Ah, the great outdoors. There’s nothing better than spending a day out in the middle of nature. Nothing, that is, except deciding to camp out in the wild for an evening or two. Camping is a fun activity that you don’t need a lot of equipment to enjoy; after all, it’s not called ‘roughing it’ for nothing.
Having said that, there are a few items you’ll want to bring along if you don’t want outdoor fun to become a quick exercise in homesickness. Your backpack should have a sleeping bag, maybe even a tent. Of course you’ll want some food and water (s’mores definitely count), and some warm clothing after the sun goes down. But once the light leaves the sky, you’ll need one last thing…
Having a good source of illumination is a must when you’re in a location not reached by the constant glow of city lights or car headlamps, especially when you could be potentially injured getting smacked by tree branches, or stumble on uneven ground. Flashlights are a great source of one directional light, but not very effective when you set up camp and need a wider area of light. That’s where the trusty lantern truly shines.
But what’s the best camping lantern to get for your own campsite? Starting from candles to current LEDs, lanterns have adapted with the technological times. If you’re looking to get a handle on the best camping lantern, hopefully this will shed some light on the choices available to you.
There’s a charm to candle burning lanterns that’s as calming as nature itself. That’s why candles and candle lanterns are still found burning in homes with electrical lights. In nature, a candle burning lantern can be useful as well, as candles are fairly inexpensive and easy to find. Citronella candles can also keep pesky bugs at bay. Its quiet light lets you hear all of nature at night.
Candle lanterns don’t emit a great deal of light, plus the level of light remains unchangeable. If you do use candles, fire safety becomes a real concern, something to consider if you’re camping with children. Unless the candle is entirely covered, wind and damp weather may also be an issue. Though very economical, unless you have good weather, this alone may not be the best camping lantern for your campsite.
Liquid fuel lanterns
When you fill up your liquid fuel lantern, you’re usually carrying a lantern filled with kerosene, unleaded gas, and camping fuel. The first thing you’ll notice is they create a much brighter light than the candle lantern does, without costing you a whole lot in fuel costs. Along with a bright light, these liquid fuel lanterns can keep you warm with the heat that radiates from them. Not a bad thing for when your sleeping bag alone just doesn’t cut it.
However, like the candle lantern, special care should be taken around children as the heat from the lantern can go from comforting to dangerous if someone gets too close. Along with extra fuel, you’ll need additional fabric linings if you’re planning on extended camping. And the burning of the lamp can create a slight noise that some might find unpleasant.
Like the liquid fuel lanterns, gas lanterns require a pit stop to produce their light. But instead of liquid, these get their fill of either propane gas or butane. These gasses both come in convenient disposable containers that you can easily attach to your lantern and you’re ready to go. Plus these lanterns also outshine the candle lanterns in terms of brightness.
Of the lanterns reviewed here, the gas lantern while convenient can also be expensive to operate, although usually not prohibitively so.
Also, like the liquid fuel lanterns, it can get extremely warm to the touch, which is good for cold weather but not necessarily if you have children who can come in contact with it. The other thing is that if you’re using metal propane canisters for fuel, they can weigh around 2 or 3 pounds. This isn’t an issue if you drive in close to your campsite, but if you’re hiking in with a backpack already heavy with gear, your poor back might decide this isn’t the best camping lantern for you.
The more modern lanterns have more options than ever. You can take your pick of lanterns that use disposable alkaline batteries. Smaller LED lanterns that produce brilliant light and fluorescent lanterns that escaped from the office. There are even lanterns that are powered by rechargeable batteries or solar power.
These lamps give you the ultimate in convenience, as you won’t fumble with matches or curse the wind or poor weather. These durable, dependable lanterns light your campground without a sound, at the flick of a switch. Plus as there are no scalding hot parts, these are safe to use in tents or around children. Could we possibly have a winner in the best camping lantern competition?
While brilliant, battery lanterns aren’t quite as bright as gas lanterns. As these are dependent on the life of the battery, as the charge of the battery fades, so does the light given off by these lanterns. Also, colder temperatures can affect the life of the battery, causing you to need a recharge earlier that you would normally.
These modern marvels use the power of the sun to light your campground long after the sun sets. As great as this sounds, the weather may or may not cooperate with you. An overcast day may put a damper on more than your spirits, but the charge on your lantern as well.
So the best camping lantern all depends on how long you plan to go camping, the weather conditions, and who you’ll be sharing the outdoors with. Many campers bring an assortment of lanterns, choosing the most appropriate at their campground. With caution and care, any of the above lanterns can help you make your camping memories brighter.