We tested these products in the woods of New England and up and down the West Coast of North America. To critique these competitors, we boiled their defining elements down to five metrics: brightness, ease of use, durability, features, and weight. We put them to the test on dewy mornings in Squamish, British Columbia; the extreme desert climate of the Eastern Sierra; and the prolific snow of a New Hampshire winter. They played in the dirt under the baking sun, sat through heavy rains and bone-chilling nights, and spent two months in a motorhome. We tested the models in different combinations and in different group settings, from some solo time our tents to large gatherings.
With the manufacturers stated lumen output as a guide, we used the lanterns in a small enclosed environment (i.e. a tent), in a larger room, and also outside. We assessed how well each one allowed us to perform a variety of tasks (e.g. reading a book, cooking/cleaning up, playing cards with another person).
We assessed the quality of their light side-by-side, assessing how warm or cool it felt relative to the others. We also noted whether or not the light had any texture to it (usually a result of the cover or globe, rather than the light itself).
Ease of Use
For each light, we assessed how intuitive it is to use the light "right out of the box". We looked at how easily accessible the battery compartment or charging port is, as well as how simple it is to turn on each light and cycle through its different modes and settings. If there were additional features (e.g. USB charging ports), we also considered how easy those are to use.
Our basic durability test consisted of dropping each model from standard heights onto a dirt surface; at resting arm height (to simulate dropping it while carrying it), at head height (if we set it down on a ledge), and about a foot above our heads (as if it fell off from a tree branch while hanging). We also noted throughout regular testing whether or not any of the clips, carabiners, light covers, etc. took any damage.
Another component that we included in durability is runtime. We essentially timed how long each lantern could last on its lowest highest settings.
This metric takes into consideration not only the number of features that any given model has but how well those features work. We reviewed the number and style of buttons. How easy or difficult it is to load new batteries or charge the lantern. We tested dimmer settings, strobes, handles, hooks, carabiners, and legs. Many of our models include USB charging ports so we were noted how long it took each model to charge a small device (usually an iPhone) to 50% and 100%.
We noted their dimensions and weighed each of the models on a scale.