How to Keep Your Campsite Bright and Illuminated: A Guide to Lanterns and HeadlampsPublished on 06/20/2023 · 16 min readLet's shed some light on an important topic: keeping your campsite well-lit! Check out this guide to lanterns, headlamps, and more below!
Photo by Stas Tolstnev
Tl;dr: There are many options when choosing a camp light, from lanterns to headlamps. Having the right light for camping is essential to ensure you can see well while setting up your camp, cooking, exploring, hiking, and whatever else you might do on your outdoor adventures!
As a lifelong enthusiast of the great outdoors and an avid camper, I've had my fair share of experiences under the starry night sky since I was a little adventurer. Throughout my camping journey, I've tried and tested various camp lights, ranging from traditional lanterns to whimsical string lights and practical headlamps. With years of experience in the camping realm, I've learned the importance of having the right camp light to create a cozy and illuminated campsite.
Passionate about helping fellow campers find the perfect gear for their outdoor escapades, I've delved deep into the world of camp lights to bring you this comprehensive buying guide. I understand the frustration of stumbling through a dimly lit campsite or struggling with inadequate lighting while engaging in nighttime activities. That's why I've made it my mission to demystify the world of camp lights and provide you with practical advice to choose the best product for your specific needs.
So, whether you're a seasoned adventurer or just starting your camping journey, rest assured that this guide has been crafted with extensive personal experience, a deep love for camping, and the desire to help you find the perfect camp light to brighten your outdoor adventures. Let's dive in and illuminate your campsite like never before!
What Is a Camp Light?
A camp light is a portable light source you can use when camping. It's like having your little source of sunshine in the wilderness! Camp lights are specifically designed to illuminate nighttime activities at the campsite, whether hiking, cooking, reading, playing games, or simply hanging out with friends and family around the campfire.
Camp lights come in different shapes and sizes. Like compact lamps, you have lanterns that can be placed on a table or hung from a hook. They cast a nice, even glow and are great for lighting up larger areas. Then there are headlamps, which you wear on your head like a cool futuristic headband. They give you a hands-free lighting option, perfect for when you need to see in the dark while keeping your hands available for tasks like setting up a tent or rummaging through your camping gear.
The best part is that camp lights usually have various features to improve your camping experience. Some can be dimmed or adjusted to different brightness levels so that you can set the mood just right. Others have adjustable beams that you can point in different directions, allowing you to focus the light exactly where you need it. And if you're worried about power, don't fret! Camp lights come with different power options. You can find ones with rechargeable batteries, regular disposable batteries, or even solar-powered ones that soak up the sun during the day to shine at night.
So, whether you're roasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories, or enjoying nature's peacefulness, a camp light is important to bring along to ensure you have enough light to see and enjoy your camping adventures. It's a must-have tool for any outdoor enthusiast, adding a touch of warmth and practicality to your camping experience.
Considerations When Choosing Camp Lighting
1. What Will You Be Using It For?
First, to narrow down what kind of lighting you need, you’ll need to determine exactly what you’ll be using it for. Are you planning to keep the light at your campsite or take it on hiking or backpacking adventures? Knowing how you'll use the light will help you find the perfect fit for your camping style.
2. How Bright Does It Need to Be?
Next, assess the brightness level and the lighting range you require. Consider the size of your campsite and the activities you plan to engage in during nighttime. Some lanterns and headlamps offer adjustable brightness levels and beam distances, allowing you to customize the lighting according to your needs. If you are using your light for cooking in the dark, you’ll likely want a bright lantern with a wide beam! If you are using it for night hiking, an adjustable beam distance would be helpful so you can see the trail ahead and whatever hazards might be in front of you.
3. What Power Source Is Convenient?
Though this might not be a big deal for shorter camping trips, you'll need to recharge your light source if you’re planning longer trips. Determine the power source that suits your camping style. Lanterns and headlamps can be powered by batteries (rechargeable or disposable), solar panels, or even hand-cranked mechanisms. Each option has its pros and cons in terms of convenience and availability!
4. How Durable and Weather-Resistant Does It Need to Be?
Camping can be unpredictable, so you'll want a light to handle the elements. Look for lanterns or headlamps that are weather-resistant, waterproof, and shockproof to withstand any adventure Mother Nature throws your way.
5. How Much Do You Want to Spend?
Budget is an important factor when purchasing camping equipment. Determine how much you are willing to spend on a lantern or headlamp. Price points can vary depending on brand, features, and quality.
Common price ranges for lanterns and headlamps are:
- Entry-level ($30-$50): Basic models with decent illumination and functionality.
- Mid-range ($50-$100): Higher-quality options with enhanced features like adjustable brightness and longer battery life.
- High-end ($100 and above): Premium models with advanced features, exceptional brightness, and durability.
Prices can vary, and it's always a good idea to check for current market prices and compare different products to find the best value for your budget. If you want something simple for short trips, there is no need to spend a ton of money, but if you want something durable to last on rugged adventures, it’s worth spending more, so it holds up in the long run!
What Are the Different Types of Camp Lighting?
There are five types of camp lights: lanterns, headlamps, flashlights, tent lights, and string lights.
Lanterns are the heart and soul of camp lighting. Lanterns are versatile and provide ambient lighting for the entire campsite. They come in various designs, including traditional fuel-powered, battery-powered, and rechargeable LED lanterns.
- Wide area coverage: Lanterns provide 360° illumination, lighting up your entire campsite.
- Versatility: They come in different power options, from traditional fuel-powered lanterns to modern LED lanterns with rechargeable batteries and propane lanterns.
- Longer runtime: Lanterns generally have a longer battery life than headlamps, making them suitable for extended use.
- Keep in Mind:
- Bulkier and heavier: Lanterns can take up more space in your backpack and add weight to your camping gear.
- Less focused light: While they provide ambient lighting, lanterns might not be ideal for activities requiring a focused beam, such as reading or hiking at night.
Headlamps are worn on the head, providing hands-free illumination. They are lightweight, compact, and great for activities that require both hands, such as hiking or cooking.
- Hands-free convenience: With headlamps, you can keep both hands available for tasks like setting up tents, cooking, or navigating trails.
- Portable and lightweight: Headlamps are compact and easy to carry, making them great for hiking and other outdoor activities.
- Adjustable focus: Many headlamps allow you to adjust the beam angle and brightness, giving you control over the lighting for different situations.
- Keep in Mind:
- Limited area coverage: Headlamps provide focused lighting in a specific direction, so they may not fully illuminate a wide area like lanterns do.
- Battery life limitations: Depending on the model, headlamps may have shorter battery life than lanterns, requiring frequent battery changes or recharging.
Flashlights are portable, handheld light sources that come in various sizes and power options. They are convenient for focused lighting and can be easily carried in your backpack or pocket.
- Portability: Flashlights are compact and easy to carry, making them suitable for both camping and emergencies.
- Versatility: They come in various sizes, power options, and beam patterns, allowing you to choose one that suits your needs.
- Focused illumination: Flashlights offer a concentrated beam of light, ideal for tasks requiring precision or seeing objects at a distance.
- Keep in Mind:
- Limited hands-free use: Unlike headlamps, flashlights require you to hold them, limiting your ability to perform tasks requiring both hands.
- Smaller area coverage: Flashlights typically provide a narrower beam of light than lanterns or headlamps, making them less suitable for lighting up larger areas.
Specifically designed for use inside tents, a tent light is usually lightweight and often comes with hooks or clips for easy attachment. They provide soft, diffused lighting to create a cozy and comfortable atmosphere.
- Soft and diffused lighting: Tent lights provide a gentle glow that creates a cozy ambiance inside your tent, perfect for relaxing or reading before bed.
- Easy attachment: Most tent lights come with hooks, clips, or magnetic attachments, allowing you to easily hang them from the camping tent ceiling or attach them to tent poles.
- Energy-efficient: Tent lights are often designed with energy-saving LED bulbs, providing long-lasting illumination without draining your batteries.
- Keep in Mind:
- Limited area coverage: Tent lights are primarily designed to light up the interior of your tent and may not provide sufficient lighting for larger campsite areas.
- Less versatile: While great for tent use, tent lights may not be as suitable for outdoor activities beyond the confines of your shelter.
- Lower brightness levels: Compared to lanterns or larger lighting options, tent lights generally offer softer and less intense lighting.
String or rope lights are decorative lighting options that you can hang around the campsite to create a festive ambiance. They are very similar to Christmas tree lights, having several light bulbs that can be strung around to offer light around a large area. They often run on batteries and come in different lengths, colors, and styles.
- Decorative ambiance: String lights create a festive and inviting atmosphere, adding charm and personality to your campsite.
- Versatile and flexible: They come in various lengths, colors, and styles, allowing you to customize the look and feel of your campsite.
- Easy installation: String lights are typically lightweight and easy to set up. You can hang them on trees, tents, awnings, or other suitable structures.
- Keep in Mind:
- Power source limitations: String lights often run on batteries, so you must ensure you have enough power supply or extra batteries for extended use.
- Weather sensitivity: While some string lights are designed to be weather-resistant, others may be more delicate and susceptible to damage from rain or harsh weather conditions.
- Limited area coverage: String lights primarily provide decorative lighting and may not offer substantial illumination for larger campsite areas.
Features to Look for in Camp Lighting
Below is a list of features to consider when shopping for camp lighting.
Look for a camp light that offers adjustable brightness settings, allowing you to customize the illumination based on your needs and conserve battery life when maximum brightness is not required. Whether you want a soft glow for cozy evenings or a powerful beam to light up the trail, having customizable brightness ensures the perfect illumination for every situation.
Beam Distance and Angle
Consider the beam distance and angle of the light. A longer beam distance benefits activities such as night hiking or exploring. In contrast, an adjustable beam angle provides versatility in directing the light where you need it the most.
Battery Life and Power Options
Check the camp light's estimated battery life and consider the available power options. Here are some of the power options for camp lighting:
- Environmentally friendly: Rechargeable batteries can be reused, reducing waste from disposable batteries.
- Cost-effective: Recharging batteries can save money over time compared to constantly buying disposable batteries.
- Convenient: Recharge the batteries using a power source, such as a USB port or a solar charger.
- Limited runtime: Rechargeable batteries may have a limited runtime, requiring access to a power source for recharging.
- Initial investment: Camp lights with rechargeable batteries might cost more upfront than those using disposable batteries.
- Widely available: Disposable batteries are easy to find, even in remote areas without access to electricity.
- Longer runtime: Disposable batteries often provide longer runtime than rechargeable batteries, making them suitable for extended camping trips.
- Easy replacement: If the batteries run out, simply swap them with new ones without recharging.
- Environmental impact: Disposable batteries contribute to waste and can harm the environment if not properly disposed of or recycled.
- Cost over time: Constantly purchasing disposable batteries can add up in cost over time, especially for frequent campers.
- Renewable energy source: Solar-powered camp lights harness the sun's energy, making them eco-friendly and sustainable.
- Independent power source: With solar power, you don't need to rely on disposable or rechargeable batteries, reducing the need for replacements or recharging.
- Ideal for longer trips: Solar-powered lights are particularly useful for extended camping trips with limited access to electricity or battery replacements.
- Weather-dependent: Solar-powered lights require direct sunlight to charge effectively, so cloudy or rainy weather can limit their charging capacity.
- Initial investment: Solar-powered camp lights may cost more upfront than battery-powered options.
- Charging time: Solar-powered lights typically require longer charging than recharging batteries using a power source.
- Versatility: Hybrid camp lights offer the flexibility to use different power options, such as rechargeable batteries, disposable batteries, or solar panels, depending on the situation.
- Backup power: Having multiple power options ensures you have a backup in case one power source runs out or is unavailable.
- Adaptability: Hybrid lights allow you to choose the most suitable power option for specific camping trips or conditions.
- Potentially higher cost: Hybrid camp lights with multiple power options may cost more than lights with a single power source.
Durability and Weather Resistance
Ensure whatever type of light you choose is designed to withstand outdoor conditions. Look for water-resistant, shock-resistant lights built with sturdy materials to handle rough handling or accidental drops.
Weight and Portability
Consider the weight and portability of the camp light, especially if you plan to carry it on hikes or backpacking trips. Lightweight and compact options are ideal for minimizing pack weight and saving space.
Versatility and Additional Features
Some camp lights come with extra features like built-in hooks, magnets, or clips for easy attachment and modes like strobe or S.O.S. for emergencies. Choose a light that offers versatility and additional functionality based on your preferences and needs.
How to Choose the Right Camp Light for You
If you’re still unsure which camp light is the right option, don’t worry! Below are three examples of Curated customers I have helped to find the perfect camp light for their camping adventures and some examples of lights that would be a good fit for them.
Emily: The Lightweight Backpacker
Emily is an avid outdoor enthusiast who loves backpacking through remote wilderness areas. She enjoys immersing herself in nature, hiking long distances, and sleeping under the stars. Emily prefers minimalist camping gear and prioritizes weight reduction without compromising functionality.
Features Emily should look for in a camp light:
- Lightweight and compact design
- Long battery life
- Durability in rugged terrain and outdoor conditions
- Versatility, such as adjustable brightness or different beam angles
Recommended camp light options for Emily:
- Black Diamond Spot Headlamp: This headlamp is lightweight, compact, and offers a long battery life. It has adjustable brightness and different lighting modes, making it versatile for various backpacking scenarios.
- BioLite PowerLight Mini Lantern: This compact rechargeable lantern doubles as a power bank, allowing Emily to charge her other devices while providing illumination. It's lightweight and durable, perfect for backpacking trips.
- Petzl e+LITE Compact Emergency Headlamp: This ultralight headlamp is specifically designed for emergencies. It's small, waterproof, has a long battery life, and can be charged quickly from a battery pack, making it an excellent backup light for Emily's backpacking adventures.
Theodore: The Camp Cooking Enthusiast
Theodore is passionate about cooking delicious meals while camping. He enjoys car camping in scenic locations with spacious campsites where he can set up a proper cooking station and have comfortable gear without worrying about weight. Theodore's camping revolves around creating gourmet dishes and memories with his kids.
Features Theodore should look for in a camp light:
- Brightness and wide coverage
- Adjustable lighting modes
- Easy setup and stability
Recommended camp light options for Theodore:
- Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern: This lantern provides bright and adjustable lighting, perfect for illuminating Theodore's cooking area. It has a built-in USB port for charging other devices and can be recharged using solar panels or a car charger.
- Black Diamond Moji Lantern: With a collapsible design and adjustable brightness, this lantern is easy to set up and provides versatile lighting. Its compact size and stable base make it ideal for Theodore's cooking adventures.
- Coleman Quad Pro Lantern: This lantern offers powerful illumination and has removable light panels that can be used as individual lights. Theodore can place them strategically around his cooking area, providing ample light for meal preparations.
Joann: The Car Camper
Joann enjoys camping trips with friends and family, focusing on comfort and convenience. She prefers car camping, allowing her to bring along larger tents, cozy bedding, and a variety of camping gear. Joann seeks relaxation, enjoys campfire conversations, and values creating a welcoming atmosphere at the campsite.
Features Joann should look for in a camp light:
- Brightness and warm light
- Easy setup and portability
- Hanging or mounting options to attach to the tent, awning, or nearby structures provide versatile lighting options.
Recommended camp light options for Joann:
- MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Light: This inflatable solar-powered light provides warm and ambient illumination. It's lightweight, collapsible, and easy to hang, perfect for Joann's car camping adventures.
- UST 30-Day Duro LED Lantern: With a durable and water-resistant design, this lantern offers bright led light and multiple lighting modes. It has a built-in hook for hanging, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use at the campsite.
- Etekcity Portable LED Camping Lantern: This lantern provides warm light and has a compact design with collapsible handles for easy transportation. It can be hung or placed flat, adding a cozy glow to Joann's campsite.
Find the Right Camp Light for You
And there you have it! We've covered the ins and outs of keeping your campsite bright and illuminated with the help of lanterns and headlamps. With the right camp light by your side, you'll have the freedom to explore, cook delicious meals, play games, and create memories that will last a lifetime. So, go ahead and light up your campsite, add that cozy glow to your adventures, and let the night shine as brightly as the stars above.
If you still have any questions about which light to choose for your next camping trip, reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert or me here on Curated, and we would be happy to help! Happy camping!