LAST UPDATED: December 15, 2020

The Best Solar Lanterns (Review & Buying Guide) of 2021

Best Choice Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern
Best Value Mpowered Luci Inflatable Solar Light Mpowered Luci Inflatable Solar Light
Premium Pick TomCare Waterproof Metal Solar Lights TomCare Waterproof Metal Solar Lights

From remaining environmentally friendly to never worrying about batteries, solar lanterns offer a wide range of benefits. Useful both indoors and outdoors, these items are incredibly diverse. Some focus on utility features such as high lumens and long performance times. Others lean towards the virtues of aesthetics, with bold exteriors and stylish designs. The best solar lantern illuminates the surroundings without the need for batteries or a hardwired connection. 

An essential component of any emergency kit, a solar lantern lets you see your surroundings without having to navigate dead batteries for flashlights or deal with candles going out in the wind. Helpful for everything from power outages to natural disasters, they are equally handy for travel purposes and as backyard ornaments. Since there are so many options, we’ve broken down the best solar lanterns on the market. Let’s look at some of the top contenders, and you can decide on which one — or ones — are best for you.

The Best Solar Lanterns

 

Offering substantial benefits in terms of storage and performance, the Goal Zero Lighthouse model is a powerful solar lantern. Ringing in at 400 lumens, users benefit from visual clarity during use. The internal power system charges quickly in sunlight, though it features a backup charging method. For periods of extended use, the lantern includes a hand crank for quick-charging abilities. Including a USB port, this solar technology makes the most of modern adaptations. Ideal for emergency kits, this unit can easily restore power to your phone. The lamp itself lets you either use its built-in stand or hanger for optimal light dispersal. The clear casing allows the most light to escape the unit, enhancing brightness. Highly compact and lightweight, it’s easy to include in any emergency safety kit. Overall, in terms of performance, value, and features, this is an ideal solar lantern.

Key Features
  • 400 lumen output
  • 1.5A USB output to charge cell phones
  • 2.5-48 hours of run time
  • Back-up hand crank for fast charging
Specification
  • Brand Goal Zero
  • Model 32004
  • Weight 1.2 pounds
PROS

Super lightweight

Customizable lighting options

Solar, USB, or hand crank charging capabilities

CONS

USB charging cord not included

Hand cranking is not as efficient as some other models

Some issues with light turning on randomly on its own

In terms of quality and performance, the Mpowered Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern is ideal. Taking only seven hours to charge in sunlight, the battery then holds for a full 24 hours of use. By using a white LED light, the product projects 75 lumens in a full 360-degree radius. Giving the opportunity to adjust the level of light based on the situation, you can set the unit to high, low, or medium brightness. Ideal for outdoor purposes and emergency kits alike, this handy solar lantern is lightweight and easy to store. Featuring waterproof exteriors, this unit resists damage from the elements and offers durable performance. The bottom of the lantern centralizes all the controls and acts as a sturdy base. Shrinking down for charging and inflating for use, this lantern is affordable and functional, making it ideal for all budgets.

Key Features
  • Inflatable lantern is ultra space-saving
  • 75 lumen output
  • Fully charges in seven hours of direct sunlight
  • Provides 360 degrees of lighting
Specification
  • Brand Mpowerd
  • Model Luci
  • Weight 4.4 ounces
PROS

IP67 waterproof rated floating lantern

Can provide up to 24 hours of light on a single charge

Can collapse down to 1.5 inches

CONS

Not as bright as many other models

Can be easily punctured

Only charging method is solar power

Balancing aesthetics with function, the TomCare Waterproof Solar Lights offer premium performance levels. Featuring a metal casing, coated with rust-resistant material, these lanterns are ideal for all-year outdoor use. Melding the traditional appearance of lanterns with the environmental virtues of solar power, these lanterns are a great choice for all yards. The sides feature a polymer that resists heat damage and adds a visual effect of active flames. Providing soft ambient lighting to their surroundings, the sides are both sturdy and stylish. Given the waterproof abilities, you can safely keep the units outside throughout the year. So long as they are in a zone with sufficient sunlight, they self-regulate the on/off cycle depending on the time of day. With a durable exterior that withstands all weather conditions, quality lighting, and the traditional appearance, this is a truly premium option.

Key Features
  • Metal flickering flame ambiance
  • Comes as a two-pack
  • Rated IP65 waterproof
  • Equipped with a 2000mAh rechargeable battery
Specification
  • Brand TomCare
  • Model SZ-19003
  • Weight 1.48 pounds each
PROS

Creates a nice ambient light

Excellent for lighting patios and walkways

Can be hung from supports to provide overhead lighting

CONS

Diffuse light is not as strong and directional as some models

Placing the lights too close together causes them not to work properly

Only method of recharging is via solar power

When it comes to camping and other outdoor purposes, having a durable lantern is critical. The Kizen Solar Camping Lantern offers a sturdy exterior that prevents damage of all types. Sturdy by design, the transparent casing is structurally sound so, if dropped or exposed to water, the unit remains functional. The compact nature of the unit makes it ideal for travel purposes. Different light modes let you pick how brightly to illuminate your surroundings, depending on the situation. A powerful light source at its maximum setting, the unit is also ideal for emergency travel kits. Durable in all respects, the wiring features several failsafes to prevent damage from overheating or overcharging. Giving you all the advantages of efficient charging, sound structure, and bright lighting, this unit is durable and high-performance. The design affords the full benefits of bold lighting and the reassurance of product longevity.

Key Features
  • Water-resistant
  • Collapsible for space-saving
  • Three light modes: High, Low, SOS
  • Works as a flashlight when folded
Specification
  • Brand Kizen
  • Model N/A
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Can be fully charged in four hours

Can be used to charge your cell phone via a USB port on the lantern

Can be used in either the collapsed or extended positions

CONS

Output is not as strong as some models

Some concern over durability of the collapsible shade

Handle is not as strong as on other models

One of the biggest advantages of solar lantern technology is the opportunity for low-maintenance backyard fixtures. Instead of wired connections dictating where you can place your lighting, the Maggift Hanging Outdoor Solar Lanterns work anywhere the sun strikes. Featuring a stylish design, these units marry traditional lantern appearances with modern solar technology. Available in white and brown, there is a solid option for all decor types. With a metal handle, the two-pack lanterns hook easily onto any surface. Charging quickly in the sun, these lanterns feature a backup battery power source for overcast periods. When in use, the rustic lanterns offer soft ambient lighting of roughly six lumens. Automatically activating at dusk and deactivating at sunrise, these lanterns add flare to any backyard design while remaining eco-friendly throughout. Stylish and functional, these solar lanterns offer a minimal maintenance solution for soft backyard lighting.

Key Features
  • Two-pack ambient lanterns
  • Provide eight hours of continuous light
  • Equipped with 400 mAh rechargeable battery
  • 6 lumen output
Specification
  • Brand Maggift
  • Model Retro White
  • Weight 10.6 ounces
PROS

Pretty and decorative aesthetic

Provides a soft, romantic light

Can be fully charged in as little as six hours

CONS

Very low light capacity

Can only be recharged via solar power

Base is not as stable as some other models

The LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern is a cleverly designed inflatable lantern that provides up to 75 lumens of light output, making it a great choice for either a visual aid or an ambient light at night. This lightweight floating lantern is IP67 rated to be waterproof up to 1 meter. It can collapse down to be stored very compactly when not in use. It’s a great option for hiking, fishing, camping, boating, patios, emergency preparedness, and more. The battery can be fully charged in approximately 10 hours and can last for up to 24 hours on a single charge. As an added bonus, the light can be recharged by either solar power or by the convenient USB port that is located at the top of the lantern. When using the USB port to charge, the lantern can be fully charged in as little as 1-2 hours.

Key Features
  • Inflatable floating lantern
  • 75 lumen output
  • Waterproof rating of IP67
  • Can provided up to 24 hours of light
Specification
  • Brand Luminaid
  • Model PackLite Nova
  • Weight 5 ounces
PROS

You’re supporting a woman-owned small business with your purchase

When you buy a light, a light is donated to a needy person

Can collapse down to a 1-inch height for space-saving storage

CONS

Can be punctured or torn

Only one light color, so not as ambient as some other models

Can be easily blown away in windy conditions

Sold in a convenient two-pack, the Tansoren Portable LED Camping Lantern offers three convenient methods of recharging: solar power, USB, or 3 AA batteries, giving you lots of options for powering up these bright camping lanterns. The USB port also allows you the ability to charge your Android cell phone or other USB compatible devices during emergencies or power failures. A well-thought out design allows you to collapse the lantern for space-saving and protective storage when not in use. These lanterns are capable of putting out 60 lumens of light in 360 degrees of area. Fully charged, these lanterns will provide eight hours of continuous illumination. A handy S-hook is included so you can suspend the lantern in order to provide overhead light. It’s a great option for camping, emergency power outages, hiking, fishing, hunting, and more.

Key Features
  • Sold as a convenient two-pack
  • Has three different recharging methods
  • Collapsible for space saving storage
  • 100,000 hours of bulb life
Specification
  • Brand Tansoren
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 330 grams
PROS

Can be operated by recharging or by battery

Can be suspended for overhead lighting

Can be used to charge cell phones and USB devices

CONS

Not compatible with Apple iPhone or iPad

Not customizable light setting

Not fully waterproof

If you want to have a unique vintage look that creates a peaceful evening ambiance, the PearlStar Hanging Solar Lights are the ideal choice. These solar powered lanterns can be hung for overhead lighting, or set on the ground or table, giving you unlimited options for placement and layout. Constructed from hard and durable ABS plastic that looks like rubbed bronze metal, these lanterns won’t rust or corrode like metal, making them an efficient and cost-effective lighting option. Each lantern is equipped with a 600mAh rechargeable battery that can be fully charged in as little as 8 hours of direct sunlight and provide 6-8 hours of continuous warm and soft illumination with an output capacity of 6 lumens each. The lanterns are rated IP44 waterproof to be able to withstand harsh rains and weather conditions while continuing to provide reliable function.

Key Features
  • 6 lumens of ambient light output
  • Sold as a convenient two-pack
  • Rated IP44 waterproof
  • Constructed from durable ABS plastic
Specification
  • Brand PearlStar
  • Model AM00005_1
  • Weight 1.2 pounds
PROS

Warm, soft light creates a nice ambiance

Long-lasting construction materials

Classic and timeless design

CONS

Not suitable for high-capacity illumination needs

Can only be recharged via solar power

Can blow around a lot on windy days

If you like options, the AGPTEK Solar Lantern is right up your alley. This smartly designed lantern can actually be recharged via five different methods, making it one of the most versatile lanterns on our list. Choose from solar power, hand crank, 12-volt car adapter, AC adapter, or three AA batteries to charge or power your lantern. This unit is equipped with 36 LED lights that offer two illumination settings of bright and super bright that allow you to customize the light output to suit your needs. It’s also equipped with a universal USB charging port that is capable of powering your mobile phones and other USB compatible devices during a power failure. This is an excellent light source for camping, hiking, fishing, emergencies, and more. It provides a super clean and bright white light that will allow you to see and be seen when it counts.

Key Features
  • Super bright LED white lantern
  • Five different methods of charging capability
  • 100,000 hour bulb life
  • Lightweight and highly portable
Specification
  • Brand AGPTEK
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 1.6 pounds
PROS

Two brightness modes

Can be used as a tabletop or hanging lantern

Can power cell phones and USB compatible devices

CONS

Light is super bright and not a great ambient option

Not fully waterproof

USB port does not have a cover to protect it from moisture and corrosion

If you’re in the market for a solar powered lantern that is super compact and highly portable, check out the Hisvision Solar Powered LED Camping Lantern. This lightweight lantern can be collapsed down to function as a flat flashlight as well as a lantern. It can be recharged via solar power for the included USB cable that can be attached to a car charger, AD adapter, or laptop computer. It comes equipped with a USB port for charging your mobile phone and other devices while on the go. Weighing only 163 grams, it’s one of the lightest lanterns available, making it a favorite choice of hikers and backpackers. It features four light modes: Low, High, SOS, and Flashlight, giving you lots of options for illumination. Constructed from hard ABS plastic, this little lantern is both durable and water-resistant. It comes with a handy hook so you can suspend it for overhead lighting needs.

Key Features
  • Collapsible lantern for extra portability
  • Solar or USB charging capabilities
  • Bright LED light provides four lighting modes
  • Able to charge cell phones and mobile devices
Specification
  • Brand Hisvision
  • Model N/A
  • Weight 163 grams
PROS

Highly customizable lighting options

Super compact and portable

Water-resistant

CONS

Not waterproof

Concern over the ruggedness of the collapsible shade

Light enough to be easily blown away in strong wind

Best Solar Lanterns Buying Guide & FAQ

As you may have already noticed, the options available when it comes to solar lanterns are plentiful. That being said, there are several considerations that you can make in order to help narrow down your choices and make the decision process somewhat easier. One of the easiest choices you can make is to decide what your main purpose for a solar lantern will be. Do you want something that will function as a bright light for camping or emergencies, or a lantern that serves more as an ambient accent for your patio, porch, pool, or other outdoor entertaining space?

Consider too if you want a lantern that is solely recharged on solar power or if you’d like it to come equipped with other charging options, such as a USB cable, AC adapter, or even battery power or hand crank. This will likewise help you narrow down your choices significantly. For other considerations, our informative buying guide will help further weed through the plethora of options out there.

Benefits of a Solar Lantern

The benefits of owning a solar lantern are numerous. One of the greatest benefits is the fact that they don’t require electricity or batteries to run, but are efficiently and cost-effectively powered for free by the sun. Not having to rely on electricity to power a light source is imperative in a situation like a natural disaster or storm that can knock out power for days, even weeks.

Another benefit of solar lanterns is that they’re highly portable and lightweight, allowing you to have light anywhere you need it. This is great for outdoor enthusiasts, like backpackers, hikers, campers, etc. that don’t have a ton of extra room for lighting accessories or can’t afford to carry a lot of extra weight in gear.

Many solar lanterns today also have the added benefit of allowing you to charge your mobile phone or device via a USB charging cable. This is great for camping and hiking as well as in a weather emergency or natural disaster. Being able to keep your phone charged in order to receive updates or stay in touch with loved ones and friends is an option so many of us take for granted, often not considering what we will do when our cell phone battery starts to get low and we have no access to an electrical outlet to charge it up.

  • Solar lanterns are portable and rechargeable light sources that are great for emergencies or evening outdoor activities.
  • They have multiple uses, including alerting rescuers, creating ambiance, allowing you to read or see clearly at night, and giving a sense of security in the dark.
  • Using solar power to charge a lantern is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to get light when you need it.

Popular Types of Solar Lanterns

There are several different types of solar lanterns to choose from based on their purpose or intended use. With modern advances in solar technology making solar a much more popular, efficient, and environmentally friendly option, manufacturers have figured out a way to make virtually any light system or lantern solar powered. From whole house lighting systems to some of the tiniest and most portable lights, there is literally something for everyone.

Hanging solar lantern in the garden
Solar Lantern Hanging in the Garden

Decorative Solar Lanterns

This type of solar lantern encompasses several different styles of lantern that are used primarily as accents to create ambient and diffuse lighting arrangements for indoor and outdoor spaces that provide enough light to see safely, but not so bright as to blind you and your guests. Low maintenance, durable, and cost-effective, solar powered decorative lighting is becoming increasingly affordable and innovatively designed.

From patterned metal cutouts to vintage oil-style lanterns, hanging patio lanterns, walkway accents built to look like candles, rocks, or glass globes, there are literally hundreds of different looking decorative solar powered lanterns for your home, office, restaurant, or recreational space. They usually emit a low level of warm light that is both forgiving and inviting.

Emergency Solar Lanterns 

This type of lantern is usually kept on hand in the event of an unplanned power failure or natural disaster in which power can be out for days to weeks. These lanterns are usually exceptionally sharp, bright white light that allows you to see and be seen for a good distance. They’re designed primarily with safety and security in mind.

Oftentimes, this type of solar lantern will have multiple charging capabilities, such as USB ports, hand cranks, battery operation, as well as solar to ensure that you are never without light when you need it most. Today’s solar powered emergency lanterns can also come equipped with the capability to recharge your cell phone or other mobile devices, so they serve not only as a light source, but as a temporary power source as well. 

Camping Solar Lanterns

Solar powered camping lanterns can come in a wide variety of styles and lumen capacities. From diffuse lanterns that you can read by, to super bright LED lanterns that can light up your entire campsite, the options are many.

Often, solar powered camping lanterns will be waterproof and may even be able to float, giving you the option of taking them kayaking, canoeing, camping, hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, and any other outdoor activity you might think of. They’re a versatile light that can sit around a campfire or be suspended from the inside of your tent or a nearby tree. This type of lantern, like the emergency lanterns, will often have multiple ways of charging it and the ability to charge your mobile devices as well.

What to Look for When Buying Solar Lanterns

When sorting through your options for suitable solar lanterns, consider their lumen output. You’re not going to want a blinding level of brightness if you’re planning to light your patio, walkway, garden, etc. Likewise, if you want to be able to have a lantern that is strong enough to read by or to illuminate dark paths while you’re picking your way across a trail at night, a tiny, decorative lantern that only puts out 6 lumens of light is not going to serve your purpose.

Also consider how long the solar lantern takes to reach a full charge. For outdoor decorative lighting that just sits in the same spot all the time, it doesn’t really matter if it has to sit in the sun all day to charge. If you have a camping or emergency lantern, however, you’ll want something that can be charged much more quickly and efficiently. 

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The Most Important Features of Solar Lanterns

When selecting an appropriate and reliable solar lantern, there are a few key features to look for specifically. Checking these boxes will help to ensure that you get a durable and trustworthy lantern that won’t leave you in the dark when you need it the most.

Long-Lasting Illumination

Solar lanterns come with different capabilities when it comes to how long the battery can last before you need to recharge. Most decorative lanterns can provide up to 8-10 hours of continuous light before needing a recharge. Camping and emergency lanterns vary greatly depending on the size of their rechargeable battery or the strength at which you have the light set on. Choosing a brighter light setting will obviously drain the batteries quicker than a lower light setting. Some emergency lanterns have the ability to produce light for up to 24 hours, while others may only last between 3-8 hours, depending on the chosen light setting.

Water Resistance

Because your solar lanterns need to be left outside in order to recharge, they need to be able to withstand harsh rain and weather conditions. If not fully waterproof, which a lot of good, high-quality camping and emergency lanterns will be, then at least make sure the lanterns are water-resistant. This is especially important with decorative solar lanterns that are left outside all the time and are exposed to rain, snow, dew, and other forms of atmospheric moisture that could possibly seep into their components and cause them to malfunction before they really should. That’s the last thing you want to have happened if you invested a good amount of money in your outdoor lanterns.

Durable Construction

When choosing either decorative solar lanterns or solar powered camping or emergency lanterns, it’s important that they’re constructed from materials that are durable and long-lasting. Hard ABS plastic, shatterproof glass, and reliable energy efficient LED lights are all components to look for in a good quality lantern. ABS plastic is an excellent option because it’s not only lightweight, but also dent-proof, rust-proof, impact-resistant, and shatter-resistant. Likewise, if there are any metal components to your solar lantern, you want them to be rust- and corrosion-resistant, like stainless steel or aluminum alloy in order to ensure the longest lifespan possible for your lanterns.

A solar lantern on a working table
Solar Lantern Over the Table

Best Solar Lanterns FAQ:

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and concerns regarding solar powered lanterns. These questions and their subsequent answers will further familiarize you with what to look for and what to expect when choosing solar lanterns so that you can make a fully informed choice.

Q. How long should solar lights last?

A: Generally speaking, the LED lights inside solar lanterns can last up to 100,000 hours of use. The rechargeable batteries inside the lanterns tend to have a lifespan of 3-4 years if used daily. A good camping or emergency solar lantern that is used much less frequently could last you a lifetime.

Q. Can solar powered lights catch fire?

A: Yes, solar powered lights do have a risk of catching fire. The risk is very low and mainly involves the battery component of the lantern, especially if the battery is lithium-ion. 

Q. Do solar lights need sunlight or just daylight?

A: While direct sunlight is the most efficient way to charge up your solar lantern, it can also be charged effectively with the energy from daylight. Charging time will just be a little longer.

Our Top Pick

When it comes down to it, our favorite solar lantern is the Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern. Offering substantial benefits in terms of storage and performance, the Goal Zero Lighthouse model is a powerful solar lantern. While not ideal for decorative use, with its 400 lumens of output, users benefit from visual clarity during use. The internal power system charges quickly in sunlight, though it features a backup charging method. Overall, in terms of performance, value, and features, this is an ideal solar lantern.  

Final Thoughts

Today’s solar powered lanterns are exceptionally efficient and environmentally friendly options for lighting up the night. Whether you need a solar lantern for creating a large amount of bright light that is perfect for camping, hiking, hunting, or emergency power outages, or you want something that’s going to create a romantic and inviting atmosphere for your outdoor patio, porch, pool area, or entertaining space, reliable and low maintenance solar lanterns will provide the perfect amount of light wherever and whenever you need it.

Sources:

  1. Solar Lamp – Wikipedia