If you plan to be doing some camping, a good flashlight is one of the most important items you can bring. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the dark, and unlike city streets, most camp sites are completely unlit. Sure, you get a great view of the stars, but that’s not enough light to see by if you need to step out for a bathroom break. Or you’re wondering what’s making that rustling sound in the woods just behind your tent. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be in a trailer, chances are you’ll be relying on a flashlight for interior illumination as well—most tents lack a wall switch and overhead lights.
When choosing the right flashlight—or any light source—for a camping trip, there are a number of factors to consider, including your lighting needs, portability, durability, and battery life.
Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight
The Goal Zero Torch 250 has multiple recharging options, and it does double-duty as a power bank.
The Goal Zero Torch 250 is one flashlight that comes with me on every camping trip. At 10-inches long and weighing 14.4 ounces, this is a rather large light for a hand-held, but that’s easy to overlook given everything it’s capable of. It can function as a traditional flashlight, with two brightness settings and a red emergency light, and at maximum output, it puts out 180 lumens, which is plenty for scanning a campsite in the dark. But one surface is also a series of LEDs that creates a flood light/lantern effect, and Goal Zero includes clever integrated hooks so you can hang it from a tree branch or tent pole.
The rechargeable Li-NMC battery is good for seven hours at high intensity as a flashlight (15 hours at low), or up to 48 hours on low as a floodlight. And it can be recharged using the hand crank, built-in solar panels or by plugging it into a USB charger.
I actually included the Torch 250 on my list of Best Portable Power Banks for Camping, because with a 4400mAh battery and USB charging capability, this flashlight really does it all.
Anker Bolder LC90
The Anker Bolder LC90 offers bright light with plenty of distance, plus a rugged design.
If you’re camping in an area where being able to see for long distances in the dark is important—maybe you want to keep an eye the woods and underbrush for raccoons or bears—then you’ll want a high powered flashlight.
The Anker Bolder LC90 is an excellent choice for campers. It’s a tough, tactical-style flashlight, with a shock-resistant aluminum body. IP65 water resistance means you can safely use this flashlight even during a heavy downpour. The integrated battery is USB-rechargeable.
The big selling point of the Anker Bolder LC90 is its 900-lumen Cree LED. This is a powerful flashlight, capable of projecting a beam for a distance of up to 660 feet at its highest setting. A slider lets you manually focus the light from a wide angle to a pinpoint spotlight. There are five settings including strobe and SOS, with battery life of 13 hours at medium brightness.
Maglite Mini PRO
If you don’t want a rechargeable flashlight, the tough Maglite Mini PRO is powered by old-school AA …
The Maglight Mini PRO is a good choice if you need a compact, rugged and inexpensive flashlight. It’s also a solid option if you’re camping off the grid and don’t have access to a power source for recharging.
At just over 6-inches long and weighing 4.2 ounces, the Mini PRO is very compact and Maglight includes a convenient nylon belt holster. The durable aluminum body is weather resistant, and the handle is diamond knurled to make it easer to grip. The LED bulb is capable of producing a respectable 272 lumens of brightness, and the adjustable beam can focus that down to a spotlight that will project for up to 535 feet. The Battery life is up to 2.5 hours—which isn’t great—but unlike many flashlights these days (which are rechargeable), the Maglight Mini PRO takes a pair of AA batteries, so you can instantly be back in action.
BioLite HeadLamp 330
Head-mounted lights don’t get any better than the BioLite HeadLamp 330.
A head-mounted flashlight can be extremely useful for camping. It keeps both hands free, and you don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping your flashlight or forgetting it somewhere. It’s also ideal for reading in the dark and if you’re into the adventure of night hiking, you’ll definitely want to be wearing one.
The problem with head-mounted flashlights is they tend to be bulky and awkward, with a big light and battery combo that bounces around as you walk. The straps that hold everything in place are often uncomfortable and easily tangled.
On my last camping trip, I brought along the new BioLite HeadLamp 330, a rechargeable head light that solves all those issues. BioLite put the battery compartment at the back. This makes for a more balanced approach than having everything stacked at the front, and the flat LED light sits virtually flat against your forehead (its profile is just 0.35-inches), so there’s no bouncing around. The simple headband is made of moisture-wicking fabric. It’s comfortable, easy to put on, and doesn’t get tangled when not in use. The whole unit weighs just 2.4 ounces, and BioLite offers it in a variety of colors.
Despite the flat housing, the angle of the light can be adjusted—pointed near the ground it’s perfect for lighting the way to the campground bathroom in the dark. The light has a maximum output of 330 lumens. At its highest setting, the battery is good for 3.5 hours, but it will go for 40 hours on low—making it a long lasting and very convenient book light. When the battery runs down, just plug it into your phone charger with a Micro USB cable to recharge.
Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini Lantern
Goal Zero’s LightHouse Mini is flexible and can provide weeks of light on a single charge.
I reviewed Goal Zero’s Lighthouse Mini Lantern a few years back and it immediately became another permanent addition to my camping gear collection.
The Lighthouse Mini can produce up to 220 lumens of light, making it really useful for bathing your campsite in soft light at night. It has an intensity dial for adjusting brightness, and you have the choice of lighting one side or both sides. At just 8 ounces, the Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini is small enough to carry around for visibility, and it is extremely adjustable with folding legs, a built in hook and even an integrated magnetic fastener.
Goal Zero claims up to 500 hours of battery life at the lowest setting. The best my review unit has managed is 168 hours. But that’s still a long time. Even if you leave it on all night as a nightlight, 168 hours means around two weeks of use without needing to be recharged. And speaking of recharging, like the Torch 250, you can use the Lighthouse Mini Lantern to top up a smartphone battery in a pinch. It has a 3,000 mAh battery and USB output.