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Camping Lights

Camping lights are some of the most important items on your camping list.

Forget to pack them, just once, and you'll know what I mean!

Stumbling around in the dark is mildly annoying at any time - but when you are on a family camping trip, being without light can be downright disastrous! 

Having a selection of reliable lighting options means that you can arrive at your campsite in the dark, get set up without too much trouble, and get everyone fed, pyjama-ed and tucked into bed with minimal fuss.

Types of Camping Lights

Visit any camping store, and you may be overwhelmed by the number of choices! Each has its place. Read on to learn which lights are best for you.


What is it?

A headlamp is a light attached to an adjustable headband.

Headlamps allow you to see what you are doing in the dark and have your hands free to do it!

four headlamps

Headlamps used to be clunky and expensive, but the newest models are economical, lightweight and very bright, using one or more LEDs to provide bright, focused light.

A headlamp is a very versatile camping tool. Here are just some of the situations in which you might use one:

  • reading a map in the car
  • setting up camp in the dark
  • wallking to the bathroom at dusk, carrying a baby on your hip and a bathroom kit in your hand
  • curling up in your sleeping bag and reading

Do I really need one?

Yes, you do!

You will thank me for this! Once you have a good headlamp, you’ll use it not only for camping but for a variety of uses at home.

What do I need to know?

Don’t be tempted by the cheap headlamps at the dollar store. They’ll break in no time. Spend the money and get a good quality item.

Here’s how to choose the best headlamp for you.


What is it?

Flashlights come in a dizzying variety of shapes, sizes, colors and strengths. There are teeny little flashlights that fit in the smallest pocket, and large powerful flashlights that can light up a huge area.

Do I really need one?

If you already have a flashlight, of course take it with you on your camping trip.

If you don’t have any flashlights and need to buy camping lights, I’d recommend buying headlamps instead unless you have a compelling reason to use a flashlight.

Of course, a flashlight is necessary for playing flashlight tag! Click here to learn how to play flashlight tag.

What do I need to know?

Of course, if you really like flashlights, go ahead and buy some! Save yourself lots of frustration by getting good quality lights.

Candle lantern

What is it?

A candle lantern consists of a special candle, a glass chimney and a metal case. The chimney stores inside the metal case for traveling, and slides up easily for use. The candle is safely enclosed. You won't need to worry about spilled wax or tippy candles!

three candle lanterns

These lightweight lanterns put out a surprising amount of light.

Do I really need one?

If you are going backpacking - yes, you do. A candle lantern hung from the loop at the top of your tent will not only give light for dressing and reading, but will also warm your tent on a chilly evening.

If you are RVing, you don’t need a candle lantern - but you might want one! This is a safe and easy way to enjoy the romantic glow of candlelight no matter where you are.

What do I need to know?

Be sure to buy the special candles that fit the lanterns. The candles are available at camping stores, or wherever camping lights are sold.

Be sure to follow all safety guidelines. (Here's an important one: don't touch the top metal disc when it is hot!)

Click here to learn more about camping candle lanterns.

Coleman lantern

What is it?

There are a number of types of Coleman lanterns.

The easiest to use are propane lanterns, like this one:

Coleman lantern

White gas lanterns give an intense light, but they are more finicky to use. They are also noisy.

Another model uses batteries. It's easy to use, but not too practical. If you're using the lantern for hours each evening, you'll go through a lot of batteries.

Do I really need one?

If you are planning to sit around the picnic table after dark, playing games or reading, a Coleman lantern is the perfect option.

What do I need to know?

If you buy a white gas or propane lantern, you'll want to read the instructions very carefully. It's a good idea to do a practice run at home before setting out on your trip.

You'll need a supply of mantles for both white gas and propane lanterns.

Emergency flashlight

What is it?

An emergency flashlight doesn't need batteries. It works on "people-power" of one type or another.

You can store it in your glove compartment or camping bin for months or years, and it will be ready to go when you need it.

emergency squeeze flashlight

Read more about hand powered flashlights here.

Do I really need one?

In theory, emergency flashlights are a good idea.

In practice, I find that they are more trouble than they are worth. I prefer to make sure that I always have batteries that work.

What do I need to know?

Emergency flashlights are fun for the kids to use - for the first few minutes! After that, they tend to get tired of the work required to generate the light.

The bottom line

Having the right camping lights ensures that you can function comfortably in any situation in the dark.

Now that you know about camping lights, visit The Camping Family home page for information on other types of camping gear.

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