The Best Lantern for Prepping and Survival

Lanterns have been helping us out for a few centuries now and have always been a reliable choice for lighting. Today, they are still useful beyond camping excursions. In an emergency, a good lantern will let you see when the power goes out. The best survival lantern will let you see while the power is out, is versatile enough to handle any situation, and will survive a beating.

Lanterns have been around for a while. In 1862 John Erwin invented the modern oil lantern, but lanterns themselves have been around since ancient Egyptian times. Since then, a lot of advancements have been made. Now there are plenty of brands, models, and fuel types to choose from. Some are innovative and some are just decorative. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best lanterns, tested them, and the results are in: the overall best, a gas (propane) option, and a candle option. If you need a lantern that won’t let you down in a survival situation, one of our suggestions will keep you out of the dark.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


Vont LED Lantern 2 pack

The Best Survival Lantern

Vont LED Lantern

Bright, Compact, and Lightweight

These collapsible lanterns outperform the rest at the right price and are bright enough to light up any site.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Vont makes solid, inexpensive, lightweight gear that uses industry-leading LEDs that throw some respectable lumens (140). Their collapsible lantern 2-pack is no different- solid ABS construction keeps you from cracking a glass dome, letting you toss it around a little more than you would a typical lantern. The collapsing feature is brilliant because it lets you stow it into a small profile under five inches tall and less than half a pound. It’s also a nifty way to adjust the amount of light.

The Vont LED lantern is a solid pick since it is inexpensive, still durable, and uses widely available AA batteries for power. The 90-hour runtime lets it outlast plenty of other lanterns both in and above its class. There are no buttons to break, and the lantern is IP44 water-resistant, meaning these little lanterns will handle a wide range of situations.


Coleman Quickpack Propane Lantern

Gas Lantern

Coleman Propane Lantern

Dependable, Propane-Powered, and Bright

A thousand lumens is enough to light up any area with this gas-powered lantern with the QuickPack feature.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Coleman knows there is nothing quite like gas, and their propane lantern proves this by putting out some serious lumens (1,000). You can run it for close to 13 hours on a one-pound propane cylinder, and it will brightly light up a huge radius of 22 meters. It has a push-button ignition and adjustable controls so you can easily start and control the light output.

The really nice part of the Coleman Propane Lantern is the QuickPack feature, which lets the base double as a transport case to protect the treated glass globe and propane attachment assembly. This lets you drop this full-size powerful lantern down to a little over 10″ and stow it for transport.


UCO Original Candle Lantern

Candle Lantern

UCO Original Candle Lantern

Rugged, Candle-Powered, and Dependable

Old-school technology proves to be dependable in unpredictable survival situations.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Candles keep it simple: wax, wick, and flame. Simple often does really well in survival situations where one thing going wrong can be life or death. With this in mind, UCO developed a modern candle lantern that is small, portable, and elegantly simple. It uses our top pick candle from our candle review roundup, letting you take the best survival candle anywhere on the go.

The UCO Original Candle Lantern is the simplest solution, and one of the most lightweight solutions we found. The spring-loaded candle mechanism is sort of genius, and when you remove the candle you can collapse the holder down to a tiny four inches. You won’t be putting off a huge amount of lumens like our other picks, but a simple candle lantern is often all you need and works great for not broadcasting where you are at.


Everything We Recommend

Vont LED Lantern 2 pack

Vont LED Lantern

These collapsible lanterns outperform the rest at the right price and are bright enough to light up any site.

Where to Buy

$18* (2 pack) at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Coleman Propane Lantern QuickPack Mantle

Coleman Propane Lantern

A thousand lumens is enough to light up any area with this gas-powered lantern with the QuickPack feature.

Where to Buy

$31* at Amazon

$47* at eBay

*at time of reviewing

UCO Original Candle Lantern

UCO Original Candle Lantern

Old-school technology proves to be dependable in unpredictable survival situations.

Where to Buy

$30* at Amazon

$25* at eBay

*at time of reviewing


The Lanterns We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several lantern brands and types that we tested: Coleman, Vont, GearLight, LuminAID, Energizer, UCO, EtekCity, and more.

There are a lot of brands that make lanterns but only a few of them are made with rugged survival in mind. Many everyday plastic constructions are simply not designed to last. A few are designed to look better than they function- designed to be decorative for outdoor weddings and events like that.

We also steered clear of combo lanterns due to cost and complexity. If you have a lantern that also charges your phone, broadcasts emergency signals, and will cook a steak, that’s great! If not- we’re not going to suggest you put down that kind of money on a fancy combo lantern- there are plenty of other prepping and survival essentials we can recommend. Typically, when gear and gadgets are combined, you end up with just a worse version of each of the functional features.


What to Look For

  1. Value
  2. Durability
  3. Lumens
  4. Runtime
  5. Versatility

The best survival lanterns have several important features to look for:

When you get the right blend of these, you can find an unmatched lantern that will help you stay lit as you navigate through any emergency. Below, we break down what each of these features means for a truly great lantern:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you can spend on a lantern really shouldn’t be that high. Lanterns are just one tool in a long list of gear that can help you in an emergency.

Sure, the dual-fuel Coleman lantern was very cool- but its cost is a little higher than we would suggest unless you have other uses for it- like camping on the weekends.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like a lantern. It’s better to diversify your lighting options and make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Durability

Lanterns, especially the ones with glass globes, can be a little on the fragile side. We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows where they toss an oil lantern into a barn and it bursts into flame. Luckily, they are a little more durable these days.

A few of the collapsible lanterns we tested had some durability concerns- it became evident that they will only collapse and pop up a certain number of times before wearing out and breaking.

Stick with lanterns that have a proven track record for durability, and it’ll help you sleep (and eat) easier.

Lumens

Lumens are a measurement of light output. Flashlights range from 20 lumens all the way up to a blinding 3500 (HID car headlights are 3000L). The lanterns we tested had lumens ranging from 75 to 1000. There is no ‘right answer’ for how many lumens you should have in a lantern, but adjustability is nice to be able to control the light output.

Runtime

Runtime is just how long it lasts when it is turned on. This is usually directly related to its battery/fuel capacity and the lumen output. You want the runtime to cover a large part of the night so that you can get important tasks done regardless of the time.

Versatility

Lanterns do weigh a lot and take up a large amount of space, which limits their versatility for portable survival kits. Here are the stats for our tested lanterns (without fuel tanks):

LanternMaterialHeight (Collapsed)Weight
Vont LEDImpact Resistant ABS Plastic4.8″7.6 oz.
Coleman QuickPack PropaneGlass Globe, Porcelain-coated Steel10.2″3.26 lbs.
UCO Original CandleGlass, Aluminum4.3″6.4 oz.
Coleman LEDImpact Resistant ABS Plastic8.7″1.19 lbs.
EtekCity Cl10 LEDImpact Resistant ABS Plastic5.2″10 oz.
GearLight LEDImpact Resistant ABS Plastic5.9″12 oz.
Energizer LEDImpact Resistant ABS Plastic10.7″1.41 lbs.
LuminAID Inflatable SolarABS Plastic1″5 oz.
Coleman Powerhouse Dual Fuel Glass Globe, Porcelain-coated Steel15.6″4.5 lbs.

All lanterns we encountered except the LuminAID had relatively large profiles and weights when you are looking at portable kit use. The LuminAID’s downfall was the measly 75-lumen output.


How to Use a Survival Lantern

Survival lanterns are easy to use once you figure out the fuel type. There is a wide variety of fuel types to pick from:

  • batteries
    • disposable
    • rechargeable
      • solar
      • kinetic
      • external power source
  • propane
  • butane
  • gasoline
  • candle/flame

Some models even have multiple fuel types, making them very versatile. Depending on the power source, you may just need to switch the lantern on or safely light the lantern.

Lanterns make the most sense for your in-place survival kit setup. Even the lightest and smallest profile lanterns get edged out in functionality by flashlights and even some headlamps.

If you don’t have a lantern, you could always create a makeshift lantern using another light source and diffuser. AlaskaGranny shows us how:


Who Needs a Lantern?

Lanterns are a great way to light up an area quickly for survival tasks or camping. They are also a great solution for 360° light when you are on the move. Most people are familiar with lanterns and have used one at some point in their life, but they are especially useful in emergencies.

Lanterns are great to consider adding to this kit:

Even the lightest weight collapsible lantern is a little much to add to a bug-out bag, get-home bag, or EDC loadout. If you have lanterns in those kits, you may want to evaluate your weight since the functionality can often be replaced with a flashlight. If weight/space is not a concern, then keep the lantern in your portable kits.

No matter what threats come your way, a lantern is nice to have around so you can stay out of the dark.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing is done to determine the best lantern is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Sterling, C. (2008). Military Communications: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc. (Source).

Jovinelly, J. (2007). The crafts and culture of a medieval manor. New York: Rosen Pub. Group. (Source).

Paek, H. (2010). Theory-Based Approaches to Understanding Public Emergency Preparedness: Implications for Effective Health and Risk Communication. Journal of Health Communication. Issue 4. Pages 428-444. (Source).


The Final Word

Lanterns have been around for a while and now come in a huge variety of fuel types. Your preferred fuel type is based on how you plan to use the lantern- or you may even opt to go with dual-fuel or have a few lantern types on tap. We tested many lanterns out over the years and last few months and found the brightest, most reliable, durable, and versatile survival lanterns on the market.

To go along with a solid lantern, you’ll need other light sources. We suggest looking into:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the Vont LED Lantern is the best option given the value, durability, lumens, runtime, and versatility. If you take our suggestion and grab one of our lantern picks- make sure you get used to it by learning how to operate it. You don’t want to wait until you need it in an emergency before you figure it out.

It’s always a good idea to get things out of your kits and to get familiar with them.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Lantern for Survival and Prepping

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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