The Best Camping Lights To Illuminate Your Nighttime Adventures

The best camping lights can make your time outdoors safer and more enjoyable.

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There are many different ways to camp, from wilderness setups to RV campgrounds, so the best camping light for one person may not be quite right for someone else. There are many types of lights that are handy to have on a camping trip, and each has its ideal uses. For instance, while a camping lantern might be right for an outdoor chore, a headlamp might best illuminate a nighttime walk. That’s why having several different types of lights in your camping equipment set will give you the power to light up your camp like never before. Here’s a guide to shopping for the best camping lights.

Find The Best Camping Lights For Your Camping Style

With more than 60 million Americans going in camping in 2019, it is one of the most popular outdoor activities. And there’s little doubt as to why, since spending time outdoors with family and friends is a great way for a group to have a healthy and happy time together.

While half of a camping trip occurs in daylight, the other half is invariably done in the dark. And remaining safe and efficient at night requires good sources of illumination—namely camping lights. While many lights are versatile, there’s not really one perfect camping light. A well-equipped camper will typically have several lights amid their camping accessories to address particular situations.        

For instance, a camping lantern can be handy for cleaning fish after dark, but not nearly as handy as a good headlamp that shines right where you need it to and leaves your hands free for the task at hand. Likewise, a penlight might be much handier than a spotlight for looking for an extra pair of socks in your tent in the middle of the night while trying to not wake your companions. Let’s take a look at the wide world of camping lights.

Your Camping Checklist Should Include a Versatile Flashlight

On any camping trip, having a light that will work in many situations is much better than having a light that will work in only a few situations. Consequently, every camping checklist should feature a flashlight that can help with a number of different chores.

Such a light will be at least somewhat compact and have the ability to shine bright—or be dimmed if the situation calls for it. A light with a zoomable end lets you tighten the beam when you are looking for something you dropped, then easily widen it again when you are lighting up the trail on the way to the bathrooms.        

Another handy feature is a pocket clip. Attach your all-around camping light to your pocket and you’ll always know where it is. In the dark, it’s important to have the light with you instead of having to search for it in—you guessed it—the dark. Finally, a flashlight that uses replaceable batteries can easily be recharged by replacing those small batteries. If you’re going to be out in the woods with no source of electricity, a battery-operated lantern or light is going to be much handier than a light that you need to plug into recharge.

Best All-Around Camping Light: GearLight Tac LED Tactical Flashlight

Smart Design

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This two-pack of tactical flashlights from GearLight will meet many needs, making it a must for any camping checklist. It is charged with three AAA batteries, so it’s easy to carry extras in case yours run out of power. The light’s sturdy all-metal body means you can run over the flashlight without worrying about breaking it.

Do You Need a Flashlight That Fits in Your Pocket?

Sometimes an extremely small flashlight can be the handiest piece of camping gear, because if it’s small, you’re more likely to carry it with you than leave it behind. And since many small flashlights are also very powerful, a penlight can make you more efficient at a number of different camping tasks.

While a small penlight likely won’t replace a large lantern for illuminating your entire campsite, it can be very handy for finding things in your tent or backpack, navigating a trail, or even showing fellow travelers the way. Get one of these extra small lights, stick it in your pocket, and take it on your next camping trip. You’ll likely be surprised how many times you pull it out over the course of the weekend.

Best Mini-Light for Camping: Streamlight 250 Lumen Microstream

Tiny But Mighty

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Most campers would be surprised to learn that this tiny light has a beam distance of 68 meters, making it not only easy to carry along but perfect for a number of tasks. Its pocket clip allows campers to attach it to their shirt pockets, leaving their pants pockets open for carrying other critical gear.

Do You Need a Camping Lantern to Light the Whole Campsite?

Most campers are familiar with how useful a camping lantern can be for casting a light over a wide area like a campsite.  In the past, lanterns powered by camp fuel were extremely popular. However, drawbacks like having to carry fuel along and going through all the available mantles often ended up with people having to use their flashlights for camping chores more suitable for lanterns. Newer lanterns use propane canisters and function well, but you still need to take fuel along. Thankfully, LED technology has changed all that. Today’s LED camping lanterns not only cast a great, wide light, but they do so cleanly, without odor and without having to deal with messy, flammable fuels. Some of the best LED camping lanterns are much smaller than conventional camp fuel lanterns but cast just as much light as their predecessors. And some can run many hours—even up to 100—on a single charge.

Best Camping Lantern: Vont LED Camping Lantern

Easy to Use

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This LED camping lantern is equipped with more than 30 bright LEDs and casts 360 degrees of light. And, its compact size makes it fit easily in your gear box or backpack.

Do You Have a Good Headlamp in Your Hiking Gear?

There are no two ways about it: A good headlamp is one of the best pieces of camping and hiking gear you can own. Not only will it always be right where you can find it—on your head—but it automatically shines where you are looking, giving you the illumination you need to perform a number of tasks.

Headlamps are especially useful when you have both of your hands occupied. No more trying to hold your flashlight between your teeth while you fillet fish; just look at the fish, and your headlamp lights it up!

A good headlamp will have a number of brightness settings since different tasks require a different amount of light. Looking for a dropped fish hook might require extremely bright light, but walking down a trail to the bathroom at night doesn’t require blinding light to be successful.

Best Headlamp for Camping: SLONIK 1,000 Lumen Rechargeable Headlamp

Relentless Toughness

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Constructed from aero-grade aluminum, this sturdy but bright camping headlamp is great on the trail or in camp. With an eight-hour battery life in low mode, it’ll shine for a long time before its next charging.

Can the Light in Your Camping Supplies Go the Distance?

While you might not always need a powerful spotlight in camp, you’ll nearly always want one somewhere in your camping supplies. Powerful spotlights up to 6,000 lumens allow you to see an object a very long distance away. In fact, they’re great for checking out things that go bump in the night in camp and even at home.

Good spotlights have multiple brightness modes, since you don’t always need to light up what you’re looking at just like it is daytime—or even brighter. They’re also great if you need to go searching for something or someone.        

Some spotlights, like those designed for use in cars, must be hooked to an electrical source to work. Since you’re not always going to have an outlet—even a car outlet—in camp, get a rechargeable one so you can shine it anytime, anywhere.

Best Spotlight for Camping: BUYSIGHT Spotlight

Super Bright

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Made with solid but light metal, this handheld tactical spotlight is perfect for rugged use over the long term. It has three brightness settings, and its multifunctional side light allows you to use it as a camping light/warning light in fog and hazy weather.

You Can Find a Rechargeable Lantern for Under $20

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good, versatile light that you can use for many camping tasks. And budget lights don’t include just flashlights or penlights. Some companies offer rechargeable LED camping lanterns at very reasonable prices. If you’re only going to camp occasionally and won’t be wearing your lantern out any time soon, a cheap camping light might be the best way to go.

Best Cheap Camping Light: Alpswolf Camping Flashlight

Great Value

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This bright LED camping lantern/light has six different modes—including low/high modes, flashlight modes, a lantern mode, two red light modes (steady and strobe), and 360° mode—so it is extremely versatile around camp. Plus, its battery can act like a power bank for charging smartphones, tablets, and other handheld electronics.

Best Camping Lights FAQ: People Also Ask

Are propane lanterns safe in a tent?

Yes, most modern propane lanterns are safe for use inside of tents, as long as the tent is ventilated to allow a flow of fresh air.

How many lumens do you need for camping?

For small chores around camp, 300 to 400 lumens will do the job quite well. For spotlights, you’ll want one that will really light up the night, somewhere around 5,000 to 6,000 lumens.

What causes my lights to dim in my camping lanterns?

For modern lanterns powered by propane canisters, a decrease in light can be due to either the fuel source getting low or the bulbs wearing out. On old-style liquid fuel lanterns, dimming could be caused by low pressure.

A Final Word on Shopping for the Best Camping Lights

In the end, choosing the best camping lights isn’t as easy as just choosing one light. Most campers will find that having three or four different lights, each of which specializes in a different aspect of illumination, will be most efficient. Figure out what lighting needs you’ll have in camp and make sure you have a light or lights that address each of those needs. That way, you won’t be left in the dark when illumination is needed most.