Sleeping outside—whether alone, or with friends or family—is one of the most peaceful and satisfying experiences a nature-lover can have. And while the stars overhead provide a gorgeous atmosphere, they typically aren’t much help with seeing well in the dark. You’ll need a reliable light source to find that warm beanie buried in your backpack, or to slip out of your tent to answer the call of nature at midnight—and that’s why a good camping lantern should always come along to light up your overnight adventure.
What to Consider
When choosing a lantern, one of the greatest concerns is size and weight, and therefore portability. A larger, heavier model is not the best choice if you’re a backpacker who’s trying to keep a light load. You’ll want a smaller option that’s easy to tote along on hikes (ideally less than half a pound). If you’re a car camper who has plenty of room for supplies, however, a hefty lantern is just fine. The camping lanterns we recommend here range in weight from a very light 1.9 ounces to 30.4 ounces (or about 2 pounds).
Other key features are battery life, the amount of illumination the lantern provides, design, and versatility. For a weekend adventure, consider the Mpowerd Luci which runs 50 hours on a single charge. Not much space? The Snowpeak Mini Hozuki is easy to pack and won't cramp your style. Bringing gadgets with you? The multifunctional Black Diamond Apollo has a USB port and cord so you can recharge them without a worry. You'll want to think about these factors with a light source, too. Does it have multiple brightness settings? Can it charge a phone and allow for some late-night reading? Can it hang suspended from your tent’s ceiling, or is it designed to sit on the ground? These are the questions that helped me determine the best camping lantern options out there.
How We Selected
Gone are my days of camping with a heavy plastic flashlight powered by barrel-like, bottom-loading batteries. Those were dark days—literally, as those flashlights usually petered out when I needed them most. As a modern camper, I’ve embraced quality camping lanterns and have tested out various models to see how my overnight experiences are enhanced (or hampered). The products listed below have either passed muster at my own hands or have received critical online acclaim from other light-loving campers.
- Brightness: 500 lumens (max)
- Average Run Time: 5 hours (high mode); 200 hours (low mode)
- Battery Type: 6400 mAh, lithium-ion
- Dimensions (W x H): 3.8 x 5.4 in.
- Weight: 13.8 oz.
The Alpenglow 500 puts the “fun” in functional. Sure, it will help you navigate around your campsite or tent in the dark, but it also creates an atmosphere of coziness and excitement. With one click of a button, you can light up your tent with the soft, flickering candle setting, or shake things up with the color-changing “lava lamp” display, or simply bask in the steady glow of one hue. After a long day of trekking along trails and setting up camp, this lantern has a therapeutic effect that will bring everyone back to center.
- Fun array of colors, settings, and brightness options
- Easy to use
- Small hook allows it to be hung from tent ceiling
- Not the most lightweight choice
- On the pricey side
- Brightness: 60 lumens
- Average Run Time: 40 hours (high mode); 70 hours (low mode)
- Battery Type: AAA batteries (included)
- Dimensions (W x H): 2 x 2.2 in
- Weight: 1.9 oz.
Small and lightweight (no heavier than two slices of bread!) with a cute orb shape, this lantern is great for campers with limited space. It has three lighting modes and emits a soft, calming glow rather than a bright, harsh glare while still providing adequate light to see your surroundings. Whether you place it by your pillow for a reading light or use its top magnetic hook to hang it from the tent ceiling as an overhead light, the small but mighty Snowpeak Mini Hozuki is up for the job.
- Space-saving size
- Negligible weight is ideal for backpackers
- The candle mode is more of an erratic flashing than a soothing flicker
- Brightness: 225 lumens
- Average Run Time: 50 hours
- Battery Type: Internal rechargeable lithium-ion or 3 AA batteries
- Dimensions (W x H): 3.3 x 5.3 in.
- Weight: 12.1 oz.
Most camping lanterns have one job: to light up the tent and campsite. The Black Diamond Apollo Lantern goes the extra mile with its handy USB port and cord that recharges your phone and other electronic devices—a useful feature when there isn’t a power source for miles around. Its folding legs and double-hook hang-loop add versatility. Stand it up on a picnic table to light up an evening meal or suspend it from the top of your tent to get your bedding in order.
- Light is emitted from the bottom to best illuminate downward and outward
- Can be dimmed for when less light is required
- At three quarters of a pound, it’s a bit heavy for backpacking
- Brightness: 400 lumens (high mode), 50 lumens (low mode)
- Average Run Time: 42 hours (high mode); 275 hours (low mode)
- Battery Type: 3 D batteries
- Dimensions (W x H): 4.1 x 8.1 in.
- Weight: 21.12 oz.
When putting together camping gear, it’s always smart to have budget-friendly options available, and the Ozark Trail Electric Camping Lantern is a solid choice. Its functionality is simple and straightforward: two light modes, high and low, offer ample illumination to light up the darkest corner of your campsite. It may not be fancy, but it has proven to be an excellent, long-lasting light source on multiple tent-camping trips.
- Bright, far-reaching light
- Long battery life when on low mode
- A somewhat heavier option
- Batteries not included
- Brightness: 150 lumens
- Average Run Time: 50 hours of light on a single charge; rechargeable via solar or via USB
- Battery Type: Solar powered (built-in 2,000 mAh lithium-ion battery)
- Dimensions (W x H): 5 x 4.25 in. (Collapses down to 1.5 in.)
- Weight: 6.1 oz.
This solar-powered lantern is beloved by car campers and backpackers alike for its eco-friendly bright light (four modes), long-lasting charge, and portability. The high-efficiency solar panel built into the Luci Outdoor 2.0 Pro allows it to get fully recharged just by sitting outdoors eliminating the need for any kind of battery. When time is of the essence—it can take up to 14 hours to get a full charge by sunlight alone—hook up the included USB cord to a power source and get it fully juiced in two to three hours.
- Simple collapsible design makes for easy packing
- Waterproof and ultra-lightweight
- USB charging port can be problematic
- Brightness: 200 lumens (high mode), 35 lumens (low mode)
- Average Run Time: 3½ hours (high mode); 100+ hours (low mode)
- Battery Type: USB-rechargeable lithium-ion
- Dimensions (W x H): 5.85 x 12.81 in.
- Weight: 30.4 oz.
An old-fashioned design (a nod to the Union Pacific style) with a new-fangled battery—a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, to be exact—gives this Railroad Lantern the classic look of an old camping lantern without the fire hazard (or smelly, greasy fuel). The LED Edison-style light bulb has adjustable brightness levels to match the mood or occasion. When daylight fades, you’ll look forward to gathering around this warm glow as you cook up dinner or play cards in the tent.
- Emits ample light
- Unique, old-fashioned look
- Rechargeable battery
- Battery doesn’t last long on high setting
- Brightness: N/A
- Average Run Time: 9 hours (per candle)
- Battery Type: N/A
- Dimensions (W x H): 2 x 6.5 in.
- Weight: 8 oz.
This is a lantern you can count on in a pinch. When the battery-powered light you brought along runs out of juice, save your phone’s flashlight some overtime and have the Original Candle Lantern on hand as a backup. A spring-powered tube pushes the candle up as it steadily burns, providing up to nine hours of warm, natural light that will make your campsite feel even cozier.
- Lightweight at 0.5 lbs., and easily packable with included fleece bag
- Hook on top for hanging from tent ceiling
- Provides soft light, good ambiance
- Small radius of illumination
- Limited burn time