Campsite Lighting Ideas

Campground lighting is such an important area of camping. And if it’s not planned correctly, it can pretty much make a pleasant time into a crappy one. And to be honest, that doesn’t go over very well when you have a family of six out there stumbling around in the dark. Let’s explore the area of Campground Lighting Ideas together. What is your go to? Leave a comment below.

There are so many different ways to light up a campground from your traditional campfire to Coleman gas lanterns, battery operated lanterns and lights, and solar-powered lighting. We will dive into these realms of campsite light and try to figure out which will work best for your situation and maybe what we just might want to pass on.


Campsite Lighting Ideas

If you go looking for campground lighting these days you have so many to choose from that they all can’t be tried and tested in a timely matter. So we are left buying stuff that we can’t count on 100%. Not because they are an inferior product but because we don’t know anything about them.

Gas Lanterns

These babies are my personal favorite when family camping. Maybe that’s because I grew up with them. I don’t know, I just like the bright almost orangish tint it gives off. It just makes the campsite feel right. Burning multiple types of fuel like propane, kerosene, or white gas is what gives gas style lanterns the heat source to light up the ever so fragile mantles.  

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Mantles usually take the shape of a small coin purse or bag but instead of a leather or fabric case its made with a ceramic mesh that encompasses the bright flame that is burned by the lantern.

The makeup of the common mantle is of a mixture of rare-earth elements such as; magnesium oxide, cerium oxide, and thorium oxide. These are forced into the fibers of the mantle which are made of a silk or silk-like material. And it has been the same makeup for the better part of a decade or longer.

The Danger of Gas Lanterns

Because of the rare earth elements and gas burn off, these types of lanterns do give off dangerous amounts of CO2. So please don’t use them inside of your tents. If you must, for safety reasons, please make sure your tent is ventilated and keep the lantern away from the walls of your tent. They get very hot and that would not be a good time if your tent burns down. Am I right?

(There is also a very minimal risk of radiation involved with the mantles form the Thorium and Cerium Nitrates. Read More about the radiation Here.)

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Styles of Gas Lanterns

Propane Lantern

Typically, a use and throw away container, propane is very inexpensive. The containers just screw on to the fitting on the underside of the mantles. Usually, there will be some type of base that you set the propane container into providing the lantern with some stability. You don’t want these guys falling over. Not only will it most likely destroy the mantle, but you might break the lens as well.

Coleman Lantern

Runtime for the normal 16.4-ounce bottles of propane is approximately 6-7 hours on high and 13-15 hours on low. Some of the newer models also come with regulators and self-ignitors making running these little gems an easy chore. And everyone likes easy when camping.

Liquid Lantern

These lanterns put out a very high lumen rating when burning. Some can be adjusted to burn not so bright nowadays though. That did not use to be the case. Because they are a liquid-based fuel, a huge issue is getting the fuel into the sometimes nickel sized hole. If not careful, you can spill the contents all over the place and that sucks.

These liquid fuel sources are also under pressure but it is not automatic. You must manually thumb pump these guys up until they are under enough pressure to burn for a few hours. Then you must keep pressurizing it every once in a while. “Coleman Liquid Camp Fuel” and “white gas” are the store bought kinds of “naphtha” the actual name of the fuel.

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Battery Operated Lighting

Now technology is advancing at an extremely fast pace and when it comes to camping gear, I am on the fence about many issues. Call me old school or maybe I’m just thick headed about certain things. But, I will tell you the truth, these new battery-powered lights are really fricken cool and they are the future of lighting.

Most if not all battery operated campsite lighting comes with LED (light emitting diode) bulbs. Because of this fantastic technology, they come with a number of advantages;

Battery Life

I have heard of these some of the lights last 200 hours on one set of batteries. And that’s running at 800 lumens. Ridiculous.

Kid Safe

Because of the LED bulb technology, these do not get hot so children can safely handle them and move around with them freely. It is especially great for tent interiors.


I have personally seen these lights fall from trees and still work perfectly. Mine have taken an extreme amount of camping abuse. They are made to last so have peace of mind when buying them.


Although not as bright as their fuel counterparts, these lights can reach very high lumens and are a constant light source.

Battery operated lantern

The lanterns offered in battery power these days are awesome! They come in many sizes and shapes. Some are designed to look just like the traditional fuel lanterns and some, that are more mainstream, are sleek and colorful. Depending on where you buy them or the brand is going to determine what quality you get.

The LED lantern is pretty cut and dry when it comes to its functionality. Most of them have multiple settings like

  • Bright
  • Medium
  • Low
  • flash or pulse
  • Red


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It just depends. Some have multiple bulbs in one lantern. Some have single bulbs in four separate parts that can be removed for single use. The only downside I can see with an LED battery powered lantern is that you need to buy batteries now and then and dispose of them. Big woop! We can deal!

Everyone knows that you get what you pay for and let me tell you, you don’t want to be out on a bathroom walk in the dark and your LED lantern decides to call it quits. So make sure and do your due diligence on the products before a purchase.

Battery Operated Headlamps

Oh man! Are these thing important or what? I don’t know what I would do without a headlamp while camping these days. Gathering wood is so much easier when you have two hands to cut and chop.  Being able to see the trails if you stay out too long and the sun gets behind the mountain before you make it back to camp.

With so many uses the battery powered LED headlamp (get the best one here) probably rates in the top 5 for my personal backpack list. I always have one and a set of batteries in my bag. With so many features I could write a whole post just about these guys and I might just do that in the future but for now, let’s look at some of the options.

Beam type

Floodlight wide range helps when you are cooking or prepping the fire, anything that needs to be done that fairly close up will need this setting for best results.

Spotlight tight range will help with navigating walkways and checking on noises in the forest. You can pinpoint the light on something very easily.

Strobe is made for more of an attention grabber. People will notice it easier than a straight beam. It can be used during emergencies.

Low beam is the less battery draining mode the headlamp will have. Used for small campsite tasks or reading in a tent.

Medium beam is a selection for really whatever you want. It’s kind of a mundane setting and I actually never use this setting. But its there on most headlamps.

High beam is used for looking at items further in the distance. Where you need more light to get the task done, such as pulling in a boat at a dock or ramp.

Red light beam is mainly used in the dark. It causes less stress on the human eyes and is just pretty cool to use.

Other amenities they offer are a tilting head that can be adjusted to point down which comes in handy when conversing with your campsite mates. Most, but not all LED headlamps, are going to be water resistant, That doesn’t mean you can take it swimming in Lost Lake, but it can be worn in a little rain if you need to.

Battery Operated Flashlights

Now that we have covered the ever growing class of the headlamp, let’s take a look at the age-old battery-powered flashlight. Flashlights are serious business actually. A flashlight is one thing everyone should have in their campsite gear.

Nearly all of the flashlights produced these days come with the LED bulbs and they have pretty much made all other bulb types obsolete. The options LED offer are just too great for other older bulb types to be able to match; such as efficiency, runtime, brightness, and different modes

A flashlight actually has the highest rated lumens available when it comes to mobile lighting. That means lighting up any area is going to virtually be a click of a button. Bam there was light!

?The only sad face with these, in my opinion, is that they are a one-handed accessory and need to plan your task accordingly. For example, changing a child’s diaper, cooking, and wood gathering are all a little more challenging if the only light source is a flashlight.


                                      Big Boy

Beam Type

Spotlight beam is for pinpointing things in the distance such as trail and cave exploring. A single beam that’s tight and bright.

Adjustable beam is an awesome addition to a flashlight. Some of these you can turn to widen or tighten the beam making it very versatile when out in the wilderness.

Floodlight beams are the brightest and the option that will be used for the most basic tasks. Walking trails and trips to the bathroom are just to name a couple.

Size and Shape of a Flashlight

The size and shape of a flashlight can vary drastically. From your typical cylinder shape with a reverse umbrella shape head to a short and fat handheld one that looks like a disc. No matter what size you come across there is no way of getting around it they are very valuable when out camping or hiking.

Made with either a plastic, aluminum,  or stainless steel, they are drastically different in durability. some are thinner and lighter and some can hold a significant weight behind them. This does not mean that they produce a higher lumen though. Most flashlights can withstand some pretty heavy abuse.

A downside to the cylinder shape flashlights is that they tend to roll away from you if your on any type of an incline. Some model types are designed to anti-roll and are shaped kind of blocky or have angles on them to avoid the rolling.

Battery Powered Strip Lighting

These type of lights are becoming very popular with the modern camper. They have an awesome ability to light up the most modest areas. I personally don’t see any problems with them really. Maybe the only downfall is the battery replacement. But honestly, they last so long it’s not a problem. There are also styles that can be charged by USB and that allow for chargeable battery blocks to be carried around and used almost anywhere.

LED bulbs that are inside of a waterproof membrane is what supplies these lights. They can come in many different lengths and widths. I have seen them from 6 inches all the way to 100 feet. Some of the LED strip lights come with sticky backs, magnets, or you can just hang them on some branches. It doesn’t matter as long as you are getting the area lit up, right?

Some are specifically made for a campsite and then I have seen some specifically for Christmas lighting being used in a campsite. Go figure. However you want to use them, they are extremely handy and bright. Again, choose wisely as you always get what you pay for.

Solar Power Lighting

Solar power actually has been around for quite a while but never has it been so reliable. The technology behind it is complicated and I will not pretend to understand it. (Sun makes power. No sun, no power). 

Best I could find on Amazon HERE

There are actually quite a few different types of solar lights and lanterns out now. I have even seen an inflatable type. They look pretty cool but are super cheap. I personally don’t know if I would trust that as my light source out in the wilderness. Possibly on the back porch barbecuing with some buddies, but that’s probably it.

There are hybrid styles as well. You can charge these models by car chargers, portable batteries, and some by a hand crank and then use the sun as a source of power which would probably be a great campsite lighting idea. Anything with multiple sources of power is really great in my opinion.

There are several different designs to choose from, from traditional camping lantern designs all the way to the aforementioned blow up design. They are also available as a bare bulb that can be suspended, which are great for the inside of your tent. You can pretty much choose from any style your little heart desires.

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We have gone over a lot of campsite lighting ideas throughout this article and if you have anything to add please do so in the comments below. I would love some feedback and to hear your opinions. We can venture into any of your ideas as well.

I did not delve into the art of DIY lighting because that will be a whole post on its own and I am looking forward to putting that down on some paper soon.

And remember

Explore. Relax. Have Fun.



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Hi, Dennis and Shelly Jackson here, we are the faces behind Campsite Planning. We are parents of 4 great kids and a little dog. And we are sharing some of our experiences with the site. I hope you enjoy and please do not hesitate to contact us for any reason.


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