Because the night is dark and full of terrors…
Anyone who has ever tried to set up a tent after dusk knows the value of a great camping lantern. Or maybe you’ve tried tucking into your hard earned camping meal only to realise that you can’t actually see what you’re eating?! A headlamp can be an ideal way to put some light on the subject, especially when you’re moving about camp lots or need an intense beam of light for your personal use. But when you’re camping in a group, having multiple white lights blinding you over dinner is no fun. A good camping lantern, however, not only produces enough light for all to use, it also produces a welcoming ambiance around the camp.
So whether you need a lantern for a car camping trip with a group or even to create a nice atmosphere on your solo backpacking trip, we have the lantern for you:
|Product||Features||Type of lantern||Max lumens||Cost|
|Black Diamond Apollo||Rechargeable||Battery LED||80||$$$|
|Coleman Twin LED||Good battery run time||Battery LED||390||$|
|Coleman Quad LED||Separates into 4||Battery LED||190||$$|
|Streamlight The Siege||Waterproof, good value||Battery LED||340||$|
|Black Diamond Voyager||Built in flashlight, compact||Battery LED||140||$|
|Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry||Versatile and adjustable||Battery LED||150||$|
|Nite Ize Radiant 400||Good battery run time, very bright||Battery LED||400||$|
|Goal Zero Lighthouse 400||Rechargeable, very bright||Lithium battery LED||400||$$$|
|Coleman Dual-Fuel 2-Mantle Lantern||Super bright, long run time||Unleaded gasoline or liquid fuel||1100||$$$|
|Primus Micron Lantern||Lightweight, good for backpacking||Butane||360||$$|
What to look for in a the best camping lanterns
Before you decide which one is best for your needs, it’s important to take a minute to familiarise yourself with the features of camping lanterns and the different types that are available.
Type of fuel
Most camping lanterns were powered by butane or propane until LED lights hit the market.
LEDs take less energy to put out bright light and are usually cool to the touch as well. LED lanterns are usually powered by batteries – easy to use but wasteful, and it’s very easy to forget your spares! Some LED lanterns, like the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400, however, eliminate both of this problems and come with rechargeable batteries instead.
Propane and butane-powered lanterns have advantages too, however. The flame is fully adjustable and the fuel is convenient to store long-term. For even more versatility, the Coleman Dual-Fuel 2-Mantle Lantern can use either Coleman Fuel or regular unleaded gasoline.
Brightness of the light
Lantern light is measured in how much light is emitted (known as lumens). A good rule of thumb to remember is that an average 75W light bulb gives off 1100 lumens of light. But when it comes to camping lanterns, bright is not always best. Although a high-lumen light can be useful for lighting the entire campsite, gentle lighting is easier on the eyes late at night. So if it’s atmosphere you’re after, the best option may be a dimmable lantern like Princeton Tec’s Helix Backcountry. There’s also a lot more to brightness that just a number, so for more information on lumens and their effect on the brightness of a light, take a read of our headlamps article.
The 10 best camping lanterns
Here are ten of our favourite camping lanterns organised by fuel type:
Battery-Operated LED Lanterns
The Apollo lantern from Black Diamond is both battery-operated and rechargeable (with the purchase of a separate charging kit available from the manufacturer). The Apollo is perfect if you are looking for a lantern to provide ambient light in a confined space. With a light range from 10-80 lumens and a frosted globe cover, expect a softer light ideal for finding your way around without obscuring your view of the stars. Completely collapsible legs give you the option of hanging the lantern, setting it directly on a hard surface, or propping it up to a total height of 24cm.
Coleman’s Twin LED is one of the brightest LED lanterns on our list with up to 390 lumens at the highest setting, making it a great option for lighting large areas at night. On high, the light radiates up to 32 feet out in all directions! Seven different brightness settings let you adjust it down to provide a dim nightlight or to conserve battery life – the lantern’s eight D-cell batteries can last up to 300 hours on the lowest setting. The casing itself is water and weather resistant so you can hang it outside in all weather conditions without any loss of light.
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With one of the most unique lantern designs on our list, Coleman’s Quad LED is made of four separate LED panels around a lantern base. Each of the panels can be removed to function as individual, portable lights with over an hour of run time between charges – perfect for sending part of the group on evening excursions or trips to the bathroom while keeping plenty of light around the campsite. Any LED panels left on the base while the lantern is on will recharge and provide light around camp with up to 190 lumens with all four panels attached.
The Siege lantern by Streamlight puts out a whopping 340 lumens with only three D-cell batteries. In addition to the convenience of taking less than half the batteries of many comparable camping lanterns, The Siege has tons of customisable features including hanging rings on both the top and bottom, four levels of brightness, a flashing red emergency light, and the ability to remove the globe cover entirely for a smaller lantern. It is also the least expensive waterproof model on our list with waterproofing up to one meter.
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As with the Apollo lantern from Black Diamond, the Voyager features a frosted globe cover for a gentler, more diffused light with all the efficiency benefits of LED. This makes the light easier on the eyes, especially if you plan to use the lantern in your tent at night. The Voyager may be the only light you need in your tent at all thanks to a high-beam flashlight built into the base. Compact design and the ability to run on only 4 AA-cell batteries make this a great option for trips where size and weight matter.
For a completely unique design, look no further than Princeton Tec’s Helix Backcountry. With collapsible, removable, and folding legs, the Backcountry can serve as a spotlight, a hanging dome light, or a stand-alone lantern of multiple heights. The lantern itself comes in four different color combinations and features a button-free control panel. Each leg comes with its own built-in hook for hanging. The LED light runs on three AAA-cell batteries and is adjustable from 30-150 lumens in either white or red.
With settings ranging from 30-400 lumens, the Radiant 400 from Nite Ize can light the entire campsite or just the interior of a small tent. On the lowest setting, three D-cell batteries will last for up to 800 hours of light. One intuitive feature is the power button. Each click cycles through the brightness settings. Once you settle on a setting for five seconds or more, however, a single click of the power button shuts off the lantern – meaning no more clicking through every setting just to turn off the light. The Radiant 400 is impact resistant up to one meter.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 offers the convenience of a battery-operated lantern without the cost and difficulty of replacing the batteries after every few outings thanks to a lithium-ion battery that recharges via an included USB cable. When the lantern isn’t charging, the USB port and cable can also be used to charge your phone or tablet on the go. Another convenient feature is the ability to turn on only half the light to keep light from shining in your eyes on nighttime walks and conserve battery power.
Liquid and Gas Fuelled Lanterns
Don’t let the price tag scare you – Coleman’s Dual-Fuel 2-Mantle Lantern is the most expensive lantern on our list but is also one of the most versatile. It comes in as the brightest lantern on this list by far, with over 1,100 lumens of light, yet can be dimmed to any brightness level (as opposed to LED lanterns, which can only be dimmed to certain settings). Running on either unleaded gasoline or Coleman ® Liquid Fuel, this lantern is more efficient than propane and can operate at full intensity for 7 hours. The option to use unleaded gasoline is convenient for times when you need to refill the tank without making a special trip to the store.
The only lantern on our list powered with butane fuel is the Micron Lantern from Primus. Designed specifically for backpacking and outdoor use, the globe around the flame is made from sturdy mesh instead of glass and the mantles are extra durable – that means a lower chance of either breaking in your pack. If you would rather use propane fuel to power the light up to 360 lumens, butane-to-propane adaptors are available for around $20 online and at most outdoor stores.
Whether you are looking for a light, collapsible model for a backpacking trip or larger model bright enough to light an entire campsite, one of the lanterns on this list is sure to be the perfect fit for your upcoming camping and backpacking trips.