Flashlight vs Lantern: What are the Difference and Uses?

Last Updated on May, 2024

Flashlights and lanterns are two very different things. The bright light of a flashlight is a brighter light in comparison to that of a lantern. 

So which is considered better? The focused beam of a flashlight? Or the widespread glow of LED lanterns?

This fair comparison between a flashlight and a lantern will give you a good idea concerning which light source is considered the BEST for you. 

First, before anything else, let’s try to understand more about the details of flashlights and lanterns. 

Quick Summary

Flashlights and lanterns are two different types of lights, with each having their own unique uses and benefits.

Flashlights are usually more powerful and portable than lanterns, but lanterns provide a beautiful ambient glow of light.

The type of flashlight or lantern you should own depends on the specific application and what features are needed.

About Flashlights

a flashlight on the wood

Flashlights are light sources that have a light output based on the lumen count of the device. Handheld flashlights’ light output usually varies from 500 lumens to some brighter than 20000 lumens. 

With 100,000 lumens, the Imalent MS18 is considered the world’s BRIGHTEST flashlight

Flashlights have light modes which allow you to switch between brightness levels. Tactical flashlights have features such as strobe mode, SOS and beacon, which can be very useful in emergency scenarios.

A tactical flashlight could easily, under the right circumstances, save your LIFE! (Carrying a tactical flashlight in your pocket is a smart thing to do.) 

They work on replaceable and rechargeable batteries with varying battery life and runtime. The flashlight’s battery life will determine how long you can use the flashlight in a specific mode. When picking a flashlight, you have to consider the battery life! 

Battery life is one of the most important factors when picking a flashlight. The runtimes and output of flashlights that use alkaline batteries (such as AAA batteries) are varied from those that use lithium-ion batteries, with lithium-ion being the better battery type. 

The brightness setting of the flashlight can be determined based on the selected mode. The battery life of flashlights is GREATEST when on the lowest brightness setting. If you want more light, you must change the mode to a higher setting. 

Flashlights can be handy in a power outage, and a powerful flashlight can easily light up MILES before you. Flashlights are a great way to spot distant objects. The best flashlight will be able to spot objects MILES in the distance. 

Some flashlights are capable of being used hands free.

Though the light produced by a flashlight is usually in one direction, you can actually find flashlights that produce a broad spectrum of light with a wide-angle lens. 

About Lanterns

Lantern flashlight on the table

Lanterns are charming light sources that provide lighting options which are hands free. That’s right; you don’t always have to hold a lantern in your hands. You can carry a lantern in your hand if you wish; however, you can also rest it on a flat surface for hands free lighting. 

Lanterns are perfect for instances such as a power outage. They work GREAT as an emergency light source. The beam type produced by a lantern is a spread of light in all directions. The beam of light is not concentrated in a specific direction, and you are provided with light that spreads a glow of illumination. 

The brightness of the glow depends on how good the lantern is. Fuel-burning lanterns and LED lanterns are two similar but different devices. While the light of a FUEL burning lantern isn’t as bright as an LED lantern, there are no batteries involved… (no need to change batteries, but rather refill fuel.) 

Though a lantern will not produce light that will illuminate objects at long distances, the light produced by a lantern is perfect for activities such as camping.

While camping, you need a light source that will supplement a campfire to illuminate the campsite. A lantern while camping will provide you with the mobility of light. 

The use of a lantern can be determined depending on the activity (like camping). You can use it inside a tent, and the lantern will work to illuminate the dark night with lights bright enough to light up the tent. 

Candle lanterns use candles instead of fuel and produce a dimmer light compared to LED lanterns. The specific application of a lantern is dependent on the type of lantern.

Though a lantern is capable of making the not visible – visible, a lantern will illuminate the surroundings; however, it will not let you shoot a beam of light into the distance (flashlight.) 

Let’s look in greater depth at the difference between a flashlight and a lantern. 

Difference Between a Flashlight and a Lantern

flashlight and Lantern flashlight

A lantern, when not a LED lantern, can be a low-tech device, while a flashlight, based on the specifications and features, could, in comparison, look like a very HIGH-TECH gadget. 

With a traditional lantern, you won’t have to change batteries, while a flashlight will require you to either charge the flashlight or replace batteries to make the light work. 

While the spread of light on a flashlight is one-directional, a lantern illuminates in all directions. 

Though there are hands free flashlights in the market (magnetic base), a flashlight is predominantly used with hands. A lantern, in comparison, can be used with hands (carried); however, it predominantly acts as a light source that can be rested on any flat surface. 

While LED lanterns are usually brighter than traditional candle lanterns, flashlights usually provide a stronger beam of light, with the BRIGHTEST flashlight offering 100,000 lumens. To better understand, a 60-watt bulb only is usually 700 lumens. 

Hence, the brightness of flashlights can be much stronger than a lantern.

Though electric lanterns have special modes that can be changed to alter the light level, not all lanterns have this option. Flashlights are more likely to have multiple modes. 

Headlamps are a type of flashlight that is worn on the head. In comparison to lanterns, headlamps allow you hands free lighting when on the move. The right headlamps will illuminate the direction you are facing without the need to hold a lantern with your hands. 

Though both devices can be used in activities such as camping, the lights produce varied outputs and are used in varied circumstances.

Lanterns are often made of glass, making them fragile, while flashlights are made with durable aluminum, which makes them much stronger and more durable. 

Specific applications of both lanterns and flashlights are varied. Though they are both light sources, they aren’t used in the same way. 

While you can pack a flashlight in your bag while traveling, it isn’t as easy to carry around a lantern. Flashlights are usually smaller than lanterns, with small flashlights fitting in your pocket. In comparison to this, lanterns can be bulky. 

Lastly, a flashlight’s light intensity is usually much greater than that of a lantern. The intensity of a lantern isn’t usually very high. It is never high enough to blind someone. Some flashlights have such high light outputs that the intensity of light on the highest mode is enough to blind someone (like a mugger) temporarily.

Types of Flashlights

a human holding a flashlight

There are various types of flashlights on the market. Here is a list of some of the types of flashlights that are available. 

Types of Lanterns

All lanterns are not electronic. Electronic lanterns are a type of lantern which has recently started to replace older traditional lanterns. Types of lanterns include, 

  • LED lanterns
  • Candle lanterns
  • Fuel-burning lanterns

Benefits of a Lantern

A lantern, for example, can come of great general use when in need of light during a dark night (or a power outage.) Though they aren’t as small as flashlights, they are portable. You can carry a lantern as you walk. 

Lanterns are great for enclosed spaces and can illuminate a larger area depending on the type and specification of the lantern. They work well to light up a room and can light a wide area depending on the glow and performance. 

Lanterns can be handy at night if you are ever in need of a light source. The output of a lantern is a spread of light, allowing for a beautiful ambience that otherwise cannot be found. 

Candle lanterns are a charming way to light up a space. Though they don’t provide as much illumination as an electronic lantern, you won’t find the ambient glow of light elsewhere with anything else. 

Walking with a lantern is easy and illuminating the darkness with a lantern is simplicity at its finest. 

Benefits of a Flashlight

a human holding a flashlight

A top-end flashlight will be waterproof, which means you can use it in the rain and even drop it in the water. 

A flashlight can help you explore your surroundings. If you find yourself in a dark alley, your surroundings could be scary. With a flashlight in your hand, your surroundings will be lit with brilliant illumination, ensuring safety. 

You can hang a flashlight with a pocket clip on your shirt, bag, belt, or pocket. This increases portability. Yes, you can carry a small flashlight everywhere with you. 

A flashlight with a strobe feature could be very useful in emergency scenarios. A STROBE could work to temporarily blind a threat allowing you to run away. It can also work as a signaling tool in an emergency where you need to signal for help. 

Powered by a battery means that you have the trust of the 21st century. Flashlights offer reliable light that you can shoot in a specific direction. The compact flashlight design allows you to explore a specific area (perfect as a part of the home security system.)

The focused beam produced by a flashlight will allow you to spot an object in the distance.

The power of the flashlight will determine how far the light will reach. There are battery-powered flashlights that have beam distances in the MILES!

Uses of a Flashlight

A flashlight produces light that sufficiently lights up the space before you. Though the direction of light is one-directional, the lighting of a flashlight can be instrumental when exploring the darkness. 

The batteries used by a flashlight are usually replaceable or rechargeable, allowing for continued use.

A flashlight not only allows you to see in the darkness. A suitable flashlight with the right features will allow you to spot objects MILES in the distance. 

A flashlight can be a great way to signal someone in case you ever need to signal for help. For instance, you are stranded on the road with a broken engine and need to signal a moving vehicle to stop and help you. 

Apart from the simple fact that a flashlight could be used to see in the darkness, a strobe feature would be used to blind threats. 

Flashlights are even used in hunting when a light source becomes necessary to make the night kill. Special diving flashlights are used to explore the depths underwater, showcasing how useful flashlights can be. 

Uses of a Lantern

Lantern on the table

A lantern is a secondary light source when the power is out. A lantern can work as a light source if there is no electricity. 

Lanterns can be moved from place to place, providing portable lighting. 

The spread of light from lanterns offers a beautiful glow of light in all directions, allowing for the illumination of open areas. 

They work great in rooms and enclosed spaces and can also be used outdoors. 

Though traditional fire lanterns cannot be used in the rain, newer electric lanterns also have waterproofing and can be used in wet conditions. 

Lantern Flashlights, What are They?

Lantern flashlights are electronic lantern-shaped lights that provide illumination, much like a lantern. 

Lantern flashlights, also known as electronic lanterns or LED lanterns, work to illuminate in all directions with the ability to rest on a flat surface. 

They can be carried much like traditional lanterns; however, they are varied due to the use of batteries. These lanterns are battery-powered and offer light output based on the specifications of the lantern flashlight. 

Lantern flashlights offer the output and performance of a brighter flashlight in the packaging of a lantern, which is why they are GREAT!

Which One Should You Own?

flashlight and lantern on the floor

Ideally, a flashlight can do so much more than a lantern. Though a lantern flashlight can provide you with a good amount of light, much like a flashlight, these lanterns are big, bulky lighting devices that aren’t as easy to carry around. 

Though you can carry a lantern, they aren’t as portable as a flashlight that is small enough to fit in your pocket. 

Hence, when it comes to picking between the two, in my understanding and recommendation, the perks of owning a flashlight are much greater than owning a lantern. 

However, a candle or fuel-burning lantern will do the job if you are searching for ambience!

Final Thoughts

Flashlights and lanterns are both great lighting sources that can provide light when you need it the most. 

Deciding between a flashlight and a lantern isn’t tricky. Depending on where you would use the light, you can quite easily decide which light is better for you: a lantern or a flashlight. 

They both have their own perks, and there is an element of charm about both these devices. However, these are two different types of lights, and I hope you better understand the differences and similarities between a flashlight and a lantern. 

If you want the best flashlights you can checkout this article here and the best lanterns here


Yes, most flashlights have some level of waterproof protection, but it is important to check the specific flashlight’s waterproof rating.

Yes, lanterns provide light, but it is not focused light.

Yes, electronic lanterns are superior to traditional lanterns as they provide greater light output and brightness, and offer adjustable brightness settings.

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Dillon Morrison
I have been involved in the flashlight community since 2007. My brother has a flashlight shop from where I have tested and reviewed more than 600+ different types of flashlights. You can find more about me here.

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