Cabin fever must really start the creative juices flowing in people. So it
seemed recently when several "how-to" articles about creating light sources
began to appear on the Internet. Some were just re-hashing of alchemy parlor
tricks: creating your own lightstick glow using
Mountain Dew soda and making your own citrus "candle" from an orange. One that
did catch my fullest attention was an idea that turns a regular plastic milk
jug into a soft, almost soothing camp light.
One of my biggest gripes about evening in camp is the annoying glare of a
bright lantern. I hardly ever use them, finding the amber glow of a campfire
much more soothing. Still there are times when a more directed or concentrated
wash of illumination is necessary. Lanterns seem almost too bright, and
flashlights are exceedingly annoying, especially in the hands of some
Jedi-wannabe constantly slashing their flashlight's beam through the campsite
like a light saber.
The milk carton camp light is a simple way to spread a soothing wash of
usable light throughout a portion of the campsite that both provides adequate
light for movement and reading while not violating the tranquility of the
darkness surrounding your site.
In order to make this simple camp light you need only a translucent gallon
plastic milk/water jug and a camper's headlamp. The jug can be empty or filled
with water (needs to be a clear liquid so the light can diffuse through it).
There is hardly any difference in effect between a jug
filled with air or one filled with liquid except the latter is heavier thereby
providing a weighty base on a windy evening.
Strap Headlamp On Jug
You simply slip the headlamp over the jug, arranging
the elastic band around the midsection of the jug. Turn the headlamp so the
beam with shine directly into and through the body of the jug. Turn the lamp on
and the entire jug glows with a soft light that lights up the immediate area
bright enough to read by and bathes the nearby surroundings with a soft wash of
The milk jug light gives you plenty of brightness for moving around camp (with a nice handle to carry it) and
also serves as a beacon for finding your way back on a dark evening's jaunt.
You can even set it inside your tent to create the illusion that someone is
probably still in camp should you all decide to leave your site unattended for
Of course this method is dependent upon your headlamp working properly and
does require batteries as part of the working equation. A flashlight would
work, too, if you make sure (as with the headlamp) to place the face of the
light close against the side of the jug to minimize side glare.
Dimmer lanterns and glow sticks serve similar functions, the milk jug is
just another way to both minimize extra gear as well providing your water jug
with it's own multi-tasking duty.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a great selection of Headlamps!
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Tom Watson is an award-winning writer who lived in Alaska for 16 years, 12 of which were on Kodiak Island. He is a frequent contributor to "Camping Life," "Canoe & Kayak" magazines, author of three books:" Sixty Hikes within Sixty Miles of Minneapolis," "Best Tent Camping-Minnesota," both by Menasha Ridge Press, and "How to Think Like a Survivor," by Creative Publishing International. He's also an avid kayaker, camper, naturalist, writer, and photographer residing in western Minnesota. He writes a weekly column on camping tips for sportsmansguide.com.