If you go camping nowadays, one thing will stand out: almost everybody uses LED camping lights. Gone are the days of fluorescent and gas lanterns, today’s campsites are filled with LED lanterns, strips, bars, torches and head torches. You’ll also notice that many of these lights have the ability to produce both white and orange light, which is something we’ll discuss later on in this article. This guide compares and contrasts LED camp lighting with older technologies, and provides a summary of the different types of LED camping lights on the market today and what each can be used for.
Why use LED camping lights?
LED technology has many advantages over older technologies. First, its solid-state construction makes it extremely durable, particularly in comparison to gas lamps – who remembers pulling into camp in the late afternoon, pulling out the gas lanterns and realizing the mantle has disintegrated as you’ve bumped over corrugated roads during the day?
Secondly, LED lights make very efficient use of power. At 90-100 effective lumens per watt, LED chips will not stress your batteries and are especially ideal for camping at non-powered sites. They’re also especially ideal for portable lights such as lanterns, torches and head torches. If you’ve ever seen the sheer amount of light that can emanate from a little LED torch or headlamp – “wow” is the word that comes to mind.
Thirdly, as we mentioned earlier, LED chips come in many different colours, and in addition to white light, orange light can be very handy around a campsite.
Why would you need orange LED camp lighting?
If you’re a keen camper, there’s one thing that probably bothers you more than anything: bugs. Anywhere you camp you’re going to have bugs, and in some places they can be so thick it’s almost impossible not to get them in your eyes, mouth and around your face.
The fact is, bugs are attracted to light, and especially to white light. When you’re surrounded by darkness and your campsite is lit up like a Christmas tree, well… they’re going to come and check you out, for sure. In fact, they can’t help but move their body towards any light source they can see; this phenomenon is called positive phototaxis. Entomologists still don’t have a complete understanding of why this phenomenon exists, but it is clearly observable in nature.
But thanks to the good work of those same entomologists over time, we humans have managed to find the one chink in their armour – there’s some wavelengths that bugs can’t see, but humans can. Humans can generally see light which has a wavelength between 380nm (blue) and 740nm (red). Most bugs, conversely, can see light with a wavelength between 300nm and 600nm. The illustration below shows where the spectra overlap and where the gap is:
Our orange camp lights are designed to sit just outside the visible spectrum for most bugs, at about 610nm. If you use orange camp lights, you will notice about 90% fewer bugs in the vicinity compared to white light, which is really handy particularly when you’re cooking or eating.
Of course we could produce the lights even further towards the red end of the spectrum, but red light isn’t a particularly appealing colour to camp under. Orange, on the other hand, creates a nice fire-like glow and won’t ruin your vibe.
Often times you’ll want to use the same lights to produce different colours at various times of night. We’ve thought of this as well – all our orange-capable lights can also be switched to white as well using our exclusive dimmer switch. In fact in 2020 we went a step further, inventing a way to combine the two into “warm white”. Warm white is almost as bright as our traditional cool white, but with a soothing warmth. It’s perfect for setting a calm, happy mood in your campsite, particularly later at night.
Types of LED camp lighting
The versatility of LED technology means that LED camp lighting comes in many different forms. Here are some of the most popular ones.
LED camp light bars
Hardkorr was the first company to introduce LED camp lighting to the market, and the camp light bar was our first invention of this kind. Since we introduced the bars in 2008 we’ve constantly improved the design to make it even more durable and useful, but the basic design has stayed the same. These bars are now seen across thousands of campsites throughout Australia, and increasingly the rest of the world.
Our LED camp light bars consist of a row of LED chips inside an aluminium extrusion, which is then filled with an epoxy resin to ensure complete waterproofness (our bars have been independently tested and rated to IP68). Grommets at either end protect the connecting wires and prevent them from rubbing against the side of the extrusion, and also ensure that an accidental pull won’t degrade the connection between the wire and the LED strip.
Mounting them at your campsite is easy; you can use the strong, inbuilt rare-earth magnets if you want to mount them to a magnetic surface, or if you’re looking to attach them to aluminium tent or awning poles, our exclusive removable pole clips make the job simple.
They can be powered from a 12v cig lead or a 240v transformer if mains power is available. You can turn them on and off, as well as control the colour and brightness, using our push-button dimmers (or rotary dimmers on our older models).
Other than camping, these LED bars are also often used to illuminate 4×4 canopies. Due to their slim form they fit neatly inside the gullwing doors found on most touring canopies, and can easily be mounted to the inside roof as well. In fact, we’ve developed a special attachment called flush mount clips to make this process super easy.
LED camp kits
We’ve also bundled our camping bars into kit form, in various sizes to suit most campsites. Coming in 2-bar, 4-bar and 6-bar varieties, these camp light kits come with everything you need for most camping applications including dimmers, pole clips, extension leads, cigarette leads, splitter cables and more.
All of our kits come in a durable hard carry case, so you can keep your light bars and accessories all together when you’re storing them.
LED strip & tape lights
LED camp light bars are incredibly versatile, but sometimes they’re not an ideal fit for certain applications. That’s why we’ve packaged our same features, including our tri-colour light technology, into other forms as well.
LED tape lights are made from a strip of LED chips encased inside a high-quality silicon strip, with super-strong genuine 3M double-sided tape on the back. They come in both 1 metre and 2 metre varieties, and are popular for mounting inside awnings, tailgates and gazebos. Due to the strong adhesive and flexibility and durability of the strip, they can be permanently mounted even when the awning or gazebo is packed away and stored.
LED strips, such as our Ezy-Fit LED Strip Lights, are the perfect temporary lighting solution. They can be mounted basically anywhere, as they have carabiner-style clips sewn into the end as well as Velcro strips. In 2021 we improved them even further, and they even come with an inbuilt sail track mount which slides into the sail track which is incorporated into most 4wd awnings.
In 2017 we developed one of our bestselling lights of all time: The U-Lite Dual Colour Universal Lantern. This gem of a light is powered by an inbuilt lithium battery, and puts out a very usable 155 effective lumens for up to 6 hours on a single charge, from a package that weighs just 85g and is smaller than a tennis ball. It has five light modes including white (high, med, low) orange, and flashing orange which is great for marking hazards or in emergency situations.
Like all Hardkorr camping lights, the U-Lite is easy to mount and can be put in many different places. With a strong inbuilt magnet it attaches to any steel surface, and with an inbuilt elastic strap it can also easily be wrapped around poles, awning arms etc. They are available both singly and also in a 4-pack with carry case.
Torches & headlamps
No discussion of LED technology would be complete without mentioning the incredible leaps in torch & headlamp technology that have been made possible by LED.
Finding your way around a pitch-dark campsite in the middle of the night (say if you need to go to the toilet!) is now so much easier with a headlamp strapped around your forehead. Most of our headlamps can either switch between spot and flood beams or have a great combination beam, and best of all, the LED chips inside are bright enough to illuminate the entire scene in front of you.
Most recently we introduced a new headlamp which we’ve called the T440. With a 440 lumen beam powered by an inbuilt rechargeable lithium battery you’ve got all the light you could possibly need, but its best feature is how you turn it on and off. Don’t worry about fiddling around for a button – set it to sensor mode and all you need to do is wave your hand in front of it and the headlamp will immediately turn itself on or off.
Torches, as well, have received a huge boost from the advent of LED technology. They’re now lighter and brighter than ever before, with high-quality examples like our KT6 Torch being able to illuminate up to 200m away from the source. The KT6 torch emits an incredible 1,000 effective lumens and thanks to its 18650 lithium battery can last for up to 3 hours on high mode on a single charge.
For those of you who don’t need such a powerful beam, our Lifestyle torch shares much of the same DNA as our KT6 beast, but at a much more accessible price. It still emits a very useful 350 lumens of light for up to 2 hours on a single charge.
A light for every situation
As you can see, we’ve got an LED light to suit every part of your camping setup. Once you make the switch to LED camp lighting, we guarantee you’ll never go back to your old technology.
If you want to know more, browse through the options on our website or call into your local stockist and they’ll be happy to demonstrate our range for you.