LED Camping Lights from Ikea Rotera Lanterns

The last few times I’ve been camping I’ve been wanting to come up with a different solution for lighting my campsites. Most of the time I’m camping in remote regions using my Jeep Rubicon, and I’ve been building a few solar power packs (more posts on that later) to use when I’m in the desert. I’ve also been tinkering around with numerous related projects, this one I did today.

IKEA Galvanized Tea Light LanternOld galvanized tea light lantern from IKEA (Rotera)

One of my neighbors is moving out and he’s getting rid of loads of old stuff, so yesterday I scored four of these old IKEA lanterns, perfect timing for me and my summer projects. These IKEA Rotera lanterns are only $3.99 new, but right now I’m still in the experiment stage, free (or cheap) stuff is best.

Bottom of Lantern Drilled outDrilling out the Bottom of Lantern

The first thing I did was drill a hole in the bottom of the lantern. My plan was to cut a hole large enough that I could feed through about 6 inches of PVC, which would be the support for the LED lighting. Drilling was easy, I used a hole cutting attachment (photo not shown) that was just a little bit larger than the PVC diameter.

PVC LED light stripPVC LED lighting strip

I bought several rolls of flexible LED lighting on eBay, most of it is 3528 LED flexible strips in 5 m lengths. I love the stuff! I bought the 5 m strips that have 300 LEDs and the ones that have 600 LEDs, I have also bought the waterproof and non-waterproof. For this project I’m using a section of non-waterproof cool white LED lighting, it runs off of a 12 V source.

I cut the length of lighting I would need to wrap around my PVC (surplus from the garage) and soldered the ends with speaker wire I had left over from an old stereo. I used white electrical tape but could have used any color since the tape doesn’t show in the final product. I tested the wiring to make sure my lights worked before doing the install, and then I fed the PVC tube with the LEDs into the lantern.

bottom of the lanternlantern bottom cut open for PVC

The flexible LED lighting wrapped around the PVC fit snugly inside the lantern. I first ran the speaker wire like it is shown in the photo above and then I decided to cut a hole in the side and feed it through that location. I did that so the lantern could sit on a flat surface. I have yet to put a cover on the bottom, I’ll probably do that in my next model. I may also add a switch and/or a plug for the wiring.

flexible LED lights inside lanternLED lights inside the lantern

My apologies for the photos not being of the quality I typically post, I initially wasn’t planning on blogging, but I figured I’d start documenting some of the projects I’m doing this summer, image quality will be better next time. The photo above shows the LED lights wrapped around the PVC and secured inside the lantern. I put some clear tape over the light just for outdoor weather concerns. Honestly, I will probably take this apart at some point and rebuild it, but at the moment it’s providing plenty of light on my patio.

LED lantern lit upLED lantern lit up

It is giving off plenty of light! It may actually be a bit too bright for camping. I intend to make a few of these so I will be experimenting with how much light output is optimal. I don’t need to keep the wildlife up all night, I just want to light the area around the Jeep so I don’t stumble over rocks or rattlesnakes in the evening.

For those wondering, the 5 m of flexible LED light strip shown (about 15 feet) can be purchased for under $10 on eBay if you’re patient, but there’s plenty of buy-it-now auctions in the $15-$20 range. My total cost for materials in this project is around $3. If I were to buy all parts new, I could probably still do this for under $10, especially if I made a few of them at one time.

Materials included: Rotera IKEA Candle Lantern, about 6 inches of PVC pipe, electrical tape, clear packing tape, speaker wire, and about 36 inches of flexible LED lighting.

A note on the lighting: it can be cut nearly every 3 inches, that’s another great bonus for the strips. I could probably make a half dozen lanterns from a single 5 m purchase, I will measure everything out and provide more details in the next post.


  1. Very cool!