In this buyer’s guide, we explain the key features to look for when choosing lighting for your campsite or backpacking adventure, as well as our list of the best camping lanterns currently available.
Lanterns designed for camping come in a range of shapes and sizes and vary in features from the very basic to multi-functional rechargeable LED lights that can also charge your phone and can be replenished using solar power.
To read the buyer’s guide first, scroll down past our list of camping light recommendations, otherwise continue reading to see our top picks for the best battery-operated camp lanterns.
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1. Biolite Alpenglow 250 (and 500)
- Price: $60 (AlpenGlow 250) and $80 (AlpenGlow 500)
- Weight: 7.6oz (250) and 13.4oz (500)
- Runtime: 5hrs (high), 200hrs (low)
- Size: 3 x 3.7 inches (250) and 3.8 x 5.4 inches (500)
- Choose if: you don’t want to compromise on features and want the most versatile rechargeable LED lantern capable of adjustable dimming, light temperature and colors – plus a long battery life between charges.
These camping lanterns make for super camping gifts for family members, and kids will love all the color lighting effects you can produce by shaking it up and down like a snow globe.
Both sizes offer dimmable white light as well as features such as an ambient candlelight flicker, and a broad spectrum of different light colors.
With robust construction, good looks, ease of packability a hanging clip (for hanging in your tent or from a tree) and all the brightness and color features you could possibly want, these Biolite camping lanterns are at the top of our list.
For more photos and details of the different light and color features offered by these lanterns, as well as a very cool video demonstration of all the settings, head over to our full review.
3 new from $59.95
2. Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern
- Price: $70
- Weight: 1lb 1.6oz
- Runtime: 2 hrs (high), 48 hrs (low)
- Size: 6.5 x 5 x 4.5 inches
- Choose if: You want a powerful camping lantern capable of outputting plenty of bright light, and versatile charging options with both solar and manual crank capability.
Goal Zero’s bestselling Lighthouse 600 rechargeable camping lantern is a powerful, adjustable light suitable for activities such as car camping, outdoor events and as an emergency light in the event of a power failure or blackout.
This lantern offers three different ways of charging, either via USB, using solar power when combined with a separate solar panel, or manually using a hand crank.
With full sun or USB charging, you should expect the battery to be fully charged within 6 hours, and the backup option, the hand cranking, will get you 10 minutes of light for a minute of cranking.
It also has the capability to charge your phone and other gadgets, if needed, and collapsible legs make it easy to situate but still easily pack away when it’s time to head home.
While it doesn’t have the Biolite’s longer runtime, lighter weight or color options, this is a very popular and sturdy campsite or backyard lighting companion.
4 new from $69.95
out of stock
3. Black Diamond Apollo Lantern
- Price: $70
- Weight: 9.6 oz
- Runtime: 6hrs (high), 24hrs (low)
- Size: 3.3 x 5.3 inches
- Choose if: You want a compact, easy to use LED camping lantern with versatile charging options.
This LED Black Diamond lantern provides up to 225 lumens of glare-free, dimmable light, as well as a strobe function.
The ‘dual fuel’ setup gives you the option of using either its rechargeable lithium-ion battery or regular AA batteries for power.
This may be especially useful if you need a longer runtime between charges, as you can carry spare AA batteries for when the rechargeable one runs out.
Other features include the ability to charge your phone or other small gadgets via USB, a hang loop for using it as a tent light, and folding legs that give you more versatility when it comes to placement.
6 new from $91.35
4. Lander Boulder Rechargeable Lantern and Power Bank
- Price: $120
- Weight: 1lb 7.1oz
- Runtime: 5 hrs (high), 300 hrs (low)
- Size: 6.21 x 4.61 x 4.57 inches
- Choose if: You’re looking for a power lantern and power bank in one, for multiple days of use between charges.
One of the more expensive camping lights on this list, the Lander Boulder is another rechargeable LED lantern with plenty of added features and the ability to give off up to 350 lumens – more than enough for most campsite uses.
For starters, you can control a whole range of settings such as colors, dimming/brightness and strobe light using the Lander app. The app also gives you information such as battery life and status.
It doubles as a charging hub for up to four devices, including one being charged wirelessly – you can rest your wireless-charging-compatible smartphone on the top and it will top up your phone’s battery.
Like the Biolite AlpenGlow lanterns, this lantern offers a variety of color options as well as an impressive battery life – even longer than the AlpenGlow, albeit the 300 hrs assumes a very low light output (2.5 lumen).
As another benefit, it also has an IP65 dust and waterproof rating (this protects against water jets as opposed to submersion).
5. Black Diamond Moji Light
- Price: $25
- Weight: 3oz
- Runtime: 13 hrs (high), 70 hrs (low)
- Size: 3 x 3 x 2.5 inches
- Choose if: You want a lightweight, compact camping light suitable for using as a backpacking lantern or for backcountry camping where size and weight are important.
With its small size, lightweight and robust construction, plus an IPX4 waterproof rating that protects it against water splashes, this compact camping lantern is a great companion for backpacking adventures and backcountry camping.
Using 3x AAA batteries (not included), this Black Diamond light puts out 100 lumens – plenty for illuminating your small camping spot, and at a cost of $25 it represents great value for money.
For a rechargeable version, expect to pay $15 more – which is still a cost-effective $40 for a quality item of backpacking gear.
1 new from $59.99
out of stock
out of stock
6. Goal Zero Crush Solar Camping Light
- Price: $20
- Weight: 3.2oz
- Runtime: 3 hrs (high, 60 lumens), 35 hrs (low, 6 lumens)
- Size: 5 x 5 x 0.6 inches when collapsed
- Choose if: You’re a minimalist camper or backpacker and need a compact, lightweight and affordable rechargeable light for after dark cooking and chillaxing.
Another compact light, this Goal Zero camping lantern is collapsible down to just half an inch thick, and rechargeable using USB or solar power. It puts out 60 lumens on high, offers three different light modes, plus a very enjoyable candle-flicker setting, which is easy on the eye.
The light run time is short compared to other options on this list (meaning it’s not the best lantern for camping if you need lighting for extended periods of time).
If however, you’re a minimalist camper or backpacker and all you need is some light for a couple of hours after dark and before bed, then this is one worth considering, especially at this price point.
It makes a great addition to a headlamp for those fast-and-light backcountry trips.
3 new from $19.95
out of stock
7. MPOWERD Luci String Lights
- Price: $50
- Weight: 11.3oz
- Runtime: 5 hrs (high), 20 hrs (low)
- Size: 2 x 5 inches
- Choose if: You want attractive lighting that provides functional light and ambiance when car camping, in a campervan or simply spending time in your backyard (or on a boat!).
These splash-resistant solar string lights are designed for use anywhere outside where you would like some warm-colored light for ambiance or simply just seeing what you’re doing when it’s dark outside.
The 10 LED lights are on an 18ft string and together put out up to 100 lumens in three different modes, plus a flashing light mode.
The solar charging capability means that if you have good natural light, you can leave the unit in the sun and top up the battery during the day.
The lights can also be quick-charged using USB to a power source.
Camping lanterns buyers guide
Here are the key features to consider when choosing between the different lantern brands and styles:
Brightness and glow adjustability
While it’s understandable to think you want the brightest camping lantern there is, in fact, the best lights for illuminating your campsite or tent are going to be those that provide a sufficiently bright, but soft enough light.
Soft light allows you to see what you’re doing, without creating unnecessary glare or dazzling you or anyone else nearby.
That means that those super bright camping lights that come up cheap in places such as Amazon are not going to necessarily be the best choice for your needs.
To give an idea of brightness with reference to the number of lumens a light puts out, 100 lumens and below is generally considered to be low light, good for finding your way around camp, whereas somewhere between 150-300 lumens is a more comfortable level.
Many of the lanterns on this list also offer other features such as the ability to adjust the brightness by dimming or changing the color settings, such as from white to red, which is much easier on the eyes, especially if you only need enough light to say, find the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Also, look at the light temperature offered by your choice of lantern. Generally, warmer white light is more enjoyable and less harsh and ‘clinical’ than the ‘cooler’ light temperatures.
When it comes to choosing headlamps, however, there are benefits to brighter lights, especially if you need a headlamp for an activity such as trail running at night.
On that topic, if you’re also researching headlamps for running, hiking, or other similar activities, read our headlamps buyer’s guide next.
Weight and size
Camp lanterns come in a range of sizes and styles, and for car camping size and weight may not be a key consideration.
However, if you need to hike into your campsite, or need a lantern for backpacking or other activities requiring lighter and smaller gear, then finding a suitable lantern will involve ensuring it isn’t going to weigh you down or take up too much space in your backpack.
As well as simply seeking out smaller styles, also consider some of the innovative expandable/collapsible and inflatable LED camping lanterns as options for when size and weight are important.
Battery life and burn time
If you’re planning to buy a battery-operated light (whether that’s a solar or USB rechargeable camping lantern or one that uses AA or AAA batteries) then it’s important to know that it’s going to last long enough between charges.
For each product in this list, we’ve quoted the manufacturer’s stated battery/burn time.
Have in mind, though, that these stats are normally based on the lantern being used on its lowest-brightness settings, so in reality, the battery is unlikely to last that long with the normal use of medium/high brightness settings.
When considering battery life, also consider the different options available for recharging your LED lantern.
For example, whether the lantern has (or connects to) solar panels for charging and if that would be useful for you, as well as simply how long it takes to recharge the lights using a USB cable connected to a vehicle or other power source such as an Ecoflow, Jackery or Goal Zero portable power station.
LEARN MORE: Read our ‘Best Portable Power Stations‘ Buyer’s Guide next.
Durability, dust, and waterproof properties
If you’re planning to use your lantern where it could get wet, in humid, dusty, sand or dirty environments, then it will pay to choose one that’s designed to withstand those conditions.
Several of the best camping lanterns featured on the list above are waterproof (or at least splash-resistant) and therefore most suitable for those types of adventures.
Power sources and time to charge
Battery-operated camping lanterns are either rechargeable or use replaceable batteries such as AA or AAA.
Our preference is for rechargeable batteries that use either a USB or solar power source, rather than lanterns that require the AA or AAA batteries to run.
That said, for the latter, you could choose to separately buy some rechargeable AA / AAA batteries, rather than using disposable batteries, for a lower environmental impact.
In addition to not needing to remember to pack and carry spare batteries, rechargeable camping lanterns have an advantage over other options in that you have a range of options available to you to top up the charge, from solar to USB charging.
For some, time to charge is also an important consideration, and manufacturers of the higher-end rechargeable lights also provide information to explain how long it’s going to take to complete a full (or partial) charge – some are much quicker than others.
Ease of use
There’s a current trend in outdoor gadgets to go minimal when it comes to the number of buttons and controls.
This means you end up needing to remember whether it’s multiple quick buttons clicks, one long press, one short press, or some other combination in order to get to the light setting you desire.
Where notably easy (or otherwise) to use, we’ve noted this in each lantern mini-review above.
Stability and hanging loops
Lanterns that are designed to be stable on uneven surfaces are going to be more versatile for camping, whether that’s when you’re using them for light outside, or inside your tent at night.
Lanterns designed for use as tent lights are generally lighter in weight and include a hanging loop, clip or hook that you can use to attach them to the top or side of your tent or suspend them from a tree.
Lanterns vs headlamps as a light source
If you’re planning to go minimalist backpacking and don’t want to carry a lot of bulk or weight, then you may choose to forego taking any camping light with you.
If you have a headlamp, then you’ll have a light source and be just fine, but it will be minimal and not offer the same spread or ambiance of a lantern designed for use while camping.
This is because, understandably, headlamp beams are designed to be directional rather than shedding light over a wide area.
Battery-operated vs gas lanterns
While gas lanterns are a great choice if you’re planning to camp in very cold conditions, for the majority of people camping in more mild conditions, battery-operated lights are going to be the cleanest, quietest and more lightweight way to illuminate your backyard or campsite.
Battery-powered lights are also safer for camping in places with high fire risk as there is no gas or flame to worry about.