind it. That is, of course, assuming you place the lantern and mirror nearer a wall than in the middle of a room. Try it out and see what you think.
The point is to include an assortment of lanterns in your emergency preps for the simple fact that you never know what type of fuel/power source you may have on hand or access to. Stock up now while you can.