One of the more probable needs in the coming times will be the ability to light your way without electricity. Whether that may be from a major hurricane, ice storm or EMP from out of the clear blue skies makes little difference. No power, no electric lighting. It’s a simple fact of science we can’t ignore. But fortunately there are products we can have on hand, along with an easily obtainable fuel that can solve our problems with the dark.

One of the more commonly preferred sources of emergency lighting would be the mighty flashlight. But they run on batteries, and unless you have a way to recharge your batteries you eventually will be living in the dark again. Candles are probably the safest and most reliable, and when we are out of power for a period of years, can be made from locally available sources, such as beeswax. It’s an ancient art that is still practiced, and one you may be wise to familiarize yourself with. Just in case, that is.

But for all around usage, you can’t beat a good oil or kerosene lamp for that emergency lighting. Sure, you can get a Coleman white gas lantern, or even a propane one, but there are drawbacks to using them. One of them is the fuel issue. For one, white gas, or unleaded gas can be very dangerous should it spill, and its vapors are explosive in nature, so you have to be careful of where you use them. Propane relies on canned fuel, and that fuel only has a limited use span. When the crap hits the fan, how many bottles are you going to have stashed in your basement preparedness room? Add to that the need to use those fragile mantles. How many spares do you have?

One has to be very careful when moving these types of lamps as the least little jostle can break the mantle. You can go walking with them, and I have many times while camping, but they seem to fail at the most inopportune time. Oil lamps, on the other hand, use a relatively safe fuel, and the cloth wicks are nearly indestructible except for their being consumed as they burn. Not only that the lamps are usually much more rugged in construction.

Most of these lamps sold today claim, or suggest that you can only burn their type of fuel in them. This isn’t true by the way. Usually, the lamp fuel available today in department and hardware stores is merely liquid paraffin. It burns ok, but not as bright as kerosene. Frequently you’ll see it colored for a more decorative appearance. You can even get it scented for your enjoyment. Do yourself a favor and get a jug to fill with K1. One quart of K1 can last for several days if you use the lamp sparingly. If the odor bothers you than you can buy the more expensive treated K1, or buy a small bottle of treatment and add it as directed in a five gallon can of the fuel.

When worse comes to worse, you will be able to use, with some modifications, alternative oils in these lamps as well. Citronella oil will also burn in the lamps, but make sure you have plenty of ventilation because of the fumes. Remember that citronella is an insect repellant. There are some other options I’ll get into at another time as well.

There are many models available on the market, and simple glass lamps can be had at the local discounters for just a few dollars. Just for research I bought a lamp and a quart of lamp fuel (non-paraffin) for fewer than twenty dollars a few weeks ago. The lamp works fine, but you have to remember to keep the bowl at least half full for best operating results. Most of the problem with paraffin lies in the fact that the wicking action of the lamp doesn’t work as well as with some other types of fuel on the market. Another thing about paraffin is its high flashpoint. Once the wick becomes clogged with the paraffin it has to be replaced, and there is really no way to clean the paraffin out of the wick.

A more rugged option would be that old standby, the kerosene lantern. These things can be tossed around with no ill effects aside from some spilled fuel and should be used in times where you need to move around or go outside frequently. The construction of the lamp will keep the flame from being blown out as well.

An interesting buy would be the Dietz cooking lantern, available at Lehman’s for 29.95. It’s a neat little affair that comes with a little plate and a 12oz cup that sits on top of the lantern. I’m fixing to buy one of these for myself before long. While you’re over at Lehman’s they also have an item called a homesteaders light, which is also a very cool lantern that gets closed into a box that has three reflective sides that can direct the light in front of you, or wherever you want it to shine. That’s another item I’m planning on acquiring.

You can also get the Dietz lanterns at W.T. Kirkman’s as well. They are the home of Dietz lanterns as well as their own brand of lamps and are worth the visit. While you are dreaming and drooling over the lamp catalogs, make sure you pick up a couple of extra globes for each lamp and plenty of extra wicks. If you can get all of your lamps to use the same wick it will cut down on repetition of supplies.

Bear in mind that when disaster strikes, it usually comes without a lot of warning, so when you are making your plans consider locating oil lamps with matches or butane lighters in strategic locations around the house. That way they’ll be close at hand and readily available should the need arise. I would also suggest you look into getting wall mounted units and brackets to keep them in one place, and off of a table where they may get toppled in an earthquake or other tremulous event. A broken lamp will be useless to you, so it’s worth taking the time now to establish your lighting strategy.

Oh, and by the way, diesel and #2 heating fuel can be burned in a kerosene lamp as well, and if the carp hits the fan as expected, there’s going to be plenty of fuel for the taking around the country as none of it will be of any use for electric furnaces and vehicles whose electronics will have been fried by an EMP or geomagnetic storm.

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