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The Great Camping Lantern Review of 2015

camping lantern

A camping lantern trio ready for testing.

A few months ago, my neighborhood had a blackout. And true to Murphy’s Law, I had a much harder time than necessary finding any of my flashlights or candles. It took some irritating groping in the dark – and I don’t mean the fun kind – before I found a flashlight.

This got me thinking that I need to have some light sources around in conspicuous places. I headed to a few outdoor stores to pick up compact camping lantern sampler. I wanted to see which ones would be good for stashing around the house, stuffing in a backpack/car or even doing both. I wound up with a UCO (pronounced “you-coe,” which I get wrong in the video below) Clarus lantern/flashlight combo, the tiny little NEBO Tools LUMO and the MPOWERD Luci Solar Light. Each one has multiple light levels and easy ways to attach a carabiner so you can dangle it from a handy spot inside your house or the roof of your tent.

camping lantern

The UCO Clarus camping lantern/flashlight combi impresses me – a lot.

Before you watch the video, be aware that I could see better than the GoPro camera could. So the tent appears brighter in person than in the video. ANOTHER NOTE ON THE VIDEO: ANY AND ALL LENS FLARE IS ACCIDENTAL – I AM NOT CHANNELING JAR-JAR ABRAMS!

Let’s take a quick run through each camping lantern. The Clarus has a neat metal loop in the handle. Clip it to a carabiner and hang it from the rough of your tent, give it a little downward tug and it expands into a mini camping lantern. Push it back in, and it focuses the beam flashlight style. For $19.99, it’s hard to argue with the value of having one of these. 150 lumens, 3 AAA batteries.

camping lantern

The super-cool and compact LUMO camping lantern.

The tiny little LUMO is quite a deal. For $5.99, why not have one of these in every room of the house, in your car an in your backpack? It’s not the sort of gizmo you’ll regret buying. It’s the least-bright camping lantern of the three, but it’s also unbelievably small and inexpensive and comes with its own little carabiner. It’s only 25 lumens, but that’s better than zero lumens while fumbling in the dark for a 300-lumen flashlight you can’t find.

As you can tell, I really like the Clarus and the LUMO. But it’s the Luci that blows my mind. And why not? I mean, it’s an inflatable, waterproof, solar-powered camping lantern. Attach it to your backpack to charge, which it will in about 8 hours. It’ll then give you about 12 hours of light, or you can let it sit somewhere and hold its charge for a year until you need it.

camping lantern

The MPOWERD Luci solar-powered camping lantern boggles my mind with awesomeness.

MPOWERD is also positioning Luci as a serious helping hand to bring lighting to people in areas that don’t have reliable – or any – access to electricity. What I think of as a camping lantern is a primary lighting source to some people around the world. I’d say get a bunch for yourself and as gifts for your outdoorsy friends, and maybe throw a few bucks at MPOWERD to put a Luci in the hands of a family in need of some light. $10 – $25, lumens not listed. Or I missed it.

Honestly, each camping lantern in this post deserves a place in your gear stash. Any of them will also make a great gift for anyone, even those who think “If the outdoors are so great, why did we invent the indoors?”.

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