We got hands a Thermacell scout lantern for our 10 Scotland camping trip. 5 days at Milarrochy Bay and another 5 at Glencoe in August should be plenty of time to find out if the midge horror stories were true and if any of our party of 6 (or all of us) would be on their menu.
We were testing the Vango Illision TC 800XL polycotton tent, wanting to take in some of the wonderful views, do some canoeing on Loch Lomond, climbing some mountains (Pap of Glencoe), and a bit of relaxing under the Scottish night skys. All of these activities we wanted to undertake without ending up looking like the Elephant Man.
So along with a number of spray on midge repellents we were testing, I wanted to try something that could give us a safe zone around our tent when spending time on the campsite either cooking, relaxing or just having a relax..
We got ourselves one of the Thermacell scout lanterns (there are a couple in the range), and here are our findings.
A bad start
You know when you don’t read the instructions on something and you wish that you had. Well I took this to test in the midge capital of the world and didn’t realise that it needed batteries, obvious in hindsight as how else is it going to warm up the repellent mat (magic?). It wasn’t a case that the batteries should have been included, it was a case that I assumed it didn’t need any. I’m sure it says on the box somewhere “requires batteries”, but I am a man and the rest is history.
So after setting up a lovely campfire, unpacking the lantern, inserting the mat, wondering why it wasn’t working, realising what an idiot I was, putting it all back in the box, sitting underneath the beautiful blanket of stars and having the shit bitten out of me – I realised that this was all my own fault (what a pleb).
Midges love me (a lot)
Needless to say that the next day, the item on the top of my shopping list was some batteries for the Thermacell lantern.
Did I say that midges love me a lot? Well they do, and if you have read my review of the spray on midge repellents, you will have read that I come up in lovely blisters. I have to apply midge repellents far more often that the manufacturers recommend in order to have a hope in hell of surviving, and I’ve tried quite a few.
Anyway. the midges weren’t as bad as we had been lead to believe and none of the rest of our Scottish party (with the help of different midge repellents) was getting bitten except for me, and I was getting blisters from the bites.
The Thermacell lantern
The lantern works by using a butane cartridge (supplied) to warm up a mat containing repellent chemical. On first use, just twist off the bottom of the lantern and screw in the Thermacell butane cartridge. Then remove the repellent mat from its foil packaging and slide it into the top underneath the plastic grille.
With this done it is just a case of lifting the wire handle and twisting the upper green ring until you hear a click. That should be the butane igniting, you can check by looking through the hole in the green ring for an amber glow.
All that is left to then is to place it on a flat surface so that the blue mat can do it’s work.
As for the lantern light, there are 3 strength setting and an emergency flashing setting too, all easily operated by the button on the base.
Cut to the chase, did it work?
When I finally put some batteries in the lantern, we repeated the night-sky exercise (on quite a few nights) and proceeded to have a lovely evening relaxing and watching that stars. The lantern certainly seemed to do the trick and the light from the lantern was also a helpful addition, as I like to fall over tent guy lines with all the grace of a very ungraceful thing.
So yes it seemed to be working well, you could almost feel the winged critters sitting looking at you from a distance and muttering under their breath. Anyway …………………………….
We had also experienced a few midges getting into the tent during some evenings, which resulted in me being bitten occasionally whilst sleeping or upon waking in the mornings. They tend to follow you in when you unzip the tent doors, it’s unavoidable. However, on the nights that we used the lantern at the front of the tent we didn’t experience this problem, so must assume that it was working well to deter the midges.
How long does it last?
Well, ours hasn’t run out yet. The repellent mat starts off blue and slowly changes to white, indicating it is empty. The mat on ours is still blue, and there is still plenty of butane left in the cartridge. So, although we didn’t use it every night we are quite pleased with how long it has lasted.
We had a look on Amazon at the price of replacement mats and at the time of looking we could get a pack of 6 standard mats for £11, and a pack of 12 was just £17 on eBay. The butane refills seem a little pricey at first glance, but they do seem to last quite some time and we actually found a refill pack that included 1 butane + and 3 repellent mat refiils for just £12.99 on Amazon.
Overall we feel that the Thermacell Lantern was a success at keeping the midges at bay and helping us to enjoy our camping trip to Scotland. We will certainly be returning there again and using the lantern too as we’ve tried using other methods of deterrent such as burning citronella sticks and they weren’t as effective – and it’s always useful to have an extra light to hand when camping, just a shame it’s not a rechargeable design (hint hint).
You may also be interested in - our review of midge repellents