When you want to head into the wilderness and bring along some the comforts of modern convenience, you’ll probably reach for the lantern.
While there are plenty of ways to make light in the backcountry – headlamps, flashlights, etc. – a lantern really can be a decent option for a static location.
It’s easy to dismiss even the best camping lanterns as bulky, heavy, or inefficient but with improvements to LED tech and battery tech, they’ve become more viable.
Today’s camping lanterns are flameless and can last for days on a single battery charge. They’re best suited for staying at a campsite for extended durations or hanging out with the family at the campground or cottage.
Quick Answer: The Best Camping Lantern
- Coleman Quad(TM) LED Lantern
- Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern With USB Battery Charger
- Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern
- Etekcity 2 Pack Portable Outdoor LED Camping Lanterns
- Tough Light LED Rechargeable Camping Lantern
- Suaoki Collapsible Led Camping Lantern
- CORE 500 Lumen CREE LED Battery Lantern
Let’s take a look at the top rated camping lanterns, then we’ll talk about how to choose one for you in our guide below.
Best Camping Lanterns
Camping Lantern Reviews
This large lantern operates on an innovative platform. With four individual lanterns attached in a circular pattern to a charging dock, it can be used as a single 360-degree lantern, or four individual lanterns.
The main lantern body relies on 8 D batteries which may be a drawback for some folks as they’re large, heavy and expensive. I would recommend using rechargeable batteries for the Coleman Quad. The upside to using several D batteries is an overall 75 hours of run time for the lantern.
The Coleman Quad is a very unique design for a camping lantern and unlike any other lantern on the market. Each individual lantern panel is rechargeable and can operate in standalone mode for up to 1.5 hours at a time
Video: Overview of the Coleman Quad Lantern.
Once you place the LED panel back in the stand it will start recharging. The LEDs have a 5 year warranty and are cool to the touch, making this lantern perfect for use inside your tent.
With 47 lumens of output per panel, you’ll have a total of 188 lumens from the best rechargeable led lantern.
Goal Zero is known for outdoor and off-grid power products from solar chargers to battery packs. They’ve brought their industry experience to develop this camping lantern with an impressive 4,400 mAh battery and USB charging capability.
That’s enough juice to recharge your iPhone and run the lantern! With collapsible legs and a hanging hook, you can find a place for this lantern in the tent, truck, or picnic table.
In my opinion this is best rechargeable camping lantern, even more so when you use the optional solar panel for recharging the battery.
Video: Overview of the Lighthouse Mini Lantern.
The down side is that the battery is non-replaceable meaning that you’ll need to recharge the lantern before being able to use it again. For this reason I would highly recommend you bring along a solar panel recharger.
In some camping situations, this is inconvenient or impossible. If you want a battery pack for recharging electronic devices, a lantern, plus what may be the brightest led lantern in one package the Goal Zero is for you!
Make no mistake, this is no lantern for inside the tent. This is the real-deal, tried and true gas lantern your grandfather relied on.
Coleman has been making this camping and outdoor lighting staple for years. There’s a reason it’s been well-loved for years – the 861 lumens 360-degree lighting output makes it the brightest camping lantern!
You’ll want to use this for extremely bright flood lighting on the picnic table, and not inside the tent. These lanterns do put out a considerable amount of heat.
Once you learn to use them, though, you’ll rely on the 7-hour run time gas powered lantern for any high caliber lighting needs. It runs on Coleman white gas or gasoline so the fuel is easy to find!
Knocking out almost all of our criteria for a great camping lantern in one fell swoop, the Etekcity lantern has it covered. This lantern is packing 30 LED lights in a circular arrangement for full directional lighting. They’ve included the AA batteries needed to run the lanterns and promise up to 12 hours of continuous run time.
With a 10-year warranty, collapsible design, and durable build there’s not much to worry about with these lanterns.
I’d advise that you not try to break them, but they should be relatively durable and quite functional for the occasional family camping trip to keep the tent lit at night!
The Etekcity being so inexpensive, make these the best led lanterns for power outages because they use standard AA batteries and provide a solid 60 lumens of 360 degree lighting.
Need some bright light at the campsite? Well you found it with the Tough Light. In high output mode it throws out an impressive 400 lumens for an impressive 16 hours! What makes the Tough Light even better is its rechargeable. The 6000mAh lithium ion battery recharges with a standard USB charger that you use for your phone, tablet etc.
This thing is seriously tough, its made for the abuse it will get on a camping trip and can take being dropped from 5 feet. The rubber outer coating is water resistant and the seals have rubber O-rings to keep out the water.
One of its best features is that you can recharge your electronics like your phone, camera or tablet from the Tough Light. The lens of the Tough Light is not clear but a “diffuser” lens so that the light spreads out better and doesn’t blind you like many other camping lanterns do.
It also has settings for SOS, a flashing light that lasts for well over 200 hours and a red light that flashes for emergencies.
- High Power 400 Lumens – 16 Hours
- Low Power 100 Lumens – 200 Hours
- SOS Beacon – 265 Hours
- Red Light Hazard – 525 Hours
With several brightness settings and a 50,000 hour rated life on the light and batteries the Tough Light is and in my opinion the best backpacking lantern.
The Suaoki is the perfect light for hanging inside your tent. The unique “clover” design is not overpoweringly bright and just right for lighting up your tent for reading or getting ready for bed.
What I really like about the Suaoki is that it is SOLAR rechargeable. On the opposite side of the clover leafs are solar panels that will in bright sunshine charge the Suaoki in about 3.5 hours.
If you are looking for solar recharging capability, the Suaoki is probably the best solar camping lantern, especially considering it’s low price.
Each of the leaves can be independently adjusted and even functions as a flashlight if you fold them all flat.
The Suaoki is rechargeable using a standard USB charger as well. It folds up small, not much bigger than a smart phone and is extremely light. It’s a great option for a backpacking lantern because it packs up so well and fits nicely in your backpack.
It has 3 lighting modes; high, low and SOS flashing and is the best camping light or perfect for your next tailgate party.
This creative lantern is tiny when in use and even smaller when collapsed. Featuring a 100,000 hour LED running off of 3 D batteries.
On the low light mode, you’ll get a run time of up to 19 hours which is pretty impressive to me! One of my favorite features which is pretty common on camping lanterns is are a few different brightness modes.
If you’re looking to really light up a large area, this definitely a good option. Looking for a tiny, compact lantern that can go anywhere?
This is definitely your choice. The Core will be a good companion for minimal light in a tiny and lightweight package.
Camping Lantern Comparison Table
|Coleman Quad(TM) LED Lantern||8 D-cell batteries||190 Lumens||No||4.6 / 5.0|
|Goal Zero Lighthouse 400||Internal lithium battery||400 Lumens||Yes||4.6 / 5.0|
|Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern||Liquid Fuel or unleaded gasoline||700 Lumens||No||4.2 / 5.0|
|Etekcity Portable Outdoor LED Camping Lantern||6 AA batteries||N/A||No||4.7 / 5.0|
|Tough Light LED Rechargeable Lantern||Internal lithium battery||400 Lumens||Yes||4.5 / 5.0|
|Suaoki Collapsible 18 Led Camping Tent Lantern||Internal lithium battery||N/A||USB / Solar||4.5 / 5.0|
|CORE 500 Lumen CREE LED Battery Lantern||3 D batteries||500 Lumens||No||4.5 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Camping Lantern for You
Camping Lanterns: Gas or Electric(LED)
Today most people choose electric lanterns for their reusability, simplicity, and safety. There are still reasons to go with a gas lantern however. Let’s take look at some of the pros and cons:
- No electricity required
- Can emit as much or more light than many electric models
- Will run as long as you have fuel which is still easy to find
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Can be adapted for other uses including heat source
- Needs no gas or fuel
- No spilling of fuel or smoke
- Rechargeable using solar or outlets
- Adjustable lighting and light modes
With traditional gas camping lanterns, light output could only be regulated by shielding the light with a shutter, or trying to carefully adjust the gas output of the flame. Today we’re fortunate enough to have LED lanterns with variable outputs and functions.
The best LED camping lanterns have adjustable light levels. You may want to search for lanterns with emergency strobe or SOS output functions as well.
As the portable lighting industry changes rapidly today, you’re unlikely to find many camping lanterns still sporting incandescent bulbs. Just to be sure, thought, make certain that you’re getting a camping lantern with good LED lighting.
If you’re taking the lantern camping, there’s a pretty high probability that you’ll have to carry it on your back at some point. After all, many camping trips involve hiking or, at the very least, carrying gear from the car. For this reason, it just makes sense to keep your equipment lightweight.
Avoid huge lanterns when possible as they’ll take up extra room in the trunk. If you’re hanging your lantern from the tent, you’ll want one that’s compact and lightweight anyways – so it doesn’t collapse the tent
Headlamp or Lantern
Depending on what you are trying to accomplish will determine which is better for your needs. If you are looking to setup your tent after dark, a headlamp might be better suited because light will be directed exactly where you need it.
If you have a lantern you may have to constantly move it around to get enough light where you need it. Not to mention you would ideally want to hang it up so as the light will better illuminate your working area.
If you need to light up a larger area such as a campsite or large tent, a lantern will be a better option as a headlamp is usually suited to direct light in a narrow area.
Lanterns are measured in lumens. The larger area you need to light up, the more lumens you will need. However it’s not that simple, if you have a lantern that spreads out the light in a 360 degree pattern, you would need a lot more power than if you have a lantern that you can direct to light into an area.
Some lanterns have this feature of being able to focus the light of spread it out evenly. If you are just trying to illuminate a tent, a 100-200 lumens will be sufficient. If you are looking to light up a campsite, look for at least 700 and maybe even a 1000 lumens. If you have a large campsite, if you might need two or more lanterns.
Most any camping equipment is going to be subject to abuse. It will be dropped, rained on, tossed into the back of your vehicle. It will need to be able to withstand a few knocks and bumps. Most camping lanterns have some degree of water resistance. If you think you will be camping in the rain, look for a waterproof lantern.
If you are not the type of person to baby your equipment, you will want to go with an LED lantern. These lanterns will withstand more abuse than the older style lanterns that require a flammable liquid like the Coleman Dual fuel.
If you will be using it around a lake or while canoeing, look for a lantern that is not only waterproof but also floats if you happen to drop in the water.
Lastly, while not related to durability, consider the battery life and how you will recharge it. If you are just going out for a night or two you probably will not need to recharge your lantern.
If you are going out for an extended time, you will need to consider how you will recharge it. Some lanterns have solar panels to recharge it during the day. While these lanterns cost more, the convenience will be worth it.
If you are taking your smart phone or other electronics with you like a GPS, you will need to recharge them. Several of the lanterns on our list come with USB ports that you can plug in your portable electronics and recharge them overnight.
With the prevalence of portable electronics like phones, tablets and portable GPS mapping units having a way of recharging them is a very convenient option.
The Goal Zero is a great option in this case, it has a USB output that will recharge just about any electronic device. If you pair it with a solar panel you will have a constant source of power.
FAQs About Lanterns
Q: Should I use a lantern or a headlamp?
A: Let’s take a hard look at what situations warrant a headlamp versus a lantern. Of course, you can always get one of both, but this should help you decided if buying a lantern is the best choice for you.
Lanterns are great for diffuse 360 degree lighting. Setting a lantern on the table or hanging it from the top of your tent are both great uses for the diffuse circumferential light provided by a lantern.
This full circle lighting is a real pain in the eyeballs sometimes though. For instance, when walking down a trail at night a lantern is a terrible choice. Because lanterns put out light in all directions, they will blind you!
For directional light that won’t blind you and everyone around you, a headlamp is a great choice. Particularly when you need portable hands-free lighting a headlamp is perfect such as walking down a trail, working on the car, or other tasks where you don’t want light shining back at you.
Q: Are gas lanterns outdated?
I sincerely think that gas lanterns have some great qualities that make them real contenders even against modern LED lanterns.
Gas lanterns put out an insane amount of light when operating at full power. On top of that, they radiate a bit of warmth which is nice on cold nights (though not so great in the summer). Finally, gas lanterns run on – gas – which means you don’t need to have access to an electrical plug or batteries.
Of course if you’re out of gas it’s just as bad as being out of power. However, in the case of a power outage or camping somewhere without electricity, a gas lantern might come in really handy!
Pro Tip: Do not burn a gas lantern inside closed spaces. They consume oxygen and emit heat so they can be dangerous particularly in or around fragile fabrics like a tent.
Q: What is the best color light to preserve night vision?
A: Ah, so your eyes have finally adjusted to the darkness around you. You can see more than just your hand in front of your face but someone turns on the light. Now your night vision adjusted eyes go back to almost blind as darkness once again consumes you.
Human eyes take a long time to adjust to darkness but we can help our eyes stay adjusted by using the right color light. For LED lanterns it’s easy to use the press of a button to switch from full spectrum light to red light.
Using red light helps to preserve night vision because our eyes don’t adjust to red light as much as they do to other colors of light. That means you can use red light to aid with nighttime tasks and, when you turn it off, you’ll still be able to see well in the dark!
Pro Tip: Red light also doesn’t travel as far as full spectrum light so you won’t bother those around you!
Q: Are there any other ways to keep my LED lantern charged?
A: Yes, indeed, there are!
There are a few options here and they’ll depend on what kind of plug you have. Finding a camping lantern that recharges by USB cable will provide the most versatile options. Lanterns that recharge with standard wall plugs will be harder to recharge in the field.
So, assuming you have a USB plug you can try some of these tricks:
- Use a portable power pack such as the RAV Power 22000
- Use a car battery jump pack such as the NOCO Genius
- Use the actual battery of your car, RV, or truck with a USB adapter
Don’t worry about draining your car or truck battery by charging your lantern. The battery in your vehicle has enough power to recharge most camping lanterns hundreds of times over.
Q: Should I take a lantern backpacking?
A: I would suggest not taking one.
While they’re not back breaking heavy, lanterns are really unnecessary most of the time on backpacking trips. There is an exception to this, however. If you’re going on a group trip that involves nighttime activities (such as writing in journals after a debriefing at the end of the day) it might be worth your time.
Since you’ll already be carrying a headlamp on any backpacking trip, you can get creative and avoid the need for a lantern.
Try arranging your headlamp so it shines through your water bottle. This will scatter the light and help create a lantern-like diffuse lighting you can use inside the tent to act like a lantern without having to carry one!
Take into consideration things like battery type, number of batteries, extra features, weight, and bulk before buying a camping lantern.
Remember that these sensitive electronics can easily be damaged by rain and misuse so look for a rugged and weatherproof lantern if you’re heading into the nastiest conditions!
There’s no doubt that LED lanterns are the most efficient and effective way to light the inside of your tent, car, or RV. Coleman’s time tested gas lantern can be a great choice for outdoor use where massive amounts of flood lighting are needed.
Every lantern has a perfect application and your unique needs will dictate which lanterns makes the most sense for your needs.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best camping lantern to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a lantern I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and be safe out there!