The photo is plastered all over Instagram. Under a starry sky, happy campers sit by a campfire, encircled by moody string lights and glowing orbs strung between two camper vans. Maybe there’s a mountain or two in the backdrop. This image, in its many variations, is indicative of a ballooning trend in camping technology: area lighting. Does this mean good ol’ headlamps are on the way out? Not at all — it just means that outdoorsmen are beginning to truly appreciate the value of lights that illuminate an entire campsite with the touch of a button, yet take up about as much precious backpack space as a few granola bars. And, year after year, area lights are becoming lighter, brighter and longer-lasting. Even if you’re a camping purist — “My headlamp works perfectly fine, thank you very much!” — now’s the time to jump on the bandwagon.
BioLite SiteLight Variety Pack
The all-in-one campsite lighting system that started it all. It includes three lights — the SiteLight, two hanging lights on a ten-foot cord; the SiteLight Mini, four miniature versions of the original Sitelight; and the SiteLight XL, a collapsable, beachball-sized orb — all of which connect via USB to BioLite’s BaseLantern XL, a Bluetooth-enabled lantern that doubles as a portable battery. Through the BioLite app, you can individually dim or brighten each light, as well as enable the BaseLantern XL’s moody LED color cycles. And, depending on your campsite’s footprint, you can add or remove lights as you please, thanks to a handy daisy-chain system.
Total Weight: 26.13 ounces
Runtime: 7.5-78 hours
Gear Aid SPARK Rechargeable LED Light
Smaller than a wallet, weighs less than your smartphone, and snaps into any GoPro mount. That means it can shine light where ordinary standing or hanging lanterns cannot. If GoPro mounts aren’t your jam, it’ll stand upright on a built-in metal kickstand or hang from an included rubber hook.
Total Weight: 4 ounces
Runtime: 6-28 hours
Power Practical Luminoodle Light Rope
Imagine if a wad of twinkly Christmas lights took a NOLS course, spent a few years in the Alaskan wilderness and developed a hardy weather-proof shell. That’s the Luminoodle. It’s designed to wrap around or be draped over just about anything: over tent ceilings, between roof racks, across branches and more. It also doubles as a standard handheld light — simply plug it into any USB power source, and stuff it into the included ripstop nylon stuff sack. Available in five- or ten-foot lengths.
Total Weight: 4.7-7 ounces
MPOWERD Luci Color
Solo backpackers and lightweight campers have no use for multicolored LED lights. But group campers do. While the Luci Color isn’t ideal for practical applications like illuminating a stove or a paperback book, it’s excellent for creating an air of comraderie and, where there are no neighboring campers to disturb, starting the backcountry party. It’s also solar-powered (charges in seven hours), totally waterproof and extremely lightweight.