We researched dozens of the best lanterns for camping available and tested our top 10 side-by-side for months of well-lit adventures up and down the West Coast and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We rated each on its performance in five critical categories: brightness, ease of use, durability, features, and weight. We evaluated them for outdoor camping in both the front and backcountry, as well as for emergency lighting at home. For the cream of the crop, we give awards that reflect the best all-around, the best value, and a handful of top products that excel in a few specific ways. We hope this review is a valuable companion on your quest for your next camping lantern in 2019.
The Best Lanterns of 2019
|Price||$48.69 at REI|
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|$34.65 at Amazon||$39.98 at Amazon|
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|$129.95 at REI|
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|$22.39 at REI|
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|Pros||Rubber-tipped legs, dimming feature, dual metal hooks for hanging, cool design, durable, easy to use||Durable, packed with features, water resistant, floats||Very long battery life, tough and durable, provides a nice soft diffused light||Tons of features, bright, 180/360 light settings, bluetooth compatible||Compact, dual flashlight/lantern, lightweight|
|Cons||Could be brighter for large groups, replaceable batteries run out quickly||Can't fully adjust the amount of light output, limited to four settings, small||Glow-in-the-dark doesn't work very well, hook on the bottom is not very sturdy, hard to reattach bottom after replacing batteries.||Some features can be temperamental, expensive||No feet or legs, short battery life, limited features|
|Bottom Line||The best all-around lantern for backpacking, camping, and power outages.||This little lantern is tough and versatile.||A durable lantern with exceptional battery life.||The lantern that boosts the fun at a party and provides a single, bright light source at a campsite.||This pocket-sized light delivers in all the ways that a basic lantern should.|
|Rating Categories||Apollo||The Siege||30-Day Duro Glow||Base XL||Black Diamond Zip|
|Ease Of Use (10%)|
|Specs||Apollo||The Siege||30-Day Duro Glow||Base XL||Black Diamond Zip|
|Weight (with batteries)||10.19 oz||9.14 oz||29.28 oz||22.88 oz||3.63 oz|
|Lumens||225||200||700||500||(Lantern) 150 (Flashlight) 100|
|Size (inches)||9.5 x 3.3 x 5.3||2.4 x 2.4 x 5.4||7.2 x 3.75||5.08 x 5.0 x 1.73||2.125 x 3.25 x 1|
Black Diamond Apollo
Of all the lights we tested, the Apollo proved to be one of the most consistent across the board. It is versatile, durable, and easy to use for a range of activities. Shining at 225 lumens, it provides ample light for setting up camp in the dark. It's great on uneven surfaces and it can easily be hung overhead from a cord or tree branch. It also features a USB charge out port, which is great for giving your smartphone a little extra juice when an outlet isn't nearby. This light is also relatively lightweight and compact for what it offers.
This light is a little on the pricier side. However, it is sturdy and well made. We like it for backpacking or car camping as well as power outages at home. Of all the products we tested, the Apollo is the one we reached for most often.
Read Review: Black Diamond Apollo
Best Compact and Inexpensive Option
Black Diamond Zip
The Black Diamond Zip is a pocket-sized, lightweight lantern that doubles as a super-focused flashlight. Though it doesn't pack the same lumen punch as other lights that we tested, we were still impressed with its overall performance and versatility. It can light up a small room or tent, but can also be used as a personal flashlight if you're camping and need to get up in the middle of the night. It comes with a rubber-coated metal hook on top so it can easily be hung from above, as well as very, very tiny rubber feet that enable it to stand upright on a flat surface like a picnic table or countertop.
One main drawback of the Zip is its lack of a light lock. It is small enough and light enough to take backpacking for extended periods, but it can turn on inadvertently if it gets pressed against something in your pack. It's also not going to be a primary light source for larger groups, so we are a little disappointed that it requires as many batteries as its brighter counterpart the Black Diamond Apollo. Minor drawbacks aside, we ultimately enjoy the tiny, versatile Zip quite a bit.
Read Review: Black Diamond Zip
Best on a Shoestring Budget
Black Diamond Moji
The Black Diamond Moji is compact, lightweight and easy to use. It's not nearly as bright as some others that we tested, but we were still able to do most everything we needed to. We preferred to use it in our tent at night to play cards and read. The light quality is a little warmer than many other options as well. Its single power button is textured, so it's easy to locate in a dark tent. The Moji is durable, primarily because there just aren't very many parts to break. It comes with Black Diamond's standard opposed metal hooks on top so it can easily be attached to a carabiner, or hung from a clothesline.
The limitations of the Moji are its brightness and lack of versatility. It's suitable for individual use, or a couple of people in a small area, but it's not going to be your car camping primary light source. It doesn't have any legs, so hanging it is the only option.
Read Review: Black Diamond Moji
Top Pick for Versatility
Streamlight The Siege
The Siege is a sturdy little workhorse. It illuminates big areas and the opaque plastic cover is removable for a brighter, more concentrated light. It's the supporting features though that make The Siege shine. It's waterproof when submerged in water up to one meter deep. It floats and has a magnetic base (great for sticking to the underside of a car hood). It hangs from both ends (either by the handle at the top, or the carabiner hook at the bottom). It fits easily into a jacket pocket and with its rubberized casing, it is also impact-resistant.
The primary drawback is that it doesn't give off the most even light. It also has a limited run time relative to some other models in this review. The Siege is a steal for those who beat the heck out of their gear. It's great for boating activities, or anything by the water. This would also be a strong contender for a glovebox emergency light.
Read Review: Streamlight The Siege
Top Pick for Power Outages
Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow
The Ultimate Survival Technology 30-Day Duro Glow is a powerhouse. Its advertised 30-day shine lasted 33 days in our testing. It has a sturdy, heavy, rubberized, impact resistant base. The frosted plastic light cover makes the light soft and easy to look at, even directly. The cover is removable if you need an even brighter glow. It is water resistant but not waterproof. The 30-Day Duro Glow weighs just under 2 pounds with three D batteries and it is average for compactness.
However, it is not without its drawbacks. The battery compartment can be challenging to reattach. Its glow-in-the-dark feature could have been stronger. We also noticed that the plastic handle is not the highest quality. With all that in mind, if your priority is run time over anything else, this is the light for you. It's best for extended car camping, RVing, or if you live somewhere with a risk of prolonged power outages.
Read Review: Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow
Why You Should Trust Us
Our experienced panel of testers knows their lanterns. Lead reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch started his professional outdoor career as a guide, leading multi-week backpacking, canoeing, and cycling trips throughout New England and maritime Canada. Ben has made a habit of escaping the lights of large cities, however, he deeply appreciates being able to find his way through the woods, even with a new moon. Usually a strong advocate for a good headlamp, over the course of his 20 years of backcountry experience and decade as a resident of New England and the power outages that come along with that privilege, Ben has come to appreciate some of the creature comforts that tend to come along with many of the lanterns in this review. Whether it is thru-hiking the PCT, Vermont's Long Trail, or paddling down New Hampshire's Androscoggin River, he has found himself on more than one occasion, looking for a little extra battery boost for his phone, and grateful for the warm glow of a lantern on a cold, rainy night.
After top contenders emerged from our rigorous research, we put them to the test. We took them into the forest, assessing how each one performed for solo use, small groups of 2-3 people, and larger groups of 4+. We spent some nights in simulated (and one or two real) power outages, seeing how we fared with just the light of these luminaries to live by. To learn more about their durability, we dropped them (from hand height, head height, and overhead height). For weather resistance, we got them wet. If they claimed to be waterproof, into the river or lake they went. For the lanterns that are more than just a light source, we charged our devices to see if they could help us out of a drained battery jam. We did our very best to look at this review from every angle, and these models shined in even the darkest corners.
Related: How We Tested Lanterns
Analysis and Test Results
Every model we tested offers a slightly different set of features, making each one preferable for different uses. There are a variety of types that fall roughly into three categories: emergency use/supplemental power outage lighting, front-country camping, and backcountry camping, and we tested them all. Below, we outline each of the metrics that we assessed during our testing, including some of the specific ways that manufacturers do (or don't) effectively incorporate features and design elements that enhance these metrics.
Related: Buying Advice for Lanterns
Whether or not one of these lights make it into your car camping kit or emergency supplies may come down to the price tag. We've got quite a few to choose from in this review, and since everyone's budget is different, we don't award any scores based on price, only performance. With that in mind, we still consider the value that each model offers. To get at this, we compare a product's overall score against its price; higher score and lower price equal greater value. Some lanterns that offer great value include the Black Diamond Moji, Streamlight The Siege, and Black Diamond Apollo.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we chose brightness as the most important factor, regardless of a model's intended use. On our adventures, we used these lanterns in a wide range of settings and rated them based on how well and how widely they illuminate an area. We take into account that some models are just meant to be used in different size spaces. We also assess light quality. Though LED lights tend to give off a harsher, less natural (than sunlight) white or blue light, technology continues to improve.
Another consideration is how well the user can control the brightness of the light. We particularly enjoy the dimming feature on the Black Diamond models, which allows us to adjust the light intensity based on the group size and setting.
During testing, we learned that there is such a thing as too bright for certain situations. If a lantern was blinding we were much less likely to place it in the middle of camp at dinner or use it to read in our tents. We also took note of how the light was diffused (primarily affected by the globe or light cover). The plastic globe surrounding the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow created a lovely light quality and the Black Diamond's opaque plastic made the Apollo, Moji, and Zip non-invasive.
Ease of Use
A good lantern should be intuitive to use. A major determining factor between models in this regard is whether they are electric or fuel-powered. Electric lights, whether they are battery or solar powered, or outlet-charged, are far easier to work with. So much so that all of the models currently in our review are electric. Models that require isobutane canisters are almost always more complicated to set up, messier, and often need maintenance and occasional mantle replacement. Their primary advantage is that they tend to burn brighter. We would recommend one of these old-school lights if you are looking for a large, central light source for a group campsite, otherwise, the simplicity and ease-of-use of an electric light is a no-brainer.
After much comparison testing, we realized the importance of being able to easily hang our lights overhead. Heavier models proved to be much more difficult to suspend. In treeless campsites, we were confined to setting them on rocks, picnic tables, cars, or on the ground. Small bases make it hard to stand some of them on uneven surfaces, while models like the Black Diamond Apollo use tripod-style legs with rubber, non-slip feet, making it easy to position. We also learned to love the models with many light modes such as the BioLite BaseLantern XL.
When researching the products, we noticed many common consumer reviews about battery compartment accessibility. The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow requires more effort to replace the batteries, whereas the Black Diamond Apollo, Black Diamond Moji and Streamlight The Siege were much more straightforward and simple. The MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 and LuminAID PackLite MAX do not require any batteries but do take a while to fully charge in the sunlight.
Here we tested the durability of the product materials in different environments. Generally, the models that we tested are made of plastic and are often reinforced with metal, or padded with rubber. The Streamlight The Siege and the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow have enough rubber to make them shock resistant. The Siege withstood a fall from seven feet high onto cement without a scratch. The MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 and the LuminAID PackLite Max are light enough that they can get (literally) kicked around pretty firmly without puncturing or deflating (though if they do get holes, it's pretty much game over for them). We dropped each of them from 4 feet (about arm height), 6 feet (head height) and 7 feet (above head height) onto a dirt surface to see whether or not they got nicked or cracked.
Another factor we considered in durability is battery life. The 30 Day Duro Glow's D batteries lasted 33 days straight, 24 hours a day when on its lowest setting. On the other side of the spectrum, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 doesn't require any batteries (it charges via USB), however, it doesn't hold a charge for nearly as long. Of course, it ultimately depends on how long they are used each day, but on low to moderate settings, most of the models we tested could get us through at least five evenings-worth of camping.
A note on IP Ratings
Many lanterns will come with an ingress protection (IP) rating. There are two values in this rating. The first number is the degree to which the product can repel solid dust and dirt particles. The second refers to how water resistant/waterproof it is. A standard rating might be IP64 or IPX4 (the X is just a placeholder, meaning, in this case, that the product has not been rated for solid particle protection). The scale for solids is 0-6 (no protection to dustproof). Water resistance is from 0-8 (no protection to safe for continuous submersion).
A model with an on/off switch and a handle will get the job done, but we appreciate the ones that offer a little bit more versatility and thoughtfulness. Some of the products tested had just a few features, while others had several that set them apart and made them easier to use or more versatile. We rated them based on how many features each model has beyond the basics, and whether or not they truly improve the overall quality of the product. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 400, Black Diamond Apollo, BioLite BaseLantern XL, and LuminAID PackLite, to different degrees, are all able to charge a smartphone. The Black Diamond models have features that are simple yet practical. Some of these included the easy-to-use dimming feature, great hooks for hanging the lanterns from above, and flexible legs (on the Apollo) for improved stability on uneven terrain. We gave lower scores to models with features that were unnecessary, while the ones with practical and useful features received higher marks — for example, we love how the Streamlight The Siege is waterproof and floats.
We especially liked the products with dimmable power outputs (as opposed to discrete settings like low, medium, and high) like the Black Diamond Apollo, Black Diamond Zip, and Black Diamond Moji.
Weight is also a consideration that largely determines which activity each light is or is not suitable for. If you are looking for a model that you can take camping in the backcountry, compact and lightweight is the name of the game. You may also end up saving a little more weight in total if you opt for a version that also includes a USB charge port (assuming you are otherwise going to bring a supplemental battery pack).
On the other hand, if you are staying at basecamp, you may actually want a little more heft in your lantern. The UST 30-Day Duro Glow is the heaviest contender at about 1.8 lbs. We really wouldn't consider taking it too far away from camp.
The lightweights that we would take deeper into the backcountry, include the Black Diamond models Apollo and Moji, which take AA batteries. Then there are the ultralights and backcountry models like the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0, LuminAID PackLite Max, which both come with solar panels, as well as the Black Diamond Zip, which fits easily into almost any pocket.
Over the course of our testing, we were pleasantly surprised again and again by how useful these products proved to be beyond their primary function as light sources; in some cases, we came to like them more than our beloved headlamps (gasp!). 'Til the darkness shall be no more!
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch