The 8 best solar lanterns
Whether you're roughing it in the woods or relaxing on the patio, the best solar lanterns will meet your needs when it comes to battery, brightness, and portability. Charging time can vary, but solar lights typically take four to 12 hours in direct sunlight to reach a full charge, and most popular solar lanterns seem to take at least six. If you might sometimes need quicker charging or are in a shady spot, opt for a lantern that offers a speedier alternate charging method. Once your lantern is fully juiced, it can run for anywhere between a few hours and two whole days, depending on the model and its settings.
When it comes to brightness, look for lanterns with 1 to 30 lumens for ambiance, or 12 to 700 lumens for more useful outdoor lighting (the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the lantern). And when it comes to mood lighting, keep an eye out for decorative features like cutouts, faux flames, or colorful LEDs.
You probably don't need to worry much about portability for a lantern you'll be keeping at home, but for travel or emergency preparedness, you might prefer a lightweight camping lantern that compresses for easy transport and storage. Camping lanterns can boast features like multiple light settings, the ability to float, and even a phone-charging function. They usually have handles and can be hung, strapped to a backpack, carried in your hand, or set down. Backyard lanterns tend to have fewer features, though some automatically turn on and off at different times of day, and many are designed to hang, sit on a table, or function as path lights. For both backyard and camping lanterns, be sure to consider the Ingress Protection (IP) number if you expect to encounter wet conditions — a lantern with an IPX4 rating can handle some serious splashing, but an IPX7-rated lantern can survive being fully submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes.
Whether you're looking for a decorative lantern for a balcony or a lightweight option that folds down for camping, hundreds of Amazon reviewers gave these solar lanterns their vote of approval.
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1. The fan favorite for camping
- Charge time: 10 hours (solar), 1 - 2 hours (Micro-USB)
- Run time: 3 - 24 hours, depending on setting
- Maximum brightness: 75 lumens
Outdoor enthusiasts, emergency preppers, and people who simply go outside at night are huge fans of this inflatable solar lantern from LuminAID, which has a 4.7-star overall rating on Amazon and more than 4,600 reviews. It's easy to see why, too — the lantern weighs just 5 ounces, and while it's a 4.75-inch cube when fully inflated, it's only 1 inch thick when compressed. It also has an IP67 rating, which means it's fully dust-proof and can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, though it can also float. An adjustable strap provides versatility, whether you're carrying the lantern or attaching it to your tent or pack. "Easy to use with handy strap that is Very lightweight and portable, reported one Amazon reviewer, adding, "Great for van life and RV life and camping. Great for walking around at night inside or outside."
While solar charging takes a full 10 hours in direct sunlight with this option, you can also charge via Micro-USB in just a few hours, and the lantern comes with the necessary cord. And no matter which way you charge, you get a pretty lengthy dose of light, with the lantern lasting up to 24 hours on low (and fewer hours on its higher settings). An emergency flashing setting can actually last up to 48 hours if you need to make yourself easier to find. The low setting only gives off 12 lumens of light, but the lantern is capable of giving off up to 75 lumens on the highest setting. And an indicator light helps you keep track of how much time you have left before you need to charge. On top of all that, the lantern comes in your choice of white or warm white.
2. The one with imitation flames
- Charge time: Not listed
- Run time: Not listed (but reviewers reported that they can run all night on a full charge)
- Maximum brightness: Not listed (reviewers suggested that they're better for ambiance)
With a 4.8-star overall rating on Amazon and more than 4,000 reviews, this two-pack of lanterns is a popular source of mood lighting for backyards, porches, and patios, since their solar-powered lights flicker like flames. According to one reviewer, "the flickering 'flame' is very realistic - not a bright light to read by but a warm, cozy, addition to my balcony." The lanterns have an IP65 rating, which means they should stand up to some light rain, and they're constructed from rustproof metal and plastic. Due to their looped handles and flat bottoms, you can hang them from hooks or set them down on the ground or a table. Each lantern has only one setting that you can activate via the switch on its bottom.
The brand doesn't provide specifics about the brightness, charge, or run time of the lanterns, but Amazon users reported that they brighten up your outdoor space with a gentle but cozy glow. As for charge and run time, one reviewer mentioned that "even on cloudy days they will charge enough to flicker at least four hours. On a normal day they’ll burn till sunrise."
The 8.3-inch-tall lanterns weigh around 2 pounds each and aren't designed to be folded or compressed, so these are good for home use but not a practical option for travelers. Choose from a black or antique-looking white, bronze, or silver finish.
3. The one that also charges your phone
- Charge time: 14 hours (solar), 2 - 3 hours (USB)
- Run time: 5 - 50 hours, depending on setting
- Maximum brightness: 150 lumens
If you're looking for an extra-tough camping or travel lantern, the MPOWERD Luci Pro is a versatile option. This inflatable lantern can survive submersion in water (it has an IP67 rating), temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and even 150 pounds of pressure. All that, and it can even charge your phone, thanks to a USB port and included cable.
The Luci Pro is a pretty powerful lantern, too. According to one Amazon reviewer, "the light is strong and lasts for hours. Even with a cloud cover, the lanterns are consistent in their power and longevity. These are the best made solar batteries on any product I've ever bought." To be more specific, the lantern gives off up to 150 lumens of light and can run for an impressively long time; the low setting allows for a whopping 50 hours of light, (though it is only good for about five hours on high). The lantern also has a flashing setting in case of emergency, which can run for nine hours. A built-in indicator helps you keep track of the battery level. Solar charging will take about 14 hours, a bit longer than some of the competitors, but you can also charge via USB in just two or three hours.
Portability won't be an issue with the Luci Pro, which weighs just over 6 ounces and has straps on the top and bottom for easy carrying. It measures 5 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter when inflated but is only 1.5 inches tall when collapsed.
4. The garden light
- Charge time: Not listed
- Run time: 8 hours
- Maximum brightness: 7 lumens
Deck out your porch, balcony, or yard with this affordable two-pack of white hanging lanterns. Though they only give off 7 lumens of light each, Amazon reviewers suggest that "between the pattern and the warm light, these create a really nice ambience," casting light in interesting patterns thanks to the cutout design. The lanterns have an on-off switch on top, and once the switch is on, each lantern automatically lights up at night and shuts itself off during the day. They weigh a bit over 1 pound each, and they're almost 7 inches tall and 6 inches in diameter. They can't be further compressed, but this isn't usually an issue for backyard use, and they do have a handle and a flat bottom so it's easy to hang them up or set them on a table.
The brand states that these painted metal lanterns are fully waterproof and rustproof, and while they don't seem to have an IP rating, Amazon users confirmed that they are "not hampered by rainy weather."
5. The color-changing one
- Charge time: 7 hours
- Run time: 5 - 9 hours, depending on color setting
- Maximum brightness: 50 lumens
It's easy to take the party anywhere with this portable solar lantern from MPOWERD, which glows in eight different luminous colors. Choose between purple, blue, cyan, green, yellow, orange, red, and white lights depending on your mood, or even opt for a setting that cycles between all the colors. Reviewers are super fond of the lantern, calling it a "party in a tube." One reviewer even reported that "we bought the Luci light for camping and were the talk of the campgrounds. Everyone wanted her! We loved the changing light scheme but also enjoyed the solid red when the stars came out so not to obstruct our night vision."
Like the Luci Pro, the Luci Color is incredibly lightweight (at just 4.4 ounces), can compress (it's 4.25 inches tall with a 5-inch diameter when inflated, but only 1 inch tall when collapsed), and is durable enough for adventures (it's rated IP67 and can withstand 150 pounds of pressure). The brand doesn't provide information about how bright the lantern can get, but the Amazon seller noted that it gives off 50 lumens. The lantern's run time will vary depending on which color setting you're using, but should last for five to nine hours, and solar charging should take about seven. This lantern can only charge via solar power, so make sure you give it enough time to juice up in the sun before use.
6. The one that charges 5 ways
- Charge time: 6 - 7 hours (solar) (not listed for other charging methods)
- Run time: 12 - 20 hours, depending on setting
- Maximum brightness: 240 lumens
When you're planning for the worst case scenario, this AGPTEK solar lantern is definitely worth packing with your camping supplies or disaster preparedness kit. That's because you can charge the lantern a whopping five different ways, so you'll never be without light. It can charge in six or seven hours via solar power, but when the sun isn't out, it can also run on three AAA batteries (not included), plug into a wall or car outlet (it comes with the necessary cables), or even be powered with a hand-crank (one minute of cranking can get you up to 20 minutes of light). The lantern isn't just good for light, though; it also has a universal USB charging port, so you can use it to power up your devices. Amazon reviewers love the lantern for its "exceptional versatility when it comes to charging" and its ability to power other devices with the hand crank, calling it "a valuable addition to any emergency kit."
When the lantern is functioning as a light source, you can choose between two different settings of white light: bright and super bright. At 10 inches tall with a 4-inch diameter and a weight of just over 1.5 pounds, this lantern may not be the best option if you need to pack light. It's made from hard plastic and metal and doesn't compress, though it does have a hook for hanging. It also doesn't seem to have any water-resistance so it's best for dry conditions.
7. The path light
- Charge time: 6 - 8 hours
- Run time: 8 - 10 hours
- Maximum brightness: 4 lumens
If you're less about lighting up the campground and more about lighting up your yard or driveway, this two-pack of lantern-style solar path lights has you covered. And with a 4.4-star overall rating on Amazon and more than 4,300 reviews, it's a popular choice. Each 4-lumen lantern weighs around 3 ounces and measures 9.5 inches tall with a 6.3-inch diameter. The plastic lanterns have loops on top, so you can hang them on the included metal stakes and drive them into the ground, or simply hang them anywhere else you can place a hook.
These lanterns may not give off a ton of light, but many Amazon reviewers found them plenty bright to light a path, stating that "their light is very bright for an inexpensive solar light.” They take about six to eight hours to charge in the sun, and they can run for eight to 10. That's plenty to work with, since they automatically turn on at night and off in the morning.
You're not going to want to submerge these lanterns in water, but they do have IP44 weatherproof solar panels that can handle some rain, though they're not built to handle dusty conditions.
8. The ultra-lightweight one
- Charge time: 8 - 12 hours
- Run time: 8 - 12 hours
- Maximum brightness: 90 lumens
There's nothing better than this Solight Design solar lantern when it comes to packing light. It weighs only 2.6 ounces and, though it forms a 4.3-inch cube when fully unfolded, it packs flat to just 0.25 inch thick. So go ahead and shove it in your bag, or use the upper strap to secure it to your pack — until you need it, you'll barely even notice it's there.
When it comes to charging and run time, both should take about eight to 12 hours. You can choose between a 90-lumen high or 65-lumen low setting, or even opt for a blinking mode to make yourself more visible in an emergency. It emits bright white light.
The lantern is made from waterproof polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic that can float and even be submerged in up to 6 feet of water.