Quit tripping over stones, tent guylines or your own feet when trying to walk around camp in the dark. Turn to some reliable camp lighting, which basically falls into two categories:
- Lanterns, flashlights and other lights for drive-in campgrounds, when weight and bulk are lesser concerns, and the brightness and ease of use take priority.
- Headlamps and lights for the backcountry, which you have to carry while hiking, so weight does matter, along with functionality. Headlamps also work perfectly well when car camping.
Want one of the brightest, most versatile, high-performance ultralight headlamps? You’ll want the PRINCETON TEC VIZZ ($53, princetontec.com). You could almost drive a car at night with its maximum brightness of 420 lumens. (OK, we don’t recommend that, but you get the point.) It’s waterproof and also has three dimmable modes: white spot beam, white proximity beam and red. Unlike other headlamps that gradually lose power, the Vizz’s regulated circuitry translates to consistent light output over the battery life. It’s also simple to operate, compatible with lithium batteries and has a lockout feature to prevent accidentally turning it on. 3 oz.
The half-pound NITE IZE RADIANT 300 RECHARGEABLE LANTERN ($45, niteize.com) projects 300 lumens on high — bright enough to illuminate a campsite, but not blinding, thanks to a white stuff sack that doubles as a diffuser (included, along with a micro USB cord). It has a three-level white mode and a red LED mode, and the rechargeable battery delivers burn times ranging from five hours at white high to 110 hours at white low (15 lumens). A carabiner-style handle makes carrying and hanging easy. Its coolest feature, though, is that the lantern’s base has two integrated USB ports: An input recharges the lantern in just 3.5 hours, and an output charges small devices, such as a smartphone. 9 oz.
Step up to a rechargeable headlamp with the reliable, bright and versatile PETZL ACTIK CORE ($70, petzl.com). Its max brightness of 450 lumens is impressive for rechargeable or standard headlamps, and it sports white and red modes with two beam options: a focused, straight-ahead beam and a proximity beam for illuminating a broad area. Most uniquely, the Actik Core delivers that level of brightness with its rechargeable battery. The battery also maintains constant brightness over the duration of a charge. As a backup, the headlamp can run on three standard alkaline, lithium or Ni-MH AAA batteries. 3 oz.
With the GOAL ZERO LIGHTHOUSE 400 LANTERN AND USB POWER HUB ($70, goalzero.com), you can stop throwing away batteries and have a superior camp light — plus a battery that recharges a phone or tablet. Recharge this LED lantern from a USB outlet in five hours or from solar panels (sold separately) in seven to 14 hours, or even use its hand crank, which delivers 10 minutes of power for every minute of cranking. The two-way dimmer switch throws either 360 degrees of warm, white light with a powerful max brightness of 400 lumens, or 180 degrees (to save power). The design features two legs that fold up, while a built-in handle lets you easily carry or hang it. The lantern has a life of hundreds of recharging cycles. 1 lb. 2 oz.
For all-around performance and value, it’s hard to beat the feature set and brightness of the BLACK DIAMOND SPOT325 ($40, blackdiamondequipment.com). It has the three modes you expect in a backcountry headlamp: white beam, white peripheral and red (the last illuminating your immediate area while keeping your eyes adjusted to the dark). The max brightness of 325 lumens means it projects a beam at least 200 feet — certainly adequate for hiking at night and bright enough for camp — and it has dimming capability in all modes. The Spot325 also features Black Diamond’s unique PowerTap technology: Tap the right side of the casing to cycle between max brightness and a dimmed level; no button necessary. A lockout mode prevents accidental illumination, and it’s waterproof. 3 oz.
The rechargeable BLACK DIAMOND APOLLO LANTERN ($65, blackdiamondequipment.com) has everything many campers would want in a camp light: packability, ease of use, durability, brightness and affordability. Projecting 250 lumens, it lights up a campsite well, and has a diffuser to soften the light, plus dimming and strobe functions. It will hang from dual metal hooks on its top end or stand on three collapsible legs with rubberized tips that won’t scratch surfaces. Its USB port will charge a smartphone, and it can also run on three AA alkaline batteries. All this in a compact unit that weighs a fraction of a pound. 12 oz.