Our experts have lit up the night for 10 years, testing over fifty of the best lanterns available. For this review, we purchased 22 top models to test side-by-side. We have traveled coast to coast with these lanterns, camping at state and national parks. We have hiked deep into the backcountry and sat through some power outages at home. We looked at several important qualities of each light, including brightness, battery life, features, and weight, to assess overall performance for ultralight backpackers and casual campers alike. Our comprehensive review highlights all-stars and budget-friendly bargains to help you find the best lantern for your needs and budget.
Of all the lanterns we tested, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is the most consistent across the board. This powerful, compact lantern is versatile for a range of activities. Its 600-lumen output is exceptionally bright and provides plenty of range to illuminate an entire picnic table for those late-night dinners when you return to the campsite after dark. This lantern eschews disposable batteries for a rechargeable battery, which can be charged via USB or hand crank – a feature that makes this model particularly useful as an emergency lantern. Since it is USB charged, it can also serve as a power bank for your small electronics.
The Lighthouse 600 is compact relative to its power output, but it's a bit too heavy and bulky to consider carrying on a backpacking trip. The outer light cover is comparatively brittle compared to other options we tested, and we fear that it may crack if dropped or knocked too hard. Although this hand-cranked lantern is fantastic to have on hand for emergencies, the emergency-specific red lights are weak, especially compared to the output power of the white light. The Lighthouse 600 has a higher price than many, but considering its feature set and its versatile charging capabilities, this is the lantern we will reach for in most situations.
If you're shopping for a lantern on a budget, there's no better option than the BioLite SunLight. This petite lantern can be charged via USB or with its integrated solar panel. The solar panel is larger than any other model in our review, and it has a built-in sundial to ensure that you're maximizing the sun's energy while charging. The SunLight's brightness was impressive, both at the camping table and inside the tent. It's compact enough to slip into a pocket and lightweight enough that you won't even notice it's there on a backpacking trip. The light is dimmable and can be set to several different colors, and it even has a "cycle mode" where it rotates through all of them. The SunLight has a 360-degree kickstand and a hook to hang it from a string, allowing you to hang it or prop it in various positions for lighting or charging.
We had very few gripes with the SunLight, although we'd love to see a USB output that allowed the ability to charge phones and other devices when it has extra juice. The BioLite has an IPX4 water resistance rating, meaning it can be splashed with water from any direction without damaging the device. However, some of the lanterns we tested have an IP67 rating and can be submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes, and we wish this model's weatherproofing was a bit more robust. Overall, considering the price, brightness, and functionality of the BioLite SunLight, it's a deal.
The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro is a real marathon runner. While the manufacturer advertises 30 days of power, the lantern we tested ran for 33 days. Even on its brightest setting, it lasted nine hours – one of the best models in our assessment. 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 two 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 of the highest quality. Even with these minor drawbacks, this is the light for you if your priority is runtime over anything else. It is best for extended car camping, RVing, or if you live somewhere with frequent power outages.
Measured Runtime: 1.5 hours (on 4oz canister) | Rechargeable: No
REASONS TO BUY
Same canisters as backpacking stoves
REASONS TO AVOID
If you like the idea of using backpacking fuel canisters for your outdoor lighting at night, go with the Primus Micron. Weighing a mere four ounces, you'll hardly notice this model is on your back, and you can clip it to the outside of your pack with its softshell case. For shorter excursions, you can use the same canister for your stove, so you won't be bringing anything extra to keep it burning. If you keep the Micron burning on low, it can last up to 24 hours on one can of fuel. Unlike many fuel-powered lanterns, you don't need a lighter or matches to fire up the Micron, thanks to its Piezoelectric starter. One of our favorite elements of this model, as opposed to electric lanterns, is that it emits heat, which is quite the luxury on those cold backcountry nights.
The Micron is not without its flaws. Fuel-powered models shouldn't be used indoors or in tents, so their uses are limited to the outdoors. If you want a light to hang from the roof of your tent at night, this is not the right model for you. Although the process of igniting this lantern is relatively easy, it still requires more steps than simply pushing the button on an electric model. The Primus is not waterproof. The hardware can most certainly get soaked and still dry out and function, but the mantle needs to be dry to ignite. The mantles also have a limited lifespan. If you choose this model, we'd recommend buying an extra mantle or two before heading out on a multi-day trip. Drawbacks aside, the Micron is your best bet if you want a super lightweight, super compact fuel canister lantern.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge is a mini marvel. It functions as a flashlight but also can beam light down the mirrored shaft to emit 360 degrees of light as a lantern. It charges using an integrated USB plug, so there is no need to carry disposable batteries. We also love that it can charge other small devices in a pinch. It's the size of many power banks, so you could potentially just bring this highly functional lantern along instead. It is an excellent option for car camping and weekend backcountry trips, and is a great size for children.
If we are getting down to the nitty-gritty details, the metal hanging loop really requires an additional carabiner to be truly functional. This model has a waterproof rating of IPX6, but the USB port and plug are fully exposed to the elements and prone to get crammed with dirt and debris. This model doesn't have the longest-lasting battery in its highest setting, so keep it dimmed if you need it to last for several nights. Even with those minor inconveniences, this model is an excellent option when you need a compact light that punches above its weight class.
The MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights are great 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 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). Luckily, they have a case to keep them in order when not in use. There is so much to like about this set that it takes top honors as an excellent addition to a summer outdoor setup.
We've tested more than four dozen lanterns over the last decade. For this review, we researched dozens of contenders and selected the most popular models to put to the test. We took them on camping trips, assessing how each performed for solo use, small groups of two to three people, and larger groups of more than four. We spent nights through simulated (and a couple of real) power outages, seeing how we fared with just the light of these luminaries. Brightness is the most important metric, accounting for the majority of each lantern's overall score – each lantern underwent eight specific tests to assess the brightness score alone. We measured battery life by timing how long each model could run on its highest setting. We weighed each model and also considered any bonus features or elements that add to their overall functionality. Finally, we consulted with a panel of professional gear testers to judge how intuitive each one is to use. By the end of our testing period, we have run 352 individual tests to assess our selection of the 22 best lanterns on the market.
Our overall score is based on five rating metrics:
Brightness (45% of overall score weighting)
Battery Life (20% weighting)
Features (15% weighting)
Ease of Use (10% weighting)
Weight (10% weighting)
Our expert panel of testers is led by Ross Patton. Born in Salt Lake City, he spent his youth in the alpine of the Wasatch Mountains and frequently visited Southern Utah – he completed his first loop of the White Rim Trail at just ten years old. Ross has lived and camped across Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and California. Ross has reviewed an array of outdoor products over the years for GearLab, ranging from the best rooftop tents to top backcountry ski poles. Born with a sense of adventure and backed by a formal education in Environmental Science, you can trust that he is putting these products to the ultimate test.
Reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch started his outdoor career as a guide, leading multi-week backpacking, canoeing, and cycling adventures throughout New England and maritime Canada. Over his 20 years of backcountry experience – and a decade of power outages that go hand-in-hand with winter storms in rural New England – he has grown to appreciate a good lantern. Whether it is thru-hiking the PCT or Vermont's Long Trail, or paddling down New Hampshire's Androscoggin River, he is grateful for the warm glow of a lantern on a cold, rainy night (and a little power boost for his phone).
Analysis and Test Results
Every model we tested offers a slightly different set of features and very different designs. How much you want to spend on a new lantern will also largely depend on what purpose it will serve. If you don't expect to use it in the rain, then there's no reason to pay extra for waterproofing. But if you need a lightweight, durable, compact model for backpacking, it might cost you a few extra bucks. Keep in mind how you plan to use your lantern, including common uses like camping and as an emergency backup.
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. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is bright, easy to use, has a backup hand crank, and also has a USB outlet for charging other devices. This model may be high-end, but it is certainly worth the investment. If you're looking for a battery-powered model to keep in the closet for a power outage or other emergency, the price of the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro is totally reasonable. For those that are looking for a light, compact, and very budget-friendly lantern to throw in a backpack or a glove box, the BioLite SunLight gets the job done. The Primus Micron is on the expensive side, but the overall performance and versatility of this gas-powered lantern justify the price tag.
It probably comes as no surprise that a lantern's brightness is it's most important factor. On our adventures, we used these lights across a variety of locations and settings, rating them according to how well and how broadly they illuminated a space. We consider that certain models are just designed to be used in different applications. We also assess light quality: Is it smooth and consistent, or rippled? Is the color a jarring, cold, fluorescent blue, or a cozy and warm yellow glow?
Another consideration is how well the user can control the brightness of the light. We love continuous dimming capabilities, which allow you to adjust the light intensity based on the group size and setting. When it's available, we use this feature quite a bit.
Models with outputs in the 200-lumen range are sufficient for both personal and small-group use, while the 100-lumen output of lanterns like the 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 really light up a room, and hanging options like the 360-lumen 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 opaque plastic used by the Black Diamond Apollo, Moji, and Zip creates a lovely quality light that is non-invasive. The BioLite AlpenGlow 500 offers a candle flicker mode that keeps the vibe extra mellow. The Coleman Rugged Rechargeable has a low and a high setting, the higher of which puts out a mellow yet sufficient 400 lumens.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini gives you the option to light up both sides of the lamp (left) or conserve battery by only illuminating half (right).
At 750 lumens, the Ledlenser ML6 is the brightest compact model that we've seen to date. If you need a lantern bright enough to light up a room in the event of a power outage or to brighten up the whole campsite, the Lighting Ever Camping and Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro both put off 1000 lumens, making them the two brightest models in our review.
For fans of fuel canister-style lanterns, we tested the Coleman Deluxe Propane and the Primus Micron. The Coleman lantern is certainly bright enough to illuminate a family-sized campsite with its dual mantles and tall construction. Designed to be ultra-light and portable, the Primus model produces plenty enough light for cooking or playing card games while you're backpacking.
Some of these products boast a really impressive battery life, but the manufacturers are generally referring to the amount of time the lanterns can last on their lowest setting. In our experience, we've found that sometimes the lowest setting is practically worthless, so we timed how long each lantern can last on its highest setting. For models with disposable batteries, we used standard Duracell brand batteries, and for lanterns that use fuel, we used the most commonly used canisters.
It comes as no surprise that the models that dedicated the most area to large disposable battery compartments for D-sized batteries have the longest life. The Lighting Ever Camping is the longest-lasting model in our review, with a life of 10.5 hours. Not far behind is the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro. While this model didn't last anywhere near its month-long low-setting life, when set to high, it lasted nine hours during this experiment.
Internal Rechargeable Batteries
Lanterns with internal lithium-ion batteries were once primarily geared toward avid backpackers and campers, and their battery life and brightness were not much to speak of. As the technology improves and more manufacturers jump into rechargeables, these versions are quickly becoming the norm for both experts and weekend warriors alike. The top battery life performer for this lantern type is the Coleman Rugged Rechargeable, lasting 6.4 hours during our assessment.
Both BioLite models, the AlpenGlow 500 and the Sunlight, scored well during this experiment, lasting 5.1 hours and 4.5 hours, respectively. The MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights died right around five hours, and the Ledenser ML6 was the only other model to break the four-hour barrier.
What was once the only widely available type of lantern now has a rough time keeping up with new tech in terms of longevity. Using a standard size 16-ounce propane canister, the Coleman Deluxe Propane lasted three hours while turned up to high. Our favorite isobutane model, the Primus Micron lasted 1.5 hours with a backpacking-sized, four-ounce canister.
Consider Your Fuel Options
Unlike battery-powered versions that are limited to their size of disposable batteries or integrated power banks, gas-powered models can be used with larger canisters. By purchasing the proper adapters, you can hook many types of propane lanterns to full-sized tanks rather than the smaller camping canisters.
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. Considering that every lantern will require some sort of energy source before it can operate, we first considered how easy they are to power up.
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 install the batteries on waterproof models like Streamlight The Siege. In contrast, lanterns installed with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, like the Coleman Rugged Rechargeable can be much easier to use.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 utilizes an internal battery and a permanently affixed USB cord for charging, but it also has a hand crank for instances in which you're completely out of juice.
Once fully powered up, we considered how easy they were to turn on and whether or not we needed instructions or time to learn the device. The models that are the easiest to illuminate are the ones with big, obvious knobs and buttons, like the Coleman Rugged Rechargeable and the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2.
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 them easy to position. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 and Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2 also have wide stands but are slightly less adaptable to uneven surfaces.
Comparing battery-powered models to fuel-canister models can get a little messy, but considering that many gas-powered models require a lighter or matches to start, we gave the Primus Micron bonus points for its Piezoelectric igniter.
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 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 receive higher marks.
Many of the lanterns we tested – even small ones like Kizen Solar Collapsible – are able to charge a smartphone (or other small electronic devices). The Coleman Rugged Rechargeable lantern is one of the most user-friendly options we tested. It even features a compartment on the bottom of the lantern for storing the charger cube and cord, which we found particularly useful for a rechargeable model.
We appreciate products with simple yet practical features. We love it when a lantern is dimmable, has a great hook for hanging to illuminate from above, and has a sturdy base 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 fixed settings like low, medium, and high). Many of the lanterns we tested have this feature, but the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 and Lighthouse Mini V2 can also adjust to cast 180 or 360 degrees of light. The BioLite SunLight is special because it can be set to red, green, blue, or anywhere in between. It also has a color cycle mode that automatically rotates through all of its color tones.
The BioLite SunLight's larger cousin, the BioLite AlpenGlow 500, has several light colors, a candle flicker mode, and a color cycle mode that is activated by physically shaking the lantern. This model also boasts an IPX4 water-resistance rating, meaning that it can withstand rain and splashing.
The Primus Micron and Coleman Deluxe Propane both have dials for adjusting the fuel flow and brightness. The Primus has a steel cable for suspending the lantern from above without the risk of it burning or igniting something by accident.
Weight is also a consideration that largely determines which activity each light is or is not suitable for. If you're looking for a model to take camping in the backcountry, then 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 base camp or car camping, you may actually want a little more heft in your lantern. The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro is the heaviest battery-powered contender. We really wouldn't consider taking it too far away from camp. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is pretty hefty, but considering it has a large internal battery and a hand-crank, we think its weight is reasonable. At 14 ounces, the BioLite AlpenGlow 500 is right on the edge of what we might consider light enough for backpacking. For gas-powered models, the Coleman Deluxe Propane weighs a whopping 38 ounces without a canister attached. This model is really not designed to take far from your vehicle.
If you like the idea of using the same fuel canisters for nighttime illumination as you use for your backpacking stove, the Primus Micron will only add 5.4 ounces to your setup or a mere 4 ounces if you ditch the case.
Weighing the Micron with its case (left) and without (right). It's quite lightweight either way.
The lightweights we would take a bit deeper into the backcountry include the Ledlenser ML6 and the Black Diamond Apollo. Also worth considering are the Black Diamond Zip or BioLite PowerLite Mini, both of which fit easily into almost any pocket and are competitively lightweight.
There are many high-quality lanterns on the market. However, different lights excel in different settings, so be sure to consider where and how you intend to use your lantern to maximize the value of your purchase. Throughout our testing, we were pleasantly surprised 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).