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The Very Best Camping Lanterns

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of retailer

Although it might not seem as important as a tent or first-aid kit, a powerful, reliable lantern is essential for both comfort and safety on any camping trip. Camping lanterns come in all shapes and sizes these days, so picking the right one can be tricky. To make it easier for you, we spoke to outdoor and camping-gear experts to get their recommendations for the lanterns they use to light up their campsite. For other camping and hiking-gear recommendations, check out our guides to camping hammocks, hiking and backpacking essentials, camping stoves, and camping chairs.

Best overall | Best (less-expensive) overall | Best for groups | Best solar-powered | Best less-expensive solar-powered | Best for camp meals | Best string lights

What we’re looking for

Brightness: A lantern’s brightness is measured in lumens, and any model that emits at least 100 to 200 lumens will provide enough light to let you see around camp. More ornamental lights, like string lights, which we’ve included in this list, emit around 60 to 100 lumens and are not meant to illuminate a big space.

Power source: Most modern camping lanterns are powered by traditional batteries, rechargeable batteries (some of which are solar-powered), and gas. If you’re using gas to cook at camp, then gas-powered lanterns can be efficient, as you can use up excess fuel that might otherwise get tossed. But gas-powered lanterns create a flame and therefore heat. If you’re looking for a light source to use in closed spaces like a tent, use a lantern powered by electricity.

Weight: A lantern’s weight can also inform how portable it is. Some models weigh over a pound and are better suited for car camping, while others are lightweight — almost always because they’re inflatable — and appropriate for backpacking.

Run time: A lantern battery dying in the middle of a lively camp meal can be a total bummer. Since we haven’t actually measured each model’s max run time, we’ve listed each model’s claimed run time.

Charging capabilities: Many of these models have built-in USB ports in their batteries, which allow you to charge other devices like your phone or headlamp.

Best overall camping lantern

500 lumens | Rechargeable battery | 13.4 oz | 200 hours on lowest setting | 1 USB output for charging

The grapefruit-size BioLite AlpenGlow comes recommended by three of our experts, all of whom cited its versatility. It’s a complete camping lantern that offers a handful of useful features, like multicolor modes (which you can change by shaking the lantern), “cool white” and “warm white” settings, a charging port, and the ability to dim brightness. “The Biolite AlpenGlow is the most versatile portable light I’ve ever owned, both outdoors and at home,” says writer and gear columnist Ebony Roberts. “I take it camping and on road trips, and it’s also my go-to for backyard BBQs and entertaining friends. It’s bright when it needs to be but fully dimmable, doubling as a reading light before bed that lasts for days without needing a recharge. The color-changing modes are fun, and the one-button design makes it easy to use, even for kids. I also like that I can use it to juice up my phone when the battery’s low.”

Freelance writer and Outside gear reviewer Jakob Schiller likes the size and portability of the smaller 250-lumens version of the AlpenGlow: “What I’ve found is that you don’t need some huge lantern. You just want to be able to light up your table area. If I’m moving around or need to light up my tent, I use a headlamp,” he says. “My wife hates having some bright orb in the middle of the table, and this one throws a decently soft light,” he continues.

I’ve used the AlpenGlow 500 for multiple trips and liked how it illuminated the camp kitchen and allowed me to do my tasks, but it also cast a soft, bright light that created a calming vibe.

Best less-expensive overall camping lantern

200 lumens | Alkaline batteries or rechargeable battery (bought separately) | 3.7 oz | 70 hours on lowest setting | No USB outputs

This 200-lumen lantern from Black Diamond is the perfect addition to any camping or hiking trip in which you’ll be using a headlamp. “I went camping in the Tetons last summer for a week, and I kept this at the campsite the whole time,” writes Strategist editor Maxine Builder. The Moji doesn’t have any carrying handles, so it’s not great for carrying around, Builder says (but that’s what headlamps are for anyway). “It was great for lighting our dinner when you don’t want to feel like you’ve got headlamp tunnel vision and for just hanging out in the tent.” If you’re looking for a companion to help boost visibility at an already headlamp-lit campsite, look to the Moji. “It’s just so small and unobtrusive and cute,” Builder says.

Best camping lantern for groups

800 lumens (base); 100 lumens (panels) | 4 or 8 D-cell batteries (base) | 3 AAA batteries (per panel) | 3 pounds | 400 hours on low for base, 3 hours for panels | 1 USB charging port

The Coleman Quad Pro comes recommended to us by Strategist contributor Steven John, who brings this three-pound lantern along every time he camps. It’s ideal for big groups, where multiple people will need separate light sources (if they don’t already have headlamps). “Every time I go camping, one of the first things on my campsite-setup checklist is hanging my Coleman Quad Pro lantern somewhere near the middle of the site. That way, as soon as the sun goes down, I can light up a few dozen square feet at the push of a button,” he writes. “Each LED panel can also be popped off to serve as its own smaller lantern, casting 180 degrees of light, or used as flashlights.”

Best solar-powered camping lantern

300 lumens | Solar-powered battery (rechargeable) | 12.5 oz | 100 hours on lowest setting | USB charging port

The Titan has a 16-square-inch solar panel on top of it, which makes it great for hiking and backpacking. You can hang it or clip it to the outside of your pack during the day while it soaks up the sun, and then you’ll have a fully charged light (and power) source at night.

This was my primary lantern on a ten-day road- and car-camping trip last year across the West and in California. I like the fact that it twists to expand as opposed to needing to be inflated — a very welcome feature when I was tired from full days of climbing. The exterior is a soft, frosted plastic that isn’t harsh on the eyes.

We also featured the less-powerful cousin of the Titan, the Max, in our roundup of the gear that could help you survive a power outage. It came highly recommended to us by Jason Charles, president of the New York City Preppers Network.

Builder used the even smaller version of the Titan, the 75-lumen Nova, on a recent sailing trip. “There’s a nice strap that we connected to the boom, and were able to use it to light the deck while we ate dinner,” she says.

Best less-expensive solar-powered camping lantern

150 lumens | Solar-powered battery (rechargeable) | 6.1 oz | 50 hours on lowest setting | USB charging port

For a slightly more affordable (and lighter) alternative to the LuminAID, look to the popular Mpowerd Luci lantern. This inflatable model comes recommended by writer and gear reviewer Miyo McGinn, who used the Outdoor 2.0 on her many drives across the western United States. “It’s great for the van because it crushes down flat when I’m not using it and can get tossed around a bit. I once dropped my entire bed on the solar-panel part and it still works fine,” she says. “The solar battery recharges no problem in a couple hours on my dash, no cables.”

Best lantern for camp meals

Less than 100 lumens | Gas-powered | 3.6 ounces

This beautifully crafted mini-lantern impressed Strategist contributor Matt Goulet, who appreciates how the Mini Flame’s design allows you to use up the last bits of gas in camp fuel canisters. “The light is about four-and-a-half-inches tall, and it screws right onto the fuel canisters you’d use for traditional lanterns,” Goulet writes. “Light it, and a little orange flame begins bouncing in the small glass hurricane, casting the quiet, comforting glow of an enormous candle across your picnic table.” This lantern won’t light up your entire campsite; it’s best as an accent light during a meal. “Like a lantern at its lowest setting, it casts just enough light to keep me from tripping when I head inside to refill my drink but not enough to disturb the peace and dark around me.”

Best string lights

100 lumens | Solar powered battery | 11.3 ounces | 20 hours on lowest setting | USB charging ports

If you want to create a warm and festive ambiance at camp, look to a set of string lights. What makes these lights different from traditional Christmas tree-style lights is that they are directly connected to a solar-powered battery, just like the brand’s inflatable Luci lantern above. Mpowerd designed this with portability in mind; the bulbs connected to the 18-foot cord all wrap around the unit and store neatly inside of it.

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The Very Best Camping Lanterns