Campervan lighting 101 – The Best Lights for Your RV

Of all of the accessories and appliances to consider as you’re outfitting your van for your first adventures on the road campervan lighting may not be the first to come to mind.

You’re probably already making sure you have a big enough battery bank to supply all of your power needs. And we imagine you have also made the decision about which solar panels will keep you topped off.

But as straightforward as van life can be, there are also some complications – such as lighting – that you’ll want to consider.

At home, things are simple. You hit a few switches, pay a bill, and never have to worry about cooking in the dark. Depending on your electrical setup, your camper van conversion may have to work much harder for lights.

To avoid washing dishes with one hand while holding your phone flashlight in the other, you’ll have to put some serious thought into your campervan lighting.

It’s an easy enough process if you’ve got shore power. But to get plenty of exterior and interior lighting while boondocking requires a bit of creativity.

The good news is, USB, LED, and 12V technologies are increasing rapidly every year, all to the benefit of DIY enthusiasts. Sifting through the crowded market can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help, especially when it comes to camper van supplies like this!

Campervan Lighting Mood
Campervan lighting does a lot more than just give off good vibes, and is a definite essential for any van.

Whether you’re looking to add some mood lighting, upgrade your van’s ceiling lights, or spruce up the campsite with some fairy lights, start your search with this buying guide to add the right brightness to your night.

Campervan Lighting – Our Top 3 Products

We’ll walk you through quality lighting options that are easy to install and affordable.

If you’ve already got a good idea of what lighting style you’re looking for, here are a few of the industry-leading options.

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Dream Lighting – Best for Permanent Installation

These recessed lights tick all the boxes and are our editor’s choice for interior lighting.

Affordable and easy to install, these lights come with a dimmer switch and soft LED light to make the inside of your van feel like a special place.


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Tubicen Portable – Best wireless lighting

This powerful battery-powered light emits a warm white glow with a surprisingly wide radius.

It’s the most portable option out there and offers enough energy to cook outside or inside after dark.


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LED light strips – Great value

A handy pick and pop solution if you’ve got a quality 12v system, plug these strips in and instantly light up your space with a fantastic, customizable glow.

There’s no complicated wiring, and you can control the lumens and mood lighting of your strip from the accompanying app.


Choosing the Best Lighting for Campervans

If you’re still looking for a place to start, read on!

We’ll break down the particulars of different lighting styles so you can get a picture of what will work best with your electrical system, camping style, and budget.

Before you can decide which lighting source is perfect for your van, you’ve got to learn about every option out there.

All manners of van lighting can be condensed into the following categories:

Types of Camper Van Lighting

The main differences between these options are where they get their power. That’s why it’s essential to shop for the specific needs of your van.

The best lighting on earth will be useless without a power system that can charge it up such as solar panels.

Wired lighting

For campervans with outlets or savvy owners who know how to hide a few wires, these will draw straight from your 12V system, so don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the vehicle!

RV Lighting
A good light setup can really help add awesome ambiance to your RV.

Recessed lights

No van conversion is complete without some form of recessed lights. Without an interior light source, you’re just driving around in a retired work vehicle.

Recessed lights like the Dream Lighting make a van more like home. A good set of ceiling lights will require little energy to stay on all night long.

Just charging your 12v battery on the drive over to the campsite will provide enough energy for a weekend of warm glow.

However, if you’re looking for lights with an efficient install timeline, I’d suggest you look away. You’ll need plenty of holes in the ceiling to get each puck mounted.

Once they’re hooked up, you’ll have an endless supply of 12 v or led light as long as your battery system can maintain it.

As long as you install your campervan lighting before the ceiling, these are simple and powerful lighting options.

LED Strip lights

If you’re like me, you’ve got no idea how to rebuild a ceiling. And with fantastic LED light strips that stretch 32 ft. long, why bother?

They aren’t the most energy-efficient solution. But if your van conversion allows you to use your 110v outlets while on 12v battery power, you’ve got more than enough energy to power these flexible lights that can be mounted or tucked on the floor.

Strip lights of all sizes are lined with adhesive to make them easy to install in quiet corners and provide a line of light across your whole van.

Modern campers have flocked to the color warm and cool light choices LED lighting can provide.

Your phone will double as a remote control that allows you to turn off the lights from the comfort of your bed and illuminate them again when you realize you forgot to lock the door right as you falling asleep.

If you’ve got a power inverter rated for standard AC power, these strip lights will give you plenty of glow with minimal installation required.

Fairy Lights

Santa’s favorite lighting has found a niche year-round as the Joan of Arc in a quiet revolution against harsh, Fluorescent lights.

Attic spaces and dorm rooms across the country favor the soft warm glow of a string of fairy lights.

If you’re searching beyond a primary lighting panel, look towards Fairy Lights to personalize your light supply.

You can string them up however you’d like, either by running the wiring across the interior of your van or waiting until you get to the campsite to drape them outside.

There’s no more straightforward way to spruce up your mood lighting. They’re similar to LED strips in their need to be plugged into a 110V outlet (unless you get some battery-powered ones), but that’s where the comparison ends.

Fairy lights will provide a warm white or colored glow less powerful than LED lights but will draw less energy from your batteries.

With an hour and some tape, you’ll be able to run these lights across the length of most van conversions.

Fairy Lights Hanging
Ahh fairy lights – the simplest, and most Instagrammable, type of lighting for a campervan.

Non-Wired Lighting

Ideal if your van conversion is more van than conversion, these lights won’t require any 12v power, as long as you remember to charge them up and replace the batteries.

Battery-powered lights are less bright than a wired light strip but excel as an efficient exterior light source or a quick fix for your campervan lighting.

Solar Lights

You don’t need a high-tech solar panel system to reap the benefits of mother earth. Solar panels have condensed in size enough to shine a light through your night in the palm of your hand.

These affordable solar Solar Powered lights will function well as an exterior lantern or on the bedside table.

They aren’t quite powerful enough to be a primary light source, but they will provide a much-needed boost to your lighting arsenal using 100% renewable energy.

Best of all, no installation is required!

Solar lights couldn’t be any easier, mainly thanks to their shallow price point. If you’re looking for the most barebones, backcountry set-up possible, these lights will help you stay out in the woods all week.

Rechargeable Lights

Either with AA batteries or USB cables, Rechargeable lanterns using LED lights like this popular product here can be all your camping trip needs after dark.

The lights are energy suckers, and you’ll need to recharge or replace the batteries after a weekend’s use.

For that reason, we highly recommend not solely powering your campervan lighting with rechargeable light, even if you can stick them on your ceiling.

Modern battery-powered lanterns can only provide 7 hours of light per charge cycle, which will take up to 5 hours.

It’s the least energy-efficient camper van lighting option, but that doesn’t they don’t have a place in a van conversion.

For an accessible dinner outside or a calm dimmer, while reading before bed, these flexible batteries provide the lumens to warm up your interior space.

Which Style is Right for Me?

Woah, that’s a ton of different lighting options. As you can see, each one of those categories does something better than any other style, but all of them have drawbacks. No one style works for everyone.

Ultimately, you should base your lighting choice based off what works best with your rig. Working on a van conversion won’t have the exact aftermarket lighting needs as a Class C camper, but almost every RVer can find a lighting upgrade somewhere.

Take a long hard look at what your van needs, and build your choice from there. Here are a few key components that determine a specific lighting style’s niche.

Efficiency

You don’t want to spend sunset worrying about whether your light will switch on. Make sure your campervan lighting style packs the less and lumens necessary to provide hours of light.

Led lights are only as powerful as your 12v, but modern technology has provided campers with more light than ever at a fraction of the effort.

Just make sure you understand exactly how many nights your batteries can power up your lights before you make a purchase.

If you are looking for the most efficient lighting possible, a solar light is a must-have in your van. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to light your entire campervan on its own.

Recessed lighting is the most efficient wired lighting, but LED strips are quickly catching up.

Van in Lights Camping
Don’t sit around in the dark – do yourself a favour and get some good quality lights for your van.

Power Supply

Your LED lights won’t be the most significant strain on your coach battery. If you’ve got a heavy-duty van conversion complete with a fridge, 110v outlets, and microwaves, any of the lights on this list will barely be a blip on the radar.

RVers who have robust battery supplies or are planning on spending most nights hooked up to shore power should look towards lights with wiring like recessed lighting or LED strip lights, especially if they’re looking for something bright.

These will give you warm lumens and come with loads of customization features, like a dimmer switch and remote control, that will allow you to always set the right mood.

Mood

Right on cue. Whether it’s your first DIY project or a step in a more extensive van conversion, installing your lighting allows you to reset the mood of your van’s interior.

The color your light emits will have a significant impact on the atmosphere of your space.

Ratings can measure campervan lighting color temperature in Kelvin’s, which defines how cool or warm your lighting is.

Cool lighting is favored in working environments, as the bright lights can stimulate your body and keep you awake.

Warm lights emulate the setting sun, subtly convincing the body to relax. Cooler will get you out of bed, and warmer may keep you in it.

Most armchair psychiatrists recommend a blend of both options, and modern LED lights are happy to oblige.

High-quality strip lights and recessed ceiling LEDs will come with an all-important dimmer switch that instantly shifts the mood.

If your lights don’t have dimming capabilities, you can spruce up your camper van conversion by employing a combination of different color temperature lighting options, like combining recessed LED light with fairy lights, to have the best of both worlds.

If your van conversion is also a home office, you’ll quickly find it’s worth the extra wire to be in complete control of your van light.

Installation

There’s no point in buying something you’ve got no business installing.

While there are many things about a van that professionals should install, you should be prepared to get your led light wired yourself or pay double the price of the lights to get them hooked up by a professional.

Any DIY task can seem daunting, and campervan lights are no different. Think long and hard before you commit to recessed led lights in an already finished camper van.

LEDs on mounted or flexible strips can provide the same service as ceiling lights without extra strain on your energy supply.

Search for the whole truth about the project before you start ripping up your van. You shouldn’t have to do much more than connect a wire or two to a 12V to get quality interior lighting installed in your campervan.

If your project has many more steps than that, you may want to switch up your mindset.

Conclusion

There you have it! Hopefully, your ideal led or we covered 12 v light in this buying guide.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best lighting option for your camper van may be wielding several different sources.

Every van needs lights installed permanently, either mounted to the ceiling or taped along the length of your RV.

It’s also never a bad idea to have a backup from a wireless light source, whether it be solar or USB charging.

No matter what style you choose, make sure your light is efficient, bright, and long-lasting enough to take you further.

If you want one light that can do it all, the warm lumens from the six LEDs that comprise our editor’s choice will give your van the Dream Lighting it deserves.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase a product we recommend using the links in this article, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We promise to use this pocket money to buy lots of coffee and fuel for the campervan to keep us enjoying #VanLife for just a little longer. We appreciate your support, and only recommend products we know and trust. Thank you friends!

About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd - Van Life Theory

Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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