LED strips your ticket to DIY lighting success.
“What’s the best lighting setup for my campsite?”
A seemingly innocuous query that has puzzled nomadic types and those odd folk who sleep rough by choice since day dot.
Wander around a popular campground and check in with 12 different crews and you’ll likely hear a dozen varied, yet emphatic, solutions to the camp lighting conundrum.
The truth is that we’re living in the golden age of touring electronics and that the best lighting setup for your site is the one that you’re most comfortable using.
Since gas bottle lanterns and the like have been done away with, there’s no shortage of options to consider, but you certainly don’t need to outlay a lot of cash. The only real non-negotiable components are some quality low-draw LEDs and a sustainable power source that won’t drain your vehicle’s primary 12V battery.
KEEP THE SPARK
While it’s possible to fit up a 12V socket and run some LED lights from your starter battery for short lengths of time without copping a flat, it’s a risky business and you’d be much better served to source and fit up an alternative power source.
Namely, either a hardwired dual battery system or a portable 12V power pack.
Dual battery systems are the norm for many punters living the touring life. If you’re already charging a dedicated deep cycle powercell to run a fridge and other touring essentials, then adding some LED lighting strips or bars to your setup will be a cakewalk.
If your vehicle’s touring setup currently leans more toward ‘weekend warrior’ than ‘full time tourer’, never fear. It’s absolutely possible, and dead simple, to power a quality LED camp lighting setup with a portable power pack.
Compact 12V power supplies like the KickAss Handy Power Pack and the ARK ArkPak are ideal for the job, offering built-in protection plus USB charging outlets and a range of other conveniences. You can charge these units up at home via mains power, while alternatively topping up on the road via DC/DC supply or with a simple solar array around camp.
LEDS AND LEDS
The introduction of light emitting diodes changed the way we camp forever and always. It took a while for the tech to get to the point of reliability, efficiency and affordability, but here we are.
LED strips are a primo choice as they’re supremely simple to install, plus the power to weight ratio is pretty darn hard to argue with.
They draw minimal power so stay cool to the touch and have an expected life of 50,000 hours – you’ll be swapping out strips or your whole setup long before screwing around trying to replace individual diodes.
Flexible tape options are another boon for campers with mild DIY inclinations. They’re sold with adhesive tape and connectors on each end. They’re generally low powered, so while not ultra bright, are very energy efficient.
LED bars and strips are available in different lengths with Velcro straps that are perfect for quick mounting around awning and gazebo frames, within camper trailers and the like.
PLUG ‘N PLAY
While the ability to customise your setup certainly comes in handy, LED lighting kits are a solid starting point and really do zap the need for any guesswork.
Kits usually include light bars that have a heap of flexible mounting options, with greater lighting output (amount of lumens) than basic LED strips and tapes.
They also bundle up all the necessary components including extension cords, cigarette plug to connect to your vehicle or power pack and dimmer switch that you’d otherwise need to source and set up individually.
Basic LED lighting kit + portable power pack = less time fumbling around in the dark stubbing toes on tent pegs and swearing at yourself.