Which lantern is best?

Lanterns can be an essential tool for campers, nighttime runners and others, ensuring they have a consistent light source. And yet, the needs in each of these case scenarios are different, likely requiring different lanterns. Knowing a few specifications for them can help make your purchase worthwhile.

The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600-Lumen Camping Lantern is a versatile lighting option, offering a small solar panel for recharging and a USB-A charging port.

What to know before you buy a lantern

Lantern power sources

  • Battery-powered lanterns: The most common power for lanterns, battery power comes in two configurations: external batteries and rechargeable batteries built into the lantern. Rechargeable lanterns often include an AC adapter for plugging them into an electrical outlet.
  • Solar-powered lanterns: These are another great solution, especially if they’ll be in a place with bright sunlight during the day. While solar lanterns technically also include some with batteries and can usually be charged separately from the solar panel, their power-saving qualities can be helpful compared to strictly battery-powered lamps.
  • Oil-powered lanterns: Classic lanterns burned oil to create light, and you can still find them today. Fuel-powered lanterns aren’t as bright as those with LED or other lightbulb types, though some still like them for less battery reliance — despite requiring dependence on lantern oil. They also tend to be less safe than battery-operated ones and shouldn’t be used around small children or indoors.

Use

How you plan to use your lantern will determine which features you prefer. For example, some using them for camping may appreciate the simplicity of keeping solar-powered lanterns charged (if they can afford them). Others may want lanterns that can provide more than just white light, such as a red night-vision mode or dim power-saving modes. Those on a budget can find simple lanterns with multiple brightness levels at low price points.

Shockproof and waterproof lanterns

Those using their lanterns for hiking or other movement-oriented activities may prefer shockproof lanterns. Shockproof lanterns are more durable than most, making them great for rugged adventurers. And those using lanterns for fishing or other water-related activities may prefer waterproof ones.

What to look for in a quality lantern

Battery life

Unless you’re using an oil lantern, battery life is one of the most prioritized features. While some lanterns offer over 300 hours of battery life, others offer just one or two hours. Lantern life also varies depending on which brightness setting you’re using, with lower-light settings increasing the battery’s overall life.

Brightness

A lantern’s brightness is measured in lumens, just like regular lights. While fuel-powered lanterns aren’t very bright, those with batteries and LED lights usually boast a fairly radiant glow of up to 1,000 lumens. Even most low-end battery-operated lanterns offer at least 100 lumens. While some lanterns only include a single light, others have up to four separate LEDs, offering a far brighter shine.

Other features

If you’re buying a lantern for inside the tent, look for something that includes accessible mounting features and is lightweight. Lanterns can also benefit from features including collapsibility, mounting or holding handles, shock-proofing and waterproofing or USB charging ports.

How much you can expect to spend on a lantern

Cheap LED lanterns cost $20 or less, while most mid-range and fuel-powered ones cost $20-$50. Expect to spend up to $200 on high-end lanterns with long-lasting batteries, waterproofing and shock-proofing.

Lantern FAQ

What are LED lanterns?

A. LED lanterns use a light-emitting diode, creating a bright white light without any added yellow tones. They’re power-saving compared to older lighting technologies such as incandescent bulbs, and they’re more convenient and safe than fuel-powered lanterns.

Does lantern oil go bad?

A. As long as it’s kept upright in room temperature, lantern oil takes quite a while to go bad. You can expect to be able to use lantern oil from the same source for at least 2 to 5 years.

What’s the best lantern to buy?

Top lantern

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600-Lumen Solar LED Camping Lantern

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600-Lumen Solar LED Camping Lantern

What you need to know: This versatile lantern provides bright light, is fairly durable, and includes solar panels and a USB-A port for charging the battery.

What you’ll love: It can run for up to 320 hours on single-light low-power mode, or at least for 2.5 hours with both sides lit in high-power mode. It includes simple wire legs that can be folded for a compact lantern or extended to make the lantern just under 10 inches tall.

What you should consider: Some buyers found that the USB port wasn’t very durable compared to the rest of the lantern.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top lantern for the money

Streamlight Siege 540-Lumen Compact Cordless Alkaline Hand Lantern

Streamlight Siege 540-Lumen Compact Cordless Alkaline Hand Lantern

What you need to know: This compact lantern is a great budget option, providing up to 540 lumens of light with an IPX7 waterproof rating.

What you’ll love: It’s battery-operated and takes three D cell batteries to run. It has both a red low-power night-vision LED light and four bright white LEDs. It also includes D rings to make it easy to hang upside down or right side up.

What you should consider: It isn’t rechargeable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Coleman Rugged 400-Lumen Rechargeable Lantern With Lithium-Ion Battery

Coleman Rugged 400-Lumen Rechargeable Lantern With Lithium-Ion Battery

What you need to know: This straightforward lantern has a simple LED light and high and low settings.

What you’ll love: It has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and comes with a 120-volt charger and adapter for use with a power outlet. The high setting offers 400 lumens, while the low setting offers just 100.

What you should consider: It’s dimmer than most at this price.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Peter McGuthrie writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.