11 Unique Campsite Lighting Ideas To Brighten Up Your Trip

a man standing next to a tent overlooking a city at night

Unless you plan on sleeping from dusk till dawn, a light source is a must on every camping trip.

That is, unless you don’t mind feeling your way around in pitch dark.

For camping, we all want things to be simple and functional. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be creative too.

The campsite lighting ideas in this article will show you different ways you can create a bright but cozy atmosphere around your campsite.

Let’s get started!

Campsite Lighting Ideas – 11 Hacks You Must Try

a couple in front of a tent with tiki torches and a campfire

Never overlook the importance of campsite lighting.

There’s nothing worse than stumbling around the campsite with your phone’s flashlight on, tripping over your camping gear trying to find your way around.

But why torture yourself that way, when you can light up the whole camp? And while you’re at it, you can make it look good, too?

Here are some cute and practical ways you can illuminate your campsite when the sun goes down.

String Lights

String lights, otherwise known as fairy lights or Christmas lights, are probably the most popular outdoor lighting option. They’re an affordable way to turn your camp spot into an enchanting sanctuary.

Depending on the bulb style, they can give different vibes, from boho to industrial.

The reason why camping string lights are great for outdoor spaces is that they give just the right amount of light. Even on pitch dark nights, they light up the area with a somewhat dimmed effect. This creates a really nice atmosphere, and they’re not too bright to prevent you from sleeping.

You can hang them from tree branches and camping tent canopies, but you can also wrap them around guy lines or picnic table legs. The choices are endless.

String light can be found at supermarkets and dollar stores. You probably even have some left from your Christmas tree.

For campgrounds and backyard camping, you can use string lights that require a power source for running. But, if you’re camping in the wilderness, there are battery and solar-powered options, too.

Copper Wire Lights

copper wire lights

These festive lights are becoming a popular way of decorating both interiors and exteriors. Unlike regular string lights, they use a copper wire. Thanks to that, they’re stiff enough for you to make a freestanding shape or wrap them around something.

Tiny light bulbs are fused with the wire, and you can’t unscrew them like regular string lights.

They’re not waterproof but they won’t die if left out in a light drizzle.

There are two types of wire lights – those that run on batteries and those that need an electric outlet.

Besides wrapping them around branches or ropes, you can roll them up in a ball and place it inside a jar. People love this DIY lantern since it looks like a jar of fireflies, but without actually holding the poor bugs hostage.

Solar Pathway Lights

When camping during the time of the year when the days are long, there’s no reason to not make the best use of the daylight. Why should you bother with bringing portable batteries or generators, if you can get the energy for free?

You can get these in different styles, from classic and Victorian to industrial and high tech. What they have in common is that they’re basically a solar light bulb on a pole that you stick into the ground.

These lights give off a gentle light at knee height, providing you with a bright pathway without flashy glares. You’ve probably seen these around entries to important buildings like city halls etc.

If you leave them charging during the day, they’ll shine for 9 to 12 hours. That’s enough light to last until the next morning.

Tin Can Lanterns

a tin can lantern

If you’re a fan of DIY recycling projects, then you’ll love these tin can luminaries.

Basically, you’re poking holes in old vegetable tin cans and placing a candle inside. The light peeks through those holes, creating different patterns around the jar.

These lanterns are simple to make – you only need a few tools you (probably) already have at home.

Here are the things you’ll need:

  • Washed tin cans
  • Water
  • A hammer
  • A nail
  • A towel
  • Tea light candles

The preparation step will take you the whole day, and here’s why:

Tin cans are easy to bend. Since you’ll be using a hammer and nail to make holes, you need to make the cans somewhat stiffer.

To achieve that, fill them with water and freeze them overnight. The ice will reinforce the can and make it strong enough to withstand hammering.

Once the ice inside the cans is completely frozen, it’s time to make those holes. Place a can on a folded towel. This will keep it from rolling around and it will soak in water as the ice melts.

Position the nail in the desired place and hammer it down just until you puncture the can. Repeat until you get the desired pattern.

After you’re done, place the can under warm tap water until you can take the ice block out.

That’s it!

The only thing left to do is to place a tea light candle inside and find the perfect spot around your campsite.

Glass Jar Luminaries

Instead of a tin can, you can use a glass jar as a camping lantern light. They’re really romantic – you’ve probably seen these in some restaurants.

One thing you should know is that not every type of glass is suitable for making these luminaries. If you choose the wrong kind, it will break in a matter of minutes.

For making lanterns, you need to find a thick, heat-resistant jar. Jelly and mason jars are designed to withstand high temperatures, so these will work well. You probably have one of these laying around in the pantry.

FIrst, you’ll have to secure the candle in place.

To do that, drip some hot wax into the jar. This will work like glue. While it’s still hot, put the candle onto it. And now it’s stuck like a barnacle.

If it’s windy or drizzling, a candle won’t work. What you can do is you can curl up your copper wire light and place it inside the jar instead. Since the jar won’t heat up as it would with candles, you can make a macrame hanger and let it dangle from a tree.

Battery-Powered Tea Lights

battery powered tea candles

Tea candles are one of the most romantic lighting options out there. They’re a great choice for a romantic camping trip with your significant other.

But, what if it’s windy?

You can get a “fake” candle. By that, I mean tea lights that run on batteries. There’s no real flame, but the flickering imitates it pretty well.

Trust me, you can’t even tell they’re plastic from a couple of feet away. It could be blowing a gale outside, and these will still glow.

The best thing about these “fake” candles is that they last a very long time. You can find those that last for up to 100 hours. And they only require one or two button cell batteries!

You can keep them on for the whole night, without worrying about accidentally setting your campsite on fire. In fact, you can place them inside your tent, too.

Paper Lanterns

Traditionally, paper lanterns are used in South, East and Southeast Asian cultures. Nowadays, they’re used for achieving a festive, romantic and even boho vibe in backyards and patios. You can do the same at your campsite, too.

They run on different sources of power. Many people use paper lanterns with power cords on their patios. These will work if you’re at a campground, but there are no power plugs in the wilderness

When camping in the wild, you can get lanterns that work on batteries or solar power.

A paper lantern looks nice on its own, but having a couple of them hanging from a string is even better. Add some floor pillows and there you have a bohemian patio.

LED Strip Lightning

an led light strip

You’ve probably seen these around in clubs or arcade rooms. They’re basically a strip of LED diodes covered with a protective film.

They’re sold in spools, so you can get a mile-long strip, if you’d like.

LED strips are very affordable, and you can get them pretty much anywhere. They’re designed to be cut and connected as needed. On a 12V battery, the strip will run for up to 100 hours.

Most LED strips have adhesive tape at the back. This allows you to stick them wherever you want, from tables and chairs to tent poles. Just keep in mind that once you glue them, they’re difficult to remove. Think about that before sticking them to your camping tent.

There’s one other thing you should know about using white LED lighting in general:

They’ll give you great visibility, but that also means they will attract bugs, too. Avoid using them over your kitchen area, unless you want to show the flies the way to your food.

Rope Lights

Aside from LED strips, you can also use rope lights to brighten up your campsite. Rope lights are a long tube filled with light bulbs inside.

They’re made of different see-through materials that let the light shine through. And, they’re water-resistant – so you can leave them out even when it’s raining.

Rope lights come in all lengths, so they’re great for large areas. However, they’re not as bright as LED strips, so don’t expect them to light up your campsite like an operating room. Their primary role is decorative, so they’re better for achieving dimmed lighting.

Rope lights are flexible, which allows you to wrap them around branches, guy lines, corners – just about anywhere.

You can get extra creative and bend them into shapes or letters. But, they don’t have a sticky side, so you need to find another way to keep them in place.

What I like about rope lights is that they come in different colors. They even have a remote control, so you can adjust the settings to your liking. You can create a personal light show if you want!

Tiki Torches

2 tiki torches with palm trees in the background

Tiki decor has been a popular party theme for almost a century now. One of the staples of every tiki bar is a pole-mounted torch. Typically, they’re made of bamboo with a wick at the top.

Besides tiki bars, nowadays you can see people use the tiki torch in their backyards and on their patios, too. There’s something so comforting in watching a flickering flame.

Originally, tiki torches were fueled by propane gas, but now you can also get those that run on kerosene. These are a much better lighting solution for camping, since you don’t have to carry a canister with you.

What’s more, you can mix kerosene or replace it all together with citronella oil. This oil has a pleasant smell, somewhat like lemongrass. But what’s even better is that mosquitoes hate the scent.

A camping light source that repels bugs?

Sign me up!

Propane Lanterns

This is a reliable light source that has been around for quite a long time now. A propane gas lantern is easily portable and has a steady, bright and long-lasting flame. What more could you wish for in a camping light?

It doesn’t get any brighter than a propane lantern. They produce more light than a standard 100W light bulb. That’s more than enough to light up a large kitchen, for example.

You don’t need a large canister for this camping lantern. A 16-ounce one will last you around 12 hours. And even with a canister, a propane lantern is pretty light, so you can use it for hiking and backpacking, too.

Glow Sticks

3 people in the dark wearing glow sticks

Glow sticks are great, and not just for dance parties. I’m sure you had these at some point growing up. You can find them in any dollar store and they make them in all kinds of shapes, from loop bracelets to glasses.

They also come in a variety of colors, so you can mix them up just the way you like.

They won’t light up your camp, but they can be used for marking the bathroom, edges of the tent, kitchen area… you name it.

If you’re taking your dog camping, here’s one cool trick. Attach a glow stick to your dog’s collar, and you can locate your four-legged friend in the dark at all times.

Once you activate it, it will glow for up to 12 hours. Since they’re so cheap and lightweight, you can bring a large package that will last you the whole camping trip.

Wrapping Things Up

There are plenty of lighting options depending on your needs.

Need bright light?

Get LED strips.

Want a romantic atmosphere?

Glass jars and tea lights are perfect for poetic decor.

Looking for a portable choice?

Propane lanterns are loved by campers all around the world.

These are just a few ways you can light up the campsite. The possibilities are endless!

Play around by combining some of these options with your own ideas. Get creative and have fun with it.