Kovea Observer Lantern
By: Jamie Lawrence
February 24, 2008
Hobart, Tasmania AUSTRALIA
5' 7" (1.70 m)
154 lb (70.00 kg)
I was introduced to bushwalking/tramping/hiking as a young child in Boy Scouts and through my school physical/adventure education. After leaving school, I mainly did short daywalks until recently when I have started to again re-walk some of Tasmania's key hiking routes and try walks I have yet to attempt. I mainly walk in the winter months, in Tasmania's central highlands areas. I prefer light gear, extended walks (3-5 days) in a group of 3 or shorter walks (1-3 days) walking solo. I would generally carry a base weight pack of around 8 kg-10 kg (17 lb-22 lb).
|Image Courtesy Kovea|
Manufacturer: Kovea Co, Ltd
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: Kovea Website
MSRP: Not stated
Listed Weight: 5.93 oz (168 g)
Measured Weight: 5.64 oz (160 g)
Fuel: Screw type canister gas
Ignition: Push button Piezo ignition
Ilumination: 35 lux
Consumption: 1.3 oz/hour (32 g/hour)
Other details: Includes hard case and spare mantles
The lantern is about 110 mm (4.3 in) tall and around 60 mm (2.3 in) wide.
I have always been a user of headlamps but I wanted a form of lighting that I could use when in camp. Something that could provide lighting to prepare and cook meals, and also enable a group to sit around camp when fire was not an option and enjoy basic lighting without everybody having torches.
After a small amount of research and looking at the gear that I already owned, I deceided to look at gas lanterns. The main reason for this fuel selection was that at the time I was in the process of changing from liquid fuel stoves to using a canister gas stove. My theory was that by using canister gas stove and lantern that I would reduce the amount of fuels I needed to carry and I wouldn't have to remember to buy batteries as I would always have gas if I took the stove.
Set Up & Use
Generally I have found this lantern very easy to use,and quick to set up. If the lantern has been stored in the case, I simply remove the case, unwind the large hanging chain (32 cm/12.5 in long) and screw it into the canister. I find it easier to hold the lantern and turn the canister to prevent the hanging chain getting tangled.
Once the canister is attached, I simply fold out the large control lever and give it a quarter turn. Then it is simply a matter of clicking the push button igniter a few times until the lantern ignites.
This lantern produces incandescent light through a mantle. The lantern burns gas to produce heat, which the mantle then converts the heat to light. As far as I am aware, this lantern uses a mantle that is made from silk, containing various chemicals. When a mantle is first installed, it is lit with a flame to burn away the silk and reduce to a small white ceramic like mesh. It is this mesh that once heated, glows very brightly, producing light. The mantles once they are burnt, will continue to produce light until they are damaged, which can happen quite easily as they are very fragile. I have found that replacing a damaged mantle in this lantern very easy, as the old mantle will simply crumble into dust when touched with my fingers, so I effectively poke the old one out, and install a new one. Whilst I do not know what the total life of a mantle is, I have found that I can get many many burns from this lantern out of a single mantle. A recent week long trip was started with a previously used mantle, and I had no problems over the course of the trip with the mantle. I have tried to weigh a mantle, but even 3 mantles together only just registers as 10 g (0.35 oz) on my scales.
After the lantern is lit, the control lever can be used to adjust the brightness by supplying more or less gas. I have noticed that the lantern performs at its best when it is just below 'full throttle' as this provides ample light whilst remaining economical on gas. There is a slight hissing noise when the lantern is burning which is not really noticeable. The lantern also gets very hot, far too hot to touch. I know this for a fact as once I was wearing some light pants and was leaning over near the lantern and made contact with the top when the lantern was burning. This resulted in a small hole being melted in my pants and also a tiny burn on my leg where the lantern made contact.
In order to get the folding control lever to lock into place when I am folding it back to fit into the case, I have to actually turn it on slightly. This can lead to a small gas leak when I attach the canister at a later time as the valve would be slightly open. Although this is slightly annoying, it is by no means a danger as long as I remember to turn it off fully before attaching the canister. It is also important to note that the lantern must first be cooled before it can be returned to the case. Depending on the conditions, this would be around a couple of minutes. I find that once I am able to touch the lantern it is then cool enough to store.
I have used the Kovea Observer lantern on many trips, including bushwalking (hiking) and car camping trips. Conditions have varied from warm summer nights in coastal locations (around 10 C/50 F) to cold, alpine conditions close to freezing. I have not used the lantern above the snow line nor have I used it above 1,000 m (3,280 ft) above sea level. Generally I use the lantern in still to light wind conditions.
|Carrying the Lantern|
I have been very happy with the performance of this lantern. I have used it in the open, inside huts and inside a large tent. I have always found that there is plenty of light. Once when staying in a large hut, I was sharing the hut with another party who (by chance!) also had the same lantern. Between the 2 groups, we had enough light to be able to all enjoy meals, a few games of cards and hot drinks without the need for torches or headlamps. During this same trip, I accidently dropped the lantern from around a 2 m (6.5 ft) ledge onto the table below. The lantern landed on the canister first then bounced onto its side. My initial horror quickly turned to surprise as the lantern continued to burn brightly and seemed completely unaffected by the fall.
I have only had to replace the mantle in the lantern a handful of times and find that I get several trips out of each mantle before I replace them. I put this down to the compact size of the mantle and the quality hard case that was supplied with the lantern. Whilst not being crush proof, the case provides good protection in my pack to prevent the mantles being broken once lit.
I recently broke the glass in the lantern. This happened as a result of me dropping the lantern, out of its case, when I was retrieving it from my car and it landed on some large rocks. This also broke the mantle. To my surprise, I was able to replace the mantle and still use the lantern. As the glass acts as a windshield, I noticed a slight reduction in the brightness when there was a breeze, so I used my MSR windshield and had no real dramas. I was very pleased to be able to walk into my local retailer and purchase a replacement off the shelf at a very resonable price.
Things I Like
* Very lightweight and compact
* Includes carry case
* Minimal set up and easy to ignite
* No real field servicing required
* Economical burn rate
* Replacement parts easy to source
Things I Don't Like
* Cool down time required prior to packing in case
* Large heat output making it dangerous inside a small tent
* Possible gas leak when setting up due to control lever design
Overall, I have been very impressed with the Kovea Observer Lantern and feel that it has been able to meet my needs. I would recommend this product to anybody considering a lightweight gas lantern.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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