The 9 best rechargeable camping lights and lanterns of our time
You may not be sure where to start when looking for your ideal rechargeable camping lantern or light. There are countless options online and in-store to choose from. How about we narrow this down? It’s good to start with the basics. Consider what type of camping you plan to use your rechargeable light source for. Are you looking for solar options, only rechargeable batteries, or both?
Rechargeable lanterns and lights go with camping like peanut butter goes with jelly. You don’t have to carry around different types of single-use batteries. Not a bad thing for the landfills and environment. You have the option of solar recharging so you’re not beholden to a separate battery source. It can even be much more convenient and simple to maintain. You only need 400-600 lumens outside your tent and about 60 lumens inside. This post contains links that can benefit this website financially when you make a purchase on the destination site. It does not in any way impact the cost of the products shared here.
From lightweight backpacking to space-is-less-of-an-issue family camping, we’ll cover it. Use these shortcuts to jump to the section that interests you most:
Best flashlight / lantern hybrid: versatile mobile light
Best string lights for colorful campsites: be the party of the campsite
Best for car camping: compact and full of options
Best general use headlamp: simple to use and reliable
Best solar light for backpacking: light, charges devices, and stays juiced
Best versatile light for backpacking: light and clips to your backpack
Best value solar lantern: great performance for the price
(Runner-up) Best value solar lantern: unique for a great price
Best warm light lantern: more than bright enough yet easy on the eyes
Best rechargeable flashlight / lantern hybrid: EJ Case XTorch
- Variable 100-400 lumen settings
- Warm light lantern mode with hanging latch is handy
- Charges 3 different ways
- Doubles as lantern and flashlight
- Up to 48 hours in low setting with full charge
- Lightweight plastic exterior has been reported to feel “cheap”
- It can take a whole 22 hours to charge in the sun
- Some units have been reported as defective and stop working entirely
This is like the swiss army knife of lanterns and flashlights. The versatility of the EJ Case XTorch doesn’t stop at dual solar and USB charging. Or even the fact it glows in the dark so you can find it when it’s turned off. It’s great for most use cases. The clip design allows you to hang it inside your tent or latch to your backpack. Quality plays an important factor as the water-resistant case floats and weathers well.
This flashlight and lantern hybrid holds a charge for 2 years when in storage. It runs a 3,000 mAh battery capable of 7-7.5 hours on high or 19-48 hours on low brightness. The smaller side lantern light appears to keep its charge much longer. You can get a full charge via USB in as little as 1.5 hours or 22 hours in full sun.
You'll get an ample amount of light when navigating your way to the campground bathroom with its 400 lumen output. The bulb on the side acts as a second lantern while a front bulb is used for both flashlight and room lantern modes. There’s a simple HI/LO brightness setting to range 100-400 lumens. 100 on the side lantern, 200 on room lantern, and 400 lumens from the flashlight. Lantern mode gives off a warm ora. It even doubles as an emergency battery source for your cell phone or other USB devices. To top it off, XTorch gives 25% of its profits to children in other countries without access to power and light.
Best rechargeable string lights for colorful campsites: Mpowerd Luci Color String Lights
- High quality construction is resistant to damage
- Expandable case conceals string lights
- 6 color modes and 2 color effect settings
- Long 18 ft. nylon-braided cord
- Up to 15 hours in low setting with full charge
- It can take a whole 16 hours to charge in the sun
- Some have reported only 3 hours of charge on the high setting
As the sun sets behind the pines, it’s time to break out the lights and music. All 6 glowing color options shared across 10 LED nodes that emit 100 lumens each. You can choose between a solid color or a cycle mode for the strand. Choose between blue, green, pink, turquoise, violet, and cool white. The expandable housing even has a flashlight on its side when you’re not using the string lights.
The Mpowerd Luci Color String Lights are spread across 18 ft. of nylon-braided cord. You’re getting plenty of even coverage that’s resistant to damage. I can tell you firsthand this neat gadget can take a beating having owned it for two years now.
The 2,000 mAh lithium ion battery lasts up to 15 hours on low from a single charge. You can achieve a full solar charge in 16 hours depending on its panel angle to the sun. A quick full recharge by USB from your vehicle or battery bank can be had in 6-8 hours. It doubles as a battery bank as well, so you can charge your smartphone or other devices with its USB ports. The moisture-resistant casing operates in 32ºF – 113ºF temperatures. So you can use the included hanging cord to suspend on a canopy or tent and not have to worry about the rain. Don’t dunk it in water and make sure all ports get covered by their respective rubber shields. It’s also best to not leave it in direct rain.
Best rechargeable lantern for car camping: Goal Zero Lighthouse 600
- Large battery with 320 hour battery life when on low
- 3 charging options
- Light and stores small
- The USB charging cable isn’t braided which may not withstand long term wear and tear
This lighthouse is a powerhouse. A lot of thought shines through the fit, form, and function of the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600. There are 3 charging options: solar, hand crank, and a traditional USB connection to a power source. You can charge another device with its 1.5A USB. It’s worth noting that you will need to buy a separate solar panel to charge with the sun. In this case, Goal Zero’s Nomad solar panels will be more than compatible. For instance, the Nomad 10 model can charge the Lighthouse 600’s large 5200 mAh battery in as little as 6 hours. The same amount of time if you were to charge it by USB. Make sure to angle it perpendicular to the sun and cross your fingers for no cloud or fog coverage.
You can direct the light in one direction or leave it to standard 360 degree illumination. How is this perfect for car camping? The versatility of its charging. It shines at a 600 lumen brightness level. Plus, it has collapsible storage capabilities. The crank option gives you more than a car camper light. You can also leave it in your vehicle for emergencies when you’re not camping or overlanding. If the battery dies, you can use the hand crank as a fallback. One minute of 120 rpm hand cranking gives you 10 minutes of low light. The crank tucks into the top of the unit. My favorite part of all, it can get up to 320 hours on a single charge if you use the side light on low.
Best general use rechargeable headlamp: Petzl Actik Core
- Rechargeable batteries you can remove
- Bright 600 lumen output
- Mixed flood and focused lighting modes for near and far line of sight
- Extremely simple to use
- Not as bright as some other brands
- Not as many expert settings as some other brands
I almost didn’t want to include a headlamp in this post. There are countless headlamp options available. Many can last longer, run much brighter, or come with way more features. Plus, it’s scary working with a headlamp that only recharges. Losing power on a night hike can be a frightening prospect. Until I found the Petzl Actik Core rechargeable headlamp. It’s super reliable, useful, innovative, and very simple to use. This 600 lumen piece has what they call a hybrid concept. It can take regular AAA batteries or run a 1250 mAh rechargeable and removable battery. Ok, let’s pause there. You have the option to carry backup power without disposable batteries or a long wait time to charge. Instead you can carry an extra rechargeable battery pack that can snap into the headlamp.
There’s only one button, that’s what makes it so simple. It toggles between white light for better visibility and red light to be kind to fellow campers' eyes. That same button even toggles brightness levels. Looks-wise, you can choose between red, blue, green, and gray on its reflective headlamps. It only weighs 88 grams / 3.1oz so it’s not weighing down your frontal lobe. It’s IPX4 water-resistant, so it can withstand the rain and your sweat. The light beam can strobe to alert rescuers. It can also run mixed between flood and focused settings so you can see near and far at the same time. The light tilts up and down on the backplate for optimal positioning. It can be set to lock mode so it doesn’t turn on in your backpack or storage. Plus, it’s compatible with Petzl’s Helmet Adapt and Bike Adapt 2 mounts.
Best rechargeable solar light for backpacking: LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Power Lantern
- It can light up 200 sq ft. of space
- Packs small when deflated and can hang outside your backpack
- Due to its backup battery bank, there are lighter solar lanterns for backpacking
Solar lanterns have come a long way since their birth in 2003. Since then, solar photovoltaic cells and battery tech have advanced over the years. So has the effectiveness of lights like the LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Power Lantern. The blowup design is pretty ingenious. It can inflate with a pair of lungs and deflate to fit in most hiking backpacks. This inflatable only weighs 8.5oz. That's very light considering the large 2000mAh battery can charge your smartphone. On a full bank it can recharge a cell phone once, digital camera 1-2 times, and headlamp 1-2 times.
This lantern boasts 50 hours of battery life when on low, and up to 150 lumens of light when on high. That equates to 200 sq. ft. of ample lighting. Great for a large family tent, canopy, or to light your 360 degree surroundings while night hiking. The clipping strap up top is perfect for hanging anywhere. Like the zipper loop of your hiking backpack so it can charge in the sun. Or your tent, canopy, or even the draw strap of your overlander's awning.
Best rechargeable light for versatile backpacking: Cairn XL Smart Lantern + Power Bank
- Charge smartphone up to 4x
- 250 hrs of low light juice
- Easy to hang on backpack
- Somewhat heavy due to battery bank
Every backpacker is different, and so are their lighting needs. Some like to split backpacking levels by pack weight. Generally it’s 10 lbs for the seasoned, 20lbs for moderate, and 30lbs for most. That’s why this mini lantern comes in three sizes. Meet the .624 lb Cairn XL Smart Lantern + Power Bank. It’s the largest of the three models. The mid-size Cairn Smart Lantern + Power Bank is .355 lbs. While the Cairn Mini Lantern with no power bank weighs only .088 lb. If you’re paying attention to weight, these 3 models should cover the spectrum for you.
The Cairn XL outputs 350 lumens and its large 10,000 mAh battery can charge a smartphone up to 4 times. Run it on low from one of its dimming modes for up to 250 hours of power. That’s part of why this Cairn model is perfect for a backpacking trip, it can hang. They call these “smart” because they can connect to your phone over bluetooth using their free app. One of my favorite app features has to be the light color control. Where you can choose from a broad spectrum of vibrant hues. It’s IP-65 rated for water-resistant and dustproof applications so it can be in the elements. The multi-axis tether makes hanging it off your backpack a breeze.
Best value rechargeable solar lantern: Mpowerd Luci 2.0
- Can run on low for 24 hours
- Solar charged in only 7 hours
- Extremely light and compact
- Doesn’t have a micro wired charge option
- Sometimes the hanging strap can snap off on one side
I own 4 of these solar lanterns for the last 2 years now. I can say these Mpowerd Luci 2.0s are reliable, durable, and fun to use. They run at 75 lumens and have a clear inflatable finish so you get the most out of every lumen. Longevity in such a compact 4.4oz package with a run-time of up to 24 hours is what makes these so appealing. Not to mention their budget price point. Which opens the gates for people to run more than one of these at once around the campsite. It brings ambiance with its 3 dimming modes. You also get supplemental lighting when combined with other lights.
They can handle a wide range of climates in the 32ºF – 113ºF range and can even work well as a backpacking light. As there’s a solar panel on one side of its IP67 water-resistant pancake body. It can charge the 1000 mAh li-ion battery in 7 hours. There are 4 light modes: low, medium, high, and flashing. I’ve made it a habit to leave my Lucis on all night on low and then set them out in the sun on a table in the morning. It becomes a morning ritual, much like making a cup of coffee on your campstove.
(Runner-up) Best value rechargeable solar lantern: Biolite SunLight 100
- Up to 50 hours of battery life
- Analog sundial for optimal solar charge
- Red light for nighttime reading
- Very affordable
- Fits in your pocket
- Only 100 lumens
- Reports of battery dying after a year or so
There’s no replacement for pure functional simplicity. Somehow the Biolite SunLight 100 is that and more. One of my favorite features is the cover that goes over the SunLight 100 and some of Biolite's other lights. It diffuses the brightness enough to not blind an unsuspecting camper.
My second favorite feature is the analog sundial that shows the optimal angle to charge. It can solar charge in about 7 hours when angled perpendicular with the sun. You can also get a 2 hour quick charge if you use the onboard USB charging port. It has up to 50 hours of runtime on low with a charged 750mAh li-ion battery. Only weighs 3.4oz, the size of an ice cream sandwich that can fit in most pockets. It’s equipped with 100 lumen multi-colored RGBs. Even comes with a hanging clip for your backpack and kickstand for your table. Did I mention it’s affordable? You’re getting a lot for your money, especially if you grab a few to spread about the campsite.
Best warm light rechargeable lantern: ML6 Warm Light Lantern
- Engineered in Germany
- Light output that’s easy on the eyes
- A bit more pricey for the quality
Can’t use the same charging cable across their lights.
ex) ML4 cable can’t charge ML6 model
Looking for longevity in your solar lantern so you have one less thing to worry about when camping? The German engineered ML6 Warm Light Lantern is a marvel in its own, and the reasons are in the details. To start, it has range. We’re talking 5 - 750 lumens so you can read on dim or light the way back from tent to campfire. The light functions are diverse too. You can have it blink at regular intervals, strobe bright and fast for self-defense, even pulse a few blinks at regular intervals. Last but not least, it can S.O.S to signal distress when you need help in a dire situation.
The battery can last anywhere from 4 - 240 hours across its dimmable spectrum. You can still see it when turned off at night due to its glowing fluorescent accents. You can mount it anyway you’d like including metal surfaces using a magnet. It also has a removable stand for tables and the ground. For transportation it can lock so it doesn't turn on in your bag. All this packed into a 7 inch long form factor weighing in at 9.8oz.
Even more reasons to go solar: Emergency power and lighting
We brought a lot into the limelight here. Rechargeable lights and lanterns also double as emergency lights. You’re investing in something that may get used past your weekend warrior adventures. In some cases, they can become rechargeable battery sources for other devices.
You have more reason to invest in a piece of tech that will give you emergency lighting and power for all use cases. Storms, rolling blackouts, a stroll to your friend’s trailer, or an outage from a downed powerline. There are endless reasons to invest in emergency backup lighting. Happy camping!
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