Apr 22, 2023

9 Best Outdoor String Lights for 2023

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A fun and inexpensive way to illuminate your space.

A set of string lights can give your outdoor space a boost of ambiance—attach them to the railing of your deck or balcony, or hang them underneath your cantilever umbrella or new pergola. They’re often used for summer weddings and showers, but brightening up your backyard doesn't require a special occasion.

You can spend long relaxing evenings underneath string lights with friends and family enjoying meals or roasting marshmallows over the fire pit. Whether you’re looking for a simple, elegant set with frosted globes or vintage bulbs, or you want festive palm trees or pineapples for a party, we found options that’ll fit into any porch or patio decor.

For more great ways to brighten up your outdoor space, check out our picks for the best outdoor solar lights, solar pathway lights, and garden lights!

You’ll first want to measure the amount of space you need to cover, and then decide whether you want incandescent or LED bulbs. For more guidance, you can check out our deep dive on light bulbs and our primer on LEDs.

If there's no accessible outlet and you’d rather not deal with an extension cord, your best bet is to go with a solar- or battery-powered set. When a single set won't do the job, pick an option with end-to-end connection, and take special care to note the maximum wattage and how many sets can be strung together. You should also consider the number of lights per strand and how far apart they’re spaced, which can range from several inches to three feet or more.

Cords come in a wide variety of colors and bulbs range from vintage Edison-style ones to frosted globes to novelty bulbs, most made from glass or "shatterless" plastic. Decide what aesthetic you want and what fits best with your porch style.

Our selection includes popular outdoor string light styles backed by user reviews that support product description claims of things like easy installation and durability. As noted above, there are a slew of features to take into account, and we highlighted the most notable ones for every set. We covered options across a range of price points and variety of styles and we’re sure you’ll find the right one to illuminate your next backyard barbecue or patio hangout.

This set of stylish Edison-style bulbs is an excellent deal with 50 bulbs spanning 50 feet for less than $40. The incandescent G40 glass globes are roughly 1.5 inches each and cast soft white light over your dining table or large patio.

These bulbs have an E12 base—the same base you might see in your chandelier lightbulbs—and an estimated 1,000-hour lifespan. They’re spaced 12 inches apart on the wire and have a six-inch lead so you can take advantage of all the lights, with clips on each light for stringing these along a wire or tent.

You can buy this model in lengths up to 100 feet, and the set is both waterproof and dimmable. The two spare replacement bulbs included with the string lights are a nice bonus.

The main advantages of using LED outdoor lights is that they’re energy-efficient and don't need to be replaced as often.

This set comes from LA-based Brightech, known for its high-quality, affordable, designer-style lighting. These lights have a 48-foot-long cord with 15 Edison glass bulbs strung three feet apart, and they can be connected to up to seven additional strands.

The set is waterproof and dimmable, making it a great pick for your outdoor eating area, and the eyelets overtop each bulb make it easy to string these up.

This set has a weather-resistant wire that's 24 feet long, with 25 incandescent glass Edison bulbs spaced one foot apart, making it an excellent value at under $20.

The strand is dimmable, and you can connect up to three sets end to end for a maximum of 432 watts. The G40 bulbs are five watts each and have an E12 base, but there aren't any replacement bulbs included.

White wire string lights always look elegant outdoors and are often used for summer weddings and showers. Several additional wire colors and lengths are available to match your party vibe.

These trendy frosted globes bring an upscale vibe and a warm glow to any space. There are 50 incandescent G50 bulbs spaced one foot apart on the 50-foot, heavy-gauge wire which can be connected end-to-end with other sets for a 959-watt maximum.

The bulbs are said to have a 3,000-hour lifespan and the set is available with a green or white wire in addition to the black that's shown. The green wire option is perfect for stringing these through a tree for year-round twinkling lights.

No need to worry about finding an outlet for your outdoor string lights with this solar-powered set. The 27-foot wire has 12 plastic LED bulbs strung 20 inches apart. You can easily hang them underneath a patio umbrella thanks to the six-inch lead from the first light to the solar panel.

Expect five to six hours of light if the panel is charged for six hours in direct sunlight, and less in indirect light. The S14 LED bulbs are replaceable and said to have a 20,000-hour lifespan. Although there aren't any extras included, the set does comes with a clip and stake to attach to the solar panel.

Romantic fairy lights work best when clustered or wrapped around landmarks like tree branches and poles. This set has 100 bright LED bulbs on a 33-foot-long bendable copper wire.

There are eight options for illumination, from twinkling to waves to flashing, plus they’re solar-powered and have a built-in rechargeable battery. This comes with two sets, which makes it a great value for the price, but they may not last as long as the bulb lights we recommend.

These industrial-style outdoor lights look sleek and their metal cages help protect the bulbs if you accidentally drop the wire. The 20-foot waterproof wire is strung with 12 clear incandescent glass bulbs that give off a warm, soft glow.

They’re spaced 20 inches apart, with a 10-inch lead on both ends. The set is dimmable and waterproof, with G40 bulbs that have an E12 base. No extra bulbs are included, but it does come with 10 metal hooks and four plastic clips.

This classic outdoor string light set features 10 mini white lanterns strung on a 9.8-foot-long wire. They’re illuminated with warm white 0.6-watt LED bulbs, which look great in any outdoor setting (but don't provide a ton of light, so grab some tabletop lanterns for extra visibility).

The globes are roughly three inches in diameter and made from nylon to hold up in the rain. They’re strung 5.5 inches apart on the water-resistant wire, which can be connected with additional sets end-to-end with a 216-watt max.

These irresistible, oh-so-summery novelty outdoor string lights are as festive as they come. You can never go wrong with pineapples, but the pink flamingos are equally appealing.

There are 10 incandescent light fixtures placed nine inches apart on a nine-foot-long white wire and an 18-inch lead before the first bulb. They’re sold in single strands, but you can connect them end-to-end, so your best bet for value is to buy the two-pack linked here.

Kylee McGuigan is an associate commerce editor for Hearst Magazines's Enthusiast Group. She works with content for brands such as Popular Mechanics, Best Products, Bicycling, and Runner's World. Kylee graduated from Penn State in May 2020 with a degree in journalism and a minor in French. During her undergraduate career, she spent a majority of her time writing for, and eventually editing, VALLEY Magazine: Penn State's only student-run fashion and lifestyle magazine. She has produced content ranging from beauty and health, to lifestyle and self-improvement. After spending four years in the happiest of valleys (State College, PA), she moved back home to South Jersey—otherwise known as the famous "outside of Philly" area. Kylee can be found working out of her local Starbucks with her best friend, an iced chai in hand, and endless hours of music playlists to get her through the day. When she's not working, she is more than likely on her daily walk in her neighborhood, at Orangetheory, binging Sex and the City or Gossip Girl, checking out local coffee shops, or trying new bars and restaurants in the city with friends and family.

Rachel Klein is a Senior Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics, where she writes about everything from garden hose reels and patio furniture to mesh wifi systems and robot vacuums. She started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and was a travel editor for more than a decade before she started testing and reviewing luggage, noise-cancelling headphones, and other travel-related products. Fast-forward another five years and her area of expertise includes home decor, appliances, tech, and outdoor adventure gear. In her spare time, you'll find her planning her next trip, reading historical fiction, and seeing as much art as she can squeeze into a weekend.

Danny Perez is a Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics with a focus on men's style, gear, and home goods. Recently, he was coordinator of partnership content at another product journalism outlet. Prior to that, he was a buyer for an independent men's shop in Houston, Texas, where he learned all about what makes great products great. He enjoys thrifting for 90s Broadway tees and vintage pajama sets. His spare time is occupied by watching movies and running to impress strangers on Strava.

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For more great ways to brighten up your outdoor space, check out our picks for the best outdoor solar lights, solar pathway lights, and garden lights!