When I’m backpacking, I’m interested in carrying as little weight as possible. That’s why one of the best solar camping lanterns always makes its way into my pack.
These solar-powered camping lanterns have wider applications than just backpacking though. They can be tremendously useful for off-grid car camping and they’re a staple for many van lifers as well.
A headlamp is always a go-to lighting option for camping, but it’s also nice to have a portable lantern for extra light when you’re dining or playing games on your folding camping table.
If you haven’t seen how lightweight, portable, and useful these lanterns can be, then you’ll love our choices for the best solar camping lanterns!
This collapsible solar camping lantern is easy to inflate and lasts for hours on one charge.
- Compact Design
- Multiple Lighting Modes
- Super Collapsible
This solar lantern for camping features incredibly compact collapsed dimensions.
- Easy to store
- Easy hanging
- A little heavier
This durable camping lantern is super collapsible and lasts for up to 35 hours.
- Small and campact
- Long lasting
Best Solar Lanterns For Camping
Let’s face it: batteries are heavy! Carrying replacement AAA or AA batteries for your headlamp or non-solar lantern isn’t realistic for backpacking or other camping endeavors.
That’s why I’ve gone exclusively to using solar-powered lanterns for camping.
And these are my top 5 solar lantern picks!
M Powered Luci 2.0 Solar Lantern
- Weight: 4.4 ounces
- Dimensions (inflated): 4.25” x 4.25” x 5”
- Dimensions (collapsed): 4.25” x 4.25” x 1”
- Max Light Output: 75 lumens
- Average Run Time (hours): High: 6; Medium: 12; Low: 24; Flashing: 12
- Batteries: 1000 mAh lithium-ion
The Luci 2.0 is one of the very best solar camping lanterns we could find. I love the two that I utilize to light up my camping table or the inside of my tent when backpacking. I also like that I don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space in my backpacking setup.
The Luci collapsible solar camping lantern has a small air valve on the bottom for easy inflation. That valve then pushes in so that the lantern sets up on any flat surface. If you want to hang this best camping lantern, there’s a small strap on the top of the light, but you should consider getting a set of small carabiners to attach to that strap.
For me, the easiest way to recharge my Luci light is to set it on the dash of my truck while I’m driving. As long as you set it in direct sunlight, it should achieve a full charge in about seven hours. That does require that you plan to charge this solar lantern in advance before you leave for your trip.
That brings me to this lantern’s only downside. Because it only has one strap on top, it’s not the easiest to strap securely to your pack in a position that you can be absolutely sure it’s getting direct sunlight if you’re on a longer backpacking trip.
- Compact Design
- Multiple Lighting Modes
- Super Collapsible
- Extended Runtime (Especially on Low Setting)
- Requires Your Own Air For Inflation!
- Recharging Capability
Goal Zero Crush Light Lantern
Weight: 3.2 ounces
Dimensions (expanded): 4.95” x 4.95” x 4”
Dimensions (collapsed): 4.95” x 4.95 x 0.6”
Max Light Output: 60 lumens
Average Run Time (hours): High: 3; Medium: 6; Low: 35
Batteries: Lithium polymer
When I’m packing for a longer backpacking trip, I actually tend to lean towards my Goal Zero Crush Light Solar Camping Lantern because of its durability. I also really like that this best solar camping lantern has two hooks on either side of the lantern for attaching carabiners to both sides.
Once I’ve collapsed my solar-powered camping lantern, these hooks allow me to connect it to the top of my pack so that I can maximize its sun exposure while I’m hiking. At home, I can also plug the Crush Light into a USB port and recharge the battery that way.
I actually find that the brightest light setting on this lantern is a bit overkill. So I typically only use my light on the lowest setting anyway, which means I can enjoy up to 35 hours of run time when I’m out for multiple days at a time.
When you’re talking about a light that you barely use for more than an hour at a time while backpacking, this run time makes me worry a lot less about whether or not I’m achieving a full recharge every day or every other day.
I also love how easy this collapsible camping light is to hang inside my tent. It has a small hanging arm on the top that I usually hook a carabiner to while I’m out.
That makes it super easy to clip the lantern into one of the small loops in the interior roof of my tent so that I can maintain the batteries in my headlamp for whenever I’m out of my tent.
- 35 Hour Runtime (On Low Setting)
- Lightweight Design
- Compact Collapsed Dimensions
- Excellent Durability
- Lower Max Light Output
LuminAID PackLite Nova
- Weight: 5 ounces
- Dimensions (inflated): 4.75” x 4.75” x 4.75”
- Dimensions (collapsed): 4.75” x 4.75” x 1”
- Max Light Output: 75 lumens
- Average Run Time (hours): 3 to 24
- Batteries: Lithium-ion
If you’re looking for the best solar camping lantern with compact collapsed dimensions, the LuminAID PackLite Nova is a great choice. It has a similar design as many other collapsible solar camping lights, but it does pack down to some of the smallest dimensions of any light on the market.
In spite of that, it’s not the lightest of the solar-powered camping lights on our list. It does, however, offer a great maximum light output and it allows you to choose from five different brightness settings. Depending on that setting, the light will run for three to 24 hours on a full charge.
Speaking of charging, it also requires ten hours of exposure to direct sunlight to fully recharge via the built-in solar panel. You’ll also have the flexibility to recharge it using the included micro USB port and this lantern comes with its own charging cord so you can easily make sure it’s fully charged before you leave the house.
What I really like about the LuminAID’s design is that the strap on top isn’t a single piece. It snaps together in the center, which makes it easier to attach to a backpack or loop inside your tent. This eliminates the need to purchase those extra carabiners that you might need for other solar-powered camping lanterns.
- Compact Collapsed Dimensions
- Multiple Charging Methods
- Easy To Store
- Easy Hanging (No Additional Carabiners Necessary)
- Little Extra Weight
Solight Design Outdoor Solar-Powered Light
- Weight: 2.6 ounces
- Dimensions (expanded): 4.3” x 4.3” x 4.3”
- Dimensions (collapsed): 8.25” x 4.5” x 0.25”
- Max Light Output: 90 lumens
- Average Run Time (hours): 8 to 12 hours
- Batteries: Lithium polymer
Ideally suited for the ultralight thru-hiker, the Solight Design Outdoor SolarPuff LED Lantern is the lightest solar-powered lantern on our list. It weighs less than half of some other solar powered camping lights on the market and it also features an excellent maximum light output.
The 90-lumen output that this lantern is capable of provides extra brightness for when you’re sitting around camp in a group setting. It also gives you the ability to choose a high or low setting and it has a built-in emergency flashing SOS lighting mode.
In terms of environmental impact, I also love that this lantern is made of recyclable PET material. That material also helps the lantern retain its shape better when it’s expanded, but it doesn’t make it difficult to collapse it when it’s time to store it away.
Speaking of storage, the SolarPuff best solar powered camping lantern folds down instead of deflating or collapsing like some other models. That makes it the thinnest light on our list when collapsed, but it does mean that it has a larger overall footprint when you store it in your pack.
That said, it boasts a maximum run time of 12 hours and you’ll need to leave it in the sun for a full 12 hours to achieve maximum recharge. It does come with a Velcro strap on the bottom that makes it easier to hang on your pack or in your tent, but I’d honestly love it if this lantern also had the ability to be recharged via USB connection.
- Extremely Lightweight
- High Maximum Light Output
- Compact Inflated Dimensions
- Velcro Strap For Hanging
- Larger Collapsed Footprint
- Lower Average Run Time
Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini
- Weight: 8 ounces
- Dimensions: 4.15” x 2.91”
- Max Light Output: 210 lumens
- Average Run Time (hours): High: 4; Low: 500+
- Batteries: Lithium-ion
If you have the room to pack a slightly larger lantern in your vehicle, the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini V2 Lantern is our choice for the best solar-powered light for car camping. With a base weight of just eight ounces, it could honestly still be used for backpacking if you’re only going out for a shorter trip.
It still comes in a super-compact package and it offers triple the light output of some of the other solar lights on our list. That is what also makes it better for group camping where you know not everyone is going to show up with their own headlamp or solar lantern.
This Goal Zero Lantern also has an incredibly impressive run time if you only use it on its low setting. A run time of more than 500 hours means that it has a larger battery capacity than the other models and it also allows you to worry less about recharging it after each use.
That added battery capacity is what also allows you to charge a phone or other USB-compatible device using the one-amp USB port on the side of the lantern. That port will provide one full charge for a modern smartphone before the battery needs to be recharged.
Speaking of recharging, the main method for recharging this lantern is using the built-in cable, but this lantern can also be recharged using one of Goal Zero’s Nomad 7 or Nomad 7 Plus solar panels.
The only downside of using this lantern for extended trips is that you’ll need to purchase one of those solar panels separately if you’re intending to use that as your primary recharging method.
That’s primarily why I would suggest this solar-powered lantern for car camping, and it also includes a number of additional cool features that make it great for that application. It offers built-in magnets and hooks for easily attaching it to any location on or around your vehicle that you need light.
It also has fold-down legs so that you can place it stably on your tailgate or camping table. That allows it to disperse light over a wider area because it elevates the entire lantern. So you won’t have to Macgyver something into place to hang your lantern for better light dispersion (like you would with some other camping lanterns!).
- High Lumen Output
- Extended Run Time
- Rechargeable Using Solar or USB connection
- Solar Panel Sold Separately (Goal Zero Nomad 7 or Nomad 7 Plus)
Tips For Picking The Best Solar Camping Lanterns
If you’re in the market for a new solar lantern, it’s important that you understand the most important features and specifications of these unique camping products.
Here are some general tips for picking solar lanterns that will help you choose a model that’s best suited to your particular needs:
There are two basic methods by which most solar lanterns can be recharged. To be clear, that’s via exposure to direct sunlight and through a built-in USB port (if applicable). Not all lanterns come with the latter option, but it’s important to know this before buying.
For my money, I’d always recommend choosing a solar-powered camping lantern that can be recharged via USB or its own built-in solar panel.
That allows you to make sure your lantern is fully charged before leaving home and then makes it easy to recharge once you’re in the backcountry.
Average Run Time
A solar camping lantern’s average run time will vary depending on the brightness setting you’re currently using. Take note of these run times because some of them are actually quite short if you’re using your lantern on its brightest mode.
For car camping and short overnight trips, a short run time of 3-4 hours may not trouble you because you’ll have an easy way to recharge your lantern.
If you’re searching for a solar-powered lantern for extended backpacking or thru-hiking trips, however, you’ll need something with a longer run time so that it’s still reliable if you go two or three days on trail without full sunlight.
Weight and Dimensions
The weight and size of the best solar camping lantern should also be noted because it will factor into how much weight you’re willing to add to your pack. It will also dictate how easily you’ll be able to store the lantern when you’re not using it.
Again, however, the importance of these specifications will vary depending on your intended use. For ultralight hiking applications, there’s a huge difference between a lantern that weighs 2.6 ounces and one that weighs more than eight ounces.
If you’re a van-lifer or you’re willing to carry the extra weight for a short overnighter, however, you might prefer the added brightness or features that come with a heavier lantern. You also probably won’t mind the fact that the lantern takes up a little more space in your trunk!
To keep it as simple as possible, a lantern’s lumen count dictates how bright it shines. Typically, a lantern’s lumen count refers to its brightness when you have it on its highest setting. So lower settings will obviously yield reduced brightness.
For reference, most of us require about 50 lumens for reading or journaling. A lantern that can supply closer to 100 lumens can be helpful for backpacking or illuminating your tent. If you want a lantern that can illuminate your entire campsite, you’ll need something in the 200 to 300 lumen range.
Keep in mind that the main purpose of these solar lanterns is for supplemental lighting. They are a great alternative for tent lighting or reading before you go to bed and using them for these applications will allow you to conserve the batteries in your headlamp for out-of-the-tent use.
The last thing to consider when comparing and contrasting solar camping lights is their durability. By nature, these lanterns are made for camping and outdoor use. Some of them, however, are going to hold up to rugged use a little better than others.
While I’m a huge fan of inflatable solar lights, I have to acknowledge that they do come with the risk of being torn or punctured. This will compromise their effectiveness even if it doesn’t necessarily impact the ability of the light to turn on and off.
So, if you’re concerned with finding a more durable option, you’ll be better off with a collapsible solar powered camping light that doesn’t rely on air to create its structure. That might come with a little added weight overall, but that’s where you’ll get to choose how important each of these factors are in your solar lantern choice!
Positives and Negatives of Solar Camping Lanterns
While they are becoming increasingly popular for multiple camping applications, solar camping lanterns aren’t necessarily the preferred option for all your outdoor lighting needs. So let’s briefly look at some of the pros and cons of these solar lights.
They Help You Save Money
We are very blessed that the sun can largely be considered a ‘free’ resource. Honestly, we should probably be using it more! But a solar lantern will allow you to tap into that free resource and reduce the amount of money you’re spending on replacement batteries.
They Minimize Your Pack Weight
You’ll be hard-pressed to find lighter camping light options on the market than solar lanterns. Some of these lights even weigh less than a headlamp. If you’re into ultralight hiking or just reducing your pack weight so that hiking is easier, a solar lantern is the way to go.
They Are Easy To Maintain
Other camping lights require much more maintenance than these solar lanterns. If they rely on batteries, the contacts can also become corroded or compromised over time, which reduces the performance of the light in general. Solar lanterns don’t have this problem and require minimal maintenance over their entire lifespan.
They Are Weather Resistant
Even some of the best camping headlamps are only effective if the weather is at its finest. When water or dirt gets into a headlamp or traditional camping light, it can wreak havoc on its internal components. Most solar camping lanterns, on the other hand, feature excellent ingress protection ratings and weather resistance so that they’ll last for years of camping adventures!
Simply put, most collapsible solar powered camping lights don’t offer a very high lumen count. Lumen count translates to brightness. Other lanterns will have a much larger light output, but that also means that they’ll require more battery power.
The good news about most solar lanterns is that they allow you to choose from various brightness settings. If you’re conscious about always using them on the lowest setting possible, they can last for quite some time. If you use them on the highest setting, however, some of these lanterns will only last for two or three hours before needing to be recharged.
Solar lanterns are designed to be small and compact for camping. That means they obviously don’t have the largest solar panel and battery combination you could find, which is why most of them require somewhere between seven and 12 hours in direct sunlight in order to be fully recharged.
Conclusion on the Best Solar Camping Lanterns
In most regions, the sun is the most reliable source of power you can find for your electronics. Instead of worrying about backup batteries, make sure that you always have a trusted light source by investing in a solar camping light.
As solar technology continues to improve, the performance of outdoor solar-powered camping lights is only going to get better. For now, however, we hope you’ve enjoyed our selections for the best solar camping lanterns!
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