Camping Lighting/Sound System





Introduction: Camping Lighting/Sound System

About: I work as an IT administrator in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy getting out and and enjoying the planet, as it's full of many wonders.

A simple yet elegant lighting system used for when camping and you are short on propane lanterns. I also have an inverter and a speaker system hooked up, for camping "necessities".

All is powered off a deep cycle 12 volt battery I got cheap at Costco.

The battery lasted almost the entire 3 night camping trip, pretty impressive considering we ran the speaker all day long, and the lights burned into the wee hours.

Step 1: Run Taught Support Wire Between Trees

I happened to have a decent sized spool of steel wire laying around, so I cut it in half, then tied 2 ends to a length of twine and wrapped it around one tree. I then took the remaining 2 ends of the wire and wrapped them around some nails I had implanted into a tree on the other side of the campsite. I tied them around a couple pieces of firewood to provide tension on the lines. I wrapped one of the nails in a couple layers of electrical tape to prevent voltage leaking into the tree.

Step 2: Wire It Up

I initially hooked up the jumper cables directly to the steel wire, but I found out it offered WAY too much resistance to run anything past a couple of feet. I needed some copper to run along the steel support wire to provide a better path. I had a spool of wire on me that happened to reach most of the way, so I sliced it in half, and peeled back the insulation in about 10 spots per run to attach to the steel. For the remaining length, I had a piece of lumex about 7 feet long to make the remainder.

So the run was battery>Jumper cables>Lumex>copper wire & steel support

I also wrapped one of the jumper cable ends in electrical tape to prevent shorting (I have yet to install all this into a box with a fused distribution block)

Step 3: Attach Lights

I used MR16 bulbs for this project because
A) they are 12 volt, so no need to run this through an inefficient inverter
B) they are sealed bulbs and will cool fine in the open air.
C) they are cheap and I had a bunch on hand

I had a variety of bulb strengths in the chain, but I didn't pay it much attention. Everything was wired in parallel, all running off the 2 wires strung out between the trees.

To attach the lights, I first soldered a small bump of solder onto the ends of the electrodes, so the copper wire would have something to hang onto.

I had about 5 feet of copper cable left, so I cut little bits of it and twisted them tight so I could use them to tie the lights on. The pictures explain best I think. I checked the whole system for shorts carefully, as if there was one, I'd have a giant resistance heater... and that would probably cause some sort of meltdown.

Step 4: Sound/Utility Power

With the lighting system done, I knew I needed some music to set the mood, so I removed the amp from the truck and hooked a switch onto it and a length of lumex cable. This had its own fuses so I didn't worry about it much. The battery I bought had 2 screw terminals that I used to wire it up. We hooked an IPod into the RCA inputs, and I already had a 1/4" cable hooked up to the bridged output of the amp. I won't go much into the design of the speaker I used, but it served the purpose well. It has 4 small (2"-3") drivers on the front, and 3 tweeters. The large circle you can see on the back has no active components, but is a passive radiator that is driven by the movement of the 4 in the front, so long as the speaker is well sealed (hence the piece of wood on top with silicone around it).

I also have a 400 watt inverter hooked up, to power a blender and several battery chargers (IPod and camera) It also has a voltage display, so this provided a "level" of the battery for the weekend.

I had anticipated a few problems, so I had brought a box full of tools to work with. With enough preparation at home, you could skip the extensive toolkit, but always plan for the unexpected.

I will someday build all this into a single box with battery selector and external jacks for power/audio in/out, but for now, this mess of wires makes camping a little brighter.



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    51 Discussions

    NICE! I'm actually looking to do a battery setup that will power my guitar soundboard for outdoor events with no outlets. Thanks for this start. It's sad to see people bashing you for your information. This is useful for many purposes and not just ruining camper's lives. But, some people can't think outside themselves.

    2 replies

    I'm rebuilding the speaker side of things, probably this weekend. A new battery just came in (deep cycle gel type) and I'll be building the speaker as a single unit, probably with an ipod dock, A2DP receiver, and a few input jacks. I'll post here when I do. This battery was a big wet lead acid type, and doesn't like being turned around, etc... I've done some damage to it for sure (but I still have it). For powering various electronics, there are good DC-DC converters now that weren't around 5 years ago, and that makes projects like this easier. I'll be using those for ipod connections etc when I re-build. Good luck with your setup. For guitar effects pedals, I seem to remember them all taking similar voltage, so you may be able to get away with just plugging them all into a battery, but it might be worth it to put little voltage regulators, not sure. Ask around,

    be sure to post the speaker rebuild, id love to see it

    do you have to use a deep cycle battery, could you use a regular auto battery?

    Dang you camp in style!
    If someone is considering this consider using a class D amplifier (aka "digital" ) as they are much more efficient (use less battery) than tradition designs. Also when selecting you speakers consider the sensitivity rating. Typically in the 80-97 dB range, a 3db increase in sensitivity is equivalent to a doubling of perceived sound output for the same amount of power!
    For a lightweight option consider a battery powered amp (such as the one offered by partsexpress), running off AA batteries it fits in your hand and will power a speaker with 15 watts for about a day.
    To go further consider a transducer/exciter that you attach to a piece of foam core/ poster board. Not high fi and not much bass but backpackable! (yeah, I have been thinking about this for awhile)

    This is very cool. I love halogens and how they are 12v. Just a suggestion though, get a old track light and connect the halogens with actual connectors. Much safer, and cleaner.

    Yeah. I'm putting an inverter into the mix and plugging the pedal into that. It's a Digitech Vocal 300 for my mic. I wish they would have built a battery option into it. But, no. So, I have to figure it out. And I have very BASIC knowledge of wiring and such. so, it's slow going unfortunately. But, thanks again for the start here.

    1 reply

    The input of the pedal is going to be DC, almost without doubt. What pedal is it? PM me, I bet it can be made to work without the inverter. Check out You don't even need the first bit, with the transformers and rectifier if you are building off a battery.

    All you need now is attach solar cells to recharge the battery during the day so you can camp a lot longer.

    If you used bright LED MR16 bulbs, your batteries would last far longer than with actual Halogen bulbs... :)

    Brilliant idea would like to set up my own light string just abit more water resistant

    I'm almost forced to follow suit for lighting, but I plan to do a much more elegant method that will only light up my tent and my cooking area, when i want it to. I'd rather not fark around with gas lanterns that burn a different gas than my stove, or go out and buy more stuff that I need (all I need are the lights, @ $4/ea vs $40 for a camp lanturn, plus gas) The battery powered lights for camping look like shat anyway!

    RE:Bob thebuilder. I've gone to Burning Man for 11 years straight. BM is ALL about sustainability (and creating a community) and making SURE that the 'scape is the same when you leave as when you arrived. Yet, people bring up gas/diesel generators and all sorts of other means (solar, propane etc.) to allow them to power anything from a boom box to a PA the middle of the desert. We DON'T want to stay in the city (at least for that long weekend), we want to get out where things are wilder, whether it is a dust-storm, 110 degree heat, monsoon rains or whatever. I'm guessing that all Gimpy wanted to do was get AWAY from the city for a weekend as well; yet he wanted a minor few of the creature comforts of modern life, like lighting and music. WTF is so wrong with that, or the creative way he went about? Bob...Don't ever show up at Burning Man or we'll roast you over the VERY high powered nitrogen/diesel/propane spit we take up there to cook with. Lay off Gimpy and go back to your TV; or where all is as you want it.....

    You guys like to get away from civilization, he likes lights and music. So what? Camping is about doing something you enjoy. He enjoys doing his thing, you enjoy doing your thing. That shouldn't be a problem. He shouldn't do something that makes the trip less enjoyable for him because if you were the one camping it would be more enjoyable for you. You aren't him, He isn't you. Leave him the heck alone already.

    i dont know why everyone is giving you so much hell over this, i personally like the idea and when i go camping i take along with my huge tent, a tv, vcr, fridge, toilet, coffee maker, almost the whole house but SO THE HELL WHAT, i like to be comfortable and i like to be outdoors and if thats what i like why should someone rag me for it, and i was just camping last week at a campground and every tent camper there had tv's, microwaves, and i even saw one with a milk crate sitting on the outside of the tent window with an air conditioner on it, but anyway your idea was good and it gave me NUMEROUS ideas to work on. Thanks

    1 reply

    bobthebuilder has responded with uncalled for aggression and should possibly get himself out to the woods for a wee walk to calm down, but the description of jj327405's idea of camping makes me cringe. The above post describes a vulgar display of conspicuous consumption that is a true enemy to nature AND the development of creative intelligence. An attempt is made to support this position, gauging personal ethical rights by implementing everyone else and saying they are all doing it (ie the A.C. on milk crate and such). That is no way to support or prove anything, It only proliferates the mindless consumer society where no one is personally accountable for their actions, only a mass of immoral sheep pointing at everyone else and saying, "But they're doing it too!" (if sheep could talk). It confuses me that you find any happiness in transporting the contents of your house to the woods and sitting in front of the tv. I wonder do you stare transfixed to nature programs whilst in the wilds? Or do you sit proudly in the comfort of your tent watching fly-on-the-wall docusoaps showing poor saps going about their daily work in the city? I like sport, but could happily do without the screaming fans while deep in the outback. switch it off.. you'll probably sleep more soundly and your kids, should you have any, will thank you when their older. The instructable is well described and has very nice pics but does describe a basic lighting contraption and amp/speaker system better suited for a workshop or out-building rather than a tranquil forest.


    11 years ago

    Sheesh! I suspect bobthebuilder may one of those campers who's RV generator who we have to listen to most of the day , so thy can enjoy the comfort of AC, so why don't they stay at their AC home? wires wrapped around a tree are as temporary, and no more destructive than a campsite cloths line is, bob is digging for something to bellyache about here. Long distance anonymous threats are,IMO the act of a "punk", and there are old punks as well as young ones Another mentioned LEDs, they have their place,but may be a bit wimpy in the application. Anyway the man was using what he had on hand. I suspect the first campsite battery power "light string" appeared when someone took a construction site string camping. Gimpy's instructable was his independent implementation of something old, but it' there to give other's an idea to build one. The first I have seen on the web, so great job Gimpy. s.

    Stop Picking on Gimpy, His ideas Awsome. I alwayse yused to take crap camping He has revolutionised camping and all you mocking him should zap yourselves

    You're lugging a large 12v battery with you? LED lighting would be less weight (& current), but perhaps a 'colder' light. Then again you could use headlights (assuming you drive there)