Many people ask what the difference is between a party tent and a normal camping tent. Put simply, the difference is fun lighting! Any tent can be fun, and if entertaining lights make things officially enjoyable, then that’s a great way to sparkle up your next family camping trip.
Here are some of my favorite camping tent lighting ideas, passed on to me through neighbors, friends, and good old rustic family tradition. On the upside, the next time an anniversary party, wedding, coming of age party, bridal shower, or other party is coming around, you’ll have all kinds of great ideas and decorations on hand.
Camping Tent Lighting Ideas
I have some ideas how you can light a tent and its surroundings at night.
Wait a minute, there’s no power when you’re camping… is there?
Yes, actually, there can be! You see, some camping sites come with amenities, like electricity, barbeque pits, and public restrooms. Even if there isn’t, technology is constantly advancing and you never know until you see what’s out there! Don’t be afraid to look around for power sources that might suit your wants and needs.
Solar panels have gotten cheaper and more portable. You can even buy backpacks with solar panels built into them. Or, sometimes you can buy accessories with solar panels built right into them, so there is no power source needed, such as string lights.
But my favorite option is to simply buy a portable battery pack. Some are the size of car batteries, but some are much smaller, and surprisingly lightweight. Some even come with AC outlets built right into them.
LED String lights
The most common and most versatile type of decorative lighting are LED String Lights. They’re also the typical light decorations of Christmas trees. They come in different sizes and colors and arrangements, and can look like a straight pathway leading you to the door, to a dozen tiny stars on the fabric of the tent, like the nighttime sky.
There are many very simple projects that involve taking a clump of LED string lights and stuffing them into a traditional bug-catching jar, such as mason canning jars. If you have a way to hang the jars, they can even hang from the same LED string, in mid-air.
It doesn’t need to be the whole string of lights, either. Though, if you do put the whole string of lights into a jar, wine bottle, or any other glass, this is another way to make your campsite shine. Typically when this is done, a wider-mouth bottle is used so that the lights can be hooked up to a battery pack.
String light lanterns
Another idea is to get ahold of some string lights where the bulbs are surrounded by little lanterns, such as globes. They come in all colors and sizes, and they can really help add decor, freshness, and cheerfulness to the camping scene.
Decorative string lights
There’s something to be said about all the different styles and kinds of string lights that exist. They can come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes, from light bulbs that look like stars or leaves, disco balls or tree branches, to glowing rattan balls.
LED rope lights
Many people don’t like considering rope lights as a lighting source because the LED lights are encased in plastic, and that straight line aspect makes them seem dull. However, when it’s time to put them up or take them down, things are always speedy as they don’t tangle up with the big bulbs and tiny wires that always catch.
Rope lights can also be purchased in mass bulk, allowing you to do more interesting and ambitious projects. Like normal string lights, they come in a variety of colors, but I personally feel that they have more color options available, especially in the multi-colored area. Don’t forget that not all string lights have to look like individual sparkles, you can also purchase rope lights that are entirely lit up, like a neon sign, or a Jedi lightsaber.
Fiber optic lights
Most of the cheaper fiber optic lights are like LED lights, except that the light doesn’t emit from the bulb, but from the end of a special wire tube. There are some professional kits that can be used to make solar systems and galaxies embedded into a ceiling, but they’re very time-consuming projects, so I don’t recommend them. But I really do like the options that the smaller, cheaper fiber optics lights have. I even found a fiber optic string light, and I loved that it looked like a fairytale wonderland.
A simple and under-used idea is to purposefully cast a shadow on the tent as decoration. Perhaps it might be a figurine, a pretty tree branch, the family’s crest, or even a moving shadow as someone acts out a shadow and light bedtime story with their hands.
Lanterns are one of favorite camping tent lighting ideas that people use often. Enclosed lanterns, such as propane lanterns are easy to find and quite safe. Lanterns have their own charm, but when you have many of them, especially if they are decorative, they can really help strike a charming and sophisticated mood.
Disposable glow sticks
Glow sticks are extremely easy to find and can be purchased in bulk and variety packs. The downsides are that they aren’t very bright and they don’t tend to last longer than a couple hours. But for most camping expeditions, a couple hours is plenty to build up charm, fall asleep, and then wake up and do it all over again.
In this category are also glowing paints, such as non-toxic face paint. You’ll want to remember to use non-permanent or washable solutions, so that any tree or bush you accidentally wiped your hands won’t be a fluorescent pink forever.
I hope you find my camping tent lighting ideas useful. I just want to add a reminder to avoid using open flames if at all possible. Remember that when you are camping, you’re probably tired from exertion and it’s too easy to forget, or for an unseen wind gust to strike tragedy when you’re miles away from the nearest water source, let alone paved road.