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Our experts have lit up the night for 10 years, testing over four dozen of the best lanterns available. For this review, we purchased 20 top models to test side-by-side. We have gone coast to coast, stopping at camping spots at state and national parks. We have hiked deep into the backcountry and sat through some power outages at home. We look at several qualities of each light, including brightness, battery life, and durability, to assess all performance aspects of each product. The best of the best have earned awards, from overall all-stars to budget-friendly bargains. Use this comprehensive review to help you find your next lantern to light up dark places.
Of all the lanterns we tested, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is the most consistent across the board. This powerful, compact lantern is versatile for a range of activities. With an output power of 600 lumens, it is exceptionally bright and provides more than enough range to illuminate an entire picnic table for those late-night dinners when you get back to the campsite after dark. This lantern eschews disposable batteries for a rechargeable battery, which can be charged via USB or hand crank – a feature that makes this model particularly useful as an emergency lantern. Since it is USB charged, it can also serve as a power bank for your small electronics.
The Lighthouse 600 is compact relative to its power output, but it is not the lightest of our test group and probably is a bit too heavy and bulky to carry on backpacking trips. The outer light cover is comparatively brittle compared to other options we tested, and we fear that it may crack if dropped or knocked too hard. Although this hand-cranked lantern is fantastic to have on hand for emergencies, the emergency-specific red lights are weak, especially compared to the output power of the white light. The Lighthouse 600 is certainly on the more expensive side, but considering its feature set, and particularly its versatile charging capabilities, this is the lantern we will reach for in most situations.
If you're shopping for a lantern on a budget, there's no better option than the BioLite SunLight. It can be charged via USB or with its integrated solar panel. The solar panel is larger than any other model in our review, and it has a built-in sundial to ensure that you're maximizing the sun's energy while charging. We were impressed with this lantern's brightness — both at the camping table and inside the tent. It's compact enough to slip into a pocket and lightweight enough that you won't even notice it's there on a backpacking trip. The light is dimmable and can be set to several different colors, and even has a "cycle mode" where it rotates through all of them. The SunLight has a 360-degree kickstand as well as a string hook, allowing you to hang it or prop it in various positions for lighting or charging.
Although we didn't find much to complain about while testing the SunLight, we were a bit disappointed to discover that it doesn't have a USB output. It would be nice if it offered the ability to charge phones and other devices when it has extra juice. The BioLite has an IPX4 water resistance rating, meaning that it can be splashed with water from any direction without damaging the device. However, considering that some of the lanterns in our review have an IP67 rating and can be submerged in a meter of water for up to thirty minutes, we wish this model was a bit more weatherproof. Overall, considering the price, brightness, and functionality of the BioLite SunLight, it's a deal.
The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro is a real marathon runner. Its advertised 30-day shine was surpassed with 33 days in our testing. It has a sturdy, heavy, rubberized, impact-resistant base. A nice addition is the frosted plastic cover that softens the light and makes it easier to look at (and the cover is removable when you need an even brighter glow). This model weighs just under two pounds with three D batteries, making it a great choice for your picnic table lantern.
On the downside, though you hopefully won't have to access it often, the battery compartment can be challenging to access. We also found that this lantern's glow-in-the-dark feature could be more robust. The plastic handle is also not of the highest quality. Even with these minor drawbacks, this is the light for you if your priority is runtime over anything else. It is best for extended car camping, RVing, or if you live somewhere with frequent power outages.
If you like the idea of using backpacking fuel canisters for your outdoor lighting at night, go with the Primus Micron. Weighing a mere four ounces, you'll hardly notice this model is on your back, and you can clip it to the outside of your pack with its softshell case. For shorter excursions, you can use the same canister for your stove, so you won't be bringing anything extra to keep it burning. If you keep the Micron burning on low, it can last up to 24 hours on one can of fuel. Unlike many fuel-powered lanterns, you don't need a lighter or matches to fire up the Micron, thanks to its Piezoelectric starter. One of our favorite elements of this model, as opposed to electric lanterns, is that it emits heat, which is quite the luxury on those cold backcountry nights.
The Micron is not without its flaws. Fuel-powered models shouldn't be used indoors or in tents, so their uses are limited to the outdoors. If you want a light to hang from the roof of your tent at night, this is not the right model for you. Although the process of igniting this lantern is relatively easy, it still requires more steps than simply pushing the button on an electric model. The Primus is not waterproof. The hardware can most certainly get soaked and still dry out and function, but the mantle needs to be dry to ignite. The mantles also have a limited lifespan. If you choose this model, we'd recommend buying an extra mantle or two before heading out on a multi-day trip. Drawbacks aside, the Micron is your best bet if you want a super lightweight, super compact fuel canister lantern.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge is a mini marvel. It has dual mode flashlight and lantern functionality for the solo adventurer. It charges via USB, so there is no need to carry disposable batteries. We also love that it can charge other small devices in a pinch. It is excellent for car camping and weekend backcountry trips and a great size for children.
If we are getting down to the nitty-gritty, the metal hanging loop at the top really requires an additional carabiner hooked on to it to be truly functional. The power button is also in an odd location, and its small size makes it difficult to press. Even with those minor inconveniences, this model is an excellent option when you need a compact light that punches above its weight class.
The MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights are great for any festive occasion outdoors. If setting the ambiance is your thing, this product should be in your camper or backyard for your next cookout. If you need to charge up the string in a hurry, it comes with a USB plug that can get the job done. The attached carrying case makes the lights easy to manage when not in use. The light also has a USB port that can charge other devices, as well. Most importantly, the ten-node, 20-LED string is bright and brings plenty of light to a deck or campsite.
A few pings against this model are that it can be difficult to find the right spot to hang or rest the carrying case when the lights are strung up. The string itself is also sometimes difficult to manage (because, after all, they are string lights). However, there is so much to like about this set that it takes top honors as an excellent addition to a summer outdoor setup.
We've tested over four dozen lanterns in the last decade. For this review, we researched dozens of contenders and selected the best 20 available to put to the test. We took them into the forest, assessing how each performed for solo use, small groups of 2-3 people, and larger groups of 4+. We spent some nights in simulated (and a couple of real) power outages, seeing how we fared with just the light of these luminaries. Brightness was the most important metric, accounting for 40% of each lantern's overall score. We also tested durability by dropping each one from hand height, head height, and overhead height. For weather resistance, we got them wet. If they claimed to be waterproof, into the river or lake they went. For the lanterns that offer these additional features, we charged our devices to see if they could help us out when we were low on cell power.
To thoroughly assess each model, we put together an evaluation using five rating metrics:
Brightness (40% of overall score weighting)
Durability (20% weighting)
Features (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (10% weighting)
Weight (10% weighting)
Our panel of experienced testers knows its lanterns. Reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch started his outdoor career as a trip guide, leading multi-week backpacking, canoeing, and cycling adventures throughout New England and maritime Canada. He has made a habit of escaping the lights of large cities. However, he deeply appreciates being able to find his way through the woods, even with a new moon. Over his 20 years of backcountry experience and a decade of power outages that come with the winter storms of rural northern New England, he has grown to appreciate some of the features that tend to come with many of the models in this review. Whether it is thru-hiking the PCT, Vermont's Long Trail, or paddling down New Hampshire's Androscoggin River, he frequently finds himself looking for a little extra battery boost for his phone, and grateful for the warm glow of a lantern on a cold, rainy night.
Ross Patton was raised in the outdoors. Born in Salt Lake City, he spent his youth high up in the Wasatch Mountains and frequenting Southern Utah, where he completed his first White Rim Trail loop at ten years old. Ross has lived in Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and California, and he camped, snowboarded, snowmobiled, and mountain biked all along the way. With a sense of adventure and formal education in Environmental Science from the University of Nevada Reno, you can trust that he is putting these products to the ultimate test. Ross has reviewed an array of outdoor products at GearLab over the years ranging from rooftop tents to backcountry ski poles to bicycle frame pumps.
Analysis and Test Results
Every model we tested offers a slightly different set of features and very different designs. With that in mind, each lantern is suited for different uses, including backcountry camping, front country camping, and emergency use.
Whether or not one of these lights makes it into your camping kit or emergency supplies may come down to the price tag. In order to better understand value, we compare a product's overall score against its price. The higher the score and the lower price, the greater the overall value. The amount of money you'll want to spend will also largely depend on what purpose the lantern will have. If you don't expect to use it in the rain, then there's no reason to pay extra for waterproofing. If you need a light and compact version that is also durable enough for backpacking, it might cost you a few extra bucks. The Black Diamond Apollo is relatively light, easy to use, and also has a USB outlet for charging other devices. We consider this model to be high-end but worth the investment. If you're looking for a battery-powered model to keep in the closet for a power outage or other emergency, the price of the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow is totally reasonable. For those that are looking for a light and compact lantern to throw in a backpack or a glove box, the BioLite SunLight gets the job done. The Primus Micron is a bit expensive, but we think the overall performance matches the price tag.
Maybe unsurprisingly, we identified brightness as the most important factor. We used these lights in a wide range of settings on our adventures and rated them based on how thoroughly and how widely they illuminate an area. We take into account that some models are just meant to be used in different-sized spaces. We also assess light quality (e.g., is it smooth and consistent? Rippled? Is the color an offputting sterile fluorescent blue or a warm yellow/white glow?)
Another consideration is how well the user can control the brightness of the light. We are big fans of continuous dimming features that allow the user to adjust the light intensity based on the group size and setting. When available, we find ourselves using this feature a lot.
We found that models with outputs in the 200-lumen range are sufficient for both personal and small group uses. The Black Diamond Apollo is an excellent option for cards around a picnic table at a campsite or hanging overhead in a tent to read at night. The 100-lumen output of the Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, BioLite SunLight, UCO Leschi or the Goal Zero Crush Light, are really for personal use or two people in a tent. Heavy-hitters above 200 lumens, like the 600-lumen Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, can light up a room, and the MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights and Power Practical Luminoodle can be strung up around a railing to liven up a deck or back porch.
During testing, we also learned that there is such a thing as too bright for certain situations. Light diffusion, which is primarily affected by the globe or light cover, is critical. The plastic globe surrounding the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow created a lovely light quality, as does the rubber 'shade' of the Goal Zero Crush. Black Diamond's opaque plastic makes the Apollo, Moji, and Zip non-invasive and pleasant lights. It is bright to look at, but we also like the directionality of the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 and Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2. You can select whether it puts out 180 or 360 degrees of light.
If you need a lantern bright enough to light up a room in the event of a power outage or to brighten up the whole campsite, the Lighting Ever Camping and Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow both put off 1000 lumens, making them the two brightest electric versions in our review.
For fans of fuel canister-style lanterns, we tested the Coleman Deluxe Propane and the Primus Micron. The Coleman is certainly bright enough to illuminate a family-sized campsite with its dual mantles and tall construction. Designed to be ultra-light and portable, the Primus produces plenty enough light for cooking or playing card games while you're backpacking.
Here we test the durability of the product materials in different environments. Generally, the lanterns we tested are made of plastic and are often reinforced with metal or padded with rubber. We dropped each model from 4 feet (about arm height), 6 feet (head height), and 7 feet (above head height) onto a dirt surface to see whether or not they got nicked or cracked.
The Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow, Light Ever Camping, and the Streamlight The Siege have enough rubber to make them shock-resistant. The Siege withstood a fall from seven feet high onto cement without a scratch or a change in performance. The LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 and the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 are light enough that they can get (literally) kicked around pretty firmly without puncturing or deflating (though if they do get holes, it's pretty much game over for them). We like the Goal Zero Crush for this reason; it offers many of the same benefits as a solar light that requires inflation but without the risk of puncturing. With our string light models, the concern is much more about fraying and wearing down due to being wrapped around another surface. Both the MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights (with nylon housing around the wire) and the Power Practical Luminoodle (sheathed in rubber) are up to the task.
With its stainless steel body and stainless steel mesh mantle housing, the Primus Micron is practically indestructible. As if the lantern weren't tough enough on its own, it comes with a thick Cordura rubber-lined dry bag-style case for keeping the mantle dry even if you're getting rained on. The lantern itself can get dunked, but it'd be wise to keep a spare mantle or two around if you go with this model because the mantles must be dry to function.
Another factor we consider in durability is battery life. In our tests, the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow's D batteries lasted 33 days straight, 24 hours a day on its lowest setting. For compact lithium-ion battery-powered models, the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2 can run for 500 hours on its lowest setting. On the other side of the spectrum, solar-charged models like the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 and LuminAid PackLite Max have run times on their lowest settings of just a small fraction of that (whether that outweighs the benefit of not having to worry about replacing batteries, of course, depends on the situation). In low to moderate settings, most of the models we tested got us through at least five evenings of camping. How long the gas-powered models will run depends entirely on the canister size used and how high you set the brightness.
A note on IP Ratings
Many lanterns will come with an ingress protection (IP) rating. There are two values in this rating. The first number after the "IP" is the degree to which the product can repel solid dust and dirt particles. The second digit refers to how water-resistant/waterproof it is. A standard rating might be IP64 or IPX4 (the X is just a placeholder, meaning, in this case, that the product has not been rated for solid particle protection). The scale for solids is 0-6 (no protection to dustproof). Water resistance is from 0-8 (no protection to safe for continuous submersion).
A model with an on/off switch and a handle is sufficient in most cases, but we appreciate those that offer a little more versatility and thoughtfulness. We rate each product based on how many features it has beyond the basics and whether they genuinely improve its overall quality. Some of the lights we tested have just a few features, while others include several that set them apart and make them easier to use or increase versatility. We give lower scores to models with features that are unnecessary or aren't highly functional, while the ones with practical and useful features receive higher marks.
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2, Black Diamond Apollo, Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, and LuminAID PackLite, Kizen Solar Collapsible, Coleman Rugged Rechargeable and BioLite PowerLight Mini, to different degrees, are all able to charge a smartphone (among other small electronic devices). The Coleman has a compartment on the bottom of the lantern for storing the charger cube and cord, which we found particularly useful.
We appreciate models with simple yet practical features, such as easy-to-use dimming, great hooks for hanging the lanterns from above, and sturdy bases for improved stability on uneven terrain. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 is unique in that when it runs out of juice, there is a hand crank that generates electricity to recharge the light. One minute of cranking provides roughly 10 minutes of illumination.
The features on the Streamlight The Siege increase its versatility and value. For example, it's waterproof and floats, making it one of our favorites for boating or fishing trips. We also like this one for looking under the hood of a vehicle, where its magnetic base comes in handy to adhere to and hang from the underside. It has hooks on both ends of the lantern and has white and red light modes.
We especially like the products with dimmable power outputs (as opposed to fixed settings like low, medium, and high). Dimmable models include the Black Diamond Apollo, Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, Goal Zero Lighthouse 600, Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2, BioLite SunLight, and the BioLite PowerLite Mini (which also comes with a bike mount and multiple bike-friendly strobe settings).
The BioLite SunLight can be set to red, green, blue, or anywhere in between. It also has a color cycle mode that automatically rotates through all of its color tones.
The Primus Micron and Coleman Deluxe Propane both have dials for adjusting the fuel flow and brightness. The Primus has a steel cable for suspending the lantern from above without the risk of it burning or igniting something by accident.
Ease of Use
A good lantern should be intuitive to use. There is not a huge amount of variability between the lanterns in this review in terms of how easy they are to use, so this metric accounts for a comparatively small proportion of the overall score. However, there are a few different features to look out for that we found to be a value add.
Beyond just powering on the device, other considerations include the size and accessibility of the power button and the intuitiveness of different light modes. After much comparison testing, we realize the importance of being able to hang our lights overhead easily. Heavier models prove to be much more difficult to suspend. We were confined to setting them on rocks, picnic tables, cars, or on the ground in treeless campsites. Small bases make it hard to stand some of them on uneven surfaces, while models like the Black Diamond Apollo use tripod-style legs with rubber, non-slip feet, making them easy to position. The Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 and Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2 also have wide stands but are slightly less adaptable to uneven surfaces.
We found that accessing the battery compartment of many models is more challenging than we would want or expect it to be. Some effort is required to change the batteries of the Ultimate Survival Technologies 30-Day Duro Glow and the Lighting Ever Camping. In contrast, the Black Diamond Apollo, Black Diamond Moji, Streamlight The Siege, and Coleman Rugged Rechargeable are much more straightforward and simple. The Goal Zero Crush, MPOWERD Luci 2.0, MPOWERD Luci String Lights, BioLite SunLight, Kizen Solar Collapsible, and LuminAID PackLite MAX are all examples of models that don't require any batteries but take a while to fully charge in the sunlight.
Comparing battery-powered models to fuel canister models can be a bit like comparing apples to oranges. That said, considering that many gas-powered models require a lighter or matches to start, we gave the Primus Micron bonus points for its Piezoelectric igniter.
Weight is also a consideration that largely determines which activity each light is or is not suitable for. If you're looking for a model to take camping in the backcountry, compact and lightweight is the name of the game. You may also end up saving a little more weight in total if you opt for a version that also includes a USB charge port (assuming you are otherwise going to bring a supplemental battery pack).
On the other hand, if you are staying at base camp or car camping, you may actually want a little more heft in your lantern. The UST 30-Day Duro Glow is the heaviest battery-powered contender. We really wouldn't consider taking it too far away from camp. For gas-powered models, the Coleman Deluxe Propane weighs a whopping 38 ounces without a canister attached. This model is really not designed to take far from your vehicle.
The lightweights we would take a bit deeper into the backcountry include the Black Diamond Apollo, which takes AA batteries (but also has an internal battery pack). Then there are the ultralights and backcountry models like the UCO Leschi, Goal Zero Crush, Goal Zero Lighthouse Micro Charge, and LuminAID PackLite Max. Also worth considering are the Black Diamond Zip, BioLite SunLight, and BioLite PowerLite Mini, which fit easily into almost any pocket and are competitively lightweight.
If you like the idea of using the same fuel canisters for nighttime illumination as you use for your backpacking stove, the Primus Micron will only add 5.4 ounces to your setup or a mere 4 ounces if you ditch the case.
There are a few elements that make a lantern 'good'; brightness, dimming capability, and good legs and hooks, to name a few. However, different lights excel in different settings, so be sure to consider where and how you intend to use your lantern to maximize the value of your purchase. Throughout our testing, we were pleasantly surprised by how useful these products proved to be beyond their primary function as light sources. In some cases, we came to like them more than our beloved headlamps (gasp).
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