Camping with nothing but the light of the stars and moon is charming, and perfect if you want to keep things as natural as possible. But what about those times when it’s still too dark to perform certain tasks, or you just want a little extra pop to liven the atmosphere?
Camping string lights are perfect for getting the job done. Whether you’re in the backcountry, or in your backyard, we’ve taken a look at a few options that will take care of your outdoor needs.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best camping string lights:
- MPOWERED Luci Solar Camping Lights – Best Solar String Lights
- BioLight SiteLight Overhead String Lights – Lightest String Lights
- WERTIOO Battery Operated String Lights – Longest String Lights
- Brightech Ambience Pro String Lights – Best Overall
- Minetom Mini Globe String Lights – Best USB String Lights
- Power Practical Portable Rope Light – Best Rope Light
- Coleman LED String Lights – Best Battery String Lights
When you’ve got lights, you’ll need a way to power them. So, where do you plan on camping?
If you’re going to be hanging out in your backyard, it’s easy enough to plug them into an extension cord. But what if you’ll be deep in the backcountry, or even at a campsite that doesn’t have electrical outlets? Luckily, you’ll have options.
Some camping string lights can run entirely off batteries – certainly not my favorite option, but it gets the job done in a pinch. You will have to worry about running out of juice in the batteries, and the weight can add up if you’re bringing a lot. However, it will allow you to stay mobile, and you can keep your lights glowing no matter where you are in the world.
Solar camping lights are what I consider to be the creme of the crop. They work anywhere that has directly access to sunlight, without the need to remember batteries or other charging methods. Of course, you’ll be in a pickle if you’re hit with cloudy days, but some solar camping lights solve this problem by allowing you to charge them via USB when needed.
And finally, aside from plugging into a wall outlet, USB charging is the other method that’s available to you. As long as you have a portable power bank, you’ll be able to keep your string lights fully charged anywhere you go.
Many camping string lights don’t have adjustable brightness, so you’ll want to make sure you get it right the first time. Light intensity is measured in lumens – here’s a rough breakdown of what you can expect:
100 lumens: On the dim side, this is enough light to move around your campsite without bumping into things, but it’s not great for detailed work. However, it’s perfect for setting a romantic mood, or for those of you who don’t want things super bright to begin with.
200-500 lumens: This range encompasses most string lights, and can be considered something of a mid-zone for brightness. Great for ambience, most of these lights are also bright enough for you to hang out and play games.
600+ lumens: Very bright, I’d only suggest using these if you need a lot of light for a particular task. For regular use, it’s too blinding, and you may end up detracting from the experience you were hoping to have.
How much space do you want to light up, and how intricate do you want the design to be? Longer isn’t always better, especially if you just want to add a little flair to your tent or picnic table. However, if you’re trying to string out a perimeter of lights between trees or around trailers, you’ll want a product that has quite a bit of length.
Any string lights that you pick should have an IP rating – a system that determines how well an enclosure for electrical equipment can protect against external forces. For example, you might see an IP rating of “IP62” for a certain product. The first number (6, in this case) indicates how well it can protect against solid objects, while the second number (2) is how well it protects against liquids. If an ‘X’ appears in place of a number, that means the product wasn’t rated for that specification.
It’s worth noting that the first number can range from “0-6,” while the second number can range from “0-9.” The higher the number, the better the protection against that particular element.
The second number is what we’re concerned about, since rain and other water sources are going to be your biggest enemy. I’d suggest sticking with a rating of IPx4 or higher whenever possible, as this gives you sufficient protection from the elements. To give you an idea of what these numbers mean, here’s a brief overview:
IPx0: No protection against liquids.
IPx1: Protected against condensation, and other vertically falling drops of water.
IPx2: Protected against water sprays up to 15 degrees from vertical.
IPx3: Protected against water sprays up to 60 degrees from vertical.
IPx4: Protected against water splashed from any direction.
IPx5: Protected against low pressure jets of water from any direction.
IPx6: Protected against strong pressure jets of water from any direction.
IPx7: Protected against immersion down to one meter in depth.
IPx8: Protected against long term immersion up to a specified pressure.
IPx9: Protected against steam jet cleaning.
So as you an see, a rating of IPx4 will protect you lights against water sprayed in any direction. For most of you, anything more than this will be overkill, but anything less than this will also put you at risk.
In general, weight isn’t something you’ll need to be too concerned about with string lights. Since they’re primarily used while car camping or backyard camping, it’s not like you have to transport them very far, and the lights usually don’t weigh very much anyway.
However, I understand that there are some of you who would like to light up your backpacking experience as well. In that case, there are some options, like the BioLite string lights, which are suitable for long distance trekking.
Best Camping String Lights – Reviewed
- Power Type: Solar
- Length: 18 Feet
- Weight: 11.3 Ounces
- Material: Nylon
One of the few solar string lights we’re reviewing, the MPOWERED Luci lights are what I would consider the best of its kind. They can be fully charged after 16 hours of direct sunlight, and you’ll get about 20 hours of light from them on a full charge. On cloudy days, there’s a USB adapter that you can use to fill the battery instead.
The USB plugin can also be used to charge your phone or other devices, which means the light battery can also act as a portable power bank. With a waterproof rating of IPx4, they’re not meant for heavy duty use in rough environments. However, for casual camping in a light rain, you shouldn’t have any problems when it comes to durability.
Since they wind back up quickly, the lights are also really easy to store and transport. And with the different power settings, you’ll always be able to make sure you have enough light for whatever task you’re looking to accomplish.
– Solar charged
– Various power settings
– Can work in a light rain
– USB plugin to charge your phone
– Take a long time to charge via solar
- Power Type: Solar
- Length: 10 Feet
- Weight: 2.8 Ounces
- Material: Felt
Powered by USB, there’s a lot to like about this set of string lights by BioLite. Not only are these lights versatile, they also weigh next to nothing, making them a great option for backpackers who don’t mind adding a few ounces to their pack. Whether you want to bring them on the trail with you, or simply string them up around your car, anything goes with these lights.
Unfortunately, they aren’t very bright as far as camping string lights go. At their best, you can get about 150 lumens out of them, which is on the low side. However, I know many of you actually like the soft, ambient glow, so it really depends on what you’re looking for. In case these do end up being too bright for you, there is an option to dim them as well.
– USB powered
– Last a long time
– Light is a bit dim
– Light is very white
- Power Type: Battery
- Length: 33 Feet
- Weight: 1 Pound
- Material: Copper
Despite being a cheap, run of the mill set of globe lights, you’re going to hear me rave about the durability of these tiny titans. With a weatherproof rating of IP65, these little guys are completely resistant to dust and low-pressure water jets. Which is to say, if your string lights are broken, the rest of your camping setup was probably destroyed awhile back. These guys will be the least of your concern.
I also think the knobby, globe shape provides a bit of novelty that you don’t find with other lights. Though the battery operation can be more of a hassle, this set of string lights is a fun option for backyard camping or a trip to a campground. And when it’s too cold to sleep outside, you can use them as decoration around the house or on the Christmas tree.
– Very durable
– A good amount of length
– Fun light shape
– Work as long as you have batteries
– A bit heavy
– Colored lights are more pastel than they appear in the product photos
- Power Type: USB
- Length: 24.5 Feet
- Weight: 1.65 Pounds
- Material: Plastic/Rubber
For a light source that really brightens your surroundings, you’ll love Brightech’s Ambience Pro string lights. The bulbs are on the larger end of the spectrum, and they do a great job of illuminating the area around them, even in rough weather. And the hard plastic casing ensures that they’ll remain undamaged…assuming you don’t bring a rock down on them.
Powering them up is pretty simple as well. They run off a USB connection, so you’ll need something like a battery pack to plug them into. While they do suck more juice out of your reserves than a phone would while it’s charging, they still have a pretty low wattage overall. It’ll take several minutes before you even use up 1% of the battery, so you can get a lot of life out of single power bank.
Despite looking like Edison bulbs, they are LEDs, so they don’t get hot over time. In addition to that, I also appreciate how they have a warmer hue to them, instead of the really white light that’s common among products like these.
– Pretty durable
– Warm hue
– Very bright
– Don’t suck up too much energy
– Good length
– Could be nice if the bulbs were closer together
- Power Type: Corded Electric/USB
- Length: 33 Feet
- Weight: 1.15 Pounds
- Material: Plastic
It’s not possible to talk about string lights without mentioning one of the most common styles – corded electric. While you will have to plug Minetom’s lights into a wall socket, limiting their portability, it does give you a lot more options around the house. Thankfully, for outdoor use, there is a USB port that allows you to plug them into a power bank. I find that this indoor and outdoor versatility is one of the best features of these lights, so you can use them anywhere, anytime of year.
They also come with a warm white light and multi-colored setting, so you can have fun with the vibe you create. On top of that, there’s an option to dim the lights, make them flash in various sequences, or give them a fading effect. Perfect for fun outdoor family get-togethers, or to use around the house when you’re not camping.
– Many different functions
– Can be used inside and outside
– Long length
– Very responsive to dimming
– You may have trouble getting the remote to work
- Power Type: USB
- Length: 5 Feet
- Weight: 0.3 Pounds
- Material: N/A
With only 5 feet of length, you certainly won’t be wrapping Power Practical’s rope light around your tent. However, as a way to outline the entrance to your shelter, it’s a product that can’t be beat. You can also attach them to your car, thanks to the magnets on the underside of the lights, or hang them wherever you need an accent of brightness. When you stuff them inside the included carry bag, they make a perfect lantern, too.
Incredibly lightweight, dimmable, and waterproof, it’s the perfect set of camping string lights to take with you on the trail. And since they’re powered via USB connection, they’ll take care of you as long as there’s juice in your battery pack. Unfortunately, the USB connector slides out easily, so you’ll have to keep this in mind when you’re setting everything up. But other than that, I think you’ll find that there’s little to complain about with these versatile lights.
– USB connector likes to slide out
- Power Type: Battery
- Length: 6 Feet
- Weight: 0.8 Pounds
- Material: N/A
A fun little product by Coleman, these camping string lights are made in the shape of tiny lanterns. It’s a novel design that adds some pop to your campsite, and the bright, white light make sure that everything is fully illuminated around them. Sadly, the lights are a little too bright for my taste, but some of you will appreciate the intensity for events like festivals and concerts.
Powered by batteries, you’ll be able to take these lights with you wherever you go. I’ve found that the battery container does its job well, blocking out water and other damaging substances, so you can feel comfortable keeping them strung outside in rough weather.
Keep in mind that the lantern shape is pretty awkward to work with when it comes to storage. They can be hard to fit back into the box they come in, so sometimes your best bet is to just loosely store them somewhere secure when they aren’t in use.
– Fun design
– Very bright
– Don’t use too much energy
– A little bulky
– A little short
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How Long Do String Lights Last?
LED string lights can last for up to 7-10 years with moderate use. On the other hand, incandescent bulbs will only last for about 4-6 years.
How Many Lights Do You Need for Camping?
The number of lights you need for camping depends entirely on the size of your campsite and how illuminated you want it to be. I always like to get longer string lights so that I can be more creative with them if I feel like it.
String lights are a cheap and easy way to add a little pop to your camp setup. And while they add a homey touch to your tent, you want to make sure you’re getting a set that’s suitable for your needs. Are they portable? How are they powered? Do they have enough length?
After reviewing all the options, we felt that Brightech’s Ambience Pro string lights did it best. With large bulbs that emit a generous amount of light, these guys are perfect for stringing up around your tent or around your car. Incredibly durable, they’ll also last you a lifetime, and can withstand just about any storm thrown their way.