Lanterns have been used for thousands of years. Since the early 20th century, true camping lanterns have been the primary source of campsite light for expeditions, Boy Scout camping trips, and everything in between. With advances in battery and lighting technology though the market has changed in a big way. We’ve put together reviews on some of the best camping lanterns on the market today to help you find the perfect lantern for your needs.
- 1 Best Camping Lanterns
- 1.1 Coleman Multi-Panel LED Lantern
- 1.2 Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern
- 1.3 Black Diamond Apollo Lantern
- 1.4 BioLite BaseLantern and BaseLantern XL Lantern
- 1.5 Energizer LED Lantern with Light Fusion Technology
- 1.6 BioLite Sunlight Solar Powered Lantern
- 1.7 Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern
- 1.8 Princeton Tec Helix Lantern
- 1.9 CORE CREE LED Battery Lantern
- 1.10 Snow Peak Mini Hozuki
- 1.11 Lighting Ever Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern
- 1.12 MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 Solar Lantern
- 2 Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Camping Lantern
- 3 Final Thoughts
Best Camping Lanterns
Picking out a new camping lantern can seem a little overwhelming at first. The market is larger than it’s ever been before, with literally thousands of options available. You can spend hours exploring fuel types, lumen numbers, runtime, and solar vs USB rechargeable.
We thought we’d help you get a head start on your search by making a list of 12 excellent hiking and camping lanterns.
Check it out and let us know what you think.
Coleman Multi-Panel LED Lantern
Coleman is one of the most famous names in the American outdoor world. They make everything from camping stoves to sleeping bags and have begun offering newer LED lanterns as well. The Coleman Multi-Panel LED Lantern is and interesting example, and is actually 5 lanterns in one.
It’s made up of 4 removable light panels that magnetically attach to a central base pillar. The base has the main battery bank, 8 D cell batteries, and charges the 4 light panels when they are attached. As a single lantern it’s capable of producing 800 lumens of light for up to 20 hours.
Each panel can be used as either a lantern or a flashlight and runs for 3 hours on its own. They have small plastic stands on the back that allow you to easily prop them up wherever you happen to be. There’s a lantern bar on the main base pillar to help you find it in the dark. It also has a USB so you can charge up your phone off the batteries.
The Coleman Multi-Panel LED Lantern is an innovative lantern concept that’s reasonably priced and easy to use. It’s reliable, comes from an excellent manufacturer, and provides substantial light. The only real downside we saw was its use of fairly expensive D cell batteries instead of a rechargeable option.
Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern
Goal Zero is rapidly emerging as one of the finest manufacturers of solar focused outdoor equipment in the world. Their Lighthouse 400 lantern weighs just over a pound but provides a maximum of 400 lumens of bright white light.
Its unique design lets you adjust the light produced to your needs. You can trigger the entire lantern or turn on just half depending on how much light you need. Either setting can be dimmed over a broad spectrum.
It all runs off a 4,400mAh lithium ion battery that recharges through an attached USB cord. It’s optimized to work from wall power or to plug directly into one of Goal Zero’s many solar panel products.
Even better, they included a highly efficient hand crank capable of providing 10 minutes of low light power for just a single minute of cranking. When fully charged you can get 48 hours of power on low and 2.5 hours on high with both sides of the lantern illuminated.
The Lighthouse 400 can charge your phone or light up your campsite. It’s durable, highly adjustable, and offers multiple charging options. It’s a great option for any car, RV, or other camper looking for a useful midsize lantern.
Black Diamond Apollo Lantern
Black Diamond is a titan of the outdoor world. Their lighting, climbing, and other outdoor gear is rightfully known for its quality design and craftsmanship. The Black Diamond Apollo is a lightweight camping and hiking lantern that provides up to 225 lumens of soft white light.
The Apollo is designed to sit on three foldable metal legs or hang from a hook located on the top. This lets you light up a picnic table or illuminate your tent quickly and efficiently. It has a single button control that lets you dim the light or trigger a signaling strobe light.
It will run on either its internal 2,600mAh lithium ion battery or 4 AA batteries. This gives you significantly flexibility in how you power it and allows you to quickly add more power in an emergency. You can also charge your smartphone or other small electronic devices from a USB port built into the side.
The Apollo is just under 6 inches long on its longest side and weighs 9.9 oz including the battery. This makes it small and lightweight enough for effective use by backpackers, hunters, and long distance hikers.
The Black Diamond Apollo is honestly one of the best hiking lanterns on the market today. It doesn’t provide the most light but it’s perfectly sized for illuminating your close surroundings or lighting up your tent.
BioLite BaseLantern and BaseLantern XL Lantern
The BioLite BaseLantern and BaseLantern XL are rechargeable lanterns that provide up to 500 lumens of light in an innovatively designed package. They’re quite small, just 5 inches long on their largest side, and weigh just under 1.5 pounds.
The BaseLantern has some of the most advanced functionality of any lantern on the market today. It’s capable of pairing with your smartphone through bluetooth. This lets you precisely control the color and amount of light being produced at any time.
They’re made from ultra lightweight stainless steel with edge-lighting panels to maximize the distribution of light. They have two foldable legs that can also be used to hang the BaseLantern. The only difference between the two lanterns is the size of their internal lithium ion battery. The BaseLantern is 7,800mAh while the XL is 12,000mAh. This gives you up to 78h runtime on low or 7.5h on high.
Each lantern can also be used to charge other small electronics such as smartphones or headlamps. One really neat feature is their ability to act as the base unit for other BioLite products.
Each has 2 SiteLight ports on either side of the lantern panels that you can attach BioLite SightLights to. These are adorable string lights you can use to really personalize your campsite.
The BioLite BaseLantern and BaseLantern XL are high tech, feature packed lanterns. They definitely aren’t the cheapest camping lanterns out there but they offer a lot of functionality for their price.
Energizer LED Lantern with Light Fusion Technology
Energizer is better known for their batteries than their light products but their Light Fusion LED Lantern is actually really interesting. Instead of the rounded design most lanterns use it’s more of a light panel. It gives you up to 240 lumens of brightness.
It honestly looks more like a plastic panel with a handle than a traditional lantern. It’s designed to rotate around the handle, which can also be used as a hanging point in a tent or on a lantern hook.
The LED Compact Lantern works on either high or low mode. Low lasts for up to 100 hours and still provides 80 lumens of light. This is enough to perform useful tasks around camp but won’t light the area up to a high degree. One place where it really shines is its price. This Energizer Lantern is frequently available for well under $20.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet reliable camping lantern to throw in the minivan with your tent and sleeping bags the Energizer Light Fusion LED Lanterns are a great option.
BioLite Sunlight Solar Powered Lantern
The BioLite Sunlight is a solar powered lantern designed to provide up to 100 lumens of light. It doesn’t provide a full 360 degree pattern of light but is great for use around a backcountry campsite.
The front of the Sunlight is an LED light panel capable of white, red, or ‘party mode’ that cycles through the color spectrum. The rear is a .45w solar panel capable of fully charging the Sunlight’s battery in 7 hours. One thing we really liked about the design of the Sunlight was the inclusion of an analog sundial. It allows you to constantly find the optimal position for the panel to maximize the charge.
It’s a small and lightweight solar powered lantern that’s nonetheless durable and bright. It can’t compete with larger full campground lanterns in light production but it’s great as a hiking, hunting, or backpacking lantern.
The Coleman Lantern is one of the most famous camping lanterns in the world. They’ve been making lanterns since 1914 designed to run off kerosene, camping fuel, and gasoline. The modern Premium Dual Fuel lantern is an upgraded version of their classic lanterns that will run on camping fuel or gasoline.
It uses a double-mantle design that burns vaporized fuel inside a treated cotton sack, called a mantle. This produces a golden yellow light and a comfortingly familiar hissing sound when turned on. One tank of fuel gives you 7 hours of light on the highest setting.
A great thing about fuel powered lanterns is their naturally dimmable design. By reducing fuel consumption you can turn the brightness down from 700 lumens to a minimum glow. Dual Fuel lanterns are prized for their bright light, ability to run all 4 seasons, and the cheap cost of fuel.
Because you can burn either camping fuel or gasoline they’re great to keep on hand as emergency lanterns. Each lantern comes with a hard plastic carry case to protect the glass lantern itself while traveling. One thing to keep in mind though is that these aren’t really packable lanterns.
They’re heavy, they’re bulky, and the fuel sloshes around while you’re moving them. They’re strictly for use during car camping or as bright light at a basecamp. For all that though there’s a reason they’ve been making them for over 100 years. They’re sturdy, reliable lanterns that work when it counts.
Princeton Tec Helix Lantern
The Princeton Tec Helix lantern is one of the weirdest looking lanterns we’ve ever seen. It truly looks like someone put an inflatable light on the back of a mechanical spider. For all that though it gives you up to 150 lumens of light while weighing just 5.4 ounces.
It runs off of 3 AAA batteries and provides either bright white or red light. You can dim it down from high setting and get up to 24 hours of runtime on a single set of batteries. The spider legs we mentioned earlier fold out so you can set it on a table, a rock, or pretty much anywhere else you can imagine. The Helix also has a small hook on the top of the light diffuser so you can clip it inside your tent for easy to use light.
Despite its rather odd appearance the Helix is one of the best hiking and backpacking lanterns available. It’s extremely lightweight, provides useful amounts of light, and has a relatively long battery life.
CORE CREE LED Battery Lantern
The CORE CREE LED lantern is a battery operated lantern designed to provide substantial light for camping. It’s built tough but heavy, weighing nearly 2 pounds with the batteries inserted.
It gives you up to 500 lumens of bright white light powered by 3 D cell batteries. The runtime is actually quite impressive, 19 hours on high or 65 hours on 200 lumen low. This makes it perfect for a weekend long camping trip or to keep as an emergency backup with the batteries removed for corrosion protection.
The CORE CREE LED Lantern is a big, capable lantern that provides a lot of light for a very reasonable price. It’s not suitable for hiking or other packable tasks but is a great option for car or RV campers looking for a lot of light.
Snow Peak Mini Hozuki
Snow Peak is a well known Japanese manufacturer of high end ultralight hiking and camping gear. The Mini Hozuki lantern upholds their reputation well by being innovative, lavishly built, and quite cute.
It only produces 60 lumens of light but the light it gives off is warmer and more personal than brighter white LED light. It runs on 3 AAA batteries that give up to 70 hours of runtime on low setting. The Mini Hozuki is designed for use on a table or hanging from a magnetic plastic closure.
It’s made up of two parts. The LED light source/battery compartment and a soft rubber diffuser. It weighs just over 3 ounces including the batteries and is rounded to easily fit inside the pocket of a hiking pack.
The Snow Peak Mini Hozuki is a reasonably bright ultralight hiking lantern. It’s durable, runs on widely available AAA batteries, and looks extremely cute while doing it. If you’re looking for just enough light in the lightest possible package you should seriously consider the Mini Hozuki.
Lighting Ever Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern
The Lighting Ever Rechargeable LED camping lantern combines a bright lantern with a pair of removable flashlights. Their goal was to be the only lighting solution you’d need for a camping trip, one they succeeded in fulfilling quite well.
When all the lights are attached to the base the lantern is capable of producing 600 lumens of light. The main lantern is powered by a rechargeable 1,800mAh lithium ion battery. It will also run on 3 D cell batteries while the two detachable flashlights each need 3 AAA batteries. You can use any of the lanterns components by themselves or turn them all on at once.
The main battery will power the lantern for about 5 hours on full. What’s great about this design is the ability to run each part of the lantern one at a time. This lets you extend the total lighting time.
The Lighting Ever Rechargeable LED camping lantern is an interesting lantern with a lot of useful features. We liked the ability to remove the flashlights on their own but were disappointed with the relatively short battery life.
MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 Solar Lantern
The MPOWERD Luci 2.0 is a solar powered lantern that’s designed for anyone who needs a lot of light in a very lightweight package. Rather than a rigid lantern dome it uses an inflatable plastic ring to diffuse the light produced by its 10 white LEDs.
The solar cell is located on the top of the lantern, just under a clear plastic handle. It’s capable of fully charging the internal battery in 7 hours. At low power the Luci 2.0 will run for 18 hours on a single charge.
Its inflatable design makes it the perfect lantern to take with you on rafting, kayaking, or other water based trips. If it falls overboard you can just watch it float along next to you until you get a chance to grab it.
The MPOWERED Luci Outdoor 2.0 is a lightweight and reliable lantern. It provides useful amounts of light that can be replenished indefinitely no matter how deep you are in the backcountry.
Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Camping Lantern
With camping lanterns there are two major categories to look at, each with plenty of smaller subcategories. The biggest choice you’ll have to make is between large base camp style lanterns that produce tons of light or lightweight and packable hiking lanterns that are much more portable but far dimmer.
How you intend to use your lantern plays the biggest role in what kind of fuel/power source you should choose as well as the material and price.
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Light in the darkness is one of the most important comforts when exploring the wilderness. It makes sense that you should invest in a quality lantern to provide that light. You can find inexpensive models from about $10 all the way up to high end multi function lanterns for $100+.
If you’re willing to spend about $50 to $80 you can get a high quality lantern that will last a lifetime with proper care.
Like flashlights and headlamps the brightness of lanterns is measured in lumens. Unlike those other sources of light lantern light isn’t focused on a single area. It diffuses in a 360 degree pattern around the lantern.
Brightness is important for a lantern, but it’s also important to consider how you plan to use it. If you’re looking for a good picnic table lantern for a camping trip it’s easy to get one that’s too bright. You don’t want to be blinded every time you happen to look at it.
A good rule of thumb is to get as bright a lantern as your intended activity allows. Any time you plan to suspend a lantern above your head brightness needs can go up. If it’s above your sightline you don’t have to worry about being blinded at night.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the type of lantern you choose will affect the quality and color of light. LED lanterns generally produce a harsher blue/white light than fuel powered lanterns. It’s not a huge difference but if you grew up with Coleman style lanterns you’ll notice something is off.
How long a lantern can produce light depends on a great number of factors. Most fuel lanterns will run for about 6-10 hours while some LED battery lanterns have the capacity to run at full power for dozens of hours.
For most campers and hikers a lantern with 6-10 hours of runtime will be plenty. That’s enough for 2-3 hours of camp light after dark for a full weekend. If you’re planning a longer trip or camping somewhere with extended darkness hours you should plan accordingly.
Fuel and solar powered lanterns can greatly extend the light duration of your lanterns without the need to carry heavy replacement batteries.
In the past lanterns came in a single size, large. They were definitely portable but they usually weighed well over a pound and were unwieldy to carry long distances. With advances in modern LED, solar, and battery technology this is no longer true.
You can now get very good camping and hiking lanterns that aren’t a lot larger than a quality flashlight. It’s important to remember though that you can’t maximize brightness, portability, and runtime all at once.
You have to make a compromise in either brightness or runtime as you make your lantern more portable. If you mostly car or RV camp a larger lantern that’s very bright and runs for a long duration is probably going to be your best bet.
Types of Camping Lantern
There are now two broad categories of lanterns: fueled and electrically powered. Within these though there are many different sub categories and variants depending on where the power comes from, how it can be refueled or recharged, and what kind of light it provides.
Fuel Powered – The first commercial lanterns were all fuel powered. Most used kerosene or even whale oil as a fuel source and provided a remarkably clear light compared to candles and torches. The three most common commercially available lantern fuels today are:
- White Gas/Camping Fuel/Naphtha – White gas lanterns are what most people picture when they think of a camping lantern. They have a reservoir that holds a liquid fuel that is then pressurized and vaporized. They create a gorgeous golden yellow light that’s friendly and very bright.
- Butane/Propane – Propane and butane lanterns are generally designed to fit onto standard hiking and camping fuel cylinders. They’re commonly used by backpackers and long distance hikers because they let them carry a single fuel source for their cooking and lighting needs. They provide a similar light effect to camping fuel lantern’s but are more expensive to operate. They also don’t work well at high altitudes or very low temperatures
- Kerosene – Kerosene lanterns are the oldest form of modern lantern. They use a traditional cloth wick to draw liquid kerosene up to a light fire. They produce the least light of all fuel powered lanterns but are extremely durable, easy to clean and care for, and widely used as emergency lanterns.
Candle Lanterns – Candle lanterns have been in use for thousands of years. They’re basically just an enclosure around a candle to help diffuse or direct its light. They’re inexpensive and easy to set up but they do require you to bring plenty of spare candles and a windproof lighter with you.
Battery Powered – All modern electric lanterns are battery powered to one degree or another. What separates them out is how they charge and what kind of power cells they require.
The cheapest models will use AA, AA, D, or C alkaline or lithium batteries. They’re easy to find and inexpensive but generally run out of power faster than many similarly sized lithium rechargeable lanterns.
If you only power them with single use batteries you’ll probably end up spending more than if you just purchased a rechargeable lantern from the beginning.
Hand Cranked – Hand cranked lanterns are usually very similar to emergency radios. They have a rechargeable battery that can be charged via USB or topped up with the attached hand crank.
One thing we should say with certainty is that you shouldn’t rely on the hand crank for long periods of use. A few minutes of cranking will usually only provide a similar amount of usable light.
If you’re purchasing it as an emergency backup or just as a curiosity though there are several highly rated models available.
Solar Powered – Solar charge lanterns were once as limited in their practicality as hand cranked ones. Advances in solar cell technology have finally brought them to their rightful place as reliable tools for hikers, campers, and those preparing for emergencies.
Ultra efficient LEDs use far less power than older bulbs. When combined with greater energy density battery storage and highly efficient solar panels you can get hours of useful light from a similar length of sun exposure.
Emergency flashlights/radios also often have a solar power cell built into them. This gives you multiple ways to top up their charge during a bona fide emergency situation.
A lantern with only a single setting isn’t a very good lantern at all. Fuel lanterns have always been manually adjustable but until recently many battery operated lanterns were not. At best they would have a single low and high setting.
Now though you can often find lanterns with as many as 10 different settings or the ability to dynamically dim or brighten the light as much as you desire.
Modern camping lanterns are rapidly becoming multi tools in their own right. Many battery powered models include options like:
- Phone Charging
- Emergency Radios
- Multiple Colors of Light
- Emergency Sirens
- Detachable Lights
As battery and solar charging technology continue to advance we’ll likely see even more innovations in the camping lantern marketplace.
Finding the perfect camping lantern is difficult. There are just too many excellent options available these days.
It’s a great position to be in of course, but it still makes choosing the right one complicated. As long as you follow our buying guide above and consider how you plan to use your lantern, and over what length of time, you’re sure to pick out one that will fulfill your needs.