The Best Lantern Review

We took nine of the top-rated models on the market, comparing them side-by-side for six months of well-lit adventures up and down the West Coast. To help you find the perfect one, we rated each on its performance in four critical categories: brightness, ease of use, durability and features. We evaluated them for outdoor adventures and emergency backup lighting at home. With this in mind, our awards reflect the best all-around, the best value and the best lightweight backcountry option.

You may also be interested in: The Best Headlamp Review and our Dream Camping Gear List.

Read the full review below >

Review by: and Audrey Bayless

Top Ranked Lanterns Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Black Diamond Apollo
Black Diamond Apollo
Read the Review
Video video review
Eureka Warrior 230 IR
Eureka Warrior 230 IR
Read the Review
Rayovac Sportsman
Rayovac Sportsman
Read the Review
Video video review
Black Diamond Voyager
Black Diamond Voyager
Read the Review
Black Diamond Orbit
Black Diamond Orbit
Read the Review
Video video review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Best Buy Award    Top Pick Award 
Street Price Varies $37 - $50
Compare at 8 sellers
$50
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$25
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Varies $32 - $40
Compare at 10 sellers
Varies $13 - $30
Compare at 8 sellers
Overall Score 
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User Rating
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100% recommend it (2/2)
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Pros Rubber-tipped legs, dimming feature, dual metal hooks for hanging, cool design, durable, easy to use.Versatile, Bright, Remote, Hang modes, Durable, Remote has a light on itSturdy, compact, bright, features.Versatile, Bright, light modes, easily hungNRG Recharge Kit available, lightweight, durable, versatile.
Cons Could be brighter.Can be too bright at times, Easy to misplace the remote, Bottom hook is flimsyToo bright at times, wish it dimmed, D batteries are expensive.unstable at times, hard to open sometimes, flashlight mode has low distanceUnstable at times due to small base.
Best Uses Camping, emergency light, group backcountry travel.Camping, all emergency situationsEmergency backup, camping, outdoor lighting.Camping, Emergency car and home use, backpackingBackpacking, camping, emergency use in car and home.
Date Reviewed Dec 26, 2013Jul 28, 2013Dec 26, 2013Dec 26, 2013Dec 26, 2013
Weighted Scores Black Diamond Apollo Eureka Warrior 230 IR Rayovac Sportsman Black Diamond Voyager Black Diamond Orbit
Brightness - 20%
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Ease Of Use - 35%
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Durability - 30%
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Features - 15%
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Product Specs Black Diamond Apollo Eureka Warrior 230 IR Rayovac Sportsman Black Diamond Voyager Black Diamond Orbit
Lumens 80 230 high/ 15 low 240 75 45
Number of batteries 4 3 3 4 4
Battery type AA D D AA AAA
Water Proof Rating IPX 4 IPX 4 n/a IPX 4 IPX 4
weight (with batteries) 11.4 oz 32.2 oz with remote 30.3 oz 8.1 oz 4.7 oz
Manufacturer Run Time (hours) 50 50 High /200 Low 40 (high); 90 (low) 100 24

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Rayovac Sportsman
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Black Diamond Voyager
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Eureka Warrior 230 IR
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Snow Peak Mini Hozuki
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General Electric ChromaLit 3D
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Coleman Quad
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Coleman Mini Micropacker
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Selecting the Right Product
Why buy a lantern instead of just a headlamp? Unlike headlamps, they provide a 360 degree central lighting source. This allows people to share one source of light, whereas a headlamp is used for personal spotlighting. They can illuminate a campsite, and provide important illumination during emergencies and power outages. Bringing one for the group can eliminate the need for everyone to have their own headlamp, ultimately saving weight.

For more information on how to select the right model, check out our How to Choose the Best Lantern.
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Eureka Warrior
Credit: Devin Chance
Types
There are three main uses: emergencies, camping, and backcountry uses. Emergency and camping are similar in that weight is less important and the lumen output is more critical. For emergency lanterns, battery life and ease of use is essential as well. Backpacking models should be light, compact and durable enough to withstand the elements.

We tested nine contenders, ranging from ultra light ones that fit in the palm of your hand to hefty, bright models bigger than your head. Not all of them were directly comparable, but considering the large variety, we have recommended lanterns based on their intended use.

Criteria for Evaluation

Brightness
We found brightness to be one of the most important factors. On our adventures, we used them in a wide range of settings, and we rated them based on how well they illuminated the area and their light quality. A huge factor for us was whether or not it was uncomfortably bright. If it was blinding, we were much less likely to place it in the middle of camp at dinner, or read by it in our tent. We loved having the ability to control the brightness, particularly the dimming feature on the Black Diamond models, which allowed us to adjust the light based on the setting and number of people present.

The other factor that affects light quality is how the light is projected. No one wants to stare directly at a light bulb. This is where the globe, the "lampshade" of lanterns, comes in. The rubber globe surrounding the Snow Peak Mini Hozuki created the loveliest light quality, and the Black Diamond's fogged plastic and manner of reflecting the light made it non-invasive without sacrificing brightness. The General Electric ChromaLit 3D was the brightest lantern we tested. However, its globe is nothing but clear plastic, and looking at the light is comparable to having a penlight shined into your eye at the doctors office… uncomfortable.
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Black Diamond Orbit
Credit: Audrey Bayless

Ease of Use
We took them to the mountains and to the desert and realized the importance of being able to hang them easily. The heavier ones tended to be much more difficult to hang and required sturdier branches, thus increasing the importance of their base. In treeless campsites we were confined to setting them on rocks, picnic tables, cars or on the ground. Small bases made it hard to position them on uneven surfaces, while designs like the Black Diamond Apollo used tripod style legs with rubber, non-slip ends, making it a piece of cake to position. We also learned to love the models with many light modes, which allowed us to change the brightness depending on the intended use. For example, it's great if you have a super bright light like the Rayovac Sportsman, but if you want to read by it you're going to get a headache. Lights with dimming features like the Black Diamond models, the Eureka Warrior and the Snow Peak Mini Hozuki were much more versatile.

When researching the products we noticed many common consumer reviews about battery compartment accessibility. Some of the larger models tested really required a lot more effort to access the batteries, whereas the small lanterns were much more straightforward and simpler.

Size also contributes to how easy it is to use. For example, a large heavy model like the General Electric ChromaLit 3D can be very difficult to use in a tent or at your bedside table, due to its large base and weight. A small model is easier to use and more effective in a tent than out in the open trying to illuminate your cooking area. We rated them based on their intended use.
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The Top pick award winning Black Diamond Orbit has a smaller base than the Editors choice award winning Black Diamond Apollo. In certain situations the small base is preferable.
Credit: Devin Chance

Durability
What good is a lantern that doesn't last? Here we tested the durability of the construction materials in many different environments. Generally the products tested were made of plastic, but they were made sturdier by added metal and rubber worked into the design. The Rayovac Sportsman and the Eureka Warrior 230 IR have enough rubber to make them shockproof at close range. The Snow Peak Mini Hozuki is also rubberized, but it dirties easily and the battery pack is very exposed, making it an expensive paperweight if it happens to get wet. None of the models tested stood out for being particularly flimsy, but some definitely felt less sturdy than others.

None of the products tested were waterproof, only water resistant. If you are planning on using a lantern in a wet environment then we suggest searching the internet for a waterproof lantern, or preferably equipping your group with waterproof headlamps. This is because rain can significantly decrease the light output.

Another factor of durability is battery life. We will be updating this review as soon as we send the products into the lab for those results, but for now you can refer to the manufacturers' lumen rating for an idea of the brightness.

Features
A model with only an on/off switch and a handle will get the job done, but it really decreases its versatility. We would score such a design such rather low in the features category. Some of the products tested had minimal features, while others had many unique components that set them apart and made them much easier to use. We rated them based on how many features they had, and if they really improved the overall quality of the product. The Eureka Warrior 230 IR had a number of nifty features, such as a pocket sized remote control with a built in flashlight, and a couple different ways of hanging it. The Black Diamond lanterns had features that we found to be simple yet practical. Some of these included the sliding globe that covered the on/off button, the awesome dimming feature, great hooks for hanging and flexible legs for improved stability on uneven terrain. Lower scores were given to lanterns with features that were unnecessary, while the ones with practical and useful features received the higher scores

Another thing to note is that a lantern with many useful features tended to be easier to use, increasing the ease of use rating.
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Eureka Warrior
Credit: Devin Chance

Editors' Choice award: Black Diamond Apollo
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Black Diamond Apollo
Credit: Audrey Bayless
The Black Diamond Apollo's innovative design and reliable performance earned it our Editors' Choice award. The versatility quickly made it our go-to on camping trips and during power outages. Though not the lightest or brightest, it makes a great multipurpose option without sacrificing quality. Our favorite use for it was camping, but it would be great for larger backpacking groups or as a base camp light. In addition, Black Diamond offers an eco-friendly and money saving Black Diamond NRG Rechargeable Battery Kit and Black Diamond NRG / NRG2 Car Charger Kit that recharges the battery similar to a cell phone charger. If you are looking for a product that excels in every category, we highly recommend the Apollo.

Top Pick award for Best Lightweight Option: Black Diamond Orbit
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Using the Black Diamond Orbit to check on dinner
Credit: Devin Chance
For our Top Pick award, we felt it important to recommend a product for the backcountry enthusiasts. The Black Diamond Orbit is light and extremely compact. As the little brother to the Black Diamond Apollo, we found ourselves reaching for the Orbit almost as much as the Editors' Choice winner. The Orbit also conveniently offers the Black Diamond NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit and the (sold separately).

Before embarking on this review, we had never backpacked with lanterns, preferring headlamps for our evening activities. Though we still bring headlamps, this review demonstrated the beauty of collecting around a central light source, particularly in areas where fires are prohibited. Of all the products we tested, the Orbit is the only one we would take into the backcountry.

Best Buy award: Rayovac Sportsman
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Rayovac Sportsman
Credit: Devin Chance
Bright and bombproof, the Rayovac Sportsman packs incredible value into its sturdy compact design. It was one of the brightest products we tested and probably the most durable as well. We saw the Rayovac as a great option for a home backup light; its durable design makes it an emergency kit must-have. Take it camping and you will not have to fear putting it in children's hands, it too can roll in the dirt. Tired of blindly fumbling for a button in the dark? The Rayovac features a small LED light just above the on/off button that blinks every five seconds. For only $30, you can't go wrong.

Devin Chance and Audrey Bayless
Buying Advice
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How to Choose the Best Lantern - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Lantern

by Devin Chance and Audrey Bayless
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