Our experts have lit up the night for 9 years, testing over four dozen of the best lanterns available. For this review, we purchased 14 top models to test side-by-side. We have gone coast to coast, stopping at camping spots at state and national parks. We have hiked deep into the backcountry and sat through some power outages at home. We look at several qualities of each light, including brightness, battery life, and durability, to assess all performance aspects of each product. The best of the best have earned awards, from overall all-stars to budget-friendly bargains. Use this comprehensive review to help you find your next lantern to light up dark places.If you're itching to get out there, other camping gear of interest may be camping tables and chairs, camping stoves, and a tent big enough for the whole family. If you're looking to lounge and relax in style, we've also tested hammocks, cots, and camping blankets.
|Price||$51.96 at Backcountry|
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$49.99 at Amazon
|$69.95 at REI|
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$28.60 at Amazon
|$29.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Rubber-tipped legs, dimming feature, dual metal hooks for hanging, durable||Very long battery life, tough and durable, provides a nice soft diffused light||Bright, USB charge port, no disposable batteries||Durable, packed with features, water resistant, floats||Compact and lightweight, charges other devices, versatile for individual use|
|Cons||Could be brighter for large groups, replaceable batteries run out quickly||Glow-in-the-dark doesn't work very well, hook on the bottom is not very sturdy, hard to reattach bottom after replacing batteries||Durability concerns, hard to look at||Can't fully adjust the amount of light output, limited to four settings, small||Difficult to hang, need outlet or battery pack to charge|
|Bottom Line||The best all-around model for portable lighting needs, this rechargeable model is convenient, bright enough, and even doubles as a power bank for small devices||A durable lantern with exceptional battery life for extended use that you can rely on when the lights go out||This powerful lantern with a rechargeable battery (via electricity or a hand crank) is a great option for camping trips and power outages||This little lantern is tough and versatile, and its waterproofing makes it a good option for lighting needs on a boat or kayak||This pocket-sized dual use flashlight/lantern is a great option for personal use while car camping|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Apollo||Ultimate Survival T...||Goal Zero Lighthous...||Streamlight The Siege||Goal Zero Lighthous...|
|Ease of Use (10%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Apollo||Ultimate Survival T...||Goal Zero Lighthous...||Streamlight The Siege||Goal Zero Lighthous...|
|Weight (with batteries)||10.19 oz||29.28 oz||19.79 oz||9.14 oz||3.10 oz|
|Manufacturer run time (hours)||24 hrs||Low: 30 days
High: 12 hrs
|Low, one side: 320 hrs
Low, both sides: 180 hrs
High, one side: 5 hrs
High, both sides: 2.5 hrs
|Low: 37 hrs
High: 7 hrs
|Low: 170 hrs
High: 7 hrs
|Size (inches)||9.5 x 3.3 x 5.3||7.2 x 3.75||4.5 x 5 x 6.5in||2.4 x 2.4 x 5.4||4 x 1.75 x 1.2|
|Number of batteries||3||3||1||3||1|
|Waterproof rating||IPX4||IPX4||Not specified||IPX7||IPX6|
Best Overall Lantern
Black Diamond Apollo
Of all of the lights that we tested, the Black Diamond Apollo is one of the most consistent across the board. It is versatile, durable, and easy to use for a range of activities. It shines in at 250 lumens and provides ample light for setting up camp in the dark. It includes a USB charge-out port that can double as a power bank for small devices like a smartphone when you find yourself off the grid. We appreciated its compact size and relatively light weight for what it offers. On top of that, it performs surprisingly well on uneven surfaces and can also be hung easily overhead from a cord or tree branch.
One of its few drawbacks is the price. However, you're paying for durability and versatility, which is hard to argue with. It is also not a great backcountry model for a trip longer than a weekend, especially if you are planning on using it to charge another device. We like it for one-night backpacking, car camping, or as a backup light for a power outage at home. No lantern will suit every scenario, but of all the products that we tested, this is the one we will reach for in most situations.
Read Review: Black Diamond Apollo
Best for Extended Power Outages
Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow
The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow is a real marathon runner. Its advertised 30-day shine was surpassed with 33 days in our testing. It has a sturdy, heavy, rubberized, impact-resistant base. A nice addition is the frosted plastic cover that softens the light and makes it easier to look at (and the cover is removable when you need an even brighter glow). This model weighs just under 2 pounds with three D batteries, making it a great choice for your picnic table lantern.
On the downside, though you hopefully won't have to access it often, the battery compartment can be challenging to access. We also found that this lantern's glow-in-the-dark feature could be more robust. The plastic handle is also not the highest quality. Even with these minor drawbacks, if your priority is runtime over anything else, this is the light for you. It is best for extended car camping, RVing, or if you live somewhere with a higher risk of prolonged power outages.
Read Review: Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow
Best Bang for Your Buck
Goal Zero Crush Light
The Goal Zero Crush Light surprised us — we really enjoyed using this lantern. It is a lightweight, solar-powered, no-frills light that works well for individual or two-person use. It charges either via solar panel or mini-USB, so it's great for both backcountry weekends as well as backyard sleepovers for the kids. It also continued to work flawlessly after being left out in the rain overnight. Its crushability makes it practical to pack, and it stows away easily in a backpack or over-packed car. It is also much less susceptible to being punctured than its solar-powered inflatable competitors.
When considering how we would want this lantern to be different, we'd ask for a brighter light. Like many similar solar-powered models, it doesn't pack nearly the same lumen punch as ones with traditional batteries. It also doesn't come with a charge-out port, so its versatility is somewhat limited in that way. However, this affordable, fun, and easy-to-use light is one that we would welcome in our tent anytime.
Read Review: Goal Zero Crush Light
Best Durability and Water Resistance
Streamlight The Siege
The Streamlight The Siege is a sturdy little workhorse. It illuminates large areas, and the opaque plastic cover is removable, providing a brighter, more concentrated stream of light. Though its performance as a simple light is useful enough, it is the supporting features that make this model shine. It is waterproof up to one meter deep and it floats; both characteristics make it great for activities near or on the water. It also has a magnetic base (great for sticking to the underside of a car hood). It fits easily into a jacket pocket, and with its rubberized casing, it is also impact-resistant. Lastly, it can hang from both ends (either by the handle at the top, or the carabiner hook at the bottom).
The primary drawback is that it doesn't give off the most evenly distributed light. If ambiance is important, this might not be the light for that occasion. It also has a limited run time relative to some other models in this review. However, it is a steal for those who are looking for high utility and long life from their gear. This would also be a strong contender for a glovebox emergency light.
Read Review: Streamlight The Siege
Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge is a mini marvel. It has dual mode flashlight and lantern functionality for the solo adventurer. It charges via USB, so there is no need to carry disposable batteries. We also love that it can charge other small devices in a pinch. It is great for car camping, weekend backcountry trips, and a great size for children to use.
If we are getting down to the nitty-gritty, the metal hanging loop at the top really requires an additional carabiner hooked on to it in order to be truly functional. The power button is also in an odd location and not always so easy to press because of its small size. Even with those minor inconveniences, this model an excellent option when you need a compact light that punches above its weight class.
Read Review: Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge
Best String Light
MPowerd Luci Solar String Lights
The MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights is a great option for any festive occasion outdoors. If setting the ambiance is your thing, this product should be in your camper or backyard for your next cookout. If you need to charge up the string in a hurry, it comes with a USB plug that can get the job done. The attached carrying case makes the lights easy to manage when they are not in use. The light also has a USB port that can charge other devices as well. Most importantly, the ten-node, 20-LED string is bright and brings plenty of light to a deck or campsite.
A few pings against this model are that it can be difficult to find the right spot to hang or rest the carrying case when the lights are strung up. The string itself is also sometimes difficult to manage (because, after all, they are string lights). However, there is so much to like about this set that it takes top honors as an excellent addition to a summer outdoor setup.
Read Review: MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights
Why You Should Trust Us
Our panel of experienced testers knows its lanterns. Lead reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch started his outdoor career as a trip guide, leading multi-week backpacking, canoeing, and cycling adventures throughout New England and maritime Canada. He 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. Over his 20 years of backcountry experience and a decade of power outages that come with the winter storms of rural northern New England, he has grown to appreciate some of the features that tend to come with many of the models in this review. Whether it is thru-hiking the PCT, Vermont's Long Trail, or paddling down New Hampshire's Androscoggin River, he frequently finds himself looking for a little extra battery boost for his phone, and grateful for the warm glow of a lantern on a cold, rainy night.
We researched dozens of contenders and selected the best available to put them to the test. We took them into the forest, assessing how each performed for solo use, small groups of 2-3 people, and larger groups of 4+. We spent some nights in simulated (and a couple of real) power outages, seeing how we fared with just the light of these luminaries. We dropped them to learn more about their durability (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 offer these additional features, we charged our devices to see if they could help us out when we were low on cell power.
Analysis and Test Results
Every model we tested offers a slightly different set of features and very different designs. With that in mind, each model is suited for different uses, including backcountry camping, front country camping, and emergency use.
Whether or not one of these lights makes it into your camping kit or emergency supplies may come down to the price tag. In order to better understand value, we compare a product's overall score against its price. The higher the score and the lower price, the greater the overall value. Some models in this review that we think have great value include the Black Diamond Moji, Goal Zero Crush Light, and Streamlight The Siege.
Maybe unsurprisingly, we identified brightness as the most important factor. We used these lights in a wide range of settings on our adventures and rated them based on how thoroughly and how widely they illuminate an area. We take into account that some models are just meant to be used in different sized spaces. We also assess light quality (e.g., is it smooth and consistent? Rippled? Is the color an offputting sterile fluorescent blue or a warm yellow/white?).
Another consideration is how well the user can control the brightness of the light. We are big fans of continuous dimming features, which allow the user to adjust the light intensity based on the group size and setting. When available, we find ourselves using this feature a lot.
We found that models with outputs in the 200-lumen range are sufficient for both personal and small group uses. The Black Diamond Apollo is an excellent option for cards around a picnic table at a campsite or hanging overhead in a tent to read at night. Less than that, say, something like the 100-lumens of the Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, UCO Leschi or the Goal Zero Crush Light, are really for personal use or two people in a tent. Heavy-hitters above 200-lumens, like the 600-lumen Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, can light up a room, and the MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights and Power Practical Luminoodle can be strung up around a railing to liven up a deck or back porch.
During testing, we also learned that there is such a thing as too bright for certain situations. Light diffusion, which is primarily affected by the globe or light cover, is critical. The plastic globe surrounding the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow created a lovely light quality, as does the rubber 'shade' of the Goal Zero Crush. Black Diamond's opaque plastic makes the Apollo, Moji, and Zip non-invasive and pleasant lights. It is bright to look at, but we also like the directionality of the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600. You can select whether it puts out 180 or 360 degrees of light.
Here we test 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. We dropped each model 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.
The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow and the Streamlight The Siege have enough rubber to make them shock-resistant. The Siege withstood a fall from seven feet high onto cement without a scratch or a change in performance. The LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 and the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 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 like the Goal Zero Crush for this reason; it offers many of the same benefits as a solar light that requires inflation but without the risk of puncturing. With our string light models, the concern is much more about fraying and wearing down due to being wrapped around another surface. Both the MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights (with a nylon housing around the wire) and the Power Practical Luminoodle (sheathed in rubber) are up to the task.
Another factor we consider in durability is battery life. The Ultimate Survival Technologies 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, solar-charged models like the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 and LuminAid PackLite Max have run times on their lowest settings of just a small fraction of that (whether that outweighs the benefit of not having to worry about replacing batteries, of course, depends on the situation). In low to moderate settings, most of the models we tested got us through at least five evenings of camping.
Many lanterns will come with an ingress protection (IP) rating. There are two values in this rating. The first number after the "IP" is the degree to which the product can repel solid dust and dirt particles. The second digit 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 is sufficient in most cases, but we appreciate those that offer a little more versatility and thoughtfulness. We rate each product based on how many features it has beyond the basics and whether they genuinely improve its overall quality. Some of the lights we tested have just a few features, while others include several that set them apart and make them easier to use or increase versatility. We give lower scores to models with features that are unnecessary or aren't highly functional, while the ones with practical and useful features received higher marks.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, Black Diamond Apollo, Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, and LuminAID PackLite, and BioLite PowerLight Mini, to different degrees, are all able to charge a smartphone (among other small electronic devices). We appreciate models that have features that are simple yet practical. Some of these include the easy-to-use dimming, great hooks for hanging the lanterns from above, and sturdy bases for improved stability on uneven terrain. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is unique in that when it runs out of juice, there is a hand crank that generates electricity to recharge the light. One minute of cranking provides roughly 10 minutes of illumination.
The features on the Streamlight The Siege increase its versatility and value. For example, it's waterproof and floats, making it one of our favorites for boating or fishing trips. We also like this one for looking under the hood of a vehicle, where its magnetic base comes in handy to adhere to and hang from the underside. It has hooks on both ends of the lantern and has white and red light modes.
We especially like the products with dimmable power outputs (as opposed to discrete settings like low, medium, and high) like the Black Diamond Apollo, Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, and the BioLite PowerLite Mini (which also comes with a bike mount and multiple biker-friendly strobe settings).
Ease of Use
A good lantern should be intuitive to use. There is not a huge amount of variability between the lanterns in this review in terms of how easy they are to use, so this metric accounts for a comparatively small proportion of the overall score. However, there are a few different features to look out for that we found to be a value add.
Beyond just powering on the device, other considerations include the size and accessibility of the power button and the intuitiveness of different light modes. After much comparison testing, we realize the importance of being able to hang our lights overhead easily. Heavier models prove to be much more difficult to suspend. We were confined to setting them on rocks, picnic tables, cars, or on the ground in treeless campsites. 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. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 also has a wide stand but it is slightly less adaptable to uneven surfaces.
We found that accessing the battery compartment of many models is more challenging than we would want or expect it to be. Some effort is required to change the batteries of the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow. In contrast, the Black Diamond Apollo, Black Diamond Moji, and Streamlight The Siege are much more straightforward and simple. The Goal Zero Crush, MPOWERD Luci 2.0, MPOWERD Luci String Lights, and LuminAID PackLite MAX are all examples of models that do not require any batteries but do take a while to charge in the sunlight fully.
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 or car camping, you may actually want a little more heft in your lantern. The UST 30-Day Duro Glow is the heaviest contender. We really wouldn't consider taking it too far away from camp.
The lightweights that we would take a bit deeper into the backcountry include the Black Diamond Apollo, which takes AA batteries (but also has an internal battery pack). Then there are the ultralights and backcountry models like the UCO Leschi, Goal Zero Crush, Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, and LuminAID PackLite Max. Also worth considering are the Black Diamond Zip and BioLite PowerLite Mini, which fit easily into almost any pocket and are competitively lightweight.
There are a few things that make a lantern 'good'; brightness, dimming capability, and good legs and hooks, to name a few. However, different lights excel in different settings, so be sure to consider where and how you intend to use your lantern to make sure you are maximizing the value of your purchase. Throughout our testing, we were pleasantly surprised repeatedly 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).
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch
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