The best camping lanterns really come into their own once you're off the grid and night begins to fall. More convenient and sociable than a headtorch, they're the go-to solution for facilitating more comfortable evening entertainment in a group. The The GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern is a tiny but powerful rechargeable LED lantern that offers easy controls and decent performance as well as some unexpected extras. The The GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern is available now, with a UK RRP of £49.99.
GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern Review: Design and build
The GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern is immediately recognisable as a camping lantern, the green and black colour scheme encouraging this, along with the lighthouse-style opaque shield. It's also a well-thought out design that gets better the closer you look, the first positive being 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, etc.
So far so good, but 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. Total weight is 226.8g, which isn’t unreasonable for a lantern of this type.
GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern Review: Comfort and performance
It’s easy to throw around lumen ratings, but the real world utility of them is sometimes lost in translation. The GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern knocks out up to 210 lumens, which is exceedingly bright - ample for reading by in a tent, for example, and near-painful to look at directly. 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.
The only downside here is the general scale of the lantern - it’s relatively compact, which limits the battery and overall light output by default. This means it’s really capable as a main light for a couple of people, and a side/ambient light for maybe four. Larger groups will need something more substantial, which is fair enough.
The wheel control acts as on/off switch and dimmer in one, as well as allowing you to activate just one side (counterclockwise), or both sides (clockwise), a touch of granularity which can be very useful indeed - especially when walking around with the lantern.
As well as being a useful light source around camp, the GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern has another superpower, one telegraphed by the obvious 1.0 Amp USB socket in the centre of the control wheel. 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.
GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern Review: Verdict
GoalZero are old hands at the camp lighting game, and it shows in this small but well-formed lantern. The vast plethora of hanging/standing/attachment options makes this a versatile light from the get-go, as well as ensuring that you can move it around as needed with the minimum hassle during a camping evening.
The controls are intuitive and easy to operate, and the extra phone boosting capacity is there when you need it, and not if you don’t. Runtime is excellent, and output is perfectly reasonable, although not enough for larger groups, but then this isn’t a massive, super-bright unit, it’s a compact lantern for families or smaller camping scenarios.
Other high-points are the integrated but unobtrusive charging cable, so there’s not yet another cable washing around the car/camping bag, and also the simple fact that it’s always there when you need it - no hunting around required.
A final - albeit slightly marginal - plus is the removable battery, which allows replacement once the cell begins to tire, which is great news for everyone, and especially the environment. The only question is how easy it will be to find the right cells in a couple of years, but the option is there - unlike many premium phones, laptops and tablets.
Overall, the GoalZero Lighthouse Mini Lantern delivers a decent overall package for casual campers, but one that is - inevitably - a compromise between size/weight and brightness.