A quality camping lantern is essential to any great camping trip.
The best camping lanterns ensure you won’t spend your trip stumbling around outside in the dark. They help you illuminate your campsite, navigate a dark trail, read a book in your tent, and so much more.
But which camping lantern is right for you? With so many great options to choose from, making a choice can feel overwhelming. Our detailed guide shows you everything you need to know to choose the best lantern for camping or backpacking, including our best camping lantern recommendations.
Here is how to choose the best camping lantern for 2020.
Table of Contents
- Best Camping Lanterns
- Camping Lantern Benefits
- Types of Camping Lanterns
- Camping Lantern Buyer’s Guide
- How to Choose the Best
- Camping Lantern Accessories
- Alternative Options
The Best Camping Lanterns for 2020
We compared dozens of the best camping lanterns, both fuel-burning and electric, to find out which ones work best. Our ratings are based on brightness, run time, portability, ease of use, and durability.
Here are our 11 top picks for the best camping and backpacking lanterns for 2020:
1. Best Overall: 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
- Durable and Rugged
- Pop-Down Legs for Stability
- Bright 250 Lumen LED
- Stylish Design
What We Don’t Like:
- Not Completely Waterproof
- Low Internal Battery Runtime
2. Overall Runner-Up: Coleman Twin LED
Coleman Twin LED Lantern
4 used from $43.08
If you like it bright, then you’ll love the 390-lumen Coleman Twin LED, our runner-up for best camping lantern for overall use.
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 submerge it in water).
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.
3. Best Budget-Friendly Lantern: Nite Ize Radiant 400
Nite Ize Radiant 200 Collapsible Lantern
Out of all the camping lights we tested, the Nite Ize Radiant 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 large groups.
The LED lantern has three light settings that you can toggle through with a single switch. The light is very 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
- 3 Light Setting Modes
- Carabiner Clip For Easy Hanging
- Long Battery Life
- Affordable Price
What We Don’t Like:
- Doesn’t Feel Very Durable
- Requires Three D-Cell Batteries
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.
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 camp 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
6. Backpacking Runner-Up: Streamlight the Siege
Streamlight the Siege
$32.50 in stock
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’s waterproof, it’s one of the best lanterns for boating as well as kayak and canoe camping.
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
8. Family Camping Runner-Up: Coleman Quad LED
Coleman Quad LED Lantern
$76.60 in stock
2 used from $57.84
Interested in something a little brighter for family camping? Then the Coleman Quad LED 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.
Neater 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.
9. Best Winter Lantern: Coleman Premium Dual Fuel
The Coleman Premium Dual 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 Dual 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 set 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+ Run Time
- High-Quality, Durable Design
- Ease to Use for Gas Lantern
What We Don’t Like:
- Can’t Use Inside a Tent
- Not Safest Option for Children
10. Best Solar Lantern: Goal Zero Lighthouse 400
Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern
Few solar lanterns are as powerful and efficient as the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400.
It’s important to note, however, that this camping lantern does not have built-in solar panels. Instead, you must pair it with a separate Goal Zero solar panel, such as the Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel (one of our top rated portable power sources for camping).
With a maximum output of 400 lumens, this solar lantern is notable for its high adjustability. A small knob enables you to select the exact amount of illumination/brightness you prefer.
This Goal Zero camping lantern boasts collapsible legs that serve multiple purposes. In addition to providing a steady platform, they also maximize the dispersion of light and fold up into an easy carry-handle for transportation.
Although many campers and backpackers pair the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 with a Goal Zero solar panel, the lantern’s internal lithium battery can also be charged via any USB port or with the built-in hand crank.
The Lighthouse 400 is just one in a lengthy product line of Goal Zero Lighthouse lanterns, including the popular and compact Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini.
Thanks to its solar compatibility and back-up hand-crank charger, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 is an excellent emergency lantern for power outages and natural disasters.
What We Like:
- Multiple Ways to Charge
- Long Battery Life
- Bright 400 Lumen Output
- Collapsible Legs
- Durable Construction
What We Don’t Like:
- No Built-In Solar Panel
- Stiff, Flush On/Off Button
11. Best Emergency Lantern: UST 30-Day Survival
UST 30-DAY Survival Lantern
$39.94 in stock
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
- Single Easy-to-Use Button
What We Don’t Like:
- Glow-In-The-Dark Feature Doesn’t Work Well
- Not Waterproof
Camping Lantern Benefits
Camping lantern have a lot of benefits.
First and foremost, a camp lantern provides light when it’s dark out. This extra light means you can continue cooking, playing games, and hanging out with friends 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, small lightweight models are available that are perfect for backpacking.
Some solar-powered lanterns even have the ability to charge your other devices (such as a smartphone) through a built-in USB port.
In addition to their camping benefits, the best camp lanterns also work well as emergency lanterns at home.
If you experience a power outage at home, your camping lantern can be used to provide much-needed light until the power is restored.
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 choosing the best camping lantern for your needs.
Electric lanterns have taken over as the most popular type of lantern for camping.
These camping lanterns include solar lanterns, LED lanterns, battery-operated lanterns, rechargeable lanterns, and more.
Electric lanterns are bright, durable, and lightweight. Most have a long battery life. Many are rechargeable and some even have built-in solar panels. These lanterns are child-friendly and are safe to use inside of your tent. They make great camping lanterns for kids.
The main downside to electric lanterns is that most models require new batteries on a regular basis.
Fuel-burning lanterns are the traditional type of lantern for camping.
These camp lanterns 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 lantern while camping.
That said, fuel-burning lanterns do run more efficiently in very cold weather. They make great winter lanterns if you are cautious while using them.
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 for extended periods of time.
Camping Lantern Buyer’s Guide
Understanding the most important features will make your search for the best camping lantern that much easier.
These are the features that dictate the durability, effectiveness, and usability of your new camping lantern. Base your search around these features.
Here are the most important features of a camping lantern.
Brightness is measured in lumens.
Most campers and backpackers need around 100 to 200 lumens per lantern for backpacking and camping.
Larger groups of campers often require either more lanterns or more powerful lanterns. Models with 200 to 400 lumens (or more) work well for most large groups.
Size & Weight
Small, lightweight camping lanterns are the easiest to both transport and use.
These compact models are also great for backpacking where space is at a premium and lightweight equipment is ideal.
Because car campers don’t have the same space and weight limitations, bringing a larger, heavier camp lantern isn’t as much of an issue.
As outlined above, there are two main types of camping lanterns: electric and fuel-burning.
Electric lanterns are the best option for the vast majority of campers. Not only are these battery-powered lanterns safer and more efficient, but they’re typically much lighter as well.
Another option is a solar lantern that utilizes built-in solar panels to charge itself on multi-day camping trips.
Run time is how long a camp lantern can be used on a single charge.
Although this term applies to fuel-burning models such as propane lanterns, it’s typically used to describe the run life of battery-powered lanterns.
Run time is often interchangeable with battery life. A camp lantern with a longer run time simply works for longer on a single charger (/set of batteries).
*Do note that many companies exaggerate the battery life of their lanterns in their product specifications. Read user reviews (such as our best camping lantern reviews) for more accurate run time.
Most camping lanterns use traditional alkaline batteries.
While these batteries are efficient in most situations, they don’t tend to perform well in very cold temperatures (under 20°F).
Lithium batteries and lithium-ion batteries are much more efficient in the cold but are not compatible with most battery-operated camping lanterns.
*Never use lithium batteries in your camp lantern unless instructed to by the manufacturer.
The best camping lanterns are rugged and durable.
They are designed to stand up to the wear and tear of the outdoors. Look for models that are made from strong materials.
Another factor that influences durability is waterproofing (remember that there is a difference between waterproof and water resistant). Some models can be fully submerged in water without suffering damage.
Many battery-operated lanterns have a single on/off switch. You can’t adjust the brightness beyond that.
Some models, however, do have additional controls that allow you to adjust the brightness of the camp lantern. These are typically either multiple preset settings or sometimes a fully adjustable control knob.
Even some fuel lanterns utilize two mantles to provide two different brightness levels depending on your preferences.
Most camping lanterns employ a number of additional features to make using them easier.
For example, a large “on/off” switch makes turning on your camp lantern easy when it’s dark out. Other useful features include hanging hooks, built-in legs, and a flashlight/strobe mode.
Some models, especially solar lanterns, can also be used to charge your other devices, including smartphones and tablets.
It’s always a safe bet to buy a camping lantern from a reputable brand.
Not only will this help ensure that the camp lantern you receive is high quality, but most established brands also offer better return policies and warranties on their products.
Of course, there are many small brands and off brands that do make quality camping lanterns – it’s all about doing the proper research.
The best camping lanterns vary wildly in price.
You can find some camp lanterns for under $10 and others for well over $100.
Generally speaking, for around $50 you’ll receive a top-quality battery-operated lantern that will easily stand up to the wear and tear or camping and backpacking.
How to Choose the Best Camping Lantern
The key to choosing the best camping lantern is assessing and prioritizing your needs.
Here are a few of the most important factors to consider.
Lantern vs Headlamp
First off, is a lantern even the right choice for you?
A camping lantern provides a centralized source of light, often shining in a 360° radius. This allows several campers to utilize the same light at once.
Those that require a more focused beam of light are better off with a flashlight or headlamp. Both lanterns and headlamps enable you to use the light source without using your hands.
Of course, there’s no reason not to pack a variety of different light sources for your camping trip.
Camping vs Backpacking
Next, you need to consider what type of camping you’ll primarily be doing.
If you mainly go car camping, then size and weight aren’t as much of a concern. Any battery-powered lantern will get the job done or you might even consider a propane lantern.
Backpackers, on the other hand, need a lantern that’s compact, lightweight, and doesn’t take up much space in their backpack.
Backpacking is typically rougher on equipment than car camping, so a more durable and robust camp lantern is necessary. Look for a waterproof model to minimize the risk of damaging your backpacking lantern in inclement weather or during a stream crossing.
For long multi-night backpacking trips, a solar-powered lantern comes in handy. This feature enables the lantern to charge itself with the help of the sun and built-in solar panels.
A solar lantern for camping is a good back-up safety measure against dead batteries. Some models even let you charge other USB devices like your smartphone.
How Many Campers?
It’s also important to consider the size of your party when selecting a camping lantern.
Larger groups typically require a more powerful/bright lantern than smaller groups. This is especially true if everyone will be gathered in a central area at night, using the light from a single camping lantern.
A more powerful lantern for camping is especially beneficial if you plan to stay up well after dark playing a group game like cards that requires decent lighting.
Expected Weather Conditions
Fuel-burning lanterns, like the classic Coleman Lantern, perform better in cold temperatures than most electric lanterns.
The exception is electric models that are powered with lithium or lithium-ion batteries. These batteries work better in the cold than traditional alkaline batteries.
That said, most battery-powered lanterns, even those with alkaline batteries, perform well in temperatures down to 20°F.
A handy camping hack is to carry your alkaline batteries in your pocket to keep them warm while backpacking in very cold weather. Then just put them into your lantern before you need to use it at night.
What About Emergency Lanterns?
One of the benefits of buying a lantern for camping is that you can also use it at home for emergencies.
The best camp lanterns are extremely useful in power outages. Both fuel-burning and electric models make great emergency lanterns.
If you live somewhere prone to natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes that have the potential to knock out electricity for days on end, then a lantern with a long battery life is essential.
Although the UST 30-Day Emergency and Outdoor Survival Lantern is our top-rated recommendation, any solar-powered lantern is an excellent choice.
A solar lantern ensures you will have light for pretty much any period of days even without access to electricity. The best models will also charge your other devices thanks to built-in USB ports.
Best Camping Lantern Accessories
Here are a few camping lantern accessories that can make your lantern more effective and easier to use.
Although most battery-operated lanterns are quite durable, the majority of fuel-powered lanterns are still quite delicate. A lantern carrying case will help keep yours safe.
A fuel funnel makes filling liquid fuel lanterns much easier. In addition to ensuring that there are no spills, a fuel funnel also automatically stops filling at the correct fuel level. The Coleman Fuel Funnel can also be used with Coleman camp stoves.
Hang your camping lantern from a lantern hanger to illuminate your campsite from above.
No trees or other tall objects at your campsite? Then a lantern stand is for you. A portable lantern stand for camping ensures you always have somewhere to hang your camping lantern so that it provides the most illumination possible.
Other Camp Lighting Options
A camp lantern isn’t the right camping light source for everyone.
There are a number of alternative light sources to choose from, including flashlights and headlamps. Many campers bring a lantern for group use around their campsite and a flashlight or headlamp for individual use.
Here are five alternative camping light sources.
Humans have been using fire for warmth and light among other uses for thousands of years. Today, a campfire is still one of the best ways to light your campsite. Not only does a campfire provide central lighting, but it also creates a cozy camping atmosphere. Here are five ways to build a campfire and a great camping hack to use recycled newspaper as campfire logs.
A flashlight is one of the most classic ways to illuminate darkness while camping. Modern flashlights typically utilize batteries to power bright LED lights that shine a direct beam of light into the darkness. They don’t provide central lighting like a camp lantern, but they are useful tools for completing tasks, navigating a trail, or looking for something at night.
Headlamps are an extremely popular outdoor lighting option for camping. A quality headlamp is just as bright and powerful as a flashlight but doesn’t require you to use your hands to operate. This makes LED headlamps very useful when performing camping tasks at night or in low light.
Spotlights are notable for their intense, focused beams of light. Although some flashlights can double as spotlights, a dedicated spotlight is much brighter and more powerful. They’re a great way to brightly illuminate a specific area while camping.
Outdoor string lights are an excellent way to add an extra dose of coziness to your campsite. Battery-powered models are the best choice for camping as they don’t require an outside power source. In addition to tent camping, many people use string lights in their camper vans and RVs.
Assess and prioritize your own needs to select the best camping lantern for your next camping or backpacking trip.
Although countless camp lanterns will get the job done, few are better than the Black Diamond Apollo. It’s bright, lightweight, and durable – plus, it won’t break the bank.
Still not sure which camping lantern is best for you? Don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to help answer any questions!