When you're out on a camping trip, there are some things you just can't do without. One of these is an effective lighting solution for your campsite.
Your campsite doesn't need to be lit up like a sports stadium but conversely you're not going to want to be stumbling about in the dark either due to a lack of lighting.
Your camp lighting is a really important component of your overall camping setup. It should be flexible enough to not only provide general illumination of the campsite but also to cater for tasks such as reading / cooking / playing games, spotlighting at night and illuminating pathways.
In our early camping days, we had no plan when we first started out and, except for an LP gas powered lantern, powered all of our lighting with disposable batteries. We subsequently included rechargeable batteries in an effort to reduce the amount of disposable batteries going to landfill by virtue of our camping getaways. The cost of the lighting items we no longer use would be well in excess of $300. Having been there and done that, we hope we can help you to get your setup right the first time.
The market has come a long way over recent years with many new and more efficient products to choose from at reasonable prices, including power efficient and longer life LED lighting solutions.
Outlined below are our tips to help you choose the right camping lighting solution for tent camping.
How to Choose Your Camping Lights
When choosing your lights for camping, these are the factors you should consider before making your decision:
- Does it provide a right amount of light: We often think about whether a particular light is bright enough, but sometimes they can be too bright.
- Size: Some lights, such as lanterns, can be particularly bulky. Consider whether they can be comfortably packed for transportation.
- Set up and pack up times: Particularly if you are doing a lot of camping or touring, you don't want to be spending a lot of time connecting your lights to the power supply. Consider how easy they will be to connect.
- Rechargeable v disposable battery operated: The cost of disposable batteries to operate lighting can mount up over time. Consider whether there are rechargeable options
- Size, quantity and battery life of required disposable batteries: If choosing disposable battery operated lighting, check the quantity and size of the batteries as well as how long they last before you buy so you don't get any surprises when you get home.
- Does it incorporate LED technology: LED camping lights are becoming much more popular due to its efficiency as well as durability.
Camp Lighting Options for Tent Camping
LED head mounted headlamps are extremely compact and light weight and conveniently leave your hands free for your various campsite tasks. They are also great for reading.
They come in various price ranges and, although traditionally they have been disposable battery powered, a number of new products coming onto the market are USB rechargeable.
They can also be used as hand held torches for general use around the campsite and for trips to the bathroom. Everyone in your campsite should have one of these!
Hand torches and flashlights
LED hand torches are very useful around the campsite and provide excellent directional light for specific tasks. They are also perfect for spotlighting and exploring around the campsite in the evening and for trips to the bathroom.
While most torches and flashlights are disposable battery powered, a number of new products are coming onto the market that are USB rechargeable, solar powered and even powered by a hand crank.
Whatever you choose, look for those that are lightweight, compact, energy efficient and suit your lighting requirements. Some disposable battery powered options might look great, but check the label for their battery requirements before you buy. A little torch powered by one AA battery would be suitable for general use, won't break the battery budget and will be kinder to the environment.
For exploring, each campsite should also have one good long reaching torch with an expandable beam that can pinpoint specific objects as well as provide a wide beam light source. These are great for spotlighting and exploring around the campsite at night, but again, the weight and size of the torch you choose needs to be considered.
Hanging and strip lights
Lights needed to illuminate the inside of tents don't necessarily need to be particularly bright if everyone has a head torch for task lighting. Smaller tent lights and lanterns can be USB charged, solar powered or disposable battery powered, but if you are considering the latter, choose energy efficient options that don't require more than one or two AA or AAA batteries.
Awning and annex lighting
LED strip lighting and smaller round / dome style hanging lights are very efficient ways to provide general ambient and task lighting to the campsite and can be powered via:
1. An inbuilt USB chargeable battery – cables are not required to power the light
2. An inbuilt solar powered battery – solar panel either built into the light or connected via a cable
3. A cable to a power source such as battery or electricity
4. Disposable batteries
While lighting under option 3 (cable to power source) might generally provide better light, the positioning of the lights from the power source will be limited to the cable length, and the cabling will take up valuable packing space. Options 1 and 2 above are therefore preferred over those involving disposable batteries or cables to a separate power source.
Probably the least desirable on a number of levels are these large lanterns. They can be quite bulky and heavy and can take up unnecessary space in the car. They can provide good lighting for activities such as dining, games and cooking, but they tend to be costly to run because of the larger size and number of batteries required to run them.
You can find some rechargeable LED lanterns that come with battery packs but, regardless of the battery type, there are in our opinion (and we are happy to stand corrected by any battery powered lantern lovers out there) lighter and more compact alternatives for general ambient and task lighting as mentioned above.