It may seem like an easy buy, but quality string lights are hard to come by. Below, we’ve narrowed down the best string lights for camping to make your search easier.
When I lived out of my truck, nothing made my space feel like home quite like my string lights. I hung them from hooks in the top of my pickup truck’s cap, and their soft glow pleasantly lit every corner of the cramped living quarters.
Proper lighting in your camp setup can help make you feel like you’re living, not just camping. When it’s time to crawl into bed, you can turn the lights on like you’re flipping a switch as you walk through the front door.
String lights are inviting, versatile, and extremely useful, whether you’re trying to create an ambiance or fight off the impending dark. If you’re tired of looking for things with a flashlight or have been blinded one too many times by a friend looking at you in the face with a headlamp, investing in a set of string lights might just be your answer.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for. At the end of our list, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide.
- Best Overall Camping String Lights
- Best Budget Camping String Lights
- Runner-Up Best Budget
- Best Modular String Lights
- Best for the Overlander
- Best for Boondockers
The Best Camping String Lights of 2022
Best Overall Camping String Lights: Coleman OneSource Rechargeable String Lights
When it comes to long-lasting and compact string lights, this Coleman set ($85) is hard to beat. These were some of the brightest, most convenient, and most durable lights we tested.
At their highest setting, even while putting out an impressive 250 lumens, these lights lasted for 9 hours. At their lowest setting of 25 lumens, they can last for days. They’re very easy to dim or brighten as well, as they gradually change depending on how long you hold the power button.
We also loved the long string — the 19 lights are spread across 20 feet of cord that’s easy to hang thanks to three small plastic hooks along the line and one at the very end of the line. The hooks work great for looping around things like branches or poles and looping back on themselves.
The base of the lights is compact and even has a charging port for your other electronics. Storage is also simple, as they wrap conveniently around the body. When packed, they’re only about as big as a soda can.
The only downsides: the battery indicator only has three lights, they get tangled if you pulled them off in a haste, and the the higher price. Otherwise, the OneSource Rechargeable String Lights are the best string lights we tested.
Best Budget Camping String Lights: MPOWERD Luci String Lights
These lights ($50) pack a lot of punch at an affordable price. They have a similar design to the Coleman lights, with a bit less performance across the board. They have 10 light nodes of 100 lumens across 18 feet of cordage. When you don’t need the brightest light or are trying to light a smaller space, they’re an incredible option.
The lights do have an internal battery, but we wish it lasted a bit longer, as at full brightness they only lasted about 4 hours. It does have a charging port as well, but at full charge, it will only get a phone to about 50%. To help combat this, the body does have a solar panel, but it takes most of a day to fully charge. We found we were more likely to just plug an external battery pack into the string lights to charge them.
The lights have three brightness settings that are easy to click through with the power button as well as a flashlight in the base of the lights. The flashlight seems like a better idea than it is, though. You’re better off using … well … .the string lights.
We really loved the case for these lights, which was the best of all the lights we tested. You open the body of the lights, wind the string around the center, and twist the top back down to secure the lights inside. It made it nearly impossible to get the lights tangled in transport or unraveling.
Overall, the Luci String Lights perform extremely well for the value.
Runner-Up Best Budget Camping String Lights: BioLite SiteLight String
If you’re already in the BioLite ecosystem, these lights ($19) are a no-brainer. If you’re not, they’re harder to recommend.
These come in strings of four lights across 10 feet of cable with 150 lumens of lighting power. The last 4 feet of the string are without lights though, as it heads to the power source, so the lights are really more like 6 feet long. It is possible to daisy chain with other BioLite lights, though.
As a single set, they’re much better at lighting a small space than an entire campsite. You’ll need to plug them into an external battery, and you’ll need the included USB dongle to have the light plug — which looks like an aux cable — fit into a USB brick or battery pack. Be careful not to lose that dongle or you’ll be out of light.
These lights really shine when you connect them to a product like the BioLite BaseLantern. With the BaseLantern, you can use the lights without the USB dongle and dim the lights. With other power sources, including power banks and even other BioLite lights like the Alpenglow Lantern, you can only turn them on or off.
The SiteLight itself is pleasant, and the lights store well as you can wrap the cord around a slot in each light and then stack the lights, though the process of wrapping can be tedious.
Overall, the SiteLight performance is average unless you can plug them into a BioLite ecosystem, which increases performance. For small spaces, however, they’re still great string lights for camping on their own.
Best Modular Camping String Lights: GoalZero Light-A-Life Mini
If you’re looking for versatility and the ability to light up one campsite or a few separate tents, the Light-A-Life mini ($80) is a great fit. This is really more like a set of four chainable lights rather than a single string.
Each light has about 4 feet of cord with a USB on each end to chain them together. The segments each have their own switches with a brightness function: a 110-lumen function, and a 30-lumen “low” function. This is both handy and annoying. While it gives you greater versatility to adjust the lights when they are separated, it means you have to turn on or adjust each light one by one when they’re strung together.
For lights that don’t come with a battery, they’re fairly expensive. But they do come with a number of features we really enjoyed. The modular setup means you can easily split the lights to send two lights into two separate tents with battery packs. They also have shades you can adjust to give direct light or provide a more diffuse, lantern-like effect. Colored shades also give you the ability to spice things up.
As a string, though, we found the lights rather busy. There are a lot of cords, plugs, plastic, and switches. For something as simple as light, it’s anything but simple. GoalZero says you can only chain four lights together, but that didn’t stop us from plugging our BioLite SiteLights into the 4th GoalZero light for even more light. Just don’t tell anyone.
Best Camping Lights for the Overlander: LightForce Flexible LED Strip Light
Calling this light ($79) a string light is a bit of a stretch, but it functions similarly. It’s really more like a flexible light bar, more applicable for the overlander than the camper. It runs off a cigarette lighter or an included attachment, which allows it to connect directly to the ports of a car battery. However, you’ll want to have a designated secondary battery to avoid the possibility of killing the battery for your starter.
If you have the equipment, this lighting system is an impressive option. The strip is not long — about 4 feet of lighting with an additional 16 feet of power cable — but it puts out an impressive amount of glowing light. 72 LEDs create 1,600 lumens of light, which is enough to light up your entire campsite.
The strip is also easy to deploy, thanks to a clip on either end of the light strip and Velcro straps throughout. You can wrap it around something, hang it from a tree, or strap it to a pole. It’s like one of those light bars you might see on the roof of a truck but with the flexibility you need for camping.
Thanks to a touch switch that remembers the brightness you last had it on, the lights are also dimmable. It’s easy to use, easy to attach to things, and incredibly bright. You just need to make sure you have a power supply for it.
Best Camping Lights for Boondockers: TIKI BiteFighter LED String Light
First things first, this set of string lights ($159) needs a plug like you’d find in your house. This means it will really only work if you have an RV, camper, inverter, or robust battery system. But if you do have a setup like this, it will work incredibly well.
The massive 36-foot string has 12 LED lights (and comes with two spares) with a nice yellowish color to them, which is perfect for a summer evening. These lights turn on with a single switch, but hanging them can be a bit of a chore. They’re heavy and will need robust mounting hooks.
Lacking portability, these lights are ideal for boondocking or long campground stays. Because they’re waterproof, you can leave them out for long periods of time without worry.
In addition to light, the string has three insect repellant diffusers. TIKI says the three diffusers can create a 330-square foot zone of repelling. The pods are refillable, but as purchased, they’ll diffuse bug-annoying scents for about 200 hours.
While they’re not the most portable or the lightest, the added benefit makes them great for creating a comfortable, lighted zone around your RV, camper, or even back porch.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Buy Camping String Lights
We set out to find the best camping string lights on the market to give you the best recommendations for your adventures. Here’s what to look for:
Before you can have light, you need power. String lights have a few different means of power, and what will work best for you depends on how you plan to use your lights.
For optimal portability, having a set of string lights with a built-in battery will allow you to bring light anywhere without further complications. These lights have the benefit of not needing anything else to work, but that means they’re another thing you’ll have to remember to charge before heading out for the weekend.
Some lights with built-in batteries have the advantage of being solar-powered, as the small panels can charge the internal battery.
External Power Source
Your campsite is an ecosystem — maybe even an electrical ecosystem. If you’re already flush with external batteries — or a lantern or power bank with outgoing power sources — string lights with a USB on one end that plugs into a power source are a simple and quick addition.
When you need a lot more light, some string lights can plug into a more robust power source like an outlet, cigarette lighter port, or car battery. These lights are better for users with a camper with outlets or an overlander with an impressive backup battery system. Options like this are often supremely bright but will also come with high power demands.
String Light Size
Some string lights are for small areas, like the back of a pickup truck, while others will light up your whole campsite. Know how much light you heed and pay attention to both how long the string light is and how many lights it has on it
In addition to the number of actual lights, consider how bright they are. Brighter lights will give you more light. Are you looking for the ability to read small print? Pay attention to how bright your lights are and what you hope to use them for.
Even when you buy bright lights, you don’t always need the brightest light. As it gets closer to bedtime, you may want to dim your lights. Having lights that are adjustable will not only help you get the right ambiance, but it will also help the light you need last longer by conserving the battery.
When you’re not using your string lights, you need to consider how you are going to store them. The best set of string lights will still bother you to no end if it takes you 15 minutes to untangle them every time you get into camp. We’re particularly fond of string lights with built-in storage strategies to help you keep everything in place.
Some lights will allow you to charge other devices from them, customize their exact length, change their color, or even fight off bugs. Keep an eye out for the extras you can get from a simple set of lights.
Why You Should Trust Us
We are experienced hikers, campers, bikers, and hang-outers. More often than not, our activities last into the evening. Whether that’s having a drink after a big hike or fixing the derailleur for tomorrow’s ride, we’ve seen hundreds of lights and know what we like. We tested a variety of these string lights in tents, truck beds, campsites, and beyond. We’ve recreated — and lived — in spaces lit by string lights, and have used that experience to compile this list.
What Is the Most Convenient Light Source for Campers?
The most convenient light will depend on what you need to do with your light. Are you walking and exploring in the dark? Then you’ll want something like a headlamp or flashlight you can use to direct a beam of light ahead of you and down the trail.
Do you have a central area like a table or tent you need to light? Then the expansive glow of a lantern might be what you’re looking for. If you’re trying to light up a large, spread-out area, string lights are likely your best bet as they can extend over a large area. And if you want brighter light, you can simply wrap them, or even pile them, in a more central location.
How Long Do String Lights Last?
The length of time your lights can stay on will depend on how bright you have them set and how powerful the battery is. Sometimes the power source is built into the lights, but others can be plugged into an external power bank. The bigger the bank, the longer the lights will last.
Still, with most high-efficiency LED lights used in these products, you can expect your lights (like the Coleman string lights) to last for at least several hours. If you use a lower-power setting, some string lights can even last for days at a time, and features like built-in solar panels on the MPOWERED lights will only extend this time.
How Many Lights Do You Need for Camping?
The number of lights you need is entirely dependent on how big your campsite is and how bright you want it to be. For brightness, consider whether you want a single string light that crosses a campsite for some added ambiance, or if you want to crisscross string lights across your campsite to provide illumination.
Some brands (like Coleman) offer the longest individual light strings with 38 lights. However, you may actually be better off opting for smaller sections of lights you can string together (like the BioLite string lights). Just remember, the more you string together, the faster the battery drains.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment to find the lighting you prefer.