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Operating a Lantern

You are about to use flammable gasoline within a few inches of a burning mantle. Please take the time to read the safety pages before you start.

If your lantern has not been used in awhile please clean it off, including the old mantle(s) and empty any old fuel from the fount. Put the old fuel in an approved container and dispose of it properly. You can find a hazardous waste recycling facility in your telephone book under public health.

Although I assume your lantern is fully operable, I will show you the steps to ensure operation. If it fails one of the steps you will need to refer to the troubleshooting or rebuilding pages.


I recommend you use camping fuel whenever possible. This fuel is not bogged down with the additives automotive gasoline has and it burns much cleaner. Yes you can run unleaded gasoline (aka "white gas") in your lanterns but using camping fuel will extend the life of the generator.

You also want to use a funnel, preferably one with a filter. A small piece of dirt can plug a number of internal parts so you want your gas as clean as possible.


I recommend you use Coleman® mantles. You can buy off-brand mantles, or you might find a "vintage" set of mantle lying around, but they stand a very good chance of being dangerous. Coleman® mantles are only made with Yttrium. Some off-brand and many (even Coleman®) vintage mantles are made with Thorium, which is radioactive.

Preparation for use

First remove the fuel filler cap and with a filtering funnel, fill the lantern fount approximately 1/2 full of fuel. Re-install the cap and tighten it down to ensure a good seal.

Ensure your main valve is fully clockwise, or in the "off" position. Turn the pump plunger counter-clockwise one turn to open the check valve inside. Place your thumb over the small hole in the center of the pump plunger and grab the under-side of the knob with your index and middle fingers.

Keeping your thumb over the hole, pull the pump plunger out and then push back down to complete one "pump." Give your lantern 15 pumps. Then turn the pump plunger clockwise one turn to close the check valve.

Look for damp areas and listen for leaks.

Locate your tip cleaner stem, if your lantern has one. Give it a few turns and then leave it pointing down. If you have a newer lantern without an external tip cleaner, such as models 275, 288, 290, 295, etc., turn the on/off valve open and closed quickly a few times.

Now we will open the on/off valve just enough to allow a little air to escape from the generator. For older lanterns, this should be about 1/4 turn or so. Newer lanterns will require just a little counter-clockwise turn. You want to be able to hear the air coming out of the generator. After about 5 seconds you should hear it "spitting," an indication that fuel has been introduced to the system. Once you hear this spitting, turn the valve off.

Next we install the new mantle(s).

Fig 1A

Fig 1B

Fig 1C

Take your new mantle out of the bag as in Figure 1A. Note that the mantle has a string around the top. Hold the ends of the string in your fingers and bunch up the top of the mantle so that the top is closed like in Figure 1B. Then make 1/2 of a knot with the string ends, just like you do the first half of tying your shoes. Loosely tighten the knot around the closed mantle top as in Figure 1B but too tight because you're about to open it back up.

Fig 2A

Fig 2B

Fig 2C

Gently insert your finger inside the top of the closed mantle to open a hole but keep the string ends tied in a knot as in Figure 2A. Now look at the lantern's burner cap, or caps. You'll notice that there is a groove near the center. Raise the mantle up to the burner cap and slide it on as in Figure 2B. Hold the mantle so that the string is approximately where the groove it. Next grab both ends of the string with your fingers and pull it closed, taking care to have it close around that groove in the burner cap as in Figure 2C.

Fig 3A

Fig 3B

Make the second half of your knot and tighten it down. You want to clip-off the ends of the string to about 1/4" long (Figure 3A) so that they do not poke the mantle during operation.

Now we will "burn" the mantle. Pick up the lantern and tilt it slightly to one side so you can easily get to the mantle with a flame. Using a match or lighter, apply flame to the entire mantle as in Figure 3B and allow to burn. You can easily tell what has burned and what has not by the color difference. Ensure 100% of the mantle burns and allow it to cool for a minute or two.

Lighting the lantern

Previously we pumped the lantern up 15 pumps. If you have a military lantern, or "milspec" model, that is sufficient to start with. If you have any other lantern I recommend you pump the lantern an additional 10 pumps.

Fig 4A

Fig 4B

Fig 4C

I will deviate a bit from the direction disk instruction of "Open 1/4 turn and light." I believe this is too much and can cause excessive flair-up. If you have a newer lantern you will turn to the "light" portion of the valve's operating range.

Prepare to light a match or lighter, and then crack open the valve just to the point where you can hear that "spitting" noise again. Again if you have a newer lantern, open the valve to the "light" position.

Now you can light the match or lighter and then place it under, but near, the mantle. Be prepared for it to ignite because there will be enough fuel there to light. If you have too much more flame than is shown in Figure 4A you can back off the valve towards the "off" position to reduce fuel flow.

Once the generator starts warming up the flames will begin to go away and the mantles will begin to glow, probably dim at first and a little yellow as shown in Figure 4B. Once the generator gets hot, the mantles will glow steadily but still dim.

Now you can open your valve up all the way. If the lantern flames up, back the valve down and slowly try again until you get it open fully. Now go back and pump the lantern another 20 or so strokes, or enough to get the lantern to full-brightness as shown in Figure 4B. Don't forget to lock the pump clockwise again.

Simple enough. Considering you'll probably be using the lantern outside in the black of night, it may be too bright for you. Modern lanterns purport to be "adjustable." Older lanterns are also adjustable, with tip cleaner stem. Rotate the stem towards the "up" position to reduce fuel delivery to the mantle, thus reducing light. A 200A can produce enough light to almost completely night-blind you so turn the lever until you have something softer and a little more usable.

Turning the lantern off

You must NEVER remove the fuel cap when the lantern operating or is still hot.

To shut down the lantern just turn the valve off. However, because of how they operate, the lantern will stay lit for about 30 seconds as it uses the fuel left in the system. The light will dim, then flicker on and off and then die. Some say this 30 second process is rather useful as it allows time to hop into your sleeping bag before the lights go out.

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Information may not be copied, printed or otherwise reproduced without the written consent of the owner.
Coleman is a registered trademark of The Coleman Company, Inc.

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