How to Choose A Camping Lantern:Ultimate Guide

How to Choose A Camping Lantern:Ultimate Guide

Any experienced camper knows that a quality camping lantern is one of the most essential tools for a successful outdoor adventure. Having a trustworthy lantern in your arsenal comes with a host of benefits, from lighting your way in the dark to providing much needed illumination during an unexpected power outage.

While the night can be magical and mysterious, the dark can be difficult to navigate. Tripping over chairs and fumbling through packs can be a real pain. Lanterns are a crucial piece of camping gear to light your way. In this article I’ll walk you through the different types of lanterns and how to choose the right product for your needs. Lanterns are also great at home for emergency preparedness or a survival kit.

The Advantages of Lanterns

Flashlights and headlamps both have their advantages, but nothing quite compares to lanterns for hands-free illumination of a surrounding area. They generally provide 360° of flood lighting and are either self-standing or hangable. While some lanterns have features to throw light, the ability is usually not as great as with flashlights or headlamps. Lanterns come in multiple sizes, with larger units working best for car camping and smaller units for backpacking. Lanterns are also unique in that there are gas and electric models.

Types of Camping Lanterns

The first step to selecting the right camping lantern for you is to figure out which type of lantern is best suited for your camping style.

The three main types of lanterns are electric, fuel-burning, and candle lanterns. Each type has its own purpose and advantages, so knowing the specifics of each will help you narrow down the myriad of options available.

Electric Lanterns

Virtually all electric lanterns are battery-powered and use LED, or light emitting diode, technology.

These lanterns were designed to be an improvement on the original gas-powered lantern and offer a host of advantages over their predecessor including a better light output, longer running time, less noise, and decreased amounts of exhaust. Since they’re heat-free, electric lanterns are also much safer to use around children and pets.

In addition to LED lanterns, the electric lanterns category also encompasses solar lanterns, battery-powered lanterns, and rechargeable lanterns. These types of lanterns are usually pretty durable, compact, and lightweight compared to older versions, making them the best options for the majority of campers (especially backpackers looking for something that won’t weigh them down).The primary downside of electric lanterns is that they tend to require a new set of batteries pretty regularly, but a solar powered lantern is a good way to mediate this issue.

Fuel-Burning Lanterns

Fuel-burning lanterns are the most traditional type of camping lantern, and many experienced campers still swear by them today. They can run on a variety of different fuel sources including liquid fuel, propane, and butane.The main advantage of fuel-burning lanterns is a light intensity that’s hard to beat. When you need to light up an entire campsite, there’s no topping the lumens put out by a gas-powered lantern. They’re also better for cold weather camping or car camping where weight and bulkiness isn’t an issue.

Unfortunately, fuel-burning lanterns do come with a lot of downsides that have turned many campers in favor of the more modern electric lantern. In addition to their bulky size and weight, these lanterns are extremely dangerous to use in tents or other small spaces without ample ventilation, as they emit toxic fumes. Since fuel-burning lanterns also generate quite a bit of heat, they aren’t considered safe to use around children or certain flammable materials.With that being said, fuel-powered lanterns are still a great option for a lot of campers who require a brighter, more intense light source. They are also very effective as emergency lanterns.

Candle Lanterns

Although many consider them to be rather outdated, candle lanterns still come with their own unique set of benefits relative to other lantern types. Candle lanterns generate their light using a candle located inside of the lantern body.

These lanterns create a soft, quiet light that’s ideal for close-up tasks or giving a pleasant sense of ambiance to your campsite. That being said, the light output is pretty minimal, and they run the same risks as fuel-burning lanterns in terms of generating an ample and potentially dangerous amount of heat.

How To Select The Best Camping Lantern


A key piece of camping equipment that you need to get is a camping lantern. It seems like one of those superfluous items that gets tacked onto a lengthy list of supplies, but let me tell you- it’s not. The first time I went camping, none of us brought a camping light, so it was very difficult to navigate, cook food, or go to the bathroom. Don’t make our mistake: make sure to bring some sort of light.

Whether you’re camping in the woods or in a state park, having light is critical, preferably a camping lantern, although some people do swear by headlamps. There are tons of options for camping lanterns, and frankly, most of them aren’t that great. Some break easily, while others do not provide enough light. Whenever I go camping or hiking, I test a few lanterns, and after much time, am glad to have found some very good ones.


A common dilemma is whether to buy a headlamp or a camping lantern. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. A camping head light is very versatile in terms that it is always with you, and so you do not have to think about carrying it or misplacing it. The light is often strong and powerful, with a straight beam that illuminates all the things in front of you. On the other hand, a camping lantern is meant to stand on one spot and illuminate all the things near it. The light is often easy on the eyes (unlike a headlamp) while being sufficiently powerful for cooking, preparing food, and finding your way around a tent.


Arguably, the most important factor that you need to consider when looking for a camping lantern is its durability- the sturdier, the better. The durability of camping lanterns vary drastically. Some last for one week and break easily, while others offer years of light. It is very hard to find out if a lantern is high-quality and durable. You might be paying for a lot of features on an item but at the same time, that particular lantern might not have any worthwhile durability. Thus, it is important to ascertain which items will last for years and which ones will not.


There are many different types of camping lights, coming in all shapes and sizes, and each type offers different features. There are lights that are extremely bright, portable, rechargeable, can be split into different parts, waterproof, etc. It is imperative to carefully consider your budget and weigh whether or not fancy, additional features are worth the money, or if you will even use them. Also consider the shape and size of potential lanterns. Some camping lanterns work best sitting on a table while others work best when they are hanging from a rope.


As often as possible, we just want to click on the power button and not worry about anything else. It is already hard enough to plan a camping trip, and having items that are difficult to use will make the process even harder. The items are useful without any difficulties or stress, and when I used them, they performed flawlessly. They provide sufficient light, are durable and easy to use, and can enhance the ease of your camping experience.


Price is a significant factor when choosing a camping lantern. We often look at the price first and then the lantern, but the camping light must be affordable while being able to perform its duties. Most people will only use their camping light a couple of times during the summer, so it is unwise to spend a lot of money on items that we do not need to use often. We have better things to spend our money on. Fortunately, due to competition and online stores, camping lights are now cheaper than ever and provide even more features than before.

Other Features to Look For

  • The handiest feature on a lantern is a loop, hook, or clip. This allows you to hang your lantern from a tree or pole or even inside your tent. When I drove across the country to Utah I was able to read and journal each night when I hung my Black Diamond Orbit from inside the tent.
  • Easy, simple buttons should not be taken for granted. Many times you’ll be trying to turn your light on in total darkness at the end of a long day. It’s not the time to fiddle with small knobs and entering cheat codes to get your light to work.
  • Wide, adjustable legs provide the most stable base and allow your lantern to conform to uneven terrain. You’ll be able to get creative with where you set up your lantern!
  • Other features to consider include the ability to power/charge other devices, a flashlight mode, and the ability to collapse down for transport in a pack.

While there are many different types of lanterns, it’s actually pretty easy to pick the right one. The main things you need to think about are power source and lumen output. Once you know your power source and lumen output, it’s just deciding on physical size, weight, and features that best suit your needs.

About De Hua

Lindsay Boyers is a former New Yorker who now lives at the beach. She received a double B.A. in International Relations and Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.A. in Interactive Journalism from American University. Lindsay Boyers has been published in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among others.How We Tested and Reviewed

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