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Published Mar 21, 2023 1:32 PM
Your day doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. Enjoy your camping experience well into the night with one of the best camping lanterns. While there are several light sources to choose from—including headlamps, string lights, a campfire, or the traditional flashlight—lanterns are an excellent option for campers who want a more reliable and stationary option.
A good camping lantern must have a reliable battery and long-lasting charge on multiple settings. Other factors like the size, weight, settings, lumens, and setup also influence how easy it is to use the lantern in the field. While our list of the best camping lanterns is not exhaustive, we strategically chose categories that fit various people’s needs in the outdoors, whether you need a new lantern for car camping, backpacking, overlanding, or to use as the primary light source at basecamp.
How We Picked the Best Camping Lanterns
Choosing the best camping lantern required extensive backend research on current market trends, customer preferences, product functionality, and manufacturing. Several other camping lanterns out there could have made the list, but all of the ones we included made it for a specific reason. Once the categories were chosen, I could narrow down a long list of potential lantern options with a preexisting reputation of being functional in the field. After that, I evaluated the potential lantern picks by looking at the following qualities:
- Brightness: What are the max lumens? Do the different light modes have varying brightness? What is the reach and shape of the light when in use? Does the brightness fade as it loses battery?
- Run Time: How long does the battery last? Does the run time change according to the light mode or external temperatures? What is the lifespan of the battery? Is the battery rechargeable?
- Weight: How portable is the lantern? What is the intended use, and does the weight and size of the lantern reflect that?
- Ease of Use: What is the intended use, and does it function well for that purpose? Within the application of a variety of camping styles, how does the lantern function? Are the settings and modes straightforward enough to figure out without detailed instructions?
- Features: What features does the lantern offer in terms of light modes and other functionality (i.e., charging other devices)?
- Durability: What is the projected lifespan of the product? Are the batteries rechargeable if they use batteries? Does the company offer a repair or recycling program? What is the product warranty? Does the lantern work in all weather conditions?
We tested the products in person whenever possible to ensure we’re providing a thorough and truthful review. When products were unavailable for testing or have yet to be tested, we gathered additional information from trusted sources with firsthand knowledge and experience with the product.
Best Camping Lanterns: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Goal Zero Lighthouse 600
- Lumens: 600
- Weight: 1.1 lbs
- Battery Type: Rechargeable internal lithium 5,200-milliampere-hour
- Run Time: 180 hours (on low), 2.5 hours (on high)
- Three ways to recharge the battery
- Battery can also charge small accessories
- Ideal brightness and light settings
- Versatile set up options
- Questions about durability
- Solar panel for charging sold separately
The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is a versatile and practical lantern that works well for camping, working, or emergencies. As the best overall camping lantern, the light quality, brightness, and ease of use are ideal. The lantern illuminates a yellow light with a 360-degree light design similar to a traditional lantern. To save on power and increase runtime, there is also an option to only illuminate half the lantern. The runtime of this lantern is impressive, listed as capable of running up to 180 hours when on the lowest light setting when running the full lantern, but up to 320 hours when running one side of the lantern on low light. Since many campers run lanterns on high, it is important to note that when run on high, the battery only lasts around 2.5 hours.
A big reason this lantern won our best overall spot is that it has three recharging options and three setup options available as well. The lantern can sit like a standard lantern on the base, but it also has legs to elevate it above the workstation, perfect for camp cooking. The last setup option is utilizing the hook on the top of the lantern to hang it above the work area. If the battery runs out while you’re camping, you can recharge it with the USB port (6 hours to recharge), with a solar panel (6 hours to recharge), or with a hand crank (1 minute of cranking = 10 minutes of light). Unfortunately, solar panels compatible with the lantern are sold separately. The option to have crank charging is excellent for emergency purposes, making this lantern a good fit for an at-home emergency kit in case of severe weather or natural disasters.
Best Rechargeable: BioLite AlpineGlow 500
- Lumens: 500
- Weight: 13.4 oz
- Battery Type: Rechargeable 6,400 mAh (23.6 Wh) Li-Ion
- Run Time: 200 hours (low), 5 hours (high)
- Sleek, elegant design
- Relatively compact
- Also available in a smaller size (250 lumens)
- IPX4 water-resistant rating (can withstand light rain)
- Takes a while to recharge (3 hours)
- Accessing all light modes is a little complicated
The BioLite AlpenGlow was the runner-up for best camping lantern overall and was only beaten out by the Goal Zero because it doesn’t have a solar charging option. However, this lantern is my personal favorite because of its sleek design, portability, and the way it illuminates an area. While the standard light settings are the most useful, there’s a light setting for every mood. You could use it beyond the campsite, like as a light on a back patio, as a desk lamp, or even as a light with several light modes in a kid’s room. Accessing all of the light modes is unique. There is one large button on the top, and it’s fairly straightforward to click through the standard settings. To unlock the more specialized settings, shake the lantern and click through the new light modes.
As a camp lantern, it’s an excellent size, but if you need something smaller or more compact, consider the BioLite AlpenGlow 250. It is the same lantern design but in a smaller package with lower lumens. Beyond the variety of light modes, this lantern has a few additional features. You can use the USB charging port to charge small devices, and there is a small hook on the top to hang the lantern in a tent or over a workstation. The hook is relatively small and not the most secure, so use caution when hanging it over water or rocks where it may be damaged if it falls.
Best Solar: LuminAID PackLite
- Lumens: 75
- Weight: 5 oz
- Battery Type: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery
- Run Time: 24 hours
- Lightweight, collapsible design
- Can recharge via built-in solar panel or USB
- Inflatable and waterproof
- Multiple brightness settings
- Capable of lighting an area as big as 125 sq feet
- The strap isn’t very sturdy or reliable
- Battery drains quicker than expected
The LuminAID PackLite is a lightweight and innovative camping lantern option suitable for most average outdoor lovers. We like the collapsible design to save on space, but being an inflatable lantern, we question the longevity of materials and the product’s overall lifespan. The size and functionality of this lantern also work well for paddling and emergency preparedness. The inflatable waterproof design makes this lantern excellent for exploring the water because you don’t have to worry about the lantern getting wet or if it falls overboard. The highest light setting illuminates a white light (75 lumens). It isn’t the brightest option on our list, but it is plenty bright for use around camp or in the tent.
Even though it is rechargeable with the solar panel built into the top panel, if it isn’t very sunny or you need more time to charge it in the sun before leaving, there is also a USB charging port for quick charging. The USB port can also be used to utilize the lantern battery to charge small devices (charging devices from the lantern battery drains the battery very quickly). When charging with the solar panel, it takes about 10 hours of direct sunlight to get a full charge, but when using the USB port, it should take about 1 to 2 hours to charge fully.
Best Propane: Coleman Northstar
- Lumens: 1540
- Weight: 7 lbs
- Fuel: propane
- Run Time: 9 hours
- Instastart ignition to turn on the lantern
- 16.4 oz of propane lasts 4-9 hours
- Comes with a protective carrying case
- Corrosion and rust resistant
- The top bolt can shake loose and get lost inside the lantern (design flaw)
Consider a propane-powered camping lantern if a battery-operated lantern isn’t the right fit for your needs. One of our top picks for propane lanterns is the Coleman Northstar. Coleman is well known for their affordable camping gear, including several excellent stoves for the outdoors. This lantern can run off the classic green Coleman propane canisters like their stoves. The major downside to propane canisters like this is that they are often single-use and difficult to refill or recycle.
The lantern is very functional and is the brightest option on our list (1540 lumens when on high). When running the lantern on high, a standard propane canister will last around 4 hours, but on a lower setting, you could get up to 9 hours. The size, weight, and requirement of fuel for this type of lantern deter many campers from using propane lanterns, but they are very functional for car camping, RVing, or glamping. If you are looking for a lantern that can light a large area and does not rely on batteries or charging, then this is a great option. This lantern has some design flaws, but Coleman is very responsive to customer questions and manufacturer errors if they occur.
Best Open Flame: Snow Peak Mini Flame
Best Open Flame
- Lumens: N/A
- Weight: 3.6 oz
- Fuel: iso-butane fuel
- Run Time: 71 hours
- Long run time
- Adds candle-light ambiance
- Low fuel consumption
- Small, lightweight design
- Not very bright
- Limited light settings
Bringing a unique and somewhat romantic feel to camping, the Snow Peak Mini Flame lantern is the perfect way to enjoy the night. The small lightweight design fits onto an iso-butane fuel canister, and the light emitted is similar to that of a candle. The dial on the side of the lantern allows the fuel flow to be controlled and to change the light setting. Still, even on the highest setting, it isn’t the brightest option, and the illumination area is much smaller than other lantern options.
The simplicity of this lantern is what sells it. It can run off a very small amount of fuel and has a long runtime on one canister. The downside to using a lantern that runs on fuel is that you’d still need multiple fuel canisters to cook at night, and it isn’t advised to use this inside a tent. The upside is that there’s no need for charging devices. For its size, it is still a functional light source, providing a candle-light feel without having to pack a candle. Plus, it’s a great way to finish off fuel canisters before you dispose of them.
Best Lightweight: Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Flash
- Lumens: 150
- Weight: 3.2 oz
- Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium Ion
- Run Time: 100 hours
- Works as a lantern or flashlight
- Lightweight and durable design
- Affordable price
- Can charge on solar or USB
- Power button can be difficult to access and use
If you are looking for a small, compact lantern to keep in your car, take with camping, or have on hand for an emergency, look no further than the Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Flash. This lantern doubles as a flashlight and packs a punch. It is a tiny light (4.4 x 1.5 in), so it isn’t the best option as the primary source of light in camp, but it is bright enough to use in a tent (150 lumens) or as a backup. The compact design is great for backpackers or as a kid’s lantern, but the size can also make it difficult for some users to quickly turn the lantern on and off because of the power button placement.
There is a small hook on the top of the light where the flashlight function is, and while this is good in theory, it needs to be bigger to be very functional. Most standard carabiners are too big for the loop, but smaller options or using a cord is a good alternative. To recharge this lantern, you have two choices: the USB charging port or charging it with solar. Goal Zero is well known for its variety of solar-powered devices, and this device is compatible with several of its products. However, you must purchase the solar panel separately from the device.
Best Emergency: VSSL Mini Stash Light
- Lumens: N/A
- Weight: 8.3 oz
- Battery Type: 3 N-type
- Run Time: 20 hours
- Lifetime warranty
- 40+ hours of SOS display
- Customizable storage
- Military-grade materials
- Water-resistant shell
- Functions more like a flashlight than a lantern
The VSSL Mini Stash Light combines the military-grade VSSL storage container with the end cap of a small light. When in use as a lantern, the batteries last up to 20 hours of continuous use or 40+ hours in SOS mode. The light comes stock with three N-type batteries (E90 energizer brand). We wish the light were rechargeable to reduce battery waste and make it easier for the customer to rely on this light for longer treks.
The light is detachable from the tube and can be used independently. Within the VSSL container are two aluminum containers to stash other emergency supplies, such as fire starters, first aid supplies, and other necessities. The top of the VSSL container has a magnetic hook that allows you to hang the light up to use as a light source or to attach it to a bag while hiking. Because of the design, the light itself is much more light a flashlight than a standard lantern. When hung above a workstation or in a tent, it can still function quite well as a lantern, but it does not illuminate as wide of an area. Overall, this is a unique and versatile option. It works well for an emergency kit or as a backup. Since it is far more like a flashlight than a lantern, it is hard to recommend this for a primary light source in camp, but it is an excellent backup, especially with the long-lasting SOS light mode option.
Best Budget: MPOWERD Luci Solar Lantern
- Lumens: 75 lumens
- Weight: 4.4 oz
- Battery Type:
- Run Time: 24 hours
- IP67 water-resistant rating
- Lightweight, compact size
- Operates under range of temperatures 32ºF – 113ºF (0ºC – 45ºC)
- Easy to use and operate
- Not the most durable
- The only charging option is solar
Similar to another of the best camping lanterns on our list, the MPOWERD Lumi Solar Lantern is an inflatable solar-powered light source. Unlike the LuminAID lantern, though, the Lumi lantern’s only power source is solar. In direct sunlight, it reaches a full charge within 7 hours. If the day is overcast or you are not in direct sunlight all day, the battery may only charge 1/3 – 1/2 the total charge, so you’ll run out of light partway through your night. It would be nice if there were a USB charging option to ensure you can reach a full charge when there isn’t enough sun.
For the price, though, it is a great camping lantern option. It is straightforward to use with only two operating buttons: one to turn it on/off and change light modes and the other to tell you how much battery is left. To inflate and deflate the lantern, it has a classic valve similar to that of inflatable water toys. The materials are highly water resistant and made from transparent PVC materials. The clip on the top gives the user a way to hang the lantern, but it can be difficult to clasp and unclasp at times. While it is relatively durable for the purchase price, it is subject to breaking at the seams and susceptible to punctures. If you can spare an additional $10, we recommend opting for the LuminAID solar lantern instead, but this is still a decent budget option found at major retailers like Walmart and Target.
What to Consider When Choosing a Camping Lantern
Knowing how you intend to use the lantern is the first step in deciding which is the best camping lantern for your needs. For instance, if you want a lantern, you can hang in your tent while car camping with your family, almost any standard lantern with a few settings should suffice. If you want a lantern for backpacking to use as a primary light source while cooking or in the tent, a lightweight and compact lantern on the higher end of lumens is ideal.
Look for a highly durable lantern regardless of the type of camping you are doing. If you’re camping with children, you’ll want a lantern that’s easy to use and doesn’t break easily when dropped or knocked over. Consider who is using the lantern, what type of environment it will be exposed to (cold, rain, etc.), and the frequency of use.
The brightness is the most important spec to look at when shopping for the best camping lanterns. After all, a lantern’s entire purpose is to be bright enough to continue working in the dark while camping, so it needs to be bright enough to do its job.
The best way to evaluate brightness is to identify how many lumens it has. Lumens are the unit of luminous flux, which measures the total visible light emitted by any specific light source per unit of time. Many camping lantern brands have the lumen number within the name of each product. For example, with the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, the 600 represents the number of lumens emitted by the lantern’s light source.
Most camping lanterns, flashlights, or headlamps may vary anywhere from 20 to 200 lumens. Brighter spotlights or work lights are likely to be 1000+ lumens, but for camping, that amount of light tends to be unnecessary.
Beyond looking at the lumens to determine brightness, when testing products, we also considered the quality of the light and the coverage area. We wanted to ensure that, no matter how bright the lantern is, it also illuminates a decent area. We were also looking at how consistent the light is, the color, and if there are any breaks in the stream of light. We needed to look beyond lumens because some lanterns emit an intense white light while others may be closer to yellow or blue light. Certain lanterns also offer a red light setting. Each setting and light color interact differently, and if the light is too fluorescent, it may be hard to use.
The type of bulb and the materials used to construct the lantern are both important in brightness. Some lanterns utilize a frost globe appearance that slightly dilutes the intensity of the light, while others use a transparent material that exposes the bulb completely. Some lanterns on our list may not use a lightbulb at all and are produced from an open flame. The brightness on open flame lanterns has more to do with the settings and distribution of the flame within the mechanism. Generally, open flame lanterns do not illuminate as large of an area as other lantern styles, but they can still be very effective for camping.
Many camping lanterns either use rechargeable batteries or are solar-powered. However, some utilize disposable batteries (AA or AAA) or are open flame and powered using a fuel source like propane. How long the battery lasts depends on the type of battery (or fuel), and the setting. When using a lantern, the higher the setting, the faster the battery will deplete. The same applies when using an open flame lantern; the higher the setting, the faster fuel will be used.
Manufacturers often list the run time of the lantern battery for each light setting since they deplete the battery at different rates. The range on battery life is vast—it can be anywhere from 2 to 300 hours. Beyond the light setting, other factors like air temperature and weather conditions can influence the battery run time. Colder temperatures drain batteries much faster.
Features and Ease of Use
Functional features like legs, hooks, mounting options and weatherproofing are also worth considering since lanterns are intended for outdoor use. If you’re using a lantern in a tent or RV or at the camping table, being able to hang it or stand it on its legs to elevate it above your working station is important.
Weather resistance is an essential factor for camping. It may not be a top priority for all campers, but if you are a backpacker or do any paddle camping, we recommend looking at the water resistance rating. Lanterns use an IP rating scale to measure water resistance. The letters IP stand for “ingress protection,” which measures how well a device or product is protected from liquids and solid objects. Most lanterns list the IP rating in the product specifications. The product must be tested by a certified third party to get an IP rating, meaning a company cannot claim an IP rating without official testing.
IP ratings are listed as the letters IP and followed by two numbers (i.e., IP67). The first number represents the measure of how well the object is protected from solid objects or dust and is rated from 0-6. The second number represents the level of water protection and is rated 0-9. The use of a nine on the water-resistant IP rating is not typical, and the highest outdoor gear is generally rated as an eight.
Most camping lanterns will fall between IPX0 and IPX8. The higher the IP scale, the better the water resistance. When listed at or close to an IPX8, those lanterns can generally sustain being immersed in water for extended periods. Most lanterns are somewhere in the middle, meaning they can be exposed to moisture (including rain) but shouldn’t be submerged in water.
The portability of the lantern also can be folded into the product features. For instance, two of the lanterns we feature above (Luci and LuminAID) are inflatable. Being inflatable, these two lanterns are compact and lightweight. The VSSL lantern functions a lot of light as a flashlight but has a mounting hook to allow it to be used like a lantern and includes storage space inside the device for other camping equipment or emergencies.
The number of light modes differs from lantern to lantern, but across the board, most camping lanterns, at the very least, have a low, medium, and high setting. Other settings may include different colored lights, such as red or green, and some lanterns also offer a strobe or SOS light option.
Q: How many lumens do I need for a camping lantern?
Lanterns can have a wide range of lumens and will sit anywhere from 40 to 700 lumens depending on the device. Most camping lanterns around 100 to 200 lumens work quite well—anything above that isn’t generally necessary. While you’re in camp or in your tent, a lower lumen lantern is ideal.
Q: What is the longest-life camping lantern?
The UST 60-Day Duro Lantern is the camping lantern with the longest runtime, but it is not on our list. Still, we believe it is among the best camping lanterns because of its long battery life and durability. The only thing we don’t love about it is that it only runs on disposable batteries, and we prefer rechargeable options.
Q: How do I charge a rechargeable camping lantern?
Most rechargeable lanterns utilize a USB charger of some kind, and others may utilize multiple charging options, including solar. The exact way to recharge a camping lantern and how long it takes to recharge depends on the lantern and the manufacturer’s design.
Q: What is the brightest camping lantern?
The brightest battery-powered camping lantern on our list is the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600. The brightest camping lantern on the list is actually the Coleman Northstar propane lantern since when turned up all the way, it runs just over 1500 lumens. However, several other lighting brands offer light sources with 1000+ lumens. Remember, the higher the lumens, the brighter the light. So, if you are looking for the brightest camping lantern out there, look for a lantern with a high lumen number. Lanterns with high lumens generally have a shorter battery life when run on the highest setting, so keep that in mind while shopping.
Final Thoughts on the Best Camping Lanterns
The best camping lanterns all have one thing in common: they perform well in the brightness category when used in the field. The brightness, run time, durability, and ease of use helped us sift through and narrow down which lanterns made our list. We did our best to include a range of lanterns to ensure you’d find a good fit no matter the type of camping you enjoy. Don’t forget you can also buy secondhand. Local gear consignment stores, friends, families, and other online marketplaces are excellent places to find quality outdoor gear at a lower price.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.
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