Life can seem stagnant and cumbersome when city life takes a toll on you. For many – and rightly so – camping for a few days in nature is all it takes to rejuvenate and bounce back. From introspective solo trips to lively excursions with family and friends, camping has proven to be one of the most sought-after recreational outdoor activities regardless of what country you hail from.
Anyone who has gone camping even once knows that having the right camping equipment is extremely crucial for a good camping experience. And having the right kind of camping light is right at the top of the list. Moreover, if you have solar lights or solar lanterns, then consider yourself sorted in that department.
Let’s take a quick look at the most sought-after brands offering solar camping lights.
With multiple charging methods and lighting settings along with an additional option to charge your mobile phone, AGPTEK Solar Camping Lantern is the overall winner amongst all of the solar-powered camping lights available today.
Lightweight and compact, BioLite Sunlight Portable Solar Light is the best value for money solar lantern out there. While it is non-collapsible, its compact size makes it extremely easy to carry around. With a relatively faster recharge time of 5-7 hours, you wouldn’t need to worry about the availability of long sunny windows to charge this solar lantern.
If you are looking for a luxurious, best-in-class lighting solution utilizing solar energy, be it for camps or RVs, HKYH Solar Panel Lighting Kit is what you are looking for. With just 6 hours of recharge time using a large flexible solar panel, these solar camping lights can brighten up your camper with four separate bright LED bulbs.
How Do Solar Camping Lights Work?
When it comes to the camping market, solar power is absolutely the way to go. Sustainable and eco-friendly (keeping in line with most campers’ and hikers’ ethos), solar camping products are always designed with functionality and durability in mind. As such, they tend to function a little differently, or with some speciality variations, when compared to conventional commercial solar lighting (like those solar lights marketed for the home owner and their garden). Let’s take a look at just exactly how solar camping lights work.
In essence, all solar camping lights have the same basic construction – a solar panel is built into the unit which converts sunlight into electricity and stores this energy in a battery to be later used to power a bulb (or several bulbs). However, the nuances of this formula can vary widely. Some solar camping lights are designed to be large, bulky, sturdy affairs which look similar to old-school oil lamps. These typically are tall-standing designs with a handle on top so that they can be held as well as hung, and may come with several additional features or charging methods. Other solar lights are designed to be as small as possible, so as to facilitate their transport, and are likely little more than a powerful light with a solar panel on the back. Yet more solar lights are foldable or collapsible units.
Additional charging methods on solar lights can come in super handy, since the dependency of solar powered technology on sunlight can sometimes be limiting. Thus, some solar lights can also be charged via a hand-crank, a USB plug, a car/cigarette-lighter plug, batteries, and/or mains power (if necessary).
Typically, though, it’s the solar panel you’ll be using to charge your camping lantern. Solar panels are comprised of many smaller, individual solar cells made of polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon films. When sunlight passes through these thin films, it pushes electrons from one layer to another, generating volts of electricity in a process known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’. This electricity is then stored in the camping lantern’s battery for use when you decide to turn it on. Charging times in sunlight vary widely, depending on the quality of the panel (and remember that most panels can only charge most effectively when in constant direct sunlight), but tend toward the 5-7 hour mark for a full charge. Luminosity also depends on the quality of the product, and may range between about 100 and 600 lumens.
Pros and Cons of Solar-Power Camping Lanterns
As with any technology, it’s well worth reading up on the positives and negatives surrounding the products before you aim to buy. As such, let’s take a look at the fundamental pros and cons of solar-powered camp lights.
- Emergency light. There’s nothing scarier or potentially more dangerous than camping in the great outdoors only to discover that you’ve run out of batteries, or the torches you brought with you are dead. With solar powered camping lanterns, provided you have sunlight during the day you need never be left in the dark come nightfall.
- Free electricity. Let us not forget how appealing it is that you can light your way at night whilst camping without ever having to pay a cent for the electricity you’re using – it all comes straight from the sun!
- Green energy. The world is in climate crisis right now, and every little thing we can do to help out is something we should do – this includes swapping out wasteful batteries and carbon-costly electricity for renewable energy sources like solar.
- Durable. Camping equipment is designed to be durable, and the same goes for these solar lanterns. Waterproof, shock proof, and weatherproof, the very best models are designed to function just fine in all but the most extreme of weather conditions.
- Versatile. Say you’ve been hiking all day and the sun hasn’t peaked out from behind the clouds once? Fret not, many of the best solar powered camping lanterns can be hand-cranked or charged with batteries or a variety of plugs.
- Sunlight dependent. All solar power is dependent on consistent, strong, direct sunlight to function efficiently and effectively, but never is this more important to the hiker and camper. Since we folk love to be outdoors in all weather, it’s worth noting that in low light conditions or on overcast days, your solar lantern will not charge via the solar panel.
- Variable quality. Unfortunately, the solar market is saturated (just like any market) with poor quality products. Whilst there are some real gems out there, it can be hard to find them for products which promise one charging time (or luminosity, lighting length, or durability) and deliver another. Be sure to check out customer comments and reviews before you buy.
- Slow charging. Unfortunately, solar panel technology (though improving every day) still tends to charge our devices, homes, and appliances at a noticeably slower rate than does conventional grid electricity. Whilst this shouldn’t often affect us, it will be noticeable in camping lighting, since you’ll have to lay your lantern in direct sunlight for at least 5 hours a day to get the most out of it come night; compared to maybe just 2 or 3 hours charging via USB or some other method.
The Best Solar Powered Camping Lights And Lanterns
Now let’s get an in-depth understanding of the features offered by the best solar camping lights in the market.
Suaoki Collapsible Solar LED Camping Lantern
- Brand: Suaoki
- Color: Green
- High level lighting time after fully charged: 2 hours
- Low level lighting time after fully charged: 4 hours
- Flash level lighting time after fully charged: 4 hours
Suaoki Collapsible Solar LED Camping Lantern is a great solar-powered lantern given its versatility and compact folding design. You can transform it into a wide floodlight by opening its three panels to 90 degrees, or into a flashlight by just closing it. The built-in hooks come in handy when you want to hang the lantern from above.
Given its short runtime of 2 to 4 hours, it is best used for a short camping trip as opposed to extended stays. However, it does have a USB charging option apart from being solar-powered, which does come to use in some cases.
- 3 foldable solar panels
- Dual brightness and beam settings
- Short runtime
BioLite SunLight Portable Solar Light
- Brand: BioLite
- Color: Grey
- Light Panel With 3 Modes
- Hanging Clip
- Power Button
- Micro USB Charge In
While it may not fold or collapse like other solar camping lights in this list, BioLite SunLight Portable Solar Light is already compact enough to fit in your camping bag. The fact that it is lightweight makes it ideal for backpackers or even families. One really smart feature of this light is its built-in sundial which helps you position the light for optimal recharge time. The 360-degree kickstand enables you to hang it as an overhead light or prop it up on the ground.
It may take 5-7 hours to recharge it using solar energy but with USB it takes merely 2 hours. What is even more impressive is its 50 hour run-time on low brightness settings and its 100-lumen output on full power. Apart from all these features, it comes bundled with a red light mode and a multi-colored party mode for those nights of revelry. Despite its offerings, it has a surprisingly affordable price tag.
- Lightweight and super compact
- Multiple lighting modes and color settings
- Faster recharge time
- None in our opinion!
Goal Zero Crush Light Lantern
- Brand: Goal Zero
- 6 Different color modes
- Just add sun and the Crush light charges up through it’s built-in solar panel
- Charges from any USB port via Micro USB cable
Designed in one of the most creative ways, this accordion-style collapsible solar camping lantern weighs just 3.2 oz. While the design lets it pack flat, don’t let the weight and size fool you. Goal Zero Crush Light Lantern a durable product. Made from a combination of silicone and ABS plastic, this rugged solar lantern can be easily tucked into your backpack without adding much to its overall weight.
While it offers 3 different lighting modes and a maximum runtime of 35 hours, it does max out at 60 lumens when it comes to light intensity. One of its lighting modes is the Flickering Candle mode where you feel like you are sitting by the bonfire!
- Compact and collapsible design
- Flickering Candle lighting mode
- Low light output
LuminAID PackLite 2-in-1 Phone Charger
- Brand: LuminAID
- Extra light solar lantern and phone charger
- Long battery life provides approximately 100 hours of light on Low mode when battery is fully charged
- Two ways to recharge (Solar & USB)
- Waterproof and dustproof (IP67 rated)
Feature-packed, compact, and weatherproof is how LuminAID Packlite 2-in-1 Phone Charger can be described. While it does weigh a lot more than other solar lanterns, it’s one of the most compact ones in its class with its pack size of 6x6x1 inches. This inflatable solar lantern easily doubles up as a portable charger for your mobile phones as well.
LuminAID PackLite 2-in-1 Phone Charger flaunts a heavy-duty TPU fabric that is not only highly durable but also waterproof, shatterproof, and weatherproof. It comes with a menu containing 5 lighting modes with a maximum lumen output of 150 lumens and an impressive runtime of 50 hours.
- Compact inflatable design
- Durable TPU fabric
- 5 lighting modes
- Two-way USB port
- Waterproof, Weatherproof, and Shatterproof
- Heavier than most collapsible solar lanterns
Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight
- Brand: Goal Zero
- USB charging cable
- Save on power with bright and half-bright modes
- Long-lasting, advanced lithium 4400mAh battery
- Recharge Anywhere
- Stay Connected During An Outage
When it comes to multi-functionality, Goal Zero 250 Flashlight is the go-to solar camping light. Sporting three different ways to recharge, this water-resistant flashlight will not have you look for batteries ever again. As with any solar camping lights, this one too comes with an in-built solar panel. However, if you ever find yourself in a situation where access to sunlight is difficult, you can use the hand crank or connect to an electric power supply, if available, to power up this flashlight.
You can use Goal Zero 250 Flashlight as a power bank thanks to its two-way USB port. Although its recharge time is slow compared to other solar camping lights, the lithium-ion battery it carries can last for up to 48 hours!
This solar flashlight offers a 250-lumen output which should be more than enough in most situations. With multiple lighting modes such as flood or spot beam, flashlight or lantern mode, or the red-light mode for a softer light, it is one of the most versatile solar camping lights out there despite not being the most lightweight or cheapest of the lot.
- 3 different ways to recharge
- Multiple lighting modes
- USB charger for mobiles
- Slow recharge time
- High price tag
Brightech Ambience Pro Solar LED Outdoor String Lights
- Brand: Brightech
- Color: Soft White
- Warm ambient lighting all year round
- Energy-Efficient light source- lasts for years
- Easy to install, easy to use
Brightech presents us with the Ambience Pro Solar String Lights that can rough it out in the toughest of weather. These string lights come with WeatherTite Technology because of which they can take on torrential rain, intense humidity, extreme temperatures, and even gusty winds with the utmost ease.
Integrated with a built-in sensor, these solar lights turn on automatically when the sun sets. Talk about ease of use! To get the LED lights charged up to full power, you will need 6 hours of direct sunlight. A single solar panel powers 12 separate bulbs and can be easily hung or even staked to the ground.
- Quick recharge time
- Built-in sensor
- 3-year warranty
- Lacks brightness settings
HKYH Solar Panel Lighting Kit
- Brand: HKYH
- Color: Green
- New design emergency power supply
- Full accessory easy install power
- Fast charge ports & bright bulbs
- Powerful lightweight solar kit
Designed for luxury camping and RV, the HKYH Solar Panel Lighting Kit comes with four separate LED bulbs and a solar panel that is flexible enough to be stood on its base or even mounted on the roof of your vehicle or camping tent. Because of the large solar panel, it takes only six hours of direct sunlight to recharge fully.
Moreover, it comes fitted with five USB ports for connecting and powering various devices and bulbs. Being water-resistant, the base can be considered weatherproof to some degree. It can easily handle light rain or mist. Even with a large solar panel and separate LED bulbs, the kit weighs just under 10 oz. But all of these perks do come at a high price.
- Flexible solar panel
- Quick recharge time
- Not entirely weatherproof
AGPTEK Solar Camping Lantern
- Brand: AGPTEK
- 2 brightness modes
- 5 Charging methods
- Low energy consumption
- USB output
By using five charging methods to power 36 LED lights, AGPTEK Solar Camping Lantern is one of the most versatile camping lanterns available. Due to the multiple ways with which you can recharge this LED camping lantern, be assured that you will never run out of options to power up this beast, especially at times when you need it the most.
Naturally, solar energy is the primary power source to charge this camping lantern that uses a polycrystalline solar panel mounted on the top of the lantern to do so. Then, we have the USB charging facility which is a standard for most solar camping lanterns nowadays. The third method of charging is with a car adapter charger in case you happen to have a car available at your camping site. The fourth method is to be used when you run out of all other options. It is the hand crank dynamo that you have to spin to charge the LED lantern manually. Finally, all the renewable energy can be stored in 3 AAA batteries to be used when in need of some emergency light.
The LEDs in the AGPTEK Solar Camping Lantern are specially designed to run on low energy so that they can maximize the available power. It boasts two brightness settings; the Simple Bright mode which can be used for low-light activities like reading, etc., and the Super Bright mode for activities requiring extended use of light.
- Multiple charging methods
- Hand crank dynamo included
- Polycrystalline solar panels
- Integrated AAA rechargeable battery slot
- A bit on the heavier side
Solar Camping Lights Buyer’s Guide
What are the features to look for when buying a solar camping light?
One thing that you have to bear in mind is the amount of light you would be needing when you are on your camping trip. Would you need to light up your entire camping site or just your tent where you would spending time just reading or playing cards? The amount of light is measured in lumens and it tells you how bright a lantern is. For activities like cooking etc. a solar camping light of about 50-100 lumens should suffice whereas activities like night hiking or anything that is done in a fairly large group would need at least 150-200 lumens.
If a solar camping lantern runs only for an hour once the night falls, it isn’t much of a use for a camping trip that includes an overnight stay. Even if you plan to use the light for a short period of time, you would still want it to run for 2 hours at the least. Know that the higher the lumen output, the shorter the runtime, and vice versa. This is where a solar camping light with multiple lighting settings comes into the picture. You switch from high to low light output settings depending on the need of the hour.
The whole point of using a solar camping light is to be able to rely on solar energy to power up the light. However, rainy weather can make it difficult to have the sun as the only reliable power source. In such a case, having an optional method to charge your light is always welcome. Today, many solar camping lights come equipped with electric sockets and USB ports using which you can charge the light with whichever mode of power supply available to you at the moment. In case of an emergency, a hand crank can also come to the rescue by recharging your solar lights.
Size and ease of use
With campers usually set up away from urban amenities, portability is a major factor one should consider when buying solar camping lights. For anything to portable, it needs to be of an appropriate size and weight. The same goes for your solar lanterns. With the advent of collapsible solar lights, there is a surge in ultra-lightweight lighting solutions in the market which are ideal for backpackers and families alike. However, it does come with a limitation on the size of the solar panel. But if you are RV, van, or car camping, then weight should not be an issue. In such a case, feel free to swap lightweight, low-light solar lights with larger panels and battery packs.
Being outdoors means roughing it out to some degree. This means your equipment is also subjected to some sort of weather element, be it sun, rain, dust, or wind. Some of the best solar lights are made to withstand short drops and, to a great degree, are weatherproof.
In this day and age, almost every gadget is doubling up and serving multiple functions. Even the latest solar camping lights are not just mere light sources but also act as portable power banks for charging various devices. Some even sport various modes such as SOS, multi-color, red light, etc. Always look for solar lights that are feature-packed.
Taking into consideration versatility, average runtime, durability, and, of course, the price tag, we think AGPTEK Solar Camping Lantern is the best solar camping light out there. Apart from being slightly heavier than the rest, it wins in all other departments by a great margin.
Check out our updated Pinterest board with the best solar camping lights:
Brightness is typically measured in lumens. Higher the lumen output, the brighter the light. However, higher lumen output also means more energy consumption and hence shorter runtime.
The waterproof rating is expressed in IPX format where X stands for a value ranging from 0 – 9. The higher the number, the better the protection. For example, IP7 means it can be submerged in water for up to 1 min for a duration of 30 mins.
Although sunlight is the major source of power for charging a solar light, a few other options can be also used to recharge the same. These include charging using USB, car charging adapter, and hand-crank dynamo.
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