Appearing independently on the written record in ancient China, Egypt, and Greece, lanterns have existed for millennia, though early mobile production models wouldn’t emerge until the 1700s. And while lanterns are no longer the world’s primary means of artificial lighting, they are nonetheless still regarded today as bonafide pieces of essential camping gear. Over their multi-hundred year time in production, lanterns have been treated to a host of changes and updates, from the metallurgy used, to the technology utilized to provide light, down to the fuel or energy powering them.
This aforementioned host of changes has resulted in a buyer’s market, with countless lantern options in all different shapes, sizes, and specs. And, while that’s great news, it can at times make it difficult to hone in on the right model for you. So, to help shine a light on this topic, we’ve pieced together this guide on the market’s ten best camping lanterns. Below we’ll explore the various types of camping lanterns that exist, what differentiates many of these camping gadgets, what features to keep an eye out for, and of course our picks for the best camping lanterns currently out there.
Spotlighting The Big Six
Camping Lantern Factors to Consider
Type: While many different types of lanterns have come and gone over the years, today there are two main types of camping lantern: electric; and gas-powered. Both categories have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, with batteries often being lighter, but harder to replenish while off-the-grid (without the help of solar panels). Different types can also be affected differently by factors such as temperature, with each type of gas being rate to work at its own point.
Power Source: The power — or fuel – source plays another hugely important role when shopping for a lantern. Electric units either run off of store-bought batteries (like D and AAA) or a rechargeable internal Lithium-ion battery. Gas-powered lanterns — not unlike camping grills — typically use sources such as propane, butane, and white fuel (aka “Camp Fuel”). Whether gas or electric, different sources offer different lifespans and burn-times.
Size & Weight: Because camping lanterns are designed to be taken into nature, it’s more than worth keeping an eye on overall size and weight when shopping around. This area should be guided by how you plan on getting to camp, as you’ll want to opt for a much smaller and lighter unit if you’re carrying your gear into camp on foot, rather than if you’re planning on buying a lantern for future car camping trips.
Light Source: Different lanterns use different light sources to do their jobs. The quality of the light source from electric lanterns — which often use LED lights – largely comes down to the type of emitter being used. For gas lanterns, you want to focus on the burning or heating element (or “mantle“), as several different systems can be utilized, some of which can also act as a heat source in addition to providing light. This area will also ultimately determine how bright a given light is as well as how far it reaches.
Construction: Like any piece of outdoor gear, the quality of the materials and construction techniques used to create the item in question plays an enormous role in overall quality, and camping lanterns are no different. You not only want to keep an eye out for solid materials, but also for reinforcements around fragile elements such as the light sources themselves.
Amenities: Many of today’s camping lanterns are bestowed with supplementary features such as device-charging portable power banks and USB ports, various attachment points, and a few lanterns that even boast features like Bluetooth speakers and customizable RGB lighting that can be controlled through a mobile app.
Gear Aid Carabiner Light Kit
This camp light combines the convenience and versatility of a carabiner with the utility of an EDC LED light. Equipped with a 110-lumen output, this light boasts four different settings: high; low; red; and flashing red. Its size and power afford it a wide range of uses and applications — serving as a night-light, flashlight, mini-lantern, an emergency signal, and more. This gadget is powered by a tiny Lithium-ion battery that offers up to three hours of burn time and can be recharged in just 40 minutes. Sold in an IPX4 water-resistant case, this featherweight carabiner light includes a paracord adapter that allows it to convert to a camp carabiner for hanging up to 25lbs of bags, gear, food, or equipment. The fact this light is integrated into a carabiner also gives it endless options for clipping, strapping, mounting, hanging, or carrying.
Output: 110 Lumens
Weight: 4.5 oz
Coleman LED Lantern
Headquartered in Chicago, the Coleman name is synonymous with camping and other outdoor activities, with the American company dating all the way back to 1900. 14 years after its inception, the northern Illinois outfit introduced its first-ever lantern model with the “Arc Lantern L316.” Over the more-than-century that’s followed, Coleman has largely maintained its original design, though in more recent times the item has been brought into the 21st century via a modern LED update, resulting in the Coleman Twin LED lantern. The traditional two-mantle design has been jettisoned in favor of a pair of Cree Xlamp XR-E LED bulbs with a 390-lumen output that can throw light for as far as 33.8’. The original design of the knob, hood, handle, and dome all remain, and a faux fuel canister now hides the eight D batteries that power the lantern, offering a 299 hour burn time on its lowest setting, and a still-impressive 85 hours on its max output. This Coleman item is also weather-resistant and backed by a five-year warranty.
Output: 390 Lumens
Weight: 3 lbs
Black Diamond Apollo
Because of its compact size and relatively impressive lumen output, the Black Diamond Apollo lantern is incredibly conducive to solo camping and backpacking trips. Tipping the scales at just over 12oz’s, the Apollo gives off up to 250 lumens from its QuadPower LED unit. Powered by a built-in rechargeable battery (or a trio of AA’s), this lantern also sports a power meter that displays the remaining battery level throughout the duration of its (up to) 24 hour burn time. Offered in three colors, this potent little lantern is fairly durable, with rubber-backed construction and folding rubber-based stainless steel legs that act as something of an exoskeleton when folded up. And, in addition to being IPX4-rated for splash protection, the Black Diamond Apollo is protected by a three-year manufacturer warranty.
Output: 250 Lumens
Weight: 12.1 oz
Outwell Opal Lantern and Wireless Speaker
Though this Outwell lantern doesn’t offer the most impressive light output, it makes up for its lack of lumens with a slew of integrated amenities and a sleek design in a compact package. On top of serving as a dimmable 50-lumen lantern, the Opal features an integrated Bluetooth speaker and microphone, allowing it to play music or answer/take phone calls. Its 2,200mAh Lithium-ion battery can be recharged in just four-hours and offers up to 10 hours of burn time, or can be used to recharge devices, as the top of the cylindrical gadget also packs a micro-USB port, regular USB port, and a 1/8” auxiliary headphone jack behind a protective rubber shield. Boasting a premium fit and finish, this item is furnished with an aluminum-studded brown leather carrying strap. It’s also IPX4-rated for splash resistance and doubles as a great nightlight whether in a tent or on a nightstand at home.
Output: 50 Lumens
Weight: 13 oz
Snow Peak Giga Power Lantern Auto
Potent and compact, the Snow Peak GigaPower Lantern is a high-end piece of outdoor kit made from aluminum, brass, and stainless steel. Weighing just 128 grams and measuring only 3.75” tall and 2.25” in diameter, this gas-powered lantern produces light as well as heat. With an output rated at 80 watts, the GigaPower lantern can adequately warm-up spaces between 20 and 30 square feet. Equipped with an automatic ignition, this Korean-made item functions in conditions as low as 125°F (-9°C) thanks to its use of Snow Peak’s GigaPower fuel: a 15% propane, 85% iso-butane mixture. And not only can this fuel be purchased in a 3.9oz (110g) canister for just $5 (as well as larger sizes), but it can also be used to power a bevy of Snow Peak’s other camping gadgets such as several of its backpacking stoves, allowing for a markedly more compact kit that doesn’t require carrying multiple fuel bottles/types.
Output: 80 Watts
Weight: 4.5 oz
Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern & USB Power Hub
Named after this modern lantern’s silhouette, the Lighthouse 400 is a travel-friendly camping light that offers ample utility in the field. Three LED lights produce up to 400 lumens, and a pair of collapsible stainless steel legs and carrying/hanging handle makes it easy to tuck this device away into a backpack while out on the trail. Its internal 4,400mAh Lithium-ion battery offers a burn time of up to two days on the light’s lowest mode, though it can also be used to fully juice-up smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices via its (1.5A) USB port. Made from a lightly-diffusing ABS plastic, this lantern can be recharged in the wild using Goal Zero’s Nomad solar panel (sold separately).
Output: 400 Lumens
Weight: 1.125 lbs
MPOWERD Luci Explore
This modern-day take on a camping lantern bestows the traditional off-grid light-source with a host of “smart” amenities. Its 220-lumen-producing 18 LEDs can be customized to any color using an app that the Luci Explore pairs with, which can also be used to control the brightness or program wake-up lights or alarm clocks that give the option of waking up to one of multiple preprogrammed nature sounds like birds chirping or waves breaking. Also able to play music via a Bluetooth connection, the Luci Explore can operate in temperatures as low as 32°F (0°C) and is IPX4-rated for splash protection. Made with a water-resistant textile material built atop an ABS base, this light is outfitted with a 3,000mAh battery — which can be recharged via a USB port in as little as 5 hours or charged using its integrated solar panels in just over a day – that offers 24 hours of burn time on its lowest setting or 4.5 hours of music playback.
Output: 220 Lumens
Weight: 7.9 oz
Coleman Powerhouse Dual-Fuel Lantern
This entry from Coleman sports a classic camping lantern design that’s been employed for generations. Its two-mantle design yields as much as 800 lumens of light which is capable of reaching as far away as 72’. This model is also equipped with an easy-to-use adjustable control knob and a bail handle for easy hanging or carrying. Built to last, this dual-mantle lantern is four-season-appropriate and features a porcelain-coated dual-tier ventilator that helps to mitigate rust and corrosion. Lit via a match, the Powerhouse offers a burn time as long as 20 hours using just 2.5 pints of Coleman liquid fuel, though unlike most camping lanterns, this American offering can run off of unleaded gasoline, making it a great choice for car camping or Overlanding.
Output: 800 Lumens
Weight: 4.5 lbs
Streamlight Super Siege Rechargeable Lantern
An incredibly-rugged lantern built for adventure, Streamlight’s Super Siege boasts an ultra-bright 1,100 lumen, eight-LED arrangement with four white lights, four, night vision-preserving red lights, and four different light modes, including an SOS mode for emergency signaling. Capable of withstanding ample abuse thanks to its polymer construction and an elastomer over-mold, the Super Siege is rated to stand up more than 6.5’ (2m) of impact resistance and is IPX7 waterproof to 3.28’ (1m). Fully rechargeable in only seven hours using a standard AC charger, this hardwearing camping lantern features a 10,400mAh Lithium-ion power bank that can power the light for 36.25 hours (on its lowest 125-lumen mode, and 5.75 hours on its maximum setting). The lantern’s removable rubber cover also reveals USB ports for charging mobile devices while off-grid. Offered in a number of military-inspired colors, the Super Siege also sports a removable polycarbonate lens cover, an integrated D-ring for easy attachment, and a water-tight screw-down storage compartment.
Output: 1,100 Lumens
Weight: 1.875 lbs
BioLite BaseLantern XL Bluetooth Lantern and Power Hub
A member of BioLite’s range of modern camping gadgets, this high-tech lantern packs eight white LED lights that offer a 500-lumen output. The light can also shine for as many as 78 hours (on its lowest setting, 7.5 hours on its maximum output) thanks to a 12,000mAh Lithium-ion battery that can also be used to power mobile devices from the BaseLantern XL’s pair of USB ports. IPX4-rated for water resistance, the lantern has stainless steel and polycarbonate construction, and a pair of swiveling, collapsible legs. Compatible with BioLite’s SiteLight products (which are sold separately), the tech-focused lantern also sports a trio of RGB lights and a dedicated iOS or Android app that can be used to control the lantern remotely, letting it act as a smart alarm clock with audio and visual wake-up alarms, proximity activation, and customizing its colored lights, amongst other features like real-time battery-level monitoring.
Output: 500 Lumens
Weight: 1.29 lbs
The 8 Best Tent Heaters
Now that you’ve got your off-grid lighting situation all squared away, you’re going to need to acquire a heat-source. Luckily, our guide to the best tent heaters has got your back, with a thorough exploration of what distinguishing qualities to look for, along with our picks for the best mobile heaters to keep your tent nice and toasty.
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