Camping string lights seemed like a silly idea when I first had one sent to me. That first one was a Luminoodle and for a long time I wondered what I was going to do with it, but then I found out how handy camping string lights, can be.
Camping string lights are typically USB powered, strings of LED lights that are weather resistant. Lengths vary from 6′ to 30′ or more and can illuminate a surprisingly large campsite. Prices for LED sting lights hover right around the $20-$25 mark.
What I’ve found is that there are some definite differences between them as well as what they are really useful for and how to power them.
As I stated, when I first got a camping string light, it came in one of my Cairn subscription boxes. I really didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t see packing it and a battery in if I was hiking into an area and really doubted if they would put out enough light to make it worth it.
The first time I took my Luminoodle camping it was a typical car camping trip. I hooked it up to a USB battery pack I had and was really surprised at how much of my campsite it lit up.
For a small camp spot, the 6′ string light did ok at lighting things up on a dark night, but I can really see why if you why you would want to bump up to a something longer.
One thing I was wondering is how long a camping string light will last. Some quick math from the Luminoodle numbers with a 10,000 mah USB power bank shows that a 5′ light pulling 2.5W will last about 12 hours, and then the 10′ will last about 6 hours. Of course, batteries are never consistent so your usage may vary.
Some Popular String Lights
One thing I initially didn’t like is that you have to carry along a power bank to make them work. Now if you are car camping, that is no big deal but I felt like if I was packing in somewhere it would be an issue. Then I realized that I wind up taking along one anyway to charge my phone.
If it was just me then wanting to light up my tent, then one of the small camping string lights would work fine and probably save me weight over packing a camp light on its own.
What I like about string lights
First off I really like their ability to light up a general area. With a small lantern, you create a puddle of light and everything around that fades to dark. So you have to be facing the right way to see anything.
With an LED string light, you can make a zone of light that is more diffuse. This makes it easier to see the ground in general, what you are reading or the table if you are cooking, eating or playing a game.
Another big benefit of sting lights is they are generally pretty compact. I have a 30′ one and it rolls up in a 4″ square less than an inch thick.
Things I don’t like about string lights for camping
Right off, there aren’t a lot of things I really dislike about the string lights that I have.
My biggest complaint is that they do need a battery pack, and it can come unplugged at inopportune times if you trip over it. I used to complain about needing one at all, but as I said, I realized that I wind up packing one anyway, so that is a moot point.
The other thing that can be a pain is finding good places to hang them. There just isn’t always a good spot to drape them between where you won’t be running into them.
Now if you have a shelter like one of the pop-up canopies (which if you are car camping I highly suggest you have one of) then it isn’t an issue. Simply hook it onto the underside of the roof and you are good to go.
Fairy lights for camping
In the category of LED string lights are fairy lights. These are strings of small LED lights that really are more for effect than area lighting. Now I personally haven’t tried them out, but from what reviews I have read and discussion on them, they really aren’t suited for camping.
First problem with fairy lights for camping is that they aren’t very bright. They are build more for effect than for lighting. The other issue is that they aren’t as robust as regular camping string lights and probably won’t stand up to a lot of abuse.
LED Rope lights for camping
At the other end of the scale from LED fairy lights, is LED rope lights. These are strings of LED lights, generally encased in a clear PVC tube. They are water-resistant and durable and some put out a good bit of light.
My biggest problem is that if you get ones that put out enough light, they are usually a bit bulky which rules them out for putting in a backpack. If you are car or RV camping then that is obviously less of a problem.
Most of these are going to be more in the realm of mood lights, but I will say the color-changing features are pretty cool. If you are more having a camping party, they would be fun to have out.
Stings of LED bulbs
One other option when it comes to strings of LED lights are the strings of bulbs. These are interesting, but I think their bulk and unwieldy shapes make them unsuited for camping.
If I was setting up a permanent gazebo and wanted some lighting, I might go with these, but I can’t see packing them into the car to take with you unless you are really going for a look or trying to be fancy.
Final thoughts on LED string lights for camping
If you are just hearing about LED lights for camping, I highly encourage you to give them a try. My general suggestion is to grab one of the 10′ Luminoodles and see how it works out for you. I think you will be surprised.
The big thing to remember is to match the one you buy to what you are going to do with it and what you need it to do.