Trusty Coleman Lanterns Shine When Camping


Camping is not what it used to be. When I was just a child my daddy would take me on overnight fishing trips. The supplies and equipment we took was a quilt each. We could have done with one quilt but Daddy snored something fierce.

Today when the family goes camping they go in the 48 foot motor home. It makes camping just like not leaving the house.

Having evolved from quilt to using a motor home I have observed several innovations that made life easier.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Coleman Lantern. Now before Mr. Coleman invented the lantern about the turn of the last century any light you had at night while camping was from the campfire. Of course the Coleman lantern was preceded by the kerosene lantern that gave about as much light as a candle. The Coleman lantern supplied a brilliant white light. It used "Coleman Fuel" for making the light.

The delicate part of the Coleman lantern was the "mantles". These were little screen looking cloth bags that tied to the end of the generator in the lantern. When fuel was applied to the mantle and a match struck the mantle glowed white hot. The mantles were delicate. You always wanted to have a spare or two with you. You could count on needing a new mantle just about every trip. The modern Coleman lantern uses propane for fuel but as far as I know still uses the delicate mantles.

Coleman Stoves

My favorite take along Coleman camping product is the Coleman Stove. In my years on the chili circuit I used up four or five of the stoves. I was not real good about cleaning up the stove after use and they would finally get so nasty I was ashamed to let the public see them. If you clean your Coleman stove after every using, it will last forever.

There are replacement parts available for the parts that wear out. A lot of us started using unleaded gasoline in the stoves instead of Coleman fuel as the gasoline was a lot more inexpensive. The only catch was the unleaded gas would build up carbon in the generator and the stove would cease to heat or even burn. You could get a replacement generator for a couple of dollars so it was not a real hardship.

The liquid fuel stoves and lanterns can be dangerous. They tend to blow up or catch fire on a regular basis. It is best to use them outside with a fire extinguisher near until you become a seasoned veteran of the physics involved. You also want to be careful that you use the Coleman fuel or white or unleaded gasoline only for the purpose intended. If you try to start a campfire with the stuff you are likely as not to blow your kindling all over the camp.

My current Coleman stove runs on propane. I like to keep a Coleman on hand as the electricity in the Hill Country is prone to go off and stay off for anywhere from an hour to several days.

When that happens I can most importantly, make my coffee in the morning, and cook about anything. It is just a matter of screwing the propane canister on the stove and lighting the burner(s). The little propane canister will power the stove about three hours depending on how high you have set the heat. If you are going to use a propane stove on a regular basis go to your friendly propane dealer and get the set-up required to use a five gallon propane tank. One of those should last you a year and you can refill it instead of throwing it in the landfill. Did I mention that near all Coleman products are green?

There are a lot of accessories for the stoves. You can get a folding oven that sits on top of it and does a good job of baking. There is a strange looking little dealie that makes toast over the burner. You can get a folding table for your stove. (I think everything Coleman makes folds for easy packing".

A word of caution here. All the light weight, folding gear can be unstable. You need to set up on a flat surface and be mindful of any gusty winds. The veterans with the easy camping gear can give you some tips.

My favorite use for my camp stove is frying fish. I set up on a table out on the front porch and get with the program. I don’t stink up or heat up the house and if I spatter grease on the floor it can be hosed down with little trouble. If you are going to deep fry or just the regular frying in a skillet, use your cast iron. The iron holds head a lot better than aluminum and won’t cool down so much when you add food.

Also make sure you have a good thermometer. If your oil is not hot enough you will get a soggy, greasy mess. If the oil is too hot you will get food scorched on the outside and raw in the middle.

As far as I know there are no special recipes for a Coleman stove. You can cook anything on them that you can cook on a regular stove. Most times it beats singeing the hair off your knuckles trying to cook on a campfire. Leave that to the chuck wagon and Dutch oven guys.

Do be careful with the camp stoves. The ones that use liquid gas, as I said earlier, tend to blow up. As with anything hot, keep the kids a reasonable distance from the work area. Nothing spoils a picnic as fast as having to haul someone to the emergency room.

There is an old story about Coleman Stoves..This guy was learning to sky dive. He jumped out of the airplane and was descending at a good rate of speed. He pulled the handle on the parachute and nothing happened. He pulled the emergency handle, still nothing happened.

About this time he noticed a guy coming up from the ground at a good rate of speed.

"Hey", shouted the falling guy, "Do you know anything about parachutes"?

"Naw", hollered back the ascending guy, "Do you know anything about Coleman Stoves"?