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Prepper Book Festival 12: Alcohol Mantle Lamps

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: August 1, 2022
Prepper Book Festival 12: Alcohol Mantle Lamps

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When it comes to emergency lighting, I am the first to raise my hand to try out the newest and bestest lighting gizmo out there.  It is not that I am a gizmo-junkie but rather I don’t like pitch black darkness.  As a result, I have tried to learn as much as I can about emergency lighting and who better to learn from than my pal Ron Brown, author of the The Non-Electric Light Series of books and e-books.

Today I introduce Book 8, Alcohol Mantle Lamps.  I do believe this is the final book in the Non Electric Lighting Series but with Ron, you never know.

Alcohol Mantle Lamps | Backdoor Survival

Probably the best introduction I can provide for this book is to quote what I wrote for the foreword:

There is indeed always a blackout somewhere. It might be local and affect just your city. Or it could be big, manmade, caused by war, and impact your whole country. Or it could be humongous, a natural EMP event (electromagnetic pulse) that shuts down your whole continent. For life.

But, big or small, there’s always a blackout somewhere.

Alcohol mantle lamps, the topic of this book, produce light on par with a 100-watt electric light bulb. And alcohol, not being a petroleum product, can be produced locally (like moonshine whiskey). That’s what happened in Europe during World War Two. With petroleum rationing, high-proof bootleg was produced and used in lamps and lanterns.

I know. I know. What a waste.

But still, you don’t have to work by candlelight even in the worst of times. You can have the equivalent of a 100-watt light bulb. That’s certainly worth knowing how. This book reveals how “ya do the doin”. I suggest you read it and tuck it away for future reference. I agree with Ron that alcohol is perhaps the ultimate survival fuel.

Because I feel the Non-Electric Lighting Series is so important to our understanding of emergency lighting, I have asked Ron to give away a copy of the complete, eight book series to two lucky readers.  Please note that this giveaway is for the eBook version which can be read on a PC, Laptop, eReader, or smartphone.

By now you know that Ron writes with wit and humor and this interview is no exception. Enjoy the interview then be sure to check in below to learn about the giveaway.

An Interview with Ron Brown, Author of Alcohol Mantle Lamps

Was there one single event or point in time at which you decided to become a prepper?

Interesting question. I retired at age 62, in 2002, and began collecting Social Security. A year later I was pleasantly surprised with a job offer I couldn’t refuse . . . in Toronto. So at the start of August 2003 my wife and I picked up stakes and fled the country. In a manner of speaking.

The company wanted me to hit the ground running and not waste time on personal trifles like housing. So they put us up in a furnished condo – furnished right down to bedding on the beds and silverware in the kitchen drawer – plus pool privileges and maid service one day a week. We brought nothing with us but our clothes.

My start date was August 1, 2003. Two weeks later, on August 14, the lights went out all over the northeast U.S. and much of Canada. My wife and I had no lights and no backup lights. Not even a candle. When it got dark we went to bed. We had very little food in the cupboard. We didn’t have enough gas in the car to make it back to the border. We couldn’t buy anything because the cash registers didn’t work. Not to mention we didn’t have much Canadian cash.

Going from Social Security to $10,000 a month had been heady stuff. But suddenly we didn’t feel so rich any more. My wife later confessed how close she had been to begging me. “Let’s go home. I don’t care about the job. I don’t care about the money. I’m scared. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Fortunately the lights were back on in a few days. And that was a good thing, a wonderful thing, because I was getting a little scared myself.

We got through it without incident but I realized how foolish we’d been to settle in a foreign country with no preps whatsoever. We were at the mercy of the power grid and the ATM’s. I was determined to never be in that position again.

It was an epiphany of sorts, a religious conversion. I became a prepper on August 14, 2003 at 4:10 p.m. EDT. Halleluiah, Sister! Amen.

Most preppers have some sort of EDC (Every Day Carry). What items do you carry with you at all times?

#1. Being a man (meaning I don’t carry a purse or handbag), all EDC items must fit in my pants pocket. And some stuff I’ve carried for many years. One such item is a small LED flashlight on my key ring. The 2003 blackout when I worked in Canada? Well, that little flashlight guided me plus three other people to safety through a pitch black factory, around silent fork trucks and stalled conveyor belts, and out to the parking lot. It was daylight outside but inky black inside. Thank God for keychain LED flashlights.

#2 “Papers please,” was the old Nazi phrase. You do have a driver’s license, Social Security card, credit card, passport, birth certificate, insurance papers, and deed to your house . . . yes? So let’s take those documents and scan them into our computer . . . and save them as jpeg files . . . and put them on an SD card (such as is used in a digital camera) . . . and put the SD card (in its own plastic case) inside a “smalls” Altoids tin (to protect against EMP as well as physical damage) . . . and carry that tin in our pocket.

Alcohol Mantle Lamps | Backdoor Survival

It’s doubtful, even in a crises, that the entire world will be blacked out. There will be a computer somewhere with which to access those jpegs. And you’ll find it comforting to have those documents with you . . . when you’re at work and a terrorist attack forces you to flee and it’s months before you make it back to your house . . . whereupon you discover that squatters have taken up residence. “Oh. This is your house? Prove it.”

My own Altoids tin, in addition to an SD card, holds a bit of medicine (prednisone, hydrocodone), a $50 bill, and two pieces of .9999-pure silver wire (with which to make colloidal silver if necessary). I’m sure I can scrounge the other stuff (batteries and wires) but the silver itself is irreplaceable and indispensable.

#3 A Swiss army knife. One with lots of tools and gadgets, the more the merrier.

#4 Knowledge. This is the real Every Day Carry. How to deliver a baby. How to improvise an olive oil lamp. How to kill and pluck and eviscerate a bird. How to check for appendicitis or testicular hernia. How to jump start a car. How to read a compass. How to speak a foreign language. How to sharpen a chain saw. How to use a spreadsheet. How to refill a one-lb. propane cylinder from a 20-lb. tank. How to swim, ride a bike, harness a horse, drive a standard. Edible wild plants. Hobo symbols. Nixtamalization of corn. Morse code … — …

KNOWLEDGE is your primary EDC. Don’t leave home without it. Think of it this way. If somebody swiped your cell phone, if it just suddenly and totally vanished – and all the aps that go with it, from Google to Facebook to GPS – what would you be left with? Answer: What you would be left with is what you already carry between your ears, nothing more. Second question. How far will that get you?

Have you ever lived through a real disaster and therefore had to live on your preps?

Have I lived through a “real” disaster? Not as most people would define it. I live in an area of the country (upstate New York; not to be confused with New York City) where the weather is rather blah (lots of gray skies) but neither does it have great extremes. We don’t have earthquakes, volcanoes, or tsunamis. Nor, so far, have we seen war or the meltdown of a nuclear plant.

The closest I’ve ever come to a “real” disaster was back in my early twenties. We had a power outage that lasted a week. It was winter. I was single, at home with my parents. My girlfriend and her mother (a widow) moved in with us for the duration. Blackouts, I discovered, can be very . . . uh . . . educational. Fun even.

Does that count?

Bugging out poses a major dilemma for many preppers. Family obligations, money, jobs, and health considerations all play a role in the bug-out, bug-in decision. What advice do you have on the bug-in, bug-out issue?

This is a tough one. My personal inclination is to stay put, to bug in. This is where I have a stash of food, tools, books, and friends. On the other hand, I know that bugging out might someday be a necessity. In 2011 there was serious flooding throughout our entire area. As a result, our car was packed and ready to go. Another 24 hours of rain would have seen us perched on a hill overlooking the village, sleeping in the car.

Down the road from us are some railroad tracks. Not much used these days but a simple accident with a spill of toxic chemicals would see us evacuate PDQ.

We live in an area with fracking potential. There are neighboring farmers who, until recently, were paid $1000 per acre per year for fracking rights on their land. Then New York State banned fracking. For now. But I suspect it will someday make a comeback. So here I am on my snug little homestead. Until fracking poisons my well or causes it to go dry. I can’t live here without water.

On the other hand, if my basic plan was to bug out in a SHTF scenario, I could well face insurmountable problems. Roads clogged with stalled vehicles that have simply run out of gas. Or my wife’s water just broke and she is giving birth as we speak. Or my mother is in a local nursing home. Am I really going to abandon her?

So I guess the message is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Sometimes you will be forced to do one thing; sometimes another.

For bugging out, pick out a few destinations and, for each one, make the actual drive. How long does it take? Can you detour around bridges and other potential choke points? Check ’em out, up close and personal. Preposition a box of clothes and shoes at each intended destination. And talk it over with the people involved. Ahead of time. You don’t want to evacuate to your sister’s house a hundred miles away only to find out she’s now waiting for you at your house.

For bugging in, your original choice of housing is very important. In hi-rise condos, for example, I’m advised that home invasions don’t occur above the fifth floor. But higher is not always better. Most cities use water towers to supply water. A pump runs 24 hours a day to keep the city’s tower full, then the water to your home is supplied from the tower by gravity. If you live in a hi-rise, there will be some floor or other equal in elevation to the water tower. Above that point, gravity-fed water will not exist. And, in a blackout, the pump located in the basement of the hi-rise will not supply you with water either. A few questions to the building’s management or maintenance crew should clarify.

Personally, I think that ten floors is far too far to carry food and water on a daily basis. And 25 floors……? You gotta be kidding. At the very least, make some friends on lower floors or that live in the suburbs in single-family dwellings. Repeat after me: “You’re only as strong as your friends are.”

Alcohol Mantle Lamps | Backdoor Survival

What specifically would you like Backdoor Survival readers to learn from your book?

What do I want my readers to learn? Well, in the vernacular, I want them to embrace the notion that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

If your objective is to produce LIGHT, then the generation of light should be the criterion by which a lighting method is judged.

But more than one reader will object that my method is no good because it’s not the way Grandpa did it. Well . . . my objective is not to match Grandpa. My objective is to produce light.

Many, many people cannot extricate themselves from this mental puddle of glue in which their thinking gets stuck.

The book under discussion here is Alcohol Mantle Lamps. The typical American thinks of “alcohol lamps” as little heaters with all-but-invisible flames that operate under test tubes in Gilbert high-school chemistry sets. You want me to read a book with that? Don’t be ridiculous.

But in fact, mantle lamps burning alcohol can produce light equal to a 100-watt lightbulb. Europeans know this (e.g. Titus-Landi lamps of France and Primus lanterns of Sweden). But Americans don’t know this. We’ve lived in the shadow of Standard Oil for generations.

And alcohol doesn’t degrade in storage as petroleum fuels do. And alcohol produces virtually no carbon monoxide when burning; it’s the safest fuel to use inside. So, in essence, it’s now it’s my job to convince an American reader that he doesn’t already know everything. How fun is that?

The Giveaway

For this giveaway, Ron has reserved two complete sets of the e-book version of his Non-Electric Lighting Series, including today’s featured book, Alcohol Mantle Lamps.  There will be two winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The deadline is 6:00 PM Pacific Tuesday with the winners notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article.  Please note that the winners must claim their book within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

The Final Word

Kerosene, propane, Coleman gas, and alcohol are just some of the fuels that can be used to power emergency lighting.  There are also various other lamp fuels, common household oil, candles,batteries and of course solar panels that can be used to power flashlights, lanterns, and other forms of emergency lighting.

All I can say is this: whatever the source, plan now so that you are not left in the dark!

lFor more information about the books in this latest book festival, visit Prepper Book Festival #12: The Best Books to Help You Prepare, Stay Healthy and Be Happy.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.


Spotlight:  Book 8: Alcohol Mantle Lamps (The Non-Electric Lighting Series)

This is Book 8 in The Non-Electric Lighting Series. The series as a whole is aimed at people who want to survive whatever Mother Nature throws at us – blizzards, blackouts, or Carrington events.

Unfortunately, when we get to “alcohol lamps,” the term conjures up a vision of a lab-type lamp with a small wick and almost invisible flame. Alcohol MANTLE lamps, the subject of this book, are a different animal altogether. Lanterns that use mantles produce light on par with electric light bulbs.

As a lamp fuel, alcohol has some advantages over petroleum-based fuels.

For one thing, alcohol does not degrade in storage. For another, alcohol produces less carbon monoxide than a petroleum-based fuel (ANY petroleum-based fuel) making it a better choice for indoor use. Third, in an emergency situation, alcohol (as lamp fuel) can supply a solution that most people are not aware even exists. You can pick up some rubbing alcohol while they are searching for propane cylinders. (Although you do need the appropriate lantern, of course. You cannot just dump alcohol in your Coleman and burn it.)

Lastly, alcohol is perhaps the ultimate survival fuel. In Europe, World War Two saw many restrictions on petroleum products. So farmers made what was essentially high-proof moonshine and burned it in their lanterns.

This information in this book is something you should have tucked away for future reference. Are you interested in prepping? This is prepping.

Click here to visit the complete Non-Electric Lighting Series.


Plus: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage

No list of books would be complete without my own book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage.  The eBook print version is available.

Third Edition:  The SURVIVAL MEDICINE Handbook

A frequent question I get on Backdoor Survival has to do with healthcare matters when there is no doctor around. This is the definite source of survival medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible for survival medicine.

Survival Medicine Handbook 2016

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72 Responses to “Prepper Book Festival 12: Alcohol Mantle Lamps”

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I’d never really considered using alcohol as a fuel for lighting before.

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