The Best String Lights for Your Outdoor Space
The right lighting sets the mood for outdoor entertaining and events. Ahead, read our top tips and recommendations for choosing string lights—and don't miss our top picks!
String lights can make nights spent outdoors that much more relaxing and festive. Even one simple strand can transform a backyard—or a patio or porch—into something more like an outdoor living room, with their twinkling adding ambience and allure. But not just any string lights can stand up to the rigors of outdoor use. Ahead, review our top tips and recommendations on choosing outdoor string lights, along with the details of our top-favorite picks!
- TOP PICK: Brightown 100-Foot Outdoor String Lights
- UPGRADE PICK: Banord 102-Foot Vintage LED Filament Outdoor String Lights
- ECO PICK: Brightech 27-Foot Ambience Pro LED Solar String Lights
Water Resistant and Wet Rated
Because your outdoor string lights will be exposed to the elements, it’s important to shop for a product that is hardy and tested in conditions like rain and heavy wind. The last thing you want is to have to take your string lights down every time your area faces inclement weather.
When choosing a string light for your backyard, ensure that first of all, the manufacturer or seller lists the product as suitable for outdoor use. Using an indoor light outdoors creates a potential fire hazard. Second, check that the product is both water-resistant (or waterproof) and wet rated. Wet-rated lights are designed for direct exposure to water and have waterproof seals to protect their inner parts from getting wet and compromising safety.
Bulb Size and Style
When it comes to string light styles, classic glass globe lights are the most popular. The simple round lights generally come in three sizes:
- G30: The smallest of the bulb sizes at 30mm (1.25 inches) in diameter
- G40: Medium, measuring 40mm (1.5 inches) in diameter
- G50: The largest of the bulb sizes, coming in at 50mm (2 inches) in diameter
Besides globe string lights, you also can find the following styles:
- Edison: The “Edison” bulb—light bulbs designed to look like Thomas Edison’s original invention—has a warm, glowing appearance thanks to their internal filaments. These bulbs give your outdoor space a vintage look.
- Lantern: Typically a regular globe outdoor string light that you can cover with a paper lantern (or often, tarpaulin, which is a durable, waterproof canvas-like material) for a soft and festive look.
- Fairy: Want to make your backyard look like a magical kingdom in the evenings? Fairy lights give the appearance of thousands of fireflies gathering together. You can create the effect by draping strands of lights over tree branches, in bushes, or on a fence.
- Rope: Rope lights are essentially mini lights covered in a plastic jacket to protect them from the elements. You can hang rope lights from the fence or illuminate a garden space.
For a small patio, there’s no need for a 100-foot strand of lights, and you might come up short when you’re trying to string a 10-foot strand between trees. Though it depends on the manufacturer, outdoor string lights typically come in wire lengths of 10, 25, 35, 50, and 100 feet.
A small space typically needs no more than 50 feet of wire, and a backyard patio or deck calls for a strand between 50 and 100 feet. For really large areas or to illuminate a large event, you’ll need at least 100 feet.
Of course, adding an extra light source ultimately increases your electricity bill. Luckily, plenty of products out there boast energy-saving measures to minimize the impact on your energy bill and the environment. When shopping for outdoor string lights, consider one of the following options:
- LED bulbs use much less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs and don’t get as hot when they burn. Because they are cooler to the touch when in use, you can often find LED bulbs made of plastic—meaning they won’t shatter if dropped.
- Solar-powered lights don’t add to your energy bill and—bonus—they don’t require an outlet to work, making them perfect 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 gets a lot of sunlight and the bulbs will light up at night
When looking for string lights, you should also consider what color lights you want. There’s always the classic white or yellow glow, but if you’re looking for something a little more fun, some string lights come in all colors of the rainbow. Some even have customizable light shows you can control via an app.
Our Top Picks
TOP PICK: Brightown 100-Foot Outdoor String Lights
These ambient string lights from Brightown have a lot to offer: generous length (100 feet), waterproof protection, money-saving efficiency, and enticing vintage style, thanks to their Edison glass bulbs. Not only are these bulbs dimmable, but at 5W per bulb, they are also satisfyingly bright, with soft, warm illumination able to make nighttime hours feel welcoming and lively. Installation is easy; use either a cable tie or a suspension kit.
With 34 hanging sockets and 102 feet of thick, durable electric wire, these dimmable LED string lights are great for a large backyard barbecue, wedding, or graduation party. On the one hand, the plastic bulbs are shatterproof. On the other, the LED bulbs—which consume less energy than incandescents—can be dimmed. Meaning, you can customize the level of lighting for your evening event.
If you think solar-powered lights can’t be attractive, think again. These waterproof, solar-powered, Edison-style string lights are every bit as stylish as any plug-ins. Even better, their use doesn’t add to the utility bill. With six hours of direct sunlight, Brightech lights can stay lit for up to six hours. Additionally, Brightech lights boast commercial-grade WeatherTite technology, helping them to withstand rain, snow, high heat, and strong winds.