The Best Camping Lanterns for Backpackers

Light up your tent, camp kitchen, and more with these versatile lights.
By BACKPACKER Editors & Contributors ,

Headlamps are the best way to light the trail. But once you've settled into camp, you need a lantern. These are the best camping lanterns on the market, whether for illuminating kitchens or just giving your group something to gather around when you can't have a fire. 

Black Diamond Apollo

Black Diamond Apollo

A camp lantern is a luxury item, and the redesigned Apollo feels like one. Its frosted plastic enclosure puts out 225 lumens of soft white light that dims down to a gentle glow when you hold down its single button. During a ski tour up Colorado’s James Peak, our tester took advantage of the light’s entire range, using the soup can-size lantern’s highest setting to sort gear at an open bivy, then turning it down for glare-free bedtime reading. (He also used the USB port to charge his phone.) The Apollo can run up to 24 hours on low between its two power sources—an internal battery and an optional, three-AA backup. Ding: Luxury light means luxury weight.

“I appreciated the LED power meters for the internal battery and the AAs, which make it easy to figure out how much juice the Apollo has left,” our tester says.

$60; 12.1 oz. Buy Black Diamond Apollo Lantern Now

LuminAID Packlite Nova

LuminAID Packlite Nova

We’re big fans of LuminAID’s inflatable solar lanterns, which have been used in disaster zones around the world. With the Packlite Nova, the company made a good thing better by upping the output from 65 lumens to 75 and redesigning it from a pillow shape into an easy-to-handle, flat-pack cube. Strap it to the outside of your pack and it fully recharges in about 10 hours, even under partial cloud cover. When it’s time to use it, pull the two sides of the Nova apart and it mostly inflates itself; top it off with one breath. On a rainy trek in Colombia’s Páramo de Ocetá, one 5-ounce lantern put out enough soft white light for dinner and domino games in our group’s eight-person teepee. A full charge nets up to 24 hours of light on the lowest setting. Coming April 1: a version that can recharge via USB, too.

“We were completely socked in all day,” one tester says, “but the solar panel still pulled in enough power to give us a few hours of light.”

$15; 5 oz; Buy LuminAID Packlite Nova Now

Lander Cairn

Lander Cairn

With the Cairn, Lander ditched the self-standing design of most lanterns for something more packable and versatile. While it can’t stand on its own, the Cairn has an integrated shock cord anchor that let us tie it to support beams and illuminate gear piles in darkened huts in New Zealand’s Egmont National Park. “Hanging it is simple,” says our tester. “Just loop the cord around a tree branch, secure it with the plastic toggle, and bam: You’ve got overhead lighting, with none of the shadows or dark spots some lanterns cast.” The Cairn’s 3,300mAh battery lasts up to 40 hours on low. Bonus: The external USB port can fully charge an iPhone 7 Plus or similarly powerful phones.

“We were storing our food in bear boxes in Arizona, which meant unloading our bags every night,” our tester says. “The Cairn’s 300-lumen output ensured that we didn’t misplace anything in the dark.”

$50; 10 oz. Buy Lander Cairn Lantern Now

Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern

Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern

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We spend a lot of time in tents, so having a way to illuminate them is key. This little wonder is the baby sister to Snow Peak’s larger version, which came within a hair of winning our Editors’ Choice Award when it first came out. It’s a much-improved version that’s lighter and more packable (about 2 by 2 inches), and cranks out 60 lumens of light on 3 AAA batteries for about 40 hours. Coolest feature: The silicone globe throws a wide pool of warm yellow light into the corners of even a four-person tent. Also smart: A little magnetized hang-loop makes it easy to dangle from the ceiling. 

$40; 2.4 oz; Buy Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern Now

Petzl Noctilight

Petzl Noctilight

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For backpackers who can't justify the weight of a lantern, this handy case lets any compact headlamp do double duty by diffusing its light. An elastic cord makes it easy to hang. “It’s like having a streetlamp in your pocket,” says one tester who used it to light up a grove of trees during a break on an after-hours skin up Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin ski area.

$20; 3 oz; Buy Petzl Noctilight Now

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