Small emergency lantern lighting up bathroom during power outage
In the bathroom, last week . . .

Recent California rain storms are refocusing our attention on emergency lanterns and lighting.

Updated January 2023. Thousands of people have been without power over the past couple of months throughout the northeast, in the south, and now in California. Every person has had to answer the question:

“Do we have the right lights to carry us through a week or longer without power?”

The answer isn’t as simple as counting up your flashlights. Here are 5 questions to consider:

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!

In an extended outage, no matter what the cause, you may not need the same LEVEL OF LIGHTING in every room. For example, will you need lights for working? For reading? Do you have children who would need a light for comfort? Perhaps you need lights that GO ON AUTOMATICALLY when the power goes out? I saw this quote and thought it fit perfectly:

“Lights are like golf clubs. You need a whole bag of them.”

This Advisory is specifically about emergency lanterns and lights. But because every family’s needs are different, start your “emergency lighting” 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 room, in every survival kit, one in every car, in the garage.)

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 in an emergency, 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 moving around inside. May actually produce glare if directed at something you’re working on.
  • 100-1000 lumens – What you’ll want for emergency use, for working with tools, etc. (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 lumens 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 or back-up electricity 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 unless they can be recharged using a power bank, your car battery or, if you live in the right location, with a solar charger.

5.-“How much will emergency lanterns cost?”

Last year we discovered small LED flashlights for sale for as little as $1.50! 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, although when you buy more than one the price goes down dramatically.

“But wait, there’s more.” When it comes to emergency lighting, it pays to shop!

We have discovered that when it comes to emergency lighting, it REALLY pays to shop! Look for special deals that feature 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 emergency 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). In the most recent power outage here, we carried them around with us, set them down in the room where we were. Kids can manage them perfectly, too.
  • We have purchased 4 different models of collapsible lantern. At first glance they are pretty much identical except for the name stamped on the front. So once again – shop carefully. Look for features and not necessarily for the brand. For example, some lanterns have a red strobe setting; some have multiple LEDs, others have one solid bulb. Some have an on/off switch.
  • When I took the photos of my own 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!

We have and still use several of the lanterns shown in the photos below. Click on the links in the text below my photograph to get details and current prices.

Collection of Emergency Lanterns including collapsible lamps and traditional camping lanterns
Our current collection: Older GE model at left, several collapsibles in center, new GE models at right.

Collapsible LED Emergency or Camping Lanterns

We’ve used (and given away) several of the collapsible lanterns. Of course, the ones labeled “Tactical” were irresistible, and our first purchases!  But the market for lanterns changes. I’m happy to promote this lantern from VONT as our current favorite. (Even VONT has different styles, different multi-packs, etc.)

4 Pack LED Camping Lantern, Survival Kit for Hurricane, Emergency, Storm, Outages, Outdoor Portable Lantern, Black, Collapsible (Batteries Included) – Vont

The image shows a 4-pack because these lamps are now so inexpensive that you can buy several for what they used to cost for one! If you can’t use all 4 (one in bedroom, one in living room, etc.), they make great hostess gifts, birthday gifts, etc.

These lamps are very compact and light. Like most of the collapsibles, the light turns on when you pull the handles up. You can adjust the amount of light by the width of the opening between top and bottom.

In this case, there are 30 separate LEDs. While the lumen output on this lantern is less than some of our earlier purchases, reviewers on Amazon are DISTINCTLY IMPRESSED with its brightness! And it has a 10-year warranty, which is pretty unusual. Check it out.

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

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 Enbrighten showing handle that can be used to hang the emergency lantern

There 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 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 at right, still in the package) also 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.

Coleman Quad Lantern showing detachable light panels that can be used like flashlights

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. Here’s the link: Coleman Quad LED Lantern Special Edition Ultra Bright 280 Lumens, Red

And one new emergency light: The Luci Light Solar

There are a number of versions of this little light. The fact that it is solar powered has made it a best seller for regular and for emergency use. The image shows just the top of a very light-weight, inflatable lamp that operates SOLELY from solar. Its lithium-ion battery never needs replacing. (One charge lasts about 24 hrs.) The lantern emits about 75 lumens. It has multiple light modes and is waterproof.

Read all the details, and check out all the photos so you get a full idea of how this innovative lantern works! Don’t hesitate to click on some of the other styles of Luci Lights.

Here is the link to get you started with the Luci Light.

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

Your Emergency Plan Guide team