The lantern, like the wheel, is an ancient invention that has been used by humans, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Whether you need to light the way in a cave or tunnel, or whether you need lighting for your campsite or backyard oasis, a good lantern has you covered.
Lanterns have gone through many evolutions over the past several thousand years, from kerosene powered to solar-powered, and consumers today have many options to choose from. This is a list of features to consider before purchasing the lantern that is right for you.
People use lanterns when fishing, camping, hiking, and backpacking. But these are far from the only situations in which a lantern comes in handy.
There are various types of fuel-powered lanterns available. If you want a fuel-powered lantern, you’ll need to decide whether you want a lantern that runs on liquid fuel, propane, or butane. The first two are more fuel-efficient, but butane is more compact and easier to use. When making your selection, consider whether any other equipment you’ll be using takes fuel. For instance, if you’ll be using a camping stove powered by butane, it may make sense to purchase a butane-fueled lantern.
While a fuel-powered lantern has the advantage of producing a powerfully bright light, this type of lantern is quite noisy, and it carries safety risks. Note that a fuel-powered lantern should never be used inside of a tent or other enclosed space, as fuel-fed lanterns create heat and exhaust which could create a potentially dangerous situation.
Battery-powered lanterns are a safe alternative to fuel-powered lanterns. If you travel anywhere with a battery-powered lantern, make sure to bring extra batteries along. And if you purchase a lantern with a built-in rechargeable battery, take note of how long the battery is supposed to last. If you’ll be out in the wilderness for a while, bring a solar charger along.
Notably, battery-powered lanterns are not a good choice if you’ll be spending time in freezing temperatures. If you’re heading out for a wintertime adventure, a fuel-powered lantern is probably your best bet.
If you’re using a battery-powered lantern, it is very important to make sure you use the correct type of battery. You could damage or completely ruin a lantern by placing the wrong batteries (for example, lithium instead of alkaline) in it.
For those who are concerned about the environmental impact and safety risks associated with fuel-burning lanterns, solar-powered lanterns are a great alternative.
They’re an excellent choice for outdoor adventures since all you need to power them is the sun. And for most outdoor experiences, there’s plenty of sunlight to harness. Also, most solar-powered lanterns can run on backup battery power if needed.
Solar lanterns usually feature some kind of indicator to let you know they have reached a full charge. Solar lanterns also happen to be a lot lighter in weight than other options.
CRITICAL FEATURES TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A LANTERN
In addition to determining whether you want a lantern powered by fuel, battery, or the sun, keep the following factors in mind when shopping for a new lantern.
If you’ll be using your lantern during different times of day or want to use it for various purposes, such as reading and lighting up a whole tent, make sure you have a way to dim the light.
An adjustable lantern is preferable, but some lanterns only come with an on/off switch.
Size and weight
Depending on your situation, you may have limited space to carry a lantern. If you’re portaging or fastpacking, a compact, lightweight lantern is likely your best choice.
Some lanterns are inflatable. Some can be collapsed down for easy packing and transport.
The weight of your lantern matters most if you need it while you’re walking or hiking. If you’ll be traveling by car, a heavier lantern may not bother you.
Consider how much a lantern weighs before ordering or purchasing it.
If you’re heading out for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to make sure the lantern you choose can run for as long as you need it to. Yes, you could keep spare fuel or batteries around just in case. But for most people, the best scenario is one in which the lantern that will run for as long as needed without adjustment.
Our experts recommend that you overestimate the amount of time you’ll need your lantern to run; better safe than sorry.
Keep in mind, the brighter the light you end up using, the less time your battery or fuel will last.
The following lantern features may not be absolutely necessary, but they are certainly nice to have.
For those who want to pack their lighting, a collapsible lantern is the best option. Some lanterns collapse entirely, while others may have folding handles that make them easier to store.
Waterproofing or water-resistance
Some lanterns are waterproof or water-resistant. If you’re heading out on a body of water or plan to hike in heavy rain, go for a waterproof model. Otherwise, a lantern that is water-resistant would probably work just fine.
Most lanterns come with a top handle that allows you to hang the device from a tent or other hook. An easy-grip handle is especially nice to have if you’ll be walking with it at any point.
Some lanterns come with tripod-like legs which makes the lantern easy to set anywhere.
Shockproof or shock-resistant
For the rugged adventurer, clumsy outdoor-type, or child, a shockproof or shock-resistant lantern will ensure the lantern stays intact even if dropped, tossed, or otherwise mishandled.