Comparison: Brunton Liberty Mantleless and Vaude/Markill Peak Illuminator Canister Lanterns - Is Mantleless Better?

A mantleless canister lantern is breakthrough technology, but how does it compare with a conventional mantle-type lantern?

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-11-21 03:00:00-07

Overview

What do you do with that box full of partially full fuel canisters for your backpacking canister stove? A canister lantern might be a good way to finish them off on family camping trips. Brunton has introduced what they claim is the world's first mantleless camping lantern. It is also globe-less, and is claimed to be windproof. To evaluate the utility of this new technology, I lab and field tested the Brunton Liberty mantleless canister lantern with the Markill Peak Illuminator (Markill is a subsidiary of Vaude), which is a conventional mantle lantern with a glass globe. Although the technology has promise, at this point the Liberty simply does not measure up to the Peak Illuminator in terms of quantity and quality of light or fuel efficiency. Despite the potential breakage problems with mantles and globes in canister lanterns, the "old" technology continues to be the best technology, at least for now.

Note: A mantle is a cloth mesh which, when burned, leaves a chemical ash matrix which, when heated, produces a bright incandescent light. Mantles are tough enough for car camping, but too fragile for backpacking or any other rough use.

Canister Fueled Backpacking Lanterns - Is Mantleless Better? Backpacking Light Compares the Brunton Liberty Mantleless Canister Lantern with the Markill Peak Illuminator - 1
The new Brunton Liberty mantleless lantern (left) has a platinum mesh element that glows when hot. The orange/yellow light is magnified and directed by two foldout mirrors. The Markill Peak Illuminator (right) uses a conventional mantle and glass globe. Both lanterns come with piezo-electric ignition.

What's Good

  • Both lanterns come with piezo-electric ignition
  • Fuel consumption is not affected by wind
  • The Liberty is more durable, with no mantle or globe to break
  • The Peak Illuminator puts out lots of bright, white light and is non-directional
  • The Peak Illuminator will run about 20% longer than the Liberty on an 8-ounce fuel canister
  • The Peak Illuminator is silent

What's Not So Good

  • The Liberty's light is yellow/orange, dim, and directional
  • The Liberty uses significantly more fuel
  • The Liberty is sensitive to cool temperatures
  • The Liberty is somewhat noisy
  • The Peak Illuminator flickers, especially in the wind
  • The Peak Illuminator's mantle and globe can break

Specifications

  

Brunton Liberty Vaude/ Markill Peak Illuminator

  Measurements

4 x 2.5 x 1.3 in (10 x 6 x 3 cm) 4.3 x 2.4 x 2.4 in (11 x 6 x 6 cm)

  Weight with case

9.4 oz (266 g) 7.2 oz (204 g)

  Piezo-electric Ignition

standard standard

  Light output (manufacturer specification)

80 W 80 W

  MSRP (USD)

$115 ~$60

Performance

I measured fuel consumption of both lanterns by weighing them (with fuel canister) before and after 15 minutes of use. The difference in weight was the amount of fuel consumed. Tests were done under calm and windy (12 mph wind from a box fan) conditions. Each test was repeated three times and the results averaged. In the field I used both lanterns to provide light for camp chores and reading. I tested each with full and partially full canisters, and used different brands of fuel.

Overall, I found that the Markill Peak Illuminator "outshined" the Brunton Liberty. The Peak Illuminator puts out more light, has better light quality (white versus yellow/orange), is virtually silent, and is more fuel efficient than the Liberty. Data are presented in Table 1, and the main findings are summarized below.

Table 1: Lantern performance data in various conditions:
warm/calm (70 °F), warm/wind (70 °F/12 mph wind), cool/wind (55 °F/12 mph wind), and cold/calm (40 °F) conditions. Tests were run using MSR IsoPro fuel, and lanterns were set at full throttle. Each number is the average of three tests.
  warm/calm warm/wind cool/wind cold/calm
  Fuel Consumption after 15 minutes at full throttle (grams)
Brunton Liberty 8.7 8.3 5.0 5.0
Vaude Markill Peak Illuminator 6.9 6.3 5.3 4.8
  Light quantity/quality (5 = best, 1 = worst)
Brunton Liberty 2 1 1 1
Vaude Markill Peak Illuminator 5 3 3 4
  • Under warm conditions the Peak Illuminator will run about 8.2 hours on an 8-ounce canister of fuel, versus 6.5 hours for the Liberty.
  • Fuel consumption in warm/windy conditions was very similar to calm conditions.
  • Under cool conditions both lanterns used less fuel (because a lower rate of fuel vaporization at cooler temperatures is equivalent to a low (conservative) valve setting), and fuel consumption was similar. Both lanterns should provide about 11.4 hours of light from an 8-ounce canister under cool conditions.
  • The Peak Illuminator produced substantially more light than the Liberty, and light quality was much better (bright white for the Peak Illuminator and dim yellow/orange for the Liberty, see photo below).
  • The Liberty is highly directional (the flip out reflectors direct light in one direction only), while the Peak Illuminator puts out a full circle of light. Under cool and cold conditions the Liberty had low light output, while the Peak Illuminator was affected very little.
  • The Peak Illuminator had a slight flicker under warm conditions, a moderate flicker under cold conditions, and it flickered a lot under windy conditions.
  • The Peak Illuminator provided good light for camp chores or reading most of the time (except in the wind), but the Liberty provided marginally adequate light only in warm conditions.
  • The Liberty has a moderate roar (similar to a canister stove), but the Peak Illuminator is silent. At warm temperatures, I could not detect any performance differences due to different brands of fuel or a partially full canister (as compared to performance with a full canister).

Canister Fueled Backpacking Lanterns - Is Mantleless Better? Backpacking Light Compares the Brunton Liberty Mantleless Canister Lantern with the Markill Peak Illuminator - 2
Night photos looking down on the Markill Peak Illuminator (left) and Brunton Liberty (right). The Peak Illuminator puts out lots of bright white light, while the Liberty's light is dim orange/yellow and very directional.

From my tests, I could find very little to recommend the Liberty canister lantern. I commend Brunton on their effort to bring new technology to market, but based on the performance of our test sample, the mantleless lantern is not yet competitive with existing technology.

What's Unique

The Brunton Liberty lantern features a platinum element (a mesh dome) that heats up to high temperatures when an air valve is opened to provide more oxygen. At elevated temperatures, more light is emitted, which is enhanced and directed by a reflector wing on each side of the flame. The problem with the Liberty at cooler temperatures seems to be that the platinum element does not get hot enough, so the light produced is dim and yellow.

Recommendations for Improvement

At Backpacking Light we really love new innovations in outdoor gear, and we are supportive of the concept of a mantleless lantern. Specific improvements we would like to see in the Brunton Liberty mantleless lantern are:

  • Provide more and better quality light
  • Less sensitive to cool temperatures
  • Lighter weight. At 9.4 ounces (without the carry case), the lantern is simply too heavy for lightweight backpacking.


Citation

"Comparison: Brunton Liberty Mantleless and Vaude/Markill Peak Illuminator Canister Lanterns - Is Mantleless Better? ," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/brunton_liberty_vs_vaude_peak_ignition_lantern.html, 2005-11-21 03:00:00-07.

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