It's a waste of money to buy a camping lantern, especially in COVID19 when I have to save money, if I improvise my flashlight as a camping lantern. My flashlight comes with a shoulder strap.

I booked the campsite, but the park can't guarantee which exact campsite I'll get. So even if my camp site has a tree, it may not have accessible branches for me to hang my flashlight.

I'm thinking of mounting my flashlight on my sedan's roof, but how? My sedan has no roof racks, and again it's a waste of money to buy those too just for camping. Any other ideas?

To avoid accusations of marketing, I deliberately don't exhibit the manufacturer or model of my flashlight and sedan, but I can type them out them upon request. Doubtless I must turn off my sedan, and can't use its headlights to illumine.

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    This question needs a lot more information. What are you trying to achieve with your flashlight that isn't achieved by just holding it or pointing it in the direction you want illuminated? Why do you think buying a "camping lantern" (I'm guessing you mean a brighter flashlight?) is a waste of money, especially if you're going camping? Without more information, this probably belongs more on LifeHacks than Outdoors.
    – TylerH
    Aug 20, 2020 at 13:38
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    Also your concerns about accusations of marketing are unnecessary. Everyone can tell you have a modern Honda Accord, even if you were to also cover up the Honda badges on the wheels, but showing what car you have when it could be relevant to the question/answers is not advertising.
    – TylerH
    Aug 20, 2020 at 13:40
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    I don't know what you are asking here. Mind editing it for clarity? Aug 20, 2020 at 14:59
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    You will save yourself considerable trouble if you just get a cheap LED head light and rechargable batteries.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 20, 2020 at 21:29
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    "I desire the light to illumine my camp site like a floodlight..." Sort of misses the point of camping, doesn't it?
    – jamesqf
    Aug 22, 2020 at 4:26

8 Answers 8


Have you thought about making a simple Milk Jug Lantern or similar? Find a clear or slightly opaque bottle of the light colour you want (a milk jug works perfectly for white light, but maybe a clear nalgene bottle with the wider mouth might fit your flashlight better). Fill the bottle with water and strap the flashlight to the side (or balance it on top in the case of the Nalgene). The light fills the bottle and refracts outwards in all directions.

examples found online: Milk Jug Lantern

For the Nalgene I was thinking of something like this, you could just balance your flashlight on top instead of the purchased lantern Nalgene Lantern

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    We do this with those rectangular 2.5gal water jugs you usually find next to the gallons. It's nice because they have a flat top so resting the flashlight on top is simple and requires no modification, and you can still get water out without having to move your light.
    – coblr
    Aug 20, 2020 at 21:37
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    a few drops of milk in the water increases the brightness
    – Bohemian
    Aug 22, 2020 at 17:40
  • @Bohemian great tip!
    – ajlowndes
    Aug 23, 2020 at 23:50

How can I improvise my flashlight for camping?

Try using a magnetic similar to the one in this image:

magnet for magnet fishing

Simply lay down a thick piece of felt between the magnet and your car to avoid scratching the paint. Once the magnet is in place, you can tie your flashlight to the magnet.

Magnets are commonly used to hold beacon lights on the roof of cars and trucks.

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    If OP is willing to spend $50+ on a magnet like the ones you show, at that point wouldn't it be better for them to just bite the bullet and buy a cheap camping lantern?
    – scohe001
    Aug 20, 2020 at 13:17
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    That's a 925lb (420kg) force fishing magnet. They're trying to mount a flashlight, not a small vehicle. That magnet is more expensive than a new flashlight.
    – Mast
    Aug 21, 2020 at 11:59
  • Attaching the flashlight to the car might also work without a magnet. Just clamp the strap between the chassis and the door. Aug 21, 2020 at 13:42

This is a problem we have never thought of! Even on the rare occasions when we split up so there was only one person at the camp, that person managed OK, albeit it awkwardly, by using a (drumroll !) hand. Occasionally, that person might have to prop the flashlight up on the ground or a flat rock or on the pack with small rocks or clothes.

With two people, a hand works without any problem, with three left over. Also, a hand is easy to pack in, involves no extra weight, and cannot be forgotten or mislaid.

I admire your decision to use minimum equipment; it is much more satisfying, and if extended to other backpacking items, will save time, hassle, money and weight dealing with objects that are not really essential for safety or comfort. I apologize if my answer seems flip or sarcastic -- I didn't mean it to be.

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    "I apologize if my answer seems flip or sarcastic -- I didn't mean it to be." Not at all! No apology needed!
    – user9750
    Aug 20, 2020 at 0:08

If that car is actually yours, it's nicely reflective. My van is also silver. Prop the flashlight on a chair, bag, fence or stone pointing at the car from a few feet away and you'll get a decent area lit up quite well - the reflection is bright but diffuse. You can arrange your own seat(s) such the light reflecting off the car falls on whatever you're doing/reading.

I've also done this with a tarp that's silvered on the inside and a bike light pointing up at the roof.

  • "If that car is actually yours" : My family has a similar model.
    – user9750
    Aug 20, 2020 at 16:24
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    @AYX.CLDR the reason I say it is the colour - not something I usually care about, but this wouldn't work with a black car.
    – Chris H
    Aug 20, 2020 at 16:57

What about a tripod lashing?

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All it requires is a length of cord or rope and three poles to build something to hold your flashlight by it's shoulder strap.


If you are camping near your car and your budget will allow an expenditure of about $20, here is a different idea.

  1. Purchase a very small AC inverter that plugs into the car's cigarette lighter or power port. I have see cheap-o units that power devices up to 100 watts or more for less than $10.

  2. Obtain a "clamp light" that would normally plug into AC house current, and equip it with a low-wattage LED or CFL bulb -- say 6 watts, which gives about the same light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. A clamp light and bulb together cost about $10.

If the weather is nice, clamp the light to any convenient object. If it's rainy, put the light in the car behind the windshield, clamped to the steering wheel. This will make plenty of light for a campsite.

A quick estimate: if the inverter is only 60% efficient and you run the light for 8 hours, it will discharge an 80 amp-hour car battery by just 10% (90% charge remaining). If you are worried about using too much power, you can do a test run at home before your camping trip. Just leave the light running in the car overnight and see that the car starts fine in the morning.


Damn cheap option:

  • 1 meter (3') of 12v flexible LED stripe. ($1 or $3)

  • A bottle, a tube, whatever cylindric 5-10cm(2"-4") in diameter. (from the trash bin, optional)

  • A power cable from whatever thrown-away electrical appliance. (from the trash bin, longer is better)

Glue the stripe to the bottle as a spiral or just put it inside. Or just use it as-is.

Use the cable to connect the stripe to the car battery.

Hang it wherever you want (tree, tent roof, whatever).

You will use ~10% (or less) of the car battery capacity for every full night of light. If you use it for a whole week all-night, you may want to run the car for an hour or two in order to top up the battery.

That's how most people around do camping lights when a car is available.


Bean bag, can of dirt. Set flashlight pointing up.

Cut the top off a milk jug, put over flashlight.

Cut milkjug so that it can clip onto front of flashlight.

Tie cord onto end of flashlight. Pin cord in window, or hang from garment hook.

Use one of those command release hooks that 3M makes, put a hook on your car at a convenient point to hang it.

use a blob of poster putty to fasten flashlight to side of car.

Use sandbag/rice bag on roof car. Tie flashlight's leash to bag.

Use 3 branches and hang from tripod.