Got a case of the pandemic lockdown blues? Itching to experience the great outdoors once again? We hear you and we've got just the solution: camping! A socially distanced activity like this one brings you closer to nature, which helps to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. But when the sun goes down and darkness falls on your surroundings, you're going to need some lighting for safety and security, and we're talking about a camp lantern! So after endless months of catalog browsing and daydreaming about our ideal camping trip, we’ve assembled a shortlist of the best camping lanterns and battery-operated lanterns that will make your outdoor journey shine.
Before purchasing the best lantern for camping, be sure to consider its lumen output. Unlike wattage (which measures only 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- to the 400-lumen range, and the brightest camp lanterns are 500 lumens or more. Our list of the best camping lights will help you narrow down your options.
Best Lantern for Camping Overall
Goal Zero Lighthouse 600
Goal Zero’s newly upgraded Lighthouse 600 Lantern features a traditional camp lamp design in an ultracompact 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 of that illumination is easily adjustable with a grippy knob to focus the light (either 360 degrees or from just half of the light ring). The 5,200mAh battery provides plenty of nighttime use as well, and it’s rechargeable via USB, solar panels, or the integrated hand crank. The crank makes it especially useful for emergency situations or anywhere without access to a reliable power source. Additionally, the internal battery can double as a backup power bank to top up your smartphone or other small devices.
Best Lantern for Camping Parties
Goal Zero Torch 500
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 as well. Plus, it's water-resistant to a depth of one meter for up to half an hour. The 500-lumen output is also usable as a focused flashlight beam or a broad lantern-style pattern that’s perfect for campsite 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 pit. It’s a steal at less than $25 retail.
Best Designer Camp Lamp
Snowpeak Hozuki Lantern
We absolutely love the simplicity, clean design, and superior functionality of this battery-powered Hozuki Lantern. One of its coolest features is the "candle mode," which interplays between ambient winds and sounds to create a soft flickering glow. And when the surrounding space falls silent, the lantern automatically shifts into an energy-saving "sleep mode."
Best String Lights for Camping
Big Agnes mtnGLO Tent & Camp Lights
This 100-inch string of multicolor-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
While 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, as well as in bright white and 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 outdoorsman who loves adventures, 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 that 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 the 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 pulls 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 a very bright camping lantern, with more than 1,500 lumens to boot. It also ensures easy operation with simple push-button ignition and a PerfectFlow internal fuel system to control gas flow and light output.
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