LED Camping Lights




LEDs... I love them.!
I also enjoy camping. I've got a good selection of LED torches, head lights and lanterns, but wanted something a little brighter.

Looking around there are solutions to buy, some even have remote controls!
BUT they are all pretty expensive. And I don't do expensive...


Step 1: Planning

I wanted to be able to power the lights from a convenient source... A vehicle if it is parked close by, or a solar panel system if not. 12V it is.

A quick solution is the 12V sticky LED strip... But it's comparatively expensive and not as bright as I wanted. So I decided to use something else. I had some 1W LEDs left over from a fish tank light system I had already built so decided to use them.

100 ordered from eBay was less than £8
I ordered some LED strip Aluminium extrusion with cover, some 2.1mm DC connectors, a small tube of thermal adhesive and some small on/off switches and I was set.

Step 2: Size and Layout

Physical Size
I decided that around 300mm (12") sections would work. I actually bough 1 meter lengths of extrusion and cut them into 3.

LEDs Power / Voltage
The LEDs run at 1W at about 3.4V and draw approx 300ma at that voltage... but peak specs are 3.6V and 350ma
So to keep the wireing very simple, I decided to run 2 'strings' of 4 LEDs in series per strip.
This gives the LEDs about 3V each and they draw around 140-150ma at that voltage. This gives a lot of room to allow for voltage fluctuations in the supply (Car voltage sits at around 14V if the engine is running)
By running at a lover current, the heat generated is a lot less... and they are still plenty bright enough!

Each strip has 8 LEDs - in 2 lots of 4. there is a switched +12v supply to each set of 4, and a permanent +12v and 0V that runs from the input connector to the output connector. This means that each strip can be turned on and off seperatly.

I used the thermal cerment to fix the LEDs in place, making them very easy to work with.
I trimmed the legs of the LED's to avoid them touching the metal casing and then soldered them toghther using Cat5 twisted pair core for the wires.

The switch is fitted into an 8mm diameter hole in the plastic cover, and the ends that came with the alluminium extrusion had holes that were perfect for the 2-3" legnths of flexable wire that I used for the connectors.

Step 3: Testing

Before powering up, check the connections and LED orientation etc, use a multimeter to buzz out the strip if needed. when you are happy that there are no shorts and the LEDs are all connected up correctly, plug it in and switch it on.

Then do the same with the next one...

I've been testing with a UK mains 12V adapter, and when camping somewhere with power, I'll use that.
But I've also got a european mains adapter and made up a vehicle cigerette lighter plug (fitted with a 2A fast blow fuse). I've slao bought a few 10meter extension leads - allowing me to string these up where I want them.

I found a zip case that is for a comercial version of these that was perfect for them.

Step 4: The Results

Mounting them proved problematic - I added 2 small neodymium magnets inside the strips to allow me to mount to tent poles etc - which would have been great if the poles wen't external!

I ended up threading them through window tieback loops.

I made up 9 strips in all... there are just 4 in the gazeebo and its like daylight in there!
3 was also more than enough in the main tent (10 berth) - we ran with just one turned on most of the time.



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    7 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    dx.com might (or might not) have some, they have free shipping world wide! I've bought stuff from them before, quite reliable, however sometimes slow if the item is shipped from the other side of the world.


    4 years ago

    Link worked that try. That's the ones.


    4 years ago

    Attaching through the canvas isn't really an option, camping in the UK normally involves rain. Any contact points like that and the fabric leaks. I strung a bungie cord across te main living area of the tent and used Velcro ties to keep them secured.

    The LEDs are from eBay (I'm in the UK but they shipped from China.

    Orngrimm, the link didn't work but if you can get 100 LEDs and the housing for $5.90 it makes my time
    Soldering it all together pointless :-D

    In the UK, if you went into a chain camping store, one 12" strip is around £30...

    I made 9 for about £45 all in.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    since you already have the neeodymium magnets attached to the strip what you can do is get some small metal plates that you can attach the magnets to through the wall fabric of the tent. you can either permanantly attach the plates to the fabric (glue, lashing stich, sew a little pocket onto the wall for them to fit into, etc) or you can use some sort of temporary attachement such as putting them on a string and looping them over the tent pole so they dont get misplaced, heck you could even just leave them unattached (like a magnetic name badge) but you would propably need some one outside the tent to help you position the plates.