When discussing essential camping gear, we typically stick to shelter, sleep systems, and nourishment. But, only so much of time at camp is spent while the sun is in the sky. So what about lighting? Headlamps are wildly convenient, but not great for group settings (who among us hasn't had to bashfully ask a friend to turn their headlamp off after being beamed in the face one too many times). There's a quick solve to illuminating our little slice of the earth: camping lanterns. And thanks to many industrious efforts, lantern options these days are anything but old and boring.
Assess the selection of lanterns for camping at any outdoor gear shop IRL (REI) or online (Backcountry, Huckberry) and you’ll find a lot going on. Some are still gas-powered lanterns, while others have integrated battery packs for charging small electronics. Some even use a hand crank. Keep it humble or go full-on 21st century; the choice is yours, camper.
Field Mag's Top Picks
- - Best Overall: BioLite AlpenGlow 500
- Best Budget Camping Lantern: Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini Core
- Best Camping Lantern for Glamping: Barebones Forest Lantern
- Best Propane Camping Lantern: Coleman Northstar
- Most Minimal Camping Lantern: Knog PWR Lantern
- Best Open Flame Camping Lantern: Snow Peak Mini Flame
- Most Colorful Camping Light: Black Diamond Moji R+ Rechargeable Lantern
- Best Designed Camping Lantern: Snow Peak Home & Camp Lantern
- Most Compact Camping Lantern: LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Power Lantern
- Best Power Bank Camping Lantern: Lander Boulder Rechargeable Lantern and Charging Hub
- Best Multi-Function Camping Lantern: Thermacell EL55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller + Glow Light
- Best Vintage Style Camping Lantern: Barebones Miners Lantern
- Best String Lights for Camping: MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights 44'
What to Look for in a Camping Lantern
Beginning most simply, consider the camping lantern’s light qualities. Most brands will advertise a measure of the light’s brightness measured in lumens. The LED flashlights on the latest smartphones measure anywhere from 12-50 lumens. We suggest going for big lumen output numbers, but look for dimming and brightness settings, too, to increase runtime (highest setting for more light, low setting for longer light) and control of the mood at camp.
It might seem picky, but we think the temperature of a lantern’s light is nearly as critical as the brightness. A cool fluorescent light (4,000 Kelvins or more) can look and feel quite out of place in nature; we prefer a warmer temperature below the 4,000 K mark.
The power (or fuel) source for your camping light should be another important aspect to consider. AA battery, D battery, and other alkaline battery-powered-powered lanterns can be convenient (but wasteful), and USB power looks to be the most ubiquitous power source. We’re beginning to notice an increase in solar lantern options too, an invaluable feature that could prove itself as an emergency light during prolonged power outages. Many of the same lanterns that recharge by USB also function as ancillary battery packs for charging other small devices around camp, which cuts out the need for dedicated power banks.
With all of the above in mind—plus overall design aesthetic and usability—we've sifted through the many variations currently available to the common camper and decided on the following picks. Dig in and have fun this season!
The 13 Best Camping Lanterns for Camping & Backpacking
Best Camping Lantern for Groups: BioLite AlpenGlow 500
This domed camping light reminds us of those smart-speakers folks are always talking to at home, but trust us, it’s not. An impressive count of 500 lumens light up any group setting with a tall 5.4” height throwing light in every direction around it. A group of white, red, blue, and green LED bulbs work in harmony to provide numerous fun color settings of any hue, and a candle-like flicker mode brings some analog-style flavor. The rechargeable battery has a runtime of 5 to 200 hours, and an additional USB port can charge small electronic devices. The AlpenGlow’s size and brightness would make the perfect camp table centerpiece, but a built-in hook allows for hanging it above should the perfect branch present itself.
Weight: 13.4 oz
Max Lumens: 500 lumens
Max Run Time: 200 hours (low)
Light Modes: cool white, warm light, single light, multi-color, flicker, fireworks
Price: $80 SHOP NOW
Best Budget Camping Lantern: Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini Core
This lunar lander-looking lantern for camping may be small, but it’s quite an impressive camping light for its size. The 210 lumen, 3,500 K LED rechargeable camping lantern boasts 500+ hour runtime on its lowest light setting or just 4+ hours at its highest. USB ports on the Lighthouse charge other small devices with its onboard power or even take charge during operation. A set of folding legs helps cast its light further while taking up minimal space when packed away. We’re also big fans of the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern and solar products, like their collapsible Crush Light, a compact solar lantern perfect for backpacking or emergency light for unplanned power outages brought on by the next Noreaster hurricane.
Weight: 8 oz
Max Lumens: 210 lumens
Max Run Time: 500+ hours (low)
Light Modes: low, high
Price: $40 SHOP NOW
Best Camping Lantern for Glamping: Barebones Forest Lantern
The Forest Lantern packs the aesthetic of yore with the modern features of today. A warm 3000 K LED light provides enjoyable ambiance, and its larger USB rechargeable battery size allows for a runtime of up to 80+ hours. Its larger size makes it more suitable for glamping or car camping settings, so choose a more compact lantern if you’re backpacking into the great unknown.
Weight: 1 lb 2 oz
Max Lumens: 220
Max Run Time: 80 hours
Light Modes: adjustable brightness
Price: $80 SHOP NOW
Best Propane Camping Lantern: Coleman Northstar
If you didn’t grow up with Coleman propane lanterns and stoves at camp, then you’re probably just a wee bit younger than some of the Field Mag writers behind this piece. Crank on the dimmable knob to emit a whopping 1540 lumens of gas-fueled light to alight the entire campsite. Unfortunately, it’s one of the least sustainable and compact options we enjoy, but a worthwhile car camping classic worth mentioning.
Weight: 2 lbs
Max Lumens: 1,500 lumens
Max Run Time: 9 hours
Light Modes: adjustable dimmer
Batteries: n/a (uses propane)
Most Minimal Camping Lantern: Knog PWR Lantern
Urban cyclists might recall this Australian brand for their minimal lighting bike lights, a style they’ve upheld across new lighting products, including this sleek cylindrical lantern for camping and other outdoor activities. The scant 6 oz (180 g) light packs an impressive 300 lumens of light into a slim design, measuring 5.9” by 2.3” once compacted. Small-but-stable feet unfold from its base to add stability, but a removable lanyard makes for easy hanging of the small light tube around a branch or with a carabiner. Extend the light’s run time or add power bank functionality with the optional PWR Bank ($55).
Max Lumens: 300 lumens
Max Run Time: n/a
Light Modes: max, mid, low, stamina, SOS
Price: $43 SHOP NOW
Best Open Flame Camping Lantern: Snow Peak Mini Flame
Wouldn’t you rather your final grams of butane fuel be used for light rather than sputtering out on its final boil of your camping kettle? This ingenious camping lantern creates a candle-like ambiance around camp and consumes just a tiny amount of fuel as adjustable as your favorite camp stove. The 106 g weight falls below the measure of an ultralight necessity but is still an appropriate weight for the average backpacking outing.
Weight: 3.6 oz (without fuel canister)
Max Lumens: n/a
Max Run Time: 35 hours
Light Modes: n/a
Batteries: n/a (uses iso-butane fuel)
Price: $60 SHOP NOW
Most Colorful Camping Light: Black Diamond Moji R+ Rechargeable Lantern
A rechargeable version of Black Diamond's Moji lantern, this tiny 200-lumen LED light racks up several features for a camping light handy for camping trips or any outdoor hang, sans AAA batteries. A continuous rainbow light mode lets campers set a cosmic mood or pause once they’ve found a hue they dig—you can set it to a red light to save your eyes, just like a headlamp, for instance—then further dial in brightness with a dimmer function. Plop the ReMoji onto any picnic table, or get creative with the light’s built-in hooks or magnetic base. A water-resistant IPX4 rating will keep the light from ruin if a bit of rain runs through your camp. The internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery charges via micro-USB.
Weight: 2.8 oz
Max Lumens: 200 lumens
Max Run Time: 100 hours (low)
Light Modes: solid, strobe, rainbow, campfire
Price: $45 SHOP NOW
Best Designed Camping Lantern: Snow Peak Home & Camp Lantern
Recognizing that its fans use their products at home and camp, Snow Peak set out to design a rechargeable and portable lantern with both uses in mind. The minimal design features only one button to toggle the light on and off and dim the 400 lumen light to a preferred brightness. A detachable USB charging stand acts as a constant power cable to avoid worrying about keeping it charged at home.
Weight: 1 lb 9.6 oz
Max Lumens: 400 lumens
Max Run Time: 23 hours
Light Modes: adjustable dim
Batteries: USB rechargeable
Price: $170 SHOP NOW
Most Compact Camping Lantern: LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Power Lantern
This lesser-known brand does one product, and they do it well: a best-seller, flat-pack, collapsible camping light for the discerning camper. Like other camping lanterns, the inflatable lantern can charge via USB port. While out camping for days on end, you might not have enough backup power to keep every single device charged. So, its second-most important feature is its small solar panel that charges its lithium battery. One step further, the same USB port can charge small devices. The solar panel could be the device’s primary feature to the right camper–a compact solar panel charger that also lights up at night! Just need the light? Save a few bucks and opt for the PackLite Nova ($30) solar light.
Weight: 8.6 oz
Max Lumens: 150 lumens
Max Run Time: 44+ hours (low)
Light Modes: 5 brightness settings
Batteries: solar and USB rechargeable
Price: $50 SHOP NOW
Best Power Bank Camping Lantern: Lander Boulder Rechargeable Lantern and Charging Hub
This versatile LED lantern acts as both a power and light source, capable of charging up to four gadgets at once. Proximity lighting adjusts the light output depending on how close one is to the lantern, and with the free Lander app, you can change the light color. 300 hours of run time with a max output of 350 lumens means you're set for a weekend of camping.
Weight: 1 lb 3.7 oz
Max Lumens: 350 lumens
Max Run Time: 300 hours
Light Modes: variable dimming, strobe, and color
Batteries: USB-C rechargeable
Price: $120 SHOP NOW
Best Multi-Function Camping Lantern: Thermacell EL55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller + Glow Light
Getting swarmed by biting mosquitoes at camp can be a real bummer–so why not add some mosquito repelling function to your backyard/camp lantern? This little guy features a rechargeable lithium ion battery to create a 20-foot zone of bug-free bliss for nine hours, or five and a half hours while illuminated.
Weight: 12 oz
Max Lumens: n/a
Max Run Time: 5.5 hours
Light Modes: dimmable
Batteries: USB-C rechargeable
Best Vintage Style Camping Lantern: Barebones Miners Lantern
Channel your inner 49er spirit with this unabashedly adorable four-inch tall LED camping lantern, done in the style of an antique liquid fuel lantern that miners of yore would use to light their vocational tunnels. Instead of manipulating a wick to control brightness, owners simply control a pleasantly-tactile paddle to dial in their desired light setting.
Weight: 6.4 oz
Max Lumens: 250 lumens
Max Run Time: 15 hours
Light Modes: dimmable
Best String Lights for Camping: MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights 44'
String lights aren't technically a lantern, but they can accomplish the same goal of providing campsite ambience and are an ideal alternative to everyone hanging around in headlamps. Christmas tree options can work, but MPOWERED's Luci Solar String lights are far better for camping with an included solar-powered power hub that can keep all 20 shatterproof LED blubs aglow for up to 40 hours (and charge up your phone or speaker in a pinch). When you don't need it, simply disconnect and stash it away and the lights will keep going for three to five hours till they need a charge.
Weight: 1 lb 10.2 oz
Max Lumens: 140 lumens
Max Run Time: 40 hours
Light Modes: low, medium, high
Batteries: solar-powered, rechargeable