A good camping lantern is an outdoor essential. It’s a major help while cooking, is great for nightly camp games, and sets just the right outdoor ambiance. Sure, you could just use a flashlight or headlamp, but a lantern lights up the entire camp and makes two-handed tasks easier.
While there isn’t a single best camping lantern for everyone, we sure looked for one, and have tested armfuls of lanterns across many camping seasons to pull together a list of the most worthy light sources to bring on your next wilderness outing.
During our testing, we charged up, gassed up, and lit up our campsites with lanterns — paying special mind to a number of different factors: light output, power supply, burn time, durability, and more. Below we’ve broken the list into handy categories to help you identify the best lantern for your use.
If you’re totally in the dark about what you’re looking for in a lantern, check out our buyer’s guide and FAQ section to better inform your decision. We’ve even thrown together a comparison chart to better guide your way through the night.
Scroll down to see all of our top picks, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
The Best Camping Lanterns of 2023
- Best Overall Camping Lantern: BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern
- Best Budget Camping Lantern: Black Diamond Moji Lantern
- Most Versatile Camping Lantern: Fenix CL30R
- Best Solar Backpacking Lantern: Goal Zero Crush Light
- Best Candle Lantern: UCO Original Candle Lantern Kit
- Best String Light: MPOWERD Luci String Lights
- Best Portable Gas Lantern: Snow Peak GigaPower Lantern Auto
- Lumens 500 lm max, 5 lm min
- Power source 6400 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
- Burn time 200 hours on low, 5 hours on high
- Water resistance IPX4 water resistant
- Weight 13.8 oz.
- Ability to recharge electronics from the 6400 mAh power bank
- Many different modes to choose from and suit the mood
- ChromaReal LED technology provides excellent full-spectrum light
- Shake to change functionality isn’t the most intuitive, sometimes doesn’t register
- We wished all new rechargeable electronics would come standard with USB-C, but this does not
BioLite didn’t miss when they brewed up the AlpenGlow 500 lantern ($80), a light that’s as versatile in the backcountry as it is for car camping. There’s little we could come up with that we would have done differently on this little lantern, which easily landed it the title of best overall.
Need a quick burst of white light? One tap. Feeling a little more natural? Tap again. A third tap brings the color, and a fourth ignites color-changing ChromaReal LEDs. BioLite also incorporated a number of secondary modes to each, giving you the ability to limit the light to only one side of the lantern or imitate a candle flicker.
There’s even a third press option triggered by a quick shake of the lantern. But while we do applaud BioLite for finding a unique way of integrating an accelerometer, in practice we found this to be a little hit-and-miss. Eventually, the lantern will catch on — it may just take an extra shake to get there.
On top of its impressive lighting capabilities (500 lumens is dang bright), the AlpenGlow 500 incorporates a number of features we’ve come to expect in a lantern, such as an integrated 6400 mAh power bank to charge your electronics. For those looking for all the same functions in a smaller package, there’s the AlpenGlow 250.
With ChromaReal LED tech baked in, this lantern puts out impressively natural-looking light, which we greatly appreciated. Anyone searching for an all-around powerhouse of a lantern would likely find it in the AlpenGlow.
- Lumens 200 lm max, 4 lm low
- Power source Three AAA batteries, or a 1500 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
- Burn time 70 hours on low
- Water resistance IPX4 water resistant
- Weight 6 oz.
- Budget price won't hurt your wallet
- Can be powered by different batteries
- Compact form factor
- Not the brightest lantern
- Won't last too long on the highest setting
Recently updated, the Moji Lantern ($25) gained a number of upgrades that only further cements itself as our budget winner. Now with double the lumen output (a respectable 200), and the ability to be powered by AAA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack, this lantern does a lot in an even smaller package than before.
Weighing in at just 6 ounces and measuring 3 inches around, there’s no reason not to bring it along just in case, especially at the price. The ability to run off of different types of batteries gives it an edge in emergencies, and the dimming switch allows you to make quick adjustments.
With a 200-lumen max, it’s not the brightest light on the list, but the Moji gets the job done. It not only stands up to rain but it also can be splashed from multiple angles and will keep on ticking with an IPX4 water-resistant rating.
Per the manufacturer, it lasts up to 70 hours on low. But don’t expect to get that much out of a single battery supply, as you’ll surely want to use a higher setting in camp. If you’re looking for some more flexibility in your lantern battery, consider the Moji R + Lantern ($45), an iteration that adds an integrated 1500 mAh battery and external micro-USB charge port. And if you really need some juice, the Moji Charging Station Lantern ($80) boasts both an internal battery pack and the ability to run off AA batteries as a backup.
This little lantern is our top pick for hanging in the tent. Its lowest 4-lumen setting makes a good nightlight, too. Whether backpacking, car camping, or looking for an ultra-packable emergency light, the Moji is a durable and useful bargain.
- Lumens 650 lm max, 10 lm min
- Power source Three 2600 mAh 18650 cells
- Burn time 300 hours on eco, 4 hours 30 minutes on turbo
- Water resistance IPX7 waterproof
- Weight 14.5 oz.
- Versatile battery source
- Ability to charge external electronics
- Very tough design
- Hang loop and tripod socket
- Heavier than many similar lanterns
It’s not often we take the kid gloves entirely off when dealing with camp lanterns, but the burly construction of the Fenix CL30R ($110) made it clear that it required no such special treatment. This is one tough and versatile lantern.
Built with a confidence-inspiring design, this lantern pumps out an impressive 650 lumens on turbo mode and is able to dial it back to 10 lumens when you want to enjoy the full 300-hour long burn time. It also makes use of an intelligent memory circuit, meaning the lantern will return to the previous setting last used. Smart.
When the time came to test this lantern, we were impressed by just how versatile it was when it came to power supply, and this was one of our favorite features about it. Using rechargeable (and replaceable) 18650 Li-ion batteries, this lantern becomes cross-compatible with our other 18650 powered electronics, and it can run on one, two, or all three cells. There’s even an option to replace the included cells with more powerful 3,500 mAh versions for even more juice.
Need to power up your other electronics? At the rear of the lantern is a charging and mini-USB discharging port — all covered by a rubber gasket. At a total capacity of 7,800 mAh (with the ability to expand to 10,500), this lantern can certainly charge most modern phones to full from dead flat. The battery compartment is sealed with a replaceable O-ring, which aids in making the light IPX7 water-resistant, and is one of the highest ratings of any lantern we’ve tested. That means you could submerge this lantern 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes!
Rounding out this versatile lantern from Fenix is both a bail handle for hanging, as well as a tripod socket for really spreading those lumens. For a tough and long-lasting lantern that’ll handle it all, you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong with the Fenix CL30R.
- Lumens 60 lm max, 6 lm low
- Power source 500 mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery
- Burn time 28 hours on low, 3 hours on high
- Water resistance Unpublished
- Weight 3.2 oz.
- Very compact when collapsed down
- Can be recharged via USB or via the integrated solar panel
- Max claimed run time didn’t quite meet our expectations in testing
Looking for a packable solar light that won’t break the bank? Then it’s time you met the Goal Zero Crush Light. At just 20 bucks, it’s a great value. The 60-lumen max output isn’t wildly bright, but it offers a pleasant, useful glow around your camp.
It weighs 3.2 ounces and collapses neatly to take up very little space in your pack. And you can recharge via USB or simply set it outside and let the sun work its magic. It’s good to note that a smaller panel like the one on this lantern will take some time — an estimated 20 hours — to fully top off the light.
One of our favorite unexpected features? The candle flicker mode! Many lanterns these days are incorporating some type of ambiance setting, but only a few really hit the mark. We’re happy to report that the Crush made us believe during our testing.
It has a claimed max run time (on the lowest setting) of 35 hours, but the longest we’ve gotten is 28 hours. It’s never been a problem camping, though, as we just set it out each day to top off the charge. The Crush Light is a solid solar light and a great choice for backpacking.
- Can add a little warmth to a chilly campout
- Natural candle-lit lighting
- Very easy to use, just light and go
- Need to be mindful of spilling wax and hot glass
- No turning up this lantern, the light you get is what you get
This little candle-powered lantern ($26) is a must-have for your emergency kit, bugout bag, or go-to camp kit. It’s extremely easy to use — just slide the glass down and light the candle for instant light. The included reflector clip directs the light where you need it most.
A single candle burns for nearly 9 hours, and the spring-loaded system keeps the flame at a consistent height. It does get hot, so use caution when extinguishing or moving. It packs down to 4.25 inches long and weighs just 6.4 ounces.
The neoprene case keeps everything protected during transport and makes it a convenient addition to your camp kit. We’ve used one exclusively at camp when desiring a classic, soft firelight. And it’s always in our chuck kit just in case.
Need a little longer burning light? UCO also sells natural beeswax candles that burn for an extended 12 hours. And for those buggy summer nights, there are even citronella candles that’ll keep the skeeters at bay.
It’s also a top pick for emergency preparedness. Whether you live in a hurricane zone or have frequent blizzard-induced power outages, it’s a good idea to have a backup light available. The UCO Candle Lantern is an affordable, easy-to-use, reliable option for both camping and emergencies.
- Lumens 100 lm max
- Power source 2000 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
- Burn time 20 hours on low, 5 hours on high
- Water resistance IPX4 water resistant
- Weight 11.3 oz.
- Ability to light up a broad area, focus on specific zones
- String lights store on the lantern, limiting tangles
- The solar panel is small, and the charging capacity is limited
- Take care not to snag the lights, the wiring can break
The MPOWERD Luci String Lights ($55) have quickly become one of our favorite camping lights. Ten individual light pods are spread across 18 feet of braided nylon cord, allowing you to light up a large area. It’s all the camp ambiance you need in a neat package.
We particularly like the way these lights store in themselves. Simply wrap the string lights into the solar base and twist closed. Pro tip from our testing: Be sure to avoid too many overlapping bulbs or it will become too bulky to close.
Because of its small form factor, the integrated solar panel does struggle a bit to charge the lantern from flat dead. It charges fully in about 8 hours via USB or 16 hours via solar, so we recommend charging it up prior to camping and then using solar to keep it topped off throughout.
We’ve used these string lights nearly every day for many months, and they’re still going strong. The color is a pleasing, natural warm light, and we’ve been impressed with how bright it gets on the highest setting. The Luci String Lights are a favorite option for adding a bit of camp ambiance or brightening up the backyard.
- Lumens ~400 lumens
- Power source Isobutane
- Burn time 5 hours on a 4 oz. fuel can
- Water resistance N/A
- Weight 4.5 oz.
- Burns isobutane, which you may already have on hand from making dinner
- Pleasant and warm light output
- Piezo ignition makes lighting easy
- Will need to be used with care, as the glass globe can break
- You may need an additional canister if you want to cook food and power the lantern
The Snow Peak GigaPower ($80) is a little lantern that runs on isobutane (just like your favorite backpacking stove) and doesn’t take up much room. It weighs in at just 4.6 ounces and measures about 3.75 inches around and is the perfect addition to your camp table come dinner time.
We found the light output particularly pleasant during our testing, yet plenty bright to complete all our camp chores. It has a max output of ~400 lumens and will run for about 5 hours in warm conditions. Similar to stoves, the run time decreases in colder weather. The benefit of running on stove fuel, however, is that you can use your depleted canisters that are too low to bring along for cooking. Genius!
The body of this lantern is machined aluminum, coupled with brass fittings that ensure a smooth attachment to a gas canister. The glass globe is held in place by a stainless steel cage, and houses the lantern mantle that will be needed to illuminate this lantern. This takes a little finesse the first time, but once it’s in place the lifespan should be many nights before it needs replacement.
An added bonus? Since it’s burning fuel, this little lantern will give off a bit of hand-warming heat, perfect for when the chill sets in. Just remember to let it cool down before stowing — something we were (painfully) reminded of during our initial use.
It began raining while we were using this lantern, but it never went out or had any issues. Being made of glass, it is susceptible to breaking if dropped. But the included hard carrying case will keep it safe when packed. For a portable warm glow, the Snow Peak GigaPower Lantern is our top choice.
- Lumens 750 lm max, 5 lm min
- Power source 3000 mAh Li-ion 18650 rechargeable cell
- Burn time 70 hours on low, 4 hours on high
- Water resistance IP54 waterproof
- Weight 9.9 oz.
- Utilizes universal 18650 rechargeable battery
- Impressively durable design
- Ability to recharge electronics
- On the pricier end for a lantern
- Upper rubber loop can come off entirely
Do you need a pint-sized lantern that packs a big punch? The Ledlenser ML6 ($90) is just the thing you need. We’ve been testing this packable light for over a year, and it has continually impressed.
At 7.8 inches tall, it easily fits in the palm of your hand. And it can pump out a powerful 750 lumens. That level of light is great for precise tasks, but generally, we use it at a much lower light level. This means your battery will last much longer.
The ML6 charges quickly via USB. It takes about 5 hours to recharge, and we get a solid weekend of camping on a single charge.
We also really like the varied options for hanging this lantern. You can choose from a metal hook on the bottom base plate, or use the malleable rubber loop on top.
That rubber top loop can come undone, which is nice for easily hanging it on a branch or rope. But since it can become removed completely, beware of misplacing it.
Lastly, the ML6 earns top marks for durability. One of our tester’s toddlers is very fond of this light and has repeatedly dropped it. Despite this rough handling, it still shines brightly and functions perfectly.
At 90 bucks, it’s not the cheapest option around. But, if you’re looking for a bright, portable, long-lasting lantern, this is a winner.
- Lumens 325 lm max
- Power source 2 8W lithium-ion cell batteries
- Burn time 80 hours on low, 4 hours on high
- Water resistance Unpublished
- Weight 1 lb. 2 oz.
- Classic look
- Integrates modern technology like a rechargeable battery, charge indicator
- Multiple color options are available
- On the heavier end for a lantern
- Not weatherproofed, will need to be protected from adverse conditions
With a style that would fit right in while tending a lighthouse in a squall, the Barebones Forest Lantern ($65) certainly looks the part when we think of camping lanterns of old. The tech inside certainly tells a different story — sporting 5-watt CREE LEDs and a max 325 lumens sure to illuminate any darkened camp.
The steel cage that encases the interior lighting cover is a classic touch, and the build quality extends to the rest of the lantern, which is made up of three different materials: steel, plastic, and rubber.
This lantern isn’t the brightest at 325 lumens, but that’s something we actually came to appreciate — it fits in with the older look of the light. The weight is a bit hefty, which again comes with the classic look territory, but it doesn’t make it any nicer to lug around.
Perfect for setting the scene, the Forest Lantern even comes in five different vintage colors.
- Lumens 600 lm max
- Power source 5,200 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
- Burn time 320 hours on low, 2.5 hours on high
- Water resistance Unpublished
- Weight 1 lb., 1.6 oz.
- Unique crank ability provides unlimited power supply
- Simultaneous recharge and discharge means you can provide light while charging
- The permanently attached USB cord seems like a failure point
- Wire legs are a bit wobbly
Leave it to solar-power guru Goal Zero to come up with a lantern that incorporates a number of smart charge and recharge features that turn the Lighthouse 600 lantern ($70) into a light source you can trust to stay on when you need it.
With three methods of charging the lantern (solar panel, USB, or spinning the crank atop the unit) we never felt we’d see the flicker of this lantern running out of juice. It makes an excellent basecamp lantern, perched above a table or hung from the inside of a tent.
While the integrated charging USB cord is a handy touch, we do see this as a potential future failure point should the cable become snagged or kinked. A simple USB port with a cover would have been our preference.
Unlike some of the other lanterns on our list, the Lighthouse 600 doesn’t use an integrated solar panel to recharge from the sun. This means you’ll either need to already own a Goal Zero solar panel or purchase one like the Nomad 10. For those who use a panel regularly, the Lighthouse will be an obvious companion.
Ready for whatever, the Lighthouse 600 would make a great lantern for anyone who wants an all-in-one system for light and charging ability.
- Lumens 1,000 lm max
- Power source Three D batteries
- Burn time 10-14 hours
- Water resistance IPX4 water resistant
- Weight 14 oz.
- A unique removable cap allows for a more direct light beam
- Smaller size means it won't crowd out your tent or picnic table
- Eats up batteries quickly if used often, isn’t rechargeable
With positive reviews from a number of our testers, it’s clear that this battery-powered lantern ($30) is a fan favorite. It runs on three D batteries and has a max output of 1,000 lumens. Plus, it has four lighting settings, and you can remove the cap to make it smaller or shine a more directed beam of light.
We’ve splashed water on it without any issues, but we don’t recommend letting it sit out in the rain or become submerged completely. At a little over 7 inches tall and about 3.5 inches wide, it won’t take up much room in the car or tent.
The nice thing about a battery-powered lantern is that you don’t need to worry about charging it up. The downside is it burns through batteries if used often. This LE LED lantern ran anywhere from 10 to 14 hours during our testing before needing a fresh set of batteries.
If you plan to use it infrequently or use rechargeable D batteries, it’s a great option. But if you plan to use it every weekend, a rechargeable or solar lantern is probably a better pick.
- Lumens 150 lm max, 7 lm min
- Power source 2600 mAh rechargeable 18650 cell
- Burn time 170 hours on low, 7 hours on high
- Water resistance IPX6
- Weight 2.4 oz.
- Very compact design
- Integrated USB makes recharging a breeze
- Limited lumen output is best suited to use inside tents
- Push button is a bit small
A micro-size wonder, the Lighthouse Micro Flash Lantern ($25) combines the functionality of a flashlight and a lantern into a super compact unit. This quickly became our “toss it and go” lantern of choice for quick outings where sundown was a possibility.
Not the brightest lantern of the lot, this light is best thought of as a close-quarters beam. We appreciated the dimmability of both the flashlight and lantern components, though the push button to activate it is on the smaller side.
Compared to our best budget pick, the Black Diamond Moji lantern, the Lighthouse Micro won’t beat it in overall lumen output, but the functionality of a focused beam does give it the edge when searching for runaway tent stakes and the like.
If you’re looking for a micro-size lantern with additional charge-out capabilities, GoalZero also makes the Lighthouse Micro Charge ($30) with an added USB port. Both of these lanterns would make perfect just-in-case additions to a glovebox or daypack.
- Lumens 1,000 lm max
- Power source Propane
- Burn time 13 hours on low
- Water resistance N/A
- Weight 3 lbs. 11 oz.
- Classic styling and natural lighting
- Broad footed base limits risk of tipping
- Convenient carrying case
- Requires consumable propane, which can add up
- Glass lens can become hot during use
No lantern review would be complete without this classic Coleman Deluxe Propane Lantern ($65). If you’ve never used a gas lantern, it’s important to make note of a few things. First, in lieu of light bulbs, it uses mantles that fill with fuel and burn brightly. The glass can become extremely hot, and caution should be used when handling it.
That said, it’s a solid lantern that will last for years. And it clocks in at just $65. The dual-mantle design pumps out 1,000 lumens on high, and it will run for nearly 7.5 hours on high before needing a new fuel canister. The green propane cylinders run about $10 for a single 1-pound canister. While this isn’t outrageously expensive, it does add up and should be a consideration when lantern shopping.
We found it easy to thread the light onto the propane cylinder and appreciated the footed base that prevents tipping. It’s worth noting that you will need a match to light this lantern. And when it’s time to pack up camp, the Coleman Deluxe tucks away into its hardshell carrying case, ready for the next adventure.
- Lumens 90 lm max, 45 lm min
- Power source 1,200 mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery
- Burn time 12 hours on low
- Water resistance IP68 waterproof
- Weight 2.6 oz.
- Incredible portability and ultralight weight
- Requires no inflation to expand
- Limited battery life
- Not the brightest lantern
The Solight SolarPuff Lantern ($30) unfolds with the grace of an origami swan, going from a compact flat to a 4-inch lighted cube — all without the need of inflating it. Made of PET sailcloth, this light pops open and provides either a bright, warm, or multi-colored light.
We first saw the SolarPuff lantern riding on the outside of the pack of a PCT thru-hiker, who found the collapsible lantern to be a perfect luxury item. The integrated solar panel charges the lantern while you hike and puts out a purported 12 hours of light on its low setting (with the sun shining).
Newly updated, Solight added a Dusk to Dawn light sensor, which can turn on the lantern by itself as the stars come out and turn back off as the sun comes up — a feature we very much enjoyed.
You likely won’t want to make the SolarPuff your only light source, as even at max output it only manages 90 lumens. But as a go-anywhere lantern with a small footprint, the SolarPuff Lantern is an easy choice.
Camping Lantern Comparison Chart
|Camping Lantern||Lumens||Power Source||Burn Time||Water Resistance||Weight|
|500 lm max, 5 lm min||6400 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery||200 hours on low, 5 hours on high||IPX4 water resistant||13.8 oz.|
|200 lm max, 4 lm low||Three AAA batteries, or a 1500 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery||70 hours on low||IPX4 water resistant||6 oz.|
|Fenix CL30R||650 lm max, 10 lm min||Three 2600 mAh 18650 cells||300 hours on eco||IPX7 waterproof||14.5 oz.|
|Goal Zero Crush||60 lm max, 6 lm low||500 mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery||28 hours on low, 3 hours on high||Unpublished||3.2 oz.|
|UCO Original Candle
|20 lm max||Candle||9-12 hrs.||N/A||6.4 oz.|
|100 lm max||2000 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery||20 hours on low, 5 hours on high||IPX4 water resistant||11.3 oz.|
|Snow Peak GigaPower
|~400 lumens||Isobutane||5 hours on a 4 oz. fuel can||N/A||4.5 oz.|
|750 lm max, 5 lm min||3000 mAh Li-ion 18650 rechargeable cell||70 hours on low, 4 hours on high||IP54 waterproof||9.9 oz.|
|220 lm max||4,400 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery||80 hours on low, 4 hours on high||Unpublished||1 lb., 2 oz.|
|Goal Zero Lighthouse
|600 lm max||5,200 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery||320 hours on low, 2.5 hours on high||Unpublished||1 lb., 1.6 oz.|
|LE LED Camping
|1,000 lm max||Three D batteries||10-14 hours||IPX4 water resistant||14 oz.|
|Goal Zero Lighthouse
Micro Flash Lantern
|150 lm max, 7 lm min||2600 mAh rechargeable 18650 cell||170 hours on low, 7 hours on high||IPX6||2.4 oz.|
|1,000 lm max||Propane||13 hours on low||N/A||3 lbs., 11 oz.|
|90 lm max, 45 lm min||1,200 mAh Li-Po rechargeable battery||12 hours on low||IP68 waterproof||2.6 oz.|
Why You Should Trust Us
While putting this list together, our lead tester Austin Beck-Doss was living off-grid and relying on a lantern every single night. Adding to the tester pool is Senior Editor Nick Belcaster, who has spent months at a time outdoors where having the proper illumination is key. To determine the best of the best, these lanterns underwent months of testing and thousands of light hours logged.
The lanterns featured here are the top picks that will stand up to constant use and abuse, from the rigors of packing and unpacking to the perils of rolling around in the back of a car. While testing, we paid particular attention to light output, battery life, and ease of use. We also kept an eye on durability, packability, and overall value.
Outdoor lighting technology is always advancing. Not too many years ago the best you could buy were propane lanterns that, while a classic look, brought along with them some classic issues. Today, most all lanterns depend upon battery power for illumination, with improvements in lithium-polymer and lithium-ion batteries greatly extending burn times. Light element tech has also taken off, with smart LEDs that can change temperature and even color now the standard.
As the tech behind camping lanterns changes, our testing will follow the trends, bringing the best of the best lanterns into the fold.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Camp Lantern
Electric vs. Gas-Powered Lanterns
Choosing between an electric and a gas-powered lantern comes down to what features you prefer. Electric lanterns are quiet, lightweight, and safe to use inside a tent.
However, alkaline batteries lose about half their capacity when temperatures drop below freezing, and rechargeable batteries may not last on multi-day trips without a recharge.
Gas-powered lanterns like the Snow Peak GigaPower Lantern Auto are bright, have a long burn time, and work well in sub-freezing temperatures (the runtime drops, but not as much as when using alkaline batteries). Because they use a live flame, they are hot to the touch, need to be used away from flammable materials, and require ventilation. They are also more fragile than electric lanterns.
Lumens and Light Modes
Lanterns need to be bright enough to light up an area, but not so striking that they’ll temporarily blind you if you accidentally look at them. Brightness is measured in lumens, and while you probably won’t need a lantern to mimic the sun (35.73 octillion lumens, by the way), most lanterns have a maximum lumen output somewhere between 200 and 500 lumens. This is more than enough to light up most camping spaces, and most often is dimmable to adjust to ambient light.
If you’re looking for a more pleasant glow, aim for an output of 60 to 100 lumens. Lanterns like the Solight SolarPuff Lantern or the Black Diamond Moji Lantern work well for use inside a tent. Also, know that diffusion is key in how light is displayed around camp, and that translucent globes will provide a softer, more diluted light that’s easier on the eyes. Lanterns like the BioLite AlpenGlow and Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 might be able to put out the same 500 lumens, but the AlpenGlow will be much nicer to look at in intimate settings.
Thankfully we’ve come a long way from the simple ON/OFF button, and camping lanterns today feature many additional lighting settings for fine-tuning your lighting solution. Dimmability is one of the most important functions in our opinion, as it allows you to dial in the light output in a set range. Camping lanterns today have broad dimming ranges, with many being able to reduce down to single-digit lumens and then ramp up to full power, or even a turbo mode such as in the Fenix CL30R.
Some, like the Solight SolarPuff Lantern, are fairly minimal with only three different light settings: low, high, and flashing. Others jam in different modes to amp up the ambiance at camp and lend some light to whatever mood you’re going for. The BioLite AlpenGlow 500 has four main modes (white light, warm light, color light, and multi-color light) which can be further augmented with a few shakes to add single-side lighting, flickering, and even a “fireworks” light show effect.
Other lanterns still, like the Ledlenser ML6, will offer a red light option, which can be very helpful when aiming to maintain your night vision (or avoid waking your tent-mate). This lantern also will flash an SOS signal for emergency situations, as well as a strobe that’s meant for self-defense.
LED vs. Incandescent
Lanterns of old all utilized incandescent bulbs to provide their light, but these have largely gone away in favor of LEDs. Light-emitting diodes are far more energy efficient — often more than 75% — and have a lifespan that exceeds the wire filaments of incandescent bulbs.
Another benefit of LEDs is they have a high Color Rendering Index (CRI) level, a measurement of how natural colors render in certain light. Lanterns like the BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern boast a CRI of 90 and produce high-quality color lighting.
One downside, however, is that LEDs are typically not user replaceable. Thankfully, the lifespan of an LED is often given in years, not months, so barring a faulty light, you should never run into the issue.
Weight and Packed Size
Consider how you will use your lantern. For car camping, weight and packed size are not going to be an issue. If you plan on packing your lantern into the woods, however, you’re going to want something lighter that won’t take up much pack space. If you’re going backpacking, look for a small or collapsible lantern. A good flashlight or a headlamp may even be in order.
Lanterns like the BioLite AlpenGlow 500, Fenix CL30R, and Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 are all at the top of our list of the best lanterns to take on camping trips. They all sport an extended battery life, broad light cast, and mounting solutions that make them amenable to different camp setups. These lanterns all hover around the 1-pound mark, and while they aren’t the most packable, typically folks going camping need only worry about over-filling the back of the car.
There are also a number of fun lighting options, like the MPOWERD Luci String Lights, which can be strung up and really spread some light. Consider a mix of both types of lighting to cover both your flood and spot light needs.
When looking for a lantern to take backpacking, we’re quick to reach for the Black Diamond Moji, Solight SolarPuff, or the Goal Zero Crush. The two collapsable options are excellent for long-distance trips where weight really matters, and the Moji is our top pick for a light source that’ll last a while and still maintains a small profile.
Don’t count out candle or isobutane-powered lanterns on your backpacking excursions, either. Both the UCO Candle Lantern and Snow Peak GigaPower lanterns are minimal enough as to not be a boat anchor in your pack, and operate with fuels you’re likely already bringing along. We’ve often enjoyed the natural flicker of a flame over an LED when deep in the backcountry, and these lanterns easily make the cut in our packing lists.
Battery Life and Types
If you’re going with an electric lantern, battery life is a consideration, especially if you’re going to be in the woods for a few days or more. Many lanterns will give you 5-10 hours on high, with longer times in the lower settings. Among the longest-lasting lanterns in our testing were the BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern at 200 hours on low, the Fenix CL30R at 300 hours, and the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern at an impressive 320 total hours of burn time.
Lanterns that take disposable batteries will typically accept either alkaline or lithium-style batteries, though it can be good to know when each is warranted. Alkaline batteries are standard as household batteries, and are generally cheaper than lithium batteries. They won’t last quite as long, and will lose voltage as they discharge, meaning a dimmer lantern. Lithium batteries, on the other hand, maintain their voltage until almost dead, are better in the cold, and last up to two to three times as long as alkaline batteries. They also are rechargeable in wall-outlet chargers.
It pays to carry extra batteries on your trip if your lantern uses disposable batteries. If you have a rechargeable battery, bring along a portable battery bank or solar charger to top off your lanterns between uses. Some lanterns even incorporate a charging system into the light itself, such as a solar panel, or hand crank. It is good to note that lanterns with rechargeable batteries are becoming more and more commonplace, though it should be remembered that recharging a lantern from dead flat will take considerably longer than just swapping in some fresh AAAs.
Consider also the type of rechargeable battery your lantern uses. Some, like the Ledlenser ML6 Lantern, use a standardized rechargeable 18650 cell that can be used in other electronics, such as headlamps. Most others will be integrated into the lantern, and are non-serviceable.
Ease of Use
For the most part, electric lanterns win the prize for ease of use. They turn on with the push of a button and the brightness is simple to adjust. Gas-powered lanterns require a bit more work with applying the fuel canister and lighting the wick.
With advances in lantern tech, and more features being added every year, be sure to look for a lantern that hasn’t suffered from tech bloat. The pattern of button presses to move through the different lighting cycles should be easy to remember.
One tech advance that we are on board with is the adoption of USB-C in charging cables. Micro USB is still abundant on many consumer electronics, but a look to the future sees USB-C becoming the new standard. Of the lanterns we reviewed, unfortunately, none yet support USB-C charging.
Durability & Water Resistance
We won’t lie — there have certainly been times when we’ve left our camping lanterns out overnight and woken to a soggy light. That’s why investing in a lantern with a high degree of durability will pay out in the long run.
First, consider that many gas lanterns will still require the use of a glass lens to operate. Obviously, these will require some more care, and we recommend utilizing a carrying case for transporting them around. The mantles that are used to contain the flame are also fragile, so be mindful of these as well.
When it comes to electric lanterns, many will incorporate some type of rubberized over-molding to guard against bumps and bruises around camp. And in terms of water resistance, many lanterns today will be built to resist splashes or brief immersions in water. These are often rated using the Ingress Protection testing standard, which measures both resistance to dust and water. A rating of IPX7, for example, relays a resistance to water immersion up to 1 meter deep.
Many of the best camping lanterns offer additional features, such as the ability to charge your electronic devices and double as a flashlight. These are perks but aren’t real game-changers when choosing a lantern.
The most important features that we’ve found are ones that enhance the lantern’s main function. Look for lanterns that are water- and dustproof, ones with multiple dimming settings and integrated solar chargers.
Hang Loops, Clips, and Hooks
Being able to hang your lantern from the inside of your tent or from a well-placed tree limb can greatly increase the amount of light it can cast on your camp setup. Look for a lantern that sports some type of hook or loop that will allow you to suspend it from above and make the most of your light. The Ledlenser ML6 is particularly adept at mounting solutions, with a rubber loop for hanging at the top, a metal hook beneath the broad base, and a magnetic bottom for mounting on metal surfaces.
Battery Banks and Solar Panels
Because many lanterns today utilize an integrated rechargeable battery pack, they are able to also be used to recharge your electronics on the go. Just how much power you’ll be able to port around will depend on the lantern, but we’ve found that the larger lanterns are able to juice up a modern phone most of the way to a full charge. Remember to pack an appropriate charging cable.
The addition of a solar panel can theoretically extend your lantern time to infinite, though it is important to note that on lanterns that sport them, like the Goal Zero Crush Light or MPOWERD Luci String Lights, the panels are typically quite small, and thus will take an extended period of sunlight to fully recharge. This is easier to accomplish when you’re hiking into your camp spot, but is better thought of as a nice boost to your lantern’s battery, versus a true recharging technique.
The best camping lantern is the one best designed for how you plan to use it. Look for a lantern that’s bright enough to illuminate your camping space and one that is simple enough to use after a long day of hiking. For 2023, we found the BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern to fit the bill for most of our camping outings.
For backpackers, a lightweight lantern that doesn’t take up too much pack space is ideal. Also, an electric lantern should be able to give you several evenings of light without requiring a recharge.
For most campers, 100 lumens or above is enough to light up many camp spaces. If you prefer a more gentle glow, 50-75 lumens will be enough. Electric lanterns under 50 lumens are good for in-tent use.
For occasional use, a brighter lantern with replaceable batteries will work well. Replaceable batteries are ideal for situations in which an external charging source is unavailable. Candle lanterns will also work well, as they don’t require any fuel besides the candle.
We’re fans of the classic Coleman Lantern. For $65, Coleman has made a solid lantern that will give you years of use. It produces 1,000 lumens on high, and it will run for 7 hours on high before you need to switch propane canisters.
Lantern mantles are ceramic mesh sacks that encase the flame in gas-powered lanterns. They keep the flame small and contained inside the lamp.
If you take care of it, a lantern mantle can last years. You can lengthen the life of the mantle by not dropping or shaking your lantern excessively and by not exposing it to strong wind without the globe attached.