Coleman makes a variety of lanterns that run on different of fuels. You may be wondering, “Which one should I buy?” I put them to the test and found one that was a clear winner.
The LED battery powered lantern is the one you should get. After a full season of use, this is the lantern that I always grabbed when I needed light. My second favorite lantern is the gas powered one, and coming in third place is the propane powered lantern. See how they compare in each test below, and see if you come to the same conclusion that I did.
I wanted lanterns that ran on different fuels, but were similar in construction. The gas and propane lanterns are all generally the same type, but the battery operated lanterns come in many different shapes and sizes. The one I choose most closely resembles the other two.
Coleman Lantern Brightness Test
For this test, I used a Canon D6 DSLR camera mounted on a tripod. I used manual settings to keep the exposure the same for all three lanterns. That way you can see the difference. Here they are starting from dimmest to brightest. The test was conducted in my shop which is a approximately 30ft X 30ft.
This test is where the propane lantern shines…literally. Putting out 1500 lumens, it is the brightest of the three. Then it was the gas lantern at 860 lumens, followed by the LED at only 360 lumens.
While this may lake the LED lantern look bad, I found that in real world use, it was still bright enough for most things I would use it for.
The other thing to notice is the the color of the light. The gas lantern gives off a very warm yellow light. The propane lantern is still warm, but not as yellow as gas. The LED was much different with its white, daylight balanced light. Below is a table comparing them side by side.
|Propane||1500||26m or 85 feet||yellow|
|Gas||860||22m or 72 feet||very yellow|
|LED||390||10m or 32 feet||white|
How Long Will A Coleman Lantern Run
For this test, I was going to fill them up and run them until they died, but I found all the specs right on Coleman’s website. Here are the numbers.
|Propane||4 hours||9 hours|
|LED||85 hours||299 hours|
The LED lantern was a clear winner here. I put new batteries in mine the beginning of the year, and it was still going strong at the end of the camping season. Its great not having to worry about bringing extra fuel along.
Coleman Lantern Operating Costs
What can I say, money is always an influence in our choices, so this test will compare how much it costs per hour to run these lanterns.
The propane lantern runs on 1lb tanks. The cost of these tanks vary depending on where you buy them. They normally run $4-5 at most big box stores. They can be up to $8 if you buy them at a small bait store in the middle of nowhere. I found the cheapest price to be at Walmart, for around $1.84 each.
Now if you really want to save money, (And who doesn’t) buying refillable 1lb tanks and refilling them yourself with the Flame King Refill Kit, can bring the cost down to $0.81 each! I did a complete cost analysis on this topic. You can read about it here. If you want to know more about the refill kit, you can see my demonstration of it here.
I will take the average of $4 a tank. The lantern will run 4 hours on high, making the cost of operation $1 per hour. If you use the refill kit, that will bring the cost down to $0.20 per hour.
The gas lantern I have is over 40 years old. Although you may not be able to buy this exact one these days, they do make a similar one. The one they make now is a dual fuel lantern. Mine will only run on white gas. The new ones will also run on unleaded gasoline.
White gas is a nice clean burning gas, but it is also much more expensive. If you buy the Coleman brand gas, it will run about $13/gallon. You can buy a generic version for about $9/gallon. The prices above are from Walmart. This is something that you would want to buy directly from the store. It will cost significantly more if you order it online. See Amazon’s price here.
I measured out 26 ounces when filling the lanterns tank. That made a completely full tank. That means you can refill the tank five times from a one gallon can of white gas. That brings the operating cost to $0.37 per hour.
If you want to drop the operating cost, then all you have to do is fill the tank with unleaded gasoline. At an average price of $2.50 a gallon, that will bring the operating cost to $0.07 per hour.
The LED lantern runs on electricity. This one uses eight “D” cell batteries, which is why this is a great choice if you want to buy a battery operated lantern. With eight batteries, it will last a long time between “fill ups.”
The batteries I bought are Rayovac High Energy D cell batteries from Walmart for $5.97 a four pack. I needed two of these, so that costs approximately $12 per refill.
These Rayovacs are a good, long lasting battery, but are also affordable. You could spend more on name brands like Energizer or Duracell, but I think these work just fine.
The specs say this LED lantern will run for 85 hours on hi. That brings the operating cost to $0.14 per hour. If you run these lanterns on low, it costs much less per hour to operate. See the chart below for all the figures side by side.
|Lantern||Hi / $Hour||Low / $Hour|
|Gas (White gas)||$0.37||N/A|
Of course you still have to buy the lanterns, so lets take a look at the cost of buying a new lantern. Prices will vary from store to store, but they are all going to be in the same ballpark. See the table below.
|Lantern||Cost to buy new|
|Propane (Northstar Edition)||Lantern only $47 – With case $79|
|Gas (Dual Fuel)||Lantern only $100-$110 – with case $199|
Pros And Cons Of Coleman Lanterns
Now that we looked at the technical specs of each lantern, I will go over the pros and cons of each.
- Holds constant pressure
- Comes with carrying case (optional)
- Has electric igniter
- Extremely loud
- Gets really hot
- Requires assembly before use
- Fragile glass globe
- Outside use only
- Looses pressure in cold weather
- Original design
- Proven concept
- Great longevity
- Small size
- Slight hiss sound (some love that)
- Reliable in cold weather
- Gets hot
- Messy gas
- Needs constant pumping to hold pressure
- Fragile glass globe
- Outside use only
- Easy to use
- No heat
- Long run time
- Always ready to go
- Weather sealed
- Can use indoors
- Kids can use it
- Least bright of the three
- Questionable longevity (all plastic)
The Real World Test
I went into this test thinking the propane lantern was going to be a clear winner, followed by gas, and then in a distant third would be LED. Boy was I wrong!
After a year of use, I found myself always grabbing the LED lantern when I needed light, and for many reasons. It is so simple to use. It is really just a big flashlight with an on off switch. You don’t need to find a propane tank, or look for a funnel and a gas can. It lasts what seems like forever on one battery change. There is no assembly required, its weather proof and you can store it just about anywhere.
My favorite part is that it is safe to use around the kids. They love playing with it, and when they are done, you can put it directly in storage without waiting for it to cool down. I can bring it right into the camper without it smelling up the place like gas.
I thought the propane lantern was going to be my favorite. It turned out to be such a pain to use, that I don’t use it much anymore. I have the Northstar edition, and it comes with an electronic igniter, but it didn’t work right out of the box. It didn’t want to make a spark, so I bent the electrode down to make the gap smaller. That helped a little bit, but it still had a hard time igniting the propane.
The photo above is real. That’s my friend Justin trying to use this lantern for the first time. After several clicks of the igniter, it finally lit and blew out the top, making us all jump!
It is also extremely loud. As Justin put it, “It sounds like a little jet engine.” With all the negative things I’ve said about it, I will say, this lantern it bright! If you need to light a large area, this is the one you need. Other than that, I found that the LED lantern puts out enough light to accomplish most tasks.
I still love my gas lantern. I’ve had it over 40 years, and it’s still going strong. It can get messy trying to refill it with gas, but other than that, I don’t mind using this one. It has a nostalgic feel to it, and brings me back to the days when I’d go ice fishing late at night with my Dad. In fact, this is his lantern, that I acquired.
From left to right above is, gas, Led, propane (northstar), and Justin’s propane lantern. His propane lantern has two mantle bags, whereas mine has one long mantle that stretches from the top to the bottom. This picture shows pretty clearly the difference in brightness and color.
I had to laugh at this photo. The propane lantern is so hot, that all the bugs that flew into it, instantly died.
Now that I gave you my opinions about these three lanterns, would you say you agree or disagree with how I ranked them. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at: [email protected]. If you have some useful information about your experiences, I’d like to add that info into this review with your permission.
Thanks for visiting Go Midwest Fishing. Don’t forget to check out my other articles, like Pop Up Camper Canvas Replacement. Also check out the Best Lake Reviews On The Web. You can also come hang out with us on my youtube channel.