Top Camping Lanterns for Backpacking 2023

Choosing the right camping lantern for your backpacking adventures can really light up your experience, both literally and figuratively! Whether you’re setting up camp at dusk, cooking a late meal, or just enjoying some nighttime reading under the stars, having a reliable light source is essential. From the warm glow of traditional gas lanterns, the convenience of battery-powered options, to the eco-friendly solar-powered models, there’s a lot to consider. But it’s not just about picking the brightest one on the shelf. Factors like weight, battery life, durability, and even those extra convenient features play a huge role in finding the perfect match for your outdoor needs. So, let’s dive into the world of camping lanterns, explore the key features you should keep an eye out for, and highlight some of the top choices out there to brighten your next backpacking trip.

Types of Camping Lanterns

Heading off on a camping trip soon? One essential piece of gear you don’t want to overlook is a good lantern. A reliable light source can make all the difference when you’re setting up camp in the twilight hours, searching for something in your tent, or just chilling around the campsite. However, not all camping lanterns are created equal, and the variety out there can be a bit baffling. Let’s dive into the different types of camping lanterns available so you can find the perfect one for your next outdoor adventure.

First up, we have electric lanterns. These are by far the most popular choice among campers nowadays for a handful of good reasons. They’re safe, easy to use, and incredibly versatile. Most electric lanterns are LED, boasting long battery life and energy efficiency. They often come with features like dimming settings, emergency flashing modes, and sometimes even a USB port to charge your gadgets. You have models that run on disposable batteries and others that are rechargeable, giving you some flexibility based on your needs.

Solar-powered lanterns fall under the electric category but deserve their own mention. As the name suggests, they harness the power of the sun, making them a fantastic eco-friendly option. They’re particularly handy for long trips where recharging options are limited, and sunny days are plenty. Some solar lanterns also come with a backup USB charging method to ensure you’re never left in the dark.

Now, let’s talk about gas-powered lanterns. These include lanterns that run on propane, butane, or liquid fuel. They tend to shine brighter than their electric counterparts and work well in cold conditions where batteries might falter. However, they require a bit more know-how to operate safely, as you’re dealing with flammable gases. They’re a bit bulkier too, making them better suited for car camping than backcountry expeditions.

Candle lanterns are another option for the outdoor enthusiast going for that classic, soft glow. They’re simple, lightweight, and provide a natural light source without harsh glare. Ideal for ambiance but not so much for lighting up a whole campsite. Candle lanterns require careful handling as there’s an open flame to consider, but they can add a magical touch to your evening under the stars.

Lastly, we’ve got wind-up lanterns, offering a unique twist (pun intended) in powering up. These lanterns are hand-cranked, generating power through your manual effort. They’re a reliable backup light source that doesn’t rely on batteries or fuel, making them perfect for emergency kits. While they might not be your primary go-to for lighting, the fact that you can power them up with a bit of elbow grease is a definite plus in certain situations.

Choosing the right camping lantern boils down to considering your needs, the environment you’ll be in, and the convenience features that matter most to you. Whether you prioritize brightness, energy efficiency, or the charm of a flickering candle, there’s a lantern out there that’s sure to light up your camping experience. So, pack your preferred source of light and get ready for unforgettable nights under the open sky. Happy camping!

Illustration of different types of camping lanterns

Key Features to Consider

Choosing the right camping lantern goes beyond just picking your power source. With the array of options available, narrowing down your search can be challenging. However, focusing on key features can guide you to the perfect lantern for your outdoor adventures. Let’s dive into the features you should keep an eye out for when selecting a quality camping lantern.

Brightness and Light Adjustability

The brightness of a lantern is measured in lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. For a cozy campsite, 100 to 200 lumens might suffice, but for tasks like cooking or night hiking, look for lanterns offering 300 lumens or more. Equally important is light adjustability; being able to dim your lantern can create a pleasant ambiance and save power, stretching your light’s usage time.

Battery Life/Run Time

For electric and solar-powered lanterns, knowing the battery life is crucial. You don’t want to be left in the dark halfway through your trip. A quality lantern should provide a clear indication of its run time on a single charge or set of batteries. Some lanterns also feature power-saving modes and battery level indicators, adding convenience and reliability.

Durability and Water Resistance

The outdoors can be unpredictable, so your lantern should be built to last. Look for lanterns constructed with sturdy materials capable of withstanding drops and bumps. Additionally, water resistance is a significant factor, especially if you’re camping in rainy weather or near bodies of water. Check for lanterns rated with an IPX4 or higher to ensure they can handle splashes and rain without issues.

Portability and Weight

Portability matters, especially if you’re backpacking or have limited packing space. A good camping lantern should be lightweight and compact, yet still strong in performance. Some models feature collapsible designs or carrying handles, making them easy to pack or hang inside a tent.

Ease of Use

After a long day of hiking or setting up camp, dealing with a complicated lantern is the last thing you want. Quality lanterns are user-friendly, with intuitive controls and easy access to battery compartments or charging ports. Features like remote controls, touch-sensitive panels, or voice commands are bonuses that enhance usability.


A lantern that serves multiple purposes can be incredibly valuable on a camping trip. Many modern lanterns come with additional features such as USB charging ports for devices, SOS signaling modes for emergencies, or colored lights for nighttime ambiance. Consider lanterns that offer more than just illumination to get the most bang for your buck.

Price vs. Quality

While it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, remember that the quality of your camping experience often depends on reliable gear. Invest in a lantern from a reputable brand that balances cost with features and durability. It might cost a bit more upfront, but the reliability and longevity of a quality lantern are worth it.

In your search for the perfect camping lantern, keeping these key features in mind will help guide your decision. Whether you’re a solo adventurer or a family camper, the right lantern can brighten your outdoor experience in more ways than one. Remember, the best lantern is one that suits your specific needs and makes your camping trips more enjoyable and hassle-free. Happy camping!

A camping lantern shining bright in the night

Photo by udeyismail on Unsplash

Top Recommended Lanterns for Backpacking

When it comes to lighting your campsite after the sun goes down, a reliable lantern can make all the difference. But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the right one for your backpacking adventures? Beyond the basic types of lanterns and essential factors to consider, which we’ve already covered, let’s dive into some highly recommended models that have garnered praise from the backpacking community for their performance, durability, and value.

Black Diamond Apollo Lantern

For those seeking a versatile and durable electric lantern, the Black Diamond Apollo stands out. With its adjustable brightness up to 250 lumens and a collapsible double-hook hang loop, it’s perfect for lighting up your tent or the entire campsite. The built-in rechargeable battery, complemented by the option to use standard AA batteries, ensures you’re never left in the dark. Its compact, collapsible design makes it a top pick for backpackers prioritizing space and weight.

MPowered Luci Outdoor 2.0

If solar power is your jam, you can’t go wrong with the MPowered Luci Outdoor 2.0. This inflatable lantern is not only waterproof but also incredibly lightweight, making it a dream for backpackers. It can provide up to 24 hours of light on a single solar charge, ensuring you have consistent lighting throughout your trip. The collapsible design means it takes up minimal space in your pack, and since it’s solar-powered, you don’t have to worry about carrying extra batteries.

Coleman NorthStar Dual Fuel Lantern

For those who prefer the traditional feel of a gas-powered lantern, the Coleman NorthStar Dual Fuel Lantern is a reliable choice. It’s built to last and offers an impressive light output that can illuminate even the largest campsites. Being dual fuel, it can run on either Coleman liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline, providing flexibility in fuel sourcing. While heavier and bulkier than electric or solar options, its durability and brightness make it a good choice for car campers or shorter backpacking trips where weight isn’t as critical.

UCO Original Candle Lantern

Candle lanterns provide a unique ambiance with their soft, natural light, and the UCO Original Candle Lantern is a classic staple in the backpacking world. It’s lightweight, durable, and the candle provides a warm glow while producing heat to reduce condensation in your tent. With a spring-loaded design, the candle burns evenly, and the lantern can be collapsed when not in use. It’s a simple, effective solution for those looking to add a cozy feel to their campsite with minimal fuss.

RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Lantern

For the ultimate in reliability, the RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Lantern eliminates the worry of dead batteries or lack of sunlight for solar charging. A few minutes of hand cranking provides hours of light, making it ideal for emergency situations or as a backup light source. It also features a built-in solar panel for day charging. Compact and multifunctional with the ability to charge your devices via USB, it’s a practical addition to your backpacking gear for peace of mind on the trail.

In conclusion, choosing the right camping lantern comes down to personal preference, trip specifics, and environmental considerations. Whether you opt for the modern efficiency of an electric lantern, the eco-friendly benefits of a solar-powered model, the robust illumination of a gas-powered lantern, the subtle ambiance of a candle lantern, or the reliability of a wind-up version, ensure it aligns with your backpacking needs and values. With the right lantern in your pack, you’ll be all set to enjoy those serene evenings under the stars, safely and comfortably.

Various models of camping lanterns displayed outdoors

Maintaining Your Camping Lantern

Maintaining Your Camping Lantern for Longevity and Reliability

A trusty lantern lights up your camping nights, transforming a dark, sprawling wilderness into a cozy, illuminated haven. Just like your favorite camping knife or trusty hiking boots, a camping lantern begs for proper care and maintenance to extend its life, ensuring it lights up many more nights under the stars. Here’s how you can keep your beacon bright and your nights lit without a hitch.

  1. Routine Cleaning Is Key:

    Much like any camping gear, lanterns accumulate dirt, dust, and possibly rust, depending on their exposure to the elements. For electric, solar-powered, and wind-up lanterns, a simple wipe-down with a damp cloth can remove superficial dirt. Ensure the lantern is switched off and disconnected from any power source before cleaning. For more stubborn grime, a gentle cleaner that doesn’t corrode its materials is your go-to. Gas-powered and candle lanterns might require a bit more elbow grease, especially around areas exposed to soot and fuel residue. Use a soft brush to tackle these spots without scratching the surface.

  2. Battery and Bulb Care:

    Electric and solar-powered lanterns rely heavily on their bulbs and batteries. Check bulbs regularly for any signs of wear and have replacements at the ready. For battery-operated models, remove batteries if you’re storing the lantern for an extended period to prevent corrosion. Solar panels should be kept clean for efficient charging. This simple act ensures your lantern is always ready to shine bright when you need it, without the frustrating dimness or, worse, a complete blackout.

  3. Fuel and Wick Maintenance for Gas and Candle Lanterns:

    With gas-powered lanterns, it’s vital to check connections and seals for any leaks. Using the correct fuel as specified by the manufacturer is not just a suggestion—it’s a necessity for safety and efficiency. For those cozy candle lanterns, trimming the wick and keeping it clean ensures a steady, soot-free light. Wicks soaked in wax should be replaced in time to prevent inefficient burning.

  4. Storage Wisdom:

    Proper storage is the unsung hero of lantern longevity. Avoid places with extreme temperature fluctuations or damp conditions. Electric and solar lanterns appreciate a dry, cool spot, away from direct sunlight that could wear down plastic components. For gas-powered varieties, ensuring all fuel is expended before storage is a good practice, alongside detaching any canisters or fuel sources. Candle lanterns should be stored away from heat sources to prevent wax melting and warping.

  5. Periodic Check-ups:

    Schedule regular maintenance checks for your lantern, just as you would for other crucial gear. A quick operational test before packing for a trip can save you from darkness-induced headaches. Check for any cracks, broken seals, or malfunctioning switches that could spell trouble. It’s also a fantastic time to review fuel, batteries, or spare bulbs you need to pack.

  6. Emergency Repair Kit:

    For the dedicated camper, a small repair kit for your lantern could be a trip saver. This could include spare bulbs, a mini screwdriver, spare batteries or a portable solar charger, and for gas lanterns, a small roll of sealant tape. Knowing you’re prepared for minor repairs instills confidence that your nights under the stars will always be bright.

    In wrapping up, treating your camping lantern with a little tender loving care isn’t just about extending its life; it’s about ensuring reliability when you’re miles away from civilization. A well-maintained lantern is not just a source of light; it’s a beacon of comfort, safety, and the promise of many more memorable nights in the great outdoors. Keep it shining, and it will keep your path illuminated, no matter where your adventures take you.

    A well-maintained camping lantern hanging inside a tent, ready to light up the night

    Photo by fedotov_vs on Unsplash

    Keeping your camping lantern in tip-top condition ensures it’ll be ready to shine bright for all your adventures ahead. Simple steps like regular cleaning, proper storage, and battery care can go a long way in maintaining the longevity and performance of your lantern. Not to mention, adopting sustainable practices helps us all be more responsible adventurers. Remember, the right lantern not only lights up your campsite but also makes your outdoor experiences more enjoyable and safer. So, take the time to care for your gear, and it will surely light the way to many memorable backpacking journeys.

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