If you are sick of using wasteful, battery-powered flashlights on your camping trips and are looking for a more efficient alternative, you might be interested in a solar powered camping light. These little devices are charged by the sun in the day and will give you bright light all night.
This guide will walk you through how to choose the best solar lantern, as well as a few of our favorite products on the market right now.
Picking out the best outdoor solar lantern for your needs might be a little trickier than you think. It’s not just about choosing the best quality for the best price – there are a few important factors you are going to want to consider before you buy.
The design of the camping lantern you choose will make a big difference in how you use it. No matter what style of lantern you are looking for, you should make sure that the design is lightweight, compact and easy to carry – this is especially important if you are backpacking with your lantern.
Some solar powered lanterns have attachable clips so that you can hang them from the roof of your tent, a branch or another surface. Hanging solar lanterns can be really helpful for hands-free, effective lighting of your campsite. Others are designed to stand up on their own and cast a broad light.
The problem with using solar power, especially for a product that you may need to rely on in an emergency, is that it is simply not always available. The best solar powered camping lights will have a built-in power bank, so that you can charge them up without any sunlight around in an emergency situation.
If you are using your solar camping lantern as your primary light source on a camping trip, a built-in power bank is a crucial feature.
Some camping lanterns, as well as having solar powered charging, can be charged through a USB portal or with another method. This is a helpful feature on a cloudy or stormy day, when your lantern will not be able to get a proper charge. It could also be helpful if the charge runs out at night and you need to turn the light back on.
Like any camping gear, you will want to be sure that your solar powered lantern is built to withstand the elements. You never know when a rainstorm or fog might strike.
Your solar LED lantern should be made out of tough, pliable plastic that is resistant to tears or cracks. Any metal parts on the lantern (clips, base, or handle) should be corrosion resistant and designed to hold up to wet conditions.
One of the most important features of a good camping light is that it is portable. A lot of small solar lanterns are collapsible, which can be really helpful for keeping them in a pack or pocket while you are hiking.
If you tend to do more car camping than backpacking, you may not need a collapsible light – a large solar lantern could provide more light for longer. But you should still make sure it is lightweight, compact and easy to pick up and move.
The best solar camp lanterns can be used in multiple ways. Again, if this is the only light source you are carrying on a camping trip or backpacking trip, it is important that you can get the very most out of it.
For the best versatility, look for a lantern that can hang, or be used standing up. It is also helpful if the light is lightweight and can be easily carried, to help you navigate in the dark.
If you have never used portable solar lighting before, you might not realize how helpful it can be. There are several scenarios when you might need to use your solar powered light – they are not only for camping.
In case of a power outage at home, for example, it can be really handy to have a solar powered lantern at home. If battery powered and other electric light sources fail, you will want to have something on hand that can light up a space in a pinch.
It is also a good idea to keep a solar powered lantern in your car, in case of an emergency situation. If your car battery dies, you will not be able to rely on your headlights or the overhead light in your cab. Solar powered camping lanterns are light and super portable – it is easy to keep one in your glove box just in case you find yourself stranded in the middle of the night.
Using your solar powered camping lantern is fairly easy. The most crucial step is to make sure that it gets plenty of charge during the day, while the sun is out. If you are backpacking, that can be tricky – you may want to keep your lantern clipped to the outside of your pack, so that it can charge while you are hiking in the daytime.
Once you are set up at your campsite, hang or rest your lantern where you need it. You should not need to worry about conserving the charge –most top-quality camping lanterns will be able to stay on all night without losing their charge.
The first choice on our list is this super powerful, versatile camping lantern from Agptek. This is our top choice in its category because it is so reliable, and comes at a great mid-range price.
This Lantern has five different charging options: solar panels, a USB port, a car adapter, a hand crank, and space for batteries (3 AAAs). All of those charging options make it a great lantern to keep in your home or car as a back up in case of emergencies – even if all other charging options fail, the hand crank will always work to give you light. Both the hand crank and solar charge are green, energy efficient options.
The lantern has two brightness settings: one is super bright, to illuminate a larger, outdoor space, and the other is dimmer for use in a smaller space like a tent or cabin. The options also help you to conserve the battery or charge of the lantern.
The main downside with this product is that it is not collapsible. It is a little larger and heavier than some of the other lanterns on our list, but it is still small and light enough to easily carry on a camping trip.
This super bright, highly durable lantern is our “upgrade option” because it comes at a slightly higher price, but produces an awesome bright light and holds its charge for up to ten hours.
The lantern is collapsible. When packed down, it is small enough to carry in a shirt pocket or hang on a backpack. The solar panel on the top of the lantern will charge it up while you hike, if it is clipped on your pack. On a full charge, this lantern will hold its charge for ten hours – that means you can keep your campsite lit all night.
It has three different light settings, to accommodate for different spaces. The brightest setting is bright enough to light up the whole campsite, allowing you to cook, read, clean, etc. even without firelight. The dimmest setting is a comfortable light for hanging out in your tent.
This lantern has a built in power bank, in case of an emergency. It can also be charged through a USB port, alongside the solar panels. The build is durable, completely waterproof and impossible to crack, tear or shatter.
All in all, this is a great, reliable camping lantern. The main downside is the price – it is a little more expensive than some of the other options on our list.
This little inflatable camping lantern from Mpowered may be small and affordable, but it is extremely durable and can give you up to 12 hours of light on a full charge.
The lantern has 10 LED lights along the bottom panel, which provide a full, even glow whether it is hanging or standing upright. It is inflatable, which means it is easy to pack down and carry in a pocket or clipped to the outside of a pack. One of the biggest advantages of an inflatable light is that it is easy to handle when it is blown up – it is light and can be carried or tossed around without any risk of breaking it. Blowing it up takes less than a minute.
12 hours of light is a huge benefit – the drawback is that this lantern only has one charging option. In order to give 12 hours of light, it has to be placed in direct sunlight for at least 7 hours. That means that this may not be the best choice as an emergency backup light.
For camping and backpacking in the summertime, though, this little inflatable light can be a solid affordable option.
This Suaoki collapsible camping light looks a little different from the other camping lanterns on this list, and that is why we have named it the most versatile. It has a folding, three-leaf design, with each “leaf” of the light being a light on one side and a solar panel on the other. That means you can hang this lamp, or rest it open on a table, or hold it in your hand as a flashlight.
The lantern has three lighting modes: high brightness, low brightness, and flashing – which means it can be used as an SOS signal in an emergency. It is compact enough to fit into a pocket when folded together, but provides a bright enough light to illuminate a whole campsite or room.
This lantern can be charged by a USB portal or solar panel. For the USB, it needs about 3 ½ hours to fully charge. The biggest downside to this light is that once it is fully charged, it will only provide light for about 4 hours on the lowest brightness and 2 hours on high brightness. So this is not the best lantern to light up your campsite all night, but it is definitely convenient for short term uses.
Everyone has different preferences, and different styles of camping. The best solar powered camping lantern for you will be the one that suits your individual needs.
That said, our favorite out of the options on this list is definitely the AGPTEK Solar Lantern. This light is the best for emergency scenarios, with 5 different charging options that will never fail. It is also great for a camping trip. The only case it does not work well for is more serious backpacking – you may want to look for something a little smaller and collapsible for longer backpacking trips.
Whichever light you choose, make sure that it is portable, durable, and bright. The right solar powered camping lantern can make a huge difference on your next camping trip.