I am planning a canoe trip, and will be bringing a kerosene lamp for light. As a backup fire lighting option I am planning on bringing flint & steel and possible a magnifying glass.
Can either of these be used to light the wick on a kerosene lamp?
If you think about it, lighting a kerosene lamp with a flint and steel is essentially the same as lighting a Zippo Lighter. The classic of classic lighters has a flammable-fluid soaked wick that is ignited by a small flint and steel. The only significant difference is that Kerosene has a slightly higher flashpoint than Lighter Fluid (Naphtha).
Lighter Fluid's flashpoint is at about 5°C, which means at ~5°C Lighter fluid will let off enough vapour for it to react to a nearby flame and ignite. Kerosene's flashpoint is higher, at ~38°C (just about body temperature) so it'll only put off enough vapours to ignite when it's warm. So you could do it, you could light a Kerosene lamp with a flint and steel, but ONLY if it was a really hot day (~40°C) or if your lamp had been left in the sun long enough for your canister to heat up. Considering that Kerosene's flash point is pretty much at par with body temperature, theoretically, in a desperate situation, you could conceivably warm the Kerosene canister up enough with your body for it to reach it's minimum flashpoint. But lighting a small fire and using that flame to light your lamp would be a much easier solution.
The only time you could light anything with a magnifying glass is during the day when there is enough intense sunlight to focus a beam. So even if you could get it started with this method, it wouldn't be practical unless you plan on burning your lamp until it gets dark, or taking it from the light into somewhere dark like a cave.
A magnifying glass will not light it, and I don't think a flint and steel will directly - you need a flame rather than a spark - but that is easily solved through using a piece of newspaper with kindling, or taper. Just use your magnifying glass or flint to light the paper, then use that to light the lamp.
Slightly messy, and you need to be careful where you put your taper, but pretty simple.
I wasn't able to light an Aladdin kerosene lamp with the sparks of a zippo. (Kerosene needs much more energy to ignite than lighter fluid)
As an ironic side question - do you really need a lamp when there is enough sunlight to ignite it with a magnifying glass? ;-)
It's a good idea to carry along some snacks, Fritos, potato chips, doritoes. You can light these with a magnifying glass, if the sun is out. I've had to resort to this to get the wood stove lit when my lighter was out of fluid while snowed in. There is a high fat/grease content in those snacks. They burn like a candle. Try it!
fire steel can be used but you would be wise to find a tinder i.e. birch bark, Vaseline soaked cotton in a pill bottle.. I would not recommend a kerosine lamp where a candle in a safe enclosure would work just as nice. also practice a bit before your trip as it does take some skill.
If you are desperate, a flint and steel or other sparker can be used to light a kerosene lamp but, and it is a pretty big but, you must first warm the wick (and the kerosene in it) to body temp or slightly above. Holding it in your hands and blowing on it will get you close, but it is almost always easier to ignite some kindling and use that to light your lamp. And as someone mentioned above, a generous supply of disposable lighters is by far the easiest approach.
Cigarette lighters are very cheap and very small. Leave the magnifying glass with grandma, leave the flint with wilma, take some spare lighters, its the 21st Century after all.