How to Choose A Lantern

lantern-by-naosuke iiDarkness can be a friend, especially if you’re seeking peace and quiet in the outdoors. But it can certainly be a foe when you’re searching for something in your pack at night! Lanterns can be a better option for illuminating your campsite compared with the more concentrated, focused light of flashlights and headlamps, especially if you’re camping in a group or want to setup camp in the dark. But they can also be heavy, cumbersome, and a total pain in the back. So how do you choose the right one?

There are three types of lanterns: electric, fuel-burning, and candle. While we don’t recommend candle lanterns for a camping trip because of their high risk of causing fires, they can offer beautiful ambiance when you need it. Electric lanterns are powered by alkaline or lithium batteries while fuel-burning lanterns use propane or white gas. To decide which one you need, think about how you’ll use it.

Electric lanterns come in three types too: LED, fluorescent, and incandescent. We don’t really recommend incandescent because they’re typically pretty cumbersome and carrying replacement bulbs on a long trip can be a huge hassle. LEDs are the most durable and put out the most light. If you’re planning on hooking your lantern to the bottom of your pack and letting it swing along with you, LED is the way to go so it survives the bumps and bruises you give it. Fluorescent tubes require special disposal but are a good choice if you’re looking for something safe around your tents but don’t like LEDs.

Fuel-burning lanterns aren’t meant to be used inside of a tent so they’re only good for out in the campsite. However they tend to put out more light than electronic types so they can cast a wide, warm glow perfect for group camping trips where many activities might be going on at once. Someone can set up a tent while another person makes dinner with the same lantern to provide enough light. Carrying fuel and extra mantles (the fabric that is lit in the lantern), can take up space, though.

If you’re a minimalist or make your equipment go through rugged terrain and expect it to keep on going, electronic is the way to go. Opt for lithium if you’re going to use it in cold weather since alkali batteries tend to run out quickly in freezing temperatures. On the other hand, if you’re a scout group looking for an affordable way to light lots of area at once, fuel-burning lamps are a great option since you have a lot of people to carry gear.

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