Best Inflatable and Collapsible Solar Lanterns

best inflatable and collapsible solar lanterns

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Earlier, we've discussed the importance and benefits of keeping emergency solar powered lights on hand. Now let's review the 10 best inflatable AND collapsible solar lanterns we have come across. (Note: We'll look at the more "traditional" shaped style in another article - for now we want to talk about those models that are easiest to store and pop into an emergency kit.)

Solar powered lanterns—they’re not just for camping anymore. 

It's no surprise that millions of homes now own solar powered lanterns for their convenience, versatility, and adaptability. And, of course campers and hikers have been making good use of them for many years, but inflatable or collapsible solar powered lanterns have so many more uses than just outdoor sporting activities. In my initial post about these amazing lights, we showed how they come in very handy during power outages. 

They’re especially advantageous to have around during hurricanes, floods, heavy rains, and snow storms. Plus, today’s solar powered lantern industry is brighter than ever, since most are quite compact and need very little time in the sun to get charged up.

Best Inflatable Solar Lanterns

All of the solar powered lanterns reviewed herein are top-rated products. First up: the INFLATABLE lights! There are more available than these 4 that we are highlighting; however, numerous others are cheaper knock-offs (in our opinion), and these all appear to have better ratings than the others.

1

The Luci LED light by MPOWERD is completely powered by solar energy. It’s a neat little compact and inflatable light that needs no additional batteries. All you do is set it in direct sunlight for 7 hours and it’s ready to light your way. Outdoors, this light will last up to 12 hours on one charge.


Another reason we love Luci (pun intended), is that MPOWERD, the manufacturer is dedicated to providing low-cost, clean and efficient lighting in developing countries. Part of their program includes a customer giving option - the "Give Luci Program" - where a customer can directly purchase a Luci light for the specific purpose of supplying and distributing lights during disaster relief efforts as well as for humanitarian aid. Just fantastic!

Usage:
Collapsible
Inflatable
Easy to set up
Durable
10 powerful white LEDs
Fully waterproof and submersible
Lasts 12 hours per charge
Includes 3 settings—super bright, bright, and 1-second flashing
Contains 10 powerful LED lights

Many reviewers comment this little lantern is extremely bright and long-lasting

Weight:
Compact
Lightweight at 4.4 ounces

Extras:
Bottom and top strap for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Friendly price point for most budgets

PROS

  • Easy set-up
  • Contains 3 brightness settings
  • Lightweight, waterproof, compact and collapsible
  • Friendly Waterproof
  • Straps can be clipped to tents or backpacks

CONS

  • Can be difficult to inflate (be sure to read all instructions beforehand so as not to damage)
  • Some reviewers state it does not hold a charge long enough
  • Price is a bit higher than some others on our list

2

Yes, that’s right—the makers of the LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern got their big break on none other than Shark Tank! Anna and Andrea, the two women who founded this company, tell the story of how they simply applied to the show, didn’t believe anyone would read their application and so were shocked when a producer called them and booked them on Season 6.


From there, they made a deal with financier Mark Cuban, and LuminAID was launched. We’re glad they did, because this little solar lantern is a gem. Among other great features, it has several brightness settings that make it great for both indoor and outdoor use. And, like MPOWERD (maker of the Luci light), LuminAID also has a giving program to provide solar lights and chargers to disaster relief organizations and to families in need world-wide.


Their in-house program is called the "Give Light Get Light Program" and is another reason we are so impressed.

Usage:
Collapsible
Inflatable
Easy to set up
Durable
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Multiple brightness settings, including SOS emergency flashing
Indoor and outdoor usage
Collapsible
Waterproof
Shatterproof and dust-proof
Battery lasts up to 24 hours when battery is fully charged

Weight:
Compact
Fairly lightweight at 6.4 ounces

Extras:
Top strap for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks
Comes in several colors

The company offers branding options for corporate giving

Price:
Friendly price point for most budgets

PROS

  • Multiple brightness settings
  • Good for both indoor and outdoor use
  • Compact and collapsible; waterproof
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Comes in several colors
  • Top strap for easy carrying and hanging

CONS

  • Some reviewers comment it does not hold a charge for long
  • Price is a bit higher than some others on our list

3

This little SolarPuff by Solight Design is incredibly compact and collapsible for easy carrying and use. It’s exceptionally lightweight and super easy to set up. It’s made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a form of polyester. One of the great things about this one is its brightness, which is so effective that it casts a light up to a 100 square feet.

Usage:
Collapsible
Easy to set up
Durable
Battery lasts up to 12 hours
Up to 12-hour charging time
Indoor and outdoor usage
Brightness up to 100 square feet
3 settings—low, high, and emergency SOS flashing

Weight:
Compact
Extremely lightweight at just 2.6 ounces

Extras:
Top strap for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Friendly price point for most budgets

PROS

  • Collapsible and extremely lightweight (2.6 oz)
  • Suitable for indoor/outdoor use - waterproof
  • Long-range brightness
  • 3 settings including emergency SOS flashing
  • Top strap for easy carrying and hanging

CONS

  • Price is a bit higher than some on our list
  • Some reviewers state that the light does not last long enough (and may take longer to get a full charge)

4

Here’s another sharp product from the women at LuminAID, a company that was launched via the TV show Shark Tank’s billionaire financier Mark Cuban.


This one is the LuminAID PackLite 2-1, which comes in two different capacities—2000 mAH (milli ampere hours, which is a measurement of the battery’s energy storage capacity) with up to 150 lumens (measurement of brightness), as well as 4000 mAH with up to 300 lumens.


Plus, this one doesn’t just light your way; it also charges your Smartphone and your tablet. ​

Usage:
Collapsible
Inflatable
Easy to set up
Durable
Battery life of approximately 50 hours of light on low mode
Phone and tablet charger
Choice of 2000mAH battery or 4000mAH battery
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Waterproof
Shatterproof and dust-proof

Weight: 
Fairly lightweight at 8.5 ounces, which is not bad considering the additional charging capabilities.

Extras:
Top strap for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Price point is higher than others yet comparable because it includes a phone/tablet charger. 

PROS

  • Smartphone/tablet charger
  •  Compact and collapsible and still waterproof despite the additional charging materials
  • Two capacities of battery storage and recharging methods offered
  • Easy to set up
  • Shatterproof

CONS

  • A few reviewers state their units’ phone chargers did not work as desired
  • Price is higher yet comparable, considering phone charger capacity

Best Collapsible Solar Lanterns

We chose 6 top models that have the COLLAPSIBLE design (versus "inflatable") - these collapse in an accordion-style to create and easy to store and carry option. Again, there are more than just these 6 that are on the market, but we like to go with products that have a bit of a track record. 

1

This attractive and durable collapsible lantern by Suaoki contains two recharging methods—solar as well as USB. It has three light modes, one for emergencies. Its collapsibility makes it easy to set up. Plus, it has a power bank charger that enables you to charge your iPhone, Samsung phone, etc. via its built-in USB port. And, bonus, it comes in two different colors.

Usage:
Collapsible
Easy, accordion-style setup
Durable
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Three light modes, including high, low, and emergency SOS flashing
10 hours of light in low mode, 5 hours in high mode
Power bank charger for phone
Battery 800mAh, lithium
USB port

Weight:
Fairly lightweight at 6.4 ounces

Extras:
Comes in two colors
Top handle for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Excellent and affordable price point - under $20

PROS

  • Collapsible with easy setup
  • Dual recharging methods
  • 3 light modes including emergency SOS flashing
  • Includes USB port & power bank charger for phone
  • Excellent price
  • Top handle for easy carrying and hanging

CONS

  • Several reviewers state the collapsing mechanism does not work properly, causing the lantern to fold back in on itself

2

This Solar (or USB) charged Collapsible Lantern by Kizen is smaller than a hockey puck and has an accordion-style collapsibility. It’s designed for ultimate safety with ‘smart circuitry’ that has fail-safes to prevent overcharging and overheating. It contains dual recharging methods for solar and USB charging.


Its best feature is its capacity to charge your phone so you’ll never be out of reach of authorities in an emergency. Plus, it has three light modes, including high, low, and SOS for emergencies.

Usage:
Collapsible
Easy, accordion-style setup
Durable
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Three light modes, including high, low, and emergency SOS flashing
Phone charger
Can be used as a flashlight when folded
Fail-safe design to prevent overheating

Weight:
Fairly lightweight at 6.4 ounces

Extras:
Comes in two colors
Top handle for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Excellent price point (under $20)

PROS

  • Compact and collapsible with easy setup
  • Phone charger
  • Overheating/overcharging prevention
  • Can be used as a flashlight
  • 3 lighting modes including SOS emergency flashing
  • Excellent price
  • Top handle for easy carrying and hanging

CONS

  • Several reviewers state the accordion-style setup does not hold up

3

The Goal Zero Crush collapsible solar powered light brings something a little different to the table. This collapsible lantern has a great ‘candle flicker’ feature for setting ambiance. It has 60 lumens of light when used in high mode and a 35-hour run time in low mode setting.


It has dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB. It collapses to just over a half inch and an on/off button for easy usage. Plus, it is also available in ‘Crush Light Chroma,’ which comes in 8 attractive color modes.

Usage: 
Collapsible
Easy, accordion-style setup
Durable
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
35-hour run-time on low
Collapses to just over an inch
Top handle for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Weight: 
Lightweight at 5.6 ounces

Extras:
Also comes in Crush Light Chroma for a bit higher price, which can result in multiple color modes.

Price: 
Friendly price point for most budget

PROS

  • Compact and collapsible with easy setup
  • Light can run up to 35 hours on low (probably because of 60 lumen maximum power)
  • Two styles available (2nd of the which includes 8 color modes)
  • Top handle for easy carrying and hanging

CONS

  • A few commenters state it can get stuck in ‘demo mode’—however, manufacturer states unit arrives in demo mode and to press and hold down on/off button for 10 seconds for demo-mode disengage.

4

Odoland offers this cute little solar lantern that has dual recharging methods, both solar and USB. Charging indicator lets you know when it’s fully charged so there’s no guessing. It’s great because it can provide 20 hours of continuous light on one single charge. It features 3 light modes. These include ‘cold white,’ which lasts up to 5 hours and emits up to 150 lumens; ‘low warm,’ which emits up to 20 lumens and can last much longer at 20 hours; and ‘high warm white,’ which emits up to 90 lumens and has the ability to last up to 7 hours.

Usage:
Collapsible
Easy, accordion-style setup
Durable
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Three light modes, including ‘cold white,’ ‘low warm,’ and ‘high warm white’
Provides up to 20 hours of continuous light on a single charge

Weight:
Fairly lightweight at 6.4 ounces

Extras:
Top handle for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Excellent price point

PROS

  • Compact and collapsible with easy setup
  • Dual recharging methods
  • Up to 20 hours of continuous light on one charge
  • Top handle for easy carrying and hanging
  • Excellent price point

CONS

  • A few reviewers state their units did not hold a charge for long.

5

This handy little solar lantern by Reiwolf is an accordion-style collapsible that’s easy to set up. It’s made of composite soft rubber, so it won’t corrode even when used outdoors for camping and hiking. It’s got dual recharging methods—both solar as well as USB, and its charging mechanism is waterproof. Plus, it can be used to fill water or as a container, which is a great added feature.

Usage:
Collapsible
Easy, accordion-style setup
Made of durable rubber
3-speed touch switch design
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Can be used as a container

Weight:
Extremely lightweight at 3.6 ounces

Extras:
Top handle for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

Price:
Nice price point

PROS

  • Compact and very lightweight with easy setup
  • Can be used as a container
  • 3-speed touch design with dual recharging methods
  • Made of durable rubber

CONS

  • We could locate only one bad review, which stated their unit’s on/off button did not work well.

6

This great collapsible, accordion-style solar lantern by BigFoot Outdoor Products is capable of providing over 10 hours of LED light on just one charge. It contains 3 lighting modes, including high, low, and SOS for emergencies. It has dual recharging methods—solar power as well as USB. Plus, it has a USB outlet for charging any USB device.

Usage:
Collapsible
Easy, accordion-style setup
Durable
Dual recharging methods—solar as well as USB
Three light modes, including high, low, and emergency SOS flashing
Provides over 10 hours of light on a single charge

Weight: 
Lightweight at 4.8 ounces

Extras:
Top handle for easy carrying as well as hanging on tents, trees, backpacks

PROS

  • Compact and collapsible with easy setup
  • Dual recharging methods
  • Provides 10 hours of light on one charge
  • Top handle for easy carrying as and hanging

CONS

  • A few reviewers stated the battery drained went dead after a period of non-use

OUR CONCLUSIONS

There are so many compact, durable, and well-made solar lanterns on the market today, it’s not easy to choose the best. With all the spectacular features, anyone would be hard-pressed not to purchase one. These convenient little gadgets come in so handy, we truly believe all households should keep at least one around.

However, we do have to choose just one, and our choice is: #2 Solar Inflatable Lantern by LuminAID! No, we didn’t choose this one because it was ‘As Seen on Shark Tank.’ We landed on this lantern, first, because it's a highly top-rated product. We also chose it for its many great features, such as dual recharging, multiple brightness settings, emergency SOS, inflatable design, waterproof, and because it comes with a nice price tag that’s friendly to nearly all budgets. 

But remember—every one of our choices is a top-rated solar lantern. You really can’t go wrong with any of these wonderful little gadgets that has the power to light your way on the darkest of nights!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do solar lights need special batteries?

No. Though many solar powered lanterns come with special rechargeable batteries, you can use regular alkaline batteries if necessary. However, many manufacturers recommend using regular batteries for only a week or so, in the interim until you’re able to purchase a new rechargeable battery like the one that originally came in your solar powered lantern. The reason your lantern needs a rechargeable battery is to store all that solar energy.

What are lumens?

Like watts, lumens are a unit of measurement of visible light. However, lumens and watts actually measure two different things. While wattage measures the amount of electrical power a light bulb uses, lumens measure the brightness of the light irrespective of the power needed to power a light. Therefore, purchasing a light based on lumens rather than watts means you’re able to judge how bright the light will be because lumens are a more accurate form of light measurement.

How many lumens do you need?

The answer to this questions depends on personal needs. As with a wattage light bulb, if you have a space that requires brighter light, a higher wattage bulb will be necessary. The good news with solar lanterns is that most include more than one setting, often from low to high, and some even include an SOS flashing to be used in emergencies.

How often should I recharge my light if I’m not using it all the time?

Typically, solar lanterns need to be recharged about every 3 months. This time can vary depending upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

How long do the batteries last?

Batteries on a solar powered lantern last for varying amounts of time. Most last between 5 and 12 hours per charge. Some solar lanterns’ batteries can even last up to 20 or more continuous hours on a single charge.

How long do the LED lights last?

The amount of time LED lights last will vary; however, most last between 4 hours and 12 hours per charge. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s description/details before purchasing to make sure they align with your needs.

Are inflatable solar lights waterproof?

Some inflatable solar lights are waterproof, and some are only referred to as ‘water resistant.’ Be sure to check the manufacturer’s description/details before purchasing.

How much sun is needed to charge a light?

Typically, solar lanterns should be placed in direct sunlight for approximately 4 to 6 hours per day in order to recharge batteries. Always read instructions beforehand to ensure optimum usage of your solar lantern.

Inflatable v. Collapsible Solar Light: Which is better?

The answer here really depends on your preference. Some consumers prefer the easy collapsibility of an accordion-style, while others state the accordion mechanism does not hold up as well as the inflatable style.

ADDITIONAL TIPS ABOUT USING SOLAR POWERED LANTERNS

After you’ve purchased your solar powered lantern, be mindful of the following points when using:

  • Remember that solar powered lanterns contain batteries. Their batteries run on solar energy, but they still need batteries to work. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations change periodically, so be sure to check beforehand if you’re permitted to take them on the plane and how to pack them. The website of the FAA recommends calling your airline for the latest regs on solar batteries.

  • Always test your solar lantern immediately after you purchase it, or at least before the refund policy expires. Don’t wait too long to learn your purchase is defective.

  • Read the instructions for setup carefully. Solar lanterns often contain a collapsible mechanism such as an accordion design—if you don’t learn the proper way to set up your lantern, you can damage the setup mechanism.

  • If you only plan on using your solar lantern when camping or hiking, or during a power outage, be sure to use it periodically to make sure it’s still working. You don’t want to wait until a natural disaster hits only to find your solar lantern has stopped working.