Solar-powered lanterns are similar to traditional lanterns, but instead of relying on batteries or electricity to work, they use small solar panels to convert sunlight into usable energy. Portable solar lanterns provide light wherever you need it and are ideal for gardens, patios, camping, backyard gatherings, and other outdoor activities.
When looking for the best solar-powered lanterns, it’s important to consider how bright you need the light to be (measured in lumens) as well as the lantern’s size — especially if you plan on taking it with you while traveling. Here, we researched the best solar lanterns based on functionality, product quality, and sustainability to help bring light to your adventures.
- BEST OVERALL: LuminAID PackLite Titan 2-in-1
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Goal Zero Crush Light
- BEST INFLATABLE: Solight Collapsible SolarPuff™
- BEST FOR PATIO: Lights4fun Porto Outdoor Lantern Set
- BEST FOR GARDENS: Les Jardins Roam Solar Lantern
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Solar Lanterns
When looking for the best solar lanterns, it’s important to consider the brightness, battery type, charge time, size and additional features of the products. Here’s what to look for when shopping for solar lanterns.
The brightness of solar lanterns is measured in lumens, or the amount of light a device puts out. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light source. Lumens are different from watts because the wattage measures the power consumption of a light source, not the actual light output.
Solar lanterns typically range from around 35 lumens all the way up to 300 (or even 500). To put this in perspective, a 35-watt light bulb puts off up to 300 lumens. How many lumens you need depends on how large of a space you want to light, however, 300 lumens is generally an adequate amount for one room or space.
The time it takes to charge a solar lantern to full power will vary depending on the product type. Some lanterns need to charge for a full 20 hours in direct sunlight in order to provide the maximum amount of light they are capable of producing, while others can charge in under eight hours. Many solar lanterns may also come with a USB port for faster charging. This way, you can fully charge the battery on a wall outlet before setting off on a camping or hiking trip, and use the solar charging option to top the lantern off after initial use.
Most solar lanterns are designed to be portable, and all of the products on this list have a handle or an adjustable strap that can be used for carrying and hanging the lanterns. In addition, certain solar lanterns are collapsible, meaning they’re designed to compress into a smaller unit so that you can easily store them in your car, luggage, or backpack.
If you’re searching for a lantern and have certain size restrictions you need to abide by for your luggage or air travel, be sure to check the specifications of each product to ensure it meets requirements.
Some of the best solar lanterns provide multiple features that can help you get the maximum value out of a product. For example, there are those that have additional charging ports for cell phones, those that automatically adjust the brightness based on battery life and some that provide adjustable straps for hanging.
Consider how you’ll primarily use the lantern: do you need softer, decorative lighting in the backyard? Backup lighting in case of a power outage? Or perhaps you plan on bringing the lantern on a camping trip, so having extra charging ports or a dimming feature could be helpful.
Our Top Picks
When shopping for a solar-powered lantern, it’s important to examine key factors like weather resistance, performance, and durability. The products below met or exceeded our standards for quality, outdoor solar lighting.
The LuminAID PackLite Titan 2-in-1 Lantern isn’t just a solar lantern — it’s also a phone and tablet charger thanks to a 4,000 milliampere hour (mAh), lithium-ion battery that’s built into the unit. Providing 300 lumens for 100 hours on a single charge, it’s one of the brighter lanterns on the market. This collapsible solar light twists to inflate and is compact enough to store in your car or carry in your luggage or backpack.
The lantern is made with durable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and is a UV-resistant, recyclable alternative to PVC (a non-sustainable, problematic plastic that’s often used in outdoor lights).
The Titan also has a red-light mode (softer lighting for reading at night), and a handle to make it convenient for hanging or carrying. One drawback is that it takes between 16 to 20 hours to fully recharge by solar, however, it can be charged in 4 hours by plugging the USB cord into traditional power sources.
LuminAID offers a 100-day return policy and a lifetime guarantee program that covers manufacturer defects. The company also provides pre-paid labels for customers to ship the product back for recycling or donation so it doesn’t have to end up in a landfill (and the battery can be properly disposed of).
The Titan is made in China and shipped to consumers in PE plastic packaging that’s easily recyclable. LuminAID gives back through the Give Light, Get Light program, which allows supporters to donate a lantern or phone charger to the cause of their choice.
- Lumens: 300
- Dimensions: Closed: 6 by 6 by 1 inch; Expanded: 6 by 6 by 6 inches
- Materials: TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane)
- Recycling program
- Multi-functional device charger
- Collapsible for easy transport
- 100 hours of brightness
- Shipped in plastic
- Slow charge time using solar
Get the LuminAID PackLite Titan at Luminaid.com.
If you’re shopping on a budget, Goal Zero’s Crush Light Lantern is the most affordable solar lantern on this list. Constructed from silicone, its compact design and various settings make it suitable for camping or traveling, while its handle makes it easy to carry or hang from a tent or tree.
The durable solar light is backed by a 2-year warranty and includes a built-in, 500 mAh lithium polymer battery and a small, monocrystalline solar panel. Although the lantern only provides 60 lumens for about three hours on its high setting, there are alternative settings available so you can control the level of brightness and conserve its charge. The Crush light can also be charged via a USB cable, which takes only 2.5 hours to fully recharge (as opposed to the 20 hours in direct sunlight).
Goal Zero participates in several disaster relief and humanitarian efforts and has done so for over a decade.
- Lumens: 60
- Dimensions: Closed: 4.95 by 4.95 by .6 inches; Expanded 4.95 by 4.95 by 3.9 inches
- Materials: Silicone
- Can also be USB charged
- Comes with three power settings
- Only 60 lumens for 3 hours of use
- Weak solar panel
- No recycling program
Get the Goal Zero Crush Light at Amazon.com.
Solight’s SolarPuff™ is a self-inflating solar lantern made of sailcloth, a type of polyester (polyethylene terephthalate) canvas that is rip-proof, tear-proof, and recyclable. Although it needs 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge, the SolarPuff can still charge on a cloudy day (although more slowly).
It also comes with a dusk-to-dawn light sensor, so the light can automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn if desired. Other stand-out features include a Velcro handle and an IP68 waterproof rating, meaning it can be submerged in shallow water for up to 30 minutes. After being fully charged, the SolarPuff provides 12 hours of use and comes with several handy settings to help monitor your energy use.
Solight also donates 10 percent of its profits to people in need. If you no longer need the lantern, the company recycles the solar panels and lithium-ion battery (the unit must be separated from the lantern) and uses them to teach kids about solar.
- Lumens: 90
- Dimensions: Closed: 8.25 by 4.5 by .5 inches; Expanded: 8.25 by 4.5 by 4.3 inches
- Materials: PET sailcloth
- IP68 waterproof
- 1-year warranty
- Integrated light sensor for automatic on/off
- 1000 mAh lithium-ion battery
- Takes 10 hours of direct sunlight to charge
- Made of polyester
- No USB charging
Get the Solight SolarPuff at Amazon.com.
Check for a used, refurbished, or like new Solight on Ebay.com
If you’re searching for softer lights that are ideal for outdoor patios or decorative use, this set of two solar lanterns from Lights4fun is a great choice. While they don’t provide much light output (just 1 lumen), the Light4Fun lanterns are designed with an imitation candle inside for a unique flickering effect that makes them perfect for mood lighting.
The lanterns charge during the day in the sunlight before automatically turning on at night, and offer up to 8 hours of low-light illumination. They each have a handle that makes them easy to move, and can be arranged together or separately. While other products utilize lithium batteries, this lighting set uses rechargeable AA batteries (included).
Lights4fun manufactures its lanterns in China, uses reduced packaging whenever possible, and boxes with single-color prints and vegetable inks. Items are packed in EPE foam, a material that’s easier to recycle than styrofoam (but is still a form of plastic, nonetheless). The company also supports the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a non-profit that provides games and other gifts to seriously ill children.
- Lumens: 1
- Dimensions: Small lantern: 11.5 by 4.3 inches; Large: 15.5 by 5.9 inches
- Materials: Metal (iron), PP and ABS plastic
- Set of two
- Metal and glass construction
- Automatically comes on at night
- Flickering effect for mood
- Not very bright (more of a glow)
- Plastic foam packaging
Get the Lights4fun Porto Set at Amazon.com.
Via: Roam Solar
For an elegant solar lantern that’s a lovely addition to a backyard garden, Les Jardins offers the Roam lantern, made with Forest Stewardship Council-certified, natural teak wood.
Made in Indonesia, the Roam lantern puts off 300 lumens of light for up to 6 hours on a full charge and has a convenient dimmable setting. With an IP57 rating for dust and water resistance, the Roam lantern can be kept outdoors to illuminate the garden. In addition to a durable solar panel, the light includes a powerful, 2,800 mAh lithium battery that can also be charged on a USB cable. In direct sunlight, the lantern takes about 8 hours to fully charge.
The lantern also comes with a smart mode, allowing it to automatically optimize its brightness based on weather conditions and the amount of power stored in the battery.
Les Jardins started the Pass the Light Social Mission to create long-term sustainability to distribute clean light to communities in need.
- Lumens: 300
- Dimensions: 7 by 7 by 16 inches
- Materials: FSC-certified wood and acrylic
- IP57 waterproof
- Large size
- Automatically optimizes its luminosity based on the weather
Get the Les Jardins Roam Solar Lantern at Les Jardins.
Out of all the lanterns, our favorite was the LuminAID PackLite Titan 2-in-1 for its versatility and power, with the Solight Collapsible SolarPuff™ following close behind. The high-quality, PVC-free materials, combined with the giveback and recycling programs of these two companies made them our top picks.
How We Chose the Best Solar Lanterns
We chose the best solar lanterns based on battery life, warranty, functionality and materials used in the product, with particular attention to those that did not include PVC (as so many inflatable lanterns do). Other considerations were the design and features of each lantern, including dimmers, different modes of light, waterproof ratings and brightness.
We also looked at the company’s sustainability initiatives, and — to help prevent lanterns from ending up in landfills — whether a recycling or buyback program was available for customers.
All of our picks for the best solar lanterns come from companies that participate in giveback programs and use materials made from FSC-certified wood or recyclable plastics.
Q: How much do solar lanterns cost?
Solar lanterns range in price from around $20 to hundreds of dollars. The cost depends on the materials, where the product is made, its durability and any extra features it may have.
Q: Are solar lanterns worth it?
Determining the value of a solar lantern depends on the price, features, what you plan on using your solar lantern for, or how often you’ll use it. Even if you don’t use it frequently, in the event of a power outage it can be an invaluable device to have. For many, solar lanterns are convenient, useful and worth the cost.
Q: How long do solar lanterns last?
With regular use, the lifespan of a solar lantern depends on how sturdy the material is, how well you care for it, and how long the batteries last. Solar lanterns and LED lights can last for several years before they need to be replaced.
Q: Can you replace solar lantern batteries?
Lanterns that use rechargeable alkaline batteries are generally very easy to remove from a solar lantern and are replaceable. However, many solar lanterns have lithium batteries built into the device and many of these types of batteries are unable to be replaced.
On average, smaller lithium batteries last around 3 years with regular use, or between 300 and 500 cycles (a full charge and discharge), while some can last even longer (more than 1,000 cycles or upwards of 5 years or more). Be sure to check with the specific manufacturer of your product to see where you can purchase replacement batteries and properly dispose of your old ones.
Q: What can I do with my existing lantern?
Some manufacturers will take the item back to recycle or donate it, but if not, try upcycling it to use it as a decoration around the house. If it’s still functioning, you may also be able to donate your old lantern to a humanitarian cause or someone in need.
If the lantern has a lithium battery, it must be brought to proper disposal centers and cannot be placed in the recycling bin or trash can. Although solar recycling is still in its infancy, you can find recycling several facilities that will accept solar products and lithium batteries here.