When we’re at a campsite, sometimes it can be a challenge to keep the good times going after dark. Of course, having a full moon and a roaring campfire can help, but these aren’t things we can count on. We’ve experienced enough off cycle moons and county-wide fire bans to know better. So aside from crawling into our sleeping bags as soon as the sun sets and calling it a night, what can be done? Well, there’s actually a lot. But we need one critical thing: light.
Our headlamps work for individual nighttime tasks, but if we want to brighten up the overall mood of our campsite, a few extra lumens are in order. So when UCO approached us about testing out their new line of camping lanterns, we were intrigued. Intrigued, but in all honesty, a little skeptical…
The truth is that we’ve been unimpressed by nearly every traditional camping lantern we’ve ever used. Whether fuel or battery powered, they all seem to have been uniquely designed to shine light directly into our eyes. This is particular a problem when we place the lantern on our picnic table. All the light is cast up and out, away from the surface of the table and into our faces. The problem is the same when we hang the lantern overhead. Their bulky bases block nearly all the light from traveling down, leaving a dark shadow beneath them. So would these UCO lanterns be the same? Absolutely not.
UCO’s LED lanterns are designed to light up your campground, not your face. They have found innovative ways to shine the light down, so it illuminates what you’re looking at while providing soft ambient lighting for your surroundings. With just two of their lanterns, we were able to transform our dark campsite into a pleasant outdoor living room. The nighttime scene was already more cheerful and pleasant than it has ever been.
So now that we’ve got a lighting solution figured out, what’s to be done after the sun goes down? Well here is our favorite routine for spending an evening outdoors, after dark.
1. Make a Late Supper
It can be hard to resist watching the sunset from an awesome vantage point. But that often means dinner doesn’t get started until it’s already dark. For late suppers, we usually go with a simple one-pot meal that we’ve made before. (We have a rule of no new recipe testing after dark!) Protein pasta & sauteed vegetables, instant rice paella, or a quick cooking curry [masala recipe link] are solid go-to’s.
2. Make a Quick Dessert
A nice dessert can be the cherry on top of a great day outdoors. However, after we finish making dinner, we usually have limited motivation for starting any new culinary exploits. That’s why we love making one skillet desserts like our no-bake cobblers or coming up with creative s’mores combinations. Our dessert philosophy is maximum satisfaction with minimum effort.
3. Make a Warm Cocktail
Especially if we’re forgoing a campfire, a warm cocktail at the end of the night is a great way to put us in good spirits. Our go-to camping drink is a whiskey hot toddy, which is simply a combination of hot un-caffeinated tea, a glug of bourbon, honey or maple syrup, and a squeeze of lemon.
4. Play Cards
Striking up a friendly rivalry over a game of cards is an easy way to liven up the evening. This is usually pretty easy after we’ve completed step 3 above. Our go-to camping card game is SET (which is a great game if you enjoy tying your brain into knots), but we’ve also started learning cribbage to give our minds a bit of rest.
5. Plan for Tomorrow
One of the most productive things we can do after the sun goes down is to plan for tomorrow. Figuring out what hikes we want to do, what we want to cook, and where we want to be for tomorrow’s sunset can help us make the most of our time outdoors.
6. Enjoy the View
While a full moon is good for seeing what’s around you, a new moon is good for seeing far off into outer space. Towards the end of the night, we like to dim the lights and look up at the stars. Right from our camp chairs, we have a front row seats for the most spectacular light show imaginable.
Want to brighten up your camping nightlife? UCO is giving away one of their Madrona+ tabletop lanterns to one of our readers. Enter below for a chance to win.
Thanks to UCO for sponsoring this post. If you'd like to learn more about their rechargeable camping lights, head over to their website. Thank you for supporting the brands that make our work here on Fresh Off the Grid possible!