Do you need some light?
If your idea of illuminating the night while camping involves a barely under control campfire, you need to read this. Camping lanterns have come a long way in the past decade or two. Not only do they do a great job of casting light on whatever you need to see in the dark while camping overnight, but they can also do it at a fraction of the cost of ‘old school’ lanterns.
Plus, a camping lantern beats the crap out of a flashlight any day (or night). Sure, you may be able to play Texas Hold ‘Em around a campfire and probably with some proficiency with a flashlight, but a camping lantern will give you far more light without the flickering of flames or almost dead batteries.
The Types of Camping Lanterns
Well, you basically have two different types. There’s the gas-powered variety, and there’s the electric type. No, the latter does not require electricity from an extension cord. And the former does not require paying at the pump. Let’s look a bit closer at each…
1 – Gas-Powered Camping Lanterns
You basically turn to these if you want maximum light and weight isn’t an issue. There are two sub-categories to gas-powered lanterns, and they are based solely on the juice they use to produce light. They are Liquid fuel and Propane.
1A – Liquid Fuel
You may know this better as white gas. It’s the same stuff you probably already packed for use with your cook stove. The brightest lanterns on the market are those that are using liquid fuel, but that also comes with a couple of disadvantages.
These are not only the brightest, but they are the heaviest and the most expensive lanterns out there. Aside from that, if you are okay with the mess that can be produced during refilling and the need to pressurize the gas with a built-in pumping system, then look no further.
1B – Propane Camping Lanterns
These babies are basically just a notch or two down the scale in brightness. However, this variety of camping lantern is also lighter in weight and cost less. There is another upside as well. Getting one of these guys lit is essentially a breeze.
All you need to do is screw on a fuel canister, create a spark to ignite the fuel, and you will have a light that may not be as bright as the Northern Lights, but at least it will be far better than that crappy little flashlight you’ve been using. Once the fuel canister is empty, and it may take a while, you just dispose of it at your landfill site.
2 – Electric Camping Lanterns
There are several different types of electric camping lanterns which are the politically correct term used to describe battery-powered lanterns. Why are they not called battery-powered? Don’t get us started. So, essentially you’ve got lanterns in this category that run on alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries and then there’s rechargeables that run on alternate power sources such as USB power packs, hand cranks, and solar panels. Alkalines, in case you need to be reminded, are the types of batteries that provide one use only and fill up the landfill when dead.
Stuff To Consider About Camping Lanterns
There are a few other things you should keep in mind as you shop for your camping lantern. Such things as size, weight, water resistance, design features and lumens all play a part in the overall construction of a good or better camping lantern. Lumens, by the way, are one of the most important factors.
1 – Lumens
Without getting far more technical than you need at this point, trust us when we say that the output of light from your camping lantern is measured in something called lumens. So, with this in mind, it is safe to say that the more lumens, the brighter the light.
With camping lanterns, they come in sizes ranging from 40 to about 700 lumens. Typically, you should be able to easily find lanterns in the range of 150 to 350 lumens. How bright are we talking about? Well, if you only want to be able to light up your tent you know, for reading, anything under 100 lumens should do the job. If you want to light up your campsite, around 200 lumens will cover that. If you are hosting a party at a couple of adjoining campsites, 300 or more lumens will be plenty.
2 – Weight
We’ve mentioned this briefly. While it isn’t exactly a hard and fast rule, essentially, the bigger the lantern, the brighter the light. Think of it in terms of a campfire. The larger the pile of wood you are burning, the greater the heat and light. The only real exception to this is those sleek little gas-powered lanterns. The big ones don’t normally weigh all that much but can give you enough light to freely wander around your campsite and the next one over without tripping on things.
3 – Water Resistance
There are a few lantern styles out there that will survive full immersion but why would you be tossing one in the lake in the first place? All you really need is a camping lantern that is water and splash resistant. That sort of covers you if suddenly the sky above you opens up and starts to pour rain.
You could also get around that by setting up your camp under a large tarp, but that’s likely going to be a future blog on ‘How To Set Up Your Camp To Survive All Kinds Of Weather Except for Hurricanes.’
4 – Handy Do-Dads
One of the most useful extras you will appreciate when you get the ‘perfect’ camping lantern is one that comes complete with a means to hang it. That can be in the format of a hook, clip or loop of some kind because you don’t always have access to a tabletop to set a lantern on. Besides, if you are one of those adventurous campers who prefer to set up camp in the wilderness far and away from other people, hanging a lantern off a tree branch may be your best bet.
5 – Buttons, Fun, And Easy To Use Buttons
Try flicking on a camping lantern in complete darkness, and you’ll get what we mean when we say the easy and simple operation is pretty significant with this type of product. You will want to lean towards the lanterns that are not complicated or have some small knobs and dials you have to fiddle around with in order to get some light. It may be something you never consider when shopping for one, so we have added it to this list to give you some kind of advantage. You can thank us later for this valuable tip.
6 – The Base
So, how does this thing actually sit, if you end up putting it on a tabletop or flat rock or just on the ground in front of your tent? If it has a wide base that keeps it firmly in place, it’ll be a good choice. Legs are fine as long as they are adjustable and don’t create a potential tipping hazard.
7 – Portability
How many pieces does this lantern break down to? If it collapses to a size that makes it easy to pack and not take up a ton of space, then you are on the right track. Naturally, this also depends on your style of camping. If you consider a 29-foot RV as your tent, you likely have room for a lantern that doesn’t break down to a smaller size. If you backpack into a campsite, you will want something collapsible.
8 – Other Extra Stuff
Again, depending on your style of camping, you may or may not find that a lantern with a flashlight mode is good or bad. The same goes for camping lanterns that can be used to power or charge other devices. Yes, there are lanterns that do these sorts of things.
How Much Are You Willing To Spend?
Well, now that you have a better idea of the many things to consider when shopping for a good camping lantern, how much will you spend on it? That is another one of those variables that are dependent on your style of camping. If you camp just a handful of times a year, you may get away with sticking to the low-cost end of the scale.
However, when you go to that area, you’ll also sacrifice a bit in quality and extras. If you are more of a hardcore camper who is out there every chance you get, you’ll benefit greatly but investing a little extra dough on your evening light source. Either way, you won’t need to face your vehicle into your campsite so you can use the headlights to brighten it enough to find the firewood. Or the flashlight you dropped once the batteries died.