Personal lighting solutions are an important part of preparedness, as you’ll have a definite and acute need for light no matter what kind of emergency you are facing. At home, on the road or abroad, you’ll hardly find a prepper that does not keep a flashlight of headlamp handy.
But one piece of personal lighting gear that does not get much love these days is the classic lantern. Often derided as bulky, fragile and inefficient, lanterns are commonly passed over for more modern and compact light sources.
The people that do may be surprised to discover that they are actually passing up one of the most versatile and efficient light sources around.
Chosen with care, a good lantern can take care of 90 percent of your utility lighting needs, and take of tasks like signaling with greater ease than a flashlight or headlamp.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best modern lanterns you can stash in your BOB to light your way and your campsite.
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Why a lantern in the first place?
Lanterns provide light in a way that nearly no flashlight or headlamp does: effectively in 360° around the lantern itself, while easily resting upright or hanging from any convenient protrusion, cord or other fixture.
A lantern is the closest thing you can get to “flipping a switch” and lighting up the entirety of your immediate area while afield or at home with no power.
Sure, candles work much the same, but with far more drawbacks. Drawbacks like wimpy light output, extreme fire hazard and general susceptibility to being put out inadvertently. When you need the light to come on and stay on with no undue babysitting, choose a lantern.
Most lanterns also put out a ton of light! As you will see on models that don’t have a smoked or otherwise opaque globe it can be positively harsh. Thankfully modern models are adjustable or feature screens or shades or some other method to reduce the output to comfortable and usable levels.
Compared to working with headlamps or flashlights, there is rarely a need to adjust a lantern around your worksite or shelter unless you need to take it with you. Even compact lanterns put out plenty of light to work over a small area without the need to aim or reposition it.
Most types of lantern also have the advantage of being highly fuel-efficient, easing your burden if you need more light. Even battery powered lanterns sport pretty impressive up times thanks to being even more efficient (and bright!) LEDs.
What about the downsides?
It isn’t all good news with lanterns, as they have their shortcomings like any other tool. None of them are deal-breakers so long as you choose your lantern with a little forethought, though.
Lanterns, no matter how small, are always going to be bulkier and heavier than a comparable flashlight unless we are talking about a tiny, novelty size lantern or a huge flashlight. Since space is always at a premium in your BOB you will be incurring more of a weight penalty when you decide to bring a lantern along.
Liquid-fueled lanterns also get hot. Some can get very hot. It does not take much imagination to see how this can become a hazard all its own if you have the lantern set on or hung near flammable, meltable or otherwise combustible material.
While nowhere near as risky as a candle with its open flame, you will have to take care with fuel-burning lanterns. Battery powered models avoid this risk entirely.
Lanterns also lack the throw of a directed beam, and even models that feature a sort of aim-able reflector or shroud will often not work as well as a flashlight for the same purpose. This makes lanterns a poor choice for directing attention to a specific place or focusing only on what you need to see.
By the same attribute, lanterns create enormous pools of light that are easily visible from long distances and are hard to “throttle” down. This is fine when you want to be seen, but compared to flashlights they are poor choices for times when you need light available but also need to be able to employ it more discreetly.
Types of Lanterns
There are all kinds of lanterns that run on all kinds of fuels. There are even lanterns designed to use a burning candle to provide light, but in my opinion that makes them more of a candle holder but never mind me.
As you have no doubt already assumed, all of the fuel types have their own pros and cons which I will detail below.
Uses candles either singly or multiple to provide light. Makes heavy use of internal reflectors to provide light. These lanterns are silent, but furnish very little light compared to other types. This is another lantern that is a potential fire hazard, and often gets hot to the touch.
Liquid fuel lanterns come in many flavors, from white gas and propane to kerosene, butane and even gasoline. Almost all the lanterns in this category enjoy terrific output, but they generate substantial heat and combustion byproducts in the form of harmful gasses.
You must be very cautious when using these in any confined space, both for reasons of fire-hazard and air-quality.
Lanterns in this category are often heavy and comparatively fragile with their fuel source attached and make a hissing noise during operation.
Almost all of them rely on a fabric component called a mantle that is the “element” which emits the light as the lantern is burned. These mantles are prone to damage and must be considered a necessary spare part.
But the good news is that, depending on the type of lantern you can share fuel with, your grill, stove, car or other appliance, easing your logistical burden. Some models make use of disposable tanks, others use refillable ones.
Here are some of the specific pros and cons for both liquid and gas fuels.
Kerosene is a fuel that’s been used for a long time as a fuel source for lanterns and heaters. It has amazing heat output and the independence from electricity is a handy feature.
The flight level can also be changed with these lanterns by the raising or lowering of the wick. Raising it exposes more of the flame while lowering it will dampen it down. Most electric or battery powered lanterns only have the ability to work at set brightnesses.
Additionally, if you are tired of the daylight white illumination, kerosene lanterns produce a nice candle lit glow that will make any space a little more comfortable. You will need some form of ventilation since burning kerosene inside can be a dangerous idea.
The downside to kerosene is that as a fuel you are required to keep it with you. This means at some point you’re going to have to fill up with kerosene. While this can be a pain, it is readily available and inexpensive.
Kerosene is also both flammable and prone to spilling, this is a bad combo. If the flame from your lantern comes into contact with the kerosene it will ignite. As a precaution you will want to turn your kerosene lantern off when you go to bed.
Butane is a great fuel for lanterns but only in the warmer months between spring and fall. It is a lightweight fuel that is easily packable into any situation.
Alternatively, you can use the butane as cooking fuel in a pinch if you have the proper stove with you. Just like the stoves, butane lanterns are generally self igniting.
Since it works poorly in cold weather you’ll be hard pressed to use butane in the winter. Even if you warmed it up prior to using it the canister would quickly become cold and stop working.
Lanterns fueled by propane are popular and still used widely for campers, preppers, and survivalists. It is inexpensive and widely available, more so than kerosene. Since most people have it to power their stoves, it has a dual purpose for most.
It works down into negative temperatures and is also relatively lightweight. In warmer weather a 20lb propane tank will last weeks with regular use.
Most propane lanterns have a dimmable switch and you have precise control over the amount of light you want to expose.
Lanterns in this class use batteries or built in rechargeable batteries as a power source. These are the most rugged of all lanterns while still providing good to excellent light output and have the additional perks of multi-mode or multi-color controls.
These lanterns are silent, produce next to no heat if LED, and also pose no atmospheric hazard if you bring them into a small space.
There is also an excellent portability factor with these kinds of lanterns, they can be very small. This makes them an excellent choice for backpackers.
The only drawback is their need for batteries, but all lanterns need some kind of fuel so make of that what you will. Modern examples have very impressive battery life, especially when set to mid or low output mode.
Some battery powered lanterns are also powered by internal solar panels. They may take a long time to charge but it’s still handy. If you have longer than normal power outages, solar may be your best bet.
Another option would be to get a lantern that works with a hand crank. While they generally provide less in terms of lumens, a hand cranked lantern will save you the need to swap out batteries.
For heavy-duty use in a small footprint, battery powered lanterns are the way to go.
The Best Lanterns for Survival and Your Bug Out Bag
As I said above, I really do believe in battery powered lanterns for BOBs. Their combined safety, output, ease of use and greater durability alongside a smaller form factor make them unbeatable.
Trust me, used judiciously any modern LED camping lantern with just a few sets of spare batteries will take you on quite an expedition before your fuel runs low. They are a great addition to any survival kit.
Kerosene and other liquid fueled lanterns have plenty of advantages if you are vehicle-borne or just keeping them handy around the house, but for dedicated BOB use, stick with good, reliable, clean, safe batteries.
Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. Survival Sullivan is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full disclosure for more.
Streamlight The Siege Lantern
|✅ Durable globe||❌ Won’t exactly light up an entire room|
|✅ Fuel gauge included||❌ Magnets on the bottom can affect grippy rubber|
|✅ Efficient battery life||❌ High price tag|
The Siege is my personal favorite lantern on this list. A respectable 540 lumens on high at 30 hours or a whopping 12 days on the 55 lumen low mode alongside a selectable red LED and SOS flasher.
The nearly unbreakable frosted polycarbonate globe makes for a seriously tough unit. It even floats!
The Siege also features a smartly designed handle for easy carry or hanging and a pair of gated D rings for secure attachment to just about anything.
All this is rounded out by an integrated fuel gauge and specialty battery door that facilitates battery swaps in total darkness. It is powered by by 3 D batteries.
An excellent unit at a great price. Get it on Amazon here.
Streamlight The Siege AA Lantern
|✅ Great for close quarters||❌ Resets light settings upon shutoff|
|✅ Includes battery life indicator||❌ Needs an anti-roll base|
|✅ Lightweight at 8.8 ounces||❌ Red light is pretty dim|
All the features of the bigger, brighter Siege, now in a much smaller AA-fueled format. The little sprout of the
Siege line gives up much when it comes to brightness and runtime- down to 200 lumens at 7 hours on high, and 37 hours on low- but it makes up for it in sheer compactness and use of common, inexpensive batteries for fuel. The Siege AA is scarcely larger than a soft drink can!
This small form factor lends itself much better to packing away inside a BOB versus being strapped to the outside of it, and is much lighter (when “loaded”) to boot. While it slips a little in the output category it gives up none of the larger Siege’s durability or water resistance.
A great compact lantern for even small BOBs. Check its pricing on Amazon.
Princeton Helix Basecamp Rechargeable Lantern
|Dimmable LED||Heavy and bulky|
|IXP6 certification makes it really water-resistant||Low setting is too bright|
|Multiple lighting modes||Touchpad can be difficult to find at night|
Princeton Tec is respected for their excellent and rugged headlamps, but you should not overlook them for their excellent multifunction lanterns. The Basecamp rechargeable is a great choice for your BIB thanks to its solid performance and excellent support options.
The Basecamp sports a 250 lumen dimmable output to allow you to dial in the precise amount of light required for any task. Red LED’s are selectable to preserve night vision and reduce signature.
The Basecamp Rechargeable’s signature feature is its rechargeable internal power cell that also allows you to recharge other USB compatible devices such as your phone or GPS, but also an increasing number of flashlights.
This lets it perform double duty as a power bank and a light source. The best part is you are not slaved to that internal battery; three AA’s can be used at any time to fuel the LEDs.
The design of the Basecamp Rechargeable is noteworthy also. It uses a collapsible accordion-style globe to save space which is removable when you need clearer light. The four flat-fold legs have integrated hooks to allow you to hang the Basecamp from any nearby cord or line.
A thoroughly modern and feature rich lantern. Check out today’s price on Amazon.
Coleman Quad Pro 800L Lantern
|✅ Long 75 hour runtime||❌ Requires a lot of D cell batteries to work|
|✅ Detachable panels makes 4 flashlights|
|✅ 26 foot light range|
This entry from Coleman is just the opposite of the their Micropacker: a large, high output traditionally styled lantern, but on with a neat trick up its sleeve.
The Quad is actually four lanterns in one; each of the light banks detach into a personal-sized panel that can also be hung to provide light in different places.
The base part of this system is powered by four D-cell alkaline batteries while each panel is powered and recharged from them by way of three NiMH AAA batteries (included).
The panels together on their base provide 190 lumens of soft light at a very respectable 75 hours of runtime. Singly, a panel will run for one and a half hours off its AAA rechargeables.
This is the largest and heaviest lantern on our list, but its unique capability makes it a good choice for those in groups or anyone who may need work lighting for multiple parties or tasks.
Rayovac Sportsman Lantern
|✅ Multiple modes for lighting||❌ Drains batteries quite quickly at max brightness|
|✅ Rugged with rubberized hooks||❌ Would have liked to see higher lumen output|
Rayovac’s Sportsman lantern is a sturdy, no-frills design that packs in very smart options. Output is a good 240 lumens peak which will run continuously for 40 hours.
Low mode output is not specified but will net you 90 hours of on time. An attention getting strobe mode is included. Power is supplied by three D-cell alkaline batteries.
This durable and water-resistant (not waterproof, like the Siege!) lantern features a small external green LED that pulses gently every five seconds or so to help you locate the unit in complete darkness if necessary. Note that this little “firefly” does not appreciably drain the batteries at all.
With a heavy-duty handle and rugged rubber armor, the Rayovac offers everything you need and nothing you don’t. Get this lantern on Amazon.
Black Diamond Moji Lantern
|✅ Single piece construction for durability||❌Power button can be difficult to find in the dark|
|✅ Collapsible double hook||❌ 100 lumen brightness could be brighter|
|✅ Frosted globe provides soft light|
The Moji is a dream come true for preppers who demand maximum weight savings and a minimalist loadout.
The Moji is a small globe-shaped lantern that produces a maximum output of 100 lumens, and can be dimmed by a 3-step switch all the way down to a low power-saver mode all powered by three AAA alkalines.
The design of the Moji allows it to be placed on its lid or hanged by a loop on the top. This is one lantern that is small enough to ride in your pants pockets at a tiny 2 ½ x 2 ½ inches and barely over 3 ounces in weight. If you need to deploy light quickly and put it away just as quickly without the worry of rummaging through your pack.
It is not the brightest, or the most feature packed, but for an endeavor where you have to justify every ounce of weight, the Moji’s combination of convenience and respectable output is a boon. Get this lantern here.
Black Diamond Apollo Lantern
|✅ Bright 250 lumens||❌ Not a replacement for a full sized lantern|
|✅ Glare free light with diffused globe||❌ Power bank won’t work if it’s cold|
|✅ Power meter for battery life and included battery bank|
Named for its whimsical resemblance to a rocket from the Golden Era of spaceflight, Black Diamond’s Apollo lantern expands on the concept established by the Moji: maximum output and convenience in the smallest and lightest package possible.
To accomplish that end, the Apollo pushes 225 lumens that are dimmable all the way down to appx. 10 lumens.
The Apollo features dual hooks for hanging and a trio of fold out fire legs that elevate this compact lantern a good bit off of any surface (and look like landing legs or fins on a spacecraft, hence the name).
This lantern is dual-fuel capable: you can recharge it via its internal power cell and recharge other compatible devices or use three AA batteries. A power gauge lets you keep an eye on your fuel level.
Very compact at 5 ½” high and only 3 ½ in diameter. A terrific, lightweight all purpose lantern, especially if the idea of a built in power bank charger with USB ports is appealing.
COLEMAN Northstar Propane Lantern
|✅ Extremely bright||❌ Plastic base can feel cheap|
|✅ Propane is efficient and cheap||❌ Pretty expensive for a lantern|
|✅ Decent fuel efficiency|
Coleman makes this single mantle lantern that works on with propane gas. It is an incredibly strong light at 1500 lumens on its highest setting.
If you’re looking for a light source that can light up a large campsite this is what you need. I guess the name fits as the Northstar will guide you to whatever you need.
The base is made of plastic so be careful with it. Any high drop could crack the base, making it an awkward lamp to use.
There is a cage around the glass globe for protection and it does a great job in inclement weather. Replacing the mantle is a simple process which is nice to see on a lantern.
If you’re looking to get 1500 lumens expect about 5-6 hours of life out of a 1lb tank and if you crank it right down you can squeeze about 8 hours out of the fuel tank.
If you’re interested in checking out the Coleman Northstar Propane Lantern click here.
Micron Backpacking Isobutane / Propane Lantern
|✅ Lightweight and portable||❌ Mantles can be used quickly and can be difficult to find|
|✅ Fuel efficient||❌ Could be brighter|
|✅ Piezo ignition|
|✅ Run-times are efficient|
The Micron Lantern is a portable and lightweight lantern that is meant to work with propane/isobutane gas canisters. These are the cans that work with popular hiking stoves and are readily available.
It’s considered a mood lighting lantern since it only produces around 235 lumens. If you’re lighting up a small tent or just want some accent lighting, you’ll be interested in this lantern.
There is an easy trigger system that includes a piezo ignition to save you a match. It is incredibly fuel efficient boasting long burn times. The Micron Lantern gives you peace and quiet with its silent operation.
The kit includes a rugged lantern which runs silently, hanging hooks to suspend it, and a nylon sack that you can store it in while you travel.
The Micron Backpacking Lantern can be found at this link!
Coleman Premium Dual Fuel Lantern
|✅ Dual fuel capability is convenient||❌ No piezo ignition|
|✅ 700 lumens can light up large spaces||❌ Expensive|
|✅ Efficient fuel consumption|
If you’re looking for a multi-fuel lantern then you might want to check out this offering from Coleman. You can run it using Colemans liquid gas (white gas) or unleaded fuel straight from the gas pump. This is handy if you don’t have propane or other fuels near you.
One gallon of fuel for this lantern will last over 5 propane cylinders making this a great choice for long term use.
700 lumens is a strong brightness that will light up big campsites or large rooms. Since there is no auto ignition in this unit you will have to bring your own lighter or matches. It also comes with two mantles which is why it is such a bright lantern.
As with most fuel lamps there is a dimmer available by reducing the gas coming in. You can throw light up to 40 feet away with this lantern. On high the fuel tank will last you around 7-8 hours.
If you’re looking to get this classic lantern, check it out here!
Coleman One Mantle Kerosene Lantern
|✅ Lantern is well built and coated||❌ Pricey for a kerosene lamp|
|✅ Light given off is clean and white|
|✅ 784 lumens is bright for a kerosene lantern|
The Coleman One Mantle Kerosene Lantern is as simple as they get. It throws off as much light as a 60 watt lightbulb (784 lumens) which is excellent for larger spaces. You can use the knob to dim the light which makes for easy handling.
The lantern itself is well constructed for a long life. Coleman has coated the fuel tank to prevent oxidation and cracking. It runs off kerosene and a 2 pint tank will last just over 5 hours.
You will need matches to light this lantern but it’s not difficult to do. When you shut the lamp off it is already cool as the heat doesn’t penetrate the material.
Check out the Coleman One Mantle Kerosene Lantern here!
Dietz #90 D-Lite Kerosene Burning Lantern
|✅ Incredible fuel efficiency||❌ Lower light level not suitable for large places|
If you’re looking for a lantern that has a long run time then the Dietz #90 Kerosene lamps are a good choice. On one 31 oz tank of kerosene you can get over 24 hours of burn time.
Set at 12 candle power (approx 150 lumens) this lantern works exceptionally well in very dark places. Don’t expect to light up a large room with this unit, though.
It is a bit bulky to take with you on a hiking trip but weighing in at only 2 pounds makes it a great contender for emergency situations and car camping adventures.
Have a look at the Dietz #90 D-Lite Kerosene Lantern here!
Lanterns are not just for recreational camping pursuits. An easy to use source of all around area lighting can be important in post-disaster and survival situations and for that there is nothing better than a lantern.
Take a look at the modern LED lanterns above and you are bound to find one that will work perfectly in your BOB.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re new to survival lanterns these questions below represent some questions that many have when owning a lantern.
Should I clean my lantern often?
Whether or not you should clean your survival lantern often is really dependent on what kind of lantern you own.
If you have a solar or battery powered lantern then a simple wipe down every so often should be sufficient. Unless you get it extremely dirty, they tend to stay relatively clean on their own.
Using gas or liquid fuel powered lanterns require a bit more cleaning. The dirtiest part of the lantern will probably be the globe and a bath in some warm soapy water should help you scrub off some of the unburned carbon.
Read the instructions that come with your lantern for any additional information on cleaning your lantern.
Can a survival lantern get hot enough to cause a fire?
Most companies are aware of the heat hazard with most fuel powered lanterns. As such, they have developed methods to keep the unit relatively cool. There is still some cause for having precautions since something like a kerosene lantern can spill and catch fire if knocked over.
LED lanterns are at a low risk for causing a fire since they don’t generate a lot of heat. The only potential cause for a fire would be the battery exploding inside the lantern, which is rare anyway.
How much light do I really need?
Have you ever purchased a light and realized that it’s not bright enough for the space you’re trying to illuminate? This particular situation has happened to a lot of people and this handy guide will help you decide how bright you need to go.
- 100 lumens – Great for preparing meals or reading during a power outage. 100 lumens will light up a medium sized room if the light is bounced off a bright colored wall.
- 100-500 Lumens – At the higher end of this range you can start lighting up a large room so that people can see without strain. This seems to be the range that most people stick around for smaller lanterns and headlamps.
- 500-1000 Lumens – This is some serious firepower when it comes to lanterns. You won’t have any issues throwing light at least 20 feet in any direction. This is meant to light up an area comfortably for all inhabitants.
How do I maintain my survival lantern?
Maintaining a lantern is not a difficult task but there are some considerations to take if you’re storing it for long periods of time.
- Keep your lantern stored in an area where no moisture will be introduced. If your basement floods, don’t keep your lantern down there.
- If you are using a liquid or gas fuel, make sure you drain your tanks thoroughly. Old fuel is bad fuel.
- Battery powered lanterns should be put away fully charged. If you’re able to, discharge and recharge the lantern at least twice a year to maintain proper battery function.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.