Even in glorious sunshine, the tidiest campsite is something akin to a well-organised trip hazard. But it’s when the sun goes down that guy ropes, tent pegs and eskies conspire to jump out and trip us over. As we fumble in the blackness to find the medical kit, we come to understand the value of practical camp lighting. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.
Practical camp lighting is not only convenient, it's a safety essential. That’s why I’ve reviewed Australia’s best camping lights and written an easy-to-follow buyers guide.
Use this guide to find the perfect camping lights for your next camping adventure.
My Review Process
Over decades of camping, I’ve lit my campsite with everything from old-school kerosene lamps to 9V battery torches. Ultimately, a camping light should deliver practical levels of diffused light. You should be able to navigate your campsite and surroundings safely using your peripheral vision. You should have enough light to cook, find things, tie knots, and read instructions.
Good camping lights and lanterns should be robust, bright yet adjustable, and easy to carry, position and hang. Look for camping lights that have long run times. There are several power options with suitability depending on your camping style and duration – rechargeable batteries are ideal for many campers.
A level of water resistance isn’t essential, but it’s definitely a bonus. So too is an anti-bug-attracting setting.
The EPE 2400 Lumen LED Area Light Kit delivers bright practical lighting for an entire campsite. Ideal for a group or large family camping, the EPE will illuminate a 6 x 3 - meter gazebo.
It’s my pick for the best overall light because it excels at its main purpose. With this level of light you can pitch a complex tent, prepare the boat, fix your car, or sort out your camping gear - on the darkest of evenings.
The small LED panel sits on the end of an adjustable (2.5m) pole you can drive into the ground. Running on a 12V battery there are 3 brightness settings you can adjust via remote control.
While more expensive than the average camping light, the ML6 is a feature-laden camping lantern masterpiece. Ideal for the broadest range of camping styles, the ML6 delivers up to 750 lumens of glare-free illumination.
Light your 3 x 3m tent of gazebo with effective, practical light, even at half power. Take advantage of the USB ports to use your ML6 as a device charging station.The multiple settings can easily be adjusted with the included remote control. One I particularly like is the red light for avoiding night vision loss. You can also dim the ML6 light anywhere between 750 and 20 lumens to match the conditions at your campsite.
The LED UFO light is one of the most cost-effective and popular camping lights available. With 100 lumens of bright white light, it will illuminate your mid-sized tent or gazebo.
Placed centrally in a 2 x 3m tent or gazebo, it’s easy to mount and casts practical light throughout a modest space. It requires 4 AA batteries which will provide full illumination for up to 24 hours on high. You can extend the battery life by running your UFO light on the low or mid setting. Perfect for weekend family camping.
Often the first choice for veteran campers, the Gasmate Medium Gas Lantern supplies outstanding, reliable warm light for just about every camping setup.
Its robust construction provides excellent weather protection in the most corrosive environments. Producing more than 3,000 lumens, the lantern will deliver impressive run times.
Ideal for most campers, this is my personal preference owing to its reliability and simplicity. Perfect for extended camping adventures, there's something warm and comforting about gas lamps in cold weather.
Brilliant for backpackers and minimalist campers, this is a torch and space illumination in one.
The supplied compact 6W solar panel is compatible with a host of devices, from phones to lights. The torch produces 200 lumens, with 40 meters of beam distance. The LED space light produces a maximum of 350 lumens with a run time of 12 hours on a full charge.
This solar light will produce more than enough light for a 6-person tent or larger. It’s lightweight and stuffs easily into a backpack taking up minimal space. This is a premium backpacking lighting kit and the perfect personal camping light.
With 3,000 lumens you can light up entire campsites. This powerful rechargeable lantern has 3 light levels as well as a nightlight, red flash, and red SOS.
Charge from a solar system or 12-volt battery, and use the USB ports as a central charging station for phones and devices.
This is brilliant for extended family camping. It’s also for those campers who want enough functional light to complete intricate tasks on dark nights.
Sitting neatly in the palm of your hand, the HardKore weighs just 770g. This tiny LED lantern produces 155 lumens of white light lasting 6 hours on high or 90 hours on its lowest setting on a single charge.
The orange light mode is ideal for bug reduction and maintaining night vision. With a waterproof rating of IP66, rain and dust isn’t a problem. That’s why this Hardkorr lantern makes a brilliant outdoor camping light.
I also like the HardKorr for backpackers, as just one light is enough for cooking, reading and lighting a small tent. Purchase in multiples, and you can place them all around a larger campsite for multi-point illumination.
The ML4 is the palm-sized stablemate of the ML6 reviewed above. This lantern has all the outstanding features of the larger version; however, it's pocket-size and produces 300 lumens on high.
It’s perfect for backpackers and solo travellers, but such is the quality of light distribution, a family of four will find it very practical for their 6-person tent or 3 x 3m gazebo. Cook, read, and carry out general camping duties on the darkest of nights with the premium ML4 camping lamp.
This Wanderer Moonbeam delivers a very bright 2,000 lumens. While considered a large camping light, it’s still very compact. 2,000 lumens is enough to light a large (6 x 3m) family gazebo or tent. Hang it from your gazebo or sit it on your camping table.
With six light modes, the Wanderer also offers power bank capabilities. This rechargeable lantern will be ideal for most campers, appealing to weekenders and those spending extended periods miles from civilisation.
There’s a reason you see these lanterns in working condition 80 years after they were first constructed. They are very simple, built from metal and glass, and have a classic camping lantern look.
These lanterns traditionally run on kerosene or lamp oil. However, you can also use citronella oil and turn your lamp into a mosquito repellent.
As the name suggests, the Hurricane Lantern is brilliant in the wind and rain. In my opinion, there’s nothing more durable and reliable. So long as you have fuel, you’ll have practical, enduring light.
How To Choose The Best Lights For Camping
The guide below contains all the critical information you need to select the perfect camping light or lantern for your camping adventures.
Personal Light Or Space Light?
Personal lights include torches, headlamps, or lights that illuminate the area surrounding your body or personal space. They’re often directional and have limited capacity to light areas in your visual periphery.
A camping light or lantern is usually a space light and allows you to see things in your peripheral vision. These lights can illuminate the general campsite, tent, or gazebo, allowing everybody to see. They can be carried like a torch, but usually don’t project far enough for navigating tricky terrain.
Different Types Of Camping Lights
Well-equipped camps will employ a combination of space lights (lamps and Lanterns) and torches and headlamps (personal lights).
They include battery headlamps and hand-held torches (rechargeable and disposable batteries), rechargeable battery lanterns and lamps (12V and rechargeable lithium-ion), LPG-powered lanterns, and fuel-powered lamps (kerosene). Most electrical lamps now use LED light bulbs.
Camping lights are often battery-powered and use both rechargeable lithium-ion and disposable batteries. More advanced camping set-ups use solar panels to charge 12v DC deep cycle batteries for lighting and other devices such as camping fridges.
LPG gas remains very popular with experienced campers due to its ease and extended running times. Most campers will carry LPG for cooking, so they can perform several tasks and maximise the use of just one fuel source.
Kerosene and lamp oil are still in use due to their simplicity and reliability. Butane-fuelled lighting is available but usually preferred for short-term camping trips owing to the need for fuel canisters.
There are solar-specific camping lights that use an integral lithium-ion battery charged by a compact and flexible solar panel.
Disposable battery lights for camping are still used and popular. They're ideal for weekends and overnighters. Longer-term campers and backpackers tend to select rechargeable lithium-ion. They can recharge these batteries from their solar panel, vehicle or 12v DC.
Many battery lamps will take both battery types. However, many modern lamps have inbuilt lithium-ion with USB charging ports for convenience.
Solar camping panels have boomed in popularity. Many campers have solar panels to charge 12v DC and lithium-ion batteries. The batteries power everything from lights to fridges and phones.
Solar light kits such as the Dog Box reviewed above are popular with backpackers. They’re compact, lightweight, and avoid the need for carrying heavy batteries and fuels.
Gas or LPG camp lighting is often the first choice for experienced campers. Most campers will carry LPG for camping stoves, so it makes sense to use gas for lighting also. LPG tanks are large and heavy, so it’s chosen by those with vehicles, caravans, and trailers.
Butane is an alternative to LPG and is ideal for weekends, overnighters, and minimalist campers.
Run-time is a huge variable for camping lights. Always check the factory specifications of any light you’re considering and treat it as indicative only.
Battery-powered lights on a full charge can run for as long as 90 hours at 20 lumens (very low), to less than four hours at 3,000 lumens (very high). There is a significant variation in battery capacity between camping light types and brands.
Gas and fuel lamps will run for as long as your fuel lasts. Run-time is dependent on brightness, wind protection, and the LPG cylinder size.
Select a lamp based on the minimum brightness you will need over a particular period (e.g., one night) before a recharge is required.
LED bulbs are now the dominant bulb in all lights for camping owing to their phenomenal efficiency and exceptionally long life.
Gas lamps use a device called a mantle, a mesh fabric that glows when saturated with gas and ignited. They can take some skill to prepare for lighting and are a cheap, fragile, and disposable (yet critical) part of a gas lamp.
Fuel lanterns use a fabric wick. These are far more robust than a mantle yet produce less light. When saturated with fuel and ignited, they glow similar to a mantle.
You'll rarely come across a quality camping lantern that you might consider flimsy.
Look for strong handles and hooks, as well as materials that are impact resistant. An IP or IPX water/dustproof rating is a bonus, as are strong power cables and electrical connectors/plugs.
Price points can be an indication of construction and materials quality.
Camping lights are relatively inexpensive. Quality lights start from as little as $10 with high output and high tech ranging from $110 to $130. An oil lantern can be as cheap as $12, with LPG gas lamps between $20 and $40, depending on size.
Quality, multi-setting rechargeable lanterns average around $60 to $70. A good solar kit including the solar panel starts at around $60.
The Explore Planet Earth (EPE) 2400 Lumen LED Area Light Kit wins for its exceptional brightness, easy mounting, light quality, and unique design. Both the Led Lenser ML6 and ML4 are tied-second for outstanding light quality, functionality, and design.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.