Brilliant! 3 Practical Ways To Light Your Campsite
Practical ways to light your campsite? Darkness is fabulous for stargazing—especially in the super-dark NPS and BLM properties—but has limitations for doing the dishes and scouring the map for tomorrow’s adventure. Not to mention locating your bestie pillow or your fave dark green water bottle, both now blended with the black of night. And then there’s the tree root that wants to grab your foot every time you drift towards your dusty car. All that darkness calls for some brightening up.
So, how do you light your campsite?
#1 Light up big: 1000 lumens
Some dark is just fine, correct? In fact, there’s some pleasure in it, the feeling of being outdoors, the light breeze that often comes in the evening, the sound of chirping from the pond, the scurrying of bunnies scoping out your dinner leftovers. Darkness signals a half hour of Scrabble with your best friends, several hours to finish off a novel. Overall a contented feeling.
Although we don’t need to brighten up an acre of wilderness, an overall “I can get around near my picnic table and see well-enough to do stuff” is pretty much necessary for safety and, well, for doing stuff.
A big light can answer the call. Muddy Boots generally recommends—and uses—an approximately 1000 lumens (standard measure of brightness) lantern that lasts for many hours without running down. Generally, the fuel choices are batteries, paraffin, gasoline, white gas, kerosene, and sun.
Light your campsite with a skimpy wallet
So to speak.
Muddy Boots uses a Coleman white gas or rechargeable lantern. The latter model can be recharged in the car en route to the next adventure.
Some Coleman lanterns can burn gasoline.
A Coleman or knock-off lantern powered by a propane tank will be cost effective, but the big ‘ol green canister will kill your wallet with nightly use.
A traditional hurricane lantern will also be gentle on the budget.
A lantern that uses disposable batteries gobbles cash, IMBHO; smarter to save $$$$ on fuel and spend on quality brightness.
For more on Coleman lanterns: Fire Up! Two No-Brainer Colemans For Car Camping.
Stern reminder. Under no conditions are live flames—lanterns, candles, candle lanterns, hurricane lamps—to be used in a tent, not only because of fire risk, but because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning. Ditto for inside a vehicle.
#2 Light up close: 80+ lumens.
So, you have a nice bright lantern beaming over your picnic table, but about 4 steps beyond your table you’re stepping into the black.
So, how do you light your campsite—not to mention the interior of the composting “facilities”—to prevent a splat fest out of range of the lantern?
Get goofy. Headlamp goofy.
Headlamps are perfect for lighting up the inside of your tent or helping you move around your camp site.
A headlamp frees up both hands so you can get on with other things. Crawling around the parking spot to check where you dropped the dish soap? Muddy Boots can’t crawl around one-handed. Just sayin’. Filling a water jug at the community faucet? EZ. Checking the oil level? No prob.
With a headlamp, you can project a bright beam consistently and naturally in front of you just ahead of your step. No more fading light circle bouncing around or luring you into the bushes. This makes it excellent for walking or hiking in the dark.
And yes, a bright headlamp can light up Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.
The headlamp with an advertised 180 hours of run time on one set of batteries might just shout at you from the rack in the adventure store. Surprise, surprise! When you scrutinize the back of the package, that’s at 3 lumens, hardly bright enough to see your own hands, let alone your hand in the nightly “Go fish” game.
Lesson? Scrutinize the back of the headlamp package before you buy; check how long the batteries (often 3 AAA’s) operate on bright. Muddy Boots is quite certain you won’t want to be inserting a new set of batteries twice in an evening just to whiz through the whodunit chapters of your mystery or traipse a couple of times out yonder when nature calls.
Consider using rechargeable AAA’s and charging them while you drive.
For those of you who’ve never used a headlamp before, the protocol is to tilt it downwards when you’re speaking to someone. That way, it won’t shine in their face. Moral of this protocol? If you’re in the market for a new headlamp, get one with a good ratchet.
#3 Light up obstacles: 0 lumens
Light up your campsite in a way you might never have thought of: with paracord. That’s the nylon or polyester cord you use for guys and laundry lines. Everyone familiar with that? Point A: don’t get dark color ‘cos you’ll walk right into it, especially at night. Buy something in a bright color so you can see it. Point B: buy reflective paracord. When your light—e.g. your headlamp—hits it, it lights up.
Right away, you’ll figure out the advantages. No more tripping over the tie-downs for your tent or tarp. No more decapitations on the clothes line. Wowee extra: with guys lit up, you’re shelter will look like a UFO from Startrek floating over the black ground.
Drape, tie, swirl it
Necessity is the mother of invention: cut lengths of reflective cord and drape them over hazards: roots, rocks, tree stumps. Can you see the edge of the parking pad or will you step into air when you come back from lugging a log bundle? Will you trip over a cement curb when you go to open your car door? Is there a big tree root between your picnic table and the firepit? Is there a dip in the grass right where you want to set your foot down?
Mark each obstacle with a piece of cord. If there are too many obstacles? Simply line up your pieces on the ground over the safe route: as good as cat’s eyes on a major highway.
Illustrations? Bear with Muddy Boots on this point. Muddy Boots’s camera skills—not to mention the camera—are not up to taking snapshots of reflective rope in pitch black darkness. The following show some ideas for placing paracord on obstacles. At night, reflective paracord will “pop” in the beam of a headlamp.
Photo credits for ways to light up your campsite. Featured image, 3 tents at night, Mount Whitney CA: Public Domain by Joshua Gresham via Unsplash. Orange tent at night with Milky Way; location unknown but perhaps Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument: CC BY 2.0 by BLM via Flickr. Campsite at night with VW and Coleman lantern, Night Camp: CC BY-ND 2.0 by C. Harvey via Flickr. Campsite lit by headlamp, Lose the city lights: CC BY 2.0 by Zach Dischner via Flickr. Delicate Arch-Arches National Park: CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay. Box of paracord: CC BY 2.0 by AngryJulieMonday via Flickr. Blue paracord and reflective blue paracord: Screenshots from sales sites. Panel with lime paracord on obstacles: ©DustyCarMuddyBoots.com, all rights reserved. Man with surfboard and Milky Way, Definitely staged: CC BY 2.0 by Zach Dischner via Flickr.