Best Emergency Lanterns for Power Outage


Emergency lanternRecent storms are refocusing our attention on emergency lighting.

Do you have the right lights to carry you through a week or longer without power?

When you consider the challenges of emergency lights and lanterns, here are 5 questions you need to be asking yourself:

1.-“How many lights do we really need for safety? For comfort?”

Here in earthquake country we have a light in every single room, because when the quake hits we won’t be able to search for things by feel.

What’s your situation? What’s the most likely emergency? Who will need lights for working? Do you have children who would need a light for comfort? Perhaps you need lights that GO ON AUTOMATICALLY when the power goes out? (Here’s the link to an Advisory about that: Automatic emergency lighting.)

I saw this quote that I liked; it fits this Advisory perfectly: “Lights are like golf clubs. You need a whole bag of them.”

This Advisory is specifically about lanterns. But because every family’s needs are different, start your “emergency light” shopping list by putting down every person’s name or a description of every location where a light would be necessary. (For example, one in every survival kit, one in every car.)

Keep reading to decide on the features of the different lights you want.

2.-“What level of brightness do the lights need to provide?”

A night light for comfort can be pretty soft. A light for reading needs to be a lot brighter but without glare. Somewhere in the middle is an appropriate level for what I’ll call “ambient lighting” – enough so you can move around the house safely.

If you plan to be working outdoors, then you need a lot more light.

As you look at your list of what lights you need, consider how many LUMENS (measurement of brightness) you might need for each. Here are some simple guidelines:

  • Less than 25 lumens – Good for a nightlight. Some nightlights rate as low as 1 lumen – most are around 10. In an emergency situation, a very low light may not be adequate because it may not reveal breaks, debris, etc., but if it’s just for comfort, in a room you are already familiar with, low power might be all you need.
  • 25-100 lumens – Good for general usage inside. May actually produce glare if directed at something you’re working on. So ask: Can the focus be adjusted?
  • 100-1000 lumens – What you’ll want for emergency use outside. (We usually consider 200 lumens as the minimum for our household.) Of course, the more lumens, the more battery power you’ll need, and the more power you use, the faster your batteries will run down. So ask:  Can the lumen output be adjusted?
  • Over 1,000 lumens – Big bright lights for night-time construction or repairs.

3.-“Will we carry the lights, hang them or stand them up?”

If you’ve ever camped in a tent, you know that hanging something from the roof may cause the whole thing to collapse! Still, being able to hang a lantern gives you a lot more options – so as you consider your list, think about . . .

  • Overall weight including batteries
  • Type of handle or attachment
  • Sturdiness and/or resistance to water
  • Stability when standing up
  • Packability (Foldable? Closable? Compact?)

Again, you may want “one of each” to be sure you have the right lamp for the job.

4.-What batteries do they require?”

With so many devices and pieces of survival equipment, we have given up trying to buy batteries for every single one. Instead, we buy batteries by the pack, and sometimes by the multi-pack, to be sure we have the right ones when we need them.

Of course, for normal use, rechargeable batteries are great. But if the power is out, they soon become useless.

And if you live in the right location, you MAY be able to consider lights that can be recharged with solar panels.

5.-How much will lanterns cost?”

Last year we discovered small LED flashlights for sale for as little as $2.00! We bought a bunch of them and used them as door prizes at one of our community emergency response team meetings.

However, the cost of a well-made, adjustable flashlight typically starts at just under $10. A good, adjustable lantern starts at around $15.

“But wait, there’s more.”

We have discovered that when it comes to emergency lighting, it pays to shop! Look for special deals that feature “tactical lights,” multi-packs, combo-packs (lantern plus flashlight, or a selection of flashlights), law-enforcement quality, tactical lights (can serve as weapon), lights in favorite colors – and more. When you buy “deals,” the cost of each individual lamp may be cut in half.

For those looking for lanterns, I want to make just a couple more personal comments before moving on to our recommendations.

  • The small collapsible lanterns are VERY appealing. They are neat, compact (about 5 in. tall when closed), work intuitively (pull open for light, push closed for less light or to turn off).
  • Our very young grandchildren found the collapsible lanterns engaging, carrying them around, banging them against the furniture, adjusting the light and turning them on and off without needing help.
  • We have purchased 4 different models of collapsible lantern. At first glance they are identical except for the name stamped on the front. So once again – shop carefully. Look for features and not for the brand.
  • When I took the photos of the lanterns, I made the mistake of closely comparing the light put out by each. My recommendation: do NOT stare directly at these lights. They are too bright!

Here are some of the best lanterns we have found, and why we like them. You can click on the images or links  in the text below my photograph to get details and current prices.

Collection of Emergency Lanterns

Our current collection: Older GE model at left, several collapsibles in center, new GE models at right.

Collapsible LED Emergency or Camping Lanterns

Outdoorsman by iZoom®.

In front, out of the box labeled SWAT Tactical in the photo. This was our first collapsible lamp purchase – advertised as “tactical” and thus irresistible. (Note the compass on the top.) Of all our lamps, it has the most output: 600 lumens, thanks to three COB LED light strips. (COB = Chip on Board.) This lamp does the job and the price has come down. We found a great deal on PulseTV. Check it out –Just click on the ad below.

Cascade Mountain Tech

Collapsibles showing different LED strips; Cascade is at back in photo.

(Shown to the left behind the SWAT box.) We were so pleased with our first lamp that we promptly purchased a three-pack of a similar product at Costco (subsequently discontinued at our local store).

The lantern looks nearly identical to others, but when you examine the actual light strips you can see the 30 individual LEDs (compared to a more continuous strip – hard to see, I know). This efficient technology gives longer use (up to 12 hours of regular, continuous use) with less output (100 lumens). Plenty bright for camping or emergency use. A multi-pack will give you the best deal.

Here’s a 2 pack from Amazon at a good price:
Pop up LED Lantern -2 PACK- Perfect Lighting for Camping, BBQ’s and Emergency Light


Bell & Howell

We wanted still more, and chose these lamps because of the good reputation of the company. They seem identical to the iZoom described above (no compass), with one additional feature: room under the cover to store extra batteries.  (You can see that in my photo.) You may pay slightly more because of the brand name, but if you find a good deal, don’t hesitate.

One last comment: The light from all our collapsibles is very bright white. Great for signaling, OK for ambient lighting, not comfortable for reading or close work.

No matter what collapsible model you decide on, they are now inexpensive enough that we recommend you have one in every room of the house.

Traditional Camping and Emergency Lanterns

We also own several more traditional lanterns that we have bought over the years. The main differences between these and the collapsibles?  SIZE and WEIGHT. And mostly it’s weight because of the number and size of the batteries required to run the lanterns. (The collapsibles use 3 AA batteries. The large lanterns use up to 8 D batteries.)

GE Enbrighten

The two lanterns to the right in my photo above are both made by GE. (Actually, so is the old-fashioned red one on the left!) These are the modern versions of lanterns we’ve had for years. They are sturdy, stable and have a softer (warmer) light than the small tactical lamps.

GE EnbrightenThere are several GE models. One takes 8 D batteries, another takes 6 D batteries. Thanks to a three way switch you can customize the output and save energy, too. High setting: 550 lumens. For reading, you’d want one of the lower settings.

Once again, if you shop you’ll get the best deal. We got our first GE lamp at the local Costco, but when a friend went back, they were out. See what you can find locally or online: Here’s one from Amazon for comparison. (These get excellent reviews, by the way. One reviewer said he even turned the lamp upside down for a more comfortable reading experience.)

GE 6D Enbrighten Lantern with Nickel Plating, 550 Lumens, 280hrs Battery Life, IPX4 Water Resistant, 14210

The image at left shows how the handle of the Enbrighten can be detached at one side so you can swivel it to hang the lamp over a branch or a beam.


Our latest model (shown still in the package) even has a USB port for charging your phone in an emergency!


Coleman Quad LED Lantern

I find the collapsibles similar in construction and quality, but I have to go back to some of our favorite brands when it comes to the lanterns with more distinctive features.

We have owned Coleman stoves and lamps for years. This camping lantern has an unusual feature that gives it a lot of flexibility: four detachable light panels. You can pop one panel off and use it as an individual flashlight (when your house is out of power, for example, and you want to go to another room, or when you need to leave the tent to head to the bathroom); each panel is automatically recharged when it’s put back on the base. (The other panels stay lit when you detach one.) As you might expect, this lantern is quite large (12 in. tall), reasonably heavy (2+lbs.). It also carries a warranty.

Coleman Quad LED Lantern Special Edition Ultra Bright 280 Lumens, Red






There’s lots of information on this page. When you’ve finished reviewing, make up your mind and get some lanterns BEFORE you need them!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Don’t forget extra batteries, too.




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