It’s always fun to arrive at a campsite, set up the tent, and frolic in the sunshine of the day. But, if you’ve ever been out in the woods, you know that nighttime is dark. And I mean, dark. Don’t fear, though; there are fantastic campsite lighting ideas that will brighten up your campsite and your tent!
When selecting the lighting for my camping trip, I consider a few things: practicality, ambiance, safety, and fun. Walking up to the warm, cozy glow of a campsite is one of my favorite things about immersing myself in the woods.
I also think about the many times I have angrily tripped over my tent’s guy lines and reminded myself to pack extra lights, just for those alone.
Making dinner in the dark with just a lantern or reading in my tent with the sound of crickets and a soft breeze outside are made possible by planning ahead as to which lights I’d like to bring.
Find the perfect campsite and tent lighting ideas here to help you create the ideal camping experience for daytime and nighttime.
25 Campsite & Tent Lighting Ideas
1. Hanging Light Bulbs
Great for inside your tent, next to the entrance, or under your hammock tarp, hanging light bulbs are powered by batteries and give at least 10 hours of light.
They come with a clip on the bottom so you can hang them from anything.
2. Rechargeable Soft and Gentle Glow Light
These lights are typically found in nurseries but can be brought into the woods for your little ones as well! The little glow eggs let off a perfect amount of light for parents to see around the tent while the kiddos sleep.
Glow lights are rechargeable and will last up to 200 hours on their lowest setting.
3. Book Light
I never go camping without a book and a book light. I find that book lights are perfect for stormy days when I’m trapped in the tent and need to occupy myself.
My book light runs on batteries, but lots of them are rechargeable.
4. Standing Work Lights
These lights are perfect if your site has an electrical hookup or alternate power source. You can adjust work lights on a stand to fit any tent height.
Most have different brightness levels, so you can choose how bright you want your campsite or the inside of your tent to be.
5. Tent Lanterns
I can’t recommend tent lanterns enough. I have three tent lanterns that I take with me whenever I go camping. I even find space for them to go backpacking with me because they are so lightweight.
These lights are crushable, which means they can fit into the smallest packs and totes.
Tent lanterns come with a hook on the bottom so that you can hang them by your tent front door and inside the tent.
I think they’re lovely because the light is not too overwhelming, and they glow in the dark so that you can find them in the middle of the night.
My specific tent lanterns are battery-operated, but many are rechargeable or even solar-powered.
I suggest tent lanterns for smaller tents or for the front entrance. The light might not be bright enough in a large or multiple-room tent.
6. Propane Lantern
Propane lanterns are an excellent light source for a campsite. These lanterns run on propane fuel, which you can purchase in cylinders that screw onto the bottom of the lantern.
Propane lanterns are extremely easy to set up, and they illuminate up to 23 meters of space!
These lanterns use mantles, or ceramic mesh, to produce light. Mantles are incredibly fragile and will crumble to ash if you accidentally knock around the lantern too much.
However, mantles are very affordable and easy to replace; just make sure you always have a few extras on hand!
7. Dual-Fuel Lantern
Hanging in my basement are three different dual-fuel Colman lanterns. Why three?
Because I fully believe that one is none and two is one, especially when the lanterns were 60% off! My third lantern is an antique, and I couldn’t help myself.
Remarkably similar to propane lanterns, dual-fuel lanterns use mantles, but instead of running on a propane cylinder, they can run on Coleman camp fuel or unleaded gasoline.
Using this lantern made the most sense because both my camp stove and my backpacking stove are dual-fuel.
On the trickier side of things, dual-fuel lanterns need a bit more work to get going than just pressing a button (like you’d do with an electric light).
However, once you get the hang of pressurizing the fuel tank, you’ll have an amazing bright light that will last up to five hours on high or 20 hours on low.
Take it from someone who lives in the woods and often loses power: These lanterns can light up your entire house if necessary!
8. Copper Wire Lights
You’ve seen these lights on Pinterest rolled into a ball and placed into a lantern to make “firefly lights.”
Copper wire lights are great because they are still enough to wrap around things or keep freestanding. They also create a whimsical ambiance.
Most copper wire lights run on batteries, though you’ll need to plug others into a power source.
Also, keep in mind that copper wire lights are not waterproof and should not be left outside.
9. Solar String Lights
Possibly the most fun and easiest to set up, solar string lights are an excellent option for lighting your campsite.
I love string lights because they do a great job of creating enough light around the site without bothering the neighbors.
Solar string lights are easy to set up and use; just make sure to keep the solar box in sunlight during the day. If the day isn’t sunny, fear not; most solar string lights have a backup charging port.
10. Corded String Lights (or Christmas Lights!)
We’ve all been through the headache of getting the holiday lights out for the winter, detangling them, and plugging them in only to find that half of a string doesn’t work.
However, we’ve also seen how amazingly bright holiday lights can be!
Using corded string lights is the most festive you can get while camping. They’re great because they’re waterproof, flexible, and effortless to hang.
Remember that you’ll need a power bank or an electrical setup for these lights.
11. Rope Lights
Rope lights are a great alternative to string lights but might be better if storage isn’t a problem because rope lights don’t tangle as easily.
Most rope lights are battery operated but can be attached to a solar-powered battery pack.
Rope lights are waterproof and can be easily hung. Also, they’re flexible enough to reach every nook and cranny of your campsite.
12. Collapsible Solar Lantern
I own two different collapsible solar lanterns, and I have to say, I love using them inside the tent at night. During the day, I pop my lantern outside to let it charge up. Then, at night, I hang my solar lantern from the ceiling of my tent.
I like that these lanterns are simple, with no cords, fuel, batteries, or overly fancy features. They’re great for camping when packing space is limited. Stick this lantern out in the sun, blow it up (or pop it out), hang it, and enjoy.
However, I find that my solar lantern is not bright enough to illuminate my entire campsite. I also worry about the inevitable rainy days when I won’t be able to set my lantern out to charge.
I wouldn’t rely on my solar lantern alone to do the job, but I do love it all the same!
13. Battery-Operated Lantern
When you’re short on time, or when the sun isn’t out, which means you can’t charge a solar lantern, a battery lantern might be the way to go.
Battery lanterns are great for inside the tent, and possibly even offering extra light on the picnic table.
I’ve gone through my fair share of battery-operated lanterns, and they had a lot of positives.
One, battery-operated lanterns are bright enough to light your entire campsite. Two, modern-day battery-operated lanterns are pretty small, and some are duel solar and battery.
Keep in mind, however, that most battery lanterns take AA or AAA batteries (sometimes even larger), so you’ll want to have back-ups with you just in case.
14. Motion Sensor Lighting
Motion sensor lighting is fantastic for those middle-of-the-night bathroom runs when you really need to go!
They’re also great because they’ll be on only while you’re moving around. While you’re hanging out at the campfire, they’ll turn off and give you a break from modern lighting.
Many motion sensor lights are solar-powered and easily attach to branches or posts. Just keep in mind that motion sensor lighting (as on houses) is very bright.
That means you’ll need to be mindful about placing them to avoid disturbing your neighbor.
15. Glow Sticks
While not a great way to light up your campsite or tent, glow sticks are helpful in so many ways.
Wrap glow sticks around the guy lines of your tent to prevent yourself from tripping all over the place (we all do it, don’t be embarrassed).
Really, you can use glow lights to illuminate any tripping hazards, such as old random cement pads sticking out of the dirt, overly large picnic table legs, and the straps of your hammock.
Along with this, glow sticks will keep children occupied and having fun while running around, dancing with the colors. Get some magical flames - a powder that changes the hue of your campfire flames - and let the kids enjoy all of the colorful, fun light.
This also helps you keep track of them!
16. Landscape Solar Lighting
Landscape solar lights are great for the perimeter of your campsite or if the path to your camp is long.
Landscape lights are solar-powered and low to the ground and keep working for a long time, as long as the sun powers them during the day.
These lights are easy to stake into the ground and are great for illuminating your campsites’ tripping hazards. They typically come in large packs and will store easily while also being lightweight.
Luminaries are tea lights (or battery-powered tea lights, which I highly suggest) in flame-resistant bags that are also great for lighting the way to and around your campsite.
Once you light your tealight, the paper bag glows, casting quite a bit of light onto the surface around it.
Luminaries are sold with different patterns on the bags, creating a whimsical and romantic light. You can also do a fun DIY project with the kids or by yourself and create your own patterns.
In addition, luminaries are a great idea if you want to light up your campsite but are tight on packing space in your car. They are lightweight, fold up nicely, and are easy on the budget!
18. Wearable Lighting
Headlamps are a massive go-to for me when I camp and any time I need to function in the woods in the dark. Each time I camp, I bring my favorite headlamp and about two backups.
One of my most used headlamps is compatible with its headband and a beanie, so I can switch it over to match the seasons.
Headlamps are great for walking between the tent to the bathroom, getting direct light for cooking or other handheld tasks, and foraging for firewood. They are incredible for providing hands-free lighting that moves with you.
Be careful not to look directly at people, because your light will, too!
You can also attach lights to your shoelaces, sleeves, or pockets. I love using them to walk around areas with cars. Some of these lights are battery-operated, while others are rechargeable.
They can also stay steady or blink. Either way, the light is bright and noticeable to a driver in a car.
19. Hurricane Oil Lamps
Hurricane oil lamps are typically red and use kerosene oil as their fuel with a wick. The wick draws up the kerosene and is lit with a match or lighter. The flame will keep burning as long as the lamp contains kerosene.
One of the benefits of oil lamps is the ability to use citronella oil to keep bugs away! Just note that citronella will discolor the lantern over time because of soot. You can clean the soot, but it might be dirty to touch and move until cleaned.
Keep in mind that these lamps use an open flame and are for outdoor use only. They are not safe to use in a tent.
20. Edison Lights
Add some ambiance to your campsite by using string Edison lights for a vintage or boho look.
You can plug Edison lights into a power bank or a campsite-provided power source, just as you would with regular string lights.
21. Solar-Powered Paper Lanterns
Another aesthetically pleasing type of string light, paper lanterns will give your campsite a romantic and whimsical look. Some of these lanterns are large and great for RV camping.
22. Candle-Lit Lantern
While perhaps not capable of lighting your entire campsite, candle-lit lanterns can make for a lovely centerpiece for the dinner table or for lighting the entrance path to your camp.
Candle lanterns are lit with small tealight candles and can cast beautiful patterns depending on the lantern you get. Candle-lit lanterns will turn your plain picnic table into a romantic or trendy dinner table.
23. Tiki Torches
Tiki torches are another great option if you have extra space in the car or RV, primarily because they work double duty by keeping away pesky mosquitoes and bugs.
Nothing looks as cool as a ring of tiki torches around the campsite, and nothing feels as comfortable as hanging out in a mosquito-free area.
I love the combination of tiki torches and a campfire. I also love that there are options for short-term use and long-term use, depending on what kind you get.
Bamboo tiki torches will not hold up as long as metal torches, but that is nice if you want to store torches only for the season.
24. LED Strip Lighting
Strip lighting is neat because it has an adhesive backing, making it easy to stick onto any surface. The strips are also tiny and roll up pretty tight, which can be an excellent space saver.
Many LED strips come waterproofed, so you won’t have to worry about their placement.
With all of these positives, just remember that LED strips need a power bank or campsite-provided outlet to run.
25. Tin Can Lanterns
Are you looking for a fantastic DIY project to do with the family while camping?
Tin can lanterns will take up lots of time and be a blast to make. You will need a tin can, a nail, and a hammer (for each person). On a sturdy surface, hammer the nail into the tin can until it punctures through.
Then, remove the nail from the hole, place it somewhere else, and repeat. Make unique patterns in the tin can, or spell out the names of family members. Get creative and have fun with it!
Once your tin can is complete, place a tealight in the can and light it up to illuminate your families’ unique designs.
BONUS: Rechargeable Dog Collar
A reusable light-up dog collar is an absolute must for me when camping. While I keep my dog on a long run while I camp, I still like to make sure she’s illuminated as she sniffs and explores the edges of our campsite.
Her rechargeable dog collar casts an extremely bright light and is also great for protecting her from cars when we take walks on the street.
On top of all this, it’s downright adorable!
How to Hang Lights When Camping
Now that you’ve chosen your favorite camping lights, you might be asking yourself: How do I hang these lights?
There are a few options:
- Some campsites offer a large hook-like stand near the picnic table. While some might say this is for hanging your garbage, this is incorrect and dangerous. These hooks are actually for hanging your lantern! The hook can also be a great starting point for hanging your string lights.
- From your starting anchor, you can attach string lights to the highest point of your tent, a tarp pole, your RV, or a car that will be staying at the site the entire time.
- String lights can easily wrap around your tent entrance, kitchen tent, or bug tent. Lighting up the doors to these tents will help you find your way and illuminate the inside of the tent. Use the tent poles to support your lights.
- Most tents offer a way to hang lights on the inside. Just make sure you don’t hang something too heavy, causing strain on your tent stitching.
- You can also use removable clips to hang up lights. Stick clips to picnic tables and along your pop-up structures and hang your lights from them.
Please keep in mind:
- DO NOT put nails or hooks into trees. Nailing or drilling something into a tree will permanently hurt the tree and could threaten campers down the road if the tree dies while standing.
- Likewise, wrapping lights incorrectly around trees can damage the tree’s bark. Always protect the bark first, then wrap your lights (or hammock straps!).
- Be aware of your campsite relative to the area. For example, don’t allow string lights to cross a walking path that runs behind your site, and make sure your lights don’t intrude on anyone else’s space.
What Are the Best Camping String Lights?
I’m all about easy, practical, and solar-powered camping lighting ideas. I highly suggest the Luci String Lights, which check off all my must-haves.
You can charge Luci String Lights with their built-in solar panel or a USB chord. The lights provide up to 16 hours of illumination on a single charge, which I find extremely impressive.
They also have three levels of brightness, which is extremely handy for multi-tasking.
One unit of Luci String Lights covers 18 feet, which is perfect for stretching your light from the tent to your picnic table, and then some.
Also, it makes hanging the lights super easy with built-in clips. I love the idea of zigzagging these lights inside a tent to create a cozy, comfy atmosphere of warm light to fall asleep in.
How Many Lumens Do I Need to Light a Campsite?
Lumens are a unit of measurement for the output of light. The higher the number, the brighter the light.
Stick to this guideline for lumens:
- 100 lumens or under is excellent for lighting a tent
- 200 lumens will light up your tent site
- Over 300 lumens are suitable for group campsites
Remember to respect your neighbors and keep your lumens at a reasonable level.
Can I Keep My Lights On All Night?
Typically, the answer is no, for a couple of reasons. Campsite facilities might have a “lights out” or “quiet time” policy that asks you to turn off your music and bring your lights down to just your campfire and headlamps.
“Quiet time” is implemented out of respect for those who want to sleep. It’s nice to follow a “quiet time” rule even if your campsite doesn’t have one.
Along with this, lights draw bugs, so your campsite will be a beacon for insects to hang out all night. I don’t want to wake up with my tent covered in bugs.
Last, you might not have the battery power or fuel to keep your light on all night. Especially if you are camping for multiple nights, you may need to conserve your power source.
Can I Convert My Headlamp Into a Lantern?
Yes and no, but no. Everyone has seen the trick in which a headlamp is placed inside out onto a gallon of water to create a lantern.
And while, yes, this will create a larger glow from within the bottle, it is much more efficient and brighter to use your headlamp for its intended purpose. A traditional lantern would also be a much better use of your resources.
I would much rather have direct, bright light than a somewhat glowing bottle of water.
Between solar-powered lights, fuel-powered lanterns, and battery-operated gear, we are extremely lucky to have so many options for tent and campsite lighting.
Whether you find yourself traversing the backwoods with a backpack or towing behind a fifth wheel, there are different campsite and tent lighting ideas for all situations.
Just remember to turn off your lights and enjoy the stars while you’re sleeping under them!
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Kendall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer passionate about educating those who wish to explore the outdoors. When Kendall isn’t writing, she is exploring the woods of the US Northeast on foot or kayak.