For brightening a campsite or outdoor gathering when standard electric lighting isn’t an option, a propane lantern is usually the best choice. While newer LED camping lanterns are becoming more popular, even the best models top out at 1,000 lumens. Not so with powerful propane lanterns, the brightest of which can produce an illuminating 1,500 lumens.
These powerful camping lights use standard propane gas cylinders to create flames that are encased in glass globes designed to endure high temperatures and protect against wind. While propane lanterns are unsafe for indoor use, handles allow the user to hang the lantern or carry them for a short hike. They range in size from 20-inch-tall models down to compact lanterns suitable for backpacking.
This guide shares the most important features to consider when shopping for the best propane lantern and reviews some of the highest-performing models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Coleman Deluxe Perfect Flow Propane Gas Lantern
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Lixada Camping Gas Stove with Ignition Split Burner
- BEST SINGLE MANTLE: Texsport Single Mantle Propane Lantern
- BEST FOR BACKPACKING: Docooler174; Mini Portable Camping Lantern
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Propane Lantern
While brightness is perhaps the most important factor to take into account when selecting a propane lantern, other important elements to consider include fuel consumption, number of mantles, size, and weight. Ahead, learn more about the features of propane lanterns.
Number of Mantles
How bright a propane lantern glows largely has to do with the number of mantles. Mantles are ceramic or mesh fabric with metal embedded in them. When lit, the lantern’s flame causes the mantle to glow, creating the lantern’s light. The more mantles, the brighter the lantern.
Propane lanterns come as single mantles and double mantles, with the latter being brighter. Mantles eventually wear out and require replacement about once a year with regular use. A worn-out mantle has a reduced light output and will eventually cause the lantern to cease working. As not all mantles are compatible with all lanterns, it’s crucial to check for compatibility when shopping for replacements.
Fuel Consumption vs. Brightness
Like flashlights, the brightness of a propane lantern is measured in lumens. The greater the number of lumens, the brighter the lantern. Most propane lanterns put out around 1,000 lumens, which is a little brighter than a 60-watt light bulb. The most powerful models can pump out 1,500 lumens. A dimmer knob allows the user to adjust the brightness of the lantern by controlling the flow of propane to the flame.
A brighter lantern uses a bigger flame, which in turn means a greater rate of fuel consumption. Propane lanterns, like propane heaters, use propane gas as a fuel source. Lanterns use a standard 16.4-ounce propane cylinder. One cylinder will last for about four or five hours on the brightest setting and about twice that long on the lowest setting for a 1,500-lumen lantern. In comparison, a 1,000-lumen lantern will get about seven hours of use from a 16.4-ounce cylinder on high and 14 hours of use on low.
Keep in mind that burning propane produces carbon monoxide, which is a colorless and odorless poisonous gas that can be deadly in large amounts. Never burn a propane lantern indoors or in an enclosed space, such as a tent.
Size & Weight
Propane lanterns vary in size to meet different needs. Most lanterns use the propane cylinder as a base, helping to minimize overall size and weight. The average lantern measures about a foot tall and weighs up to 5 pounds, including the fuel canister. Larger lanterns are best suited for car camping trips where the weight and size of camping gadgets aren’t an issue. Lanterns designed for hiking and backpacking are about 6 inches tall and weigh just 6 ounces, not including a propane canister that adds a little more than a pound.
Keep in mind that size and weight correlate directly to brightness. Generally speaking, the larger the lantern, the brighter the light. When considering weight and size, it’s also essential to include the weight and size of the fuel source. A propane canister measures 8 inches tall and 4 inches in diameter and weighs just over a pound.
Our Top Picks
The lanterns in the top picks list below were selected based upon the above considerations to narrow down the options to some of the best propane lanterns on the market. Organized by the different types of outdoor use, the portable lanterns provide excellent lumen output, and any of the models below can help light a campsite at night.
This propane lantern is manageable enough for carrying yet boasts ample brightness with its dual mantles. It uses a standard 16.4-ounce canister as a base, which gives it a height of about 18 inches when assembled. Its dual-mantle lamp puts out a maximum of 970 lumens, enough light for brightening up the campsite at night or creating nuanced lighting on a deck. With a full canister, this lamp has a burn time of up to seven hours on high.
This model also features a wide plastic base that attaches to the bottom of the fuel canister that prevents accidental tip-overs. As with other Coleman lanterns, this one features a Perfect Flow system, which ensures a steady stream of gas with no flickering or blowouts. A large, easy-to-read dimmer knob makes adjusting the lantern’s brightness easy. This model includes a soft carrying case for safely transporting the lantern.
This gas lantern costs a fraction of the price of other lanterns and is compact enough for use in various types of camping. This stove works off the same isobutane-propane gas canisters many camping stoves use, making it ideal for backpacking or car camping. At just 5 by 3.7 inches and weighing just over 6 ounces, not including the fuel canister, this lantern fits easily into a pack. A plastic storage case protects the stove during transport.
A glass shade resists high temperatures, and a stainless cover protects the flame from wind, making it ideal for foul weather use. A piezo ignition allows for push-button lighting, eliminating the need for matches or a lighter. A sizable lever makes adjusting the lantern’s brightness easy, even with gloved hands.
At nearly 1,000 lumens, this propane lantern from Texsport is one of the most powerful single-mantle lanterns on the market. With the standard 16.4-ounce fuel cylinder, it provides an ample amount of light. The cylinder doubles as the base with the entire unit measuring about 19 inches tall when fully assembled.
With its carrying handle and a total weight of under 5 pounds, including the gas canister, this model is easy to carry around the campsite or for a short evening hike. An easy-to-handle knob allows the user to make micro-adjustments for brightness. The large base attached to a propane canister prevents the lantern from tipping over.
Weight is perhaps the most crucial factor when it comes to backpacking gear, so a bulky propane lantern that can weigh upward of 5 pounds with a fuel source simply won’t do. This mini lantern measures just 2.4 inches by 3.7 inches and weighs 5 ounces, making it an ideal light source for excursions into the backwoods.
This lantern works off of an isobutane-propane canister, which is the same fuel many camping stoves use, or a standard 16.4-ounce fuel canister. A full fuel canister gives this lantern nearly seven hours of use. A piezoelectric ignition system allows the user to easily light it without the need for a match or lighter, while a convenient 18-inch chain is useful for hanging the lantern. A handy plastic carrying case protects the lantern while riding in a pack.
FAQs About Your New Propane Lantern
Now that you know more about propane lanterns and some of the most important features, you may have lingering questions about how to safely use a propane gas lantern. Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this type of camping equipment.
Q. What is the brightest propane lantern?
With a maximum brightness of 1,540 lumens, Coleman’s Northstar lantern is one of the brightest propane lanterns on the market.
Q. Do propane lanterns produce carbon monoxide?
Burning propane produces carbon monoxide, which is why you cannot safely use a propane lantern indoors. Like outdoor patio heaters, a propane lantern is only safe to use outdoors.
Q. Can you burn a propane lantern indoors?
No. You should never use a propane lantern in an enclosed space, including a tent. When burned, propane releases carbon monoxide into the air, which is poisonous and potentially deadly. Always burn a propane lantern outdoors where there is plenty of ventilation.
Q. How many cylinders should I bring for extras?
The number of cylinders depends on the length of the camping trip. A single 16.4-ounce canister of propane will last for about 12 hours, depending on the size of the lantern and the brightness of its setting. A large two-mantle lantern will last four hours on a single canister on a high setting, while a small single-mantle lantern may last close to 12 hours on a single canister.
Consider how many nighttime hours you’ll need light. A five-day trip that requires about four hours of lantern use per night will require five canisters for a large lantern or two for a small lantern.
Q. Can the lantern flame blow out?
It is possible for a lantern to blow out, but it rarely happens. The lantern’s mantles and housing enclose the flame, preventing wind from blowing the flame out. If a lantern flame is blowing out, it may be an indicator of damage to the housing or a worn-out mantle.
Q. How long do propane lanterns last?
While propane lanterns last a long time when properly cared for, the mantles they use to cast their glow do wear out with regular use. The mantles generally need to be replaced about once a year.