Coleman lanterns have been in use and production for more than 100 years. A Coleman lantern on a camping trip became as ubiquitous as ice cream and apple pie in America. The Saturday Evening Post even said, "Except for Thomas A. Edison, Mr. Coleman may be responsible for the creation of more bright light than any other man." Enjoying the nostalgia of a vintage Coleman lantern is possible, whether refurbishing one or using one in good condition.
Washers and Generators
Vintage Coleman lanterns burned white gas for fuel. This requires the use of washers and gaskets to prevent seepage and leaks. Coleman used leather washers for this purpose and many vintage lanterns still have the leather versus the modern rubber gaskets and washers. Coleman lantern generators look like a piece of bronze lamp rod and have a spring mechanism in the interior that allows the fuel to enter the wick and glass chamber in controlled quantities.
Wicks and Mantels
The old Coleman lanterns used cloth wicks to spark the light chamber. These wicks look like a small gauze sock with a midsize mesh pattern. Wicks go over the special housings where the fuel is released into the cloth allowing for a burn to take place providing the light. A glass housing, or mantel, surrounds the glow chamber where the wicks burn. Without the glass mantel, the wicks will burn up into ash. The glass mantel in addition to the generator controls the amount of oxygen coming into the burn chamber, preventing the wick from turning into ash, and giving the glow of the lantern.
Cases, Funnels and Handles
Vintage Coleman lanterns have a piece of bent metal extending up and over the top of the lantern which is the handle. The handle is designed to be far enough away from the light and heat source to not heat up, allowing you to carry it or hang it on a tree branch or other object to provide light in the campsite. Many older Coleman lanterns came with a fuel funnel made of aluminum. Funnels are stored in cases that house and hold the lantern when not in use, protecting the glass from cracking or shattering.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.