A solar lantern is a perfect way to ensure that you always have a source of light in camp without worrying about whether you brought along enough batteries to keep it running for several days. These solar lanterns don’t need much time in the sun every day to recharge and provide hours of ample light.
Today’s solar lanterns are more compact and durable than ever. They won’t take up too much space in your pack or camping bag, and most can withstand even the toughest of environmental conditions. But all the options out there today can make it tough to choose just one.
That’s why we’ve put together our list of the Top Ten Solar Lanterns. This list, as well as our Buyer’s Guide and Frequently Asked Questions sections, will give you all the essential information you need to find a solar lantern that’s right for you.
1. Goal Zero Crush Light
The Goal Zero Crush Light is the perfect solar lantern for the lightweight adventurer. It’s collapsible to fit in a small space in your backpack and offers 60 lumens of usable light on high and nearly a 35-hour runtime on low. It also has a soft, ‘candle flicker’ mode to set the ambiance around camp.
This solar lantern will recharge best in direct sunlight, but can also be recharged at any USB port via an included micro USB cable. Be careful with this light. It collapses to just over half an inch, so you may even forget you packed it until you have to go rummaging around in your pack to find it.
2. MPOWERD Luci EMRG Light
The pocket-sized LED light from MPOWERD is 100% powered by the light of the sun, which means no additional batteries are needed. It’s the perfect solar lantern for the ultralight backpacker who’s tired of carrying all those extra batteries.
The Luci EMRG just needs to be set out in direct sunlight and it will last up to 7 hours on a single charge. It is a 3-in-1 tool with a lantern, flashlight, and emergency light wrapped into one small package. It weighs only 2.4 ounces and is fully waterproof (with an IP67 rating).
3. Survival Frog Pocket Light LED
The Survival Frog Pocket Light harnesses the power of the sun by employing a 4.5-volt solar panel, which can last more than 10 hours on a single solar charge. With the capability to provide a charge for your phone as well, this is a great lantern for those outdoor enthusiasts that love multifunctional tools.
This solar lantern will achieve a full sun charge in 4-6 hours and can provide 30 minutes of low light after just one hour of charge. It weighs about 5 ounces in total and includes a smart chip that offers protection from overcharging, over-discharging, and short-circuiting.
4. LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern
The LuminAid inflatable solar-powered lantern is a compact option that offers expandable light. Ideal for the backpacker that needs a solar lantern that can fit into that last little crevice of space in your pack, this lantern folds flat to under 1-inch thick and weighs less than five ounces.
Because it’s inflatable, this solar lantern will float on water and it has also been designed to be waterproof (with an IP76 rating). In full sun, this lantern will take between 10 and 14 hours to fully charge and provide light for up to 24 hours on a single charge.
5. SUAOKI LED Camping Lantern
The SUAOKI LED Camping Lantern offers versatility because it can be charged directly from the sun or via its micro USB port. This versatility makes it great for camping, traveling, fishing, or even lighting up your book for a little late-night reading on your porch.
This solar lantern features three lighting modes: high, low, and SOS blinking for emergency situations. It also offers a portable, foldable, and durable design and comes with a smart protection chip that protects it against overcharging, over-discharging, and short-circuiting.
6. Kizen LED Camping Lantern
The Kizen Solar-Powered LED Camping Lantern can be recharged from virtually anywhere, which makes it great for anyone that’s always on-the-go and needs a good source of light at the most critical times. It can also be recharged via USB port and will charge your cell phone when you’re in a bind.
This solar lantern provides a lot of bang for your buck because it is barely larger than a hockey puck when fully folded. It also features three lighting modes (high, low, and SOS) and smart circuitry to prevent overcharging, over-discharging, or overheating.
7. TANSOREN LED Camping Lantern
The only two-pack of lanterns we’ve included in our list comes from Tansoren. These lanterns are multi-functional and can be used both around the house and outdoors for camping, fishing, or boating. These lanterns are hand-built with military-grade, water-resistant plastic.
The LED Camping Lantern from TANSOREN features built-in rechargeable batteries and a solar panel, which means it runs on solar energy or battery power. It also offers a USB port for recharging and for you to charge your phone. These lights will provide up to 8 hours of 360-degree LED light.
8. MPOWERD Light Outdoor 2.0
The Luci Outdoor 2.0 is the newest re-design of the EMRG light from the folks at MPOWERD. It’s the perfect light for rugged outdoor activities like camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, sailing, fishing, paddle boarding, and more. This inflatable, collapsible, and lightweight (4.4 ounces) solar lantern is fully waterproof and submersible (IP67 rating).
It also features 10 powerful white LED’s that shine in four modes: low, bright, super bright, and one-second flashing. It’s top and adjustable base strap also makes this solar lantern convenient for clipping onto a backpack, hanging in a tent, or stringing up in camp.
9. Odoland USB Rechargeable Solar Lantern
The Odoland USB Rechargeable Solar Lantern can be charged by solar power or USB plug. It’s a great solar lantern for backpacking, hiking, and emergencies because it will provide up to 20 hours of light on a single charge and features a charging indicator that lets you know when it’s fully charged.
This solar lantern also boasts a carabiner at the top of the lantern to make it easy to hang in a tent or on backpack straps. It also offers three light modes: cold white (which emits up to 150 lumens), high warm white (which emits up to 90 lumens), and low warm white (which emits up to 20 lumens).
10. Solight Design Solarpuff
The Solarpuff Portable Compact LED Solar Lantern from Solight Design is one of the lightest lanterns in our list, weighing in at just 2.6 ounces. It can also be packed flat to 0.25 inch thin and is made of water-resistant and recyclable PET, which makes it the perfect solar lantern for the environmentally conscious, ultralight backpacker.
This lantern uses renewable, clean solar energy and can light up a room up to 100 square feet in size. It offers three lighting modes (low, high, and flashing) and the lantern’s solar panel can recharge batteries that have been 80% discharged in just over four hours in direct sunlight.
Alexandre Edmond Becquerel made the discovery of the photovoltaic effect in 1839 (1). This discovery helped us understand how electricity can be generated from sunlight and is what makes today’s solar lanterns possible. Since Russell Ohl invented the solar cell in 1941, we’ve found more and more applications for Ohl’s invention.
Solar lanterns are one of the most widely recognized of those applications in the outdoor community. They provide reliable light in almost any setting and can go with you anywhere. To help you find the right solar lantern for you, our Buyer’s Guide will focus on length of charge, charging options, and size.
Length of Charge
In choosing the best solar lantern for you, the first factor to consider is how long the light will last on a full charge. When you look at the options available, the best lanterns on the market will provide light (mostly on a low setting) for up to 24 hours on a full charge. That’s plenty of light, even if you go several days without the ability to recharge.
The amount of time each lantern needs to recharge fully is also an important consideration. Some lights need to be in the sun for more than 6 hours in order to fully charge, which isn’t a big problem if you’re camping in a stationary spot for multiple days, but might prove more challenging on a backpacking trip where the lantern is packed into your pack for the better part of every day.
While the idea of these lanterns is that they rely on the energy from the sun instead of using more resource-intensive methods of acquiring power, it’s always beneficial to have multiple means of charging a light that you’ll depend on.
Many of the lights we mentioned above offer multiple charging options, such as via USB port, changing out batteries, and being recharged by solar rays. If you’re a backpacker, hiker, or outdoor adventurer of any type, you probably already know that more options are better when it comes to methods for guaranteeing power to your solar lantern.
The last important factor to consider is the size of the lantern. If you intend to use it primarily for car camping, for example, you’ll probably have plenty of space to pack it and you’ll probably be more worried about finding a lantern that provides ample light than one that can easily stash inside a backpack.
But if you’re a hiker or avid backpacker, size is everything. On a multi-day trip, there’s no reason to carry anything other than what you absolutely need. If this sounds like you, then finding a solar lantern that fits easily along with the rest of your gear, without taking up too much space, is essential.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did you know that solar energy capture optimal sunlight when they’re facing south? Or that we now use solar energy to power air conditioners, hot water heaters, and pretty much anything that natural gas, electricity, and oil currently fuel? (2)
In light of recent technological advancements, solar lanterns are cheaper and more efficient than ever. Our list of Frequently Asked Questions will help you learn more about owning and operating a solar lantern.
What are the best conditions for charging a solar lantern?
It’s important to remember that a sunny day doesn’t necessarily mean a high UV index. Most forecast apps, like AccuWeather (3), are great because they tell you when the UV index is at its highest. Ideally, your solar lantern will charge fastest when the panel is receiving direct sunlight on a day with a high UV index.
How can I be sure my solar lantern is receiving direct sunlight?
For a quick example, you’re receiving direct sunlight whenever you’re outside, without a hat on, and there’s no object between you and the sun. Your solar lantern will receive direct sunlight when the rays of the sun are hitting it without anything causing a blockage. Fortunately, many solar lanterns come with indicator lights that let you know when they’re charging efficiently.
Will my solar lantern lose its charge if stored (and unused) for a long period?
The short answer to this question is yes. But, fortunately, the loss of charge will typically very minimal. A solar lantern that is 100% charged when it goes into storage, for example, will typically retain about 95% of its charge for every month it goes unused.
Are there certain things to avoid when operating a solar lantern?
The solar lanterns we’ve reviewed above are designed to work in a wide variety of environments. Many are waterproof and extremely durable. However, heat can be damaging to solar lanterns in the summer months. Ideally, avoid storing your lantern in enclosed areas where temperatures might exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are ‘lumens’?
Lumens are a standard unit that is typically used to measure the brightness of lights. The textbook definition “is the SI derived unit of luminous flux, a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source.” (4)
Are ‘lumens’ different than watts?
While lumens measure the brightness of lights, watts measure the amount of electricity that is required to power a given, electrically powered, object. In a common light bulb, for example, watts signify how much electricity is needed to power the bulb.
A quality solar lantern will be your best friend when you need light most. It’s the best, and most affordable, option to ensure that you and your family don’t end up in the dark on your next camping trip (literally!). We hope you’ve found this information useful and we wish you the best of luck finding your solar lantern today!