Whether you’re camping and need a light that doesn’t need electricity to keep the walking path safe, or looking to light the backyard in an eco-friendly, budget-friendly way, solar lanterns are a great way to go.
For my own camping, hiking, and backpacking adventures, energy-efficient light is always important, so I’ve gotten into using solar camping lanterns.
And because they’re really awesome, I’m writing this quick overview and list of the best solar lanterns that can help save your camping trip or backyard lighting scheme.
- Best Solar Powered Christmas Lights
- Best Solar Powered Flood Lights
- Best Solar Powered Flagpole Lights
What is a Solar Lantern?
A well-known example of a compact stand-alone solar electrical device is a solar lantern. It consists of all the requisite parts, excluding the solar PV panel, needed for a stand-alone solar electrical device in a single casing.
It comprises primarily an electrical bulb, a battery and an electronic control circuit in a single housing.
The solar PV module is a different component of the lantern. We need to attach the solar PV module to the solar lantern battery terminals for charging purposes.
Nowadays, we use solar lanterns for intermittent indoor and outdoor illumination purposes. The shell of a solar lantern may be constructed of either copper, plastic or fibreglass.
We position the battery, the battery charge circuit, and the control circuit within the housing in a proper fashion. There is a lamp holder fixed at the middle of the housing at the end.
How does a Solar Powered Lantern Work?
Each solar powered lantern is equipped with a small photovoltaic cell panel. These are the things that make up the solar panel on the lantern. These solar powered cells are used by the lantern to collect energy from the sun. This solar powered energy is then converted by the panel to the type of energy that the lantern can use to power the light.
Why are the Camping Lanterns Worth Investing In?
Depending on what exactly your goals are, there are a variety of different benefits to having a solar powered lantern over a standard electrical powered light.
First of all, solar powered equipment is always more environmentally friendly than anything running on the electrical grid. They use the natural and readily available power of UV light rather than the electricity produced at a plant that is harmful to the planet.
Initially, some solar powered items aren’t budget-friendly, but in the long run, anyone running things like a camping lantern, emergency lighting, or other low-energy appliances and electronics will save a bundle. After the initial setup, solar energy is free. Standard electrical power is expensive – not that I need to tell you that.
Easy to Install
Unlike other electrical appliances, solar powered appliances and systems are easy to set up and install. Most solar powered products simply need to be placed in the sunlight to work, while standard appliances and electronics require an electrician to come in and install the proper wiring system to operate safely.
How We Chose the Camping Lights
I was only trying to make sure that I was recommending the right choices in my solar lantern reviews. So, I went online to search for the ratings that other guys had placed together.
I took the lanterns off these lists to glance at, but I still looked at other consumers’ choices. I had a list of twenty or so choices to dig further at after I got rid of those who didn’t get an above-average ranking.
From this list, I searched through individual reviews of each lantern to see the ones that actually matched the criteria on what I should genuinely recommend as the best solar camping lanterns.
This left me with a list of ten choices of the best solar lanterns.
From this list, I narrowed it down with the crisp specifics that make one solar LED lantern stick out above the crowd. These are the finalists for this list of the very best solar camping lanterns.
We gave each light a complete charge and then used a timelapse camera to test how long it worked at its maximum setting.
Solar Panel Testing
We needed to know how well the lanterns were charged by the solar panels. We made sure that each light was completely drained, put under direct sunlight for 90 minutes, and then calculated how long it stayed at its maximum setting. We have carried out the same test in an artificial light induced setting (full spectrum fluorescent plant lights).
Mobile Charging Test
Two of the lights had two-way USB ports, enabling handheld charging capability. We needed to see how well they could charge a phone from their internal savings on their own. We made sure both lanterns were completely charged, and we estimated how much power they gave the phone until the lantern was fully discharged.
We used these solar lanterns to light up our nights for more than 3 months on numerous camping and backpacking trips all over the Southwest, and even around home for some extra light. We use several charging and discharge cycles, both USB and solar, for each of us during our tests.
Top 8 Best Solar Powered Lanterns in 2021
I’ve found the 8 best solar powered camping lights, backyard lights, and emergency lights that are currently on the market. They’re all highly rated and have unique features and features that make them the best.
I put them in two basic categories for easier discernment, and then I chose the absolute best in a specific standard to help you decide which lantern(s) is best suited to your specific needs.
1. MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0
The Luci was the original collapsible solar lantern and, in our opinion, it’s still the best one. The MPOWERD Luci Pro Outdoor 2.0 was our top all-round pick.
This lantern light has it all: great features, excellent ambience and lantern light quality, a fast and efficient solar panel, and surprisingly decent mobile charging capabilities. The Luci Pro was the brightest lantern we tested at 150 lumens.
However, we found ourselves using its lower settings more often than not, especially in the tent. Its warm white LEDs provide a comfortable, diffused light with a great atmosphere. We were also impressed by the speed with which its solar panel charged.
It would charge itself enough to run out of ambient light and indirect sunlight indoors for a few minutes. We also loved that the handle could unsnap, making it easier to hang.
While the mobile charging capability can’t really compare to a dedicated solar charger or a portable battery pack, it still impressed us.
When fully charged, the Luci Pro gave a 34% boost to the phone in 1 hour and 32 minutes before it was completely drained. That may not sound super impressive, but it’s twice what the other mobile charging lantern (the Suaoki) could do.
Even if it was completely drained, the Luci Pro could charge the phone alone from sunlight. Its mobile charging might be a bit finicky, and there were a couple of times, charging under the sun, where we couldn’t get it to register on our phone.
We suspect it was because at the time it was not drawing enough power from the weak early-winter sun. If you want to be able to recharge your electronics occasionally during a trip, the Luci Pro Loader will do the trick.
Oh, the cons? It’s the heaviest lantern we’ve tested. It’s the most precious of this writing, too. But considering that you’re getting a solar lantern and a solar charger in one, it’s not a bad deal.
Overall, we were impressed by this camping lantern light, stoked on its mobile charging, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a superb, durable, high-quality solar lantern.
2. MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0
What MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 lacked in features is more than just quality, performance, and simplicity. Some might see the lack of any USB port as negative, but we actually liked the simplicity of that camping lantern light.
A true solar lantern, it’s 100 percent off the sun, and it’s doing well. Its 75 lumens were more than bright enough for cooking or camping, while its low setting was perfect for reading or hanging out in the tent.
Fully charged, the Luci Outdoor 2.0 lasted just over 6 hours to high in our tests, and has a claimed run time of up to 24 hours to low. Its three-light battery indicator tells you more or less how much charge it has.
Plus, its solar panel has been charged extremely efficiently. In our tests, each camping lantern light was placed under sunlight and artificial lights for the same amount of time, and then we measured how long it remained in high power.
In both tests, the Luci Outdoor 2.0 lasted the longest out of all the solar camping lanterns while still providing usable, bright light. Like the Luci Pro Outdoor, our top pick, it has an adjustable strap to make it easier to hang up without a hook or a carabiner, a feature we loved.
The only cons we can come up with is that it’s a little bit on the heavy side, 4.4 oz. And it can be difficult to open and close the snaps on its adjustable strap.
Its light was also a slightly tougher, cooler white color than the Luci Pro. We didn’t mind the cool white LED camping lantern light, but we preferred the warmer tones of the Luci Pro and the Goal Zero Crush Light (reviewed below).
However, those complaints are minor. The MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 is a bargain for the price. No frills—only a durable, high-quality, solar-powered camp lantern. Well, we can definitely get behind that.
3. Goal Zero Crush Light
Weighing only 3.2 oz, the Goal Zero Crush Light was not only the lightest solar lantern we tested but also one of our overall favorites. This lantern was very positive.
For us, light quality was the biggest selling point, other than its camping lantern lightweight and compactness. Its warm, yellow-orange color blended right in with the campfire and never felt jarring or out of place around the campground, as the bright white USB LED camping lantern lights often did.
This was the light that most of the time we found ourselves reaching out to cook dinner or hang out in the tent, simply because of the warm, cozy light. Candle-light mode, which flickers and dims light randomly to imitate a candle, was a nifty idea.
It’s pretty disconvincing, though. After playing around with the setup for a few minutes, we found that there was no reason to actually use it. Still, nothing lessens the rest of the LED camping lantern light’s awesome properties, so we’re indifferent to it.
Although the Goal Zero Crush Light had shorter overall runtimes than most of the other LED camping lantern lights in our tests, it actually kept a good bit of power in reserve after it shut down.
Once the other LED camping lantern lights were switched off, they were completely finished, drained, and unable to turn back on until they were recharged.
Once Goal Zero shuts off on high power, we could turn it back on and usually get another hour or more out of it on low power.
Especially since the Crush Light doesn’t have a battery life indicator to tell you when it gets low, it’s nice to know that it doesn’t just shut down abruptly and leave you completely in the dark. His solar panel worked remarkably well, considering that it was the smallest panel of all the lanterns in our test.
The Crush Light charged up quite quickly in direct sunlight. With this LED camping lantern light, there were really only a few negatives.
In the first place, it might be difficult to crush, requiring some coaxing for all the folds to snap into place.
Second, there was no battery indicator of any kind, leaving you guessing its charging status. It has a camping light next to the USB port that turns red when it is charged (either via USB or sunlight) and green when it is fully charged.
It was, finally, the only lantern without some kind of bottom or cover. If you happened to have it hanging directly above you in your tent, the LEDs might be a little bit binding when you looked up.
We would only recommend this LED camping lantern light to the ambience alone, as it had such a cozy, natural quality to the LED camping lantern light.
Combined with the fact that it was the lightest and most compact light we tested and performed very well in outdoor tests, we think this is a top choice not only for backpackers but for anyone looking for a simple solar lantern to bring some LED lights to your backcountry nights.
4. LuminAID PackLite Nova USB
The LuminAID PackLite Nova USB had a lot of good qualities, but enough negative ones that didn’t make it our top picks. Like the two MPOWERD Luci lanterns, it has a battery charge indicator and an adjustable strap to make it easier to hang.
It also lasted impressively long in our runtime test, only to be beaten by BioLite SunLight (reviewed below). It feels well-built and durable, and the snaps on the adjustable strap were much easier to use than the Luci strap. Its solar panel, however, did not impress us.
It took more than an hour in direct sunlight to get enough power to turn on. To be fair, once enough power has been built up, it has remained on for a respectable amount of time.
We could excuse its slow charging time, considering that many of the other solar lanterns were outlasting when it came to runtime.
Unfortunately, this lantern displays a harsh white fluorescent light reminiscent of the flickering office lights that we prefer to escape when we go backpacking. It was by far the least pleasant illumination for our tents and campsites.
If you don’t mind the harsh white of its LEDs, the LuminAID PackLite is a solid, well-built camping lantern. Our three award winners, though, give you a little more bang for your buck and, overall, they’re a lot more fun to light up your campground.
5. BioLite SunLight
The BioLite SunLight was the only non-collapsible solar lantern we tested, and it had some of our favorite features. The color and ambience of the light were awesome.
We loved the dimmable white light and the ability to choose from a variety of lights. Its party mode, where it slowly cycles through different colors of light, was a fun feature when we were hanging around the camp after a good dinner.
It’s extremely compact, lightweight, and it’s lasted an incredible 13 hours and 10 minutes in our runtime test. We absolutely loved it as a rechargeable USB camping lantern.
Unfortunately, its solar panel was one of the weakest in our test, and since this is a review of the solar camping lanterns, it weighs quite heavily. It took the BioLite three hours under full sunlight to even have enough power to turn on in reserve mode, a low-power mode that limits its functionality to dim white light.
As a reference, both Luci lights and the Goal Zero light turned on within a minute, and usually within seconds, of being in sunlight.
Even after more than five hours in full sunlight, it didn’t have enough power to get out of reserve mode.
However, when we plugged it into a USB charger for a few seconds and then disconnected it, it immediately switched on in full power mode and worked for over an hour. It’s hard to imagine that, in five hours of full sun, the solar panel could not generate the amount of power produced by a few seconds on a wall charger.
We’re not sure if we have lemon with some weird glitch that requires a boost of USB power to get out of reserve mode, or if the solar panel is extremely inefficient.
No matter what the reason, we were disappointed. If you’re planning to keep the light charged via USB in the first place and use the solar panel to boost it every now and then, this is still a good option and an all-around fun light to have.
We liked it, and would recommend with caution that, based on our tests and experience, it is super inefficient to charge with sunlight on its own.
6. Suaoki LED Camping Lantern
We were going to apply a budget pick to our evaluation. Suaoki LED Camping Lantern, with mainly positive online feedback, seemed a good choice.
Unfortunately, this was by far the worst output and worst-performing lantern that we checked.
Cheap fabrics began to exhibit wear almost instantly, with plastic crunching and beginning to break after the light had only been extended a couple times.
The solar panel appeared to be functioning sporadically. During our examination, the lantern was charged enough for around half an hour of runtime in 90 minutes of sunlight. In another case, however, Suaoki sat in full sunlight for more than three hours without building up enough power to turn on.
While its overall runtime looks fairly decent on the basis of numbers alone, it has lost its shine very quickly. Much of its runtime was light that could hardly be used for close-up activities like reading, let alone cooking or camping.
This lantern contains smartphone charging capability, but it only boosted our phone by 11 per cent until it was totally depleted. It was also unable to charge the phone on its own from solar electricity.
We did like that when it failed, the light was channelled through a concentrated flashlight beam, which was a cool thing. This lantern—and endless duplicates—the Amazon litter is accessible for free.
Even at Suaoki’s low price, we think someone interested in solar lanterns will be best off investing a few extra bucks on Goal Zero Crush Light or MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0.
With its low build and mediocre performance, and with too many better alternatives out there in the same price category, we really don’t see any need to suggest this light to anybody.
7. Odoland USB Rechargeable Solar Lantern
Another extremely compact lantern that I will give to campers and hikers is the Odoland USB rechargeable lantern. This particular lantern has a modern hurricane lantern-sque feel to it, but it collapses down and tucks away quickly for camping needs.
I love this particular lantern because of the beautiful light it offers. With a complete charge, this lantern will provide up to 20 continuous hours of light. It charges either the solar power or the USB port before leaving home.
The screen is exposed and quickly absorbs energy from the sun when you’re walking. You should clip it into your backpack straps when walking and make sure you’re earning a lot of money even though you’re not stationary.
The lantern is constructed of high-quality plastic and is very sturdy and lightweight. This is truly my favorite pick for wilderness trips where you could run out of connections to electricity or light.
8. AGPTEK Solar Lantern
The AGPTEK Solar Camping Lantern is one of the most reliable lanterns if you’re in a tricky place and searching for a fee.
This lantern comes with five distinct ways of charging it. You should use AAA batteries, screw it into the wall, use the car charger, turn the dynamo, and use the solar panel to charge the lantern.
No matter where you are, and no matter the weather, you’re going to have a working lantern for your evenings. The solar panels used are Polysilicon solar panels which are extremely effective at turning sunlight into electricity.
The lantern is often built using energy-efficient materials to ensure that the charge lasts as long as possible. It has two brightness modes and can be used as a power bank to charge your mobile phone or other devices.
It comes with a convenient hanging handle, too, to tie it to your tent. There are few negatives; the lantern doesn’t come with the battery, and it’s likely to fall down if you drop it, so be vigilant with it. It’s a bit bulky for backpacking, too. Overall a strong solar camping lantern for car camping with that will give you a charge no matter what the case.
How to Choose the Best Solar Camping Lantern for Your Needs?
Types of Solar Lantern
Some of them inflate like a balloon, some squish like an accordion, but compressible lanterns are the most common type. They could collapse to less than half an inch of thickness.
There are different types of “fixed,” i.e. non-compressible lanterns. They range from traditional lanterns to small blocks such as BioLite SunLight.
Relatively new on the scene, the sun-powered string lights are like a string of Christmas lights. They let you spread the light around your campsite.
Solar lanterns were 100 percent solar-powered when they first came on the scene. The trend has shifted towards lanterns that can be charged either through solar panels or through a USB port. In addition to solar-powered, many of the solar lanterns you’ll find are USB-rechargeable. These lanterns may be compressible, fixed, or string lights.
Solar Charging Time
Most of the lights charge on a wall charger within a few hours. It’s a different story under the sun, though. If you’re planning to use your solar lantern primarily off the grid, then you need to know how long it will take to refill those photons.
Most manufacturers will tell how long it takes for the light to reach full charge in sunlight. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
We’ve found that some lights may take a long time to reach their full capacity, but within less than an hour they can pick up enough charge to run low through the night. Other lights take hours to even charge enough to turn on.
The lights that we tested ranged from warm and soft to cold and harsh. Apart from all the other characteristics, this was one of the biggest factors in how much we actually liked to use these lights. We recommend that you take into account the quality of the light you prefer (warm or cold, diffuse or sharp) and make sure that the light you get fits your preferences.
Lumens are a measure of how much light a lantern produces at its source of light. The lights that we tested ranged from 60 to 150 lumens. We found that 60 lumens were more than enough to cook, hang out, and do various tasks around the camp. The extra brightness is nice to have, but it’s certainly not necessary.
Mobile Charging Capabilities
Some solar lanterns also have the ability to act as a solar charger for your mobile devices. While this is a neat feature to have, it is important to realize that their charging capacity is very limited. They’re great for occasionally topping up your mobile devices, but they’re not good enough for regular heavy use.
Solar Camping Lantern Alternatives
Not interested in any of the options mentioned above? No problem—there are some alternatives:
- Battery powered camping lanterns
- Campsite flashlights
- DIY solar lantern (made of a mason jar!)
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long do Solar Camping Lanterns Last in OneCharge?
The length of charge for solar camping lanterns can differ depending on the wattage of the cells in the lantern. Many lanterns, admittedly, don’t list their wattage, but they normally inform you on a case-by-case basis how long the product can be paid.
How Long Does it Take to Charge a Solar LED Lantern?
Again, the wattage of the solar cells that fuel the lantern would substantially alter the charging period of the lantern. Much of them would take a full day – 6 to 8 hours of direct or mainly direct sunshine – while a few will need more time for a maximum fee.
Do Solar-Powered Camping Lights Hold a Charge?
Yes, the solar-powered camping lanterns have a fee. They are built with batteries that are recharged by the sunshine that generates solar energy, and these batteries are the ones that discharge the energy that drives the lights.
Do Solar Rechargeable Lanterns Have Another Power Source?
Few lanterns can have a backup supply, although most of them have a rechargeable battery that is charged by the light. If the backup batteries are important, make sure to check that the lantern has this unique function, as most do not have it.
Other options for solar lighting lanterns can also be charged by an electrical outlet or USB charge. (You will see two of these below.)
They are useful for charging ahead of time whether you’re heading into the mountains, camping, backpacking, or other scenarios where charging to maximum power can be a little difficult when you’re in transit.
Solar lanterns are one of the handiest, most useful and also most enticing choices for solar-powered illumination. I personally enjoy my lanterns, and I strongly suggest that others investigate them.
They’re perfect for saving money, but they’re also better for saving the world, providing emergency lighting or easy-to-maintain yard lighting. And since they are solar-powered, they’re simple to mount and use.