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UCO Original Candle Lantern

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: UCO Original Candle Lantern fuel-burning lantern

I carried one of these (as well as other candle lanterns) for years, then...


  • Light
  • A modicum of warmth
  • Ambience


  • Weight for the amount of light
  • Glass globe is heavy and breakable
  • Hard to load after dark
  • Like all such, it can drip wax on your gear.
  • Fire hazard.

Once upon a time I never went into the woods for an overnight without a candle lantern of one kind or another. I probably had five or so different makes and models. They still lurk in my gear storage.

This is one of the better ones, maybe the best one. For example, this lantern gives nearly 360 degree light as many do not.

Still, all candle lanterns have problems and this is no exception. There is potential for spilled hot wax and, if you are not vigilant, fire. There is also the issue of the glass globe. They are not unbreakable. I had to replace one once. Candles and the lanterns are heavy for the light they give. Early on, I added a 8" length of fine aluminum chain with an S hook to hang it from an overhead line in my heavy four season tent.

This lantern has a spring loaded plunger that forces the candle up through a tube as it burns. Once cold, removal of a partially used candle is a chore. When hot it is very nearly impossible without welding gloves. Wax tends to clog the plunger. There is no way to tell how long the remaining candle is without removing it. This still more increases the weight deficit. You can also get caught mid meal prep or mid chapter in your book without light because you assumed the candle was longer than reality. Candle stubs are hard to utilize.

Candles must be of a specific diameter to fit the lantern. They are not difficult to find but neither are they common enough to be found in small town roadside stores. Some candles sold for "emergency use" fit the lantern, but they burn rapidly. Thicker candles have to be shaved down with a pocket knife. (What the hell, you do have extra time to fill, right?)

However: when I was a lot younger I often backpacked with congenial members of the opposite sex. Under such conditions, ambiance can be important for well...socializing. I socialized a great deal at one time under this candle lantern. With the right companion I might still consider this lantern a plus. Memories alone justify this remaining in my gear storage. It can still raise a smile when I find it while looking for something a tad more practical.

The real reason I no longer carry one is simple: weight. A decent headlamp can do more to provide in-tent lighting efficiently. You press a button and you have light. Depending on the headlamp, you can even adopt a red light for reading while retaining night vision. I now regard them as essential for visiting the bushes at night. Walking a trail at night is generally to be avoided whenever possible, but is sometimes essential. A candle lantern could not provide that function.

Do the math. An LED headlamp with an extra set of AAA batteries provides longer and better light and is more flexible in use. Two batteries weigh less than one candle yet can provide as much as 6 hours of good, useable light. Maybe 8 to 10, even 12 on a low setting with some headlamps. This makes it possible to do up to a week on one set of batteries. With a backup lamp, extra batteries are pointless; the two cheap and light headlamps can give you maybe 20 hours of illumination. The two headlamps with batteries weigh less than the lantern with one candle which will yield up to like 4 hours of less useful light.

When your eyes are young and in good shape, you can play cards and even read by a candle lantern but book and candle lantern need to be in close proximity.

Any candle lantern shares the same problems. I would rather have a second micro headlamp.

P.S. I remembered where I got this! I found it lying on the ground in a visit to the dump! It was sitting upright in the middle of the road, but totally untouched, not even a scratch. It did not have a globe though, which is probably how it got to the dump. I bought a new glass globe and I had a new lantern. This is nearly miraculous even for someone as cunningly financially challenged as myself.

Afterword 6/2017: There are now battery powered lanterns, some of which double as a flashlight. I own two (yeah, I am a flashlight guy). One (which works only as a lantern) has stopped working unexpectedly and without obvious damage. The other ((a flashlight that has an extendable head that converts it to a lantern) still works. But...neither of these lights is particularly light and they both sucked batteries like a vacuum.

The weight of either of them would equal about the same as two medium sized headlamps. I guess I will not use them in the outback and stick with one headlamp and a micro backup. If I was with a friend, I might even add a third micro light by Princeton Tec, although mine has the earlier bulb rather than the current, more efficient LED.

Source: Found it in the road at the town dump!
Price Paid: Who knows? It was like 30 years ago.

Ingenious solution to the problem of darkness.


  • Simplicity
  • Warm natural light
  • Can use where fires are banned
  • Ingenious design
  • People have been know to heat water over it
  • UCO (Industrial Revolution) has excellent customer service


  • May be a little heavy for ultra-light fans
  • The (somewhat expensive) candles made for it are the only ones that really work.

I love these things and have used them for over thirty years. They give a warm glow that just says "Home", especially when trying to find one's way back to the tent on a dark and misty or rainy night.  The one I use for backpacking is the original aluminum one, with the fleece stuff sack to protect it.

For car camping, I use the slightly heavier metal ones that REI and UCO sell now. They're much more civilized than the ultra-loud lights favored by far too many in campgrounds. For anything requiring real illumination, I use a headlamp. Just to light the site and stake out a claim, this is all I need.  The candles last about three nights of long burn times, from dusk to lights-out, so about the nine hours advertised. Too much indoctrination from an Eagle Scout hiking companion to ever use in the tent, but might try someday based on reviews here.

Can't complain about the breakable glass chimneys—plastic just would not work here. REI, thankfully, for now, stocks replacement chimneys at a reasonable price.

I had a problem with forgetting to remove the piston from the used candle base and throwing them out. REI didn't carry replacement pistons so I used a similarly sized washer from a hardware store for several years.  It was functional, but not ideal.

Update: I called UCO (Industrial Revolution) in Washington State, described the piston problem and they just mailed me a handful! No charge, and  they got here (diagonally across country) by the end of the week. Exemplary customer service.

Now for the pictures:

3Pistons.jpgMost recent lantern full size, with top and bottom view of pistons, and hardware-store MacGuyver

Newer full sized candle, all fixed up with replacement chimney and OEM piston. As can be seen through the usage window, the HW-store hack caused the candle to tilt, but it always straightened up as it burned down.

PistonWSpringNTop.jpgThis shows how the spring fits exactly into the piston and why the substitute never worked quite as well.
(No idea why the double helix showed up in the pictures. The spring is a single wire)

Base, spring and piston (again with the weird DNA camera error—ignore the orange spring.)

The three so far. The two newer ones have a hanging chain. The fourth lantern should be here next week.

Original (to me at least) Candle Lantern. Aluminum, lightweight, no hanging chain. Bought sometime in the late '70s, early '80s.

Closeup of the logo
Full size lantern stuff sack. Matches (and now an extra piston) always in the bottom.

I wish the pictures of the original lantern had been clearer, but that's the best my phone can do. There probably are earlier versions, but this was the first one I bought.

Also edited to add: the Micro Candle Lantern uses tea lights that the local grocery store sells for a nickel each and that last for one night's use, about three to four hours. The full size still puts out the best light, but I like to use both when car camping, and leave the Micro just outside till it burns out.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Around $15 at REI? Last one was several years ago.

Great alternative to electric light.


  • Pleasant light
  • Can reduce condensation in a tent
  • Can use when a campfire is not allowed


  • Size and weight is greater than LEDs
  • Have to use their candles, which are pricey but good quality
  • Gets hot, so use the chain and be careful!

I confess that I have a few of these candle lanterns and have to admit I really like them, even though they are an “old technology” and are heavier and larger than new technologies such as LEDs. They come in multiple colors, however I prefer the plain aluminum to the colored ones, except for the brass.  

It seems that you have to buy their candles which are a little expensive, but are of high quality. (I would be hesitant to use substitute candles if I could find ones that fit as the melting temperature is important to how these work. There is a spring inside the candle holding tube, and the candle is pushed up as it burns away so a problem would be likely of the candle melted too quickly. One candle will easily last over a night.)

They produce a really nice light, and can be a campfire substitute for “caveman tv” when campfires are not allowed. They do get hot, as expected with a candle, but that isn’t a problem if I am just a bit careful.  

I wonder if they could be used to heat up snacks, the way Cornish miners used to heat up their meat pies on shovels held over candles? 

They will reduce condensation in a tent in some circumstances. I think the little bit of heat allows the air to hold more moisture, plus creating a bit of convection.  

Warning: As the lantern does get hot, it is important to be careful in a tent as tents can burn! (Hanging it by the chain seems to ensure it hangs low enough.)


Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $18

I recently was informed of how great this candle lantern was and purchased two! Super happy with this purchase. It adds another level to my camping lighting options.


  • Long lasting light
  • Easy to carry
  • Easy to replace candles
  • Hanger makes it easy to locate anywhere or to carry.


  • Gets hot, watch your fingers!


small, compact
The inside candle holder.


The lantern extended


Chain and hanger making it easy to hang or carry. Again, watch out for hot top and glass after using.



Love how small these fold down and can fit into my pack. The only downside I have experienced is (which is a human flaw not a lantern problem) that the lantern is very hot after burning for awhile, thus, must not touch hot surface! Great product, would highly recommend.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: 15 Euro

My most reliable light. I've used my original UCO for 20 years and it just keeps on going. I picked up another one this past summer at REI's garage sale so my girls have one to use too. With the several years of camp fire bans here in CO having that little flicker of light tricks the mind so I at least get a glimmer of the campfire feel.


  • Extremely reliable
  • Candle burn time is excellent
  • Durable design


  • None

When backpacking, this has been my go-to light for 20 years. It never fails, never runs out of batteries, and the candle burn time lasts for several nights. For the last several years, CO has had campfire bans due to the dryness and this little lantern at least gives you the feel of a mini campfire with its flickering.

You do have to be careful since it contains a glass globe. I use a neoprene cover for one of my UCOs and a small fleece bag for the other. So far, I've had no mishaps. There are also several candle choices. The standard white one has a burn time of about 9 hours which will get you through several nights. I haven't yet tried the beeswax ones but they are supposed to last around 12 hours. When I run out of the white ones I'll try these.

Having one or two of these lit around the campsite provides a nice warm feeling. Along with my headlamp, I rarely need more light. I highly recommend having one of these in your kit, along with an extra candle. You get about 18 hours of burn time if you get in a bind and need light. As an added bonus, if it's cold you can hang it from your light loop in your tent to warm it up some before you turn in for the night.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $15-20

There is a poetic quaintness in low-tech. It is within nature; not outside of it. The soft glow of a candle is unintrusive. No batteries, switches, or circuits. No insulting hiss of a gas lantern. It doesn't need pumped. It won't disturb the neighbors with a searing white-hot light.  

On a week long canoe tripped I zonked out while reading in the tent. In the morning, the candle was still burning. I'm a late night person so an extra candle always comes with me.

Be sure to hang it where you don't hit it with your head. Wax sloshes all around the inside of the meticulously-cleaned globe. If you're careful it only needs an occasional soot-wiping. Be sure not to slosh the wax while blowing it out. Have some ventilation ready unless you like breathing freshly-doused candle fumes.

Don't ever touch the stainless baffle on the top while the candle is lit. It is wickedly hot. With the Pac-Flat reflector a nice parablic light-cone is focused downward. You can raise or lowered the lantern to focus it's intensity. Also, get the neoprene cocoon. It's invincible.

The wire bail does a nice job of distancing the hot top of the lantern from anything meltable. Be sure to carry a wire S-hook fashioned from a coat hanger to hang the lantern on branches or tent loops.

Price Paid: $24

This is a cleaver little lamp. Form following function. There is a spring loaded platform that the candle sits on. Heat from the flame is transferred to the tapered chamber that the candle fits in. This causes the candle to exactly fit the top taper in the chamber and seals it to prevent wax from leaking out. The opening in the top of the chamber creates a well that holds melted wax to fuel the lantern. Well engineered so that the wax is used up at the rate that the candle advances and no wax leaks out.

I have had my original for about 20 years. Got it for motorcycle camping but now use it for canoe camping. Good on the picnic table or in the tent. I used to read with it in the tent, but now at 52, that is pushing it with my eyes not as good as they used to be.

UCO has done their work on the candle that they sell for the lantern. I have tried house candles in the past and found that they did not work well in the lantern as they melt too fast and let wax leak into the works making a mess and gumming up the works. Stick with the UCO 9 hour candles. They cost about a dime an hour.

The lantern, due to its draft and chimney probably produce about 2 candle power. More than you would expect from a candle but not bright by any means. A nice warm light that lets you walk about your campsite or follow the path to the privy without mishap. Not enough light for close work, but just an excellent soft light that makes the camp inviting without the intrusion of harsh artificial light that you get from a Coleman mantle lantern. Don't get me wrong, there is a time when the Coleman is the right lamp, but for soft ambient unobtrusive light, the UCO is tops.

I get more than 9 hours from the 9 hour candles.

This lantern deserves the 5 stars

Version reviewed: Early Winter Brass

Has anyone or have you read of anyone burning a tent down with one of these?


  • Keeps condensation down inside a tent.
  • Analog light!! Fire!!
  • Just the plain simple wholesomeness about it.


  • Not much other than you can't drop it.

Has anyone or have you read of anyone burning a tent down with one of these?

If it did happen it would not still be on the market. They have pretty much ended the life of the Mini gas lantern from Snow Peak, Primus, and others. You don't see them being sold in camp stores anymore, not even the double tie mantles.

As LED has taken over, yes, headlamps are a must, but that soulless alien light just bugs me.

I have had mine for 15 years. It's an old Early Winter Brass version along with about five other UCO's.

It works, it gives light, and no it does not warm up a tent, what it does do is keep the moisture down and prevents condensation, get the cold damp air out and you feel warm.

Great thing about these is if you do happen to knock into it while it is hanging wax will not go flying all over your gear, the Micro tea candle UCO will do this. I threw that into the trash.

Sadly I have noticed the aluminum is a bit thinner on the Chinese made UCO. Yes, even this company has gone to the dark side. They tend to bend easy and get heated up much faster causing the chimney to drop down if you stand it on a table.

These guys have this wax/wick formula down to a fine art. Don't bother trying to burn any other candle in it other than UCO brand or you will pay the price. Trust me, I have tried.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $12

I would recommend this product for many purposes. It is lightweight, collapsible, small when together, has a built-in carry handle/ chain with hanger, and easy to clean up.

The UCO gives off a usable light source in camp, provides a night-light for children, and gives off just a small enough heat to keep condensation out of the tent.

The candle is rated at nine hours burn time, but in my experiences seven to eight has been the realistic burn time. After the candle has burned completely out, you have to clean off the excess wax from the inside of the tube and glass globe.

I purchased two separate reflectors for the UCO. One put together and placed on top focused the light downward, and the second acted like a parabolic lens and focused light similar to a flashlight.

The complete setup did not weight a whole lot and was very useful while in camp. Saved on batteries too.

Now the UCO comes in several configurations as well. You can visit for further specifications and models. I bought mine at the  Bass Pro Shop.

Price Paid: $12.95

This is a brilliant piece of gear. I love the fact it doesn't need batteries.


  • Compact
  • Rugged
  • Simple


  • Need to carry extra candles
  • Glass globe is breakable

I found this while camping with a friend. He has one and we used it for a makeshift campfire to sit around since there was a burn ban. It worked great as we sat around it and visited.  I had to get one for myself.

I use the citronella candles in it to help cut down bugs in my camp. I use it to light my tent with the hook, there's no danger of fire because the flame is contained in the glass globe.

I recommend this candle lantern for everyone from ultra light hikers to RV campers, it's that good.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $20

Perfect for the backpacker. I don't find myself staying up long after dark. This little candle lamp is perfect for my needs. Makes it easy to spot your camp when you have to go away to dig a cat hole. Just enough light to get into the tent for bed. If things are on the cool side, I even warm up the the tent for ten minutes before bed.

Price Paid: $24

Nice ambiance, but a headlamp outshines it without the fire risk.


  • Compact
  • Cheap
  • Long burning


  • Fire danger
  • Low light

I've had one since 1997. Used it a few times on backpack trips. Gives OK light output, but not focused, and not super bright. It's only one candle after all.

I stopped using it once the ultra-small headlamps came out. Why use a candle when you can have focused, brighter light and an extra set of batteries takes up less space and weight? Plus, I was always a little nervous with a flame inside a nylon tent.

Source: bought it new

This is a multipurpose light cheaper than batteries and great for keeping condensation down in the tent.


  • Cheap good light
  • Puts off heat in winter
  • Great for reducing condensation


  • Candles can be a pain to change.

Love this light. Have three of them now. Never go without it.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $15

Do you like natural light? Do you like a reliable source of light that goes anywhere? Do you get your kicks watching your buddy fumble around in his pack trying to find batteries while you relax by your candle lantern? I do...

I like this product, and while the citronella scented candles may work in the tent, it really doesn't outside.

Great little lantern with about 8-9 hours of light per candle. Go buy one.

Price Paid: $15

One of the best gear decisions that I have ever made. It is durable, lightweight and functional.  If you need light for repairs, reading or detail work you will need to use a flashlight or headlamp. The low level light is fine for getting around camp or lighting a tent.  The subtle warmth is appreciated in cold weather.

Best little candle holder, where the light is hard to go out. Romantic on the picnic table, in the tent, and the outhouse. Mine came with beeswax candles and the unit is very dependable. If you do get wax on the window, a simple immersion in hot water is all you need to clean up.

Price Paid: $30


Price Paid: $20

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Price MSRP: $29.99
Current Retail: $24.99-$39.49
Historic Range: $9.95-$39.49
Reviewers Paid: $12.00-$30.00
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