Bright Ideas: How to Choose Camping Lights

Camping is a fun activity for people who love the outdoors. It lets you connect with nature, take a break from daily life, and make great memories with friends and family. When night comes, having good lighting at your campsite is important. The right lights help you stay safe, comfortable, and enjoy your time camping even more.

Here is a quick guide on how to choose camping lights to light up your night:

  • Choose the right type of camping light.
  • Get enough lumens.
  • Find a beam distance and focus that works for you.
  • Make sure your lights have a good battery life.
  • Pick a weight and size that fits your camping style.
  • Get a durable light with good water resistance.
  • Decide which extra features you need.

Types of Camping Lights

When picking a camping light, it’s important to think about the different types that are out there. Some of the main kinds include lanterns, headlamps, flashlights, and string lights. Each type of light has its own good points and can be helpful for different activities during your camping trip.

Lanterns are great for lighting up a big area, like your campsite. They usually have a handle so you can hang them up or carry them easily. Lanterns are perfect for when you’re cooking, playing games, or just hanging out with friends at night.

Headlamps are worn on your head, which keeps your hands free. This can be helpful if you need to do something like set up your tent or find something in your backpack in the dark. Headlamps are also good for hiking or walking around at night, since they point the light wherever you’re looking.

Flashlights are small and portable, making them easy to carry around. They can be very bright, so they’re useful for when you need a focused beam of light. Flashlights are handy for exploring, finding your way in the dark, or even for emergency situations.

String lights can add a fun and cozy atmosphere to your campsite. They’re lightweight and easy to hang up. These lights are great for creating a warm, inviting space for you and your friends to enjoy while sitting around the campfire or relaxing in your tent.

When choosing a camping light, think about what activities you’ll be doing and which type of light would work best for you. It might even be a good idea to bring more than one kind of light to make sure you’re prepared for any situation during your camping trip.

The Pros and Cons of Each Type of Camping Light

Take a look at the table below for a quick comparison of each type of light.

Type of Camping LightProsCons
Lantern– Illuminates a large area
– Easy to hang or carry with a handle
– Good for cooking, socializing, and general campsite use
– Can be bulky and heavier than other options
– May not provide a focused beam for specific tasks
Headlamp– Hands-free operation
– Good for tasks requiring both hands, like setting up tents
– Useful for hiking or walking at night
– May not be as bright as some flashlights or lanterns
– Limited to the direction of your head
– Can be uncomfortable if worn for extended periods
Flashlight– Small and portable
– Can provide a focused beam of light
– Good for exploring, navigation, and emergencies
– Requires one hand to operate
– May not illuminate a large area like a lantern
String Lights– Lightweight and easy to hang
– Creates a cozy, inviting atmosphere
– Good for relaxing around the campfire or in the tent
– Not suitable for focused or task-specific lighting
– May not be as bright as other options
– Relies on a nearby attachment point

Brightness and Adjustability

Brightness and adjustability are important factors to consider when selecting a camping light. Lumens measure the brightness of a light, and the higher the lumen count, the brighter the light will be. Knowing the lumens of a camping light can help you pick one that will be bright enough for your needs.

Adjustable brightness settings are a useful feature in camping lights. This allows you to control how bright the light is depending on your needs at any given time. For instance, you might want a dimmer light for relaxing around the campfire or a brighter light for cooking or setting up your tent. Being able to adjust the brightness can also help you save battery life, as using a lower setting will use less power.

When choosing a camping light, look for one with multiple brightness settings – the more settings the better. You may also want to look into getting one with a strobe setting as it can be helpful in emergency situations. Lights with the option to go into red-light mode can be helpful too. The red light helps to preserve your night vision and is less disruptive to wildlife.

Once, you’ve found one with the brightness and adjustability functions you need, you can then move onto beam distance and focus.

Beam Distance and Focus

Beam distance and focus are crucial factors to think about when choosing a camping light. The beam distance refers to how far the light can reach or shine, while the focus relates to how concentrated or dispersed the light is.

A longer beam distance is helpful when you need to see further away, like when you’re walking or hiking in the dark, exploring unfamiliar terrain, or trying to spot something at a distance. On the other hand, a wider beam angle, which spreads the light out over a larger area, is more useful for general campsite activities, such as cooking, socializing, or setting up your tent.

An adjustable focus feature on a camping light allows you to switch between a concentrated, narrow beam for longer distances and a wider, more diffused beam for illuminating larger areas. This can be particularly useful if you need a versatile light that can cater to different situations during your camping trip.

Before Buying a Camping Light

Consider the beam distance and focus that will best suit your needs. If you plan on doing a lot of night hiking or exploring, you might want a light with a longer beam distance and adjustable focus. However, if you mostly need a light for your campsite or general activities, a wider beam angle could be more suitable.

By considering these factors, you can choose a camping light that provides the right combination of beam distance and focus for your outdoor adventures.

Battery Life and Alternative Power Sources

Battery life and power source are essential factors to consider when selecting a camping light, as they determine how long your light will last and how convenient it will be to maintain power during your camping trip.

  1. Disposable batteries: Camping lights that use disposable batteries, like AA or AAA, are widely available and easy to find. They offer the advantage of being able to replace the batteries quickly when they run out. However, constantly buying disposable batteries can be expensive and less environmentally friendly in the long run.
  2. Rechargeable batteries: Some camping lights come with built-in rechargeable batteries or use rechargeable batteries like 18650 or 21700 cells. These lights are more eco-friendly and cost-effective over time, as you don’t need to keep buying new batteries. You can recharge them using a wall charger, a portable power bank, or even a solar charger. Keep in mind that you’ll need access to a power source to recharge them, which might not always be available during your camping trip.
  3. Solar power: Solar-powered camping lights are an environmentally friendly option, as they harness sunlight to recharge their batteries during the day. They are ideal for extended camping trips, as you won’t need to carry extra batteries or worry about finding a power source. However, their performance may be limited in cloudy or shaded conditions, and they typically require a full day of sunlight to recharge completely.

When choosing a camping light, consider the battery life and power source that best suits your camping needs. Think about how long you’ll be camping, whether you’ll have access to a power source, and the convenience of recharging or replacing batteries. By taking these factors into account, you can select a camping light that will provide reliable and efficient power throughout your adventure.

Size and Weight

Weight and size are important factors to consider when selecting a camping light, as they can directly impact your overall comfort and ease of carrying your gear during your camping trip.

A lightweight and compact camping light is especially important if you’re backpacking or planning to hike long distances with your gear. A heavy or bulky light can add unnecessary weight to your backpack, making it more challenging to carry and potentially causing discomfort or strain during your hike.

When evaluating camping lights, look for options that are small and lightweight without compromising on brightness or functionality. Some camping lights are designed specifically for backpackers, featuring compact designs and lightweight materials.

Another aspect to consider is the ease of packing and storing the light in your backpack or camping gear. A camping light with a slim profile or collapsible design can make it easier to pack and save valuable space in your backpack.

In addition to weight and size, it’s essential to balance other factors like brightness, battery life, and durability to ensure you choose a camping light that meets your needs while remaining easy to carry and store. By selecting a lightweight and compact camping light, you can help ensure a more enjoyable and comfortable experience during your outdoor adventures.

Of course, most of this won’t necessarily apply to car campers. Car campers with a lot of trunk space can basically bring whatever lights they want. If you really want to get fancy, you could even pop a 12 volt bulb into a lamp and power it with a series of AA batteries or even a larger 12-volt marine battery.

Durable Camping Lights

Durability and water resistance are important when choosing a camping light. This is because they help make sure the light can handle being outdoors and last for many trips.

A strong camping light should be made from tough materials, like hard plastics or aluminum, so it can handle rough use. Look for lights that are well-built, with strong switches, lenses, and places for batteries. This way, your light can handle accidents like bumps or drops without breaking.

Water resistance is important too, since camping lights might get wet from rain or accidents. Look for a light with a water-resistant rating, usually shown as an IP code. The IP code tells you how well the light is protected from water and dust. For example, a light with an IP65 rating is safe from dust and can handle some water spray, while a light with an IP67 rating can be put in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes.

By picking a camping light made from strong materials and with a good water resistance rating, you can trust that it will work well in different weather conditions and situations. This will help you feel confident that your camping light will keep working well, trip after trip.

Extra Features

Additional features can make camping lights more versatile and useful during your outdoor adventures. When choosing a camping light, think about whether these extra features could be helpful for your camping needs.

  1. USB charging ports: Some camping lights have built-in USB charging ports, which can be useful for charging devices like smartphones, cameras, or GPS units. This feature can be particularly helpful if you’ll be away from a power source for an extended period or if you need to keep your electronic devices charged during your trip.
  2. Built-in emergency whistles: A camping light with an integrated emergency whistle can be a valuable safety tool. In case of an emergency or if you get lost, you can use the whistle to signal for help, as its sound carries much farther than yelling.
  3. Red light mode: A red light mode on a camping light is useful for preserving your night vision. Red light is less harsh on your eyes and less disruptive to wildlife, making it ideal for use during nighttime activities like stargazing or map reading. It can also be helpful if you need to move around the campsite without disturbing fellow campers who are sleeping.
  4. Hanging hooks or magnetic bases: Camping lights with hanging hooks or magnetic bases can be easily attached to tent poles, tree branches, or other surfaces, providing hands-free lighting options and allowing you to direct light where you need it.
  5. SOS or strobe mode: Some camping lights have an SOS or strobe mode, which can be helpful in emergency situations. These modes emit a flashing signal, making it easier for rescuers to locate you in case of an emergency.

When choosing a camping light, consider which additional features might be useful for your specific needs and preferences. These extra features can make your camping experience more convenient, enjoyable, and safe, so it’s worth considering a camping light that offers these added benefits.

What’s your favorite camping light? Tell us in the comments below!

Jim Murphy

Jim's love for camping started at an early age. His parents would take him camping every summer, where he'd spend his days getting quality time in with his dad and his nights eating too many smores.

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