Sunday, October 11, 2015

Seeing in the dark

Unless we're cats or bats or other nocturnal creatures, we need some light at night. I have a couple of options in the Rolling Steel Tent.

The aluminum insulation tape and white ceiling help reflect light

When I built out the van, I installed LED strip lights. There are different types out there, but I used some flexible, self-adhesive ones that are marketed to people who want to jazz up their cars. I got them at Walmart and they're wired into my house battery system.

The tricky part was the wiring connections. The wires are so thin and my fingers are so thick. All I could do was twist the wires together and cover them with tape. I suppose some people would solder the connections, but my kludgy technique has worked fine. Also, LEDs are finicky about polarity. Positive to positive, ground to ground, or they don't work. I had the wire from the battery already connected so I could see the LEDs come on before I twisted the connections together.

Because of their placement along the wall-roof joint on one side, and behind the mail boxes I use for storage on the other side, the LEDs give a nice soft, indirect light. It's not enough to read by, but I can certainly see my way around the van at night.

Sometimes I don't want to light up the whole van or get up to reach the switch for the LEDs. And even though LEDs use very little power, sometimes I want to conserve my house batteries. So I got some touch lights powered by their own rechargeable AA batteries.

Since there's a lot of exposed steel in the Rolling Steel Tent, I got lights that stick with magnets. That makes it easy to move them where I need them. (And when I put two side-by-side, they look like boobs. Nyuk-nyuk.) The way I use them (a few minutes here, a few seconds there), the batteries can go two or three months before needing to be recharged.

Here's a shot with all six touch lights turned on. To get a comparison of light output, the photo was done with the same manual exposure settings as the one of the LEDs.

And, because someone will want to know, here are all my lights turned on at once.


  1. W O W, your home looks really nice, I wouldn't mind to have one just like yours at all !!

  2. There are so many things out there now that make this life style somewhat easier...and your van does look nice!

  3. As a former transit van, my home came with lights along the walls. But somewhere along the line, so much wiring got screwed up that weird things would drain my batter (have a new one now) repeatedly. So I had all disconnected. Your place looks great. I can see I am going to have to park way, way away from everyone at RTR. LOL

    My inside lights now are the solar tops of solar walk way lights with little exposed LEDS. I carry one or two where I want light. I also have a couple of flashlights including one that is a hand-crank.I mainly read on my old iPad so no worries on reading lights. But don't pity me... I love being in my primitive van. LOL