VanLife Lighting

Vans are unique, like the humans that occupy them. Lighting concepts are no different. We’ve toured many vans and have experienced the full range of creative lighting solutions, from psychedelic flashing LED strips, to small puck lights, fluorescent fixtures and sometimes a minimalist headlamp.

Lighting gives us the ability to carry on into the night. We cook, roll our clothing, read books, hang out and gaze deep into each other’s eyes. And there are numerous ways to meet our nighttime needs.

A Practical Approach

Our approach to lighting is practical. How can we maximize light while minimizing auxiliary battery draw and our efforts?

Four years ago we installed a small LED lighting fixture over the stove/sink that ran off of our 12 V auxiliary battery system. However, we opted out of installing additional 12 volt lighting fixtures, as we didn’t want to run more wires through the van.

Instead, we found it relatively effective to use small magnetized lights that ran on rechargeable AA batteries. However, the batteries needed to be recharged often and replaced. Over time this was expensive. Another downfall was that the plastic housings lacked durability, and eventually every light broke, temporarily mendable only with duct tape.

A MORE Practical Approach

This year, redoing our lights was on our to-do list. Corey planned on spending a few hundred dollars and hours of his time redesigning and installing a new lighting system.

In comes UCO

“Guys, look at this!” Our friend Aidan popped out of his Vanagon, an interesting object in hand. Turning a nob, the item lit up like Corey’s eyes, gradually increasing in brightness. He turned the nob the opposite way and the object emitted a soft blue light. Using a little orange magnetized disc, Aidan hung the object from his side view mirror illuminating the space between our vans. A light bulb went off in Corey’s brain. Excited, he asked Aidan if he could borrow the light. He proceeded to hang it in every position possible. Could it fit in the loft? Could it light up the closet? Could it hang from the awning?! Rapidly, Corey’s enthusiasm grew.

“Aidan, how many batteries does this latern take?” Corey asked the potential deal breaker question.

“None,” Aidan replied, his slow smile bathed in blue light.

The UCO lanterns are charged using a USB plug located in the lantern’s secret compartment.

Corey’s light dream is awakened, a simple utilitarian light that can be hung or stand alone, anywhere, and is easily recharged using our existing battery system or USB.

We connected with UCO and have been blessed with the opportunity to product test two of their lights, the Rhody+ Li and Madrona+ Li. In the past month we’ve recharged them only once. And we use them every night.

If you’re in the market to upgrade your camping light set up and are interested in UCO’s products, in collaboration with UCO we are offering a discount code for the month of May only. See the form below. Live the dream. <3


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  • Jeff May 20, 2017  

    These rechargeable lanterns rule! I gifted one to a friend a while back and always though I shoulda kept it for myself, haha. Maybe it’s time…

    • Emily king May 26, 2017  

      Now is a great time. Honestly we love ours a lot. Simple solution. Moveable all over the van. Adjustable. 🙂