The best headlamps, lanterns, and campground lighting for beginners

Not to state the obvious, but it gets pretty freaking dark when you’re out in the woods. I’m a big advocate of using what you have, but if your phone’s flashlight is no longer cutting it for you, it could be time to get a headlamp or lantern. They’re way brighter and are a pretty cheap way to make seeing things in the dark much easier.

Bonus: All the products in this blog are 25% off for Labor Day Weekend 2021!


If you’re choosing one or the other, I would start with a headlamp since you can go hands-free with one. This is handy for going to the bathroom in the dark, fumbling for your car keys, or trying to assemble the perfect s’more.

I also use a headlamp for running in the winter time because my neighborhood was built before electricity existed and once it arrived, apparently no one thought adding streetlights was important. Running with my phone’s flashlight was way too difficult to keep the light beam where I needed it.

The Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp is a perfect starter headlamp. It’s really comfortable to wear, easy to adjust, and extremely bright (or not…it’s got a dimmer!). It’s lightweight enough that I can wear it running, and it can take a beating if you’re accident-prone like me.

The dimmer and multiple light settings are really handy, if not super easy to toggle between (my only complaint about this headlamp). The red light is nice if you’re getting up in the middle of the night, or if you’re trying to preserve your night vision since it doesn’t make your pupils shrink up like white light does. I personally have terrible night vision, so I can’t use this setting.


Black Diamond’s Orbit Lantern is my favorite because it’s small but mighty. I can’t find them online anymore, but the Moji lantern is another great pick that I use all the time while camping.

Pocket sized and powerful…like an Olympic gymnast.

My husband and I actually thought we had ordered a regular-size lantern….until the box arrived. We were extremely skeptical of this ant-size lantern, but we took it camping that weekend and immediately loved it. 

There are metal hooks on the top that let you hang it from the ceiling of your tent, and it was bright enough to see everything while getting settled down for the night. It’s bright, but not blinding, and since it’s so tiny it was easy to fit in our bag.

I got a set of Moji lanterns for Christmas, and I’ve loved having multiple tiny, bright lights. I’ll stick one on the picnic table, hang one in the tent, and put another in the car or on the outside of the tent so I can see where I’m going.

No matter which option you choose, headlamps and lanterns can go a long way in making camping a more fun experience. But if you’re on budget, don’t worry, your phone’s light will do just fine! Just don’t forget the charger!

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.