July 30, 2021

Whether you’re a first-time camper or have been camping for years, you know that camping lanterns are an essential part of any camping trip. Not just for the great ambiance they create, but also for safety. But do you know what the best lantern for camping is?

As an overall rule, the best lantern for camping is going to be a lantern that allows you to enjoy your camping experience with safety and ease. This means that the lantern should be easy to use, durable, versatile in its functions, and have great light output. 

All campers should be carrying a lantern when embarking on a camping trip to stay safe and fully enjoy themselves. Although the variety of lantern options to choose from may seem daunting, we’re here to help. Read on to learn more about how to find the best lantern for camping.

 

What Is the Best Lantern To Use While Camping?

Finding a great lantern for camping can be trickier than you think. The best lantern to use while camping should be easy to use, durable, and have great light output, among other things. The size of the lantern, the power source, the settings offered, and the runtime are all things you should take into consideration while shopping for a lantern.

Size and Weight of the Lantern

For a lantern to be easy to use, it can’t be overly heavy, or the wrong size. The best lanterns should be able to fit in your backpack and won't weigh you down on the trails.Don’t forget to also consider the weight of your power source when accounting for the weight of a lantern. A lantern isn’t much help if it’s unable to power on! This is especially true of gas lanterns.

Settings Offered on the Lantern

No one wants an unnecessarily bright light waking them up in the middle of the night just because someone else had to turn on the lantern to use the bathroom. The top lanterns have more than one setting, allowing them to be versatile in different environments and different times of the day. 

Some lanterns even offer a strobe mode for gaining other’s attention if someone is in danger. In addition to this, if the lantern comes with adjustable settings, you can lower the output and save energy.

Power Source of the Lantern

If you have a solar-powered lantern and you’re camping in a spot with little sunlight, then that lantern won’t be easy to use. Find a lantern with a power source that fits your specific needs. This is also true when it comes to battery-powered lanterns. Depending on what type of battery the lantern takes, you may not be able to use them well in colder settings.

The Lantern’s Durability

Lanterns have to be durable to be useful. The best lanterns are waterproof and offer an overall durable design. When shopping for the best lantern for you, you’ll want to make sure the lantern is durable enough to withstand getting tossed around in your backpack, or sitting out on a windy rainy night.

The Lantern’s Brightness

Great light output relies on brightness! Brightness is often measured in lumens, which you can learn more about here. When camping, you need a lantern that’s bright enough to illuminate the site on its own. You don’t want to have to keep using other sources of light such as flashlights, just because the lantern you packed wasn’t bright enough.

Run Time of the Lantern

To camp safely, you need a lantern that won’t die in the middle of a meal or halfway through a hike. The best lanterns have long run times to ensure that you stay safe no matter how long your activity takes. Camping often comes with a need for flexibility, because you never know what will happen! So a long run time is a must, in case plans get thrown out the window and you end up camping longer than expected, or the sun goes down faster than you anticipated.

 

 

What Are the Types of Camping Lanterns?

There are several different types of lanterns used for camping, these include-

  • Electric- These lanterns only work if you’re at a campsite near an outlet, but are easy to use and reliable.
  • Fuel-burning - These lanterns use propane, butane, kerosene, or a blended fuel to produce light. They can be messy and potentially dangerous, but do not require an outlet. 
  • Candle- While they are simple and easy to use, these lanterns will not light up your entire campsite. Many people like them specifically for the ambiance that they create.
  • Solar- These lanterns are extremely convenient and modern, but if the stored power doesn’t last through the night, you can’t recharge till morning.
  • Battery-These lanterns produce hours of light. Like solar-powered lanterns, they use LEDs which makes them safe for use no matter where you are. This category also includes rechargeable batteries, which have become immensely popular.

The type of lantern you choose will change depending on your needs and depending on what activities you plan on participating in while you are camping.

 

Do I Need a Lantern for Camping?

In short, yes. To stay safe and comfortable while camping, a lantern is needed. 

A camping lantern is a major help while completing tasks such as cooking, or building a fire. It is great for when you want to play cards or read, and it keeps you safe. Here are some evening activities that you need a fully lighted campsite for to participate safely:

  • Cooking meals
  • Using the bathroom 
  • Finding a midnight snack
  • Pitching your tent

 It also gives you peace of mind knowing that you can comfortably see the majority of your campsite without having to twist and turn and pull out a flashlight or headlamp. This is especially true when you bring your little ones with you!

A lantern lights up the entire camp and is a necessary piece of equipment!

 

Why Choose a Lantern?

A lantern makes a tent, cabin, or campsite feel more comfortable, and safe. It also is a classic part of the camping tradition! 

Outside of these reasons though, lanterns have many other advantages. Here are a few of them-

  • They provide 360 degrees of floodlighting which is something headlamps and flashlights can not do.
  • They are hands-free as they are either self-standing or hangable, leaving you two hands for whatever task you choose.
  • They are portable and very low-maintenance.

Although headlamps and flashlights both have earned their rightful spots in the camping gear hall of fame, lanterns are an absolute necessity as well.

 

How Much Should I Expect To Spend on a Lantern?

Lanterns range in price from around $10-$50. The price is dependent on the brand, type, and quality. Most camping lanterns come in somewhere around $20, but it really just depends.

Keep in mind- a higher price doesn’t always mean higher quality. When shopping for a lantern, don’t just take the price into consideration. You should also consider the lumens, the durability of the lantern, the size, and the features offered.

 

Does it Matter if a Lantern is Waterproof or Not?

It absolutely matters if a lantern is waterproof. And it absolutely should be! The last thing you want is to have to run out of your tent in a downpour to go grab your lantern for fear of it getting soaked. Plus, if it’s drizzling at night you don’t want to lose your hands-free light source for fear of water damage. 

Here is how water resistance is measured in these products.

An IPX-0 rating means there is absolutely no protection against water. For casual outdoor use, an IPX-3 or IPX-4 rating is sufficient, and you can go up from there depending on how intense your camping trip will be.

If you plan on camping with any chance of rain (which is basically any day), we highly recommend that you purchase a waterproof lantern as you will be much safer and more comfortable this way.

 

What Size Lantern Should I Purchase?

This completely depends on your preference.

We tend to prefer a smaller lantern with a more compact design because it’s easier to fit into your backpack and won’t weigh you down while hiking. Others prefer larger lanterns simply because of the style or feel. 

 

Can I Leave a Lantern on All Night?

This depends on which type of lantern you’re using. 

If you’re using an LED lantern then you can absolutely leave your lantern running all night, as it’s a great way to keep you and others safe.

Otherwise, it’s a case-by-case basis, but it’s probably not worth the risk. Some lanterns are prone to overheating and the last thing you want is for the lantern to overheat and start a fire.

 

What Other Lighting Do I Need for Camping?

There are a few other light sources you may want to bring with you, although the lantern is definitely one you can't go without. These light sources are-

  • A flashlight - Flashlights can allow you to create a focused spotlight that really comes in handy when hiking in the evening.
  • A headlamp - When you need to function in the dark with both of your hands, and you need a bright light very close to you, headlamps are the best way to go.
  • Mobile task light - similar to lanterns, mobile task lights illuminate an entire campsite. The Mobile Task Light by STKR is one of the brightest rechargeable lights on the market boasting 1200 lumens of light and a dual output lens.

What Is the Most Powerful Camping Lantern?

The most powerful camping lantern will be the lantern with the most lumens. Though we could spend plenty of time nerding-out about lumens, we'll give you a quick definition. In short, lumens measure the total quantity of visible light put out by a source per unit of time.

A common misconception is that a large lantern has a large number of lumens, and a small lantern has a small number of lumens. This is simply not true. For example, our mini waterproof lantern boasts 220 lumens but is only 2.8 inches in height and 4 inches in diameter.

Trust us, the little guys can still pack a big punch!

 

What Else Does a Camping Lantern Have to Offer?

Though these features are by no means necessary, you may find that some of these features (that are offered in most lanterns) are very helpful.

  • A loop, hook, or clip that allows you to hang your lantern from a tree or pole.
  • Adjustable legs provide a stable base and allow your lantern to stand up no matter how uneven the terrain is. 
  • The ability to collapse down so it’s easier to store away in your backpack

What Should I Avoid in a Lantern?

There are a few things you want to steer clear of when looking for a lantern. This includes-

A bulky design, only one setting, and a low run time.

A lantern with a bulky design can be hard to fit in your backpack or luggage. And if it’s not easy to travel with, it’s probably not worth bringing. 

A lantern that only offers one setting is not going to get the job done. It wastes energy and isn’t versatile. You don't need to use the same amount of bright light to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night that you used during dinner earlier!

A run time of under 50 hours is going to make the lantern more of a chore than a help. If you keep having to recharge your lantern or change the batteries of your lantern, it’s going to get real old real fast. 


Should I buy an LED Lantern or a Gas Lantern?

We'll come clean, here at SKTR, we’re on team LED. But for good reasons, we promise! We believe that in most cases, LEDs are the superior choice. Here is a chart comparing the two lantern options.

LED Versus Gas Lanterns

LED lanterns

Gas lanterns

Requires batteries, or charges through a port.

Needs fuel to function, which means you must carry extra propane cylinders or liquid fuel

Is not fragile, and is often waterproof in varying degrees

Requires a very fragile cloth mantle in order to burn

Lightweight and compact design that is available in a range of sizes

Heavy and bulky design

Is not hot to the touch, and can be left on all night

Hot to the touch

Is silent

Creates noise

 

Some people simply prefer gas lanterns, and what works for you works for you! But we think LED is the way to go.


What Other Features are Available on Lanterns?

Though it won’t affect your buying process (you probably shouldn't buy a lantern based on whether it has Bluetooth or not), some lanterns do offer some neat features. These include-

  • The ability to float
  • Attachments that allow you to hang them from a tent or a tree
  • The ability to double as a flashlight
  • Color-changing technology
  • Bluetooth connection

How Do I Take Care of My Lantern?

This all depends on what type of lantern you have. 

LED lanterns require very little maintenance, which is another reason we love them. As long as you-

  • keep them clean 
  • store them out of the elements
  • plug them in every few months to keep the battery in good health

Gas lanterns are different and require more care. Here is what you need to do-

  • Use mild soap and water. Dampen a cloth and wipe down the lantern. Then rinse the lantern with clean water. 
  • Replace your gas mantles at least once every year.
  • Clean the glass and remove all of the debris twice per year. 

    How Long Do Camping Lanterns Last?

    It varies depending on the lantern, but some lanterns like our mini waterproof lantern have a run time of 100 hours. Others may have 12 hours of runtime or 20 hours of runtime. 

    This also depends greatly on the power source as the run time is often a direct result of the power source.

    As far as lifespan goes- as long as you take care of your lantern and treat it well, there's no need to buy a new one for several years!

     

    What Else Can You Use A Lantern For?

    What’s one of the best parts about lanterns? Lanterns aren’t just for camping! 

    They are extremely handy in a number of other scenarios as well.

    If the power goes out at home, a candle can give you a little bit of light in a room, a flashlight can light up a particular area, but a lantern will light up an entire room (and leave you with two free hands)!

    If you find yourself in an emergency situation at night, such as trying to change a tire on the side of the road, your phone’s flashlight can only get you so far. If you have a lantern with you, you’ll be able to see much better, while still using both of your hands.

    If you have a back deck, patio, or pool that you use in the summer evenings, a lantern can be a necessity. Especially when hosting others. Plus- some lanterns can float! Making them perfect for the pool.

    Lanterns are a crucial piece of camping gear to keep you safe and comfortable. When shopping for one be looking for a model that is easy to use, durable, and versatile. Good luck and happy camping!


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