Shine a Light: The Best LED Lanterns for under $100
The Coleman duel-fuel lantern was a classic of camping yesteryear. Boasting 1.3-pint fuel capacity and 861 lumens of power within a steel-encased design, it offered a welcome dousing of warm light whether prepping delectable s’mores or playing cards beneath the stars. However, fuel-burning lanterns don’t offer the kind of compact build, quiet operation, and sheer safety of the modern LED lantern. The recent revolution of LED has spurred quality lantern offerings from the likes of Coleman and L.L. Bean to Black Diamond and Snow Peak, each offering lightweight construction while retaining hallmark hanging loops and an all-too-familiar design. They may not tout the kind of light intensity of their propane-guzzling counterparts, but there is something to be said for marathon battery life and rugged convenience while posting up in the great outdoors.
The classic image of a lantern isn’t one likely stowed in the your pack while trekking through the backcountry. However, Snow Peak’s miniature lantern touts the same landmarks as the company’s full-fledged model within a flexible, silicon design weighing less than 2 ounces. The lantern’s battery life is robust, pushing more than 70 hours on three AAA batteries, and the compact device even includes a magnetic closure for conveniently clipping it to your pack or tent. Moreover, Mini Hozuki comes in three colors — blue, green, and white — and features three light settings. It even offers both a strobe and candlelight setting for when for those times when you need a dance party and mood lighting, respectively.
Like the aforementioned Mini Hozuki, Coleman’s backpack-based offering is precisely designed to not tip the scales. The 6-oz lantern snaps from a flashlight to lantern in seconds, allowing directional and area lighting capable of up to 92 hours of run time using three AA batteries, while basking in a yellow-jacket colored encasing for easy visibility. Moreover, it touts lifetime LEDs that will never need to be replaced, measures around 7 inches in length, and includes a three-year warranty should anything prove faulty while out on the trail. It’s the best of both worlds with rock-bottom pricing to match.
Batteries and butane may be finite, but solar is forever. Not only does d.light Design’s S20 offer USB charging via a standard USB cable or a standard Nokia AC charger, but users can also charge the eight-hour battery using the device’s integrated solar panel. The lantern additionally offers two lighting settings, high and medium, as well as glow-in-the-dark switch for turning the device on and off at night or in low-lit conditions. The detachable multi-position handle ensures flexibility in any position, and though cylindrical design isn’t the most lightweight of the bunch, it’s weather and impact resistant. The S20 even touts an indicator light so you’ll always know how dire your situation is before it’s too late.
Gorillatorch Switchback — $35
When it comes to versatility, few lantern manufacturers have the Gorillatorch Switchback beat. The hefty device is essentially a headlight moonlighting as a lantern, packing five differing LED lights and boasting adjustability from 5 to 130 lumens. The sleek design allows users to attach the device to their forehead using the included ergonomic headband, or simply fold the lighting components into the white lantern encasing for 360-degree use. Moreover, the LED array includes a both a flood light and a red light for night vision purposes, and the device features Joby’s bendable tripod legs for the utmost flexibility in any situation — whether resting on the picnic table or hanging from a low branch.
Black Diamond’s Voyager lantern is known for two things: a 50-lumen flashlight and a 75-lumen lantern. Users can switch the somewhat-bulky device between the two settings with the simple flick of a switch, and though the need to simultaneously utilize both modes at once is likely rare, the Voyager provides the option just in case. Its outer casing is durable and available in four distinct colors (black, blue, white, and gray), and features a collapsible double-hook hang loop on the top for easy storage while traveling or convenient hanging while milling around camp. The Voyager can also last more than 100 hours on four AA batteries, rendering it the longest-lasting lantern on our list.
The Sportsman LED Lantern doesn’t offer anything in the attractive design aesthetics or versatile features, but who says it needs to? Rayovac’s offering is a no-frills, 4-watt package designed to put out 240 lumens across three lighting modes (high, low, and strobe). The compact device is water-resistant akin to most lanterns, but additionally includes a lifetime warranty and a green LED locator that blinks every five seconds when the lantern is off for quick locating in the dark. The battery life is commendable as well, offering up to 90 hours while in energy-saving mode, and the device’s rubberized handle and fold-out hook make carrying and setup a breeze whether on the trail or in a tent.
LuminAID Pillow Light — $20
Not all lanterns come in a cylindrical design — LuminAID’s Pillow Light is evident of that. Two design students developed the inflatable device shortly after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, constructing a pillow-like lantern of semi-transparent materials that can float and function while submerged in up to a meter of water. It sports a lithium-polymer ion battery, similar to that of most cellphones, one rechargeable for up to 16 hours of run time using a mere six hours of sunlight. The solar device is also capable of holding a full charge for more than four months and includes a small snap for securely folding and attaching the small package via an equipped carabiner loop. Two light settings provide additional comfort, even if it still isn’t the best lantern to rest your head upon.
Uko Arka — $70
It’s widely understood electronic devices are a big taboo in the great outdoors. However, sometimes it’s impossible to shut off the tech world, especially if you’re a photographer or faced with an emergency situation. Fortunately, the Uko Arka is a quality lantern doubling as a charging station for USB devices. The streamlined device burns up to eight hours on the highest lightest settings — 100 hours on the lowest — and includes three red, LED modes that function as tactical night vision and S.O.S. emergency strobes. Additionally, the collapsible lantern’s split ring allows for hanging and the frosted globe slides down for flashlight use. The Arka may need a normal electrical socket to charge, but your USB will not.
Let’s be honest, L.L. Bean isn’t known for ruggedness or its keen sense of fashion. The company’s 10-day Camp Lantern is exactly what the name implies, offering 10 days of uninterrupted light on lower power. The device’s cherry-red encasing sports water-resistant construction and a convenient dimmer switch for adjusting the brightness up to 160 lumens, while the simple hook atop the device allows users to carry the lantern on the go with little hassle. It’s not particularly flashy, nor is it lightweight when equipped with the necessary four D batteries, but the 10-day Camp Lantern offers something most modern-day devices do not: simplicity.
Few camping lanterns offer a IPX7 waterproof rating, and those that do, rarely boast 175 hours of continuous use on the highest LED setting. Dorcy’s 160-lumen lantern does just that, combining a waterproof enclosure with remarkable battery life on any brightness setting. The lengthy device additionally sports army-green construction and a pop-hanger for hands-free use, and can even float akin to the aforementioned LuminAID Pillow Light (sans the inflatable build). Four D-cell batteries power the device, and though it likely won’t impress your friends around the fire, you also won’t find yourself swearing when it falls overboard on your next fishing excursion.