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In 2018, there was a huge 64% increase in the number of Americans going on camping trips. More people are taking vacations closer to home and enjoying the outdoors with their friends and family. It’s a fun social experience!
If you’re also a new camper, you might need some camping lighting ideas to illuminate your campsite after dark.
It’s not just a matter of safety, as having good outdoor lighting can really make or break your trip. Sure, hiking and other activities are great during the day. But the real memories are usually made at night, laughing with your friends and kicking back with a cold one.
Here are some of the best camping lighting ideas for your campsite, tent, camper van, or even your backyard!
Lanterns are a classic camping lighting option and for good reason. They are sturdy, weatherproof, and provide a ton of light.
They are usually battery-operated, but many new models are rechargeable. And if you want a retro vibe, propane-powered lanterns are still manufactured, too!
Lanterns are an ideal outdoor lighting choice if you just want one object for your campsite and inside your tent. You can hang lanterns in the middle of your tent so the entire inside is lit up, or you can place it in the middle of a picnic table.
They are quite bulky, so lanterns may not the best option if you’re thru-hiking or venturing on a multi-day trek.
2. LED Bulb String Lights
These are also called Edison lights. Several LED light bulbs are fixed on a robust string that is made to hang outdoors. The bulbs are shatterproof and the whole lighting system is weatherproof.
Plus, thanks to the cool Edison bulbs, they’re modern and right on-trend!
Some battery-operated bulb string lights are available, but this type of outdoor lighting is suited to camper vans (or patios) where there is a constant energy supply.
You can hang them on the outside of your van or around the edges of an awning. They’re extremely bright and offer a lot of coverage. Everyone at the campsite will wish they had these cool string lights!
3. Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are one of the best camping lighting ideas if you have children. They’re inexpensive and can be bought in packs of 30 or more from party supply stores or online shops like Amazon.
Not only are they bright and multicolored, but there are glow sticks that can be adapted into bracelets or necklaces. If you have young children who love exploring, they can wear glowsticks as jewelry so you can easily see them in the dark.
They’re not the best environmental option as they only last so many hours once activated. But they are fun, effective at lighting small areas, look awesome, and pack very light.
Everyone should have at least one flashlight at home for emergencies! And that’s why flashlights a very affordable and versatile camping lighting idea.
They’re small, packable, and are either battery-operated or rechargeable.
Flashlights might not seem like the most exciting of outdoor lighting options. However, you can invest in a brightly-colored flashlight or one with a vintage design like the ones at https://barebonesliving.com/collections/outdoor-lighting.
Also, flashlights are essential if you plan on telling ghost stories on your camping trip. It’s a requirement that scary storytellers need to hold a flashlight under their chin!
5. Christmas/Fairy Lights
Is there a type of lighting that looks more magical than fairy lights or a string of Christmas lights? They can turn any simple tent into a cozy woodland escape.
Fairy lights create an atmospheric glow which isn’t great if you’re trying to read after dark or need to find your way to the showers before dawn. But they’re perfect for sitting out under the stars!
If you are using actual Christmas lights you will need a power supply so they’re ideal for RVs or camper vans. However, you can purchase special battery-operated fairy lights too.
6. Light Rope or Tape
If you want to know how to light a campsite so that the whole area is lit up, light ropes or tapes are the best options. Especially if you’re concerned about lighting that’s safe in all weathers.
They are similar to LED bulb string lights or fairy lights, but their bulbs are safely protected beneath a plastic casing. You can tape them around a picnic table or drape them across your tent.
Light ropes are versatile and very durable! If you have an RV or a vehicle with 12V power, you can easily power a light rope for the entire evening.
7. Stake Lights
Do you want camping lighting ideas that take approximately 10 seconds to set up? Then stake lights are perfect!
They are similar to outdoor path lights, are usually small, and they pierce into the ground just like tent pegs. Stake lights are usually solar-powered so they offer easy, rechargeable lighting that can illuminate your entire campsite.
They aren’t the best lighting option for #vanlifers or campers who travel around frequently as you wouldn’t have the opportunity to charge them during the day. But for weekend trips, they’re easy and environmentally friendly.
8. Clip-on Lights
Clip-on lights make great tent lighting because they are so small and functional. They come in a variety of styles but essentially, any small light that comes with a clip or slide to attach itself to an object is a clip-on light.
Popular clip-on lights are book lights or small lanterns. You could attach a couple to the inside of your tent or on your camping chairs when you’re relaxing outside.
They’re perfect if you just need a little bit of light to read or find something in your bag without waking anyone else sleeping in the tent. And they’re a great alternative to phone torches to help you conserve your phone’s battery life.
9. Paper Lanterns
Want to give your campsite a cool, bohemian vibe? Hang paper lanterns around your tent or awning act as eye-catching decorations as well as lighting. They are lightweight and are perfect for festivals!
Usually, the paper lanterns themselves are packed flat. They open up and can be fixed onto string lighting. Alternatively, you can use luminaries which are like solar or battery-powered tealights if you don’t want them to hang on strings.
Not the most ideal camping lighting option if you’re experiencing high winds or heavy rain, but paper lanterns are perfect for calm, summer nights.
10. Tiki Torches
Tiki lights are a cross between stake lights and lanterns. Not only are they very easy to set up, but they are fun decorations too.
Traditional tiki torches are propane-powered which means they produce real fire. Aside from fulfilling your camp lighting needs, they make a great lazy campfire substitution so you can toast s’mores.
Tiki torches are so popular that you can also get battery-powered and solar-powered LED imitation flame alternatives. Just stick them in the ground and wait for the sun to go down so your tiki torches can light up your campsite.
You will need a bit of space in your camping vehicle, depending on how many tiki torches you want to pack. But they look cool so they’re worth making room for!
11. Candle Tealights
Create a romantic setting with candles dotted around your camping area. On a summer’s evening, tealights can provide a magical, warm glow for up to four hours.
You can get super creative and put tea lights in multi-colored tin cans, glass bottles, or mason jars to ensure they are protected. Always blow the candles are put out before heading into your tent or RV.
Also, you could opt for citronella tealights if you are camping in summer when bugs love to come out and play. That way, you’ll create a cozy atmosphere by lighting candles and by getting rid of the bugs!
12. Head Lamps
They’re not the most fun camping lighting idea, but they are functional. Headlamps are very small and are a great option if you are on a multi-day camping trip. Many of them are either battery-powered or rechargeable.
Headlamps are great for finding your way in the dark as well as searching for things in your tent. Although, they’re not the best if you need lighting for socializing around your campsite after dark.
Blinding your friends with direct light as you talk to them doesn’t help create a relaxing atmosphere!
And finally, why not try one of nature’s camping lighting ideas? Building a campfire is a little more effort than the other lighting ideas on this list. But it’s inexpensive, provides heat, and is an essential part of any camping trip.
For obvious reasons, campfires aren’t the best option if you need to illuminate the inside of your tent or find your way to the campground restrooms. They’re not very portable or safe!
Try These Camping Lighting Ideas on Your Next Trip
There are so many fantastic camping lighting ideas that there’s bound to be one perfect for you and your style of camping.
Whether you want solar, battery, propane, or rechargeable lighting for your campsite, there’s an option for you in every style. Don’t let the fun stop after dark and keep the good times rolling.
Check out our other lifestyle articles for more tips and advice!