Outdoor Solar Lights for Getting Around the Cabin after Dark


When I’m camping in a remote place, I completely expect that any time I want to get around at night, I’m going to need a flashlight.  That’s fair.  But when I’m up at my cabin and need to make my way to the outhouse, I don’t want to have to fumble around looking for my flashlight.  And I don’t have to because I have a simple but awesome setup of solar lights that lights my way automatically.

Setup lighting outside that lights up commonly traveled areas

There are certain places you’re likely to need to go at night.  In fact, there are usually only a few things people are willing to get out of bed for when it’s still dark outside.  Install your lights so that they light up those areas and the path to those areas.

Here are some places you might want lit up.

The path to the outhouse.  If you don’t have indoor plumbing at your cabin or off-grid property you’re probably using an outhouse.  Fumbling around in the dark to find the outhouse can be really frustrating, especially when you really need to go.  Not to mention, trying to hold a flashlight while going has its own host of issues.  Depending on how far your cabin is from the outhouse, one or two lights is probably plenty to light the way and provide a safe path to the outhouse.  After all, in this situation you have more important things on your mind than squinting at the ground to avoid tripping over tree roots.

The wood pile.  One of the other few instances when we’re willing to get out of bed in the night is when it’s just too cold to sleep.  And if your cabin is heated by a fireplace or wood burning stove, you want to make sure you can quickly get more fuel on the fire, even in the dark.  While we often keep a small wood stack inside, it’s not terribly uncommon to run out on a cold night, which means a trip to the wood pile.  Keep it nearby and light it up.  You’ll be glad you did.

Your drinking water.  A lot of us with cabins have water inside the cabin, so this isn’t such an issue.  But if you’re in the early stages of building your cabin and still have a base camp setup, or if you have a more rustic cabin without running water, then you may be storing your water outside.  If this is the case, like it has been for us at our base camp, then make sure your “kitchen” area gets lit up at night so you can find your way to the water.

Immediately around the cabin.  There usually aren’t a lot of other reasons to get out of bed in the middle of the night and go outside other than those times when you hear a noise and are concerned about animals or intruders.  Installing some lighting around the outside of the cabin, especially near entrances, can be really helpful.  Especially if you use motion lights which will let you know before you step outside if someone, or something, is out there.

Use solar powered lights for simple, off-grid installation

Installing lighting all around outdoors can be a huge pain if you’re trying to run wires everywhere.  In an off-grid situation, you might not even have this option.  Even if you have a generator, you don’t want to have to run the generator to turn on the lights outside.

Battery powered lights also have some big downsides.  Unless they have a substantial battery, even the battery-powered LEDs tend to be really weak.  That’s why my favorite option is solar lighting.

Solar lights, of course, still need to have a battery.  Otherwise they wouldn’t work at night.  But the cool thing is that rather than using C or D-sized batteries like a lot of the battery-powered ones do, they can use an internal lithium-ion battery that can output a lot more power than traditional alkaline batteries.  The result?  More light.  Couple that with modern LED lighting which uses a lot less power than incandescent, and you get great lighting without the wires.

That said, most solar lights that I’ve seen still tend to be really weak.  I think that’s because in an effort to be compact and low-profile, they tend to have both small batteries and small solar panels.  So you get a short battery life and weak lighting.  That’s why I like this solar light available on Amazon that has the solar panel separate, not to mention a much larger panel than most solar lighting.

The other cool benefit of having the panel separate from the light itself is that you can mount the solar panel in the direction where it will get the most direct sunlight throughout the day.  Whereas lights with the panel attached usually have the panel point one direction and you have very little say over where the panel points.

When you install this light and panel, you can mount it on a tree, on the cabin, or wherever makes the most sense and point the light right where you need it.  Then, you get a little bit of wiring that runs to the panel so you can mount and point the panel wherever you need to.

Look close and you can see how we mounted the light on the outhouse, but put the panel over on the tree nearby.

Use lights with light and motion sensors

These solar lights are great, but their batteries still don’t last forever.  In fact, on a full charge they only last about 6 hours.  So you can’t run them constantly all night.  But, you probably don’t want your whole cabin lit up all night anyway.  Which is why I love having both a light sensor and a motion sensor on my outdoor lights.

The light sensor makes it so they only turn on when it’s dark out.  Unless you flip the switch turning them on, they won’t turn on while it’s light outside.

The motion sensor allows you to only turn the lights on when you need them on.  That is, when you’re walking around in the dark.  Simple and ingenious.  One thing I like about the motion lights we use is we can set the sensitivity of the motion sensor, so it doesn’t pick up our walking when we’re out by the fire pit at night, but does pick us up as we’re walking back toward the cabin.

You can also switch these on or off.  So if you want to be able to just turn them on for 30 minutes or turn them off while around the campfire, make sure you don’t mount these so high that they’re out of reach.

You can find the light we use on Amazon by clicking this link.

Put a little battery-powered LED in the outhouse

One more little tip for inside the outhouse.  Use a battery-powered motion sensor LED to give yourself a little bit of lighting.

What I love about these little battery-powered LEDs is that for one, they’re inexpensive.  For the price of the two solar lights, I can get a pack of 6 good-quality LED lights to use wherever I need them.  And since there is no solar panel there is absolutely no wiring.  They’re small and light so you can put them anywhere.

They’re not so bright that I’d use them for outdoor lighting.  I want something a little brighter for that.  But for using the bathroom, they provide plenty of light.

I also really like that they’re motion sensing.  You can spend less and find ones that you just push to turn on.  But I like the idea that these turn on automatically when I walk into the outhouse.  They’re also great for stairs or other trip hazards if you have those in your cabin or even your house.

Like I said before, these types of lights are pretty much always a lot dimmer than the outdoor lighting with solar panels that I showed you above.  So, during the daytime when it’s bright outside, the inside of the outhouse will be a little dim.  Your eyes will adjust quickly though and you’ll be able to do what you need to do.  At night when it’s dark out, though, it’s going to be plenty bright without being blinding.  And if one doesn’t put out enough light, just mount a second one.

One great option for this kind of light is this one on on Amazon.  It comes with 6 lights so you’ll have a few to stick around other places in the cabin where you need light during the night.

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