Best Rope Lights of 2021
While the GuoTonG 50ft Plug-in LED Rope Light isn't as flash or feature-laden as some of the other models we tested, we still found it to be a great choice that offers reliable performance we can depend on. In fact, when adjusted for length, it is the brightest of all of the lights. Being able to cut and reseal the end is a great feature, and it also has a built-in fuse to avoid any potential electrical hazards. At 50 feet long, the placement options are abundant. Its waterproofness is reliable; it survived our sprinkler and rain tests without any signs of water damage or shorting out. This model includes mounting brackets with screws and zip ties to two separate cords that allow you to have two independent light strands if you cut the original.
Unlike some of the other models, the GuoTonG lacks a dimming feature. While it's a nice way to light and spruce up an area, this would have been helpful given that some might feel the light it emits is too bright. It's also a cooler temperature of light, which works better in interior spaces that are similarly toned, rather than paired with warm colors. Whether used for indoor or outdoor settings, we think the GuoTonG is a great choice.
Another bright, straightforward light is the Amazon Basics 210 LED. At 20 feet long, it's shorter than some other contenders, but depending on your scenario, this may actually be desirable. The thick, tubular design is pretty durable and shines bright white light all around it. The tubing does a great job at protecting the light, and this model resisted kinks better than most during our testing period.
For the most part, this design is quite basic, and it would have been nice if there was a little more to it. It lacks its own power switch, although that can be remedied by pairing it with a smart plug or extension cord with switches. Otherwise, to turn it off, it must be unplugged. You also don't have the option to cut it to the desired length, unlike some other products in this review. Still, for value, it's less expensive than the other similar options and casts a ton of light.
The Areful LED 16.4 arguably has the most features out of any of the lights we tested. The remote control gives you the option to change any of its eight offered colors from flashing to a constant shine. We also loved that it's dimmable if the situation calls for it.
While we loved the ability to dim these lights, we still wished that their max output was a bit brighter. We also felt the presets on the remote aren't super intuitive. It's also one of the shorter rope lights we tested. But if you're only looking to add a little oomph with color and flashing lights to a small area, we think it would be a good pick.
The Power Practical Luminoodle XL Plus is the best battery-powered light we tested. It comes with its own 4400mAh Li-ion battery, but can be powered by any other USB battery as well. The battery pack itself also functions as a small flashlight, can charge your phone or other electronics, and can show how much power is left. It also packs up in its own included bag, and the bag shines enough light through it to work as a small lantern. All this makes it great for traveling or camping, or even an evening gathering away from power outlets.
We do think a couple of things could be improved upon, however. The Luminoodle comes with three magnet sliders that can hold the lights to a car, for example, but the magnets aren't particularly strong, and if anything lightly catches on the rope it will pull the whole thing off. It also includes reusable zip ties, but we didn't find them super useful. All in all, though, we loved the included battery, and it was nice lighting for camping and travel.
The TaoTronics TT-SL036 is a quaint little copper string with lights approximately every four inches. These feel more like "fairy lights" than any of the other products, and we love them in a bedroom as an alternative to a lamp — they're bright enough to read by, but much less intense than overhead lights. We also favored the warm temperature of the light and the copper wire, which provided a nice soothing light for a calm space. With the remote, we can also turn it off or dim the lights without getting up.
Although the style is charming, the TaoTronics lights are a little more delicate than the other products we tested. The lights are held together just by copper wires that easily get tangled and kinked, which makes them a pain to unwind if you didn't store them carefully. They are also not super bright, being better for ambiance rather than outdoor illumination. We'd recommend these for smaller indoor spaces, like a bedroom or a loft, where the lights will be hung up semi-permanently.
The Surnie LED is a bright, quality rope light for lighting up an interior or exterior space. It's waterproof, cuttable, and mountable with included hardware, which makes it a versatile product. The square shape holds a spiral quite evenly and nicely, making it less twisty and lumpy than some of the tubular options.
The square makes it harder for the Surnie to lay flat without mounting it, however. We also wish that it had a dedicated on/off switch. One downside to the square shape is that lights are really only on one side of it, which means that you have to pay more attention to how you're laying it out or mounting it to get the correct lighting. We do think this is a quality, modern-looking product for a variety of situations if you are willing to mount it semi-permanently.
The Torchstar Neon LED 120V is in some way the most unique looking light in our review. Instead of individual points of light, the Torchstar's diffuser housing makes the light appear as one long, even strip of illumination, which looks great in the right context. It also mounts very well and comes with excellent mounting hardware.
Although the single, one-sided light looks cool and modern, it is a pain to line up when wrapping it around something. The Torchstar is instead a better option for mounting on a wall or as a border on the ground, as it mostly projects light on one side. Still, for a stylish, modern light with a clean look, the Torchstar is your best bet.
The Govee 33ft LED is one of the smallest and most compact products in this review. The attached battery pack holds three AA batteries, so it's quite small, and the actual rope is close to an eighth of an inch thick, so it's quite skinny. It also comes with a remote control with multiple settings and dimming controls, and you can cycle through the settings via a button on the batteries. For how small and light it is, it's a versatile product.
On the downside, it is not very bright at all. In fact, it didn't even register on our light meter app while doing our brightness test at a distance of two feet away. It casts enough light for smaller spaces or to add ambiance, but don't expect it to light up much. We also found the smaller gauge tubing to tangle more easily than something thicker and stiffer. Still, this is a great budget option for a portable light with nifty features.
The LE 33ft LED is a simple, straightforward light that can handle outdoor or indoor use. It is available in both warm and cool whites, allowing you to control the mood you're trying to set in your space. We tested the warm yellow light, and it created a nice ambiance. The tubing is extra stiff, helping to resist kinks or damage. We also liked that if we bought more of these, we could connect up to three lights together, allowing us to extend the illumination to almost 100 feet.
We found the durability lacking due to the thin wire between the lights and the adapter plug, which easily stretches and kinks. After a few days of use and repeated plugging and unplugging, it sometimes flickered when moved. We also wish it had more features, as it didn't even come with mounting hardware or a switch. Additionally, it wasn't as bright as similar products we tested, so it's better for ambiance rather than illumination. It's an option for connectable lights, but we think there are better products in this review.
Bigger is sometimes better, and the HuiZhen 100ft 720 LED light is certainly the longest of the products we tested. For how long it is, it has a pretty low energy usage at 36W, lower than most incandescent bulbs. It also comes on a spool, which is pretty handy to use to roll up; just stick a broom handle through the spool and spin it as you reel it in. It's also more affordable to just buy one big light than a bunch of connectable lights if you need to cover a lot of area.
That being said, it didn't cast a ton of light for how long it is, as each light isn't very powerful. It's nice that it's not overpowering, but for a big area it only adds ambiance, and it's way too much for smaller spaces. We also weren't impressed with the tiny, easily kinked, and stretched wire from the light to the plug. We'd recommend this for ambiance lighting for a long railing or something similar, but if you're trying to light up an outdoor dance floor, something brighter might work better.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead review editor, Ethan Newman, heads up the testing process for our hands-on review of rope lights. With over a decade of home improvement and backyard projects, Ethan is well-versed in creating a nice space, in which lighting plays an important part. We turn to him for home goods reviews because not only is he a homeowner, but he also manages three vacation rental units with patios and different outdoor and indoor lighting needs. Rentals can see more use and abuse than a typical home, so Ethan is always on the lookout for something that can both stand up to heavy use and is easy to use.
We independently purchased the products tested here after extensive research. We created a rubric to test them for what we thought were the most important performance areas and used measurable tests to evaluate them. We comparatively tested them for brightness, waterproofness, kinking, mounting, and ease of use. To measure brightness, we used a light meter app and measured both the cumulative brightness of the entire light as well as comparative brightness by measuring just 24 inches of each light. For durability, we left them in the sun in triple-digit (Fahrenheit) heatwaves, as well as soaking them for half an hour under a sprinkler to test waterproof claims. For ease of use and features, we field-tested them both outside and around our house in different situations where rope lights might be appropriate.
Analysis and Test Results
During testing, we took careful notes and scored each product across the areas of performance you care about most. Our tests, daily use, and data gathered culminated in a full assessment of each product. Below, we dissect the test results and highlight the most important lights in each critical area.
Although rope lights are rarely the only light used to illuminate a space, we did expect them to add a decent amount of illumination. However, if you are looking more for light to add ambiance over-illumination, also pay attention to the aesthetics and color temperature of the light rather than the brightness alone. Still, we think it's an important aspect, and since brightness is measurable and aesthetics are subjective, we share our brightness results here.
We tested both overall brightness as well as how bright 24 inches of the lights are to accurately compare products. We did this by using a smartphone light meter app to measure the lux, which is the amount of light (lumens) cast within a square meter. For total brightness, we coiled the ropes up and measured how much light all the LEDs cast together. In general, the longer the rope, the brighter overall. We also wanted to measure them comparatively, so we blocked off everything but 24 inches of each rope, and then measured their lux. We found that the GuoTonG and the Amazon Basics were brightest in the 24-inch test, and the Torchstar brightest overall when coiled together.
While some lights are just that and not much more, many of the products came with fun and even elegant features. Many came with hanging and mounting hardware, others came with remote controls, flashing or dimming settings, and some even project different colors. One feature we didn't expect but were pleasantly surprised by was that some of the lights were cuttable. We like versatile products, and features go a long way to make each product more useful in various settings.
We thought the remote controls and different colors on the Areful were super nifty, which was the most heavily featured product we tested. It has eight different colors, as well as six presets, flashing speed adjustment, and dimming adjustments. We also liked that some of them, like the GuoTonG, were cuttable, which was an interesting way to adjust them for a specific space without having an extra coil at one end. The battery for the Luminoodle was perhaps our favorite feature, as we could also use it to charge other electronics or use it as a light itself. The Luminoodle battery also shows how much charge it has left, which some portable power banks don't even do. We also liked that the TaoTronics and Govee had remotes with multiple flashing/pulsing settings and were dimmable.
Ease of Use
Rope lights aren't that complicated of a product, so using them shouldn't be difficult. Products scored higher if they were easy to use, mount, or change settings. They score lower if they easily got tangled, hard to store, or were otherwise persnickety to use. One thing we learned about these products is that if you'll be setting them up and taking them down regularly, several shorter connectable lights are easier than one long one.
We found the Power Plus Luminoodle to be easy to use despite its several components and features. We liked that we could take it wherever and that the charging cord was interchangeable with other micro-USB cords. Most of the lights were pretty straightforward plug-ins, but we liked the products with features and remote controllers that were also immediately easy to use.
One of the things that also factored into this metric was mounting hardware. We liked the clip style of mounting hardware that the GuoTonG had more than the bracket-style, as it only required one screw and was easy to take down when not needed. The Torchstar also had good mounting hardware, as it had its own low-profile clip-style hardware.
Like all the products we test, we expect a certain level of quality and durability. If a product says it's waterproof, we expect it to be waterproof, so we tested this by leaving all the products under a sprinkler for half an hour to simulate a rain shower. We also tested all the products for damage after kinking, as well as leaving them in the hot sun with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for a week. Products scored lower if they faded in the sun, held kinks after being bent, wires that stretched or pulled out, or if there was evidence of water getting into the light tubes. We didn't find any noticeable water or sun damage during our testing phase, which means all these products lived up to their IP67/IP44 waterproofness rating.
We found the Torchstar to be most durable, as both the whole light has a thick and burly housing, and the wire connecting it to the plug was thick enough that it would be really hard to kink or damage it. The GuoTonG and Surnie are cuttable, so if the end of the light dies or you desire a shorter length, you can cut, glue, and seal the end to have a shorter but fully functional light.
The weakest point we found on most of the products was the wire between the lights and the plug. Thicker wire housing, like what we found on the GuoTonG, Torchstar, or Amazon Basics, was far more durable than those with thinner wires. Thinner wires were easily damaged from someone accidentally tripping over them or pulling them out incorrectly. Some of the products with lower durability scores had issues with flickering after our field tests.
Rope lights are a fun, quick way to add style, brightness, and ambiance to a space, either indoors or outside. They can be helpful to draw a stylish perimeter or show off a particular architectural feature. We hope this review gave you the information you need to buy the right product for your needs the first time—and that you found it, well, illuminating.
— Ethan Newman