How many times have you gone camping with one or two basic flashlights instead of a camping lantern? It’s not so enjoyable because flashlights can be clunky and fail to produce a good amount of light.
We’ve all been there. Struggling to set up at night with a tactical flashlight shoved between our head and shoulder, fumbling around. No fun.
A camping lantern is the better alternative.
Most lanterns provide 360-degree illumination and are hands-free. The light output for lanterns vary by model but you can be sure you’ll see more of the immediate area with a lantern compared to a flashlight or headlamp.
Your choice in a lantern may depend on your activities:
- You may want a larger lantern if you’re setting up a camping area
- Smaller lanterns may be ideal if you’re hiking during the nighttime
- Smart lanterns even come with a USB port for charging phones
- A Solar lantern for camping allows you to recharge the lantern and other devices with the sun.
So what makes for a good camping lantern, you ask?
Camping Lantern: The Types
Camping lanterns come in a few typical types:
- Fuel powered
We can go ahead and throw out the candle lanterns because they rely on, well, a candle for the illumination. This type of camping lantern is okay at best; good if you want something simple, but it’s not too practical for most purposes. And you won’t be getting much heat out of it, if that was the intent.
The first realistic choice would be a fuel powered lantern:
- Uses either liquid fuel, propane, or butane
- Bright light
- Very durable (since they’re constructed of metal)
These fuel powered lanterns are ideal for those that need something rugged and long-lasting. If you want the best light output — a fuel powered camping lantern is the obvious choice.
The only real downsides to a fuel powered lantern are that the fuel can be messy to work with, units are heavier compared to other types, and they come at a higher price. Tip: Don’t forget to bring a waterproof survival lighter free Everstryke Pro as a back-up way to light your lantern (or start a fire).
The second choice, which may be ideal for most of you readers, is an electric camping lantern:
- Long battery life
- Quiet and exhaust free
- Safe around materials and people
Electric lanterns use batteries and LED light bulbs. These bulbs are cool-to-the-touch so there is no worry about potential fire hazards. The small form factors also mean the unit is light and durable.
The downsides to an electric lantern are that they may not produce the same level of light as you’d find in the fuel powered ones. And if the unit does not take rechargeable batteries (some don’t), then it means you’re going to be producing a lot of waste and spending a lot money on all those disposable batteries.
What to Consider
There are a few main things you’ll want to think about when you’re browsing through the various makes and models of camping lanterns:
This is not a big factor unless you’re buying several lanterns, as most are about $20-30. Some cost a few dollars less, but there aren’t many that cost much more.
If you’re “car camping” or hauling your supplies to your campsite with some other vehicle, then weight is not a big concern.
But if your camping trip involves hiking even just part of the way, excess weight can become a serious issue. You’ll be happy to have a lightweight lantern at that point.
Hours of Operation
You should plan in advance for how much running time you will need. If you are you going to be staying up a long time after dark with several people and no fire, then you’ll be needing to look closely at battery life and how many hours on high your lantern can run. You can bring extra batteries, of course, but you don’t want to be changing batteries while you’re having a good time.
The best camping lanterns give you a wide range of light settings. You might want to make sure your light has a lowest setting that uses very little power if you think you’ll need to really stretch out your battery life.
As just mentioned, good lanterns have variable output, so you’ll mostly want to consider highest and lowest output and the number of settings available in between.
Also consider the spread and focus of the light. Some lanterns provide directional light, like a flashlight, but most cast light in all directions. Some can be be used either as a (360 degree) lantern or as a (directional) flashlight.
There’s also the color temperature of the light to consider. Many camping lanterns are only available in a cool white version, some produce a warmer color similar to incandescent bulbs. A few are switchable between different color temperatures. It can make a big difference, as some lanterns produce a pretty obnoxious light color.
If you’re thinking of having a romantic evening, you definitely want a dimmable lantern with a low color temperature.
Ease of Use and Durability
You don’t want to be struggling to turn on your lantern in the dark, and you definitely don’t want it to break down when you need it.
The best camping lantern is the one that is always there for you, shining a bright light in the darkness.
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