I love ingenuity – how cool is this improvised tent lamp? Really cool, right? It reminded me of this video, Plastic Bottles Light Up Homes in Manilla Slums, which really moved me. I love invention. It’s so great when someone comes up with a money and resource-saving device. I tried it myself, with variations:
  • 16 oz plastic water bottle. I took the label off. It’s pretty directional and not much better than the headlamp on its own. Apart from the pretty effect of dappled light on the wall.
  • 12 oz glass water bottle. Even more directional than the 16 oz plastic bottle.
  • 2 liter plastic soda bottle (label off). Better than the 16 oz, but the spread of light was not as amazing as expected.


  • Emergency Essentials Mixer Pitcher. (See picture below.) I think this was my fave. The opaque container diffuses the light nicely and leaves enough light for a decent reach.

If you don’t want to DIY, check out our emergency lighting options. (Our 100 Hour Candles are especially awesome.) But if you do want to build one on your own, all you need is a headlamp (or other light like a flashlight or glowstick) and a plastic water bottle or jug.

Step One: Fill a plastic bottle or jug with water.

Step Two: Pour in bleach (optional).

Step Three: Adjust headlamp to fit securely around container. Or if you’re using a flashlight, place it on the ground next to the container. I aimed the headlamp up, rather than down, because I figured I didn’t need light on the ground.

Step Four: Bring people over to admire your creation!


From what I can figure out, the water diffracts and diffuses the light (or spreads out the beam). These guys agree with me. I read that it works better if you add bleach (but I also read that the bleach is just there to kill bacteria).

My conclusion is, the more you can diffuse the light, the more of a “lamp” effect you get. A plastic milk jug works really well because it’s large, stable, and portable. Think of all the possible variations…

Ooh! A five-gallon water storage jug would be awesome!!! You could put one of these big flashlights next to it.

Quick, somebody try putting a flashlight in a SuperPail (without water) and see if that works. Is it too opaque?

Here’s to unique, innovative lighting solutions! You never know what you’ll be able to invent in a pinch. Go preppers!

DiyEssential gearHeadlampsLighting


Alice Tyler

Alice Tyler

If you place a small mirror behind the lamp it may help to direct the light.



WARose has it right. The kids love that sort of thing. We found a 2’ light saber to be a big hit and makes for an emergency wand to boot. Using thin wall 3/4" PVC with an end cap for one end and our LED Mag-Lite (XL200) inserted in the other end. Kids go crazy.



FWIW, we’ve done a variation of this for our younger Nieces and Nephews when they visit our cabin. We used to take a regular "Party Size" GlowStick (~3") and use it as a night light. This tends to create a point light source. Now we take a 2-Liter bottle, partially filled with water, and drop the GlowStick in it. The little GlowSticks we buy at our local Dollar Type store float (2 each 2 pks/$) and last about 8-10 hours.

We’ve found that if we peel the bottom 2/3 of the label off the bottle and fill it with water to the top of the label, the GlowSticks float at a level inside the remaining label ‘ring’ and provide a very nicely defused light acting as a great night light for the kids.

I imagine a full sized GlowStick would provide decent light in an emergency, etc.


Linda May

Linda May

I have done this for years and I call it a "flash lamp". ANY SIZE opaque container/jug works best. Although, I have not tried it with liquids inside. If you do not have a head lamp, a regular flash light can be used as well. My favorite container to use (while back packing) is the small opaque (somewhat see thru) container that the individualized Crystal Light packages come in. I just stand the container up on its end and set my flaslight on top facing downward. Works great and takes up very little room in tbe pack too!




That is pretty cool! Thanks forsharing.



If you look at Old Picture of Pharmacies and other such business you will be a Hugh glass container filled with a liquid sitting next to their desk with a lamp behind it, That too was the magnify the light so they could read the prescriptions and Medicines in the time before Electric Lights.

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