A simple yet elegant lighting system used for when camping and you are short on propane lanterns. I also have an inverter and a speaker system hooked up, for camping "necessities".
All is powered off a deep cycle 12 volt battery I got cheap at Costco.
The battery lasted almost the entire 3 night camping trip, pretty impressive considering we ran the speaker all day long, and the lights burned into the wee hours.
Step 1: Run Taught Support Wire Between Trees
I happened to have a decent sized spool of steel wire laying around, so I cut it in half, then tied 2 ends to a length of twine and wrapped it around one tree. I then took the remaining 2 ends of the wire and wrapped them around some nails I had implanted into a tree on the other side of the campsite. I tied them around a couple pieces of firewood to provide tension on the lines. I wrapped one of the nails in a couple layers of electrical tape to prevent voltage leaking into the tree.
Step 2: Wire It Up
I initially hooked up the jumper cables directly to the steel wire, but I found out it offered WAY too much resistance to run anything past a couple of feet. I needed some copper to run along the steel support wire to provide a better path. I had a spool of wire on me that happened to reach most of the way, so I sliced it in half, and peeled back the insulation in about 10 spots per run to attach to the steel. For the remaining length, I had a piece of lumex about 7 feet long to make the remainder.
So the run was battery>Jumper cables>Lumex>copper wire & steel support
I also wrapped one of the jumper cable ends in electrical tape to prevent shorting (I have yet to install all this into a box with a fused distribution block)
Step 3: Attach Lights
I used MR16 bulbs for this project because
A) they are 12 volt, so no need to run this through an inefficient inverter
B) they are sealed bulbs and will cool fine in the open air.
C) they are cheap and I had a bunch on hand
I had a variety of bulb strengths in the chain, but I didn't pay it much attention. Everything was wired in parallel, all running off the 2 wires strung out between the trees.
To attach the lights, I first soldered a small bump of solder onto the ends of the electrodes, so the copper wire would have something to hang onto.
I had about 5 feet of copper cable left, so I cut little bits of it and twisted them tight so I could use them to tie the lights on. The pictures explain best I think. I checked the whole system for shorts carefully, as if there was one, I'd have a giant resistance heater... and that would probably cause some sort of meltdown.
Step 4: Sound/Utility Power
With the lighting system done, I knew I needed some music to set the mood, so I removed the amp from the truck and hooked a switch onto it and a length of lumex cable. This had its own fuses so I didn't worry about it much. The battery I bought had 2 screw terminals that I used to wire it up. We hooked an IPod into the RCA inputs, and I already had a 1/4" cable hooked up to the bridged output of the amp. I won't go much into the design of the speaker I used, but it served the purpose well. It has 4 small (2"-3") drivers on the front, and 3 tweeters. The large circle you can see on the back has no active components, but is a passive radiator that is driven by the movement of the 4 in the front, so long as the speaker is well sealed (hence the piece of wood on top with silicone around it).
I also have a 400 watt inverter hooked up, to power a blender and several battery chargers (IPod and camera) It also has a voltage display, so this provided a "level" of the battery for the weekend.
I had anticipated a few problems, so I had brought a box full of tools to work with. With enough preparation at home, you could skip the extensive toolkit, but always plan for the unexpected.
I will someday build all this into a single box with battery selector and external jacks for power/audio in/out, but for now, this mess of wires makes camping a little brighter.