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Outdoor string lights provide some of the best return on investment when it comes to improving the overall look and feel of your yard. They’re surprisingly cheap and typically straightforward to install. But they can change the entire complexion of your outdoor environment. I say this as a person who was very skeptical about them. After an hour of installation and less than $100 worth of purchases, the vibes on my patio are immaculate. Here are our picks for the best outdoor string lights to give your yard the pleasant feel of an expensive downtown bar where the beers have clever names and cost $11. 

How we chose the best outdoor string lights

It’s hard work to sit outside under pleasant lights, but we’re always willing to do it here at PopSci HQ. For these selections, we emphasized reliable brands that offer products that will last. String lights like this can be very disposable, and that’s bad for both your wallet and the environment. Even the cheaper options on this list will likely last you longer than buying a random option from Amazon. Our picks result from hands-on testing, spec comparisons, editorial reviews, and user feedback. We’re always updating our stories as we test new products, so you may see different picks today than you saw in this article before. 

The best outdoor string lights: Reviews & Recommendations

While we offer specific picks for various uses, we recommend checking out all of our suggestions before making a purchase. You’ll often find overlap between picks, especially when you have a category as broad as outdoor string lights. There are a ton of options out there, and it’s good to know what your options are so you can pick something that complements your solar deck lights, LED landscape lights, etc.

Best overall: Govee Outdoor String Lights




  • Price per foot: $0.77 
  • Power source: Plug-in electric
  • Light color: 2700K (warm white)


  • Pleasant glow and color
  • Daisy chain sets together to cover any amount of yard
  • 20,000-hour lifespan
  • IP65 weatherproof rating
  • Smartphone app provides remote control


  • Requires an outlet instead of a battery or solar, so keep that in mind when installing

Govee makes excellent LED lights for a variety of purposes, and its outdoor offerings are unsurprisingly excellent as well. These warm white lights offer an IP65 weatherproof rating, which means they can endure full exposure to the elements, even if the climate gets harsh. 

You can buy 24-foot, 48-foot, and 96-foot packages, but you can also string them together to make longer segments and cover more area. They plug directly into an outlet, so you don’t have to worry about solar chargers getting enough exposure or batteries dying while trying to enjoy your time outdoors. 

Govee offers a slick and intuitive app for controlling the lights. The bulbs are dimmable and offer six different scene modes, all of which you can control from up to 230 feet away. They aren’t the cheapest option around, and they don’t have the trendy Edison bulb look that some people crave, but they provide a very pleasant, consistent, and flattering warm white light that suits just about any space. These look mature and sophisticated without feeling stodgy. Plus, the bulbs promise a 20,000-lifespan so they should last several seasons depending on your usage. 

Best budget: Addlon 50FT LED Outdoor String Lights with Edison Shatterproof Bulbs




  • Price per foot: $0.54 per foot
  • Power source: Plug-in electric
  • Light color: Warm white/yellow


  • Attractive Edison bulb design
  • IP65 weatherproofing
  • Affordable per foot and even cheaper if you buy longer lengths
  • Shatterproof


  • Longer lengths don’t necessarily reduce cost per foot
  • Compatible with dimmer switches, but it’s not included

With clear domes and visible filaments (well, LEDs designed to look like old-school filaments, at least), this is the most affordable way to pull it off. These Edison-style bulbs check in at roughly $0.50 per foot since they’re typically on sale. Despite their affordable price, they still offer some higher-end features. The bulbs have an IP65 rating to stand up to full-on exposure to the elements. They’re also dimmable, but there’s no app or built-in knob to control the output. You’ll have to run them to a dimmer switch to control the intensity. 

These affordable lights come in packages between 25 and 200 feet. The wires are made of copper, not copper-clad aluminum, which makes them more durable. The PVC coating contributes to that toughness as well. These require an outlet to draw power, so make sure you have one near your outdoor area or get an extension cord to cover the difference. 

Best multi-color: Govee Multi-Color Outdoor String Lights


  • Price per foot: $1.04
  • Power source: Plug-in electric
  • Light color: Multi


  • Lots of colors to choose from
  • App control
  • Many display modes
  • IP65 weatherproof
  • Control each bulb color individually


  • Expensive

We’re big fans of Govee’s traditional warm white outdoor lights, so it only makes sense that its colored lights would shine bright (metaphorically speaking) as well. These are very similar in form and function to our best overall pick. But, the bulbs on these strands can reproduce roughly 16 million different colors. They can also implement up to 47 different lighting modes, which means you have basically infinite options when it comes to your outdoor lighting. 

These are some of the most expensive lights on this list but also the most versatile. They take commands from Govee’s dedicated mobile app. Bluetooth lets you issue lighting commands from as far as 230 feet away. These lights draw power from an outlet, so it’s easy to string them together by simply plugging them into each other. The bulbs come with an IP65 rating so they’re not afraid to live out in the elements. 

While basic lighting is fun, these have a music sync mode that allows them to change color, flashing pattern, and brightness depending on what you’re listening to. “Hotel California” demands decidedly different lighting vibes than Wu-Tang, and these string lights can handle that switch on the fly.  

Best solar: Westinghouse 48-ft Solar Black Outdoor String Light with 24 White-Light LED Edison Bulbs




  • Price per foot: $1.02
  • Power source: Solar
  • Light color: Warm white


  • Glass bulbs
  • Attractive Edison bulb design
  • Solar power doesn’t require plugs or batteries
  • Bright for solar lights


  • No battery or plug option to keep lights on when solar runs out
  • Not linkable, so you’ll need to install individual strands if you want more than one

Some outdoor areas just don’t have access to an outlet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a little mood lighting. These Westinghouse outdoor string lights come with a small solar panel that spikes into the ground near where your lights start. The energy-efficient LEDs don’t require much juice, so a day exposed to regular sunlight can provide ample illumination for a party that goes well into the night. 

This kit includes 24 bulbs stretched over a span of 48 feet. The clear glass bulbs provide a very classy look, and they’re relatively easy to replace since they’re a standard size. Mounting loops above each bulb makes it easy to hang these lights on hooks or nails. Plus, these lights put out a pleasant 2700K warm white light that’s pleasing in just about any setting. You don’t get fancy app controls or color changing, but that would drain your solar power so fast that it wouldn’t be worth the extra effort and cost. You can simply install these solar lights and then let them do their thing. It’s a very hands-off experience.

Things to consider when shopping for the best outdoor string lights

Before buying the most popular thing on Amazon, take a few minutes to learn the basic terms and tech behind outdoor string lights. It’ll help ensure you get the right setup for your space. That romantic patio just won’t feel right with flashing carnival lights. 

Power source

The most common power source for outdoor string lights is just plug-in electric. It’s not always the easiest to work around because you’ll need access to an outdoor outlet every time you want to light up. But, it has some advantages over the alternatives. Solar is a nice option because you can put the lights wherever the sun regularly shines without having to be tethered to the mains. If you don’t get enough sun, however, you only get a limited amount of light before the built-in battery does. Solar lights also tend to break down faster than their hardwired counterparts. Battery-powered models are also an option, but batteries don’t love to live outside because they’re very vulnerable to temperature changes and moisture.

Price per foot

If you’re covering a large area, these prices can add up fast. $1 per foot doesn’t sound that pricy until you consider how far you have to string lights and how many times you want to crisscross your yard. Buying longer lengths will typically slightly reduce the cost per foot, but the savings may not be as deep as you’re expecting for buying in bulk. 

Light color

Many manufacturers express light color in Kelvin. You’ll find a few on this list that check in at 2700 Kelvin, a very warm white. Daylight typically falls between 5,600 and 6,500 Kelvin; the lower that number goes, the more orange it will look. 2,700K will emulate old incandescent bulbs, for instance. 

Some bulbs will do a ton of colors. Our pick for best multicolored, for instance, can replicate roughly 16 million colors. That can be fun, but it also doesn’t match everyone’s style. If you’re looking for something sophisticated and basic, just plain, warm white is our recommendation. 

Bulb design

You’ll want to be able to replace the bulbs if one goes out, so check the bulb size before making a purchase. You’ll be sad if you can’t easily get a replacement. Some bulbs offer more opaque coverings for a softer glow, while others offer clear domes so you can see the (fake LED) filament inside. Find a shape and style that you like and commit to it. You want a consistent look across your entire space most of the time. 

App control

Some lights go beyond a simple on/off switch to enable different brightnesses, colors, and illumination modes. The truly advanced models, however, offer control from afar via a dedicated mobile app. That’s a big part of what we like about Govee’s offerings. Its app is intuitive and effective for what it is.


Q: Where should I hang outdoor string lights?

This is really a matter of personal taste as long as you take a few small technical considerations into account. If you’re using plug-in lights, you’ll need to ensure they reach an outlet, limiting your placement a bit. You can use an outdoor extension cord to expand the reach. 

Some people choose to crisscross the lights over the outdoor space to provide more even light. Some prefer to hang them just around the perimeter. You could also hang them in a specific area where you’re trying to curate a vibe. Just ensure that your lights are fully weatherproof if you’re hanging them in an area fully exposed to the elements. 

Q: How often do bulbs need replacing?

This really depends on a lot of variables. Many lights will tell you how long the bulbs are rated for. So, some will say something like, “rated for 20,000 hours.” But that number varies wildly in the real world. If you hang your lights uncovered in the elements, they may deteriorate faster than if they’re hung under a pergola or a gazebo. 

Q: What’s a good way to hang and secure outdoor string lights?

Hooks provide the best method for hanging outdoor string lights because they’re simple to install (most of the time) and they don’t stress or compromise the wire itself like stables can. That’s especially true if the lights spend all of their time exposed to the elements. Metal hooks with clasps work best in an outdoor setting, assuming you can drill holes into whatever you’re mounting them to. Drill a pilot hole, then screw in the hook and string the lights along with hooks to support them at regular intervals. If hooks aren’t an option, you can use staples to keep the strings in place. Just be sure your staple gun isn’t damaging the wire as you apply the fasteners. 

Final thoughts regarding the best outdoor string lights

Sitting outside with some friends (or just with your Nintendo Switch as you play the latest Zelda game) really gets an upgrade with outdoor string lights. You don’t have to spend much money or undertake a major electrical project to do it, either. The options on this list are reliable, appealing, and easy to install. In fact, the best outdoor string lights might provide the biggest bang for your buck of any outdoor upgrade. It’s right up there with mosquito-repellent devices that really work. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.