Length the best way to estimate the length youll need is to use twine as a stand in stretching it from point to point exactly where your lights would go
Best overall
20 Best Outdoor Lights The Independent

20 Best Outdoor Lights The Independent 20 Best Outdoor Lights The Independent

In all cases where there’s a screw fit, there’s also a bayonet version available, too, or else a bayonet adaptor is supplied.

The main smart home systems are Amazon Echo – which use Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa – Google Home and Apple HomeKit. Some systems work with all three, others with one or two.

Well-chosen games can suit all occasions and provide great ice-breakers to get the party started: from quieter sessions of boules and dominoes to raucous competitions of limbo and Twister that are sure to provide a few photo opportunities. Go for quality materials, robust set-ups, and easy storage when out of use, and you’ll have a reliable set of games than can be used year after year.

Philips Hue White and Colour Ambience Starter Kit: £149, Amazon

The limbo set from Big Game Hunters is our best pick. It’s easy to assemble and pack away, and the accommodating frame means it can be enjoyed by both big and little guests. Jaques London’s guard skittles set is also a keeper: the tasteful and fun design is also well made, meaning it should last more than a few summers of fun.  

It’s the classic game but as an outdoor play mat. The multi-coloured set includes nine soft interlocking squares, five noughts and five crosses. The puzzle-like pieces should be enticing enough for kids who haven’t quite reached the age to play the game yet. In wipe-clean foam, and at just £10, it’s a practical game to have around, and can be used indoors all year round.

This is a decorative light rather than full-on illumination. As well as the Nanoleaf app, which is decent but not outstanding, it’s HomeKit compatible so you can control it from Apple’s Home app as well. It’s also controllable by Google and Amazon devices. It’s a modular system: you snap the triangles together in the shape you fancy for the best effect, though you do need to work out where to put the pesky power cable so that it’s not visible or intrusive – remember this as you’re sticking the panels to the wall. The kit comes with nine panels and connectors, though you can add more, up to 30 in a system. The sequences you can create can be quite sophisticated, ranging from quiet transformations to hectic disco effects. You can even add a rhythm module (£50) and it’ll pulsate in time to the music you’re playing. Each panel offers around 100 lumens brightness, and though all nine cast more light, obviously, it’s still not enough to light a whole room brightly.

Nobody does lighting quite the way Philips does, which has championed the use of LEDs in everything from domestic bulbs to its versatile Hue smart lighting. Its solar lights are brighter than most rivals and come in various styles such as downward-facing posts, upward-facing lights and more industrial wall-mounters. This wall light has a big solar panel on top, meaning you get more light for longer from the LED for a good six hours. It’s simple to set up and has great build quality. You can also choose a version with a built-in motion sensor. Strong enough to easily see if that’s an olive or a beetle in your salad. 

The Blooma set of six lights is durable and well-made, especially for the price. The LED is housed in solid glass – though be sure to tighten the lid properly as it can feel loose. You can choose between white light and colour-changing settings and each light is powered by a rechargeable AA battery. Like most here, this set is very easy to set up and works well. Although these devices are compact, the light they give out is impressive and several together are enough to read by. 

The price is pretty keen on the Nessus so it’s no surprise that the build quality is not outstanding, opting for plastic pretty much everywhere. Still, it doesn’t look bad, especially at night, so makes a great garden-edge definer to prevent guests splashing into the koi pond. The light is not that bright, giving a silvery glow, unless you switch the LED to multi-coloured, which glows from one shade to the next quickly. It comes with mounting straps to attach to places where you can’t dig the pole into the ground.

You have to charge these lights for two days, turning them off at night, to fully charge the battery (so don’t buy them on the day you’re having a party). Even then, don’t expect them to stay bright all night long, or anything like, though a good three hours is possible. You can put them on decking or straight into the ground. They are pretty bright and the aluminium and stainless-steel build is great. Also available with white LEDs. These are better at showing the decking off atmospherically, say, than providing full-blown light. 

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Smart lighting can add atmosphere around the house and has great versatility. Additionally, smart connectivity in the majority of lights here mean you can schedule lights to come on and off whether you’re at home or not, which adds to home security. Philips Hue is the far-and-away leader in smart lighting, but LIFX has great products and Hive’s bulbs are a great choice if that’s the company that does your heating.

The posts are made of stainless steel, so they look and feel pretty good. The lights change colour and though they’re not the brightest on our list, there’s enough of them (18) to create a decent effect. The solar panel on top each one is big enough to dominate each lantern, but even so, direct sunlight is recommended to ensure enough charge. Decorative, primarily.

This beautiful boules set in birch with bright colours will appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. Based on the traditional French game of petanque, boules is easily played on all surfaces and is having a bit of a fashionable resurgence. This kit contains six 6.5cm diameter balls and a 3cm starter ball in vibrant orange. It comes with 5m of rope and a cotton carry bag.

And these systems are the vanguard of affordable smart gadgets. Up until recently, it was only possible to use custom installers to provide granular control of lights, blinds and more. This usually came at a steep price and in many cases was not changeable once the installer had gone. But now, Amazon, Apple and Google have democratised the smart home.

They charge up during the day (so make sure they have an uninterrupted view of the sky rather than in the shade), and release their pent-up energy as light after dusk.

Some use Bluetooth to connect your smartphone to your bulbs, but most use wi-fi. The real benefit of wi-fi is you can control the lighting from away rather than just the immediate vicinity.

To work, the smart lights need to connect to a home hub that allows you to control them from your smartphone, tablet or a gadget like the Amazon Echo. Or, you can connect them directly to your smartphone, with no hub, if the system allows. For instance, the newly released Amazon Echo Plus has a home hub built into it.

Okay, so they’re not cheap but you get so many of them. Yes, 300. The total length of the line is 32m with lights every 10cm for the last 30m. You can wrap them around trees and bushes or drape them over objects. Though these are predominantly decorative, sheer force of numbers means they’re a strong light source. The quality here is good and in the winter when there’s less sunlight to help, you can also charge the lights via USB.

One for bridging the generation gap, Swingball is great for both kids and adults who want to relive a bit of their own childhoods. This version from Mookie Toys can survive some serious rallies as its base can be filled with sand or water – a design that means it can be set up on all surfaces. It comes with a real tennis ball and two bats, and is adjustable between different heights. 

Grey days are less effective for charging but still manage some charge. From fully charged you should expect four or five hours of illumination – though rarely the eight or 10 hours promised. Still, you don’t want to be up all night, do you?

Another classic that’s fun for all the family, Mightymast Leisure’s version of the 4-in-a-row game is made of sustainably-sourced wood and has a large 57 x 39cm frame. It’s good in the garden on sunny days, but can be used indoors too. The blue and yellow counters make a nice difference to the original. The game suits eight years and up.

Hive is the company that controls your heating and hot water, among other things. This kit has a Hive Hub and two dimmable white bulbs. There are also white bulbs, which change from cool to warm white, and colour-changing bulbs. Though not as attractively designed as the Philips bulbs, they work well and are simple to set up. It works with Amazon and Google but not with Apple HomeKit, at least not yet. The Hive system is efficient and versatile, and if you have Hive for your heating, this is the way to go. If you do, then you already have the Hive Hub, so you can just buy the bulbs, which cost £19 for dimmable white, £29 for cool to warm white and £44 for colour changers. The cool to warm white is the best option for most. If you don’t have the Hive Hub, you need the one included here. This is a screw fit bulb but bayonet is also available. Maximum brightness is 800 lumens (60W).

For a particularly British take on the traditional garden game, these hand-carved wooden skittles come painted to look like the guards at Buckingham Palace. Jaques London has a good reputation for care and quality – a luxury carrying case gives this set the final touch. This skittle game would also make a great gift, and includes three solid-wood balls.

It looks like a weird bulb, because that grille effect is where the sound comes out: it’s a speaker as well as a smart, colour-changing light bulb. Against all expectations, the sound, though far from hi-fi quality, is actually okay, especially for a child’s bedroom, say. The colours change according to the setting you’ve picked in the app – rainbow is one of the options – or, get this, the colour will change when you shake your phone, so your dancing controls the lighting. It’s not bright, equivalent of 50W or around 650 lumens so it’s more for atmosphere than proper illumination. It works with the Mipow app rather than Amazon et al. Not completely versatile but genuinely very good fun. This is a screw fit bulb – unusually, Mipow doesn’t make it with a bayonet fitting.

Two bulbs and a hub are included in this starter set. The bulbs are cheaper than Philips Hue, because they are white only, not colour-changing. The particular white is not as warm as an incandescent bulb, mind. Equivalent to 60W (800 lumens). These bulbs work with their own app rather than the three main smart home alternatives. This is a bayonet-fit model but screw fit is also available.

This is another bulb that works without the need for a separate hub. It comes in various versions. All are keenly priced. It’s a good choice if you just want a couple of smart bulbs in your home rather than in every room. The Kasa app is where you control the colour, brightness and set schedules, but it also works with Amazon and Google, though not Apple. The bulb has a screw fit but a bayonet adaptor is included. Features include a circadian mode which adjusts the light intensity and light temperature automatically in response to the natural light. Brightness is 800 lumens, equivalent to 60W. 

A good game of rounders gets everyone involved, and this set from Uber Games should be a joy to get out year after year. The whole set includes four ash bats, two leather balls, four white plastic posts with rubber bases, two mats and a canvas storage bag. There’s also the choice of buying a smaller set, or club and posts separately. 

Testing involved ease of set-up, whether an extensive first charge was required (hint: give them at least one full day’s charge the day before that al fresco dinner party) and whether they only gave off enough light for decoration, were strong enough to light a path safely, or provided full-on illumination. Whether the light gave off a cold blue-white, as most do, or a warm, yellow hue more like a candle, was also considered. 

Most lights here can light a room reasonably well. These bulbs list their brightness in lumens, but you’ll find the watts equivalent alongside. Most average 800 lumens (60 watts) so they are bright reading lamp levels rather than the 100W you’d get from many overhead incandescent bulbs, meaning you’ll need two or three to properly light a room at least. Note that although these bulbs cost more upfront they last much longer – some manufacturers claim more than 20 years.

There’s no colour option with the Khara, but since you get 10 for just £8, it’s no surprise some corners have been cut. Each light stands around nine inches high when you’ve planted it in the earth. There’s very little light given out by them but they work well as tiny, decorative bulbs that are attractive when grouped together.

This is a bargainous set that’s adjustable for either tennis or volleyball. The bases are filled with water which makes them useable on all surfaces. As this set is a bit lightweight, it works best on a lawn secured by the eight included pegs. The set comes with everything you need to get started: a volleyball and inflating pump, two racquets and a ball. This one is more suited to kids.

The bigger the solar panel, the brighter the light, obviously. Batteries in solar lights generally last a couple of years – keeping them clean is important as residue on the solar panel can affect charging. And, of course, they pick up all their power for free from the sun. Most lights have solar panels built in but separate solar panels generally equals brighter light. 

Garden games that suggest quieter play are always welcome. This set of light wood dominoes from Plum Play has a traditional touch with 28 pieces painted in lively primary colours. The set comes with its own carry box for easy storage, and has been made from sustainably sourced wood. It suits ages three years and up. 

Another bright light from Philips, this one is designed to effectively light a path or lawn and cast a glow across a garden. Philips has calibrated this light to cast a warm white light (some LEDs lean more towards blue which can give a cold feel). The easily accessible light switch means you can either leave it to automatically switch on at dusk – like most lights – or let it charge each day. Neat design, too.

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Smart lighting doesn’t mean your bulbs can answer pub quiz questions. No, they’re smart because they’re no longer restricted to just on and off, controlled by the nearby switch. Now, you can change the colour of the light, turn it on and off when you’re halfway around the world, set it to come on to a schedule, or turn off when you say the words “movie night”.

If you’re charged with organising a wedding, fete or garden party this summer, including outdoor games will bring a touch of fun for all the family. The classic games mentioned in this selection are ready to enjoy without having to learn too many rules, and they should get all generations involved in the fun. 

Twister on a picnic blanket! Fans of the 1960s novelty party game find the perfect excuse to enjoy a game after the picnic crumbs have been dusted off. The “spinner” is attached as a keyring, and the blanket has a carrying strap for easy handling. The grid is smaller than the game version, so it may not suit bigger parties.

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Solar-powered lights are useful for lighting a garden path at night or in decorative, multi-coloured versions to make your balcony look bright and welcoming.

Here’s the perfect garden party icebreaker. This timeless test of flexibility can be enjoyed by all who dare get involved – an extra wide cross beam means it can be done in pairs or teams. The lower pegs are great for children, or adding an extra level of difficulty for adults. This one stores away in a canvas carry bag and has a strong frame with parts that screw together.

This bulb is much less bright than most here: 430 lumens or less than 40W. As such it’s more decorative than room-brightening. Still, it’s quite fun – ideal for a children’s bedroom, say, where its themed colours, which gently change from one hue to another, may be entertaining, although you can keep it on one colour. It can also work as a light alarm clock, gently brightening rather than suddenly flashing on at full strength. The app is more basic than some, though there is an Apple Watch app as well for extra control options, but the price is pretty good. The design can be divisive, so you might want to put it in a place where the bulb itself isn’t fully visible.

LIFX is a brilliant, affordable way to dip your toes in the world of smart home lighting. There’s no need for a separate hub as the light can connect directly to Apple HomeKit, so you can control it from a compatible iPhone, iPad or, soon, HomePod smart speaker. It also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Home with voice control. It works without the need for a separate hub in each case. Like the Hue, the bulb here is attractive enough to work well whether it’s visible or hidden in a lampshade. LIFX says that the lifespan of the bulb is extensive, as is usual for LED bulbs. In this case, three hours’ use per day will mean it’ll last over 22 years. Like other bulbs here, you can control it in most detail using a dedicated phone or tablet app, but it also works with the scheduling features of the relevant smart home assistant. It’s 1100 lumens, which is around 70W. There are millions of colours to choose from, though you’ll likely find a few you like and stick to them. It’s straightforward to control. This is a screw fit bulb but bayonet fitting is also available.

If you want your lights to be smart, Philips Hue is the best way to go. The lights are reliable, long-lasting and beautifully made. The basic kit includes three bulbs (screw fit, though a kit with bayonet fit bulbs is also available) and a bridge that links the bulbs to your smartphone or other controller. The three distinctively-styled bulbs can shine in any of 16 million colours, though you’ll probably find the half-dozen you most like quite quickly. Change the colour on the smartphone app. The Hue app is among the best, simple to use and versatile. There’s also a wire-free dimmer switch that adjusts brightness and on/off only. You can control Philips Hue with your voice if you have Amazon Alexa in your home, and it’s also compatible with Apple HomeKit and Google Home – voice control is possible with all three. Versatile, simple and highly effective. Brightness is 800 lumens, about the same as a traditional 60W bulb.

Solar-powered garden lights offer cute garden lighting with minimal effort or maintenance, no cables or complicated set-up. Most of the cheapest lights are more for gentle decoration rather than bright lighting. If you need more light, plump for one of the Philips products here which are very effective. For exceptional decorative effect, the Solar Centre Lumify 300 is exotic and pleasing. And the best value lights here are the Blooma Aurora LED Solar Stake Lights which are good quality for a very low cost.

1. Philips myGarden Dusk Solar Powered Wall Light: £46.50, Amazon

If you want a smart light but don’t want to put a bulb in the ceiling or wherever, Philips has a range of table lamps, too. This one goes from cool to warm white to suit your mood. It also works as a light alarm clock, helping you to wake naturally, Philips says, by growing brighter like sunrise. You need the Philips Hue bridge for this lamp, which is sold separately. Philips also says that certain colours here, like the bright-white daylight it can simulate, will help energise you. Whatever the case, it’s an attractive lamp that looks good and works brilliantly. Note that the LED is not replaceable, it’s built into the light and it works, when you have the bridge, with Amazon, Apple and Google. The brightness is adjustable but goes up to 687 lumens, equivalent to 40W.

This option is unusual in the smart lighting world: it’s portable. It’s about the size of a cereal bowl but can be angled to sit on its side as well as its base, giving greater flexibility. The built-in battery works for around three hours, though you can plug it back in for more light while it recharges. Brightness is around 800 lumens (60W), though this works as a supplementary illumination rather than the main source of light in a room. It works with Apple, Amazon and Google with voice control possible with all. Like the other Hue above, you can control the colours easily from the app but there is also a button on the back which lets you cycle through colours. For full control you need the Philips Hue bridge (£45), which is not included. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing

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