I was prepping for a camp trip a year or so ago and rummaging through all our kit. I found no less than 13 terrible pound store torches and cruddy cheap lanterns, all of which rattled and didn’t work properly. I’m not sure they ever worked properly but it reminded me of what a pain not having good lighting on a camp can be. Have you even been camping if you haven’t spent an hour rooting around with your phone torch at 5am for your ACTUAL torch?! They also end up absolutely flying through AA/AAA batteries. I decided to invest in a few of the best rechargeable camping lights and lanterns for proper tent lighting that I wouldn’t misplace, gave off great light and best of all I didn’t have to keep ploughing cheap batteries into.
Should I use a Rechargeable Camping Lantern or a Rechargeable Camping LED strip light?
I’m not that into camping lanterns. I think they’re actually pretty limited in their use whilst camping. Most lanterns emit light from the sides leaving the battery/power compartments on the bottom. The same design as the classic gas lanterns of years past. The problem with them is if I’m walking about the tent picking up kids socks, dog toys, towels etc (our tent is ALWAYS a total waste site) then having those lanterns swinging up ahead have a few issues.
I’m looking down at the floor and my big ol’ body is casting a shadow on the ground so I can’t see anything.
I hit my head on them, ALL THE TIME.
There are other uses for the classic lantern and I’m sure there are people who don’t have a massive head to go bonking it on too so I’ve picked a really good choice out down below.
1. Luminoodle (Best Overall Rechargeable LED Camping Light)
The Luminoodle is easily my favourite Christmas present in a loooooong time. It’s a 5ft long, rubbery strip of soft LED lights. You can hang it using the 4 included adjustable loops, wrap it around an overhead beam, magnet it to a tent pole and best of all you can shove it all in the rip stop white nylon bag it comes with and hold it high like you would a traditional lantern.
They’re powered by a portable USB power pack. You have the option to buy the Luminoodle with a 4,400maH power pack or a 10,000 maH pack. The packs are good because they’ve got the power switch and they also act like a little lamp on their own with 4 LEDS down the side of the unit. You can totally plug them into any power pack though. We have a couple of 20,000maH packs that we use for charging lights and phones whilst camping.
You can put this anywhere, the light is bright but soft, you charge it off a variety of USB things. It’s also waterproof and fine out in the rain too (keep the powerpack and connector dry though). I just love it.
If you like the Luminoodle there’s a nice remote switch and dimmer available too, super handy and also if you’re looking to wire in a few of them into one power pack (this Anker powerpack has 3 ports on it and large capacity) you can use USB extension cables and pop them into the 3-Port Anker Powerpack.
2. Bonlux LED Camping Lights (Best Budget Friendly Rechargeable Camping Lantern)
The best budget rechargeable camping LED lights I found are the Bonlux LED lights set over on Amazon. These are a VERY similar model to the Luminoodle and by similar I mean total rip off. They are cheaper, they don’t come with power packs but they do a pretty neat job. The light is nice, cheap, and even comes with a nifty reel to store it on. I’ve got a full review on them too.
3. LE Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern (Best Rechargeable Camping Lantern)
If you’re after the traditional camping lantern style, the best LED rechargeable lantern is this affordable one from LE.
It’s one of the brightest LED camping lanterns with upto 1000 Lumens (equivalent to a 75w bulbs) it’s almost too bright for my liking but this lamp is also dimmable. You can change the temperature of the light which is pretty awesome too. If you’re after a bright cool light for working by or want to chill out inside the tent before bed you’ve got two great options.
The battery life is good but I wouldn’t blast it for hours on full power, as with anything. This is still a battery lantern and batteries don’t last forever so I’d run it on low power and use intermittently. It packs a 4400maH battery which also can charge up your phone via USB (slow charge) if you need it in an emergency.
PS. Amazon has some little money off vouchers that are written in the listing, they change frequently but you may be able to get a £1 or £2 off. Keep it in mind.
4. Karrong Camping Lantern (Best Budget Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern)
The Karrong lanterns are smaller than the LE, smaller in size and smaller in battery. They draw less power though so still have a decent amount of time in them. The design also lends itself to hanging in the tent and emitting light downwards. These are suited more towards a smaller camping setup. Alternatively they make a good lantern next to the kids beds or in the ol’ pokey toilet tent (Pro-tip, don’t position it behind you so you project yourself out to the rest of the site a la Austin Powers) They’re really affordable too and you can recharge them from a power pack.
5. Pay a tiny bit extra for LE’s nifty budget Lantern
LE have made some really nice kit recently and whilst the Karrong lantern is cheaper, I do really like their take on the budget rechargeable camping lantern. It packs a bigger battery than the Karrong and the colour scheme/design is a little nicer. I know there’s a lot of folk who really love that green look to all their camping kit 😉
6. Camping Light and Bug Zapper, at last!
I have made a right mess of some tents by hanging fly paper inside them before now, so I was delighted to find this little beauty. The Runacc Mosquito Killer and Camping Lamp is a little smaller than the LE lantern but packs a 20000maH rechargeable battery.
It can hang from a hook and be a lantern with two brightness settings, it can focus the beam as a torch/flashlight and best of all it has a bright UV light which attracts insects aaaaaaaaaaaaand electrocutes them.
It gets a good 8 hours use before needing a USB recharge, it’s waterproof and you can clean it by securing the USB port and rinsing it under the tap.
I hung this in our tent whilst we were roasting marshmallows and came back to a small graveyard of bugs. It works well, it works better if it’s the only light source. I wouldn’t use it as your only source of light for a family tent (we combined with the Luminoodle) it would be small enough and light enough for a smaller wilder camp though.
Never underestimate the cheap head torch
I’ve added this because alongside all our tent lanterns and lights, a headtorch still goes a long way. They can improve quality of camp life ten fold. Whether it’s prepping and cooking a meal or fixing guy lines and pegs before bed they just lump light EXACTLY where you need it. I know this sounds like idiocy talking about something so simple but you can forget these and they’re absolutely invaluable.
We’ve had some cheap nasty poundland ones but my Vango Photon is affordable, nearly as bright as my mega Led Lenser P7 torch and has outlasted them all. Best of all its a USB rechargeable head torch. It’s bright AF, has two brightness levels, a rear red LED light for walking/cycling on roads. The battery lasted 8 days of hiking the Anglesey Coastal Path on a single charge. It would of plugged into my powerpack if I needed it to. The little lovely extra to the Vango Photon is that you can angle it. Sounds simple but it’s not all that common and it works wonders.
Pro-tip, stash headtorches in the same pocket of your tent, so you know where they are! No more rummaging!
“Convert” Old Camping Lanterns to be Rechargeable
This is going to seem obvious but it’s worth remembering rechargeable batteries and chargers have dropped dramatically in price. In my working life as a location portrait photographer I use rechargeable batteries every day in my remote flashes. I’ve had a bunch of them and now I just pick them up whenever they’re on offer. I have an older LED camping lantern that I picked up from Aldi that uses them. 2900maH x 4 into a camp lantern is a great emergency light to have. Mine lives in my car now too. I recommend these batteries and grab this pretty rapid charger for them.
Use AA/ AAA batteries to charge a USB device!
I picked one of these up on The Mongol Rally in 2011. It uses normal AA/AAA batteries to charge other USB devices like your phone or a rechargeable camping lantern, so if everything USB fails and dies. You can always run to a shop and grab some off the shelf AA’s to charge some bits in an emergency. Very nifty.
Try adding Solar Camping Lights
We’ve got two sets of solar camping lights in our kit too. These are the best solar camping lights I’ve used this year. They’re simple string LED lights with an attached solar panel that you can push into the ground. Try and stake them south facing so they get a lot of the daylight throughout the day. These ones on Amazon are a little more durable than others I have used and cheap as chips. They’re great for decorating the tent. We run them down some of our front guy lines (use those little clothes pegs for hanging Christmas cards to pinch them to your lines) to illuminate them and stop the kids tripping up on them. Solar lights don’t generally emit much actual light however. They maybe useful in a pinch but I’ve not found any that are as as good as the USB rechargeable camping lanterns above. If you’re in a bell tent they look REALLY pretty wrapped around the main pole, until your 3 year old yanks the battery compartment off them. 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to read my article, I just finished another on the best tent pegs you should have and which ones you should ditch asap. I’m really enjoying finally getting my experiences and little things I’ve learnt down finally. I hope you find them useful.