The first thing to tell you is that I bought my Campingaz gas lantern many, many moons ago as part of a set alongside a stove ring, although it doesn’t look like the design has changed all that much.
The fact that it was bought so long ago (I’m talking at least 10 years) and I’m still using it now speaks volumes – this thing is pretty tough despite its delicate nature. It also tells you something else – it hasn’t killed me. Yet.
To get this working you need four things: a gas canister, the burner unit, a mantle and two matches. Technically, that’s five things.
On first use the burner simply clicks into the lip of the canister and locks into place for security, then you slip a supplied mantle, like a sock, over the business end of the burner. It’s a little bit fiddly if you’re not practiced, but once it’s on it’s on. The mantle is woven from silk and impregnated with something called ‘rare earth’ oxides. That sounds all peace and healing crystals but it’s actually a collection of seventeen chemical elements namely scandium, yttrium and the fifteen lanthanides. These, of course, we know already.
Making sure the gas is off, hold a match under the mantle and let it gently burn away. This gets rid of the combustible silk and leaves behind a residue of metal oxides which glow brightly when lit with a flame.
Careful not to break the now very delicate mantle (it’ll still work if you crumble a little bit off, though it won’t be as efficient), slip the glass diffuser over the burner and clip it into place.
Turn the gas on a little, hold a lit match beneath the burner and move it around if the lantern doesn’t light immediately.
What happens now all depends on how long the gas has been on and how generous you’ve been with the flow before the flame catches a whiff. If it’s just a second or so then there’ll be a gentle phuuut and your mobile abode will be filled with an adjustable warming glow (up to 80w) and the relaxing hissing and popping of the gas as it burns.
Any more time than that and you’re likely to need new pants before you next sit down.
With a bellowing woooof the burner bursts into life with a flash, the shock knocks you off your haunches and you’re left sitting down much sooner than you anticipated. Then follows a lot of explaining, not least regarding the whereabouts of your eyebrows and why your once-beautiful face is frozen in a terrifying silent scream.
It’s because of this rather exciting unpredictability that Mrs Muz is a tiny bit scared of lighting it.
Other than the intended light, this thing pumps out a lot of heat. And I mean a lot.
As the mantle burns and the heat rises it hits the metal lid and glass diffuser, super-heating them to immeasurable temperatures. I’ve accidentally touched the lid so often that I have no feeling left in the pad of my left index finger.
With this in mind, I wouldn’t be keen to hang it off anything with the supplied chain. I’m sure it’s safe enough – Campingaz products have to go through stringent tests after all, but I couldn’t relax if I had this dangling just a few inches from the ceiling of whatever I was in at the time.
That’s another thing. This is a flame-based product, which means it can set fire to stuff. Fire is bad. I mean fire is great in certain circumstances, but not when you’re tucked up in your sleeping bag. So don’t use this in a tent, balanced on its own battered box for ‘stability’, inches away from everything else.
Believe me when I say there’s nothing quite as butt-clenching as that split second when you realise you’ve knocked your blazing lantern over and it’s now lying on the plastic groundsheet, looking up at the carelessly-discarded loo roll and your decidedly fruity boxer shorts.
Assuming you’ve survived the night, all you need to do to put this away is unclip the burner from the gas and pop it in its box. Provided you don’t then start playing rugby with the box the glass diffuser should be enough to protect the mantle from the rigours of packing and travelling. If not then new mantles are only a few quid for packs of three, and they last a long time if you’re careful.
After many years of owning this lantern, I love it. It’s inherently dangerous in my clumsy paws, but I’ve only singed a few things with it so far and threatened our lives just once, yet the light it gives off is lovely. There’s just something about a real flame that soothes and relaxes, and the little bit of warming that comes with it is always welcome, although it’s no three-bar heater so don’t expect miracles. It’s also surprisingly easy on the fuel, so doesn’t cost all that much to run.
SUMMARY: Not really suitable for tents due to the ever-present danger of horrible death syndrome, this lantern is bright, warm and cheap.
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