a camping ground lit up at night

The right light for the job

Decent lighting is essential for safety and convenience. Here are five types of lights to keep you in the know and out of the dark when camping. By Nell Hofmeyr

The Trusty Headlamp

If you include only one light in your camping kit, make it a headlamp. Whether you’re busy at the braai or hitting the trails at night, a hands-free light source pays off every time. While cheap options are available, it’s worth investing in a high-quality product that strikes the right balance between brightness, burn time and comfort. If stargazing or a night walk is on your itinerary, choose one with Red and Green LED mode to preserve night vision and avoid disturbing wildlife.

A woman uses a headlamp at her campsite
The main advantage of a headlamp is that it frees your hands up to perform other tasks. Picture by Yuriy Rzhemovskiy (Unsplash)

The Versatile Lantern

A lantern is essential for any camping trip and it helps to have more than one at your disposal. Designed to illuminate a large area, this versatile light is ideal for brightening up the kitchen corner, outside seating area and the inside of your tent. It can be freestanding, hung or even carried around depending on the size and weight. Consider a rechargeable, solar LED option for maximum burn time and convenience. T4A tip: The collapsible kind make great space savers!

Also read: What to cook on your camping trip

The All-Seeing Blacklight

Besides looking cool, a UV light is a surprisingly handy thing to have in the wild. Use it to detect scorpions in the dark – they fluoresce under the UV rays – and marvel at these ancient creatures. For people that can’t abide bugs, there are UV lanterns that incorporate a high voltage grid, zapping flying critters into oblivion.

a glow-in-the-dark scorpion
A blacklight is the ideal tool to help you spot (and avoid) scorpions in the dark. Picture by Kelsey Dody (Unsplash)

The Classic Torch

You can’t go wrong with a good old compact, portable torch. By aiming the light in a single direction, you can see better for ‘close-work’ tasks like locating your tent or searching for a lost item. Size, brightness and beam distance are key considerations.

We recommend a lightweight device small enough to fit into your pocket for easy access. If you can find one that’s waterproof and capable of sending emergency signals, even better.

Also read: 10 commandments of camping

Fairy Lights

Not essential, but nice to have – fairy lights provide soft-lighting and plenty of atmosphere. This is ideal for big groups who plan to make evenings a social affair. Arrange a string of these on your awning and you’re bound to have the prettiest tent by far.

A campsite illuminated by fairy lights
Decorating your campsite with fairy lights adds warmth and atmosphere.

Be a considerate light-user

Remember these guidelines for your next trip:

  • Nobody likes the guy with a lighting set-up strong enough to power a small village.
  • Keep lights shielded and pointing down.
  • Shining your flashlight into other people’s tents after dark is obviously a big no-no.
  • Your campsite is shared with the hundreds of creatures who live in the area. Protect them from exposure to artificial lighting as much as you can. White and blue hues have the worst effect, while yellow, amber and green are less harmful.
  • Switch the lights off when others start hitting the sack. If you’re just relaxing around camp, your fire will provide ample light and it’s much more atmospheric.
Camping at night
Even with the plethora of artificial light options out there, nothing beats a sky full of stars and the warm glow of a campfire. Picture

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