Quit Tripping on Tent Ropes
The cheap "most units for your money" option - 16 pack, stainless steel
16-pack of stainless steel solar lights. Cheap, you get a lot of them, and stainless steel makes them durable. No decorative cover on the lights will make them a bit more bright to walk past, but if you want cheap and easy you can’t go wrong here. 4 stars from us for good pricing and metal exterior.
Bronze-finished 6-pack, for a more elegant look.
Yes it’s just six of them, but what you’re paying for here is the bronze finish, the 5 inch width of the lamps, and the “glass lamp shade” blurred glass that keeps them from being glaring and instead offers a warm, more yellow glow. They’re taller than the 16-pack and going to be a bit more sturdy/durable than the cheapest option. 4.4 stars because of added durability and less glare.
The fancy option with flicker-flame light and on/off switch 4-pack
These are the ones where if you want to go all-out on having something that looks great. They do mimic torchlight pretty well, they have an on/off switch so that you can turn them off before packing, and they have the best exterior for not getting beat up when they’re boxed up. Posts break down to be used as short path lights. 4.8 stars from us, high pricing for just 4 lights but they work and hold up really well.
They may not be "period" but...
Take a moment to imagine your camp at night. Not everyone has tents with walls and ropes but there is usually at least one in every camp. Imagine it’s a bit cloudy out, and you can’t really see the moon or stars, there isn’t much natural light. Now add in a slight haze because you’re stumbling back to camp after hanging out a little too late listening to a bardic circle halfway across site, and like every good Scadian, your mug was full the whole time. Now it’s time to play “how far out do those tent ropes really go?” Sometimes you win. The rest of the time, anyone still awake in camp gets to sample your choice vocabulary because kicking tent stakes can hurt, and let’s face it, you’re not catching yourself when your ankle is suddenly halted by the rope from the marquee that probably should have been set up 3 feet further back. What are we getting at here? Finding tent ropes via stumble-location sucks. That’s why we’re talking about solar path-lights today. They may be one of the best anachronisms you can invest in for those late-night returns to camp.
While they may not be period because they aren’t lanterns with candles in them, they do actually look rather nice. Especially if you go in for one of the ones that has some sort of metal or plastic casing on the outside or cover the LED light source in some way so that its not direct, they aren’t glaring, and they mark rope locations amazingly well. The casing also reduces the chance that they will get broken in transit. Because they’re solar powered LED’s, you won’t have to worry about changing batteries, they last darn near forever, and they can’t be blown out by wind or cause a fire by being knocked over. Meanwhile, they light up just a small patch of ground and easily identify where the rope ends and where the stakes stick up. Get yourself a few of them and pop them in next to every rope, you will permanently end the guessing game. Also, as a side note, they make great gate entrance lighting for camp at night, and when walking past camps that have employed them they look pretty for passer-by. While purists may grumble about seeing mundane earth-pimple tents on occasion, not a soul who has tripped over their own ropes in the dark will think anything other than “huh, I should get some of those”.
A quick note for packing, and brief tips for setup: You will want a small box or tote of some variety to store these in by themselves, they don’t come with carrying boxes because they’re sold with the assumption that you’re getting them for your home pathway or garden, and that they will not be removed once set up. Also, they usually are comprised of the top lighting component, a hollow metal or plastic cylinder, and then a bottom plastic stake that the cylinder slides over once placed in the ground. We recommend either A) removing the plastic stake and driving it in separately every time before placing the light structure on top or B) if you’re tired of cheap plastic stakes, getting a few of the long metal nail stakes and driving them in with about 4″-6″ sticking up for the cylinder to go over. They might not sit perfectly upright with option B but they are MUCH harder to accidentally knock over, as we have found the plastic stakes they come with only stick an inch or so up into the cylinder, typically, and make for a less stable base. DO NOT attempt to push the stakes in with the cylinder and light attached; while it may work sometimes, you’re much more likely to bend the cylinder if it’s metal or just break it. Again, they were not expected to be placed in and out over and over again, the makers did not design them with constant reallocation in mind.
Last word of advice (especially if you’re the type to show up a little later and have to set up in the dark) getting lights that have an on/off switch or button of some variety with “on” being light sensing mode (they won’t be on in the daylight when you don’t need them, wasting power), means you can turn them off when packing them. This allows for them to still hold a charge so that when you set up at night, you can put them up as you set up each rope for the tent because they did not drain all their power when you packed them away after your last event. Getting ones without the button means they auto-sense that the box you store them in is dark, and waste all their power lighting the inside of your container and making them useless the night you arrive at camp. Option 3 up top would be our best recommendation, as they are reinforced around the light, and have an on/off button as mentioned, but if you would rather take a cheaper option, even the cheap ones work well to prevent the “find the rope” game. It’s a small, pleasant quality-of-life change that goes a long way to making camp feel more like home for the time you’re there.