17 Creative Roof Top Tent Lighting Ideas and Upgrades

By Benjamin •  15 min read

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Proper roof top tent lighting is essential when you're out camping in the wild. Poor lighting can not only cause accidents at the campsite, but it can encourage wild animals to come exploring while you're asleep.

Additionally, poor lighting won't allow you to spend your evening hours in the relaxing company of a book when you're done with your camping activities for the day.

What are the elements of good roof top tent lighting?

Proper roof top tent lighting depends on numerous factors:
· Availability of natural sunlight.
· Access to kindling for an open fire.
· An array of roof top tent lighting tools that you can carry with you.

Here we discuss how you can maximize your existing roof top tent lighting and what new upgrades you can do to improve roof top tent lighting. Let's get started.

Brighten Your Tent With These 17 Fantastic Roof Top Tent Lighting Tips.

Below features an array of creative and functional roof top tent lighting ideas that you can implement at your campsite.

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1. Headlamps are your best friend when camping.

Headlamps are probably the most common and helpful roof top tent lighting tools you could find.

Many headlamps also come with adjustable ties, making the lamps very comfortable to use. You get headlamps in different intensities, and you can use them for roof top tent lighting both outside and inside your tent.

DIY Tip: If you need a lantern while camping, you can easily transform your headlamp into a handheld lantern. All you need to do is take a 1-liter bottle filled with clear water. Tie the headlamp to the bottle so that the light is attached to the side or bottom of the bottle. When you turn your headlamp on, the water diffuses the light gently.

You can also do this with a clear glass by placing it over the headlamp. Use an empty plastic bag to cover the glass with the headlamp and switch on the lamp.

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2. Stake landscape lights around safety hazards.

Landscape lights can be a great roof top tent lighting option if you want lights to illuminate your way to or from the roof top tent. All you need to do is stake the lights to the ground, and they're good to go.

These landscape stake lights are, in particular, great for illuminating safety/tripping hazards such as tent ropes, firewood, etc. They can keep you safe.

These are also available in solar-powered variations, but we will get to that later. Solar lights aren't always reliable, as rainy weather may disrupt your lighting plans.

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3. A fan integrated light can help with both roof top tent lighting and ventilation.

These days you can find portable fan-integrated lights with a hook from which you can hang the light. You can hang these lights from your car, a nearby tree, or your roof top tent.

These lamps are great for providing roof top tent lighting and ventilation.

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4. Clip-on hands-free flashlights to your shirt or trousers.

If you don't want to carry heavy, space-consuming roof top tent lighting equipment, purchase clip-on, hands-free flashlights. These are small lights that you can pin to your shirt or trousers.

These clip-on flashlights give very focused lighting toward the thing/person you are facing. You can easily leave them on as you cook, read, write, explore, etc. Plus, the light moves with you, making it very easy to illuminate your way around camp.

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5. Torches and pocket lights are extraordinarily helpful.

Like headlamps, torches and pocket lights are conventional roof top tent lighting tools that are budget-friendly and portable.

You only need to pack a couple and ensure you have sufficient batteries for backup. Alternatively, you can opt for rechargeable variations.

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6. Attach a motion sensor-operated light to a nearby tree branch.

If you have the money to splurge, getting a motion sensor-operated light is a great option. You can hang it onto a tent pole or a tree nearby, and it will be an excellent tool for illumination and camp perimeter security.

These types of lights are also available in the shape of a lamp. You can place it inside your tent for powerful roof top tent lighting. Usually, the lamp is activated when there is some movement and stays on for the duration the sensor picks up motion.

When there is no motion, it stays on for 10-15 seconds (depending on the brand) and then switches off. It is a great roof top tent lighting solution if you want to be on your guard and notified about unannounced camp visitors, such as wild animals, while you sleep.

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7. Tuck glow sticks around your roof top tent.

Glow sticks are an elegant roof top tent lighting option for you to consider. They're also effortless to store and available in numerous colors.

Not only can you stake glow sticks to the ground around your car and tent, but you can also tie them to branches of trees nearby.

Additionally, you can subtly illuminate the inside of your roof top tent by just placing the glow sticks around the tent or tucked away in different corners.

Of course, it's important to remember that most glow sticks last for about 8-12 hours. So, keep extra handy so that you don't run out.

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8. Solar-powered lamps and lights can be very eco-friendly and helpful.

If you're camping in a sunny and warm place, use that as an opportunity to take a long solar-powered lamps and lights.

All you need to do is keep these lamps out in the sunlight to charge for a few hours each morning. Then, you can switch on the solar-powered roof top tent lighting during the evening.

Depending on your chosen brand, your solar-powered roof top tent lighting may require anywhere between 4 & 12 hours of charging. Once fully charged, you can trust it for uninterrupted and eco-friendly lighting.

There are many variations of solar-powered lights available. Some we have already discussed such as staking lights or motion-sensor lights, but you can also opt for flashlights, lamps, and other types of designs.

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9. String lights, light strips, and fairy lights can be fitted in your tent with ease.

If you want roof top tent lighting that is powerful and an aesthetic treat, consider getting fairy lights, light strips, or string lights.

All you need to do is hang these lights inside or around your roof top tent, and you'll be immersed in soothing light that fills your tent and camping space.

The best part? String lights, fairy lights, and light strips are available in different colors, which can help you create a fun atmosphere when camping out with friends or family.

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10. An LED rechargeable lamp can be a good choice for roof top tent lighting.

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LED rechargeable lamps are extremely powerful and can be great options for roof top tent lighting. When the lamp's charging runs out, you will be able to easily connect it to your car battery and power the lamp up again.

If you don't want to risk draining your car batteries, why not get a solar-powered LED rechargeable lamp? You'll have to place it out in the sun to charge every day for a few hours.

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11. A portable dimming light can help you set the mood.

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A dimming light is also a great option when you're strapped for cash or need gentle roof top tent lighting. The dimming light comes in various shapes.

You can place it at one of the tent's corners, from where it will illuminate the rest of your space.

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12. Hang light bulbs around your car and tent.

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If you want roof top tent lighting that also helps you illuminate your campsite, why not consider hanging light bulbs? You get light bulb strings with bulbs of different colors.

You can drape it across the tent, let it trail on the floor of your tent, and even hang the bulbs outside on trees and poles you've set up.

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13. Battery-powered tea lights is a magical roof top tent lighting option.

Tea lights may not seem like much, but they're charming and provide good roof top tent lighting. Most tea lights can work 3-5 hours, after which their batteries burn out. But they can be excellent supplementary roof top tent lighting when you have other types of campsite lighting.

Plus, if you're out camping with a special someone, how romantic would it look when you've set up the tea lights around your picnic dinner inside the tent?

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14. Buy a book lamp or a bookmark with an attached light.

If you want roof top tent lighting specifically for reading books or activities requiring focused lighting, get a book lamp. These are small, compact, and lightweight, making them easy to transport and set up.

For an even better reading experience, buy one of those bookmarks that double as a reading lamp.

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15. Flameless luminaries are aestetic and gentle on the eyes.

Flameless luminaries are another aesthetic option that can be of great help if you need roof top tent lighting.

These luminaries can resemble candles, paper lamps, and other flamelike lighting sources but they don't contain genuine wicks for burning.

They can be battery or solar-operated and run for about 3-6 hours at a stretch.

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16. Purchase firewood before you reach your campsite.

The fact is, good old firewood can be a decent roof top tent lighting tool too. Firewood will keep you warm during chilly nights and illuminate the campsite and parts of your roof top tent too.

However, this is recommended only to campers who can safely use firewood and as a potential lighting source for your roof top tent.

When getting kindling for the fire, buying firewood before reaching the campsite is best. In some places, you'll find a dedicated firewood stall near or at the entrance to the camp, where you can buy your kindling. Scout for your kindling naturally only if you are experienced in doing so.

Plus, it's crucial to maintain fire safety when working with firewood or any open flame at your campsite.

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17. Your lighter and penlight can be your emergency roof top tent lighting solution.

Finally, if you have other roof top tent lighting options but have run out of batteries or charging, there's always the good old penlight and lighter. They can provide short-range roof top tent lighting if you need emergency illumination.

Just be careful using the lighter inside your tent, especially if there's something flammable.

These aren't necessarily recommended for regular lighting and should only be used as a last resort.

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Roof top tent lighting can be as extravagant and as inexpensive as you want. By utilizing the ideas we have given above, you can ensure that you're never left in the dark after hours and are safe and well-illuminated inside your roof top tent and around your campsite.


Benjamin is the founder of RoadMounter. He loves the outdoors and camping- especially when he can do it with a rooftop tent setup. He created this website to help you with everything related to vehicle camping.

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