Nice weather calls for more time spent outdoors. To keep the party going after dusk, invest in ambient outdoor lighting. Outdoor string lights can brighten a backyard or a patio space and make warm nights more relaxing and festive.
String lights come in a range of styles, bulb types, and colors. Read on for key shopping considerations and to find out why the following picks represent some of the best outdoor string lights to dress up your open-air space.
- BEST OVERALL: Brightown Outdoor String Light Globe Patio Lights
- BEST SOLAR POWERED: Brightech Waterproof Solar LED Outdoor String Lights
- BEST BATTERY POWERED: OxyLED 2 Pack 100 LED Globe String Lights
- BEST WEATHER RESISTANCE: Lemontec Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights
- BEST COLOR OPTIONS: Enbrighten LED Color Changing Café String Lights
- BEST FAIRY LIGHTS: Twinkle Star 300 LED 99 FT Copper Wire String Lights
- BEST GLOBE LIGHTS: Brightown LED G40 Outdoor String Lights
- BEST LANTERN LIGHTS: LampLust Mini Lantern String Lights
- BEST FOR EVENTS: Banord 102FT Dimmable LED Outdoor String Lights
- ALSO CONSIDER: Minetom 48 Feet Led Outdoor String Lights
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor String Lights
A simple strand of string lights can transform a plain backyard into an inviting outdoor space. Compared with other outdoor and patio lights, string lights are affordable and easy to install. When choosing the best outdoor string lights for your space, consider the light type, the size and shape, brightness, and color. A weather-resistant design, a lengthy cord, and remote or app control features can make outdoor string lights safer and easier to use.
Most outdoor string lights feature LED, incandescent, solar, or battery-operated bulbs. Each type varies in durability, energy efficiency, and lifespan. When shopping for outdoor string lights, consider which type of lighting is most suitable for your space.
- LED: LED light bulbs use much less electricity (less wattage) than traditional incandescent bulbs and don’t become as hot when they are turned on. Because they are cooler to the touch, there are LED patio lights made with plastic bubs—meaning they won’t shatter if dropped. LED bulbs can last up to 50,000 hours, which equals up to 10 years of daily use.
- Incandescent: Incandescent light bulbs are inexpensive and easy to find. These bulbs are less energy-efficient and have a much shorter lifespan than LED bulbs, usually lasting around 1,000 hours or up to a year of use. They can become hot with use, so glass bulbs are the norm for this type. Their warm color and affordable up-front cost make them a popular pick for outdoor lighting.
- Solar: Solar-powered lights don’t add to your energy bill or require an outlet, so they’re useful for apartment patios or houses that don’t have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. Simply place the included solar panel in a spot that sees a lot of sunlight during the day, and the bulbs will light up at night. Most solar-powered outdoor patio lights have a runtime of 6 to 8 hours, plenty long enough to host a backyard barbeque or a dinner party.
- Battery-operated: Battery-operated lights are another option that don’t need an outdoor outlet. Instead, these light strands usually run on two to six batteries. Since they don’t require an outlet, they are a versatile option for creative outdoor lighting.
Since outdoor string lights are exposed to the elements, selecting a set that stands up to rainy conditions and heavy gusts of wind is important. You don’t want to take the string lights down every time your area faces inclement weather.
First, check the product description to determine if the lights are intended for outdoor use. Using indoor lighting outside creates a potential fire hazard. Second, make sure the product is water-resistant (or waterproof—even spots under a roof can grow damp in bad weather). Weather-resistant lights can handle direct exposure to water and feature watertight seals to protect their interior parts from accumulating moisture and causing safety issues.
Style and Bulb Shape
String light bulbs are available in a variety of styles and shapes, which can give the strands a unique aesthetic. For example, tiny circle fairy lights make an outdoor area feel whimsical, while larger oval-shaped Edison bulbs give a space a vintage look. Globe bulbs, Edison bulbs, lantern bulbs, fairy lights, and rope lights are popular styles.
- Globe: Globe bulbs are typically for decorative purposes. These spherical bulbs come in a range of sizes and are commonly seen in hanging pendants, modern chandeliers, and outdoor string lights. Their classic style is timeless and suits a range of different outdoor decor setups, from angular modern seating areas to cozy bohemian patios. Globe bulbs can add a touch of glamour and charm to an outdoor space.
- Edison: Edison bulbs are designed to look like Thomas Edison’s original invention. These traditional incandescent bulbs feature a warm, glowing appearance, thanks to their visible internal filaments. The oval-like shape and ambient glow can give your outdoor space a vintage look. Modern LED Edison-style bulbs feature this classic light bulb look but with an energy-saving LED design.
- Lantern: Lantern bulbs usually feature standard outdoor string lights covered with a lantern made of paper, plastic, nylon, or tarpaulin (a durable and waterproof material that resembles canvas). Lanterns come in different colors, patterns, and shapes. These fun patio light options can help create a themed or festive atmosphere.
- Fairy: Fairy lights can make a backyard look like a magical escape. The tiny bulbs are usually no larger than a grain of rice and resemble fireflies shimmering on a wire. These are ideal for background lighting, and users can create a pretty effect by draping strands of fairy lights over tree branches, in bushes, or along a fence.
- Rope: Rope lights are essentially mini bulbs encased in a transparent cover to protect them from the elements. Often made with LED bulbs, rope lights are great for winding between deck posts, hanging from fences, or illuminating garden spaces.
When choosing a bulb size, consider the available outdoor space, ease of installation, and desired look. Small bulbs are a good pick for small outdoor spaces: They won’t overpower the space or other outdoor decorations. These bulbs are generally more subtle, providing gentle background lighting. They provide less light and are commonly chosen for decorative purposes.
Large bulbs are more striking and offer a bolder look. Their larger size can provide more direct illumination. They are generally brighter and are well suited for larger spaces that need more lighting. Large decorative bulbs, like globe bulbs and Edison bulbs, can make a style statement.
Keep in mind that bulb size can affect installation. String lights with small bulbs are generally lightweight and easier to maneuver. They may be easier to install than string lights with larger, heavier, and bulkier bulbs. Most globe outdoor string light bulbs come in one of three bulb sizes:
- G30: The smallest size at 30 millimeters (close to 1.25 inches) in diameter.
- G40: A medium size, measuring 40 millimeters (just over 1.5 inches) in diameter.
- G50: The largest size, coming in at 50 millimeters (just under 2 inches) in diameter.
Most Edison-style string light bulbs come in S14, a medium-size, oval-shaped bulb measuring 32 millimeters (just over 1.25 inches) in diameter.
Brightness and Color Temperature
Lumens measure the amount of light output from a bulb—the more lumens, the brighter the bulb. Note that lumens should not be confused with wattage: Wattage measures how much power a bulb consumes and not necessarily how bright a light appears.
When deciding on bulb brightness, take into account the desired lighting effect. String light bulbs can range from 5 to over 100 lumens per bulb. Users often choose string lights for their glowy appearance rather than their brightness, so lower lumens often do just fine to set the mood.
Lighting color temperature is measured using the Kelvin temperature scale (K). This scale measures how warm or cool the lighting appears. Lower numbers on the Kelvin scale look warmer, and higher numbers look cooler.
Most home lighting falls between 2,000 K and 6,000 K. Bulbs around 2,700 K have a cozy, warm white color with a yellow hue, while bulbs over 5,000 K offer stark, crisp lighting with a blue hue. Warm lighting makes spaces look more cozy and inviting, while cool lighting can appear harsh, especially at night. For this reason, warmer bulbs are generally preferred for ambient outdoor lighting.
Outdoor string lights typically come in lengths of 10, 25, 35, 50, and 100 feet. Consider the size of the outdoor space and the lighting layout when choosing the ideal wire length.
Patio string lights can outline garden borders, wrap around banisters and trees, or suspend over seating space. The best way to determine the necessary wire length is to use a piece of twine to measure where the lights will go. Make sure to include enough length to reach the outlet, if necessary.
For lining one side of a balcony or porch, a 10-foot string of outdoor patio lights may do the trick. A small 6-foot by 8-foot patio space typically requires 25 to 50 feet of string lighting. A medium 12-foot by 12-foot outdoor space may need 50 to 100 feet of string lighting, depending on the desired layout. For more spacious areas or to illuminate a large event, over 100 feet of string lighting is usually necessary.
For those who want to upgrade from basic string lights, consider a model with extra features like color-changing bulbs, dimming options, and remote control or app operation.
- Color-changing bulbs: For a fun pop of color, look for patio string lights with color-changing bulbs. These string light options can set the mood for different events, seasons, and holidays.
- Dimming options: Whether for a romantic outdoor dinner or patio drinks with friends, dimming the lights can add to a cozy ambiance. Some outdoor string lights include built-in dimmers, while others are dimmer compatible and can attach to external dimming devices.
- Remote/app controls: A remote control allows for the operation of different lighting settings within a certain vicinity of the lights. App controls add even more convenience—there is no need to store or find an easy-to-lose remote. WiFi-enabled options make it easy to switch lights on and off, even when away from home. Some lights can also integrate with smart home devices, like Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice assistants.
Our Top Picks
With the above considerations in mind, these top picks are some of the best outdoor string lights to make a backyard or a patio space more comfortable and inviting. From highly weather-resistant lights to vintage-style Edison bulbs to mystical fairy lights, this list includes a range of options to suit any space.
Create a warm and inviting ambiance in a backyard with these outdoor string lights from Brightown. The long strand suits an elegant, vintage aesthetic with rounded Edison glass bulbs and a 100-foot length. This string light strand is waterproof, energy-saving, and dimmer compatible. With 23 lumens of output and 5 watts of energy use per bulb, these lights will make even the darkest hour of the night seem lively.
They’re incredibly easy to install using either a cable tie or a suspension kit (not included). The string light includes 100 G40 incandescent bulbs and four spare bulbs in case of any accidents. With a 2,700 K warm white color, these romantic string lights will set patio and backyard areas aglow.
These waterproof, solar-powered string lights from Brightech are every bit as stylish as any plug-in—minus the increased energy bill. With 6 hours of direct sunlight to power the bulbs, these string lights will stay lit for an additional 6 hours. Indirect sunlight will also do the trick, although this may reduce lighting time.
Since these lights are solar-powered, the installation location is flexible. The solar panel can be installed just about anywhere using the included stake or clip. The lights are waterproof and have commercial-grade WeatherTite technology, meaning they can withstand rain, snow, heat, and winds up to 50 miles per hour.
The 27-foot strand features 12 shatterproof plastic LED bulbs. Each G40 bulb gives off a warm 3,000 K light and uses only 1 watt of energy for an environmentally friendly backyard glow.
Battery-powered outdoor string lights are easy to install and maintain. This two-pack of battery-powered string lights from OxyLED is a versatile option for small apartment balconies or spacious backyards. Using only six AA batteries (three per strand—not included), they provide a gentle glow for any outdoor space.
Each waterproof strand measures 49 feet in length and features 100 LED mini lights. The bulbs give off a warm white glow and are encased in a durable plastic globe. To set the ambiance, choose between eight lighting modes. Options like steady lighting, slow fade, and twinkle mode add a fun twist to these basic outdoor string lights.
A weather-resistant set of string lights is made to handle inclement weather. Lemontec’s commercial-grade outdoor string lights keep backyards and patios lit up, rain or shine. With glass Edison-style bulbs on a black rubber cable, they have a classic look suited to a range of decor styles.
These string lights feature waterproof and tear-resistant materials for all-season use. Made with insulating layers, they are safe to hang in a range of climates and temperatures. This industrial-strength strand of patio lights is 48 feet long and features fifteen 11-watt incandescent bulbs. These warm white S14 bulbs bring warmth to uncovered porches and gardens.
Enhance the mood for any season or holiday with a set of color-changing string lights. With 16 color choices that create up to 120 possible combinations, these Enbrighten string lights add a pop of color to any outdoor space.
The 48-foot weatherproof strand features 24 Edison-style bulbs. Each impact-resistant acrylic bulb uses only 1 watt of power. The included remote allows users to switch through single solid colors, two color combinations, and various preset color modes for festivities like Christmas and Saint Patrick’s Day.
When set to the white light setting, the 2,200 K warm glow sets an inviting mood. Users can also control the 2- or 4-hour timer, 10 dimmable light levels, and fade and strobe features with the handy remote.
Fairy lights bring an instant warm ambiance to a garden or patio space. This 99-foot fairy light strand from Twinkle Star is an excellent pick for decorative background lighting. The long strand includes 300 tiny LED bulbs on a copper wire. The wiring can be wrapped around trees, bushes, and columns or strung along walls and ceilings. Since these lights are battery-powered and extremely lightweight, installation options are nearly endless.
The warm white lighting gives outdoor spaces a glimmering glow. An included wireless remote control allows users to toggle through eight different lighting modes or switch on a timer option. Powered by six AA batteries (not included), these waterproof and lightweight fairy lights are simple to install.
For a classic cafe or bistro lighting look, choose a strand of globe string lights. These outdoor string lights from Brightown not only look stylish, but they are also a durable and energy-saving option. The 50-foot strand features 50 plastic, shatterproof LED bulbs. The bulbs use only 1 watt of energy each for beautiful outdoor lighting without a huge electric bill.
Each G40 bulb provides 40 lumens of light with a 2,200 K color temperature for a warm wash of light. Users can connect up to seven of these waterproof strands to create a range of pretty outdoor lighting layouts, ideal for outdoor events or entertaining at home.
Lantern string lights can add a decorative flair to an outdoor space. These decorative lighting options are well suited for those who want more than the basic string light. This 10.5-foot string light from LampLust features 10 glowy 2,700 K warm bulbs, each with a paper-style white lantern.
Each mini bulb uses 8.4 watts of power and emits a glowy 5-lumen brightness. For larger lighting layouts, connect up to 25 strands to create an attractive display of lanterns. Despite the delicate look, these pretty string lights are water-resistant. The 3-inch spherical lanterns are made from waterproof nylon, which allows for outdoor installation while still providing a dainty paper lantern look.
Measuring 102 feet in length, these dimmable string lights from Banord are well suited for spacious backyards or large events like a wedding or a big barbecue. The heavy-duty strand features 34 S14 Edison-style bulbs, providing an ambient 2,700 K warm white light.
The LED plastic bulbs are shatterproof and energy-saving. They’re also dimmable, so users can adjust the lighting level depending on the occasion. If more length is needed, users can connect up to 12 strands to create a striking lighting layout. With a waterproof and weather-resistant design, these sturdy outdoor string lights are suitable for year-round use.
Beautiful outdoor lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. With shatterproof and energy-saving LED light bulbs, this string light set from Minetom saves money in the long run. Made to last, these outdoor string lights are shatterproof and weatherproof. The plastic bulbs are durable to light up outdoor spaces in all weather types and temperatures.
Each bulb only uses 2 watts of energy but still provides a bright 140-lumen output. The 2,700 K warm white lighting is ideal for cozy spaces, and the lights are dimmer compatible for those who prefer a softer glow. The 48-foot strand features 15 Edison-style S14 bulbs. For those who need more reach, users can connect up to 31 strands. Each string includes built-in hanging loops for convenient installation.
FAQs About Your New Outdoor String Lights
String lights can instantly transform a basic yard or patio into a warm and inviting space, but choosing the right set of lights is a must for creating the desired ambiance. Still, considering the best outdoor string lights for your space? Read on for some frequently asked questions and answers about selecting and installing string lights.
Q. What color of light is best for outdoors?
White light is the most effective lighting color since it is closest to natural light. Warm white lights have a glowy yellow tinge that is cozy and inviting, making them a popular pick for outdoor lighting. Colorful bulbs are another option that users often choose for their ambiance rather than their lighting ability. These lights add a decorative flair and can be a fun addition for different seasons and holidays.
Q. What are the brightest outdoor string lights?
Minetom 48 Feet Led Outdoor String Lights offer a bright 140-lumen output and are one of the best options for those seeking a brighter set of outdoor string lights.
Q. Can string lights be left outdoors?
Yes, some weather-resistant and weatherproof string lights can be left outdoors. Be sure to check their specifications to make sure the lights can handle changing weather and temperature conditions year-round.
Q. How do you hang string lights on a patio?
The easiest option is to hang string lights from existing fixtures or wrap them around columns and railings that surround a patio. If necessary, create hanging options by using heavy-duty sticky hooks, metal hooks, or nails where needed.
String lights are a budget-friendly and attractive option for outdoor lighting. Best of all, they are easy to install and allow lots of room for creativity. Drape outdoor string lights overhead for cozy ambient lighting, wind them around trees to create a glimmering garden perimeter or combine light types and colors to set a backyard aglow. With the above considerations in mind, it’s simple to find safe, affordable, and beautiful lighting for an outdoor space.