Glow 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.
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
- Not a fire hazard
- Do not emit heat
- 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
- On tent poles, stakes and ropes at night to avoid tripping and falls
- Trail markers
- Night lights for inside the tent
- String a bunch of light sticks for outdoor lighting and ambiance
- Light your way to the latrine
- A fish attractant for night fishing
- Night time games such as ring toss, glow bowling or glow in the dark kick ball
- Keep track of the dog (attach one to its collar)
- 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.
- 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.