Best Campsite Lighting Ideas for Your Next Trip to the Woods
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This is a part of our review series, where we give detailed reviews of all of the gear that we use on our trips. You can see the full list of gear here.
Setting up your camping gear in broad daylight is no problem. (Aside from swatting away flies and dealing with pesky tent poles that just won’t snap into place even though it all went smoothly at home.) But what happens when the sun falls behind the trees and the campfire burns out? Peeing in the dark is absolutely a no-go.
So that’s why you need fantastic lighting options to keep your site perfectly glowy. We’ll take you through details to watch for, unique lighting ideas, plus do’s and don’ts for tent lighting. Let’s get our shine on!
What to Look for in Camp Lighting
Choosing campsite lights is totally different from picking out a stunning chandelier for your dining room or flawlessly bright light for your vanity. (Gotta get that premium selfie lighting.)
But when it comes to camping lights, there are a ton of factors you need to consider — ones that don’t really matter at home. After all, finding that perfect glow is unique and based on your specific needs. So let’s explore what to look for when choosing a camping light.
All lighting is measured in lumens. The TL;DR version is that lumens indicate a light’s brightness, so the higher the lumens, the brighter the light.
Sooo, why does this matter? Paying attention to lumens guarantees that you’ll have just the right amount of light for your next camping trip.
How Many Lumens Do I Need for Camping?
Honestly, the number of lumens you need around your campsite can be a fairly personal preference. There isn’t just one answer — sorry! It depends on the size of your site, the number of people with you, and the atmosphere you’re after.
Generally speaking, 100-200 lumen camping lanterns give you enough light to explore dark trails with confidence, while 200-400 lumens will illuminate your entire campsite with ease.
Power sources are one of the biggest reasons we’re even writing this piece! If you had access to a good ol’ outlet like you do at home, you wouldn’t need to consider your light source as much. Plugs aren’t so easy to come by in nature, but you still have some choice.
- Solar. Solar powered lights are fueled by the sun. They contain a built-in solar panel that converts rays into energy, which powers up your devices. It’s a great option if you’re after something portable, green, and ideal for those of us who always forget to pre-charge their power banks *raises hand.*
- Battery. Battery operated lighting solutions come in so many different forms. From a battery powered lantern to rope lights, it’s a pretty versatile option. Extra packages are easy to have on hand, plus you can opt for rechargeable batteries to keep it cleaner.
- Rechargeable. Technically, rechargeable devices do contain batteries, but they work differently. Plug these babies into an outlet or power bank, and they’ll be ready to go when you are.
- Propane. Portable cans of propane are a staple for many people’s camping trips. If you’re staying near a townsite, you’ll have no problem tracking some down to fuel your gas powered lanterns or even camping stove.
- Fire. Obviously, fire is the OG camping light. Let your vibey campfire provide gentle light, ignite a couple of tiki torches, or take a match to some tea lights spread out on your picnic table. There’s nothing like that warm glow you only get from fires. Sigh, are you daydreaming about it too?
You need to factor in how long you’ll be using your light source to make sure you have enough juice to keep things lit (pun proudly intended). So that’s why knowing run time is vital — so you aren’t left in the dark. It simply refers to how long the source lasts on a single charge (or fuel-up).
We all fantasize about sunny, balmy days while planning camping trips. Ahhh, to sit back with a cold can around your best girls. That’s the dream. But sadly, you gotta be prepped for the worst-case weather scenario too. So consider how vulnerable your camping lights are to the elements before you get packing.
Would rain put out your propane lantern? Can your fairy lights survive rough winds? It’s best to know before you go.
Colors and Extra Modes
Some outdoor lighting is a bit more extra than others. Kick off the party vibes by choosing colorful led lights or set the tone when you choose between warm and cool battery powered string lights.
Vibes aren’t everything, though! For example, red light is gentler than white light, making it better suited for late-night activities like reading or illuminating your path to the bathroom. Check out practical modes like automatic shut-off timers and brightness settings too.
What kind of camper are you? Do you thrive in the backcountry with dehydrated foods and only the gear on your shoulders? Or do you prefer to have an SUV filled with comforts (that are all complete necessities, btw) nearby at all times? We’re not judging — we see both of you.
But really, this matters. Bare-min campers need lightweight, portable illumination. This isn’t as big a factor for glampers, so long as you have the room.
Considerations for Tent Lights
Not all outdoor lights are safe inside a tent! Yeah, the materials they’re made of can be super flammable, so skip the candles, propane lanterns, or anything that involves fire or heat. Don’t even try it.
So what can you do to keep your tent glowing?
- LED Light Strips: Line your humble abode with some LED strips that are low-profile and totally out of your way.
- Lightweight Lantern: Non-fuel-based lanterns are all good inside tents! Those battery, solar, or rechargeable lights are A-okay.
- Flashlight: Flashlights are a camper’s BFF. Shine ’em wherever you need some extra illumination.
- Headlight: It may not be the cutest, but headlights are kinda perfect. Put one of these on your head, and no matter where you look — voila! Let there be light!
- Booklight: Any late-night readers? Flexible book lights attach to your pages, so you always have the perfect lighting solution shining on your story.
4 Creative Campsite Lighting Ideas
Lanterns (Solar Power, Rechargeable, Battery, or Fuel Burning)
Lanterns are the most popular lighting solution among campers as they’re portable, bright, long-lasting, and central. But they’re also bulky and emit blue light.
Average run-time varies greatly based on the power source and brightness settings.
- Bright output
- Power sources are refillable
- May only need one
- Light isn’t evenly dispersed throughout campsite
- Can be harsh
Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern
Why we like it: This is a rechargeable, multidirectional lamp with multiple charging options, like USB or solar.
BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern
Why we like it: This durable light has plenty of modes, including a Candle Flicker mode. It’s easy to charge and lasts for 5 hours on full.
Heavy-duty glow sticks offer subtle illumination that doesn’t require a charge — perfect for tent camping! Sadly, they’re one-time-only. After that, you just have to let them fade out. And that might take 24 hours or merely a few minutes.
- No fuel source needed
- Can’t be turned off
Hang some Christmas lights on tree branches for the cutest camp lights around! Just make sure you have the perfect spot for them, or else you might need another lighting alternative. Battery powered string lights last about 4-7 hours.
- Can be placed in multiple spots
- Cozy, gentle light
- Need to be hung up
- Might not provide light where you need it
REVEL GEAR Trail Hound 30 ft. Camping Light
Why we like it: These cute little string lights plug right into a USB adaptor, making them easy to use no matter where you are.
MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights + Charger
Why we like it: it’s solar powered, baby, which means that you can recharge it all day long… perfect for camping off-grid.
Citronella candles fend off bugs while adding to the camping ambiance, but they’re vulnerable to the elements and can’t illuminate a large space. Tea lights burn about 16 hours, while 3-wick candles last 80 hours.
- Repels bugs
- Warm glow
- Pleasant smell
- Not weather-proof
- Fire hazard
Join Explorer Chicks Camping!
Is all this talk about camping tent lights making you itch to be outside, falling asleep in the fresh air with your best gals? Us too. So what’s stopping you from joining us on Explorer Chick camping trips?! From island glamping to backcountry camping, there’s an EC tour for every woman. Pack your bags!
Meet the Writer
Megan Wray is a queer, mixed-race Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based on Treaty 1 Territory. Passionate about pleasure, identity, and anti-oppression, Megan’s fuelled by meaningful chats about topics that aren’t “appropriate” for dinner table conversation. When she’s not writing, you can find Megan cooking vegan food, singing to live music, and trying to understand astrology.
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