The type of lighting you use can influence how your camping trip feels. There’s a difference between a bright white LED light and a little tealight candle.
Plus, you need to consider indoor and outdoor lighting. On top of that, sometimes you need subtle lighting that won’t wake your fellow campers when you need to use it in the middle of the night.
Here are several campsite and tent lighting ideas you can play with:
- Propane or rechargeable lantern
- DIY lantern with headlamp and water
- Solar yard lights or tiki torches
- String lights or strip lights
- Candles and battery-powered tea-lights
- Hanging bulbs, disks, and fan lights
- Hands-free flashlights and headlights
- Glow sticks and glow jars
I’ve looked around to find the best ideas for lighting while camping. Some are best for practicality, and some are best for fun. Let’s dive in deep below.
#1. Propane Lantern
Propane lanterns are a classic way to light your tent and campsite. They’re the go-to for plenty of campers, and I highly recommend them as a simple lighting solution.
But some campers are wary about using propane appliances in tents. Let me say right now, propane heaters are safe in tents, so all non-heated propane appliances are even safer.
If you’re buying a propane lantern, look for one that has match-free ignition and won’t break if it gets extremely hot. One that resists rust and corrosion is a good call, too. This Coleman gas lantern ticks those boxes.
#2. Rechargeable Lantern
If you don’t want to deal with gas and fueling your lantern, then a rechargeable lantern is a great alternative. You can charge it by day via a generator, portable battery power pack, your car’s battery, or your powered campsite’s outlets.
Once you let it charge all day, you can use your lantern for hours in the evening.
Getting a waterproof one with multiple light modes like this one will let you switch your lighting from “cozy accompanying light for chatting” to “I need to see where I’m going in detail” easily and in all weathers.
Rechargeable lanterns are also better suited to camping with kids if you’re uncomfortable letting your kids carry lanterns full of gas.
#3. DIY Lantern
If you don’t want to buy a brand new lantern, then you can make one yourself if you have a headlamp and a water bottle.
Fill your bottle with water, strap the headlamp around the bottle, and ensure the light is shining into the bottle. This will illuminate the water and the jug, turning it into a lantern.
It’s a fantastic way to create a lantern in an emergency if you need more light than your headlamp can provide on its own.
#4. Tiki Torches
Tiki torches are great for creating a cozy, fire-lit atmosphere without the fuss and size of a campfire.
And as the camper above points out, they’re great for letting the neighbors bask in darkness if that’s what they prefer.
Make sure to keep far back from these, as they use real flames. This means they’re not a great idea to use on a camping trip with kids, but they’re fantastic if it’s an adults-only trip.
Try to get torches with treated bamboo, like these, as they’re a little safer.
Tiki torches go well when paired with other lights, such as string lights, as they’re not very bright on their own.
#5. Solar Yard Lights
If you like the concept of tiki lights but not the fire, then solar lights are the next best thing. They’re perfect for lighting up paths, and they’re excellent if you don’t want a light you’ll have to charge.
The premise of these is simple. Put them somewhere you know you’ll need to be illuminated, and leave them there all day. Once night falls they’ll start glowing, and you’ll be able to see where you’re going hassle-free.
#6. Solar Lanterns
If you like the “solar” aspect of the lighting above, but want your lighting to be portable, then you can’t go wrong with a solar lantern.
These are usually lightweight, so they can be strung up inside a tent or carried around the campsite.
However, you’ll need to remember to set these outside to charge for a few hours during the day. They’re not like solar yard lights where they’ll be outside all day anyway—they’re much easier to forget about and leave in your pack.
Avoid placing them near sharp debris, though, as they can be punctured. Thankfully. puncturing is rare, but it’s always possible.
#7. Solar String Lights
Back to stationary light sources, solar string lights are fantastic if you want your light source up high, and they’re perfect for stringing up in tents, too.
Having string lights instead of portable or ground-based lights is great for keeping insects away from you. If they attract any bugs, then they’ll be high up and not bothersome.
If you want to know what color attracts the fewest bugs, then read my article on it and buy that color of solar string lights if you can. I recommend these red solar string lights, as that should help keep bugs at bay.
#8. Regular String Lights
Regular string lights can come in handy if you don’t want to wait around all day for them to charge. You can plug them in, get battery-powered ones, or go for my recommendation: solar-powered LED string lights.
Those lights glow red and have a red string, so you’ll be as safe as possible from bugs that dislike that color.
#9. LED Strip Lights
LED strip lights have become increasingly popular to the point they’re trendy, so they’re a great way to add appeal and some personality to your tent or campsite.
You can usually change their color, so they’re great for having parties while camping and changing the color to match the mood.
The only downside to these is that they will have to be plugged in to be used, so make sure you have an outdoor extension cable and a way of supplying power.
#10. Rope Lights
Rope lights are similar to strip lights, but the lights are often smaller and not quite as bright. They’re a good way to add subtle lighting.
They’re more similar to string lights than to LED lights, but they have an advantage over string lights: they don’t tangle as easily!
Note that rope lights need to stay plugged in to function.
#11. Candle Lantern
Candle lanterns are a real classic. If you love flickering candlelight and want to bring one with you wherever you go, then definitely look into using a candle lantern.
Use one that’s enclosed so you can’t burn yourself when carrying it, and for maximum illumination, ensure you can have more than one candle in it at once.
The UCO Candlelier (pictured below) is a great candle lantern to consider, as it ticks those boxes.
#12. Battery Powered Tealights
Battery-powered tea lights give you a way to carry your candle without needing to put it in a lantern. There’s no real flame, so there’s no danger. These are wonderful if you want a candle-lit atmosphere but there are kids around.
Battery-powered tealights are light, safe, and simple to use. They can provide a surprising amount of light, and you can use them in and out of the tent.
You can line paths with these, carry them around, or scatter them around the tables and chairs on your campsite. You’ll never have to worry about danger with these crafty little inventions.
#13. Tabletop Candle Lighting
If there are tables on your campsite or in your tent, then you can use a candle display on the table to light the area enough to see your fellow campers.
A candle centerpiece works very well for this. It’s safe and stable as long as you ensure any kids present know not to pick up the centerpiece while it’s in use.
This can be used indoors or outdoors, but you’ll need a tent with a high ceiling if you want to use it indoors. Cabin tents large enough for big groups are best, as most smaller tents won’t have enough headroom to light these candles on a table safely.
#14. Candle Circle
If you’d like to emulate a campfire, then placing candles in a group and sitting around them in a circle can be fun. You’ll want several large candles used on flat ground for this, and make sure there’s no grass or anything that could be used as kindling, as that could start a fire.
This is a good lighting method to use when there are no kids around, as kids may accidentally stumble too close to the candles and get burned.
It’s great for keeping the lighting low if you want a quiet, calm atmosphere on your campsite, and the candles will be easy to put out at the end of the night.
Luminaries are light little bags, but they’re flame-retardant and have patterns in them. These are wonderful to carry around or line your path with on your campsite.
You use candles with these by placing a tealight inside. You can use real candles or battery-operated ones.
These add a touch of fun and personality to your campsite, and they’re easier to spot than little candles on their own. They’re also safer to use around kids than regular candles are, but ensure kids don’t pick them up.
#16. Hanging Bulbs
Hanging lightbulbs aren’t always bright enough for outdoor use, but they can be utilized greatly indoors. They’re little lightbulbs that are typically battery-powered, and they can be placed anywhere in your tent that it’s possible to hang them.
They often have three light modes to adjust to your needs, and it’s easy to switch them on and off using a little button.
You could use these as a personal light outdoors if you hold them by the hook and carry them around.
#17. Hanging Fan Light
If your campfire gets too hot or it’s stuffy in your summer tent, then a fan light would be a fantastic idea. These fans can be hung, have three brightness settings, and are USB rechargeable so you don’t have to deal with constant power cords.
A small ring of lights is set around the fan so it provides illumination as well as cool airflow.
#18. Hanging Disk Light
Disk lights are small rechargeable lights that you can hang inside your tent, but you can use them outdoors too if you like. They work best inside, however, as they’re so small.
They’re extremely light, so they’re great for backpackers and anyone who wants to keep their load light. You could even hang a few from your clothes if you want to keep light with you wherever you go.
#19. Hands-Free Flashlight or Headlamp
Your headlamp doesn’t just have to be used around a water bottle to create a lantern. If you want to go hands-free, then a headlamp is a great way to do it. Select a rechargeable one, like this, and you’ll be set up for the night.
If you’d prefer not to wear a headlamp, then you can use a small hands-free flashlight. These ones have a 10-hour battery life, and they easily attach to your clothes.
#20. Glow Lights
If you’d like a soft light to illuminate your tent or outdoor area at night, then a glow light can do the trick. They provide an orangey, soft glow that can add light without being too bright.
Once charged, glow lights are typically long-lasting, and you can easily carry them around with you. They’re great if you need to get up at night without disturbing your fellow campers.
#21. Book Lights
Book Lights can be used at night in your tent if you want to avoid waking others, and you can clip them to your clothes as hands-free personal lighting while outdoors.
There are two main types of book light you’ll encounter. One is the classic clip-on, and the other type can be worn around your neck like a little scarf. It provides two light points to help you see whatever’s in front of you.
If you have a book light at home, then bring it along on your trip! You never know when it’ll come in handy.
#22. Portable Dimming Light
A Philips Hue Go dimming light is a nice alternative to a glow light. You can make the light soft enough so you won’t disturb anyone while using it at night, but it often provides enough illumination for outdoor use, too.
It changes colors so you can adjust it to suit the mood of the evening, and it’s easy to carry it around outside. It can also be left on a table or ground surface if with no issues.
These lights are fantastic to use at home or while camping, so you’ll get a ton of use out of yours wherever you go.
#23. Portable Firepit
If you want the heat and light of a campfire but you can’t light one on your campsite, then a portable propane gas firepit can work as a substitute. It’s one of many alternatives to campfire that can be less of a hassle to use.
If campfires are banned on your campsite, then portable campfires might be, too, so always check if these are allowed before purchasing one.
If it’s allowed, then it’s wonderful. It can provide the same light as a nice little campfire, and it’s easy to put that light out at the end of the night.
You’ll need a propane gas tank to power this, so it’s suitable for car campers who won’t have far to carry their gear. Once it’s set up, it’ll provide hours of pleasant lighting.
#24. Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are fantastic fun to use when camping with kids. They can be worn as bracelets and necklaces, carried around, or put in a jar of water to make a little lantern.
You can often buy 100+ glow sticks in bulk for a great price, as you can see here.
Lining your path with glow sticks or attaching them to your tent, tables, and nearby trees is another way you can make the most of these fun little objects.
They’re great for backpackers, too, as a pack of glow sticks is usually very light. You can pull a handful out at a time and use them to light the way with no problem. You’ll hardly even notice you’re carrying them.
#25. Glow Jars
Glow jars are another great lighting idea for kids, and you can create them as a fun family activity.
The premise is simple. You cut open a glow stick, put the contents in a jar, and shake it all around.
You can do this using glass or plastic jars, although plastic jars will be safest if the kids will be carrying these around.
Note that you don’t have to add water to these jars to make them work—the goo from inside the glow sticks will coat the jar and make it light up without you needing to add anything extra.
#26. Glow Stickers
Glow in the dark stickers are classic, so consider sticking them to the inside of your tent. You can even stick them to the hard, dry ground around your campsite to light your path, but ensure you pick them up before you leave the campsite.
Use large stickers like the big stars and moons here if you’re going to try and stick them to the ground. The little ones will be a nightmare to pick up!
Make sure you lay one down on the path outside and try to take it off to ensure it’ll be easy to remove them all in the morning. If it’s tough, then only use them in your tent.
#27. Light Up Dog Collars
If you’re camping with your pet, then definitely consider getting them a light-up collar.
These collars are rechargeable and come in different colors and sizes, and they can even make a fun accessory for you if you like.
Put one on your wrist to light your way, or attach a few to your belt! They don’t look like regular pet collars, so you’ll have a fun time using them.
Even if you only use them for their intended pet-centric purpose, a light-up collar is a must if you’re bringing your pet. It can be difficult to see dogs in the dark even if they’re on a leash, so it’s a fantastic way to keep track of them.
#28. LED-Lit Tent
Some tents come with their very own LED lighting. These are perfect if you need a night light for the kids, a way to light your way on late-night bathroom trips, or simply a light to read by when everyone else is sleeping.
An LED-lit tent won’t light up your campsite, but it eliminates the need to purchase other lighting options for inside the tent.
Check out these 7 best tents with LED lighting to see if there’s one you’ll like. There are large and small ones to choose from, and there are options for every budget.
#29. Go Classic—Light A Campfire
Finally, you can’t go wrong with a good old campfire. They’re not just good for heat! They provide fantastic lighting and atmosphere, and I highly recommend lighting one at least once on your camping trip. Ensure it’s allowed on your campsite first, of course.
However, campfires can be intimidating, so it helps to be knowledgeable before lighting one. Learning why your campfire keeps going out is a good call, and if you’re asking yourself, “how much wood do I need for a campfire?” then I have the answer to that, too.
Learning why campfire smoke follows you and how to prevent it is a must also.
Once you’ve put the work in to make your campfire comfortable, then you can read my article on “how long do campfires last?” to ensure your hard work doesn’t go to waste, and your fire burns all night long.
There you have it—there are tons of fantastic tent and campsite lighting ideas you can follow, and they can easily be put into the categories of lanterns, candles, hands-free lights, hanging lights, strings of light, and fun lighting ideas.
You can mix and match these ideas to use with or instead of a campfire, so experiment and see what suits you and your fellow campers most. Get creative, and enjoy your camping trip using the lighting methods that make you most comfortable.