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. For less sociable alternatives, check out our guides to the best torch and the best head torch.
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. This flexibility is great news, because it means you'll definitely find an option that's perfect for your needs. Jump to the bottom for advice on what specs to look for, or read on for our pick of the very best camping lanterns available right now.
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- Sit out in style with the best camping tables and camping chairs
The best camping lanterns to buy now
In you're after a good all-rounder, we think the Vango Lunar 250 Eco Recharge USB is the best camping lantern right now. 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.
Now, the Biolite Solarhome 620 could be accused of being a bit over the top, but it does provide an impressive array of lighting functions for when weight is no concern, but off-grid is, which covers quite a range of camping situations. 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.
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 this is a bit of a winner.
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. So it's a jack of all trades, really, and luckily it's pretty darn good at all of them.
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.
The Biolite base lantern is perhaps the most techno of all camping lights. While others may simply incorporate smartphone charging, the Biolite has its own app, so you can program the button light settings (kitchen, reading, bedtime, etc), as well as set the colours. By connecting other ‘nanogrid’ light units these can also be controlled from your phone, or set as proximity lights, or timed. The ‘nanogrid’ range includes strings of fairy-light style devices, downlighters and overhead lights, so your Glasto campsite will be the envy of all, as well as a magnet for moth like visitors. Stainless steel legs for durability and a solid 12000 mAh rechargeable powerbank battery make this the ultimate base camp lighting system - go off grid in style!
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.
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.
When car camping, you can pretty take as much camping gear as you can fit into your car, van or camping trailer. If you're wild camping or travelling by foot and public transport, you might be looking for more versatile pieces of camping kit that pull double duty on certain functions... Outwell's cheery Opal Lantern and Speaker is a great choice if so, as it not only bathes your sleeping area in a cosy, ambient glow, it also acts as a wireless speaker. Sure it isn't powerful and is certainly no rival, in terms of audio quality or functionality, to dedicated outdoors speakers, but for a two-in-one job it's perfectly decent. It's relatively lightweight too, so won't add too much carry weight. It would be brilliant if Outwell had developed it to be collapsible, but we still love it for smaller tents and minimal camping setups.
If you're looking for a good all-rounder, try the Black Diamond Orbit Lantern. Space is often at a premium during camping trips, which is why we love both the Orbit's small size (14cm) and the fact that it's collapsible. But don't make the mistake of thinking it's not up to the job – 105 lumens and a beam-enhancing dual reflector system drenches the immediate area in light, and lantern, flashlight and dual modes allow you to adapt its output to suit the task in hand. Our one gripe is that it needs fiddly 4 AAA batteries, but it's still a brilliant option for those keen to keep the weight down on camping trips.
Forget about packing a separate portable smartphone battery, because this lantern 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.
The Biolite Powerlight Mini is compact slimline light that was unveiled in early 2020. It shouldn't let you down, whether you're braving that middle-of-the-night expedition to the toilet block or simply looking for a light to use inside your tent. Although its lumen count could be higher, for a light designed for use either inside your tent or on short hikes in fading light, it's more than capable. It also doubles as a power bank, and with an impressive 52-hour battery life, you're unlikely to find yourself left out in the dark.
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.
Lumen count (or brightness) is another 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.
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.