Gas lanterns run on either white gas (a type of petroleum) or 16-ounce canisters of propane. They last longer in cold weather and are much brighter than battery-operated models, and you can use them to heat up a shelter when it’s cold at night. Both fuels are much more economical and last longer for their weight than a battery.
1. You need to produce a lot of light for a big area.
If you want to light up a large campsite or an outdoor party where there’s no electricity, look for a propane-fueled lantern that produces more than 1000 lumens. (For comparison, a 75-watt incandescent bulb produces about 1100 lumens). Hang it high on a pole or tree limb to make most efficient use of the light.
2. You want the most fuel-efficient lantern.
A white-gas lantern is stingy on fuel and big on cost savings. White-gas lanterns can throw light for hours—important if you are using the lantern for long-term activities, such as marking your return spot on a dark shoreline when you’re out fishing most of the night. These also excel for use in a camp where you’ll be spending more than a day or two, because you can bring in enough fuel (and make light inexpensively) for long-term use. Some liquid-fuel lanterns operate on either white gas or unleaded gasoline, making them the lanterns of choice in remote areas, where a gas station might be the only retail operation for miles.
3. You need a lightweight, easily packable lantern.
If you’re backpacking your way in to a campsite where you’ll be spending a few days and want a long-term light source that’s more reliable than a standard flashlight, a compact propane-operated lantern is your best choice. Modern models are smaller than the canisters of propane that powers them, and inexpensive. You can take two and use one to light up that picnic table for nighttime card games and another to keep the privy bright and cozy.