Propane lanterns are a must-have for camping and night hikes — and they shine brighter than many battery-powered lights. The best propane lanterns have mantles, a dimmer knob and a handle, and enough lumens for your lighting needs.
Unlike watts, which measure power, lumens are a measurement of brightness. While they can't be converted exactly, 800 lumens is about how much light a traditional 60-watt bulb produces. Smaller propane lamps may produce a few hundred lumens, but bigger and brighter lamps can reach over 1,500. One of the ways that lanterns achieve that brightness is with mantles, which are mesh fabric bags embedded with specific metal and nitrates that glow when heated. They are placed directly over the propane openings of a lantern, so a lantern should come with as many mantles as there are openings. In general, mantles should be replaced once a year. While many are universal, it's always a good idea to ensure that replacement mantles are compatible with your particular brand and model of propane lantern.
Propane is, of course, the power source, but it's not included with most lanterns, as it can be a shipping hazard. But canisters can be purchased online, and the most common canister size is 16.4 ounces. Propane lanterns can go through fuel fairly quickly when powered on their highest setting, so if you plan to use your lantern for a long period of time, consider getting a larger propane canister or keeping the lantern on a lower setting.
There are a variety of other features to consider, like dimmer knobs and controlled pressure designs, which help to maintain a more consistent light. If you plan to walk around or hike with your lantern, you'll also want one that comes with a handle and a metal guard, which protects the glass globe. Some lanterns can must be lit with a match, while others have a button start — which will generally be more expensive.
Whether you want to go camping or hiking through the woods at night, check out this list of the best propane lanterns.
1. The Best Overall
- Brightness: 1,540 lumens
- Duration: 9 hours
This classic Coleman Northstar lantern can last for up to four hours on its high setting and nine hours on low when used with a 16.4-ounce propane cylinder. It has a convenient dimmer knob to adjust the brightness and can be lit with the press of a button, so there's no need for matches or lighters. The glass globe resists cracking from high temperatures and is protected with a metal frame. This lantern comes with a mantle, handle, and convenient folding base, and it features Coleman's “PerfectFlow” system that helps ensure a consistent gas flow. It can cast light up to 26 meters, according to the brand.
One fan raved: “It’s a Coleman lantern, you can’t go wrong. I hooked this miniature sun up to a large propane tank on our last camping trip. It did not disappoint me. Not only did it provide ample light, it also attracted plenty of moths & mayflies for fishing bait. It is fully adjustable down to a warm glow, but where’s the fun in that?”
2. The Best Under $20
- Brightness: 810 lumens
- Duration: 4.2 hours
Even though this Stansport propane lantern is budget-friendly, it still gets up to 810 lumens in brightness. It has a steel handle for carrying and hanging, as well as a four-footed base for when you need to set it down. This lantern comes with two silk mantles and features an on/off dimmer knob, but it must be lit with a lighter or matches. It has a vented hood and, like the Coleman lantern, this lantern has a built-in pressure regulator for a more constant glow.
One fan raved: “Bright and Reliable! This product was just what we needed. We had tried a similar product from Wal-Mart and this product was superior by far-bright and reliable. Just what we needed for our camping trip.”
3. The Best Compact Propane Lantern
- Brightness: 300 lumens
- Duration: 17.5 hours
Although this Coleman lantern is on the smaller side at just under 7 inches tall, it still provides up to 300 lumens in brightness, which can cast a glow up to 8 meters in distance. One advantage of the smaller size is that this lantern lasts longer than larger models; it can run for up to 11.5 hours on high or 17.5 hours on low with one 16.4-ounce propane cylinder. It includes a chain handle, mantle, and a metal guard to protect the glass globe. The brightness dial and a pressure-regulated design provide a more consistent light, but this lantern must be lit with matches or a lighter.
One fan raved: “Have used this lantern for years now. I think the double mantle lanterns are bigger and bulky overkill. The lantern itself is about the size of a small tissue box so stores really well. Left it at home once and used one of those LED camping lanterns and boy was I hurting for the propane light. They just are way more bright and the light carries. You can grab the top of it and carry it by the chain to walk with it. DO NOT TOUCH THE GLASS, my Aunt Amy did this once and burned herself very badly. Can be a bit unstable if you set it on uneven ground so you may want to buy a base for it. We only really use it on picnic tables so it hasn't been an issue. Love this thing.”