Camping is one of my favorite summer activities. Getting away from the hustle and bustle, noise and bright lights of everyday life is always a rejuvenating and relaxing experience. I enjoy it just as much for the daytime activities as for the after dark part of it.
Enjoying your camping experience after dark can be done in many ways. Some fun things to do after dark are to look for fireflies, listen for owls, and look at the stars. To enjoy these activities, it is best to keep your camp lights to a minimum and light only the areas that need to be lit.
Some of our best campsite lighting ideas are lanterns including gas, rechargeable, and solar lights, headlamps, glow sticks, and the light from your campfire. These are all easy to set up use and don’t require much work. We include options for when you have a power source at your campsite and for when you are at a more rustic site.
The best camping lights are ones that are not overly bright and won’t light up your neighbors’ campsite too. We have some great campsite lighting options for you below.
First, we have some campsite lighting best practices in order for you and your campsite neighbors to have the most enjoyable experience.
Campsite Lighting Do’s and Don’ts
Do be mindful of your neighbors. When you are using outdoor lights while camping, make sure that your lights are not shining directly into your neighbor’s campsite.
Many people go camping to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and all the noise and bright lights that come along with it, so be a good neighbor and don’t let your lights interfere with other campers’ peace.
Do turn your lights off when you go to bed. Other people camping near you will certainly appreciate this. Lights shining in tents and campers can be very disruptive to sleep.
Do use a minimum amount of light. Use just enough light only where you need it you don’t need an overly bright light. You don’t need to light up your entire campsite.
You can use light in areas where you are cooking or walking, but using a minimal amount of light will help to keep your eyes dark adapted so that when you leave the light of your campsite, you can still see in the dark somewhat.
Do enjoy the peace and darkness of a natural night. Enjoy the nighttime sounds, look at the stars, watch for fireflies, and listen for the rustle of nocturnal animals. Enjoy the darkness that comes with being outdoors at night instead of trying to banish it.
For those of us who live in brightly lit cities and suburban areas, getting outdoors and experiencing the darkness is a welcome and rejuvenating experience.
Don’t use overly bright lights. Your light source should only light up your immediate campsite, not the whole surrounding area. If you use dimmer lights, your eyes will become more dark adapted.
Don’t leave your lights on all night. Be considerate of others camping near you. When you leave your lights on at night, they are likely shining into someone else’s tent or into the windows of their camper, and no one wants this. This is what not to do:
Don’t put nails in trees to hang lights. This causes unnecessary damage to the tree, and holes in the tree can be pathways for diseases to enter the tree. Many campsites have a pole with a hook at the end that is meant to be used for hanging a lantern.
Ways to Light up your Campsite
We have some great lighting solutions for how to light up your campsite at night. The best camping lights are the ones that aren’t too bright, and where the light won’t extend past your campsite.
A camp lantern is a great way to add some light to your campsite at night. Camping lanterns come in a few different styles: propane, battery powered, rechargeable, and solar. When choosing a camping lantern, it is best to choose one that has an adjustable brightness.
You will find that you really don’t need that bright of a light to light up areas in your campsite. They can be hung from a lantern hook, or set up on your picnic table to provide some light.
Propane camping lanterns are a classic piece of camping equipment, but there are a few downsides. The mantles can be fragile and need to be replaced when broken, and they do require fuel, and they put out a good amount of heat which is not always welcome on warm summer nights.
This is a classic camping lantern, but it can be very bright. We recommend turning the brightness down as much as it will allow, and turning it off around 10pm or when campground quiet hours start.
Rechargeable and Battery-Operated Lanterns
There are some great rechargeable camping lanterns available. This coleman rechargeable camping lantern is great, it looks just like the classic gas lanterns, but without the hassle. And it has 3 brightness settings so you can customize it to how much light you need.
Another smaller, more portable option is this rechargeable lantern. It also has 3 brightness settings and a handle for easy carrying or hanging. They are also small enough that they can be used as tent lanterns.
This lantern runs on battery power, so you don’t have to worry about charging or bringing fuel, only replacing batteries from time to time. It has adjustable light settings for different brightness levels and has a red light mode so you can keep your night vision. It has a long battery life when used on medium and low settings.
If you don’t want to worry about fuel or keeping a lantern fully charged, there are some great solar-powered lights available as well. We love this solar camping lantern because not only does it function as a lantern, but you can also use the stored solar power to charge your phone!
A small solar panel on the top charges and stores power for the lantern. An additional bonus, it has a red light mode so it won’t affect your night vision! This lantern can also be charged by USB so you can charge it up before you head out to camp. This is the best camping lantern if your campsite doesn’t have a power source.
Tent fairy lights
Setting up fairy lights inside of your tent can be a fun and festive way to add some light to your campsite. Your tent will be glowing from within making it easy to find in the dark, and they provide some great reading light once you are in the tent.
A headlamp is a must have light source for camping. It is extremely versatile, you can use it while walking around and have your hands free, it is great for reading, and is very useful when setting up camp in the dark. Some headlamps also have a red light option which will help to preserve your night vision.
We recommend this headlamp. I have had mine for years and it has always been reliable and the batteries last a long time. If you don’t have one, I would highly recommend getting one before your next camping trip.
RV Exterior Lights
If you camp in an RV, the exterior lights can be a good way to add some light to your campsite. These lights are usually more powerful than any of the other lights we have looked at and we recommend using them with some caution. Some RV exterior lights are aimed down, but some aim straight out towards other campsites.
We recommend using these lights only when needed, and turning off all exterior RV lights at the recommended quiet hours for the campground. Even the decorative lights can be quite bright and disruptive as you can see in the image below.
Glow sticks are a fun way to add some light to your camp site. Especially if you have kids, this will be very enjoyable for them! Stick some in with your camping gear for your next trip!
A campfire will always add a warm ambient light to your campsite. Even a small fire will put off a good amount of light. As it gets later into the evening, the only light coming from your campsite should be from your campfire.
String Lights/ Solar String Lights
Some people like to hang string lights when camping, but we find them to be more of a hassle than they are worth. You have to find places to hang them without putting nails in trees, and you have to hang them high enough so that no one will run into them. And setting up camp is usually enough of a project without adding something like that into it. Although, if you do have a shade tent or an RV awning, those can be easy places to hang string lights.
If you are car camping and have extra space, tiki torches can be a good option if you are camping in a buggy area. If you get the citronella version, this will help to keep bugs away. A smoky campfire will also aid in repelling bugs.
There are a lot of great options for adding some light to your campsite without infringing on your neighboring campers. If you are using lights at night, our biggest recommendation is to turn them off after 10pm so other campers can enjoy the peaceful darkness.
Dark Sky Friendly Lighting
All of the lights that we recommend can be considered dark sky friendly lighting. How can you tell if a light is dark sky friendly? When you look at the light fixture, you should not be able to see the source of the light (bulb).
We understand that people like to use outdoor lighting, whether for lighting up your campsite, entertaining, or security, and we want to help people make informed decisions about the lights being used.
You can use outdoor lights at night while still being a friend to the starry sky movement and decreasing your contribution to light pollution!
For more information about light pollution, check out our article What is Light Pollution.
To stay up to date on all things light pollution related, check out and subscribe to our podcast Light Pollution News. We have a new episode every month bringing you the latest news and research about light pollution.