You don’t want to spend your next camping trip stumbling around in the dark.
That’s why you need a quality camping lantern.
The right camp lantern will help you illuminate your campsite, navigate a dark trail, or read a book in your tent before falling asleep.
But not all camping lanterns are created equal. Some are much better than others.
So how do you find the best one?
We tested dozens of models in campgrounds and the backcountry. We’re here to tell you which camping lanterns are winners and which ones are duds.
Here is how to buy the best lantern for camping.
Camping Lantern Buyer’s Guide
Interested in one of our top camping lantern suggestions?
Then skip to our best camping lanterns reviews.
Otherwise, our buyer’s guide will point you in the right direction.
We break down the ins and outs of lanterns and other camp lighting, including the main fuel types and most important features.
The fact is there’s not a single camping lantern that’s best for everyone – so let’s find out which is best for you!
Why You Need a Camping Lantern
The main benefits of camping lanterns are quite obvious.
A camp lantern provides light when it’s dark out. This extra light means you can continue cooking, playing games, and hanging out long after night falls.
Compared to the focused beams created by headlamps and flashlights, the wide swath of illumination from a camping lantern is perfect for 360° flood lighting that multiple campers can enjoy at once.
Though camping lanterns are larger and bulkier than flashlights and headlamps, there are small lightweight models available that are perfect for backpacking.
In addition to the camping benefits of lanterns, I like to have at least one or two stashed away at home for power outages, natural disasters, and other emergencies.
Camping Lanterns vs Headlamps
Headlamps are super lightweight, completely hands-free, and illuminate whatever is right in front of you.
Lanterns are bulkier, but their 360° lighting illuminates a much larger space and can be used by multiple people at once.
It’s silly to compare the two. Both camping lanterns and headlamps are super beneficial.
Though I sometimes opt for one over the other, I usually bring at least one headlamp and one lantern on all my camping trips.
And I usually throw in a flashlight or two while I’m at it…
Types of Camping Lanterns
The three main types of camping lanterns are electric lanterns, fuel-burning lanterns, and candle lanterns.
Each of these types of lanterns has several sub-types. Selecting your preferred fuel type is the first step to buying the best camping lantern for you.
Electric Camping Lanterns
Electric lanterns have taken over as the most popular type of lantern for camping.
They include solar lanterns, LED lanterns, battery-operated lanterns, and rechargeable lanterns.
Electric lanterns are bright and durable. They have a long battery life. Many are rechargeable and some have built-in solar panels. They are child-friendly and are safe to use inside of a tent. They make great camping lanterns for kids.
Their main downside is that most models require new batteries on a regular basis.
Fuel-Burning Camping Lanterns
Fuel-burning lanterns are the traditional type of lantern for camping.
They include kerosene lanterns, propane lanterns, butane lanterns, and others that use less common gas-powered fuel sources.
Fuel-burning lanterns are perhaps the brightest of all. They are much brighter than most LED camp lanterns and other electric models.
Unfortunately, fuel lanterns are dangerous to use in tents, because they emit toxic fumes and generate a lot of heat. You need to keep a close eye on children and pets when using a fuel-burning camping lantern.
That said, fuel-burning lanterns do run more efficiently in very cold weather. They make great winter lanterns.
Candle Camping Lanterns
Candle lanterns are outdated but still have their benefits.
They actually utilize a candle inside of the lantern body to generate lighting.
I like candle lanterns because they create a warm, pleasant type of light that creates a relaxing atmosphere.
That said, the light created is minimal. These lanterns also create heat so they can be dangerous to use inside of tents and around children.
Important Factors to Consider
Fuel type might be the most important factor when buying a camping lantern, but it’s far from the only thing to consider.
A few other important factors to keep in mind include:
- Brightness – Lantern brightness is measured in lumens. Between 100 to 200 lumens is a good base level for camping alone or with one other person. 200 to 400 lumens is enough for a small group. More powerful models are available for larger groups.
- Size & Weight – Most campers prefer a small, lightweight lantern. They are the most portable. Plus, they take up less space in the car. The best backpacking lanterns are also extremely lightweight for easier portability.
- Run Time – Battery life or runtime dictates how long a lantern can be used on a continuous charge. Solar lanterns and rechargeable models are also available for those without easy access to new batteries or fuel for long periods of time.
- Durability – Camping equipment suffers a lot of abuse. Your camp lantern must be capable of standing up to this wear and tear. The most durable models are made from strong materials, have few if any small extraneous parts, and are waterproof (remember there is a difference between waterproof and water resistant).
- Ease of Use – A big “on/off” switch makes a lantern easy to use in the dark. Fumbling around to turn on your camping light isn’t fun.
- Additional Features – Some campers prefer a simple, traditional lantern while others prefer those with extra features like hanging hooks, built-in legs, and flashlight mode. Some models, usually solar-powered lanterns, can even charge your other devices.
Remember that the type of camping you plan on doing is the main factor that dictates the best type of camping lantern for you.
For example, backpacking lanterns are generally smaller, lighter, and more durable than camping models. On the other hand, camping lanterns are usually brighter and have more features.
Best Camping Lantern Reviews
We put dozens of different camping lanterns through the ringer in a wide variety of climates and weather conditions to find out which ones work best.
The most important factors we focused on while using each camp lantern were:
- Battery Life/Run Time
- Durability (including Water Resistance)
- Ease of Use
- Extra Features
Our goal was to pinpoint the best camp lantern, and runner-up, for these six different categories:
- Best Overall Lantern
- Best Budget-Friendly Lantern
- Best Backpacking Lantern
- Best Family Camping Lantern
- Best Winter Lantern
- Best Emergency Lantern
Here are the results. These are the top 10 best camping lanterns for camping and backpacking currently available.
1. Best Overall Lantern: Black Diamond Apollo
Not only is the Black Diamond Apollo the best rechargeable camping lantern, we think it’s the best camping lantern, hands down.
The Apollo lantern is lightweight, extremely rugged, and very easy to use. It comes in a stylish package with several beneficial built-in extra features.
250 lumens make this camping lantern bright enough to use in a tent or for illumination for multiple users around a campsite. The opaque design gives the light a warm quality without dampening the brightness.
This Black Diamond lantern utilizes a rechargeable internal battery (via included USB cable) to power the LED lights. A compartment is available for 3 AA batteries for backup.
We appreciated the thoughtful additional features such as three pop-down legs for stability on uneven surfaces and a single large rubberized on/off button for better ease of use.
The only downside to this camping lantern is the short battery life. The rechargeable battery only lasts 6 hours on the highest setting. However, the three backup AA batteries extend this by an additional 18 hours.
What We Like:
- Lightweight construction (just 11.4 ounces)
- Durable and rugged
- Pop-down legs for stability
- Bright 250 lumen LED light
- Stylish design
What We Don’t Like:
- Not waterproof (but should be okay in light rain)
- Low internal battery runtime (backup AA batteries extend life)
- Double Power LED with 80 lumens (max setting) is enclosed in a frosted globe to provide bright, ambient light
- Dual reflector system captures and maximizes light output
- Power meter displays charge status or battery level for rechargeable NRG Battery Kit or 4 AA alkalines
2. Overall Runner-Up: Coleman Twin LED
If you like it bright, then you’ll love the 390-lumen Coleman Twin LED, our runner-up for best overall camping lantern.
This Coleman lantern sports a classic design, adjustable brightness (from ultra-low to ultra-high), and good water resistance (use it in rain – but don’t get it too wet).
Our biggest gripe is that the Twin LED uses eight D-cell batteries. This makes it too bulky and heavy to use as a backpacking lantern, although the extra run time (up to 85 hours on the highest setting) is great for family camping and RV camping.
- Customizable brightness settings ranging from high to ultra-low
- 390 extra-bright lumens on high. 100 bright lumens on low
- 32-ft. (9.75 m) beam distance on high and 19-ft. (5.79 m) beam distance on low
3. Best Budget-Friendly Lantern: Nite Ize Radiant 400
Of all the camping lights we tested, the Nite Ize Radiant lantern is the best combination of low price and high brightness.
It produces 400 lumens of illumination on the highest setting, more than enough light for family campers and other sizable groups.
The LED lantern has three light settings that you can toggle through with a single switch. All of the light is nice and bright but never overwhelming.
For camping, this Nite Ize lantern excels because of its rugged design. It stands up well to the bumps and bruises of a campground. However, it’s not quite durable enough for us to trust as a backpacking lantern.
Additional features of note include the carabiner clip for easy hanging and the included carrying bag for safekeeping (it actually doubles as a light diffuser).
This outdoor lantern’s biggest letdown is its weight. It requires three D-Cell batteries and, boy, do these add some heft. The flip side is the roughly 800 hours of battery life (on the lowest setting).
What We Like:
- Bright 400 lumen LED light
- Three light setting modes
- Carabiner clip for easy hanging
- Long battery life (up to 800 hours)
- Affordable price
What We Don’t Like:
- Doesn’t feel very durable
- Requires three D-Cell batteries
- Push button lets you select high, medium or low white LED modes.
- All settings give you 400 lumens.
- Weather-resistant, impact-resistant, and a carabiner handle to easily clip, carry, or hang it wherever you need.
- Powered by three D-Cell batteries and can run for nearly 800 hours in low mode.
4. Budget-Friendly Runner-Up: Black Diamond Moji
The Black Diamond Moji is another great outdoor lantern for camping that won’t break the bank.
It has a compact, lightweight, stylish design that houses a 100 lumen LED light. The frosted housing creates a soft, ambient light.
Even though it’s far from the brightest camping lantern we tested, we were impressed with the Moji for its small size, durability, and super low price. It’s a great option to use in your tent at night.
- 1 TriplePower LED emits 100 lumens (max. setting)
- Frosted glove produces bright, ambient light
- Unique dimming switch provides adjustable brightness
5. Best Backpacking Lantern: Suaoki Collapsible Tent LED
You need a lightweight, compact lantern for backpacking – and the Suaoki Collapsible Tent LED is just that.
The LED camping lantern clocks in at just 168 grams. It folds down to smaller than the size of an iPhone for easy storage in your backpack.
Though this hanging lantern is far from the brightest available, it’s unique clover-shaped design and hanging hook make it perfect to use inside your tent before calling it a night.
Another notable feature are the three built-in solar panels for solar recharging capability. The lantern takes a little over 3 hours to fully recharge in bright sunlight. A standard USB charger is also included.
There are two big negatives about this solar lantern. First, the short 3-hour run time on a single charge. Also, the design is somewhat flimsy thanks to the multitude of moving parts, especially the three wings.
All in all, this is an affordable, high-quality backpacking lantern that takes up a minuscule amount of room in your backpack and that you can recharge in the backcountry.
What We Like:
- Lightweight, compact design
- Folds down to smaller than an iPhone
- Solar charging capability
- Hanging hook for easy use in tent
- Affordable price
What We Don’t Like:
- Short 3-hour run time
- Lots of potentially breakable moving parts
- Charges via the micro USB port in 3.5 hours with full battery.
- Three individual solar panels support charging when in emergency outdoor conditions with no outlets or power source.
- Shorter than iPhone 6 plus, it can be folded down completely to take the least space in your backpack.
6. Backpacking Runner-Up: Streamlight the Siege
The Streamlight the Siege is an extremely rugged battery-powered lantern that’s great for backpacking.
It features 200 lumens of LED camp lighting, a glare-reducing cover, an ergonomic carrying handle, and the ability to hang from a hook on either end.
But what we like most about this camping lantern is its overall durability. It’s a completely waterproof lantern that even floats in water. It’s also very impact resistant – I would know since I dropped it quite a few times while testing it on backpacking trips!
Because it is waterproof, it’s one of the best lanterns for boating as well as kayak and canoe camping.
- Comfortable To Use In Close Quarters Without Impairing Vision
- 200 Lumens; Batteries Not Included
- Ergonomic Handle Designed To Lock In Upright Or Stowed Position
7. Best Family Camping Lantern: Black Diamond Voyager
Going camping with your family? Then the Black Diamond Voyager might just be the right camping lantern for you.
The family-friendly lantern is actually a 140-lumen lantern and 50-lumen flashlight all in one. You can even use both modes at once for a sort of lantern/flashlight combination. It’s powered by four AA batteries that provide about 40 hours of run time.
What we like most about the Voyager is its versatility and ease of use. A single large button controls all of the different lighting modes. It’s intuitive enough for children of all ages to use.
Durability is another major benefit of this camp lantern. It’s made of strong materials and has few breakable parts. It won’t break when your kids bang it around the campsite or drop it on the ground.
Additional features of note include the metal hook for easy hanging and rubberized bottom for increased stability on any surface.
There’s not much about this lantern to complain about. Our main gripe is that while the flashlight feature is cool, it’s certainly not bright enough for use outside the tent. The Voyager is also a little pricey for what you get.
What We Like:
- Versatile (includes built-in flashlight mode)
- Adjustable light settings
- Small and lightweight design
- Rugged enough for use by children
- Hooks for easy hanging
What We Don’t Like:
- Flashlight isn’t very bright
- Expensive for such a simple product
- Lantern, flashlight and dual (lantern and flashlight on) modes-as well as dimming-operate from one convenient switch
- 1 Double Power LED with 75 lumens (max setting) is enclosed in a frosted globe for bright, ambient light in lantern mode
- 1 Double Power LED with 50 lumens in the bottom to provide a precise beam in flashlight mode
8. Family Camping Runner-Up: Coleman Quad LED
Interested in something a little brighter for family camping? Then the Coleman Quad LED lantern is for you.
Constructed from classic Coleman lantern parts, it’s just as rugged and durable as any other Coleman product. Better yet, it has one of the most unique camping lantern designs we’ve ever seen.
The device features four separate light panels that can be used together on the lantern body as a normal camping lantern or detached for use as four individual camping lights.
Also noteworthy is the long battery life. With eight D-Cell batteries, you get up to 80 hours of overall runtime.
Cooler still is that each individual light panel has a battery life of 1.5 hours. Place them back on the charging base and this Coleman rechargeable lantern recharges them for even more use.
- Four individual light panels snap onto a single lantern
- Lights recharge on the base; Lantern powered by 8 D-cell batteries; Works well and long with Polaroid D Batteries; Lantern runtime: 75 hrs.; Panel runtime: 1.5 hrs.; Lantern: 190 extra-bright lumens;...
- Range for both, 26 ft. (8 m); Easy-carry handles for the lantern and each panel; On/off switches on lantern's top and on each panel; Lifetime LEDs never need replacing; Cool-running LEDs are safe to...
9. Best Winter Lantern: Coleman Premium Duel Fuel
The Coleman Premium Duel Fuel is our top choice for the best winter lantern for camping.
The all-season lantern utilizes Coleman liquid fuel, or unleaded gasoline, and two-mantle lighting to produce up to 800 lumens of light for over 7 hours at a time.
It performs just as well in frigid winter conditions (including way below freezing) as it does during the summer. An adjustable dimmer knob enables you to easily control the level of lighting.
Of course, as a gas-powered lantern, the Premium Duel Fuel is not for use indoors, including inside of a tent. In addition to potentially harmful fumes in a confined space, it also gives off an exceptional amount of heat.
This Coleman camping lantern is of the same exceptional quality as all of Coleman’s camping products. It’s made of high-quality materials and lasts seemingly forever. A 3-year warranty will put your mind further at ease.
It’s one of the brightest camping lanterns we tested (for both electric and gas lanterns) and comes in a fairly portable package. And unlike propane lanterns, you don’t need to lug around propane canisters.
What We Like:
- All-season use (including well below freezing)
- Extremely bright at over 800 lumens
- 7-hour plus run time
- High-quality, durable design
- Ease to use for gas lantern
What We Don’t Like:
- Can’t use inside of a tent
- Not safest option or children
- Extra-bright 700 lumens on high
- Adjustable dimmer knob for the perfect outdoor light
- All-Season Strong fuel design for incredible light in frigid conditions
10 (Bonus!). Best Emergency Lantern: UST 30-Day LED
An emergency lantern is a great tool for those living in areas prone to power outages or natural disasters.
The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day LED is not only our choice for the best emergency lantern, but it’s one of the best camping lanterns as well.
It’s most notable for its incredible 30-day battery life. And that’s not just a fancy way to say it has a long run time. This UST lantern actually runs for 30 continual 24-hour days of straight use from just three D-Cell batteries.
Of course, the 30-day run time is with the lantern on its lowest setting, but even the low setting is bright enough to perform most camping tasks. The lantern has three additional settings to increase the brightness.
Other highlights of this emergency lantern include its overall ease of use, all-around durability, and soft light quality. It’s also surprisingly lightweight and portable.
The UST 30-Day LED lantern is just as capable on a camping or backpacking trip as it is for emergency situations at home.
What We Like:
- 30 days of continual use
- Four light settings
- Rugged design
- Lightweight and portable
- Easy to use single button
What We Don’t Like:
- Glow-in-the-dark feature doesn’t work well
- Not waterproof
- BRIGHTNESS: 700 lumens of bright, clean light with High, Medium, Low and SOS modes
- DIMENSIONS: 7.2" H x 3.75" W with a weight of 1.1lbs with (3) D batteries (not included)
- VERSATILITY: Built-in, recessed hook on the lantern base for downright hanging and a removable globe for use as an area light
It’s hard to beat the Black Diamond Apollo.
It’s our top choice for the best camping lantern for a reason – it’s bright, extremely durable, and easy-to-use plus it doesn’t break the bank.
Of course, we know that everyone’s individual needs and preferences regarding camping lanterns and other camping equipment are different.
That’s why we want to hear from you.
What’s your favorite camping lantern? What is most important to you in a camping lantern?
And, before you get in touch, make sure to check out our other camping gear guides:
- Guide to the Best Portable Power for Camping
- Guide to Buying a Sleeping Bag
- Guide to Buying a Tent for Camping
We look forward to hearing from you!