The best camping lanterns add something more than just light to see by; they add ambience to even the bleakest wild camp, and can transform any outdoor space into home-from-home at the flick of a switch. A camping lantern can take many forms, but they're all designed to illuminate a large area, such as the living space in a larger tent, or an outdoor picnic table, without needing to be held. This not only makes a pleasant evening social space for your group, but keeps your hands free to cook, read, plan the next day, or just relax in a bit of comfort.
In years gone by, the only option for a camping lantern was a pressurised paraffin lamp, which is atmospheric, but heavy and maintenance-intensive. Now the options are legion, from tiny clip-on LEDs to substantial lights that incorporate charging, solar and even speakers. 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.
How many lumens do I need for a camping lantern?
Lumen count (or brightness) is an important factor to consider. 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 2021
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
There's a lot to be said in favour of this little lantern. Not only is the Quechua BL50 very wallet-friendly, there's plenty of decent features packed into this tiny package. The rechargeable battery can be juiced up via USB and also the inbuilt dynamo, which will give you 4 minutes of light for 1 minute of winding, an excellent emergency standby. The lantern itself isn't the brightest, with 3 modes hitting 10 lumens, 25 and 50 lumens respectively, but even at the top brightest you'll get a 5 hour burn time, which isn't too shabby from a tiny 9.8cmx9cm unit. There's a sensible IPX4 rating that'll keep inconvenient damp out of the electrics, and a little hook for hanging. As a small but handy light for lightweight camping, or a nightlight to pop in young campers' sleeping compartments, this is a bit of a winner.
Forget about packing a separate portable smartphone battery, because this camping light comes with a USB cable that both recharges its own integral battery and offers you a means of juicing up your phone. The real interesting feature here is BatteryLock, which helps to preserve power. By twisting the base of the lantern, you can disengage the batteries from their connectors. This action prevents the batteries from draining when the light is off, and keeps the lantern safe from acid leak erosion. In terms of lighting clout and performance, it pumps out 300 lumens on the maximum setting and 50 lumens on the low setting, which is ample for nighttime lighting. The beam distance is 8m on the highest setting, and 2m on the lowest. Coleman's water-resistant Twist BatteryLock Lantern is quite rugged too, and should survive a few bumps and knocks on the way to the campsite.
How to choose the best camping lantern
There are a few things to look for when picking your camping lantern. First things first: power and run time. For an extended run time, opt for an LED light, as older bulbs eat batteries for lunch. Whether you go rechargeable or battery-powered is down to the length of your average trip. 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, standard batteries make sense as you won’t be near a mains supply to top-up your rechargeable camping lantern. 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).
Second, consider the 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.
When it comes to additional features, consider which ones really count. Many of the best camping lanterns incorporate a USB-power port so that you can charge 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.
Simple add-ons, such as carrying handles, will prove more useful than you might imagine. 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.
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.