Camping & Survival

Quick Camping Tip: 10 Uses for Glow Sticks

Cheaper Than Dirt! Quick Camping Tip

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.


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Comments (12)

  1. John,
    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.

  2. Suzane,
    It has been some time sense I have used a glow stick, they of course are made of two chemical, one was free in the tube, and there was a small glass tube inside you had to break open by bending the stick. Maybe they wised up, and put a thin membrane between the two chemicals now, and when you bend it, the membrane breaks. Some thing along that line would make sense why you didn’t find any foreign material inside, maybe they had a few cases of the thin glass actually cutting threw the plastic tube, and cutting people, opening themselves up to law suits? That would be a smarter cheaper way to build them anyway, OR maybe its just the company who made yours?
    Have fun with them, they are a cheap source of entertainment, they used to be expensive when I was young.

  3. Tie a 3 ft piece of string to the loop hole in the stick. Quickly swing it around in a circle for a signaling device.

  4. John,
    There was no other material—glass or otherwise—but the glow liquid when I cut open the cheap glow sticks I used to conduct my experiments making the glow stick lantern.

  5. Never put around dogs neck it will cause dog discomfort, scratch at and break resulting break into coat cause even more sctatching at glass or acryllics.
    If a hunter pack them in day pack such as in Elk hunting where mid day snacks are needed to kerp up energy so food and other NW rough
    terrain and weather changes are common.
    Perfect if one has no commoand even with if a just confused not lost, place lit ones in high
    advantageous for spotting by others in dark.With como it will let othrrs see your light for miles and aid your return or pick up
    An Elk downed at dark from one ridge to another in 6-12 foot 2nd growth , find a terrain feature near where elk fell and tie a couple in tops of slall trees, that will be your reference points t after walking down ridge acctosd cterk botyom anf up other side where you chpose easiest not necessarily streightest lines. This is an aid in
    finding where elk lays .
    Elk need gutting and preferably skinning immediately ven at temps below 30F or you chance souring meat as hide hold heat , and if t
    dark lightsticks work great for light to get job done.
    Once spent cold night with elk hanging in quarters , light stick along trail in case of varmits smelling blood, small fire and warmth of elk hide..
    A memory brighter than a pile of glow sticks.
    No matter the camp most people of caucasion US need their night lights from fear of unknown or of breaking an leg on way in dark to potty, even at home.

  6. perfect for lighting jack-o-lanterns. I used a couple orange in each.
    If you cut them open and sling on dense foliage you get a galaxy display. Probably be best as mentioned before to get the glass out. Once out of the tube light only lasts 30-45 mins. It’s and oily substance so do this on weeds in the woods and not you landscaping.

  7. Use a large stainless steal nut and a zip tie to sink them to the buttom for free dive practice.

  8. 1st things 1st, when one opens up a glow stick the contents is full of broken glass, the chemicals may be non toxic, but the broken glass from the one chemical tube inside is a hazard, so if you are going to do any thing in which you personally get in contact with the liquid, strain the liquid through a couple coffee filters first to remove the glass, THIS IS A MUST!
    That being said, when I was a kid (40 years ago) on Halloween I smeared the contents on my face (making sure not to get it in my eyes), and also on my arms. Lets just say the neighbor girl got quit a scare when I went, and knocked on her bedroom window late at night.
    Now they say the chemicals are non toxic, and even with removing all the glass I can not honestly tell you it is 100% safe to put on your skin like that, Please further research, but DON’T FORGET TO STRAIN OUT ALL OF THE GLASS!

  9. When group camping, I have found using glow sticks most useful as site markers for each sleep/ tent site . After the other practical uses, hang the stick high enough above each tent entrance to be seen from the others. This provides some orientation in darkness as people wake up for whatever reason. I have found this trick very helpful when leading groups of boy scouts as well as family camping.

  10. If you fish deep like for red snapper or rock cod at 300+feet there is no light. Add a glow stick above the sinker between the hooks.Even a slight glow should attract THE BIG ONE.If not just lie when you get home.{probably wont be the first time}.—-If the kids are scared to go to the out house at night make it a game. Through a glow stick down the pit to give them a target.Makes potty training fun!

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