How to Make an Improvised Bottle Lantern

No matter your level of survival expertise, from newly converted enthusiast to seasoned veteran, improvisation is a must have skill. However, the ability to take what’s available and create something practical and useful, is quickly becoming a lost art. In today’s culture, if we need something, we buy it. Fortunately, improvisational skills can be learned and thanks to the vastness of today’s resources, it’s never been easier. Books on the topic of Survival abound, but the real boon lies on the World Wide Web. A Google search for “survival skills” yields 341,000,000 results! The following improvised lantern how-to was actually passed on to me by a friend some years ago. It is an easy project that takes about 15 minutes to complete and can be done with things you may already have on hand. Let’s get started!



You will need the following supplies:

  • Kerosene fuel
  • Small glass bottle (a Cracker Barrel syrup bottle(best option in my opinion) or soy sauce bottle)
  • Small cup or container (to pour fuel from)
  • A small funnel
  • Aluminum can
  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Scissors

-Exercise caution while working with the cut aluminum, kerosene and fire.



We begin by pouring approximately 5oz. (depends on size of bottle you are using) of kerosene fuel into a smaller container. This will make pouring into the funnel much easier and more manageable.



Using the cup and funnel, fill your bottle about 3/4’s full. Replace the lid and set aside for later.



Next, take an aluminum soda can and using your scissors, remove the top and bottom portions. You can cut using the part where the flat area meets the tapered portion as a guide.



Take the remaining piece and cut it in half as shown in the picture. Use caution as the edges may be jagged and sharp.



Trim the ends by cutting off only enough to remove any jagged edges.



This is what you should have left.



Cut the rectangular piece in half. You will only need one piece for the syrup-sized lantern. This will give you an extra piece to make two, or depending on the size of bottle you use, you may have to use the entire piece of aluminum.



This is the approximate size for the syrup-sized lantern, 2.75” X 2.75”. Once you have this, set it aside for just a moment.



Cut a section of cotton t-shirt out, approximately 5.5” X 6”.



Now, take your section of t-shirt and roll it up tightly.



This will act as the lantern’s wick.



Take the rolled-up section of t-shirt and place it on the piece of aluminum at one end. The t-shirt should stick out a ¼” on one end.




You’ll need to roll it as tightly as possible.



When finished, it should look like this. Don’t let go as it will unravel. Now grab the bottle you previously set aside and remove the lid.



Insert the t-shirt “tail” into the bottle and continue to thread it in. Once you get to the aluminum portion, you may have to slightly crimp the ends in order for it to go into the bottle. In some instances, the piece of aluminum may be too thick and you may have to trim some off in order for it to fit in the bottle. While inserting the t-shirt and piece of aluminum, sometimes a twisting motion aids in getting it to go into the bottle. You want the aluminum to fit snugly in the bottle opening while still being able to move up and down.



This is what it the completed lantern should look like. When you place the cap back on, simply push the aluminum “wick” down flush with the bottle opening and twist the lid on as usual. Make sure to you check the bottle for any leakage. Out of the 6 syrup bottle lanterns I have made, none have leaked. The soy sauce bottle lantern tends to leak slightly. I remedied this by cutting a small piece of cork or rubber and placing in the lid to act as a washer; this seemed to do the trick. When you are ready to use it, remove the lid and using your multi-tool pliers, grab the aluminum wick and pull it out about ½”. You will need to pull more t-shirt material up through the aluminum as it burns down. Whenever the t-shirt material no longer reaches the kerosene, just pull the wick out and replace it.



There you have it, an improvised lantern from a syrup bottle. This handy little lantern will be a useful addition to your backpacking, camping or survival equipment for sure!



Here is a short clip of a wind test conducted on the lantern to show the flames ability to stay lit during windy conditions.

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