The first camping trip of fall is always a cause for celebration. In this year of the never-ending pandemic, it’s more true than ever. And the best tool for turning up the fun and festivity of a campsite? Lighting, of course. After months of catalog browsing and daydreaming about our ideal post-quarantine camping trip, we’ve assembled a shortlist of the best camping lantern and camping light options that will make your inaugural outdoor vacation worth the wait.
Before you start virtually window shopping, however, consider the lumen output of any camp light you’re interested in. Unlike wattage (which only measures energy usage and not brightness), the lumen rating provides an objective level of a light’s brightness. For reference, consider that a traditional 60-watt household bulb puts out about 800 lumens. That’s overkill for most campsite usage, which is why ambient camp lighting like string or rope lights is usually around 75 to 100 lumens, most outdoor headlamps are in the 200-400 range, and the brightest camp lanterns are 500 lumens or more.
Best Lantern for Camping Overall
Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern
Goal Zero’s newly upgraded Lighthouse 600 Lantern features a traditional camping lantern design in an ultra-compact footprint. In fact, it’s one of the smallest lanterns we’ve tested. The 600-lumen output also makes it one of the brightest, though all that illumination is easily adjustable with a grippy knob to focus the light either 360 degrees or from just one half of the light ring. The 5200mAh battery provides plenty of nighttime use, and it’s rechargeable via USB, solar panels, or the integrated hand crank. The latter makes it especially useful in emergency situations or anywhere without access to a reliable power source. Plus, the internal battery can also double as a backup power bank to top up your smartphone or other small devices.
Best Lantern for Camping Parties
BioLite Base Lantern XL
If you’re coming to your campsite ready to rage, make sure to bring the Base Lantern XL along for the party. Not only does the 12,000mAh rechargeable li-on battery offer heavyweight illumination, but the Bluetooth compatibility lets the lantern sync its color change options with your tunes. Even if it’s just you and the great outdoors, this lantern will turn any campsite into an outdoor festival.
Most Versatile Camping Light
Goal Zero Torch 500
Another upgraded product in Goal Zero’s 2020 catalog, the Torch 500 is lightweight, compact, and incredibly versatile. The ruggedized body is about the size of a traditional household flashlight, but the IP67 rating means it’s resistant to drops, dust, and shakes, plus water-resistant to a depth of one meter for up to half an hour. The 500-lumen output is usable as a focused flashlight beam or a broad lantern-style pattern that’s perfect for camp-side tasks. The coolest part is that it’s both solar and USB-C rechargeable.
Best Solar Camping Light
MPowerd Luci Outdoor 2.0
The best camping lantern is the one that never dies. MPowerd’s inflatable Luci Outdoor 2.0 solar camp lantern is lightweight, ultra-packable, and charges in just seven hours. The cool white LEDs put out a relaxing 70 lumens. String a few around basecamp, and you’ll have more than enough light for everyday tasks and relaxing by the fire. It’s a steal at less than $25 retail.
Best Designer Camp Lamp
Snowpeak Hozuki Lantern
We absolutely love the simple, clean design and superior functionality of this Japanese outdoor company, and the battery-powered Hozuki Lantern is one of the best examples of the brand’s workmanship. One of its coolest features is the Candle Mode, which interplays with ambient wind and sound to create a soft flickering glow; when the surrounding space falls silent, the lantern automatically shifts into energy-saving Sleep Mode.
Best String Lights for Camping
Big Agnes mtnGLO Tent & Camp Lights
This 100-inch string of multi-color-option LED bulbs is encased in lightweight nylon tubing, making it perfect for campsites with a lot of action (read: lots of kids, pets, or overexcited adults running around). If you prefer to centralize your illumination, stuff the string into the pyramidal carrying sack for a makeshift lantern.
Best Rope Lights for Camping
Power Practical Luminoodle Light Rope
Where string lights provide a gentle, atmospheric glow for your outdoor escapades, rope lights tend to be brighter and more functional. The Luminoodle Light Rope is a durable, waterproof tube of lights that can be hung, strung, stuck, or magnetized just about anywhere. The strands come in five- and ten-foot lengths, in both bright white or colored varieties. Just be sure to have a small USB battery for lantern use as the Luminoodle doesn’t hold a charge on its own.
Best Modular Lighting for Camping
Knog PWR Lantern 300L
For the avid outdoorsmen into all manner of adventure, it helps to have tools that work and play well together. Knog’s PWR Modular System includes a range of devices from camp lanterns and flashlights to bike lights and outdoor speakers. What ties them together is they all run off of one type of battery. Start with the PWR Lantern 300L that includes a small battery, and build up your modular outdoor kit from there.
Best Candle-Powered Lantern
UCO Candle Lantern
Battery-operated lanterns always seem to die when you need them most. Kick it old-school with this reliable aluminum candle lantern from UCO. Its rugged, collapsible construction makes it easy to fit into any camp box, and its spring-loaded tube keeps pushing the candle upward for a consistent flame as long as 12 hours. Plus, it does double duty as a bug repellent when loaded with a citronella candle.
Best Traditional Camp Lamp
Coleman Northstar Propane Lantern
For an old-school, no-nonsense camp lamp that just plain works, it’s hard to beat Coleman’s Northstar Propane Lantern. This tried-and-true classic is one of the brightest camp lanterns on the market with more than 1,500 lumens. It also ensures easy operation with a simple push-button ignition and a PerfectFlow internal fuel system to control gas flow and light output.
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