“Rig for Red!” A Simple Red Light Mod For Your Truck Camper

Dan Schechter - milky way over leavitt peakAre you a stargazer or a night photographer looking for a way to get around in your RV without ruining your night vision? Perhaps you’re looking for a good night-light or maybe you’re someone who simply enjoys reading a little before going to sleep and are annoyed with the blinding reading lights that came with your RV? Whatever your situation, I’m going to show you a quick and easy red light modification that you can make to your RV, for only a few bucks, that will allow you to enjoy the “night life” in your RV.

Why the color red and not some other color? According to a lengthy study conducted by the U.S. Navy in the mid-1980s, dark adaptation is faster with red light than with any other color. Without getting too technical, the rhodopsin in the rods of the human eye is insensitive to the longer wavelengths of red light and is instead viewed by the red sensitive cone cells of the human eye. Sorry, that was pretty technical, but after having served 24 years in the U.S. Navy, I can tell you that using red lights after dark really works. In fact, the U.S. Navy has been using red lights on their ships since World War II. As soon as the sun goes down, all ships and submarines, “rig for red,” and switch to red lighting to allow watchstanders to get around at night without ruining their night vision.

I recently modified four light fixtures from white LEDs lights to red LED light fixtures: two puck lights in the cabover for reading and two puck lights in the dinette for general lighting. For this project, all I needed to buy was a single $4 sheet of fire-red gel filter paper. For the job, you’ll need a few basic items: a pair of scissors to cut the paper, a measuring tape, and a small Phillips screw driver to remove the puck lights from the ceiling. Each sheet of red filter paper measures 10×10 inches, is heat-resistant, and can be bent without snapping or cracking.

The basic idea for this project is to create a red lens for each light you want to modify. In most cases, you’ll need to remove the light fixture from the ceiling. Doing so will not only allow you to take proper measurements of the existing light lens, but will also give you access to the light, so that you can insert your new red lens inside the light. You may need to do some fine trimming with your scissors in order for the new lens to fit properly, but once you get one perfect, you’ll be able to use it as a template for the remaining lights in your project.

If this modification interests you, there is another option that you may want to consider. You may want to use red LEDs in your light fixtures instead of creating a red lens. Red LEDs can be purchased on Amazon.com, but they cost a bit more than a sheet of red filter paper and you may have trouble finding the exact size LED for your interior light fixtures. This is what I experienced, but I think I found a better solution that takes a bit longer to install, but was much cheaper to carry out in the end.

Another “rig for red” option is to simply create a red lens for a spare flashlight and use that for your night-light instead. The great thing about having a flashlight, of course, is that you can use it anywhere, like in your camper, outside on a walk, or in the cab of your truck to read a map.

Red Interior RV Light Modification
I recommend making a template first before cutting all of your pieces of filter paper.
Red Interior RV Light Modification
The finished piece of filter paper before inserting it into the light lens.
Red Night Light
A modified light fixture. Looks great for only pennies a light.
map reading using red light
Red light is particularly good for reading maps in the dark.

This is a simple, yet pretty cool truck camper mod. It provides you with ample lighting to get around in your camper without bumping your head or stubbing your toes. More importantly, it does so without temporarily blinding you or without you seeing “spots.” Perhaps the best thing about this modification is that it isn’t permanent. If you ever want to switch the lights back to regular white lights at some point in the future, you can do so in a matter of seconds.

A special thanks to Dan Schechter for permission to use his photograph.

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About Mello Mike 465 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a Jeep and truck camper enthusiast, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently drives a 2013 Ram 3500 4x4 pickup truck with a 2016 Northstar Laredo solar powered truck camper mounted on top. He enjoys football, music, hiking, travel, photography, and fishing. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management until 2017, and now runs this website full-time. He also does some consulting and RV inspections on the side.

2 Comments

  1. Mike, that is a nice and simple to do modification for stargazers or someone who need “red” light. For something more portable like what we had bought from Big 5 sporting goods ( http://www.big5sportinggoods.com/store/details/Luci+Aura-Inflatable-Solar-lantern/6165149540002/_/A-5233408#), these are inflatble LED lanterns that are solar charged. They also come in different sizes and one of their units has a red light function that also incorporates a altering red and white “SOS”. These LED lanterns work well at night and recharge with a couple of small solar cells.

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