Solar lights have quickly become the handiest way to add a cozy flare or cheerful ambiance to any camping trip. With current LED technology, solar lights have the advantage of brightly illuminating your site without the need to remember spare batteries or chargers. Of course, like any gear, not all solar lights are created equal. Here’s what we recommend, depending on your needs.
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5 Reliable Solar Lights to Pack for Your Next Camping Trip
Best When Waterproof is Key
While there are certainly ways to keep your gear dry on a river trip, it’s best to set yourself up for success by assuming things will get wet. The Luci Outdoor 2.0 collapsible lantern is waterproof for up to 30 minutes when submerged up to a meter underwater, so it’s ready to withstand a potential dunking in the river. Thanks to its 7-hour recharge time, you can collapse and set it out on the boat to catch some rays while you’re moving for the day, and it’ll be ready to go when you get to camp.
- Super waterproof
- Lightweight & collapsible
- With just 75 lumens, this light is more for ambiance than lighting up a whole site
Best for a Festive Touch
If you’re ready to really up your camp vibes game, the Luci Solar String Lights are the way to go. The 18-foot expandable string contains 10 nodes to liven up even the dreariest campsite, and the pod has mobile charging capabilities to keep devices at the ready. The lights work in temperatures down to freezing and up to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and have low, medium, high, and flashing settings, depending on the mood of the group. For true party mode, these also come in a color version.
- Long run time (up to 20 hours on low mode)
- Durable & multi-functional
- “Splash resistant” but not waterproof, these lights should stay snugly in a dry box for river trips
Best for Fast and Light Trips
When you don’t have a ton of extra room—or when you’re carrying all your weight on your back—shaving weight and keeping things simple is key. Goal Zero’s Crush Light weighs in at just 3.2 ounces and packs down to just over half an inch thick. With a runtime of up to 35 hours on its lowest setting, this light can be shoved in a pack and retain some charge for when you need it. (It can also be charged in advance at home via a USB port.) Bonus: Its “candle flicker” mode feels super-cozy when you can’t make a campfire.
- Very lightweight
- Long run time
- Long charge time (20 hours for full charge via the built-in panel)
Best for Gear Geeks
For a do-it-all solar light that has no shortage of features and can even charge other devices, the Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Camping Lantern is the way to go. Durable, powerful, and super-bright, this lantern can be charged via solar power, USB, or when the weather isn’t cooperating, a hand crank that yields 10 minutes of light for every minute of cranking. The light lasts for up to 320 hours on a single charge with one side lit on low power (though with high power on both sides, it’s just 2.5 hours). It also has enough power to charge phones, smart watches, and even tablets.
- Powerful illumination for larger campsites & groups
- Long-lasting battery only needs to be charged every 3 to 6 months
- More expensive than most other solar lights on the market
Best When It’s Cloudy
When the sun simply won’t come out, it’s nice to have a solar light that lasts a reasonably long time without needing ages to charge. The BioLite Sunlight 100 only needs about 7 hours to charge—significantly less than most other solar lights on the market—and will run for up to 50 hours on low power. It’s also ultra-packable: the manufacturer describes it as “the size of an ice cream sandwich,” and it weighs in at just 3.4 ounces. With white, single-color, and colorful “party mode” settings, this little solar light packs a big punch.
- Very compact
- Short charge time & long run time
- Single function (no ability to charge other devices)
Photos: Rob Aseltine, Mpowered, Goal Zero, BioLite