Getting away from the light pollution of the city and staring up at the unspoiled night sky is one of the best things about going camping. As breathtaking as it is to actually set eyes upon the Milky Way, however, you can only do so much by firelight, and you need some way to light up your campsite so you’re not stumbling around in the dark after the sun goes down.
Along with shelter, sleeping system, first aid kit, and food and drink, a good light source is an indispensable part of your camping kit. You likely already own a flashlight (and that’s another great thing to have in the field), but a camping lantern takes things a bit further by flooding a 360-degree area with light so you can see in the dark while keeping both hands free. This is especially useful for illuminating a camp kitchen or even the inside of a tent where a flashlight’s directed beam isn’t as helpful.
If you went camping when you were a tadpole, you may remember your parents firing up one of those old-school fuel lanterns that ran on propane or gasoline. While they worked, those gas-burning incandescent lanterns were hot and heavy, and as a potential fire hazard, could not be used at all inside a tent. Today’s camping lanterns are a totally different breed, running on batteries (some models are also rechargeable) and utilizing LEDs for bright, cool, and energy-efficient illumination – no clunky propane canisters or risk of fiery death involved.
This is a crowded market, but whatever sort of camping lantern you’re looking for, we’ve got it. These are the best portable lanterns available on Amazon right now, from ultralight backpacking LEDs to ones fit for multi-family campsites, and everything in-between:
Given that battery power has all but replaced gas lamps, LED camping lanterns can be found pretty much everywhere today. Most typically offer one or two days’ worth of continuous illumination, but what sets our top pick, the UST Duro, apart from the herd is its sheer longevity: The Duro camping lantern can deliver up to 30 days (that’s 720 hours) of light at its lowest setting, pretty much guaranteeing you won’t need to lug around extra D batteries.
At its highest setting, the Duro camping lantern can put out a whopping 700 lumens – another area in which this lamp outperforms most others on the market – and UST boasts that its LED bulb lasts for a lifetime (although obviously we couldn’t test that). Not bad at all for 40 bucks. There’s also afor around the same price if you’re so inclined, just be aware that it’s considerably larger.
Streamlight is a titan in the flashlight market. Its compact Siege camping lantern is no slouch, either: This portable LED lamp measures just over seven inches tall, yet puts out an impressively bright 540 lumens. D-rings on the top and bottom make it easy to hang the lantern it up at a campsite or inside a tent, and the LED cover can also be removed, letting the Siege camping lantern throw light in a wider area when it’s hung upside-down.
Its durable housing has an IPX7 waterproof rating and it’s drop-tested to six feet, so it’s built to handle the spills and bumps that come with camping (as you’d expect from Streamlight gear). What might be our favorite feature is the red LED mode that preserves both battery life and your night vision. The Siege camping lantern rings in at just $35, but if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can upgrade to an even beefier 1,100-lumen rechargeable model for $100.
If you want a rechargeable camping lantern and don’t want to shell out a Benjamin for the 1,100-lumen Siege, then a more cost-effective upgrade pick is the Lighthouse 400 from Goal Zero. Its 400-lumen output isn’t as powerful as that of some of our other picks, but it still delivers plenty of illumination for most peoples’ needs and is quite impressive given the Lighthouse’s relatively small frame (made even smaller thanks to its fold-up legs).
Along with its rechargeable design, the Goal Zero Lighthouse camping lantern pulls double duty as a charging hub, giving you a USB port for juicing up a smartphone or other portable device. When fully primed, the Lighthouse can run for up to 48 full hours – that’s as good as or better than some LED lamps that are considerably bulkier – and a built-in hand crank lets you top up the lantern’s battery when no other power source is available for charging.
Black Diamond makes a number of portable lamps, but the little Moji camping lantern is the one that stands the tallest among them (figuratively speaking, at least). This baseball-sized light weighs in at about three ounces with batteries installed, and its globe-style LED cover throws 100 lumens of light over a pretty wide area. That might not sound like a lot of lumens, but the Moji is surprisingly bright – it’s using LEDs after all – and it’s very power efficient as well, offering a very generous 70 hours of continuous run time on just three AAA batteries.
Two D-rings on top are perfect for hanging the Moji up inside your tent or even off of your pack, and its IPX4 water resistance rating means it’ll stand up to water splashes (just don’t submerge it, which is generally a good piece of advice for any lantern). At just $20 a piece, you can buy enough Moji lanterns for your whole camping party, and these are also handy to have around the house for emergencies and blackouts.
LED technology doesn’t just allow for brighter, lighter, more energy-efficient lamps, it also allows for some unique designs like the Coleman Quad camping lantern. This four-in-one unit features removable LED panels which connect to a central “hub” of sorts. Each panel can be pulled off and used for up to an hour and a half as a standalone light source (putting out almost 50 lumens), with panels recharging when re-attached to the base.
When everything’s together, the whole Coleman Quad camping lantern puts out 190 lumens’ worth of bright light and offers a total run time of up to 75 hours. The only major drawbacks we could find with this lamp is that it’s not as bright as other models in this size range (that’s the trade-off with a unique design like this) and it requires eight D-cell batteries, which can get expensive if you don’t use rechargeables. But if you want the best camping lantern for family outings, the Coleman Quad offers a lot of versatility for $40.
All of our picks offer some degree of impact- and water-resistance, which only makes sense given that these lamps are meant to be used outdoors. If you’re the type of adventurer who is unreasonably hard on your stuff, though, then you might want to consider a more over-built camping lantern like the aptly named Tough Light. This sturdy unit is drop-tested and boasts a boosted IPX6 water rating thanks to internal rubber O-rings, while putting out 400 lumens of light at its highest setting (and at its lowest output, it can run for up to 200 continuous hours).
The Tough Light isn’t just rugged, however; it also packs a few other very nice modern features. Its internal battery is rechargeable – no heavy, costly D-cells required – and it charges up via USB, allowing you to employ the same charging methods (including 12-volt DC car adapters) that you likely already use for your mobile devices. That same USB charging port also lets the Tough Light serve as a power bank for other gadgets. It’s somewhat pricey at $66, but the Tough Light offers a lot of bump-proof bang for your buck.
While not true “camping lanterns” in the traditional sense, these little all-plastic E-Trends light bulbs have become quite popular with the camping crowd lately. It’s not hard to see why given that they might be the most ingenious in-tent lighting solution we’ve ever seen. Their simple battery-powered design could not be easier to use, simply hanging up inside your tent (or anywhere else you’d like some light) and turning on and off with the press of a button.
Dead simple as they are, the E-Trends LED light bulbs actually do offer “high” and “low” settings as well as a strobe function. There’s also no reason you can’t grab one and use it as a flashlight in a pinch (such as when nature calls in the middle of the night). Better still is that the E-Trends LED bulbs are super affordable: At around $9 for a pair or $13 for a four-pack, you can easily and cheaply outfit an entire campsite with these things.
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