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Gear talk: UCO Original candle lantern accessories

The Original Candle Lantern is an anachronism yet still has a place in many backpacking gear selections, especially in the winter months. There are a handful of useful UCO accessories that add just a touch of efficiency.

UCO candle lantern with accessories
UCO candle lantern with accessories

Three Points of the Compass has only purchased and used the UCO Original Candle Lantern (both with and without LED) and has used most of the small range of add-ons for this simple little lantern over the years. I have never used the UCO Micro, Mini or Candlelier lanterns but some of the Original accessories can be used with those three, or there is a slightly different version available for them.

The original 1960s Japanese made Big Oak candle lantern, on which the UCO Original is base, also came supplied with a drawstring leather storage bag
The original 1960s, Japanese made, Big Oak candle lantern, on which the UCO Original is based, had few accessories. It came with a drawstring textile or leather storage bag

Storage:

The UCO candle lanterns have glass chimneys. While these tough chimneys are as robust as glass can be and are additionally slid down for storage inside the metal surround, protected from crush damage, these are obviously still at risk of breakage.

When purchased as a kit, lanterns often come packaged with a blue or black fleece drawcord storage bag. One of these will provide a little protection to the exterior of the lantern. I have never purchased one as a sock fulfills exactly the same role and the UCO neoprene cocoon an even better job.

Cocoon, UCO16:

The 45g quarter-inch thick neoprene cocoons that UCO sell are excellent for protecting the collapsed lanterns from shock during transport. It is a simple all-encompassing sleeve cover that hinges in the middle. There isn’t much to go wrong with this product; no zips, no poppers, no Velcro. I have two cocoons for my two Original lanterns. Despite their weights being the same, one cocoon is longer/taller than the other. It is likely that UCO altered the dimensions so that the now discontinued and slightly longer Original+LED lantern could fit it better. Both of my UCO neoprene cocoon sleeves are black, but I have also seen red or blue cocoons supplied with older lanterns and there may have been other colours.

Some UCO Original candle lanterns now come with a soft fleece storage bag
Some UCO Original candle lanterns come with a soft fleece storage bag
45g UCO neoprene cocoon for Original Candle Lantern
45g neoprene cocoon for UCO Original Candle Lantern
Flipped open lantern cocoon
45g UCO neoprene cocoon for Original Candle Lantern
45g UCO neoprene cocoon for Original Candle Lantern
Lanterns hanging from the roof of Hilleberg Keron 3GT in the Lake District. Primus Micron far end and UCO Candle Lantern with reflector nearest
Two lanterns hanging from the roof of Hilleberg Keron 3GT in the Lake District. Primus Micron far end and UCO Candle Lantern with reflector nearest

Reflectors:

UCO Pac Flat reflector (in the rain)
UCO Pac Flat reflector (in the rain)

Pac-Flat Top Reflector, UCO13:

The 28g Pac-Flat Top Reflector is for use with Original or Mini lanterns. This is a two-part reflector that stores flat and slots together to form a shallow cone that slides down to the top edge of the lantern and reflects light downward. Made from stainless steel, this reflector has a matt finish but would be better if chrome plated. This accessory is especially useful when the lantern is hanging above and can only be safely used in that manner. It can be used when a lantern is free-standing, but a lantern is easily toppled or knocked over if used that way.

When hung outside for use, one thing to be aware of is the risk to the lantern from rain. A candle generates quite a bit of heat, and the glass chimney can get very hot. There is a small risk of the glass cracking if cold rain then lands on it. A Pac-Flat reflector can protect the glass from this, just a little.

Top reflector, in the hand
Top reflector, in the hand
Top reflector, assembled, in the hand
Top reflector, assembled, in the hand. Despite being fairly shallow, the cone can also be used with a coffee filter through which it is possible to drip coffee or loose-leaf tea.
top reflector
top reflector can be used when lantern is free standing but is top heavy in that position and achieves nothing
Side Reflector for UCO lantern
Side Reflector for UCO lantern

Side Reflector, UCO12:

Made from chrome-plated steel, the little 15g side reflector does a surprisingly good job of gathering, directing and throwing what modest light is produced by a candle lantern. Keep it clean and polished and free from wax drippings and it is all the better. Many users will attach this dished reflector incorrectly, attempting to use it upside down, clipped into the candle viewing window in the side of the lantern body. It should be simply hung from the top of the lantern.

The slightly awkward shape doesn’t pack particularly well but has an advantage over the Pack-Flat reflector in that it can be used with a candle lantern standing on a table.

side reflector
Side reflector on Original Candle Lantern
side reflector, in the hand
Side reflector, in the hand. Keeping this clean and polished with a soft cloth improves the light throw
side reflector, correct way to hang from lantern
The correct way to hang the side reflector from a lantern

Shiny reflectors can produce artefacts and it may be a more practical proposition to paint or coat reflectors matt white instead. If you do that, make sure your painted surface will safely withstand the heat produced by the candle.

LED:

UCO used to sell both an Original Candle Lantern+LED variant of the Original lantern, and an LED Upgrade kit that could be used to convert an Original to Original+LED. This conversion kit comprised of an LED light (with batteries), a modified base for the lantern and a longer wire bail. The longer bail was necessary for it to still fold down and fit beneath the deeper base unit. As LED technology advanced, the little UCO candle lantern LED got left behind and began to look like a pretty poor offering. Both UCO Original Lantern+LED and the LED Upgrade kit for Original Lanterns were eventually withdrawn from sale. The UCO lantern LED provide up to 40 hours of light and is powered by two CR2032 button cell batteries. All that said, if hung from the roof of a tent, the modest light emitted from the downward pointing LED is sufficient to read, write or study a map.

LED in base of lantern provides useful downward pointing illumination
LED in base of UCO lantern provides useful downward pointing illumination
UCO Duo, with LED and headstrap for LED
UCO Duo, with LED and headstrap for LED

When originally sold, the +LED option came with a stretchy headband to which the LED could be fastened. You are now unlikely to come across one of these unless you find some new old stock. It isn’t required anyway as the wire stand on the LED will simply clip on to almost any other headband. But there are just too many other better LED lights to make even this a practical proposition.

UCO LED light is powered by two CR2032 batteries
UCO lantern LED light is powered by two CR2032 batteries
UCO LED has a small wire stand
UCO lantern LED has a small wire stand

These lanterns do occasionally turn up on the second-hand market however the longer bails and the larger plastic base in which the LED fits, will be almost impossible to locate. There are replacement bails, and these are looked at in another Three Points post on these lanterns.

Oil burner:

Oil insert has a removeable cap to prevent spills in storage
Oil burner insert has a removeable cap to prevent spills in storage

UCO used to produce a lamp oil burner insert for the Original lantern that could act as an alternative to the candles. This oil burner had its fans, but production was halted and never resumed. UCO have been saying for some years that they are working on a replacement, but nothing seems to be materialising. The official oil burner would burn for up to six hours and could be used with ‘lamp oil’ (possibly with added citronella) or paraffin/kerosene. Like candles, this was silent in operation, but care has to be taken to ensure the wick is sufficiently trimmed otherwise it smokes badly.

UCO oil burner insert
UCO oil burner insert

In the meantime, those people wanting an oil burner are either making their own, or buying a cheaply made metal oil burner, probably made in China. These are cheaply available, and Three Points of the Compass looks at one of these in another post.

Sleeves:

This is another product that UCO appear to have abandoned. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, UCO produced a run of 2000 Original Candle Lanterns with custom leather surround. These were hand-stitched in the US and were especially appreciated by the bushcrafting fraternity. So much so that similar hand-stitched offerings are also made by third parties and sold on the likes of eBay and Etsy. I doubt many owners of the original ‘official’ UCO leather sleeves will be selling them. UCO are missing a trick in not producing their own sleeves. Aesthetically pleasing, the sleeve accessories do nothing to make a lantern more efficient. They add little in the way of practicality beyond a decent protective covering to the majority of the collapsed lantern

Limited Edition 40th anniversary Original Lantern from UCO - featured a hand-stitched leather sleeve around its base,
Limited Edition 40th anniversary Original Lantern from UCO – featured a hand-stitched leather sleeve around its base,

Candles:

While not strictly an accessory, there are three different types of ‘official’ candle available for the UCO candle lantern. There are three types of ‘official’ UCO candle. In addition to these three, small and large tealights are used in UCO Mini and Micro lanterns. The three UCO candles are- white (up to) 9-hour candles made of what UCO call a “special wax formula” but are almost certainly standard paraffin wax. There are also blue (up to) 9-hour candles, again made of wax, but with added citronella. These supposedly deter mozzies, midges and other insects. While the white and blue are pricey candles when compared to most alternatives, they are cheap when compared to the third official UCO candle- their Beeswax candles that will burn for (up to) 12 hours. These 100% beeswax candles also give off a pleasant aroma. If carrying the UCO lantern while backpacking, I almost always include the beeswax candles as, despite the extra cost, there is an increased burn time for no weight penalty.

UCO candles
UCO candles. From left to right: standard white wax, blue citronella and yellow beeswax

Candles have to be of the correct dimension to permit the UCO lantern to properly operate. It is unlikely that you will find cheaper candles on sale that will fit correctly though some users have been able to shave larger candles to fit. Three Points of the Compass cannot be bothered to attempt that and simply buys the UCO products.

Third party suppliers have also made candles to fit the UCO lanterns. These may fit and work as they should or may not. It is also possible to make your own candles. This would be a cheaper option and it is possible to purchase silicone moulds and wax and wicks in bulk for these. People have reported various degrees of success or failure with these.

UCO lantern spares

If you use a UCO Original candle lantern, some or all of the official accessories may add just a little efficiency to what may today be regarded as an inefficient light source but remains a welcome addition to many a camp.

The UCO Candle Lantern has been around for decades. Even this is based on an older design, originally made in Japan. It may be thought a little surprising that UCO have not produced more accessories in the past forty years. But what can you add to a candle lantern? After all, how many accessories do you know for the classic kerosene/paraffin hurricane lamp?

Limited Edition 40th anniversary Original Lantern from UCO came with a leather sleeve
The Limited Edition 40th anniversary leather sleeve is sadly no longer available

This has been part of a series looking at small lanterns suitable for backpacking, lightweight camping, EDC and in the home:

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