Quick Camping Tip: 10 Uses for Glow Sticks

By Suzanne Wiley published on in Camping & Survival

Cheaper Than Dirt! Quick Camping TipGlow sticks—also called light sticks—are a one-time, temporary light that do not require any type of electric power source. Using chemiluminescence, a chemical reaction resulting in illumination, light sticks contain an outer tube, inner tube, two types of chemicals and dye. Flexing the outer tube of the glow stick causes the inner tube to break, releasing the chemicals and dye. Mixing the chemicals together by shaking the stick creates the chemiluminescent glow.

Experimenting with ways to create a signaling device for the military, one of the early inventors of the light source was Herbert Richter from China Lake Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, California. Extensively used by our military, glow sticks are also popular with scuba divers and children.

Picture shows campers playing with glow sticks around a campfire at night.

Light sticks come in a variety of colors and sizes, ranging in glow brightness and times.

Light sticks come in a variety of colors and sizes, ranging in glow brightness and times. Dollar store glow sticks are fun for games and dress up for a few hours, while military-grade light sticks are more expensive, but burn brightly for up to 12 hours.

Light Stick Benefits

  • Non-toxic
  • Not a fire hazard
  • Do not emit heat
  • Waterproof
  • Require no source of power, provide light without electricity or batteries
  • Will not attract bugs
  • Should not disturb others around you, by causing light pollution

The light from a glow stick is dependent on the environment in which it is used. When it is colder outside, chemical light sticks do not glow as bright, but the light will last longer. When it is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, the glow from a light stick is brighter. However, it will not glow as long.

10 Camping Uses for Glow Sticks

  1. On tent poles, stakes and ropes at night to avoid tripping and falls
  2. Trail markers
  3. Night lights for inside the tent
  4. String a bunch of light sticks for outdoor lighting and ambiance
  5. Light your way to the latrine
  6. A fish attractant for night fishing
  7. Night time games such as ring toss, glow bowling or glow in the dark kick ball
  8. Keep track of the dog (attach one to its collar)
  9. Glow stick lantern by cutting off one end of the stick and empty the contents into a glass mason jar; then add water and screw on the lid.
  10. Safe alternative to sparklers. (To learn more about the dangers of sparklers, read “First Aid 101: Treating Burns.”)

What do you use glow sticks for? Share your suggestions in the comment section.


Introduced to shooting at young age by her older brother, Suzanne Wiley took to the shooting sports and developed a deep love for it over the years. Today, she enjoys plinking with her S&W M&P 15-22, loves revolvers, the 1911, short-barreled AR-15s, and shooting full auto when she gets the chance. Suzanne specializes in writing for the female shooter, beginner shooter, and the modern-day prepper. Suzanne is a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

View all articles by CTD Suzanne

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Comments (12)

  • CTD Suzanne

    CTD Suzanne


    Thank you for responding. I did a bit more research on this topic and it seems like some glow sticks do have a glass inner tube, while others have a plastic one. In any case, you are correct—one needs to be careful when cutting a glow stick open to use the glow stuff in a lantern or as paint.


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