Monday, May 31, 2010

Mosquito Lantern

Buzz! I hate that sound when I know it comes from a mosquito sizing me up for lunch. And with the wet spring the country has experienced this year, leaving a lot of standing water where mosquitoes breed, experts are predicting an active mosquito season. As a precaution, one defense is to eliminate standing water on your property. These guys can breed in a very shallow stand of water, so it pays to do what you can to drain puddles, empty bird baths, etc. 

Over the years, a lot of mosquito-discouraging devices and potions have hit the market. Some work, some almost work. Now ThermaCELL ( 866-753-3837) offers a different approach to saving your skin — a butane-operated mosquito repellent that is built into an outdoor lantern. Multi-tasking, as it were, this unit provides illumination and protection against predatory bugs, all for a retail price of $29.99.

The lantern weighs 13-oz., features a convenient carry handle, and is operated on 4 AA batteries (not included). Illumination comes from 8 LED lights that can be set at two power levels. The mosquito repellent function operates on a single butane cartridge, in calm air creating a 15 x 15 foot zone of protection from mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums. Protection will vary, depending on the wind blowing the repellent around. 

Here’s how it works. A butane cartridge fits inside the unit and provides the heat necessary to operate the repellent system (batteries are not needed). Activating an “on” button on the side of the lantern allows gas to flow from the cartridge into the heat chamber. A “start” button ignites the gas inside the heat chamber, and the heat is directed upward to a metal plate that holds a mat that is saturated with Allethrin, a man-made copy of a naturally occurring insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers. The heat vaporizes the repellent in the mat, and the vapors disburse into the air, creating (under optimum conditions) a 225 sq.-ft. mosquito-free-zone. The repellent is unpleasant to mosquitoes but, when used as directed, will not harm humans or pets. Each repellent mat provides up to four hours of protection and each butane cartridge provides up to 12 hours of operation. You can tell when the mat needs to be replaced because the color changes from blue to white. 

According to the company, ThermaCELL units become difficult to operate at altitudes above 4,500 ft. due to low air density. 

Admittedly, this lightweight, inexpensive, plastic unit isn't built for deployment in a combat zone. It's a bit bulky, but other than that it can be easily included with an emergency evacuation kit. In a compact survival kit, though, a small container of repellent is more practical. Although I didn't have a chance to test its effectiveness against mosquitoes (because they weren't in season yet), I did test the lantern aspect. Overall, the concept is appealing; a camp lantern and bug repellent all in one package. Pretty clever, and worth consideration for use around the patio or in camp.

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