The best lantern
Lanterns can be extremely useful, whether you want to take them camping, illuminate your backyard, or use them in emergencies or in case of power outages. There are many lanterns out there, however, and not all are equally great.
This guide will teach you how to find the best lantern. Our top choice is the Coleman Quad Pro LED Lantern. It's split into four removable light panels that fit together to make a whole, so you can take one piece to light your way without leaving the rest of your group in darkness.
Considerations when choosing lanterns
The vast majority of lanterns are battery powered. They may either be powered by standard battery cells (such as D or AA) or have rechargeable batteries built in. Those that take single-use batteries tend to have significantly longer run times than those with rechargeable batteries -- generally around 50 to 80 hours versus 8 to 16 hours.
Solar-powered lanterns are a less common option. They're great for use on nights following sunny days but may not receive enough sun to charge adequately on overcast days.
You can also find fuel-powered lanterns that use liquid fuels, propane, or butane. Some people keep these for emergency use, but they aren't as safe or practical as battery- or solar-powered options.
The brightness of LED lanterns is measured in lumens. A lantern that produces 100 lumens or less might be fine to light a small tent, but we'd generally recommend something a bit brighter. Between around 200 and 500 lumens is perfect to illuminate an area large enough for a small to mid-sized group. Extra-bright lanterns can reach 1,000 lumens (enough to light around 50 feet in all directions) or more.
Some lanterns feature removable panels of LEDs, so one person could take a panel to light their way to the bathroom, for instance, without leaving the rest of the group in darkness.
Ideally, you should be able to adjust the brightness levels of a lantern, as you might not always want the brightest setting. Battery life will be longer on a lower brightness setting, too.
If you want a rugged lantern, choose one that's shock resistant or has been drop tested so you know it can survive a few knocks and falls.
The majority of lanterns cost somewhere between $20 and $80, but you can occasionally find high-end options that cost as much as $200.
Q. Why choose a lantern over a flashlight?
A. Flashlights are great for lighting your way when you're walking alone, but only shine light in one direction and need to be held. Lanterns, on the other hand, shine light 360-degrees, so they're great for lighting tents or outdoor areas. In addition to being portable, they can also be set down or suspended.
Q. Can you buy waterproof lanterns?
A. Sometimes you really need a waterproof lantern, whether due to rain or you're using it near a body of water. You can absolutely find waterproof lanterns, but they range from water-resistant (able to withstand a light rain shower) to fully waterproof (can be safely submerged for a length of time). Some waterproof lanterns are also able to float, so you're more likely to be able to retrieve them if they fall in the water.
Lanterns we recommend
Best of the best: Coleman's Quad Pro LED Lantern
Our take: The four-panel design makes this the ideal lantern for group camping or other activities where people might separate into smaller groups.
What we like: Runs on eight D batteries and offers as much as 400 hours of run time (on the low-light setting). Emits 800 lumens on high and 100 lumens on low. USB port to charge your devices.
What we dislike: Bulky and relatively heavy.
Best bang for your buck: Streamlight's Siege Compact
Our take: Lightweight, compact, rugged, and bright -- and all at a reasonable price considering the features.
What we like: Very bright at 540 lumens. Runs for 30 hours from three D batteries on the highest brightness setting. Waterproof and drop-tested from two meters.
What we dislike: Automatically defaults to the brightest setting when you switch it on, which is far too bright for some.
Choice 3: Internova's Monster LED Camping Lantern
Our take: With a hugely bright maximum of 1,500 lumens, you can illuminate a whole camping area or patio with just one lantern.
What we like: Choose from four brightness modes. Retractable handle for carrying and hanging. Weighs just 1.5 pounds.
What we dislike: May be obnoxiously bright if you're camping close to others.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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