As of late, more people are hitting the road, embracing the nomadic (or minimalistic) lifestyle in campers, RVs, vans, or re-built buses. Living in a tiny camper might seem unbearable to some. In contrast, others spend years redesigning old school buses, minibusses, or panel vans into camper vans for full-time housing or spontaneous road trip vacations. Just because a camper van is small doesn’t mean it can’t feel big on the inside.
Installing interior lighting should be one of the biggest priorities when converting a van. Most vans have limited windows that rarely offer quality light, leaving the feeling of living in a dark box. Quality lighting is key for both convenience and comfort when living in a camper, van, or tiny house.
This post explains the importance of lighting design in campers (or any small space) and provides fantastic options for lighting your setup with some examples from industry professionals.
Things to consider when choosing camper van lighting
The right combination of lights in your camper will make for a practical and comfortable home on wheels. When choosing lights for your van or bus, the main things to consider are purpose, efficiency, power supply, brightness, color temperature, and installation.
Consider the uses for different areas in your van and the light you will need for each. Our customer Contravans are professionals at their craft which just happens to be Camper Van design. All images are from their website, please check them out.
Task lighting creates increased light in an area for a specific task. In a camper van, the area you will need task lighting the most is the kitchen. We don’t want any emergency visits while on the road, so let us ensure the chef can see when they are slicing and dicing!
General Purpose Lighting
Van interior lights are nice to have for the main light source in a van. These will give a general illumination to your area like any household ceiling light would.
Some might like a dimmer, mood-setting light for the sleeping and lounge areas.
Many campers like to spend time outside the van. In this case, exterior lighting might be needed for the nighttime festivities.
Anyone living off-grid, whether in a house or a camper, knows how precious the electrical supply is. Even if you use a solar-powered electrical system, the battery only stores and provides a finite amount of power, so opting for the most efficient solutions is always important.
LED lights are extremely efficient and can be operated at high levels without much electricity. We only recommend using LED lighting within your camper van.
Whichever LED lights you decide upon for your camper will need a power supply. Most van conversions use a separate “leisure or “house” battery for refrigeration, fans, and electronics. Lighting would fall into the leisure category, and LED lighting would hardly dent your power supply or battery.
There are still LED lighting options for those using a more simple system. Campervans without a split-power relay typically use rechargeable batteries or stand-alone battery powered LED lights.
Brightness is measured in lumens. The higher the lumen number, the brighter the light. For the sake of camper van lighting, we will simplify the subject into these simple guidelines.
- Bedrooms & Living Spaces = 300-500 lumens / sq meter
- Kitchen & “Tasky” Areas = 500-800 lumens / sq meter.
In a tiny space like a camper van where almost every area is multi-purpose, dimmers are the best option so that the same light can be dimmed or brightened according to your job.
The color temperature always needs to come up when talking about LED lighting. White light color is a spectrum, the same idea as the color spectrum. White light is measured in Kelvin (K), where the higher temperatures 5000-6500K are known as cool white (think blue-ish), and the lower temperatures 2500-3500K are more of a warmer white (yellow-ish). For those that can’t decide, luckily, neutral white comes in at around 4000K.
Cool White light appears brighter to the eye and is generally preferred for working environments. Warmer white light simulates the yellowish glow of the sunset and appears dimmer, giving off a more dull light with less contrast.
Installing the Camper Lighting
As with any project, it all comes down to getting the job done. Each different van or camper will come with unique challenges, and each light will require a different installation. In our experience with hundreds of campers and van life enthusiasts, the below LED lighting products are the best lighting for campers and van conversions.
Recessed LED Lights
Recessed lighting, or “Puck” lights, have become the standard for campervan lighting. These lights are perfect for van lighting, they are low-profile, easy to install, and energy efficient. Here at LEDSupply, we have the components to build recessed LED lighting with top-quality components.
We have two unfinished surface mount devices that use top-performing Nichia mid-power LEDs to deliver quality light at 12V input. These boards are typically built into van lighting designs with heatsinking and wiring in mind beforehand. The low-profile of the board (5mm) makes it so these can sit almost flush to whatever they are mounted to.
It should be no surprise that LED strip lights are at the top of the camper and van lighting list. LED light strips are a quick and easy campervan lighting option. The linear strips come packed with hundreds of LEDs that can provide consistent lighting down your van. The different colors, settings, and styles are endless, making them a hot product for most campers.
LED Strip lights are super easy to install and come with adhesive backing. Still, it is typically best to house them within a track and diffuser if they are going to be seen by the direct eye, as they usually will be within a campervan. This will make them look more professional but also spread out and disperse the light throughout your van, making it less harsh at the hot spots.
LED Strip lights are easily dimmed with in-line dimmers making them great options for general, multi-purpose lighting throughout a van. We have had large bus converts use strip lighting down the whole side of the bus as cove lighting to users using smaller sections where the light is needed.
Some say that strip lights would not be enough for task lighting within a van. However, one of our best customers, Contravans, would beg to differ. They created a mobile learning lab that uses high-density strip lights; see for yourself!
Lighting Vans to Last a Lifetime
There are countless ways to use our products within travel vans and campervans. Most manufactured RVs and Campers will now come with efficient LED lighting, so why shouldn’t you add them to your camper van conversion…you will thank us later.