We put 11 outdoor garden lights, including icicle lights and fairy lights, through our tough durability tests to find out which are the most robust

Best outdoor lights

 

 

Over the course of a couple of months we put 11 outdoor lights through an assault of durability tests to find the ones you’ll be able to rely on all year round for many years to come. The lights we tested range in price from £10 up to more than £60 (depending on how many metres you buy). We’ve tested mains-powered lights, battery-powered lights, icicle lights and fairy lights so that we can recommend the most durable sets, whatever your requirements.  Surprisingly, fewer than half of the outdoor lights completely survived our durability tests. Clear signs of corrosion and poor soldering were the most frequent causes of early failure. Find out which lights suffered this fate.

 

The best outdoor Christmas lights

Best outdoor lights

 

 

Best Buy: Connect Pro Outdoor LED String Lights

Cheapest price: from £26.98 for five metres (including starter cable), available at Festive lights

Length: You can buy these lights in five-metre increments up to 100 metres. Whichever length you buy you will also need a £11.99 ConnectPro Starter Cable

Colour: Pick from seven colours (warm white, white, red, pink, blue, green, orange)

Modes: On or off

Timer: Not as standard, but you can buy a compatible timer plug from Connect Pro for £31.99 Cable colour: Black

Power source: Mains

Connectable: Yes

Our verdict: While these lights are very expensive (20 metres will cost you £71.98), they are incredibly high quality.

They sailed through all our durability tests surviving subzero temperatures and prolonged soakings, and they’ll comfortably survive some really rough treatment while putting them up and taking them down.  We also like that these lights are connectable, so you can add to them over the years if you want to expand your outside illuminations.

Best outdoor lights

 

 

Best Buy: Lights4fun 200 LED Outdoor Battery Fairy Lights

Cheapest price: £21.99 at Lights4fun

Length: 1.5 metres to the first light and then a 19.9 metre string of lights

Colour: Warm white

Modes: Eight

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: Green

Power source: Three D cell batteries (not provided). Claimed battery life of 180 hours (30 days at six hours per day)

Connectable: No

Our verdict: This is the best battery-powered set of lights  we tested, and the only battery-powered lights that survived all our durability tests.

These lights can still work despite freezing temperatures, repeated soakings and rough treatment, for example sharp tugs to the wiring. You get 20 metres of green coated lights (200 in total) with which to adorn your trees or property either inside or outside.

The battery power source could make these lights the perfect choice for a tree or decking that is a distance from your house, which makes it impractical to power the lights from the mains.

 

Best Buy: Pro Connect 200 Traditional Warm White Connectable Icicle Lights

Cheapest price: £35.98 for two metres at Lights4fun (out of stock)

Length: 1.5 metres to the first light and then you can buy the lights in two-metre increments all the way up to 40 metres. Every additional two metres costs £29.99. The length of the dangling icicles vary from 30cm to 70cm

Colour: White, warm white or you can mix and match

Modes: On or off

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: White

Power source: Mains

Connectable: Yes

Our verdict: If icicle lights are what you’re after then these are the best set we tested.  They’re expensive, but they’re incredibly durable and survived all our tests. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The lights are really high quality with thick plastic coating around the wires to keep what’s inside properly protected.  The other icicle lights we tested, while much cheaper, had poor soldering and could come apart from relatively light tugs at the wiring. They also showed some signs of corrosion after only a few weeks outside.

These lights can be bought in two-metre increments and are easy to extend in future years if you buy an extra string or two. They come in white and warm white, and you get 1.5 metres of cable before the icicle lights start.

 

 

Best Buy: Pro Series Outdoor String Lights

Cheapest price: £23.99 for five metres available at Christmas Direct

Length: You can buy these lights in five-metre increments up to 400 metres

Colour: Seven colours (warm white, white, red, pink, blue, green, orange)

Modes: Three

Timer: Not as standard, but you can buy a compatible timer plug for £31.99

Cable colour: Green or white

Power source: Mains

Connectable: Yes

Our verdict: These outdoor LED fairy lights are expensive, but the quality shines through.  In our tests they withstood everything we could throw at them and we’re confident they would last for many years in tough winter conditions.

These lights are also connectable, so you can add to your display over the years if you wish to.  The lights are available in a variety of colours, you could even mix and match if you wish to, and you can get either green or white cable.

These lights have a static, flashing and sparkling effect (every tenth bulb) to pick from.  The length of the power cord is two metres before the first bulb, and then the length of bulbs is completely up to you. You can even go up to a whopping 400 metres.

Best outdoor lights

 

 

Great Value: WerChristmas 200 LED Christmas Tree Lights

Cheapest price: £12.99 available at WerChristmas

Length: Five metres of cable until the first lights and then 14 metres of string lights

Colour: White

Modes: Eight

Timer: No

Cable colour: Green

Power source: Mains

Connectable: No

Our verdict: These lights aren’t quite Best Buys, but they are a good set and we think they’re great value.  These no-frills lights survived all our durability tests, but did show some signs of corrosion after only three weeks outside. So while they were still working, we don’t think they would last as long as our Best Buys.  Despite this, they are pretty durable lights, surviving freezing temperatures, soakings and tough treatment while putting them up.  So if you don’t want to spend a little less than our Best Buys cost, these are a great-value option that are worth considering.

How the rest fared

All the lights below failed at least one of our durability tests and are no longer working. They’re listed alphabetically.

 

Corst Outdoor Icicle Lights

Cheapest price: £21.99 available at Amazon

Length: 10 metres

Colour: Warm white, white, blue and white Modes: Eight

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: White

Power source: Mains

Connectable: Yes

Our verdict: Sub-standard icicle lights. Although these lights have a decent range of colours and modes to choose from, disappointingly they became visibly rusty after a few weeks outside and they failed our wire strength test.  Even a light tug at the wiring around the plug led to the wire breaking, so they can’t get our recommendation.

Best outdoor lights

 

Homebase 300 LED String Christmas Tree Lights

Cheapest price: £12 for 300 lights at Homebase

Length: 30.4 metres Colour: Warm white

Modes: Eight

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: Green

Power source: Three AA batteries

Connectable: No

Our verdict: Not durable enough for our recommendation.  These lights are relatively cheap for a huge 30 metres of cable, if you buy the 300-light version. The built-in timer on the plug is also a nice feature on lights at this price.  However, these lights just won’t last very long according to our tests.  While they survived freezing temperatures and very wet conditions, when we lightly tugged at the wires while putting the lights up the wire became separated where it enters the plug.

 

Koopower Battery Operated Fairy Lights

Cheapest price: £7.99 available at Amazon

Length: 10 metres

Colour: Warm white

Modes: Eight

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: White

Power source: Three AA batteries

Connectable: No

Our verdict: These lights are cheap, but they won’t last long. They showed signs of corrosion within only a few days of being outside, and the cable snapped when we pulled firmly at it.  We think it’s quite likely these would break while you’re putting them up unless you’re very careful, so we can’t recommend them.

Best outdoor lights

 

Ollny Fairy Lights 200 LED

Cheapest price: £21.99 available at Amazon

Length: 20 metres

Colour: Warm white or white

Modes: Eight

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: White Power source: Mains Connectable: Yes Our verdict: Not durable enough for our recommendation. On the face of it these lights are a good deal. You get 20 metres of lights, that are connectable and have eight modes, and you get a timer function and remote control too, which are all good features for lights at this price. But the lights were visibly corroded after only a few weeks outside and they broke when we gave them a few sharp tugs.

Best outdoor lights

 

 

Premier 200 LED Supabrights With Timer

Cheapest price: £12.99 available at the Christmas decorations outlet (out of stock)

Length: 24 metres of cable (16 metres of lights)

Colour: White

Modes: Eight

Timer: Yes

Cable colour: Green

Power source: Mains

Connectable: No

Our verdict: One of the least robust sets of lights we tested.  Although these lights can survive a deep freeze and heavy soakings, you have to be really careful with them when you’re putting them up, so we can’t recommend them.  The strength of the solder that connects these lights didn’t impress us very much as they broke with the type of fairly modest tug it might receive when you’re putting them up.

Best outdoor lights

 

The Range 400 Light Chain LED Lights

Cheapest price: £19.99 available at The Range

Length: 33 metres for the 400-light version, but 750 bulb and 1,000 bulb light strings are also available

Colour: White

Modes: Eight

Timer: No

Cable colour: Green

Power source: Mains

Connectable: No

Our verdict: Temptingly cheap, but not worth it. Unfortunately these lights from The Range are another set that failed to pass all our durability tests.  They broke when they received a bit of rough treatment and had already started to rust after a week or so in the great outdoors.

Best outdoor lights

 

 

How to pack up your lights after use

To keep long-lasting lights it’s essential to store them correctly in any months when you might not be using them, making sure they aren’t kept in a big tangled heap.

Use a coat hanger: A spare coat hanger can be used to wrap your lights around. Not only does this stop them getting tangled up, but it minimises the space you need to store them as well.

Wrapping paper tubes: You can recycle wrapping paper tubes and use them to wrap your lights around. Cut a slit in one end of the tube to grip one end of the lights, and then simply wrap them around the tube.

Old cardboard box: If you don’t have a wrapping paper tube, or a coat hanger, a similar method can be followed with a sheet of cardboard. Simply cut a notch at one end to attach the lights, and then wrap around the board.

Light reels: If these homemade options don’t appeal, you can buy light storage reels to help keep the lights tidy and stored correctly. We’ve seen them at a number of retailers, including Amazon, and retailers such as UKChristmasWorld or Festive-Lights, which will help keep the lights tidy and stored correctly.

Best outdoor lights

 

How we tested outdoor lights

We know from our research that outdoor lights have an issue with longevity. They simply don’t last long enough, and many end up in landfill far too quickly.

We set out to find out if there are outdoor lights that will survive tough British winters, and how much you need to pay for them.  Of course we couldn’t test these products over three or four years like we might like to – by the time we could publish the results you wouldn’t be able to buy the lights anymore.

So we designed a really tough set of tests to simulate the type of conditions these types of lights might endure over a harsh British winter.

Best outdoor lights

 

Waterproofing

Each set of lights was subjected to a sustained shower with a hose, and then also fully submerged in a bucket of water for an hour.

Best outdoor lights

 

Subzero temperatures

Dripping wet, the lights were put into a freezer for 24 hours at -16 degrees.

Best outdoor lights

 

 

Weathering

Before we even started the durability tests the lights were all left outside in all weathers for three weeks. This was enough of a test for many of the lights to already show signs of corrosion.

Broken wiring on outdoor lights.

 

 

Rough treatment

We set up the lights, bashed them against fence posts and sharply tugged the wires repeatedly where they entered the plug socket and all along the cable.  This tests simulated the type of rough treatment the lights might receive if they’re being untangled, or put up without much care.