Camping trips are the perfect way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and reconnect with nature. Parents should take their children on camping trips more often than to the typical holiday destinations like Disneyland and Hawaii. Camping trips will help your kids become more independent, learn to solve problems on the go and probably most importantly have your undivided attention for a few days. Plus, collecting kindling for the fire, exploring nature trails or telling each other stories under a starlit sky are experiences that you’re unlikely to have in the city.
But it’s not just an ideal parent-child bonding trip, it’s also a great way to bond with your friends and family. Your next family vacation could be a camping trip instead of something extravagant. These days most families (and for that matter friends) are scattered in different parts of the country and sometimes different parts of the world. So, when you finally get a chance to spend time together it doesn’t make sense to check into a hotel or resort. A camping trip strips all the paraphernalia associated with travelling and leaves you with unadulterated bonding between those present.
Camping in nature is an exhilarating experience, but if you’re doing it for the first time you might need a little time to adjust to the darkness after nightfall. It’s in stark contrast to the over saturated, garishly lit lives we lead at home. Even if you’re used to the darkness, your kids might not be.
Bonfires, flashlights and headlamps have been the trusted light sources on camping trips for many decades. Bonfires are almost a tradition. The search for kindling through the day, followed by the almost communal experience of lighting a bonfire, sitting around it and exchanging stories. Similarly, the importance of a trusted flashlight or a useful headlamp hasn’t diminished. In fact, you should definitely carry at least one of the two with you on all camping trips.
The difference in approach that has come about over the years is that people are now thinking more in terms of area lighting rather than individual lighting. They want to light up the entire campsite or at least a part of it, so that they can see better and thereby move around easily and interact with others at the campsite better. You can thank the advances in technology, which has now made it possible to carry inexpensive but durable lighting options in your backpack on camping trips.
This is extremely important, because you don’t want to lug around heavy objects in your backpack or separately. The portability factor is equally important. You will need a light while moving outside the campsite to either explore the area or to go to the bathroom. Plus, if the light is portable, you can use it for a while in the common area and then take it with you into the tent. So, you won’t have to carry two separate lights. Remember that a lightweight source of light doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s portable as well, because that’s dependent on its power supply.
If you have a camper van or any other automobile, then you can connect some of your light to its battery. However, ideally, you should only carry battery-powered or solar-powered lights with you on a camping trip. It’s both economical and eco-friendly. LED technology has improved by leaps and bounds, so even battery-powered lights provide bright light. LED lights also consume significantly lower amounts of energy than regular lights, which means that the battery charge or solar charge lasts longer. Since, we are on the topic of LED lights, it needs to be mentioned that LED lights have long lifespans. So, even though you will have to fork out a little more initially, you will be able to use them for many years to come and more than make up for the little extra you paid.
This factor is often ignored or not taken into consideration at all. A camping trip is not the same as hosting a get together in the backyard. So, you can’t have a plethora of lighting options. You will likely carry a flashlight/headlamp and probably one other light source for the trip. The flashlight/headlamp is versatile. You need to make sure the second light source is the same. You could for one of those two-in-one options that provide two use cases. Or you could look at a device that’s equipped with a dimmer, so that you can control the brightness and use it in different parts of the campsite.
You will most probably check the weather forecast before heading out on a camping trip, but unless it’s a short one-day trip it’s advisable to buy lights that are weatherproof. Weather can change quickly and if it starts raining, your trusted battery-powered, old school flashlight will inevitably die on you. In fact, when the weather takes a turn for the bad, you need good lighting more than at any other time. For the same reason, don’t depend solely on solar powered lights. In case the sun isn’t bright enough or is hidden behind clouds for large parts of the day, you won’t have lights for the evening and night.
Your camping gear must include a propane lantern. It’s ideal for a campsite, because you can adjust the intensity of the flame. So, you can increase the intensity while cooking and having dinner and decrease the intensity while chatting or star gazing.
You will have to carry a few propane cylinders with you so that you can continue to use the lantern right through the camping trip. Usually, a standard 16.4 ounce propane cylinder lasts for 10-14 hours, depending on usage. Weatherproof propane lanterns are available as well, which can be used even if it’s raining or windy. These are usually equipped with stable footed bases, which ensures that the lantern remains stable on the rough surfaces you’re likely to encounter at a campsite.
You will need light inside the tent as well, especially if you’ve kids with you. An adult will be able to manage with just a flashlight, but kids might want some form of low light inside the tent while they’re asleep. In this scenario, it’s advisable to not keep a propane lantern inside the tent. Instead you should get yourself a LED lantern. These battery-powered devices are light and portable and can be used as alternatives to flashlights as well.
In fact, these days you get 2-in-1 LED lantern and flashlight, which double up as both, a lantern and a flashlight. A simple press of a button lets you switch between lantern and flashlight modes, so you don’t have worry about learning any elaborate techniques. The batteries provide about 20 hours of illumination when the device is on flashlight mode and about 12 hours of light while on lantern mode.
You can always buy just a LED lantern as well. If you and your partner like heading out on camping trips over the weekend, then you can pick up a pack of two to save some money. If you like going on camping trips as a family, then you can buy a pack of four. LED lanterns are available in a wide variety of designs and styles, so you will find one that matches your requirements perfectly.
Since you’re in the midst of nature, why not let nature fuel the camping lights as well? Solar lights can be very useful on a camping trip. These can’t be the primary lights at the campsite, because these are comparatively low-intensity lights. Plus, you will only have limited time to charge them during the day. However, these lights can be used to mark out the entrance to the campsite, so that you easily spot it from a distance. These lights can also be used to mark out the pathway from the campsite to the bathroom or to mark out the tents.
Use the solar lights typically used to illuminate garden pathways. These are normally available in a pack of dozen, which should be more than enough for the campsite. It’s quite easy to use. You simply switch it on and push the stake into the ground. Make sure it’s directly exposed to the sun and not partially shaded, as that would affect the charging. During the day, the solar lights get charged and at sundown they switch on automatically. The charge stays for about 8 hours, after which it switches off and waits for sunrise to start charging again.
String lights are a creative way to brighten up the campsite. It's particularly useful if you're planning to play games, do group activities, or simply to catch up with friends. Unlike a bonfire or a lantern, the light spreads to a wider area, which allows you to move around the campsite without having to worry about keeping a flashlight handy at all times. You can tie the ends of the string lights to trees or hang them from branches, depending on how the campsite is set up.
However, you do need to be a bit careful about light pollution, especially if you’re in a forested region or in one of those camping regions where other campers might feel disturbed by bright lights.
For this reason, you should ideally use low voltage LED bulbs as part of your string lights. These aren’t as bright as other LED lights (though they are still likely a bit brighter than standard low voltage incandescent bulbs) and are usually weatherproof, which is extremely important for a campsite. In addition to this, LED bulbs last significantly longer than regular bulbs, so you will be able to use them for many more camping trips in the future. Finally, since you will have to power the string lights via batteries, LED bulbs make more sense as they consume a lot less energy as compared to regular bulbs.
If you’re looking for a non-intrusive and yet inexpensive lighting option, then there’s nothing better than glow-in-the-dark sticks. These are versatile light sources that are very easy to use and quite cheap at the same time. Glow sticks can perform the same role that solar lights do, to mark out pathways and ensure you don’t get lost. A couple of them can be kept inside the tent instead of the LED lantern and it would totally serve your purpose. You can ask your kids to keep a couple of glow sticks with them after sundown, so that you can keep an eye on them even if they stray a bit from the main campsite. The same holds true for your four-legged friend. Tie a couple of glow sticks to his or her collar to ensure they don’t get lost. Finally, glow sticks are available in various colors, so you can make your campsite look funky too.
You can pick up standard glow sticks from your local dollar store. These ones are really cheap, but the light lasts for a few hours at most. Alternatively, you can go for industrial grade glow sticks, which cost a little more but the light lasts for a good 8-10 hours. Even the industrial grade glow sticks aren’t expensive. Typically, a pack of 20 industrial grade glow sticks would cost anywhere between $15-20.
Rope lights are another versatile campsite lighting option. It’s somewhat similar to string lights, with difference being that the LED bulbs are cocooned inside the rope and not exposed outside. This also makes them a better fit in all weather conditions. Rope lights are available in both battery-powered and solar-powered versions. These are very flexibles and can be literally wrapped around anything you want — a tree trunk, boulders or laid on top of the tent. In some cases the rope lights come with a backpack. You can put the rope light in the bag and carry it around with you instead of a flashlight. These are available in various lengths of up to 100-150 feet.
We hope these campsite lighting ideas has made your job a lot easier now. You can now focus on having a great time rather than racking your brain over how to setup your campsite lighting!
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