Tent light

So far I used to use my regular flashlights to light up a tent. Hang it head up so it shines at the roof and the reflected light scatters around.
It works…but not great.

I’d like to upgrade to a dedicated light in this style:

What I’d like is:

  • warm light
  • reasonably high overall quality
  • lightweight construction (plastic)
  • reasonable price

Well…I don’t think I can hope for more but it would be nice to also have it:

  • 18650 powered
  • with high CRI

Any suggestions?

For price/quality ratio the Decathlon Quechua BL40 is quite nice:5 euro, 3AA, 4500K NW LED, waterproof, robust and simple design. Using several for years now, and they get the job done fine. Would only wish for a warmer LED. One could mod a 18650 into it.

However, perhaps a diffuser for a flashlight you already own is a cheaper, lighter-weight option.

Thinking a bit more about this: good question!

+ Light-weight

  • High-CRI
  • warm white (2700/3000K)
  • good price/quality ratio
    Hmmm, not many tent lights with these characteristics available at the moment, I think.

R-Pal was an original and innovative design from many years ago. I suspect the R-Pal was the source of inspiration for Fenix to develop their CL25R. The R-Pal however is quite expensive nowadays, and I think it has visible PWM.

The Fenix CL25R is a solid camping light, however with 4500K certainly not warm. Some people attach filters on the outside to turn down the colour temperature into something warmer.

Gearbest then cloned the CL25R further into their Zanflare T1, which as a bonus has tint-mixing with warm white option (2700K), although not high-CRI. Some people think the T1 is great. I am not one of these people as my T1 behaved erratically from the start by developing some ghost lighting when not in use. Some others (see this review by DBSAR) reported that the 18650 cell could heat above safe levels.

Then there is also Nightcore with some light-weight camping lights; however these are cold white or perhaps at best 5000K neutral white. And many models come with built-in batteries that are not user-replaceable.

Finally there is the GoalZero lighthouse micro. Warm white. However the built-in 18650 is not replaceable. In low there is visible PWM. The USB fold out port will break off at some point in time.

In a while the BLF lantern will be available, however fantastic, light-weight it is not.

There are plenty of options like the Nitecore LR30 that meet all your requirements except warm white - depending on how warm you want it, I think that will be the sticking point.

I’ve got two of the Zanflare T1 lanterns. They work great as a main tent light, attached to the top of the roof. They do get a bit toasty when running on max, but honestly I never needed to run them on max in actual use.

I would be interested, but 95% of my camping is backpacking. I do use a Snow Peak backpacking stove, and also a Snow Peak lantern. However, I found the lantern while does put out the approximate stated 60 watt incan bulb amount of light, just isn’t worth lugging around 10-15 miles a day through mountains and I am a minimalist backpacker, the drills holes in your tooth brush and chop half the handle off type.

Nor would I want a gas powered lantern for regular use inside my tent. YMMV

The most difficult requirement for the OP is “warm white” light color. The light shown in the first post by Agro sells for $4 on eBay but it only works on disposable AAA cells. Most of the good but inexpensive lights use natural or cool white because you get more lumens for the same current. I bought some “UFO” tent lights that operated on 4 AA cells but later abandoned that idea when I found this 60 LED tent light that uses one 18650 battery and has 3 light settings. It weighs 107 grams (~4 oz) without batteries. When I used it at camp with cheap Chinese batteries like Trustfire or Ultrafire batteries it would run a couple of days between battery changes (intermittent use) but should last all week when I use a Panasonic 3400 mAh battery. The lowest eBay price is $4.80 from China or $7.80 from a US seller in CA. There are versions of this light with as few as 16 LEDs so be sure you get one with 60 LEDs.

If you insist on warm white light, there is one simple DIY solution that mimics what people are selling on eBay. It’s a 1 meter 60 LED strip that you are supposed to run along the seams of the tent (see picture below). Sells for around $6 for a 1M strip with USB end and they do come in warm white. You power it with a USB power pack. If you wanted to do this on the cheap, buy a 5 meter length of non-waterproof led strip and wire up to a discarded USB cable. I have lots of old cables that I could cut the end of and use. However if I wanted to use this system I would buy the 12V version instead and power it with a CCTV backup battery. I use them for other 12V LED projects so already have one at hand.

I never did, but outside it illuminated better than a fire and where places fires were not allowed. Carbon Monoxide from stoves kill idiots in their tent.


Black Diamond Moji colour can give you yellow orange and red. Not exactly what you’re describing but small and light.

The one moji lantern I reviewed had terrible PWM, as did the Streamlight Lantern. Unfortunately it’s a common flaw in lanterns.

Thanks for the input. :slight_smile:

I have a low tent. I tried diffusers but then the light was too large and I would bang my head agains it. BAD.
I also tried tiny USB lights coupled with Folomov EDC C4. I can recommend that to backpackers as the weight is very low. I will keep using them. But the lights sometimes don’t register touch which makes the UI finicky and annoying.

I intend to buy a larger tent, a villa for 2. This would be Quechua 4.1 F&B. This tent has black interior. So it needs quite a lot of light. And shining at the wall….doesn’t seem like a good solution. So I’m looking after some upgrade.

LR30 looks really nice except for the price.

Zanflare T1 - I also think there’s a space for a BLF lantern of this style. Actually we could largely re-use the LT1 architecture. Make the central screw larger so it fits 18650 inside. Don’t really need to change anything else. Great beam, proven design, much smaller and lighter than LT1. But anyway - I would call it medium size / weight.

GoalZero - yeah, the weight of this one is low. Considering that it fits 18650 - the weight is awesome. But non replaceable 2600 mAh :person_facepalming: and no diffusion :person_facepalming:

60 LED UFO? Interesting, with this price I may get one later (though the cheapest I see is $6.06 shipped). :slight_smile:

But what really got me very interested was that LED strip. I’d like to attach it to the tent semi-permanently so I don’t have to mount it every time I set the tent up. So it would have to survive folding. And it must be waterproof - I’m often on the move, stay 1 night at some place and move on to the next. If it’s raining - the tent is wet outside before I fold it and completely wet a when I’m done.

I have some decorative strip like this:

Low CRI but otherwise OK. Warm. :slight_smile: I can use a powerbank (like Folomov EDC-C4) with it. The good thing is that I can place the connector anywhere I please, so I won’t have to stand up to turn the light off. :slight_smile:
I’m afraid that folding and unfolding the tent will kill the strip though. We’ll see.

Thinking about future upgrades, I did a search on “CRI 5V LED strip” (as well as several similar searches).
On Aliexpress there’s 1 result. Seeing this Ali shows the results for “5V LED strip” instead and I fail to find the single high cri result among the flood of uninteresting products. The singular CRI result is not even on the first page. :person_facepalming:
OTOH on Alibaba there are many results with CRI at least 80.

Could you attach some magnets to the tent and the LED strip, so you could just click it into place when you set up and peel it off before you fold the tent? That would give you a way to roll the strip up gently and store it somewhere dry while you’re on the move.

I have a couple of these

They’re dirt cheap and have cool and warm lighting (no high CRI though, but I’m somewhat of a CRI snob, but I can’t complain). They aren’t waterproof though, but work a solid 10 hours on a 2400 mAh 18650.

I use a couple of these usb chainable lights for ouside tent lighting.
Replaced leds with 2700K optisolis. Basically just switch, resistor and parallel leds in series. Probably can connect a driver somewhere.

Actually as long as setup is quick (and it is in this case) I don’t need waterproofing. So this is good, thank you for sharing your recommendation. :slight_smile:

Cool. :slight_smile:
Good to know this option, it would be cool to upgrade to Optisolis one day. :slight_smile:

Nice idea though not for me. :slight_smile:
Magnets would reduce setup / teardown costs but these would nevertheless be high. Since most of my stays are just 1-night long, this is a big deal.

Now I’m used to hanging a light off a loop and it’s OK.
Permanently mounted string lights promise to cut this down further so for now I’m going to try that. If the lights don’t survive - I don’t care much as they are very cheap, I paid $1.60 for a 10m string. I see that the seller claims it’s IP65 and I actually believe that’s correct (except for the plug) as the whole thing is enameled.

The side LEDs on the new Nitecore LR50 might do the trick if you have a mech pocket in the ceiling?

I tried my cheap light string.
It worked very well, way better than I’d expect from $1.6 light, especially as lightweight as this. :slight_smile:
Considering the lack of regulation, the 10m string was just right. Bright enough to see, not enough to read, not too bright in any case. Note that my tent is big and has black interior so it’s pretty much the worst case; I would recommend shorter strings for other tents.
Note that 10m was likely too much for my powerbank to handle (I use Folomov EDC C4), there’s a good chance that the strip was not running at full power. I see a similar strip consuming 8W over 10m which would amount to 1.6A. I don’t know what can C4 support at the max but it’s likely 1A.

It weights very little, mere 20g (without powerbank). The heaviest part is the USB plug and short thicker wire near it. I feel tempted to cut it shorter, should be easy 3g saving. May do it one day.

I didn’t measure runtime yet. And I don’t know if it will survive folding. I folded it with the tent and I’ll see if it comes out alive. This time and quite a few times in the future.

What are the options to get regulated output? Here I see a 20m string with remote control for $6. I’m not fully convinced to remote so I did a quick search and I see there are 5V inline dimmers as well.

Dreaming about the future:
Remote would be nice if I could wire 2 strings to a single powerbank, one for the sleeping are and the other for the vestibule and control them with a single remote. Would be nice with smartphone control as well, except that my phone battery runs out too fast when using BT…