How To Choose The Best Camping Lights – Complete Guide

There’s a fair amount of camping gear you can do without. But no matter if you’re car camping, exploring the backcountry, or setting up a tent in your backyard, there’s one thing that should always be on your gear list: one of our picks for the best camping lights available. A lot of us have probably had the unfortunate experience of setting up camp after sunset or looking for missing items in a poorly lit tent. And in the past, camp lighting options were somewhat limited: kerosene lanterns or bulky flashlights.

But today there’s an incredible range of outdoor lighting: from long-running LED camp lanterns, to sleek, easy-to-use headlamps and beyond. The only challenge is knowing what lighting options to choose. Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you. Read on to learn how to choose the best camp lighting. (Plus we’re sharing our 12 favorite lighting solutions.)

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is your lighting needs. Do you need focused light for camp-related tasks? Ambient light so no one runs into the picnic table? Novelty lights to make a campsite feel more like home? The type of lights you buy also depend on how  you’re camping (tent, trailer, RV) and where you plan to camp (a standard campground or somewhere more remote).

Another consideration is your power source. If you’re at a campsite with electrical hook-ups, you won’t need lights that are exclusively battery-operated. That said, the lighting options we share below all rely on batteries. In general, this gives you more flexibility because you won’t have to depend on an electrical hook-up (or on having long enough extension cords).

Here’s our guide to buying lanterns, headlamps, interior lighting, and just-for-fun camp lighting.

Lanterns

Camping lanterns have come a long way in the past couple decades. Of course there are plenty of traditionalists who still crank up their kerosene lanterns, but it’s probably more nostalgia than efficiency. Today there are a lot of LED camping lanterns that offer bright, energy-efficient light that are cool to the touch—and won’t burn down your campsite.

Most of the lanterns on the market are battery-powered but there are some plug-in and solar-powered options too. (Just be sure you’re able to sufficiently charge the latter during the day.) When choosing a camping lantern, make sure to consider the power source (rechargeable batteries are an economical option), the lumens (more on that in our headlamp section), and average run time. It’s also a good idea to choose a lantern that’s waterproof or water-resistant. You don’t want to be caught without a light if the weather turns or it starts to rain. If you’re backpacking or short on space, you’ll want to consider the size and weight of the lantern too.

1. AYL StarLight LED Lantern

StarLight LED Camping Lantern - Water Resistant - Shock Proof - Long Lasting Up To 6 DAYS Straight - 1000 Lumens Ultra Bright LED Lantern - Perfect Lantern for Hiking, Emergencies, Hurricanes, Outages
  • MOST RELIABLE LANTERN ON THE MARKET - It uses LED bulbs with an output of 1000 lumens, guaranteeing you crystal clarity and over 100,000 hours of use.
  • 6 FULL DAYS OF POWER! Battery Powered Can Be Used For Up To 6 DAYS Straight on a Single Set of Fresh 3 D Batteries. The last lantern you will ever need to buy.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT SHOCKPROOF DESIGN AND WATER RESISTANT - Designed with a hook at the bottom that makes it easy to set it up virtually anywhere.
  • 3 LIGHTING MODES: Low, High and Flashing strobe. Depending on your needs, you can switch to any of the modes seamlessly by simply cycling the switch button.
  • PERFECT GIFT IDEA! What are you waiting for? Click the Add to Cart Button to Order NOW!

2. Coleman Twin LED Lantern

Coleman LED Lantern | 390 Lumens Twin LED Lantern
  • Customizable brightness settings ranging from high to ultra-low
  • 390 extra-bright lumens on high. 100 bright lumens on low
  • 32-ft. (9.75 m) beam distance on high and 19-ft. (5.79 m) beam distance on low
  • Up to 85 hours runtime on high setting and Up to 299 hours runtime on low setting
  • Powered by eight D-cell batteries (sold separately). Water resistant against rain and splashing water. 5-year limited warranty

3. GoalZero Lighthouse LED Lantern

Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern and USB Power Hub
  • Highly adjustable 400 lumen lantern with USB output to keep your phone and other devices charged.
  • Directional and adjustable LED light, up to 400 lumens. Recharge the internal battery from any USB port or from a Goal Zero Nomad Solar Panel. Use the built-in hand crank to charge up instantly and never be left in the dark.
  • Internal lithium battery boasts 4, 400mAh with a 1. 5A USB output, enough power to charge phones and tablets even off grid.
  • Collapsible legs provide a stand for maximum light dispersion and fold in for convenient storage. Built-in handle for easy carrying and hanging
  • Utilize 360° of bright LED light, or save on power and extend runtimes by illuminating half the lantern. Unique reflection design allows for the optimal amount of quality, usable light.

4. MPOWERED Luci Light

MPOWERD Luci Original: Solar Inflatable Light, Versatile Outdoor Adventure Lantern, 65 Lumens, Lasts 24 hours, No Batteries Needed, Waterproof, Compact, Lightweight, Durable
  • BUILT-IN RECHARGEABLE 1000 mAh LITHIUM-ION BATTERY. With 65 lumens, and lasting up to 24 hours on a single charge, Luci Original is a must-have solar lantern for any adventure.
  • BRIGHT AND LONG LASTING. Emitting 65 lumens of power via 10 warm white LEDs, and shining through a clear finish, this light provides up to 24 hours of light on a single charge, so you can keep your day going long into the night.
  • COMPLETELY SOLAR & NEVER NEEDS BATTERIES. Luci's built-in high efficiency solar panel means that no batteries are needed - ever. Recharge fully via solar in 7 hours. Luci Original will always be ready for any adventure.
  • POWERFUL, PORTABLE, AND ADVENTURE READY. With its compact size, this little light can travel with you on any adventure. Plus, with an adjustable base strap and fixed top strap, it can be easily attached to your backpack, or hung from above.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT, WATERPROOF, AND DURABLE. Luci Original is built for adventure and can withstand up to 150 lbs of pressure! Plus, it has an IP67 waterproof rating (submersible up to 1m), collapses down to 1.5 inches, and weighs just 4.4 oz (125g).

Headlamps

The first time I wore a headlamp at camp, I felt like a spelunker who had wandered out of a cave. (The very first headlamps were developed for miners after all.) Wearing a flashlight on my head seemed so strange at the time. But it didn’t take long to realize that the idea was a good one. Hands-free lighting that goes wherever I go and aims wherever I look?

I haven’t owned a traditional flashlight since.

From setting up camp in the dark to assembling s’mores to nighttime trail running, headlamps are an all-purpose light every camper should have in their gear kit. Nearly all of today’s headlamps are powered by LED bulbs, meaning they’re both energy efficient and will last a long time. They also come with adjustable straps so you’ll always be able to have the perfect fit. Here some things to consider when buying a headlamp:

  • Lumens. The output of a headlamp’s light bulb is measured in lumens. Most of the time, the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. (But not always. A headlamp’s brightness is also determined by factors such as the type of beam it creates and the color of the light: warm or cool.) Most campers will get along fine with 100-200 lumens.
  • Type of beam. There are two main types of headlamp beams: a flood beam and a spot beam. A flood beam is good for up-close tasks such as cooking or setting up camp, while a spot beam is helpful for seeing long distance (think trail running or spotting wildlife). Plenty of headlamps offer both flood and spot beam settings.
  • Modes. Many headlamps come with different settings such as a strobe setting or a red light. Both can be useful as safety features and the latter is a convenient way to use a headlamp without disturbing others.
  • Beam distance. Most headlamps will indicate how much “usable light” they create via a beam distance measurement.
  • Burn time/run time. This is the amount of time that the headlamp will produce usable light once the batteries are fully charged. This number varies from headlamp to headlamp.

5. Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp Graphite One Size
  • PowerTap™ Technology allows instant transitioning between full and dimmed power
  • Compact, low-profile design uses three AAA batteries, included
  • Brightness Memory allows you to turn the light on and off at a chosen brightness without reverting back to full or mid-power
  • Settings include full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night-vision and lock mode
  • Multifaceted optical lens design

6. Petzl Tikkana 150 Headlamp

PETZL - TIKKINA Headlamp, 150 Lumens, Standard Lighting
  • BRILLIANT BEAMS: Features a wide beam. This close range light is ideal for activities like a sunrise hike or camping with the family.
  • CHOOSE YOUR LIGHT: Features a single on/off button, which easily selects the lighting mode of your choosing.
  • DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THE DARK: With its longest burn time at 220 hours, the TIKKINA will power your all-night adventures.
  • CHARGE IT UP: Every TIKKINA includes three standard batteries, and is also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery (sold separately).
  • HAVE A LIT ADVENTURE: With its easy-to-use design, the TIKKINA is perfect for camping, trekking, or household use.

7. Energizer Headlamp

best camping lights while tent camping in the woods

Interior Lighting

The lanterns and headlamps we’ve covered so far can do double-duty around the campsite or inside a tent. But sometimes it’s nice to have a more compact (and ambient) light inside a tent or trailer. For convenience’s sake, it’s often helpful to have a light that stays where you sleep. That way, it’s always there when you need it.

The following lights are all battery-powered LEDs that stay cool to the touch and are safe to use inside a tent. Provided you have a way to hang them, novelty lights (such as string lights) can also be a nice touch inside your sleeping space. (But for safety reasons, you may want to forgo the string lights if children or pets are involved.)

8. Black Diamond Moji Lantern

Black Diamond Equipment - Moji Color Lantern - Process Blue
  • One TriplePower LED emits 100 lumens (max. setting)
  • Frosted globe produces bright, ambient light
  • Unique dimming switch provides adjustable brightness
  • Includes collapsible, double-hook hang loop and uses three AAA alkaline batteries
  • Protected against water immersion

9. E-Trends Compact LED Lights

E-TRENDS 2 Pack Portable LED Lantern Tent Light Bulb for Camping Hiking Fishing Emergency Light, Battery Powered Camping Equipment Gear Gadgets Lamp for Outdoor & Indoor, Blue
  • THE ORIGINAL E-TRENDS Portable LED Lights are built with superior, high-quality ABS materials that are safe and reliable to help provide maximum durability and water resistance wherever you go.
  • The innovative and convenient hanging hook design is equipped with a sturdy housing to support all your outdoor and indoor activities such as camping, hiking, hunting, fishing and a lot more!
  • With its dimmer control feature, this camping lamp is designed to save energy to maintain super long battery life for longer lasting use, making it practical for your everyday activities.
  • Its high-setting offers maximum brightness that can easily illuminate the whole campsite, so there's no need to worry about outages, whether indoor or outdoor.
  • Each light is operated by 3 x AAA Batteries (included) , product comes with 5 year Warranty & 45 days money back guarantee.

10. Souyos Portable Camping Lantern

2 Pack Portable LED Tactical Camping Lantern,Ultra Bright Outdoor Tent Lantern with Retractable Hook and 5 Modes,Water resistant,Best for Camping,Tent,Emergency
  • ✔ULTRA BRIGHT CAMPING LIGHT:Maximum mode is 150 lumens,mini volume can illuminate large area,outdoor emergency tent light 360°emits high lumen light with long-time durability,soft led light product your eyes
  • ✔ADJUSTABLE MODE:5 different modes provide maximum,medium,low,quick strobe,slow pulse light,every mode is easy to be switched by button based on your needs,the switch button is located on top of camping lantern,press it to turn on lantern,press button again to turn off lantern
  • ✔UTILITY LED LANTERN:Ideal camping equipment for tent,camping,hiking,jogging,emergency light for power outage,survival,also daily night vision lantern for kids,reading,party
  • ✔FOLDABLE HOOK:Hanging tent light with hook,particular design make lantern can hang on branch,hook,string,when fold the hook,you can put led tent light on the plant,floor,ABS material make tent lantern resist water, abrasion and extreme environment
  • ✔POWER SOURCE:This led tent lamp is operated by 3 AAA batteries(not included),you can see the “OPEN” and “CLOSE” mark on the side of camping tent light,insert battery following the correct polarity(+,-) mark on the battery groove

best camping lights

Novelty Lighting

Not all camp lighting needs to be functional. Once you’ve taken care of task lighting, it’s time to think about atmosphere. There are a variety of just-for-fun lights you can buy to dress up your campsite and take it one step closer to glamping: twinkle lights, fairy lights, colored lanterns, flameless candles, and more. Of course, nothing beats the glow of a campfire, but these lights bring their own special touch to outdoor living.

11. MPOWERD Luci Color Light

12. Vivii Solar String Lights

Sale
Vivii Solar String Light 20 ft 30 LED Crystal Ball Waterproof String Lights Solar Powered Fairy Lighting for Garden Home Landscape Holiday Decorations, White, 2 Pack
  • LONG-LASTING - 800mAh rechargeable battery can work continuously for 8-10 hours once fully charged. Just replace the RECHARGEABLE BATTERY when there is not enough sunshine, then it will work.
  • PRODUCT DIMENSIONS - 5-feet lead and 20-feet wire with 30 bubble globes. Eight kinds of working modes make your environment out of ordinary. It is an Ideal for decorating your passage, garden, patio, party, etc.
  • BEAUTIFUL- Place these solar string lights around the garden or trees to decorate your outdoor space or replace your traditional plug-in string lights with these solar-powered beauties. Item is waterproof to suit for using outdoor and indoor.
  • SOLAR POWERED - These LED lights decorate your garden with energy from the solar and do not require additional cost.
  • EASY TO USE - The solar panel is easily installed. These lights are turned on automatically in darkness and turned off automatically in brightness. Power and mode double buttons are on the back of panel box for controlling. The mode switch allows you to adjust among 2 flashing effects.

13. Flameless Waterproof Candles

Comenzar Flameless Candles Outdoor Candles Battery Operated Candles Set of 9 (H 4" 5" 6" x D 3") Led Candles with Remote Control Candles (Batteries not Included)
  • Safe First : Each flameless candle has been thoroughly and rigorously tested. Made from odourless mylar resin, these candles can be used without fear of flame and with absolutely no fire hazard or risk of burning. With this amazing flameless candle, you can have peace of mind that you will have the perfect ambient evening.
  • IP53 for Outdoor : Comenzar Large Waterproof Flameless Candles are designed to withstand hot weather, heavy rain and mist, and to work well in cold environments.
  • Widely Application : Comenzar outdoor waterproof candles can fit most outdoor and indoor lanterns. good for home and garden weddings, outdoor parties and festive decorations. Extremely good to improve the mood of your room, porch and patio.
  • Easy to Use : Are you still struggling to light and extinguish your candles every time? Don't worry, comenzar's electronic candle remote control can help you solve this problem once and for all. With just one setting, the timer function allows you to set 4H | 5H | 6H | 8H to turn on and off automatically at regular intervals. Will cycle every 24 hours.
  • Super Long Battery Life : Our Battery operated candle by 2 x AA batteries per candle. Using 2 high-grade AA batteries, it can provide 350+ hours of continuous company.