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Gear talk: the Primus Micron gas lantern, with steel globe

Winter is around the corner. Three Points of the Compass went rummaging through the gear locker to see what there was for lighting the long dark nights. An old favourite was found. Time to put it back into service.

Primus Micron gas lantern
Primus Micron gas lantern

The Primus Micron gas lantern, model 2213, may very well be the best of the few small gas lanterns that have been produced with an (almost) unbreakable metal globe. The market is pretty small for this type of lantern and most people wanting a gas lantern will opt for a traditional glass globe. Or if wanting something particularly robust and light, will use one of the LED lanterns. I have a little USB LED that plugs into my powerbank and only weighs a gram. LED lights and lanterns can produce a startlingly hard light however and for ambience, the warmer light from a gas lantern or even candle is easily preferable. Another advantage, especially in the colder months, is the heat kicked out by a gas lantern.

Primus Micron gas lantern, in the hand, hanging loop wound and stowed
Primus Micron gas lantern, in the hand, hanging loop wound and stowed
Primus Micron comes with a small draw-cord stuff sack
Primus Micron has a wire hanger with metal hook and comes with a small draw-cord stuff sack

This is an almost unbreakable lantern with a built-in piezo ignition (that often failed to work properly even when new). Weighing 121g (Primus say 118g), it measures 61mm x 62mm x 106mm so is pretty compact. Instead of a glass globe to protect the mantle, it is fitted with a stainless-steel mesh globe. It comes with a metal hanger with a hook to hang from the roof of a tent and has a small nylon stuff sack (10g) in which it can be stored. Alternatively, it is a good fit for the heavier 45g neoprene cocoon that UCO make for their original candle lanterns. The Micron has a lindal valve and is powered by screw on gas canisters. While it could screw on to just about any of the sizes available, I have tended to use the small 100g carts and I can expect somewhere over three hours from one of these though I have normally run it at much less than full intensity and consequently will get a much longer run time. The control valve is precise and easy to use and adjust.

Primus Micron lantern packs well in UCO candle lantern cocoon
Primus Micron lantern packs well in UCO candle lantern cocoon

It is possible to alter the light intensity up to 235 lumens. Quite a bit of heat is knocked out too. While not noisy, the gentle hiss is certainly noticeable, and I quite like the sound on a blustery, wet night. I have heard of people heating, with care, a cup of water on these lanterns. I have never done it and don’t fancy trying it either. But I suppose it could be done if the lantern were resting on the ground. At least there would be water handy when the tent catches fire…

Card School for the Three Points of the Compass family inside Hilleberg Keron 3GT. Primus Micron lantern closest, UCO candle lantern furthest. Lake District 2008
Card School for Three Points of the Compass family inside Hilleberg Keron 3GT. Primus Micron lantern closest, UCO candle lantern furthest. Lake District 2008

With any type of flame burning lantern, it is always necessary to ensure there is adequate ventilation. Also remember that these lanterns get HOT! Use in a confined space with no ventilation is asking for trouble, as is not taking care when using a gas lantern in a flammable tent (or stove for that matter). The space above and to the side of a gas lantern is hot and the Micron comes with a lightweight 400mm wire cable hanger in order to both raise the lantern off the floor while keeping it a safe distance away from whatever is above. It is safest when hung as it cannot then be knocked over.

Removing the old mantle and cleaning jets. Tweaking the gas on and off blows debris from the jets
Removing the old mantle and cleaning jets. Tweaking the gas on and off blows caught debris from the jets. The jet nipple is internally mounted, and the body needs to be stripped down to access it. This is seldom required.

The Primus Micron has been around for almost twenty years now and is still manufactured by Primus. I have had mine for around sixteen years as I write this and I am not aware of any changes made to the design by Primus in that time, testament to good design. I am unsure where it is actually made. Primus state “Invented in Sweden, made in Europe”.

I haven’t used this little lantern in some years. Despite it being fairly lightweight and not too bulky, I found it more suited to car camping and as my daughter grew older, I mostly gravitated away from family camping back to lightweight backpacking. It did occasionally accompany me on hiking trips but has been packed away in the gear locker for a while now. However, as winter draws on and there are whispers of power outages across the UK in the months to come, I thought it prudent to get it out, dust it down, instal a new mantle and ready it for use should I need it.

With the Primus Micron, if the lights go out this winter, I can get both a little light indoors and a modicum of heating too. There is plenty enough required ventilation in my house to permit this to be used safely indoors. That is where this lantern can also excel, for not-too-bulky emergency use. Not only that but I have a stack of part used gas canisters sitting around and this is just right for using them up.

This is not a difficult lantern to use. Remove from its protective cocoon or stuff sack, screw down on to a gas canister, making sure the valve is closed first. When screwing it on (and off) hold the lantern by the main body and not around the globe. Unwind the hanging cable. Turn on the gas and press the piezo to ignite, turn up to maximum intensity then turn down to less than maximum. I use it at quite a bit less than maximum which extends gas usage considerably. Turn it off if leaving unattended or going to sleep. Despite having a metal globe, the Primus Micron still has a traditional mantle. I’ll do a separate post on changing these. It isn’t difficult.

Lantern can be turned down in intensity
Lantern can be turned down in intensity to provide a pleasant ambience

All that said, with the intervening years, my piezo no longer works. To light it I now turn the gas on and hold a gas lighter to the side of the globe. This will normally light the mantle correctly, just occasionally it will light the gas outside the mantle, and it will not glow, a gentle blow from the outside sends the flame inside the mantle and it works correctly. If it doesn’t, I turn it off and try a second time. It isn’t a big issue and doesn’t bother me. I do have to leave it to completely cool for a few minutes before packing it away or disconnecting from the gas canister.

Lighting Micron from outside globe
Lighting Micron from outside globe
Primus Micron Lantern 2213 instructions
Primus Micron Lantern 2213 instructions. Click on image for full size.

Alternatives:

There are many alternatives when it comes to camping lanterns- candle, battery (including solar), paraffin/kerosene, ‘lamp oil’ (with or without added citronella), or small to large gas lanterns with traditional glass globes. But when it comes to more robust gas lanterns with metal globes, there is far less choice.

Go System Mini Lite Lantern
GoSystem Mini Lite Lantern

There have been just a handful of small, robust and lightweight gas lanterns made over the years. Amongst these there were the 164g Brunton Lucy Lantern and short-lived 102g GoSystem Mini Lite lantern and the remarkably light 88g Coleman F1 Lite lantern, all no longer available, or at least now very difficult to find.

Coleman F1 Lite lantern
Coleman F1 Lite lantern
Kovea Firefly lantern
Kovea Firefly lantern

There are still metal globed gas lanterns on the market, though everything seems to be getting heavier again. Such is the way with lightweight gear. Kovea make a tiny 146g Firefly lantern for which a mesh globe can also be purchased and then swapped out with the stock glass globe. However, this does raise the weight still further.

Bulin F2 lantern with steel globe
Bulin F2 lantern with steel globe

There is also the 152g Bulin BL300-F2 with steel globe (or F1 with glass globe). Or simply stick to the Primus Micron, it is a good lightweight lantern from a reputable Swedish company. If the requirement of a steel globe isn’t there, Primus have a range of gas lanterns with glass globes, including a version of the Micron. However, that is quite a bit heavier and obviously risking breakage. If there is a small hole in the mantle it is sometimes possible to continue using the Micron, this is not possible with a glass globe as heat can be directed to a small point on the glass, with a large chance of it cracking.

Primus also make a version of the Micron lantern with a glass globe. This is model 221363. This also has a higher lumen of 260 (compared to the maximum 235 for the steel globe version).
Primus also makes a version of the Micron lantern with a glass globe. This is model 221363. This also has a higher lumen of 360, compared to the maximum 235 lumen for the steel globe version.

It takes a little care and knowledge to fit and burn off a new mantle correctly, but it is not too onerous or frequent a task. If taking the Primus Micron on trail, it is prudent to carry a spare mantle or two. These are not heavy, just 2g each. Now that I have dusted my Micron off, I am tempted to again take it out on a winter backpacking trip as it does knock out a decent amount of heat, sufficient to really take the chill of the inside of a tent on a cold winter’s night.

Primus Micron
Primus Micron

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