- A lantern lights up your tent or cabin while camping, and can also help you see during a power outage.
- The best should offer a high lumen output, have a battery that lasts several hours, and be highly durable.
- Our top pick, the CORE 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern, is compact with a long-lasting battery and a bright output.
In the event of a prolonged power outage, a lantern creates a room-filling light that allows for easier cooking, reading, and other basic activities that you can’t accomplish with the directional beam of a flashlight or headlamp.
A lantern is also immensely helpful in emergency situations should you need to administer first aid, repair a piece of equipment, or find your way around in the dark. The long battery life (or fuel burn time) of a good lantern is another bonus when compared with most flashlights, which tend to consume batteries more quickly.
For the camper, a lantern makes a tent, cabin, or the campsite itself more comfortable and inviting. The beams of headlamps and flashlights can be unpleasant and blinding, leaving most of the surrounding area dark while often washing out the spots on which they fall. Lantern light, on the other hand, is softer, filling a space with illumination and allowing all in its proximity to enjoy the glow.
To help make your shopping experience easier, we’ve tested a selection of lanterns from brands like Coleman, Goal Zero, and CORE Equipment to find the best currently available. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a lantern and what to keep in mind.
Here are the best lanterns:
- Best lantern overall: CORE Equipment 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern
- Best budget lantern: Etekcity Collapsible LED Lantern
- Best propane-powered lantern: Coleman Northstar Propane Lantern
- Best lantern for emergencies: HeroBeam V3 LED Lantern
- Best solar-powered lantern: Survival Frog LED Solar Pocket Light Lantern
- Best lantern for backup power: Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern and USB Power Hub
The CORE Equipment 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern puts out enough light to fully illuminate a midsized room or to light up your campsite, porch, or picnic area.
Pros: Super bright output, great battery life, good price for the quality, durable construction
Cons: Uses pricey D batteries, needs dimmer setting
The CORE Equipment 500 Lumen CREE LED Lantern casts a halo of light that brightens an area measuring 60 feet wide — and that’s on its low setting. When at full power, the lantern’s beam stretches out 45 feet, illuminating a space 90 feet across.
Equally impressive are its run-times, too, as the lantern’s able to shine for 19 hours at full power and for a whopping 65 hours at the lower setting. Its diffuser tube ensures that its light is evenly distributed and is bright but not harsh.
The CORE Equipment 500 Lumen lantern weighs a little less than a pound and is small enough to tuck into a backpack. While it’s slightly heavier and larger than the distance trekker or the climber will want to carry, it’s a great choice for use on shorter hikes or for the car camper or RV enthusiast.
Despite its small size, the power of this lantern also makes it a fine choice for use in equipping an emergency preparedness kit or for more mundane, everyday tasks like grilling after dark or just hanging out in the backyard.
The best on a budget
The Etekcity Collapsible LED Lantern is small, bright, and built to last, but best of all, it comes in a two-pack for $20.
Pros: Great low price, compact and lightweight, durable construction
Cons: Short run time, light quality rather pale and harsh
What can you get with ten dollars? Quite a lot, really. You can get a decent cocktail or a fine sandwich, a month’s worth of streaming video and TV programming, or a compact and capable lantern that will shine for hours at a time and last for many years of regular use. The Etekcity Collapsible LED Lantern costs only $20 for two, but it is backed by a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.
When fully collapsed, the Etekcity LED lantern is less than five inches tall, and it weighs well under a pound. That makes it a fine choice for the trekker who is watching gear weight.
The intensity of light output is regulated based on how far you extract the globe section from the outer casing. The more of the 30 individual LED bulbs that are exposed, the more light that the lantern emits. This is a pleasantly simple way to regulate brightness, but there’s also a drawback in that the bulbs that are hidden away are still glowing, thus draining a bit of power needlessly.
The lantern is powered using three AA batteries and runs for 12 hours on its lower intensity setting and eight hours at maximum output. That’s not a laudable runtime, but the money you save on the unit can be applied to some extra batteries.
The best propane-powered
As long as you planned ahead and stocked up on fuel, the Coleman NorthStar Propane Lantern can provide you hours upon hours of amazingly bright light.
Pros: Amazingly bright, long run time, wide range of brightness settings
Cons: Slightly loud while operating, not suitable for indoor use, large and heavy
LED lanterns are all the rage these days, and for many good reasons: They produce no appreciable heat, making them safe for use in confined spaces and around pets and kids, they tend to be compact and lightweight, and they’re easy to use. But that doesn’t mean there’s not still a place for a propane-powered lantern at the proverbial table — or at the actual campsite, in your yard, at the RV park, and more.
The duration of burn time you can expect from the Coleman NorthStar Propane Lantern is entirely dependent on the size of the propane bottle you choose. With a compact one-pound tank, you can expect about eight hours of super bright light and as much as 20 or even 24 hours on a low setting. With a 20-pound tank, you could leave the light burning for a week straight.
While shopping for a propane tank and connecting one to the unit are both more involved tasks than buying and replacing batteries, the sheer volume of light this lantern creates beats out almost every battery-powered electric lantern money can buy. Its top 1,500-lumen setting matches the light output of a 100-watt incandescent light bulb.
Once you have the propane tank connected and the lantern securely placed on a flat surface or hung from a branch, you fire it up, using a simple push-button ignition system. Brightness is controlled with an easy-to-use dial on the front of the unit. And that’s that. This is a durable, reliable lantern that works much the same as devices people have trusted for many generations.
The only real drawback here is that indoor use is ill-advised, not because of the fire hazard, but rather because propane burning equipment should always be operated in open-air environments.
The best for emergencies
The HeroBeam V3 LED Lantern is water-resistant, rechargeable, and can function as both an omnidirectional lantern and as a flashlight with a focused beam.
Pros: Versatile light output, water-resistant, rugged and durable, rechargeable
Cons: Some units malfunction with heavy use
Whether you’re searching the nighttime forest for a lost loved one or jacking up a car as the rain slashes down, lighting up the kitchen so you can prepare a meal during a power outage, or shining light over the shoulder of an EMT treating an injury, if you’re using the HeroBeam V3 LED Lantern, you’re doing it right.
This light can fill a room or outdoor area with a large pool of light or throw a beam out dozens of yards into the darkness. Just to make things easy for you, the handle even flips around to allow for easy carrying in both the lantern and the flashlight configuration.
The HeroBeam V3 lantern is rated as IPX4 water-resistant, which means that even if you need to use this lantern in a downpour or if it gets splashed by waves coming over the side of a boat, it will still work just fine. And thanks to its durable ABS plastic body, it won’t break if you drop it or knock it off a table, either. This is good, because, in emergency situations, things rarely go smoothly.
The newer V3 model is also an upgrade from our previous choice, the V2, and is now rechargeable from any USB port. Easily charge it up from any laptop, phone charger, or car. Alternatively, it can also take AA batteries so you can double the operating duration.
The best solar-powered
The Survival Frog Solar Pocket Light Lantern offers hours of soft, steady light with each charge, no batteries or fuel required.
Pros: Charges with sunlight, strobe light option, very light and compact
Cons: Not very bright, depends on sunshine or access to USB port
If you expect a compact solar lantern to be bright enough to illuminate a large room or fill a campsite with light, you’re going to be disappointed. If you count on the diminutive Survival Frog Solar Pocket Light Lantern to fill your tent with light or to illuminate a few square feet around your campfire or picnic table, however, you’re going to be quite pleased.
What this little lantern lacks in hundreds of lumens of output, it more than makes up for in weighing less than a half-pound, in folding down into a package you can tuck into a pocket, and in using nothing more than sunlight to power its internal rechargeable battery. When the sun isn’t shining but a USB port is close at hand, you can also power it up via USB cable.
This Survival Frog lantern can be hung from the roof of a tent or from a branch or perched on a table or on the floor to fill an area with light, or it can be used as a directional flashlight. The pool of lantern light is on the smaller side and the beam fainter than a top-quality LED torch, you should know that going in.
You should also know that the lantern has three settings: bright, dim, and flashing (a great option for helping people locate you from afar in the dark).
The best for backup power
The Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 offers more than just bright lighting. It can also recharge your other electronic devices, and recharge itself with a hand-crank when in a pinch.
Pros: Backup battery for recharging electronic devices, hand-crank for quick charging, bright LED light that can be adjusted
Cons: Pricey, solar option requires additional accessory
The Lighthouse 400 from Goal Zero provides a bright, omnidirectional LED light at 400 lumens. But lighting is just one of its great features. Goal Zero is a company that specializes in portable power, and with its built-in 4,400mAh battery, you can use this lantern to recharge a phone, tablet, or camera. The battery capacity is enough to recharge a smartphone at least twice.
On the front, you’ll find a standard USB port for recharging a device. The lantern is also powered via the battery, which has a run-time between 2.5 to 6 hours, depending on the brightness level and how many LEDs are turned on (there are two). The battery recharges via its built-in USB cable, which takes about five hours, according to the company.
But what if an electrical outlet isn’t available? The lantern has two other recharging options: solar (with an optional Goal Zero solar panel) or a hand crank. Just one minute of cranking produces about 10 minutes of light — ideal for an emergency. Solar charging takes about 7-14 hours. So, even when its battery is completely drained, you have other options to recharge it.
The Lighthouse 400 is easy to store and operate. When not in use, just fold up the legs. In my experience in testing portable batteries, Goal Zero makes some of the better options. I also like the company’s portable solar panels and find them to work well, although it’s an extra premium if you were to add it to the purchase (it would push this lantern beyond the $100 mark). Overall, it’s a great accessory that does more than just lighting, but I do wish the product had a sturdier plastic construction. — Les Shu, senior guides editor
How to shop for a lantern
When figuring out which lantern best suits your needs, consider its weight, size, power source, brightness output, and special features. You’ll also want to give equal thought to where and how you’ll use it most often.
For instance, if you plan on doing a lot of car camping, it’s smart to opt for one that’s easy to transport over one that’s bulkier. If it’s just for use around the house, you can then use one that’s less portable but more powerful to light up a larger area.
A lantern’s power source is also an important consideration. If a lantern comes with a rechargeable battery, and you want to take it on the road, make sure the charger is compatible with a port in your vehicle (or you bring a portable power station along to recharge it). If the lantern takes batteries, it’s smart to stay stocked up on that particular battery type, no matter if you’re on a multi-day camping trip or just have the lantern stashed around the house.
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