Light the Way – The 5 Best LED Camping Lanterns

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In a hurry? My general recommendation for the Best Camping Lantern is the Tough Light LED Rechargeable.  However, if you are in a cold climate then consider the Fenix CL30R for the cold weather durability.

Having a camping lantern on your camping trip is great for illuminating an area for cooking, playing games or reading at night. They are also easier to find when waking up in the darkness, where hand-held lights will sometimes get legs and roll away, making them hard to find if you wake up in the dark.

Here’s a quick list of my 5 favorite Camping Lanterns:

What to look for in an Camping Lantern

Brightness

We’re not looking light up the sky with a camping lantern, but do need enough light to work or play games by. Lumens is the measurement of total light output. In an omnidirectional lantern Lumens can be dispersed quickly, but to many Lumens can make your lantern very hard on the eyes. It’s good to shoot for a number in the mid-hundreds (200-600 Lumens), and a warm or neutral light color if possible.

Our Lumens, Lux, and Candela article is a great resource to learn more about Lumens and light output

Flexibility

Outdoor lanterns can provide a variety of configurations that you can get creative with. Being free-standing for hands free operation on a table top or other surface is standard, but an integrated hook or a large handle is common and handy to hang the lantern from a tree or a rope. Other configurations include options to use as a directional light to better find your way to the outhouse in the dark.

Power Source and Battery Life

Our camping trips can last a week or more. The perfect scenario is to have a set of fresh batteries or a charge that lasts for our entire trip. If we are car camping then we typically have access to a USB charger, but it be a problem to charge a lantern if you are off the grid. Having a replaceable cell may be an important consideration.

What I look for in rechargeable batteries to determine charge life is the Milliamps Hour. You’ll see this written as ‘mAh’ and they are the easiest way to determine the capacity of a battery. For example: 1000mAh is 1000 Milliamps Hour. The larger the number, the more capacity the battery will have and the longer each charge will last.

Learn everything you need to know about Batteries with our Ultimate Guide to Batteries!

Portability

Lately our family has been doing a lot of car and RV camping, so size and weight are not critical components. But my wife and I used to do a lot of long kayaking trips where size was a big issue. Be sure you consider your specific needs when considering a camping lantern.

Charging Bank

Many lanterns, especially the rechargeable ones, allow for the ability to charge your phones and other USB devices. This may be convenient but does take away from the charge of the lantern batteries. It is not a feature that I find important or useful, as I recommend more efficient ways of charging phones and devices like the RAVPower 26800mAh portable charging bank.

The Best Camping Lanterns

Fenix CL30R

Specs

  • 5 Brightness modes from Eco (10 Lumens) to Turbo (650 Lumens)
  • Powered by 1, 2 or 3 18650 rechargeable Li-Ion batteries (2600mAh batteries included)
  • Ability to use Lithium CR123A cells
  • Run time of 38 hours on the Medium (100 Lumens) mode
  • 5.4 inches tall by 3.7 inches in diameter
  • 14.5 ounces (without batteries)
  • Designed for cold climates
  • Integrated hook
  • Tripod stud socket
  • Micro-USB charging
  • Portable charging bank

Having replaceable 18650 rechargeable Li-Ion batteries is a major advantage for this light because you are not limited to a fixed on-board battery. Your run time is only dependent upon how many extra cells you bring along. Having independent circuits enabling this lantern to use 1, 2, or 3 cells is an extremely uncommon feature – I’ve never seen it before but I’m hesitant to call it unique.

Pros

  • Ability to use both rechargeable Li-Ion as well as Lithium CR123A cells is very versatile
  • Battery compartment design considerations improve performance in cold climates
  • Tripod stud socket for photographers and others who commonly have a tripod or monopod with them
  • Included 2600mAh 18650 batteries can be replaced with higher capacity 3500mAh such as cells for improved run times.

Cons

  • Relatively short run times for the amount of power supplied in the provided rechargeable Li-Ion batteries.

Who is this best for: Photographers looking for a lantern will find the tripod stud very handy.

Tough Light LED Rechargeable Lantern

Specs

  • 3 Brightness Modes from Low (40 Lumens) to High (400 Lumens)
  • SOS (white and red) mode and Red Light mode (1 Lumen)
  • 6000mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • Run time of 75 hours on Medium (145 Lumens) mode
  • 7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide
  • 1.3 pounds (battery included)
  • Waterproof to IPX6 Standard
  • Integrated hook
  • Tripod stud socket
  • Micro-USB charging
  • Portable charging bank

The Tough Light LED is a durable little beast, waterproof to IPX6 standard meaning it is totally weatherproof. The large capacity battery and run-time are good for most 2-3 day camping trips, and the integrated hook and tripod stud sockets make it very versatile.

Pros

  • 75 hours of battery life at 145 Lumens is excellent runtime
  • USB chargeable with a sealed compartment to hold the USB charging cable
  • Integrated Red Light preserves night vision
  • Tripod stud socket for photographers and others who commonly have a tripod or monopod with them

Cons

  • Non-replaceable cells
  • Always-on blinking red indicator light which some find annoying

Who is this best for: This light works for just about any camping scenario. The durability, long life and USB charge ability also makes this a suitable emergency light.

Black Diamond Apollo

Specs

  • Variable brightness modes with a max of 225 Lumens
  • Uses a single 18650 (2600mAh) rechargeable Li-Ion or 3 ‘AA’ alkaline cells
  • Max runtime of 24h
  • 5 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide
  • 8.8 ounces
  • Collapsable legs
  • Double Hook hang loop
  • Portable charging bank

The Black Diamond Apollo is one of the more lightweight and compact lanterns on this roundup. The run time is adequate for a 2-3 day outing, but the replaceable cells enable a run time limited only by how many spare cells you have.

Pros

  • Small, Light and Bright
  • Versatile with extendable legs and integrated double-hook hang loop
  • Replaceable cells and can use ‘AA’ alkaline if needed

Cons

  • Small capacity battery to be used as a charging bank

Who is this best for:  Outdoor enthusiasts and climbers who are traveling light

Streamlight Super Siege Rechargeable 1100 Lumens

Specs

  • Three white light brightness modes from High (1100 Lumens) to Low (125 Lumens)
  • Two red light brightness modes from High (2.7 Lumens) to Low (1 Lumen)
  • Red light SOS flash mode
  • Run time of 36.25 hours on Low mode (125 Lumens)
  • 7.5 inches tall by 3.8-inch diameter
  • 30 ounces
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standards and it floats
  • Watertight storage compartment for a USB cord
  • Integrated Tail Hook

The Super Siege 1100 is from Streamlight, so the quality and durability is going to be top-notch. It is waterproof to IPX7 standards so it is more than weatherproof – it’s submersible and even floats!. Be aware that they are a few different models of Super Siege and I’m choosing the 1100 Lumen one. The other models are not rechargeable and have lower performance.

Pros

  • Rugged, waterproof and it floats
  • Integrated Red Light

Cons

  • Not USB rechargeable
  • Non-replaceable cell

Coleman Multi-Panel LED Lantern

Specs

  • Four removable light panels allow for both Lantern and Panel light modes
  • 190 Lumens (Lantern) and 47.5 Lumens (Panel)
  • 75-hour runtime (Lantern), 1.5-hour runtime (Panel)
  • Powered by eight ‘D’ cell batteries (Lantern) and 3 rechargeable ‘AAA’ NiMH batteries (Panel)
  • Panels recharge while on the Lantern base
  • Water-resistant to IPX4 standards
  • Charging Bank

The Coleman Multi-Panel LED is the ultimate in flexibility, allowing for everyone to take a light panel and run around in the dark with it as they need. The Lantern is not rechargeable, using alkaline ‘D’ cells instead, but the LED panels are rechargeable from the Lantern’s alkaline ‘D’ cells. It’s lower durability and waterproofing level of IPX4 limits it to fair weather camping families.

Pros

  • Separate LED lights allow for everyone to grab one and use as needed

Cons

  • Alkaline ‘D’ cell batteries can get expensive over time
  • Customers have complained about poor build quality

Who this is best for: Families with kids and car campers.

Conclusion

As always please to with the lantern that best fits your individual needs. But as a general recommendation you can’t go wrong with the Tough Light LED Rechargeable Lantern lantern. The large USB rechargeable battery, long run time, and integrated red light make it stand out from the rest.

Sometimes I recommend something where I would personally choose something else because of my specific needs.  Because of that, my personal pick is the Fenix CL30R. Although it does not have the run time or the integrated red light of the Tough Light LED, the ability to swap in fresh Li-Ion rechargeable cells and the cold weather design make it better suited for my specific needs.

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