Best Camping Lantern For Hiking and Backpacking

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Little progress was made between the time primitive man lit torches to explore caves and the invention of lanterns early in the 1700s, but once the concept of containing flames within copper, brass, tin, pewter or iron containers gained popularity, the lantern had become indispensable.



Lanterns were used to do everything from light London streets to helping Harriet Tubman operate her slave-freeing underground railroad in the U.S. You want to know more about the evolution of lanterns, right? Read this resource and become the smartest camper in your crowd.


UST 30-Day Duro Lantern – Our Pick!


This popular, affordable camping lantern comes in either orange or titanium. The latter version with set you back more money but you may not care because both versions are well reviewed and either will still be one of the least expensive items on your gear list.

This LED Portable 700-lumen lantern comes with lifetime LED bulbs and a hook for camping, hiking, emergency and outdoor survival illumination assistance. The light emitted from the unit is clean and offers you 4 settings: low, medium, high and SOS mode.

Small and lightweight at just 7.2-inches high, 3.75-inches wide and weighing in at just 1.1 pounds, the Duro operates on D batteries (not provided).

The globe itself is removable and can be repositioned as an area light. Why does this product’s name include the words 30-day? That’s the estimated number of days you can run the lantern on the low setting before the batteries give out.

Even the weather-resistant rubberized ABS plastic case is a stand-out, so expect this lantern to take every abuse thrown its way and still keep shining its light.


Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern – Also Great!


If you want the motherlode of features and don’t mind spending twice as much on this lantern as you would on the aforementioned Duro, this product will do everything but collect firewood.

But here’s where rubber meets the trail: despite excellent reviews from loyalists, the Lighthouse 400 maxes out at 400 lumen, so in return for features you get less light.

Think of this model as your power hub. It will keep your phone and other devices charged, provide directional, adjustable 360-degree LED output and you can power up the internal battery using any USB port or a Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panel.

Forgot to fully charge this lantern before a long trek? No worries. The built-in hand crank will do the job instantly and may bring to mind a time when USB ports were the stuff of fiction.

The internal lithium battery is no wimp, delivering 4, 400mAh with a 1. 5A USB output, so go off the grid as long as you like. Collapsible legs give you maximum light dispersion while on the ground; hang, stow or carry it with the legs collapsed.

Extend light output by illuminating only half the lantern. At just 1.1 pounds and measuring 4.5- x 6.5-inches, expect lots of light from a tidy package, but it’s the run time of up to 48 hours that you may appreciate most.


BioLite PowerLight Mini Lantern


Don’t confuse this uniquely-designed lantern with your cell phone when you reach into your camping backpack to retrieve it!

This comparably-priced wearable BioLite PowerLight and Power Bank is available in either grey or teal, acts as a charger, headlamp alternative, lantern and bike light, so if you amortize its value based on function, this is definitely the light that delivers on variety.

You’ll enjoy 135 lumens of light from a 1350 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and USB output port can provide a backup boost to your phone or whatever devices you happen to bring along on your expedition.

Despite it’s size, output is impressive. Keep it on low and expect up to 52 hours of burn time or 5 hours if you run it on high. Lighting options include white dimmable, solid red, white strobe and red strobe.

The attached clip stand is both clever and versatile: attach it to a pocket to add light to your hiking path or rotate it so it hangs or stands at your campsite. There’s a separate bike mount attachment that’s included.

In terms of performance, USB Inputs/Outputs include Micro USB In, USB Charge Out, and this mini is rated IPX4 for water resistance.


Discovery KidsTM Starlight Lantern;


What better way to share your love of camping with a child than by giving him his own lantern and letting him know that it works just as perfectly in his room as it does at a campsite? Must you tell the child that this happens to be an awesome learning tool? That’s up to you.

Even before you go hiking or camping, you can bring the night sky indoors the moment you power up the lantern so constellations and stars are illuminated throughout a darkened room. Ideal for kids scared of the dark, this lantern surpasses a nightlight when set on Star Projector mode.

When it’s time to camp, this affordable lantern’s carry handle is on duty so junior can carry his own light on adventures. Weighing only 6.4 ounces and measuring 6.3- x 6- x9-inches, this lantern is so versatile and entertaining it makes a unique gift for any child over the age of 5.


Streamlight 44931 Siege Compact Lantern


What gets rave reviews, comes in colors and appeals to the practical side of hikers who don’t want to spend a bundle to light up a campsite? The cordless Streamlight 44931 Siege Compact Alkaline Hand Lantern with 540 lumens output.

You supply three D-type batteries needed to keep the lights on. The Streamlight is versatile, giving you a choice of multiple light modes that include red and white LED output.

Featuring a night vision preserving mode that extends run time, your emergency preparedness gear is enhanced by the affordable price and features. Stash this compact lantern anywhere you like; on a rock, hang it from a tree branch or prop it up on a cooler. Incorporated D rings on the bottom allow you to hang this light upside-down.

Need more light? Remover this lantern’s cover, and if you happen to run out of juice and need to change batteries in the pitch dark, the Streamlight 44932’s keyed battery door gives you access to make the switch, solving that problem handily.

Tested and proven IPX7 waterproof to 1m submersion and surviving 2m of impact resistance, this is one tough lantern and a favorite of folks who like their gear simple and efficient.


Black Diamond Apollo Lantern


The Apollo lantern has been “completely redesigned” to deliver better, brighter illumination. Once fully recharged, get 250 lumens of glare-free light courtesy of the company’s signature QuadPower LED 225 lumens output.

The unit’s power hub is surrounded by a diffuser globe, so if the light’s glare is annoying, you can dial things down. As long as you don’t mind taking out your plastic for this feature-rich lantern, you get lots of features.

This updated Apollo runs on an internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery that delivers 2,600 mA hour capacity or 3 AA batteries (not included). Average run time is 50 hours, yet the unit weighs only 12.1 ounces and measures 3.3- x 5.3-inches.

A power meter display lets you know whether your rechargeable batteries are dying so you’re not left in the dark without adequate warning.

Take advantage of the strobe and dimming functions by adjusting brightness and mode and use the double-hook hang loop to elevate the lantern within a tent or from a tree. Alternately, pull down redesigned legs to station the lantern on the ground.

The USB port keeps devices powered (USB cord is included). Average charge time is approximately 3.5 hours for a phone, but if you’re having fun, those phone calls can probably wait.


Coleman LED Lantern


Since Coleman is considered the pioneer of contemporary outdoor lanterns, would any review be complete without at least one example of this company’s ingenuity? This popular Coleman LED product falls into the middle of this review’s pricing range so you get an iconic brand that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Capable of outputting 390 extra bright lumens on high, you can dial it down to low (100 bright lumens) for a mellow glow. Powered by 8 D-cell batteries, this Coleman lantern casts a wide swath of light across the landscape: 32-feet when set on high and 19-feet when set on low.

If you’ve been disappointed in the past because the lantern you chose requires constant recharging only to get a minimal number of hours of illumination, this fact alone could get this Coleman on the top of your short list.

Keep this Coleman lantern on the high setting and expect up to 85 hours of run time. Set it on low and keep trekking because this unit could keep going for up to 299 hours! A 5-year limited warranty comes with this lantern and if you expect to run into splashing water or rain, Coleman says this model is water resistant, so splash on!


What to consider when choosing a camping lantern

The folks at Backcountry.com know a thing or two about illuminating the night during camping outings and hiking adventures, so we turned to gear expert Ben Rabinowitz to help guide you on your search for the right lantern for your camping trips.

Brightness

Having read all aforementioned reviews, you likely got the feeling that it’s all about lumens. Lumens are lantern-speak for ‘how much light is disbursed.’

The higher the lumens, the brighter the light, but because not all lanterns are measured equally, explains Rabinowitz, “some are measured inside the lantern at the bulb while others are measured from outside the lantern.” This measurement is referred to as “out the front value.”

Photo by Jimmy Conover on Unsplash

The brighter the lamp’s capacity, the more energy you’ll burn so if you put these products on a continuum that runs from 40 to 700, assess your needs by lumen and make a buying decision based on that number. On the other hand, if all you will need is enough light to see each other across a campfire, 100 lumens will do the job.

Need a more finite approximation?

These examples should help you out. 100 lumens does a great job of illuminating your tent interior, 200 lumens gives you adequate coverage for a campsite, but if you intend to throw a party or need maximum wattage to perform surgery, you’ll need at least 300 lumens of light to do either.

Power Source

Gas-powered lanterns generally tend to throw more light than any other fuel source, but in return you’ll spend more money, these units are heavier and bulkier and if you’re camping with kids and pets, why take the risk? For those reasons and more, we’ve only featured electric lanterns in this review.

The LED bulb(s) is a lantern’s power source but as you may already have concluded, not all LED bulbs are created equal. They may be powered by alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries and even external power sources. The more renewable the charging system, the more money you can expect to spend.

That stated, there’s no getting away from the fact that by choosing a lantern powered by alkaline batteries, you can plan to stay on a constant merry-go-round of dead battery replacement, so rechargeable batteries, sold with the lantern, are better. Choose a lantern with a rechargeable powerpack, and you’ll be one perpetually happy camper.

Burn Time (Average Run Time)

According to professionals at REI.com, the light duration is expressed either as burn time (used in concert with gas lantern operation) or average run time, when referring to battery-operated lantern models. Would it be too obvious to state here that every camper and hiker on the planet craves the most amount of average run time they can get for their dollar?

But there’s another consideration to be weighed: the correlation between a lantern’s average run time and the amount of light you put out. Crank up your 700 lumen lamp to capacity and spend more time recharging or replacing batteries than if you left the setting on 100 lumens.

Because lantern manufacturers run laboratory tests to justify data they publish, you can count on the estimates they provide on tags and labels.

Finally, factor this into your burn time product decision, say REI experts: “Run times vary dramatically by setting, so don’t plan on achieving the maximum run time while also cranking out the maximum light intensity.” Remember, you were warned!

Durability

Hiking and camping requires gear that stands up to all manner of abuse, bad weather and who hasn’t had the experience of a strong wind blowing a lantern off a perch? That stated, you’re looking for the sturdiest material on the market and seamless design is a bonus so dirt, water and debris can’t infiltrate the lantern.

Few lanterns are made to survive full-immersion waterproofing — if any — but many promise water and splash resistance. How to know whether the lantern on your short list meets that criteria? Consult The International Protection Marking scale. The number is supposed to be added to every lantern on the market.

If you track the number down and see that a lantern has an IPX-0 rating, take it off your list. Since an IPX-8 rating is the gold standard, you want the most amount of assurances, so consult this chart out before you buy. As long as you choose a lantern that has at least an IPX-4 rating, you’re good to go!