Solar lanterns are lighting components that convert the sun’s energy into power. They typically have a solar panel, battery, charge controller, an inverter and an LED lamp. These components are used to power up the onboard batteries which will store the power for later use.
Solar lighting components are taking over the camp lighting industry. They are safer than candles or kerosene as camping lamps and fairly inexpensive. This renewable source of energy is less costly and environmentally savvy as well. And, solar lighting can literally be used anywhere there needs to be light. There are no wires needed, just sunlight to charge the onboard batteries.
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Solar lanterns are typically broken up into two categories, Fluorescent and LED. We will focus on the LED camping lanterns. Many are used for camping; however, they can be decorative as well. Some even come in strands or jars. The decorative type can be used for ambiance lighting and typically are not as bright as the ones designed for camping. Uses and types of solar lanterns include the following:
- Decorative home decor for indoor and out
- Garden lighting and our door patio areas
- Power outage or emergency situations
- of course camping and campsite usage
We are going to focus on the camping lanterns and the best options for camping but first lets educate ourselves in lighting lumens and get specific recommendations on how much light we actually need.
Lumens are how much light the solar lantern puts out. A lumen is a scientific measurement of brightness. Most of the camping solar lanterns used bright white LED bulbs and the lumen you will need is 40 lm (lumen) or more to get enough light for use. Other lights come with a lower lumen, this is for decorative purposes or to add an ambiance to the area. As a camper, you will be using your Solar lantern to see and not for decoration purposes. It would be pretty disappointing to get the wrong one.
Realistically you need 50-100 lumens to hike during the evening. A headlamp would probably be a better solar solution for this as it would be easier to use. But, a solar lantern is an option. For the lighting up of a tent well, you are looking for 100 lm and lighting up a picnic table is around 200 lm. Light up a large campsite is 300 lm but preparing for dinner can be lower 20-40 lm. Try to avoid buying lights that don’t have different lighting options. This can help save the life of the battery. Many come with different levels of output.
Rechargeable power banks
Lanterns aren’t just for lights either. There are many options that can be used as a rechargeable power bank as well. This is a great option to keep in the car for emergencies as well as for camping. Many fold up so small that they could easily be carried in a purse or bag as well. Finding that perfect lantern for every situation has never been easier. We hope that you have enjoyed our selections and found something that is perfect for your needs.
Thinking about how you’d use the light is important. Some people would only need it to travel to the bathroom, as the fire will put off enough light to see around camp. Others prefer not to make a fire and need a light for reading and cooking. If you enjoy hiking at night, then a bright option is in order. And, if hiking, you may want to consider a headlamp instead, as it is easier to see with.
Most of these options are not only great for camping but for power outages as well. Keeping your camping light in a safe spot can always come in handy in the long run. Power outages can happen at any time for a variety of reasons. Although inconvenient, they usually are not harmful. But, having a light in the bathroom, where there may not be any natural light is important. Many of these lanterns are perfect for that. As, most give off 360 light which will illuminate a room nicely, rather than the direct flashlight style light.
Benefits of Solar
Other factors that are important when looking for a camping solar lamp is how practical it is. After all, it’s going to be banged around in the backpack or packed away with all the camping gear. Something fragile shouldn’t even be considered. But, there are many options out there that are very rugged in design. There is nothing worse than getting to the campsite with a broken lantern. So, ensure you find one that will fit your needs. And, pay attention to how long the light will eliminate for as well. Many will go all night without an issue, however, it’s important to know that.
Do not go for super cheap solar lanterns. They tend to be made cheaply with cheap materials. Did we say cheap enough? This is super important as they do get pretty beat up and their wiring is super important. If the outside cracks or gets broken, these wires can easily be messed up. Getting something that is sturdy and made for camping will be your best bet.
What is the average lifespan of a Solar Lantern?
The lifespan of a solar lantern has an average of two years. However, it really does depend on how often you use the lantern. A camping lantern will certainly last longer than that of a decorative that is illuminated every night.
Some camping lanterns can last for years as long as they are well maintained and the solar panel is kept clean and free from damage. The LED bulbs that are inside the lantern can last up to 30 years. So, it really is dependent on the solar panel and how long that will continue to transform the sun’s energy into power.
The battery life is important to keep in mind. After all, you don’t want to run out of light before you are ready and most lanterns cannot be plugged in or powered up by another source. So, we suggest that once you get the lantern home, set it outside to charge and test it out. This will allow you to know first-hand how long that battery will last. The Manufacturers typically will tell you a set amount of time but the average is 8-10 hours, some will last as much as 24 hours. These 24-hour ones are rare but it’s important to know because if you get into a long span of cloudy days while out on the trail, you could be out of light fast. Understanding this aspect will allow you to know if you need more than one lantern as well.
The type of battery is important as well. Keep in mind they all need some sort of power. But, some come with batteries that are hard to find in a pinch. This is not ideal for camping. As sometimes the resources are limited. Getting one that can take simple AA or AAA batteries is most ideal for camping.
Finding a lantern that takes batteries helps in emergency situations. Should you run into a string of cloudy days or too much shade to charge, being able to swap out the batteries for more power can be handy. Also, some lanterns will take another energy source besides just the sun. These are nice as well. Keep in mind, you know how you camp and the terrain you are most likely going to be on. Use some common sense when looking at the different options and you should be fine.
Can Solar Lanterns Get wet?
Most solar lanterns are made to be outdoors, so yes, most can get wet. But, ensure when looking for a camping solar lantern that you do check out this particular feature. After all, when you are camping, things do tend to get wet. The dew at dusk and morning, for example, can get them wet. And, there’s always that pop-up rain storm.
What about a Cloudy Day?
A cloudy day isn’t the death of a solar lantern, but it’s not ideal. Since it gets its charge from the sun, it’s important that it remains in the sun if at all possible. It will still charge on a cloudy day, but much slower than that of a sunny day. While you enjoy your lunch under the nice shade tree, allow the lantern to bask in the sun if at all possible. This will ensure it’ll get the proper charge it needs. Cloudy days will not always allow it to charge completely. This should be taken into consideration when purchasing. If you live where there are lots of cloudy days or tend to backpack and camp where there are a lot of trees, perhaps purchasing more than one camping lantern is in order.
We have looked around to find some of the best camping solar lanterns available
2019 Solar lantern
foldable Clover Style lamp
This popular solar camping light can be charged using the on-board solar panels or a micro USB port. It offers three brightness levels and a simple hook at the top for hanging. And, it’s built in added safety stripe ensures that it will not overcharge or over discharge keeping things stable. Other features are:
- It charges fully in full sun in about 2-3 hours
- The light will work while it’s plugged into the charger
- Would work with a phone charging bank
- Sturdy Construction
This is a little but powerful light however it only lasts about 3 hours. This isn’t a light that will go on for hours on end as do some of the various other solar light options.
Blazin’ Bison is a great camping name with a huge line up of camping lighting. And, their solar options are just what you’d expect. It is perfect for camping, hiking, fishing and evening lighting. Here are some of its key features:
- Dimmable – 3 options
-300 lm (Runs 12 hours on this setting)
- Charges by solar power or a power bank.
- No risk guarantee
This one is a bit heavy at 2.2 lbs. but is very compact as well. It is pretty slow to charge as it uses 1.0 amp charging power and not 2.1 charging power of most modern devices.
This lantern has 5 various ways to charge it, which is perfect for those longer camping trips that may have a few cloudy days. It has a decent lumen of 240 on high and 120 on low and with run time being 12 hrs. and 20 hrs. respectively.
Some of the key features are:
- Long battery life, up to 20 hours on the low setting.
- 5 different ways to charge
- Can use as a Powerbank to charge other devices
- Great for Emergency Kits!
- Rugged Construction
The AGPTEK Solar lantern is not weatherproof, so it will need a plastic bag. It doesn’t get hot, as it is powered by LED lights. It’s a bit bulky for backpacking but perfect for camping. It does not collapse or fold down and it’s a bit heavy at 1.8 lbs. But, the battery life certainly makes up for some of this.
Collapsible Solar Lantern
Bigfoot is a fairly inexpensive option but packed with a punch. This lantern is lightweight and extremely compact, only 3 oz, which is perfect for backpacking. With such a small size, there are limitations such as how much lumen it can put out, which it maxes out at 65 lumens. However, it holds a charge for quite a bit for being so small. Some of the other features are:
- 10 hours of battery life on low and 5 hours on high
- Takes 1-4 hours to fully charge
- 65 Lumens on high and 25 lm on low
- Two options to charge
- Can be used as a Powerbank to charge your phone or other items
As with many of the solar lanterns that collapse, they don’t always want to stay open. They take a really long time to charge other devices, but they do have that option. And, it’s not very bright. But, these are great for ambiance lighting.
Coleman has been a trusted camping brand for years. They, of course, offer a wide selection of solar lanterns and the Quad LED comes packed with some great features.
- 4 Detachable panels
- 190 lm for eight hours
- Water Resistant
- Uses common batteries (D cell)
- Five year limited warranty
This quad LED Lantern is four lanterns in one. Each panel can come off the main power station or be used all at one time. This eliminates the need to get more lanterns. However, it is a bit heavy at 2.8lb and certainly not compact. It does not offer to power up any other devices. The base does not have its own light.
LED camping lanterns
Depending on what you actually do when camping will also help you determine which lantern will suit you best. After all, there are many ways to camp from a camper to backpacking. And, there are many terrains as well. Some love to camp around the home, while others like a little more adventure.
If you are going to be camping in places when ample amounts of sun is not available or perhaps gloomy overcast weather is inevitable, then a solar option may not be the best choice for you. However, there are many battery powered lantern options out there as well. And, with the latest technology of LED bulbs, these modern-day lanterns are safer and last longer than ever before.