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There’s nothing worse than being caught in the dark, especially when you’re outdoors. Fortunately, a number of companies are making rugged and reliable lights these days, designed specifically for camping, hiking and other outdoor excursions. As their name suggests, the best camping lanterns help illuminate your campsite, adding both warmth and ambiance to your setup. Safer than starting a fire, and more powerful than a basic flashlight, these camping lights are bright enough to let you cook or read a book, even when it’s pitch back outside. With adjustable lighting modes, you can turn the lanterns up when you need a little more brightness, and then dim them as you settle in for the evening.
The best camping lanterns are not only weather-resistant (repelling dust, dirt and rain) but also made from durable, army-grade materials that hold up to accidental dings and drops. The latest camp lights are all equipped with hooks — to let you hang them from a tree or hook — and with magnets on the base, so you can easily affix the lantern to a solid metal surface. The best camping lights also run on rechargeable batteries, with enough juice to last you through the night. Don’t have a way to charge up? We’ve found great camping lanterns that work with regular batteries too, making them especially useful when there are no outlets around.
Even if you’re not a fan of the outdoors, a reliable camping lantern can come in handy in a number of other situations too. We’ve found portable options that work well as patio lights, garage lights, basement lights and even lights that go under the hood for when you’re fixing your car. You should also keep a couple of these camp lights in your emergency kit or earthquake survival kit. They run on batteries just like a flashlight, but provide way more power and illumination — often enough to light up an entire room rather than just a small space in front of you.
We’ve rounded up some of the best portable camping lights and lanterns to add to your arsenal. They all win points for portability, power, ease of use and long-lasting performance. Even if the lights go out, keep one of these lanterns around and you’ll never be caught in the dark again.
1. EZORKAS Camping Lanterns
The unique collapsible design of this lantern lets you control the amount of the light and the brightness simply by adjusting its height. Pull up the handles and expand the unit for more light; fold down the lantern to dim the lights or put away when not in use.
Use it as a classic lantern, flashlight, turn on strobe mode, or flash an SOS signal in case of emergencies.
The ultra-durable lantern is made from a military-grade ABS material, and is designed to be weather and water-resistant. Use the attached handle to hang the portable lantern from a tree or hook, or use the magnetic base to affix it to a metal surface.
This set includes two camping lanterns, two USB charging cables and a user’s manual. The lanterns can also run on three AA batteries (not included) so you always stay powered even when there’s no outlet to plug the rechargeable battery into.
PROS: Strobe and SOS light features make this an essential part of any car or emergency kit.
CONS: A reliable light source, though options on this list have brighter bulbs.
2. Lighting EVER LED Camping Lantern
This camping lantern comes with three different lighting modes, so you can adjust according to the time of day and the ambiance you want to create. Choose from full brightness, half brightness and SOS mode (in case of emergency). The built-in battery gets you up to 11 hours of use, depending on the lighting mode you’re on. A blue indicator light lets you know battery life.
The built-in rechargeable 3000mAh battery also doubles as a charger for your portable devices (a USB cable is included). Two magnets on the base let you easily stick the lantern to a metal surface.
The lantern is rated IPX4 to protect against splashes. The portable size lets you easily use it for light under the hood of your car, garages, sheds, closets, and more.
PROS: The most compact lantern on our list, this unit fits in the palm of your hand and weighs less than 0.4 pounds.
CONS: The lantern is super lightweight and portable but the material isn’t as rugged as other options on this list.
3. LE LED Camping Lantern
This portable camping lantern is one of the most reliable units on our list, ideal for not only camping, but hiking, repairs, yard work, walking the dog, and dinners on the patio as well.
With 1000 lumens of brightness and 360-degree projection, there’s enough power to light up an entire room. The unique two-hook design lets you hang the lantern from the top, or flip it over to hang from the base (just make sure you remove the top cap). Choose from four different dimmable lighting modes; hold the main button down to adjust brightness levels.
The IPX4 rating means it’s protected against accidental splashing or light rain.
The lantern runs on three D batteries (not included). Because it runs on batteries, rather than needing to be plugged in to charge or recharge, this lantern is great for emergencies and blackouts, where your outlets might not be working.
PROS: While some lanterns give off a beige or yellow-ish tint, this is the truest “white” light on our list with bright, consistent illumination.
CONS: The batteries take a little fidgeting to install.
4. Vont LED Camping Lantern (4-Pack)
The unique design of this lantern lets light in when you unfold the handles and lift up. Control the amount of light you want by controlling how far you pull the handle up. When fully open, the lantern gets you super bright, 360-degree illumination from 30 high-quality LEDs.
This lantern uses three AA batteries (included) and Vont says the batteries lasts more than 30 hours — the longest battery life on our list. The company also says its lanterns are “indestructible,” thanks to its aircraft-grade materials and construction. The fully waterproof design means it can be accidentally submerged underwater without damage.
PROS: Four lanterns included in this set — great for multiple rooms or emergency kits. The unit doesn’t get hot to the touch, so it’s safe for use around kids.
CONS: These are very bright lights, so best to hang them rather than to be in their direct glare.