The best camping lanterns are there to do one basic job: to provide a convenient and reliable light source in and around your tent after dark. But not all lanterns are born equal – funky features like long battery life, flexible charging options, adjustable lighting levels and even extras such as the ability to play music can elevate a regular lamp to a great lamp.
There are a few different types on the market, but the defining feature of a camping lantern is that it's designed to illuminate a large area without the need to be held – most can be balanced on a camping table or hung from a hook. If going hands-free is not so important to your needs, we have separate best head torch and best torch guides.
Once upon a time, the only option for a camping lantern was a pressurised paraffin lamp, which is atmospheric, but heavy and maintenance-intensive (not to mention a fire hazard in a tent!). Now there are myriad options, from tiny clip-on, rechargeable LEDs to solar-powered lamps.
We think the best camping lantern is the Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry rechargeable lantern, a great all-rounder with a clever design that makes it ultra-versatile. However, we know that won't suit everyone, which is why we've included a wide range of lanterns in our guide, at a variety of price points.
Right now it's well worth checking out our guide to the upcoming Black Friday Sales (opens in new tab) to see if you can score yourself one of the best camping lanterns (as listed below) for a bargain price.
How many lumens do I need for a camping lantern?
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Lumen count (or brightness) is an important factor to consider when choosing the best camping lantern. The average household torch will have around 50 lumens, so for lanterns, which require a greater spread of light over a larger area, we'd consider looking for a minimum lumen count of 100. However, you'll also want to factor in the size of the lens – a bigger lens can provide a larger area of illumination at a lower lumen count. Jump to the bottom for more advice on what specs to look for.
The best camping lanterns 2023, reviewed
Topping our list of the best camping lanterns to buy now is the small but mighty Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry (available as battery-powered or rechargeable – we're focusing on the latter here). This lantern has a clever design that includes tripod/claw foot style legs as well as a top hook that together mean it can be hung from, attached to or perched pretty much any surface. The concertina-style light section folds down to about the size of a coffee cup, and the flexible rubber is nice and robust too. It's dimmable from 150 right down to 30 lumens, and water resistant if you get caught in a shower. The camping lantern is pricier than other options on this list, but we think for keen campers it's an excellent investment. Head to our full Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry rechargeable lantern review for more info.
A tiny but powerful rechargeable LED lantern, the GoalZero Lighthouse Mini offers easy controls and decent performance as well as some unexpected extras. It knocks out up to 210 lumens, which is very bright - more than ample for reading by in a tent. It’s as powerful as a mid-range headtorch, but with a less-focused beam - ideal for general indirect lighting. The runtime is fantastic, requiring very little in the way of recharging - one charge will easily last for a camping trip - which is a major bonus.
Topped with a lighthouse-style opaque shield, this lantern has a well-thought out design with a wide range of hanging, standing and attachment points. A hook pops up out of the top, which also features a deep loop that could be threaded with a range of cord or slim rope to suspend from a tree or in a tent. The base conceals another range of options, not least a pair of wire legs that click out to elevate the lamp above a table enough to eat or read easily. There’s also a magnet, which is very useful for attaching to vehicles and metal tables, and finally even a screw-thread mount for a tripod or similar.
The other obvious feature of the GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern is the central control knob, which allows for easy tweaking of light outputs up to the maximum 210 lumens. A removable Li-NMC battery lurks within, offering a total power delivery of 11.84Wh (3.7V, 3200 mAh), which translates to between 4-500+ hours run time, and can be topped up from any USB socket (including solar panels) via the incorporated cable, which neatly latches onto a magnet when coiled up.
As well as being a useful light source, the GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern has another superpower: it’ll also serve as a spare battery for other small USB devices, such as phones or cameras, and it can charge as well as discharge, allowing solar panel owners to chain it with another device and leave the whole lot to get topped up at once while they’re out for the day - very handy for camping holidays.
The GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern offers a lot of lighting options in a compact package, and it can be used as an emergency USB charger to boot. It might not be the most powerful lantern around, but it's mighty handy for it's size.
In you're after a good all-rounder that's also eco-friendly, the Vango Lunar 250 Eco Recharge USB is one of the best camping lights around. Solar panels make this lantern a brilliant option for campers keen to make the most of mother nature, while a rechargeable battery ensures the lights stay on should the sun go into hiding. Its ultra-stable design, teamed with a hanging hook and folding handle, makes it perfect for a wide range of situations, whether you're looking for a lantern for a weekend of wild camping, or a versatile light which will double as a table light as well as a torch. A high Lumen count (250) makes this a brilliant option if you're camping in remote or rural areas.
Hands-down the best camping lantern for glamping-style trips is the BioLite AlpenGlow. We've had both sizes in to test out, and they're both functional and about as much fun as you could ever hope to have with a camping lantern. If you just want to be able to see things, this lamp will deliver cool or warm light, with a sliding scale of brightness up to 500 lumens. You can also save battery by just opting to have one half lit up, if that's all you need. There are some more handy features too: a built in USB charger for dead-phone emergencies, and an IPX4 water resistance.
Move beyond the practical stuff though, and the AlpenGlow really outdoes itself. This lantern has modes to spare, for every mood and situation, from candlelight flicker to single or double colour modes to cycling ombres. These are activated by shaking the lamp. Sure, unleashing disco mode would probably earn you some funny looks on a hardcore offroad expedition, but for family or friends camping, or even use in the back garden for summer soirees, the AlpenGlow is a stone-cold champ. It's also available in a smaller 250-lumen version, which offers most of the same features.
If you're after a basic lamp that'll do the job without breaking the bank, the best camping lantern for you could well be the Black Diamond Moji camping lantern. For a bargain price, this little lantern offers a cheery, dimmable light that'll last up to 70 hours. The compact, splash-proof body is great for slinging in your backpack, and will illuminate smaller tents with ease. The hooks make it easy to hang where you need it, or it'll stand on a flat surface either way up. This one is powered by AAA batteries, which aren't very environmentally-friendly but are useful if you're going off-grid (there is a pricier rechargeable ReMoji version available if you prefer, too). Head to our Black Diamond Moji camping lantern review for a closer look.
The Vont LED camping lantern is a great all-rounder, and especially good for backpackers, due to the fact that it collapses down to just 4.8x3.4". The Vont lamp is also designed to be pretty much indestructible – it's made from aircraft-grade materials, should survive a 10ft drop, and is water resistant, too. So it'll be fine getting bashed around in your hiking backpack. It has a clever, button-free activation mechanism: you travel with the lantern collapsed down, then when you need light, you pull the lid upwards to reveal the bulb section, and this automatically switches the lamp on. It's battery-powered, which is not ideal, but it should last around 90 hours. Slightly oddly, it's typically sold in multi-packs.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse is a traditional looking camping lantern that knocks out a decent number of lumens for its weight. The big sell here is the built-in hand crank. Because of this, even in the darkest, most remote, electricity free situation, you can rapidly crank that handle and get some light in your tent. The Lighthouse also has robust legs and a hook to hang from, and an ingenious arrangement whereby you can select 360 or 180 degree light; the latter saves on battery power. Finally, this cute camping lantern boasts a 4,400mAh lithium battery with a 1.5A USB output. This should keep a couple of phones juiced up for a day or two. There's no waterproof rating listed, so you might need to mind out for unexpected showers.
While there are fancier and better quality lamps on this list, if you want a basic, great value option that ensures you never run out of light, Mountain Warehouse Wind Up camping lantern is our pick. This simple lamp will give you 20 minutes of light for a minute's cranking, making it a reliable choice for emergencies. It's studier than you'd expect for the price tag, as well as being water resistant and easy to hang or perch whenever you need it. The light's a little cold, and it's too bulky and heavy to be a good backpacking option, though. Head to our Mountain Warehouse Wind Up camping lantern review to find out more.
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A trio of COB LEDs ensures this budget-friendly camping lantern provides a bright pool of illumination inside and outside your tent. The no-frills design means it's easy to use too: simply lift the top to activate, then push it down to turn off the light. While the design isn't dimmable, some buyers suggest pushing the casing part-way down when to lessen the brightness. The water-resistant design keeps it safe during rainy walks to the toilet block at night, and its compact size (5-inches tall and 3.5-inches wide) won't take up much space in your backpack. If you need a camping lantern but don't have much money to spend on one, and are happy with a basic light that's very simple to use, the HeroBeam is worth the money.
If you're after the best camping lantern system to illuminate your whole tent, and weight isn't a concern, the Biolite Solarhome 620 is well worth a look. It provides an impressive array of lighting functions for off-grid camping. The basic premise here is a 6 watt solar array that feeds a central console, which in turn runs up to three hanging lights with independent switches. For larger tents and basecamp-style situations, this will be handy indeed, especially as the console includes its own light, backlit control screen and an FM radio and MP3 player.
It'll even charge two other USB devices from the integrated 3300mAh battery, and packs down into a shoebox-sized package. For longer periods off-grid and under canvas this offers real comfort and utility, which for longer trips is something to be valued very highly indeed.
This sturdy torch won't just keep the darkness at bay – it will keep the beats blasting too, thanks to a built-in Bluetooth speaker, allowing you to create your very own sound and light show. It's built to last, too, with a shatterproof polycarbonate lens, a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery and IPX4 water resistance. It's also got a 360-degree beam which – especially when combined with its 400-lumen output – makes this durable lantern one of the brightest on the market.
If you're yearning for some old school lantern-lighting then this modern take on a 1800's Tilley lamp is what you're looking for. Running on screw-in gas canisters (which you'll have for your stove anyway), this will never run out of battery, can't really be damaged (short of physically smashing it to bits), and puts out a whopping 235 lumens in a stainless steel mesh version. A more breakable glass version amps that up to 360 lumens.
Primus have used their gas stove expertise to create a burner that really sips on the gas, giving epically long burn times, while an ‘EasyTrigger' piezo ignition system makes lighting it a doddle. An integrated steel cable enables you to hang it up, although keeping it clear of flammable tent material is a must for obvious reasons. That robustness is a key factor though, for rough-and-tumble trips off into the wilds kayaking or similar, this is a bit of a modern gem.
How we tested the best camping lanterns
T3's team of outdoor experts took the best camping lanterns out into the field, camping and exploring, to test them in a range of after-dark scenarios, assessing their capability at everything from illuminating an evening game of cards through to finding beaming the way to the toilet block in the middle of the night. Price, functionality, robustness, ecological impact and overall design were also factors taken into consideration during the reviewing process.
How to choose the best camping lantern
As you might imagine, there are a few things to look for when picking the best camping lantern for your personal purpossess.
Run time For an extended run time, opt for an LED light, as older bulbs eat batteries for lunch.
Battery power Whether you go rechargeable or battery-powered is down to the length of your average trip. Modern rechargeable models boast enormous run times thanks to improved lithium batteries. If you're embarking on a longer expedition that's off the beaten track, however, having the option to use standard batteries makes sense as you won’t be near a mains supply to top-up your rechargeable camping lantern (and you can of course us rechargeable batteries). The option to use both (a recharging unit that takes batteries if need be) is the perfect solution.
Is this a wind up? You could also opt for an eco-friendly power option such as wind-up power or solar panels, but it's worth hunting out a model that has the capacity to take batteries as a backup (ideally the same type as your other camping gadgets).
Weight Chunky camping lanterns that provide illumination whilst charging multiple gadgets are jolly handy when car camping, but lugging them off to a wild camp in the Trossachs will be a pain. If you're short on space or carrying your own kit about, keep an eye out for an ultra-lightweight model.
Additional features These are all well and good, but do consider which ones really count. Simple add-ons, such as carry handles, will prove more useful than you might imagine, but it can also be very handy having a built-in bluetooth speaker like the Coleman 360 Light and Sound (opens in new tab). Many of the best camping lanterns incorporate a USB-power port so that you can charge other devices like phones and action cameras, which can be super-handy. A 3,000mAh battery should give one older phone a full charge (roughly), so adjust this according to the number of devices and charge time. Keep in mind that extreme cold and heat losses involved in charging multiple devices will reduce the battery’s overall output.
Toughness We also suggest taking a second to think about water-resistant ratings. You're unlikely (we hope) to leave your lantern out in the rain, so a minimum rating of IPX4 should cut it. This will allow it to stand up to light showers.
Performance If you're tight on space, you might be tempted by more flexible, multi-purpose designs. Some lamps have straps that can be used to hang them from support poles, while also acting as handles, so the lantern can also be used as a torch. There are also collapsible designs that can be used as either a lantern, table lamp or torch. Before making a purchase, think about the scenarios you're shopping for – when it comes to lanterns for camping trips, view added extras as exactly that, and bear in mind that some features, such as a stable base, rugged design and reliable power sources are likely to prove much more important.