Best camping lanterns
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What to know beforehand
Before you jump right into our recommended camping lanterns, I’d like to take a minute and explain a few things.
Please be aware of Alkaline batteries. Why? Because they leak and could therefore damage your camping lantern. Plus, they are not powerful enough to maintain consistently high output. They are fine to use during an emergency, but they shouldn’t be part of your everyday camping gear. If you want to stick to regular AA and AAA batteries, please use rechargeables like Eneloops.
Also, the lanterns we listed here are based on our testing. We don’t add lanterns, that we haven’t personally tested.
We also made a list with some of the best camping flashlights, in case you were looking for that.
Some things to consider before buying a camping lantern:
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries run your camping lights longer than AA or AAA batteries!
- Don’t go camping often? Stay away from Alkaline batteries altogether
- Don’t like using replaceable lithium-ion batteries? Get a flashlight with onboard charging and a built in battery, so you can charge it on the fly. If you choose rechargeable AA or AAA batteries, buy the standard white Panasonic Eneloop batteries since they can keep their charge longer than any other NiMH batteries
- If you have to choose between a lantern running of AA or AAA batteries, always choose the flashlight running of AA batteries. They are only slightly larger but have 3 times the capacity (and therefore a much longer runtime)
- Don’t keep batteries inside your lantern/flashlight while storing them away
- Get a USB car charger, so you can charge the flashlight on the road, or anywhere with a USB connector if your car breaks down
- Try to recharge all your batteries at least 1 time a year (it also helps to spot any bad batteries)
- Get a cheap diffusor so you can use the flashlight as a lightbulb (diffuser spread the light into a wide area), or a red/orange cone to use as a warning signal. You can also use a plastic cup.
- Get a lantern long runtimes (the lowest modes should be below 5 lumens to last multiple nights on 1 battery)
- When you rechargeable AA batteries are empty (like an Eneloop) in an emergency use Alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries can run at low output for a very long time.
- Get a flashlight with a magnet in the tailcap, so you can stick it to metal, like the hood or the body of your car
- Get a flashlight with a beacon mode. This mode will blink once every few seconds and lasts long enough for a rescuer to locate your position if you are lost
- Don’t get a camping light with camouflage colors, but a bright color instead: you’ll be able to find it easier
- Keep in mind: two is one, and one is none
Best LED lanterns for camping with lithium-ion batteries
Sofirn BLF LT1 lantern
|Output||5 – 570 lumens|
|Features||Rechargeable, 360-degrees lantern, portable|
|Battery configuration||1-4*18650 batteries|
When you go camping regularly, it’s best not to go cheap. Get something durable and that lasts long, so you don’t need to take too many spare batteries.
The Sofirn LT1 is a great LED camping lantern with onboard USB-C charging. It uses regular 18650 type batteries. We’ve done an extensive review on it, so make sure you read the Sofirn BLF LT1 review to get all the details.
One of the great benefits of having a rechargeable lantern (with removable batteries) is the choice you have between taking some backup batteries along or charging it on the fly. You could charge it in your car, RV, but also from your laptop or even a solar panel with a USB port.
And on top of that, the LT1 let’s you use either 1, 2, 3, or 4 batteries. So, you don’t have to use all 4 batteries at the same time. This option is not just great for a long camping trip, it’s also great for emergencies.
Best LED lanterns for camping with AA batteries
|Output||up to 650 lumens|
|Features||Rechargeable, 360-degrees lantern, portable|
|Battery configuration||1-4*AA / 14500 batteries|
If you’re looking for a LED lantern for camping, running AA batteries, pay attention. Also, don’t forget to read our full review of the Lumintop CL2 before you order one!
The Lumintop CL2 is a LED camping lantern running on AA, Alkaline, and 14500 lithium-ion batteries. Please note, that onboard charging can only be used with the 14500 lithium batteries, and they need to be button tops. So this means, you can’t charge your Eneloops in this lantern. This is important to know.
You can use either 1, 2, 3, or 4 batteries, so you don’t have to use 4 at a time. This includes AA, NiMH as well as 14500 lithium-ion batteries.
Best camping lantern alternatives
Sofirn SP36 PRO with diffuser
|Output||up to 8,000 lumens (we measured 5750 at turn on)|
|Features||USB-C onboard charging and can turn on while charging|
|Battery configuration||3* 18650 batteries|
If you don’t really want to get a full-fledged camping lantern, you can always buy a flashlight that can work like a camping lantern.
The Sofirn SP36 PRO is one of those flashlights that can work like a lantern with the optional diffuser. There are a couple of SP36 versions, and we specifically reviewed the SP36 PRO version.
One of the additions Sofirn made to the Sofirn SP36 that the older Sofirn Q8 lacked was onboard charging. It’s USB type C and that’s awesome, but in my opinion, it’s more of a convenience feature.
Alas, the built-in USB charging works fine, and it took around 4-5 hours to recharge the light after a runtime test on a 2.1 amp wall adapter. The termination voltage was right at 4.20 volts on the nose. Read all details in our extended review of the Sofirn SP36 PRO.
However, keep in mind that you can only use this light with a diffuser when you can put it down on a flat surface. There is no lanyard attachment. The other alternative is adding a strong magnet at the bottom of the tail cap so it can hang from a metal object. The diffuser is only $3.
Buy diffuser at Sofirn. But you can also buy a generic diffuser, as long as the diameter fits.