What type of lantern do I need for camping?

There are so many different lanterns available for camping that it can be confusing to decide which is the correct lantern that will meet your needs.

What should you consider when buying a camping lantern?

Camping lanterns need to be reliable, between 200 – 500 Lumens to light inside a tent, ideally with a dimmer switch. IPX rating for protection against water ingress. The size, weight, timespan of usage, casing and moveability will determine the type of lantern for different styles of camping trips. We recommend rechargeable lanterns for family camping with built-in power banks that can be charged via a mains connection whilst camping and recharge any other electrical devices.

Selecting a lantern with only one light setting limits the usage and will often leave you frustrated as it can be too bright or dim. Plus, you want a lantern that will last during your holiday without worrying about recharging or replacing batteries.

How to choose the type of lantern for camping?

The key is deciding what you want from a lantern.

  • Type of camping trip – Family, wild, car camping or backpacking
  • Size and weight – Consider weight, as this may strain the tent hook. Will you use it for wild camping?
  • Set or dimmer lighting – dimmers or modes provide the option for multi-usage and creating an ambient environment
  • Lumens – Brightness
  • Multi-purpose – To use inside and outside of a tent
  • Lighting area – 360 degrees
  • Casing – Collapsible or rigid covering for robustness
  • Rechargeable or alkaline batteries – Can you exchange the power pack for alkaline batteries
  • Solar charging – Internal batteries are charged during light hours
  • Manual crank – Crank to generate power that is stored in internal batteries
  • Static or moveable – Ceiling lighting is known as a pendant or moveable
  • MAH battery capacity – Milliamp Hour; the higher the rating, the longer the battery will last
  • Insect repellant – Any gnats will be attracted to insect repellant light, so no nasty bites in the morning
  • Power bank – Stores power which can also charge mobiles if needed. The charge can last over 70 hours

What types of lanterns can be used for camping?

  • Alkaline battery operated
  • Built-in rechargeable battery
  • Manual crank – On average, 1m cranking can provide 15 mins of light
  • Solar-powered – Passive charging
  • Fuel-burning – More traditional lanterns use either butane or propane

Pros and cons of different types of camping lanterns

Lantern PowerProsCons
Alkaline batteryCheap to buy
Can replace batteries quickly
High lumens
Batteries can be costly.
Need good quality batteries
Always keep spare
Can be heavy
Dim fast when batteries are running low
Built-in lithium rechargeable batterySave money by not having to worry about alkaline batteries
Often have a power bank for charging other devices
Can charge quickly during camping trips if camping with EHU
High lumens
Recharge in a car
Some lanterns have monitors to see the remaining charge
Can charge before usage
Charge lasts a long time
Need to be charged by electricity
Can be expensive
Deteriorates and loses 2.5% charge per month when stored
Manual crankIdeal for emergency
Great for torches
No need for batteries or electrical charging
Often an addition to a rechargeable lantern
Can be recharged by hand when needed
Not very bright
Not suitable camping
Power for light does not last long
Battery storage will deteriorate over time
It can be a pain to keep cranking
The more cranking, the greater the light output
Solar PoweredCharge during daylight hours
They will turn on when it starts to get dark
Great for string lights to wrap around guy lines and identify your tent
Can be charged on dull days
No need to recharge with electricity
No wires and safe with children
To work efficiently, charge fully before using
Dim quickly if not fully charged
May need to replace rechargeable batteries after 2 – 3 years
Not suitable for negative temperatures
Can be costly
Gives of heat
More adjustable than other lanterns
Flammable and not ideal for inside of a tent
Remember to keep extra fuel handy
Pros and cons of camping lanterns

How bright does a camping lantern need to be?

A good camping lantern should be suitable for lighting inside and outside a tent. 200 lumens is appropriate to illuminate the inside of a tent comfortably; any lower and you will struggle. Lanterns, on average, range from 200 – 500 lumens, with a dial to reduce brightness when required. Often with different settings for brightness and warmth.

I prefer no lower than 200 lumens inside our tent using a warm setting. We often use 1000 lumens outside, which provides sufficient lighting to eat, cook, and the surrounding area. Purchasing one lantern with different settings for the surrounding areas is more efficient financially.

What do lumens on a camping lantern mean?

Camping lanterns use LED lighting, known as lumens. They range between 50 to 1000, which is how bright the light emitted is. The higher the lumen, the more powerful the light will be in the surrounding area. Understanding the brightness required for camping is essential, whether inside a tent or the surrounding camping area. A 50-lumen light will not light the inside of a tent sufficiently and will leave you frustrated due to lack of light.

What does IPX mean on a camping lantern?

On average, camping lanterns have a rating of IPX4, meaning that the lantern is splashproof for up to 5-10 minutes but not protected against the ingress of dust particles. The higher the number, the more excellent the protection.

  • IP – Ingress Protection
  • X – Not test for ingress of particles such as dust
  • 4 – Splash rating

I had forgotten and left my lantern outside in the rain overnight in the past. With a rating of IPX4, it worked fine the following day.

How many lanterns do I need for camping?

The number of lanterns depends on the type of camping adventure. On average, five lights are needed for a family holiday for different occasions or areas.

  • Pendant lantern – Permanent light source for the inside of a tent, remains in place during a trip.
  • 2 x Multi-use lanterns – Hanging inside a tent instead of pendant light or to light outside. It can also be used for nighttime walking or moved to sleep areas.
  • Torch – Trips to the toilet block at night
  • String lighting – Light the guylines during the night to avoid tripping and seeing where your tent is from a distance.

How do rechargeable lanterns work?

Rechargeable lanterns use lithium batteries with high power output, slow discharge, and last longer. Recharge is via a USB Flexi micro cable inserted into the input socket via a USB socket plug adaptor, camping mains socket kit with USB sockets, or car.

Fully charged, a lantern can store power for up to 4 – 70 hours plus, depending on usage and setting variations. Some have output points that will allow charging of an external device either during mains charge or later.

Rechargeable lanterns can use additional alternatives for power, either alkaline batteries or manual cranking.

Rechargeable lanterns are not expensive; you can buy a standard Vango lantern for £12.99 or a Lepro lantern that can be split into three different sections. The main lantern for tabletop lighting and two torches with magnetic strips so you can attach them to poles inside your tent. We have provided a breakdown of the different features of 6 budget rechargeable lanterns.

How do rechargeable lantern power packs work?

Rechargeable LED lanterns contain built-in lithium batteries charged by USB Flexi micro cable—often used with alkaline batteries for emergencies. Ah (Amp Hours) rated Powerpacks store energy to last longer and charge additional devices. The higher the Ah, the longer timespan the charge will last.

A power pack will last up to 4 years, depending on the frequency of usage as the power bank degrades. A charge will be held for shorter periods and require recharging more frequently. Power packs will lose about 2.5% – 3% monthly charge whilst stored.

Are Alkaline battery-operated lanterns worth buying?

Alkaline battery-operated lanterns are bulky and not suitable for wild camping. Ideally, it would help if you had a small rechargeable lantern with a high power bank to ensure that it is fully charged for wild camping.

Alkaline battery-operated lanterns can be cheaper and feel very plastic. For instance, the Eurohike 3W Cob lantern feels cheap and breakable but has lasted me 3-years. It is one of my favourite lanterns. I still take them camping with me, especially if we are camping without EHU.

Alkaline battery lanterns are as good as rechargeable lanterns and can have the same lumens. They cost between £5.99 to £71 depending on the type and the quality. We use the Eurohike lantern and the Colemans Quad Pro lantern; however, this is more expensive. The Colemans’ lantern is multi-useable, and you can save money by not purchasing several different lanterns and torches. Want to find out more? Read our article, and we will explain why you do not need to spend a lot of money and how the best battery lanterns have multi-purpose.

When they are not in use, remove the batteries for storing; otherwise, the battery will corrode, and the lantern will be unworkable.

Invest in a battery charger to avoid being left without light and spending a fortune on replacement batteries. Ideally, the charger should be able to charge AA and AAA. I charge our batteries with the Energizer Battery charger that plugs easily into the mains at home. It is not bulky like some charging plugs. When you plug the charger into a double socked, it does not make the other socket redundant. Have a look at the prices on Amazon.

Manual crank lights: What are they and are they suitable for camping?

Manual crank lights/lanterns known as dynamo are suitable for emergencies or wild camping, but they are not ideal for everyday family camping unless you have a multi-powered lantern. They are torches or lanterns with a handle that you push down or turn to create a power source that will run for, on average, 15 minutes per crank.

They are environmentally friendly LED lights and are easy to use. However, it would help if you remembered to crank them to use them continuously. They have an on and off switch, and some lanterns will have different light settings, but the higher the setting, the more power will be used. Therefore, if you want a bright tent, you will have to crank more often manually.

We have a combined solar-powered, USB chargeable, manual crank lantern that is collapsable and easy to use. It is our emergency lantern as it is a multi-powered lantern. However, we keep this lantern because it can charge our electrical devices. The lighting brightness is controlled by the push down into the main base. We purchased it from Amazon, but it is more of a budget lantern.

Solar-powered lanterns: Are they worth using for camping?

Solar-powered lighting is an environmentally way to light your tent inside and outside. However, 60% of family campers will only use them outside the tent to light their guy lines. Avoid tripping and highlight where their tent is on a camping field.

To use a solar-powered lantern inside your tent, you must remember to place it outside to charge naturally during the day. They will charge in cloudy conditions; they do not need continuous, direct sunlight. However, the problem arises in a covered areas such as woodlands. They will take longer to charge and not last long during the evening. We realised this last year when we were camping in a forest.

A solar lantern is ideal for backpacking, wild camping, and spending time in open areas. You can clip it on the back of the rucksack as you walk. This will provide sufficient energy during the evening to light your tent. However, they are bulky, so you will need a lantern that condenses down for easy storage and is lightweight to transport.

What are fuel-powered lanterns, and how safe are they?

Fuel-powered lanterns are either gas or liquid powered. They are solid lanterns, heavy, and provide a more natural lighting source than LED. They will offer a form of heat source whilst they are alight. However, precautions must be taken when using as they burn flammable liquids or gases.

Although they are well designed, they must be maintained for safety. If you have any doubts, then do not use them. They are a flammable liquid power source; I do not recommend using them inside a tent.

Key takeaways

  • What type of camping trip
  • What power source is available
  • Budget
  • Do you need more than one lantern
  • Safety

Related questions

Can you charge a solar-powered lantern in bad weather?

Solar-powered lanterns can be charged in all types of weather conditions. It will charge if the solar panel is clear and can receive minimal sunlight. However, the charge will be less strong and last less when charged in the summertime.

The solar lights will need approximately 5 – 8 hours of charge in sunlight for use over several evenings.

If there is insufficient sunlight, solar-powered lights can be charged with artificial light. However, this does defeat the reason for having solar-powered lights.

How to hang a lantern from a tent hook or on a sidewall

Lanterns can be hung inside a tent by tent hooks – if lantern handles are not suitable, a carabiner snap hook to the handle and hang from the tent hook or a tag on the tent’s walls. For strip or string lighting, thread through on the outside wall of the sleeping compartment holder, or stick a strong magnet to the back of the strip lights keeping to the same intervals as tent poles to attach.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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