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Camping lanterns are a great way to keep your campsite fired up after dark and make a cabin or tent feel more like home. They also have a pretty badass history that you can regale your friends with every time you use one.
Obviously, we all know about the “one if by land, two if by sea” code and Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Lanterns were also used by members of the underground railroad to mark safe houses. They continued to be used by actual railroads into the 1900s to mark significant points and pass instructions. In fact, the use of colored globes eventually led to the red, yellow, and green traffic lights we use today. See, you didn’t think you’d learn this much from a camping lantern review but here you are — already smarter.
We tracked down some of the best camping lanterns out there to help you cut to the chase. We’ve got recommendations on rechargeable, solar, and gas-powered lanterns so you can find what works best for you. If you need help deciding, there’s enough background information here to get you on the right path.
If we had to choose one camping lantern for any situation we might face, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 would be an easy pick. This lantern is durable, packed with features, and versatile enough to work just about anywhere.
Its 600-lumen output is the highest of any battery-powered lantern on this list. You can also choose lower power modes and deactivate half of the lantern to only shine away from you while carrying it. Red LEDs can be used to signal for help. The battery level indicator is a nice touch, and a full-size USB port means faster charging times. When power isn’t available, use the solar panel or hand crank to recharge the battery off-grid.
The only real drawback to this lantern is its size; we wouldn’t want to carry this on the trail for very long. Aside from that, it’s a solid piece of kit that we highly recommend for any camper, cabin, or overlanding rig.
- Maximum output: 600 lumens
- Maximum run time: 48 hours
- Power source: Rechargeable battery, hand crank
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
Bright, 600-lumen output is on par with some gas lanterns
Heavy-duty aluminum and ABS plastic construction
Charges by USB, solar panel, or back-up hand crank
Protect night vision with 180-degree function
Not compact enough for backpacking
Wire legs seem flimsy
Battery only lasts two hours on high
We love good gear that’s easy on your wallet, and the Energizer LED Camping Lantern does that very well. It costs just $20 but, at the time of writing, you can score one for even less than that on Amazon.
This budget lantern still delivers the goods with an impressive 500-lumen LED that outshines much more expensive lanterns. Three modes — high, low, and nightlight — are available and the power button glows in the dark for easy operation. Energizer claims that the low mode can stretch battery life to 650 hours, making this a fantastic option for an emergency kit. Some people might be excited about relying on disposable batteries, but this lantern can use D or AA batteries, so you’ll have options. Besides, many disposable batteries have a shelf life of 10 years so you can stock up and be well-prepared.
Keeping production costs down requires disposable batteries rather than more expensive rechargeable ones. There’s also no option to charge with a solar panel or hand crank. Still, for the price, it makes a compelling addition to your emergency kit or bug-out bag.
- Maximum output: 500 lumens
- Maximum run time: 650 hours
- Power source: Disposable D or AA batteries
- Weight: 0.9 pounds
Powerful LED produces 500 lumens
Resistant to light water exposure
High, low, and nightlight power settings
Compatible with D and AA batteries
Not rechargeable or equipped with backup power
Less rugged than the other options here
Tall, bulky shape isn’t the easiest to pack
The BioLite AlpenGlow 500 is packed full of features that we love, and every purchase funds the company’s goal of delivering clean energy to people in need. That sounds like a winning combination to us.
The AlpenGlow 500 offers a maximum output of 500 lumens from its efficient LED and can stretch battery life to an impressive 200 hours on its low setting. Charge the battery via USB or plug in other devices to draw power from the lantern. Bonus features like a flickering flame effect and rainbow colors can be activated by shaking the lamp. The cylindrical shape isn’t quite small enough to take on a backpacking trip, but it’s easy enough to bring if you have a vehicle or camper — or if your hike won’t involve a lot of miles.
Like other BioLite gear, the AlpenGlow 500 is a quality item that we’d recommend on its own merits. It’s worth mentioning, however, that BioLite sells its products as a means of funding its goal of bringing reliable, clean, affordable energy to people in developing countries.
- Maximum output: 500 lumens
- Maximum run time: 200 hours
- Power source: Rechargeable battery
- Weight: 0.9 pounds
Great combination of power and battery life
Can be used to charge other devices
Shake to activate bonus features
Proceeds bring clean energy to people in need
Size isn’t ideal for backpacking
All-plastic housing could be stronger
Controls take time to master
Car camping has a lot of advantages over hiking to a campsite, but space isn’t always one of them. Sleeping in your car can be surprisingly cramped, and the last thing you want to do is scratch up your car’s interior or drain your battery using the interior lighting. We recommend this LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern instead.
This little lantern folds down small enough to fit in your glove box or seat pocket. If you need to venture outside, it’s durable and waterproof. Charging can be accomplished with the built-in solar panel in about 10 hours or by plugging it into your car with the provided micro USB in less than two hours. A full charge can provide light for up to 24 hours.
With an output of 75 lumens, this lantern won’t light up your entire campsite but it’s more than enough for your car’s interior. Upgrade to a larger LuminAID lantern to add device charging and add color options.
- Maximum output: 75 lumens
- Maximum run time: 24 hours
- Power source: Rechargeable battery, solar
- Weight: 0.3 pounds
Takes up minimal space once compacted
Lasts up to 24 hours on a charge
Can be charged by solar or USB
Soft materials are gentle on your car’s interior
Output is limited at 75 lumens
Solar charging takes about 10 hours
Ability to charge other devices will cost extra
Want to get some Goal Zero goodness without shelling out the big bucks for an off-grid power system? The Crush Light solar camping lantern can scratch that itch. Not only is it affordable, but it’s also light and compact enough to take wherever you go.
When collapsed, this camping lantern is no bigger than the plastic containers you keep your leftovers in. It only weighs 0.2 pounds, so it’s easy to toss in your pack or strap to the outside to charge off sunlight while you hike. Its 60-lumen output is closer to a soft glow than bright light, but it lasts up to 35 hours and the soft, collapsible material is easy to deal with inside a tent.
Charging times vary depending on the amount of sunlight available, but a micro USB option that can charge the battery in 3.5 hours is available, too. This lantern is better suited to use inside your tent or mark your campsite than providing light while cooking or hiking.
- Maximum output: 60 lumens
- Maximum run time: 35 hours
- Power source: Rechargeable battery, solar
- Weight: 0.2 pounds
Durable and well-designed
Extremely compact and lightweight
Solar charging is great for off-grid adventures
Waterproof rated at IXP4
Dim compared to other camping lanterns
Color-changing option costs $5 more
Solar charging is slow
We’re all for rechargeable batteries and solar power banks, but sometimes you just need the kind of power that can only come from good old dinosaur juice. Coleman offers just that with the tried and true Powerhouse Dual Fuel.
This camping lantern tops our list with an impressive 800-lumen output. That’s more than enough for larger outdoor campsites. One tank lasts up to 20 hours, and the lantern can be up and running again as fast as you can safely refill it. This is a great option for emergency situations because it can burn Coleman’s super-efficient white gas or readily available gasoline.
Whenever you use a gas-burning lantern, you’ll need to account for extra fuel and safety precautions. Keep the area around your lantern clear to prevent fires and make sure there is adequate airflow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. This is the most expensive lantern on our list, but it lives up to the Powerhouse name and it’s an old-school tool that’s still relevant today.
- Maximum output: 800 lumens
- Maximum run time: 20 hours
- Power source: White gas, gasoline
- Weight: 4.65 pounds
Highest output here with 800 lumens
Adjustable flame can be brightened or dimmed
Quick refills minimize downtime
Burns white gas or gasoline
Most expensive option here
Heaviest and largest option here
Flame requires extra care
Black Diamond is well-known for making rock-solid outdoor adventure gear and the versatile Moji does more than enough to earn our stamp of approval.
Take your pick of power sources because the Moji can run off its rechargeable battery, disposable AA batteries, or an AC outlet (with a separate adapter). This lantern is about the size of a coffee mug and features hooks for hanging it from a branch or inside your tent. With up to 200 hours of light at your disposal, you’ll get plenty of us in between chargings.
With the Moji, your money goes toward solid construction and convenient features rather than brightness. Its 250 lumens are plenty for most campsite uses, but can’t compete with the more powerful options on this list.
- Maximum output: 250 lumens
- Maximum run time: 200 hours
- Power source: Rechargeable battery, disposable AA batteries, AC outlet
- Weight: 0.9 pounds
Runs on a rechargeable battery, AC outlet, or disposable batteries
Built from heavy-duty polycarbonate
LED indicator shows battery life
Can be used to charge other devices
Output could be better at 250 lumens
Not recommended for temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit
Power button can be difficult to find in the dark
String lights probably aren’t the first kind of camping light you thought of, but they’re a great way to light up a campsite. Power Practical offers the Luminoodle in five- and 10-foot lengths, 10 power levels, and the option to add 15 color options.
The Luminoodle can be stretched out to light up a large area or tucked into the carrying pouch to be used like a normal lantern. When paired with a power bank, it can even be worn for hands-free light on the go. It can run indefinitely when plugged in or use the optional battery for up to three hours. It wouldn’t be the only camping lantern we’d want to own, but it’s a great way to upgrade your tent, camper, or overlanding rig.
Note that many Luminoodles don’t have a built-in battery. Unless you choose the 10-foot option with a battery included, you’ll need to buy a separate power bank or plug it into an outlet using a USB cord. The 180-lumen output isn’t a lot, but it’s enough light for most jobs around the campsite.
- Maximum output: 180 lumens
- Maximum run time: indefinite
- Power source: USB
- Weight: Not specified
Plugs in for constant use
Available in two lengths
Choose from all-white LEDs or 15 colors you can control
Carrying pouch doubles as a lantern
Not all configurations come with a battery
Brightness is limited at 180 lumens
More of an accessory than a camping essential
Why you should trust us
We’re big proponents of staying outfitted with the best camping gear possible. That means seeking out quality items and getting the most for your money. The search for awesome equipment has led us to some fantastic camping accessories that can transform your campsite from primitive to cutting-edge. When it comes to lighting up the dark, we’ve reviewed enough LED flashlights, rechargeable flashlights, and headlamps to know what works and what doesn’t. As always, we want to make sure you have access to reliable gear regardless of your budget. Whether you want to power your camping lantern with electricity or gas, we have you covered.
Types of camping lanterns
Camping can take a lot of different forms, so it stands to reason that camping lanterns are just as varied. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. We’re here to make sense of the different power sources, features, and benefits you should consider to narrow down your search for the right one.
Most of the camping lanterns out there use electricity to generate light. Electricity is cheap (if not free), efficient, and doesn’t produce toxic emissions like traditional fuels. Camping lanterns that use disposable batteries are usually the cheapest, but rechargeable batteries are also available and pay for themselves in the long run.
Rechargeable batteries are tough to beat because they can be charged from a wall or car outlet, power bank, or solar charger. Many can also be used to charge other devices like your phone, GPS, or two-way radio. In most cases, a camping lantern with a rechargeable battery would be our go-to option. That being said, there are times when something else is a better tool for the job.
Solar panels and hand cranks
Even if you know you want an electric camping lantern, there may be times when you don’t have access to a power source or spare batteries. Extended camping trips, long hikes, and emergency situations can stretch disposable and rechargeable batteries to the point of failure. When that happens, you’ll have to generate your own power.
Two power sources you can count on are the sun and your own body. Camping lanterns that are powered by a built-in solar panel or a hand-crank are a fantastic backup for emergency survival situations. They may take more time and effort to keep charged, but they might be the only light source you can count on.
Gas camping lanterns have been popular for ages. We’ve used them to light our campsites and relied on them during long power outages at home. Gas-powered lanterns can last a very long time and generate tons of light. They’re also great for emergency preparedness because the fuel remains stable for a long time and isn’t reliant on the grid to stay operational.
The downside to fuel-burning lanterns is increased risk. While they’re generally safe, you will need to use caution to prevent nearby objects from overheating and catching fire. Burning petroleum-based fuel also generates carbon monoxide that can be deadly if allowed to get too concentrated. Proper ventilation is critical to the safe operation of any gas lantern.
Key features of camping lanterns
There are three main considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a camping lantern: how much light is produced, how long it will last, and how easy it is to transport. Weigh each of those factors against each other to determine what’s best for your style of camping. No camping lantern is perfect in every situation.
The amount of light a camping lantern produces is measured in lumens. Calculating that number is over our heads, but LED Watcher has a pretty thorough explanation if you’re interested in getting into the weeds. Simply put, the larger the area you’re working with, the more lumens you’ll need to light it adequately.
More isn’t always better when it comes to lanterns, though. Too much light can ruin your night vision and strain your eyes. We appreciate lanterns with variable output and different colors of light. Camping lanterns can range from 10 lumens for reading in bed to 1,000 lumens for cooking and hanging out after dark.
Camping lantern run-time varies widely, but most of our picks can be run for 20 to 48 hours. Battery life falls off significantly with higher output, so the best way to stretch the life of an electric lantern is to use a low power setting. The Energizer LED Camping lantern takes the top spot with a claimed 650-hour lifespan under optimal conditions. Plug-in options like the Power Practical Luminoodle have a limitless run-time, but require an external power source.
Gas-burning lanterns have a relatively limited run-time compared to efficient electric alternatives. The Coleman Powerhouse Dual Fuel can burn for up to 20 hours on a single tank. On the flip side, they can be refueled in seconds rather than being plugged into a power source for several hours.
Part of the appeal of camping lanterns is their portability and compact size. The largest lanterns on this list are easy to toss in a car or camper. Compact alternatives can slip into a pack or even be attached to the outside during a long hike to keep your load light.
Power sources also play a role in determining a lantern’s portability. Gas bottles and batteries can go anywhere you carry them, so you don’t have to rely on a vehicle, generator, or power grid to have light. Both are efficient, but electricity that can be recharged manually or with a solar bank has the ultimate long-term edge over flammable fuel or disposable batteries.
Benefits of camping lanterns
You’ve got better things to do than hold a flashlight when you’re camping. A good camping lantern is a game-changer when it comes to setting up camp and cooking after dark because you can set one up and light up the whole campsite. Lanterns are a big advantage in areas where campfires aren’t allowed — remember to check the rules regarding open flames where you camp if you plan on using a gas-powered lantern.
Camping lanterns are also great inside a tent, where they can be hung from the peak to act as a wilderness-ready ceiling light. Everyday activities like cooking, cleaning up, changing clothes, and playing campsite games are a lot easier when you have a well-lit area.
Flashlights and headlamps are great for a lot of things (and we definitely recommend having several options handy), but lanterns that cast a 360-degree glow do a better job of making a campsite feel more like home.
Before you buy a camping lantern, consider how much space you want to light. If you’re just concerned about a tent or a vehicle, something small like the LuminAID lantern is great. If you want to light an entire campsite, a more powerful option like the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is a better choice. All our picks are solid options to have on hand in the case of an emergency or power outage because they can be just as effective in your home.
Wide selection of power sources
One of the biggest advantages when shopping for a camping lantern is having your choice of power sources. Disposable batteries are readily available and last several years in storage, making them a great backup to have in your emergency kit or go bag. Rechargeable batteries can keep you powered on the go and some can charge your other devices, too. Solar and hand-crank electric lanterns are totally self-sufficient and are perfect for long camping trips or disaster preparedness.
Traditional fuels can also be used to power some lanterns. Our favorite, the Coleman Powerhouse Dual Fuel can run off white gas or gasoline, making it an efficient and versatile off-grid option. Just remember to pack enough fuel for your entire trip.
Camping lanterns pricing
If you only have $25 to spend, there are a surprising number of camping lanterns available to you. Most of them are fine for casual use but aren’t robust enough for us to recommend for use on the trail or in an emergency. There are a few good ones, though, like the Energizer LED Camping Lantern that earned our pick for best value and the LuminAID lantern that we recommend for car camping.
Don’t expect excellent materials and a long list of features at this price. That being said, an inexpensive light might be just what you need and you shouldn’t have to go without just because your money is needed elsewhere.
For some reason, the middle of the camping lantern market isn’t as fruitful as we expected. It seems like there are lots of affordable options and lots of premium options, but fewer in the middle ($25 to $50) that we get excited about. This is a pretty safe range to shop, though, so you should have plenty to choose from even if a given lantern didn’t stand out from the crowd enough to earn a spot on our list.
Some that we do like are the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 and Power Practical Luminoodle. These lanterns have useful features and a high level of build quality. They’re very different from one another, but we’d be happy to have either one at our campsite.
Beyond the $50 mark, the camping lantern market starts to get very compelling. This price range is where you’ll find high-end offerings from Goal Zero, BioLite, Black Diamond, and Coleman. Rechargeable batteries take over for disposable ones, and you’ll have the option to switch to liquid fuel if you prefer.
The cost of these lanterns means you’ll have to spend more nights outdoors to justify the added expense, but we think the build quality and features are worth it. Power other devices off your lantern, generate power manually to go totally off-grid, or switch between white gas and gasoline in a pinch. The choice is yours.
How we chose our top picks
To make this gear guide as strong as possible, we sought out camping lanterns that work in a wide range of environments. Want something for your trailer camper? No problem. Need a sustainable light source for your hiking adventure or go bag? We have you covered. Only reliable products with a proven record of success made the cut. To account for everyone’s needs, we chased down the best options for car camping, backpacking, and emergency use. We included options that run on disposable and rechargeable batteries, solar power, manual power, and traditional fuels like white gas, kerosene, and gasoline. Of course, we also care about finding products that suit different budgets. We’ve got lanterns here ranging from $10 to $100.
FAQs on camping lanterns
You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.
Q. How many lumens do I need for a camping lantern?
A. Lanterns generally produce less light than a traditional flashlight. They’re designed to light up the surrounding area, not shine hundreds of yards through the darkness.
Q. How bright are camping lanterns?
A. We found some camping lanterns that approach 1,000 lumens, but most produce closer to 500. Smaller lanterns generate less light than that with the tradeoff of being lighter, more portable, and less expensive.
Q. Are propane lanterns safe?
A. Propane lanterns are generally safe, but you should use extra caution anytime you’re working with an open flame. Keep flammable objects away from your propane lantern and make sure you have adequate ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Q. How long does a lantern light last?
A. A run time of 20 to 48 hours is a safe bet for most camping lanterns. The Energizer LED Camping Light is the longest-lasting on this list, with a claimed maximum run time of 650 hours on the low setting, but that’s an outlier.
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Scott Murdock is a Task & Purpose commerce writer and Marine Corps veteran. He’s selflessly committed himself to experiencing the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.