Skip to main content

There’s actually a great reason for that red light on your camping headlamp

Why you should use the red light on your headlamp when camping

Camping at night
Chris Schog / Unsplash

Camping is amazing. The sights, the sounds, the fresh air, and the adventure are unparalleled, but there are some things about camping that aren’t so romantic. One challenge that often annoys campers and hikers alike is the unrelenting presence of bugs, especially at night. If you find yourself constantly having to re-apply the bug spray, you might not be aware that most modern headlamps have a solution—red light.

The red light feature in headlamps is more than just a gimmick. It’s a thoughtfully designed solution to a common outdoor problem. In this article, we’ll shed some light on the red light feature in your favorite headlamps and lantern.

Bugs aren’t attracted to red light

Lone blue tent lit from the inside in a desert landscape at night.
Sagui Andrea / Pexels

The big thing to know is that most bugs aren’t attracted to red light. Most insects have only two types of visual pigments. These pigments allow them to absorb green and yellow light (around 550 nm), and blue and ultraviolet light (less than 480 nm). Crucially, these visual limitations mean that most insects are not sensitive to red light (with wavelengths longer than 650 nm).

When a standard white or blue light is used in a camping scenario, it can become a beacon for various insects, leading to a less-than-pleasant outdoor experience. Switching to red light, on the other hand, makes the area around you pretty much invisible to these pesky critters.

Recognizing the benefits of red light in outdoor settings, manufacturers of outdoor gear have incorporated red light settings into most modern headlamps. This feature serves a dual purpose. First, it not only helps keep bugs at bay, but it also preserves night vision, which is crucial for any nocturnal outdoor activities.

Red light can also be more energy-efficient in some models of camping headlamps. This means that you’ll be able to squeeze a longer battery life from your lamp if that ever becomes a concern.

When choosing a headlamp, it’s advisable to look for models with an easily accessible red light feature. Not all headlamps are created equal, and some may have better red light functionality than others.

Headlamps with a red light feature typically come with easy toggling options, allowing users to switch between standard white light and red light as needed. This flexibility is invaluable in different outdoor scenarios, whether you’re setting up a tent at night, navigating a trail, or simply needing a light that doesn’t attract bugs.

By leveraging the science of insect vision, headlamp manufacturers have provided campers and hikers with a simple yet effective tool to enhance their nocturnal outdoor experiences. So next time you find yourself gearing up for an outdoor adventure, consider packing a headlamp with a red light feature. Your peaceful, bug-free night will thank you.

Sarah Joseph
Sarah is a lover of all things outdoors. With a bright sense of adventure and a heart for the mountains, she is always…
How to gather firewood responsibly while camping
Yes, there are several "rules" when collecting wood for your campfires
Camping fire

The warm weather outdoor season is finally upon us, so camping, hiking, and escaping into nature are all on the short list of things we can enjoy now. Whether planning a weekend state park escape or a multi-day backpacking excursion into the wild, we should all strive to be good stewards of the Earth. One of the simplest ways for campers to do just that is to learn how to gather firewood responsibly before building a fire.
7 ways you can be a good steward of the Earth

Here's how you can responsibly gather firewood. And help out your camper buddies by passing on these "rules" for collecting firewood, so they can also be good stewards of the Earth.
Check local campfire regulations
It’s easy to assume that because you’re in a remote area, campfires must be fair game. Long before you start gathering firewood, check the local regulations to see what’s allowed. In some regions, particularly those susceptible to extreme wildfires, the rules may change daily. Wind, humidity, local lightning storms, and a host of other factors come into play. Once you know where you’ll be making camp, check with the agency (e.g., National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, etc.) that manages that land. They can tell you whether campfires are currently allowed in that area. Even if fires are permitted, check that it’s legal to gather wood and split the wood directly around your campsite.
Shop local
Invasive species are a threat to wilderness areas throughout the world. It’s tempting to bring firewood from home to your campsite, but this can threaten local ecosystems. Although it’s more expensive, the best option for “gathering” firewood is to buy it locally. The closer it’s purchased to your campsite, the better, whether that’s at the campground itself or a nearby convenience store.
Deader is better
Perhaps the most essential rule of gathering firewood responsibly is never to strip live trees. It’s bad for the environment, and it’s not sustainable. Imagine if every camper in that area -- dozens, even hundreds throughout a season -- pulled their firewood from the trees closest to their campsite. But, even from a selfish perspective, fresh, green wood is not going to burn well. Repeat after me: “Deader is better.” If it snaps easily under your boot, it’s ready to burn.
But let dead logs lie
Dead logs might look like great fire-stoking material, but there are two reasons to leave them be. The first is that they make great homes and hiding spots for smaller wildlife, including mammals, reptiles, and insects. They’re a vital part of any ecosystem. Second, the oldest logs are often damp or soaked completely through, so they make for terrible campfire wood.
Size matters
Gathering oversized pieces of wood is fine, so long as they’re cut to size before adding them to the fire pit. For front-country camping, consider packing a bow saw. Leave the axe at home, as it’s overkill for simply cutting logs to size. Backcountry campers concerned with pack weight might bring a hatchet, which is lightweight, compact, and incredibly versatile even beyond fire-making purposes. Whatever the tool, always cut firewood to fit completely inside your fire pit. This will help keep your campfire contained to a manageable size that’s less likely to get out of control.
Pay it forward
In some national and state parks, campers are not allowed to leave firewood behind. It must be taken with them or burned. Another option is to give any leftover wood to a fellow camper. It’s the right thing to do legally, environmentally, and for the simple pleasure of paying it forward.
Leave no trace
The idea is to leave your campsite just as you found it, for the next person to enjoy, so don't take more wood than you need for your campfires. If you accidentally collect more wood than you need, then refer to the above "rule" and share it with other campers.

Read more
Glamping vs. camping: What’s the difference, and which is for you?
Are you a glamper or a camper?
camping vs. glamping campsite

While there's no solid line drawn between glamping vs. camping, glamping is a lot like Steve Buscemi or a rabid bear: You know it when you see it.

We like to think of glamping as a camping experience for anyone who's an indoor person at heart. You enjoy all the warm and fuzzy parts of being outdoors: The peace and quiet of the wilderness, the crackle and pop of a burning fire,  the day hikes, panoramic views, and proximity to wildlife. Who wouldn't? All that "sleeping on the ground" and "eating out of a bag" stuff, though? That you can do without.

Read more
The best camping hacks for first-time campers
Make that first time magical with these camping tips
A view from the inside of a tent looking out on a campground.

A night under the stars can be a truly magical experience. It allows you to relax, disconnect from a hectic schedule, and return to a more natural way of living — you can even turn your alarm off and let your body wake up with the sun. Regular campers know that sitting around a campfire and watching the flames dance, with a million stars all around you and a cold drink in your hand, is exactly as idyllic as it sounds. But for first-time campers, getting to this moment might feel a long way off.

Whether you're looking to dip your toes into camping for the first time or you're a seasoned pro trying to convince a partner or a buddy that camping is the ideal weekend getaway, that first experience can make or break a would-be camper. Use these camping hacks and tips to kick off your camping career the right way and ensure your first time isn't a washout.
Give yourself some space

Read more