Camping outdoors and movie watching are two of my favorite activities. My family and I love the great outdoors and regularly go camping. But we are also outdoor movie enthusiasts, and this website contains a wealth of information on how you can get started.
But, projectors for camping need a slightly different consideration to those which you might choose to use when watching movies in your backyard. Camping and tenting can be a tough environment, water can be an issue, but most importantly you will need something that’s going to be truly portable and lightweight.
Whilst watching movies whilst camping might not be something that you immediately think of when packing up your tent and everything else that you need, it can actually be a great way to entertain you and your family – as long as you respect the other families at the campsite who might not want this type of disturbance.
Campsite cinema theaters are not difficult to set up either, with some very cheap portable camping projectors available to buy that are really well-suited to an outdoor environment or elsewhere in the wilderness.
Using one can be as simple as hooking up your smartphone or tablet to a projector and projecting video against the side of your tent or a larger camping projector screen.
But you will need a camping movie projector that ticks off a certain number of boxes, including price, portability, robustness, and the quality of image that it projects. My advice is to choose a projector that has the following features if possible.
- Portable and small
- Battery-powered, and not cabled
- Has the relevant ports to connect a playing device
- Comes with a waterproof carry bag
Read on to view my list of the best portable projectors for camping, so you can buy something that will last you for years to come, and all of which offer an amazing experience when watching movies from a campsite or tent.
Best Camping Movie Projector for Battery Life
Plenty of people do consider it to be an ideal portable camping projector, and you can see just some of that feedback by reading the latest reviews on Amazon that it has received over the last few months.
It has some pros and cons to it, which I am going to list below, and then I will get into a small review of the actual product.
- Can project an image of around 8 feet wide
- Only weighs 0.75 pounds
- Has a rechargeable battery with 3 hours projection time
- Fits in the palm of your hand
- Comes with a carry bag for portability
- Only has 200 lumens so needs to be very dark
- Has a small resolution of 854 x 480
- Only has an HDMI port so you need to plug in a playing device
- You will need to buy an adapter to connect an iPhone or iPad
The reasons you would consider this as possibly the best projector for camping are primarily down to its size and weight. It’s also really very small and can be connected up to a smartphone or tablet – but you will need to purchase a separate connection cable to do so.
For Apple users, you will need a lightning AV adapter (view now on Amazon), and if you own an Android device you will need to search out a specific cable to suit your brand that can hook into the HDMI or MHL port on the projector.
Putting that little hassle and extra cost to one side though, it will project a 41-inch display from a distance of three-foot. If you want a larger video image to be projected (perhaps 8 feet if you are lucky), then you will need to place it around 7 feet away from the surface you are projecting onto – in most cases that would be a portable screen.
But, it will need to be totally pitch black dark, because, with just 200 lumens, it’s not going to be the brightest of images.
Despite the native resolution only being 845 by 480, it’s still possible to get reasonably good images, but you’re going to be outdoors, so it’s never going to be completely crisp.
What I really love about it though is the battery life. Whilst you can connect it up to a power source when camping, it’s best to do away with cables altogether. This projector lets you do that. Just bear in mind though, that the battery life is three hours (more than most similar products), so you might be able to watch squeeze two short movies in, but in the main only one movie per charge of power probably.
If you are planning on setting up a portable movie screen at the campsite, then this might not be the best of choices, but it will still work very well for smaller parties and gatherings, especially if you just want to view it inside or against the wall of your tent.
It comes with a built-in speaker, but I would recommend you plug in an additional sound source into it using the Aux out port. Otherwise, it’s only going to work well for a few people sat in a smaller area as the sound won’t reach very far.
I would recommend that you look to buy it now, as there have been some recent price reductions on Amazon for this particular model, so it does tend to sell out quite quickly. See the latest prices on Amazon now.
Best Camping Projector for Movie Buffs
When it comes to watching movies outdoors, I always recommend that you try to buy something that is a DLP projector, and that’s exactly what the Magnasonic LED pocket model is. For more information, view it on Amazon.
It’s advertised as the world’s smallest DLP projector and tends to average around 4 stars out of 5 on the review websites. But what are the pros and cons to buying this? You can read those below.
- It’s DLP so offers great color and pictures
- It is very small, lightweight, and portable
- You can plug devices in via an HDMI port
- Comes with a protection bag
- Comes with a small tripod
- It has a low lumen rating, so you need absolutely pitch-black darkness
- The internal speaker is very poor, so take additional audio
- Battery life is only 2 hours
- It’s usually more expensive than similar-sized models
- You will need a separate adaptor for smartphones and tablets
I said that it was a great choice for movie buffs, but why? It’s because DLP projectors offer very good color and smooth images. Most DLP movie projectors will be larger units that are in no way portable, but this model bucks that trend – and it’s around the same size as a slice of bread. Quite amazing really.
The ease of use is incredible too. All you have to do is take it out of the bag, switch it on, plug your media player in and away you go in seconds.
Due to its size, you aren’t going to get great audio out of it, so invest in some additional speakers, or play audio via your media device.
It’s not going to be great for larger movie screens and only has a battery life of 2 hours, so check the length of your movie before you buy it, or take an additional power source if that is going to be an issue for your type of trip.
Best Projector for Camping on a Budget
Don’t want to spend too much money? Then go take a look at the GROVIEW mini portable projector. It’s one of the top-rated portables on Amazon (just read the reviews on Amazon to see for yourself) and has been sold for less than $100 in the past, depending on the time of year.
Here are my pros and cons to buying this product.
- Comes with a projector screen so you don’t have to buy one.
- Comes with remote control for ease of use
- Is 50% brighter than typical projectors of this size and price
- Has a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9 (perfect for modern movies)
- Can connect to virtually any device you can think of
- Projects from a distance of 6 to 9 feet
- Only weighs 2 pounds
- Can project an image size of 7.5 feet
- You will need to connect to a power source, as no battery power
- You cannot connect a USB battery pack to it
- Speakers are not that great, so consider additional audio
- Has only 160 ANSI Lumens
What you get here is a great little projector. But whilst it’s going to be perfect for throwing movies up onto a standing screen to a large audience at your campsite, you will need to connect it to a power source as it’s not battery powered.
Now, unfortunately, that power source cannot be a USB battery pack, so it will need to connect to an electricity source. This can be a generator, your vehicle, or if the campsite you are staying at has power availability – which is becoming more and more common as an amenity.
I would recommend this as a camping projector if you want a larger movie experience, and you have access to power. It won’t be great for hiking around in the wilderness where you don’t have this privilege.
What’s also great about it, is the sheer range of possibilities you have for playing video. It can be used at home, or whilst camping as it can connect to a wide variety of sources including:
- Games consoles
- iPhone, iPad, tablets, or Android devices
- Laptops and Computers
- DVD and BluRay players
- USB sticks or flash drives
It’s truly a multi-use projector that you might buy for a camping trip but can then be set up at home for home movies or use for backyard movie nights.
As with my other recommendations you see here for the best portable projector for camping, it comes with a built-in speaker. Because this product is a little larger, the speaker isn’t too amazing so I would still recommend that you connect it to an additional audio source if you are projecting to a larger audience.
At this price, it should mean that purchasing speakers aren’t too much of a stretch for your budget.
Best Portable Camping Projector That’s Micro Small
For something that’s ultra-small, mini, and portable, I would recommend that you look at Pico projectors – these are also known as handheld projectors.
Now it’s important to note, these are not going to work very well if you want to project a movie larger than a couple of feet wide. So, if you are putting up a large projector screen of say 4-foot-wide or more, a Pico projector simply won’t cut it.
If you scale the image up, it’s going to become blurred and pixelated, and will look terrible. They also tend to have very low lumens (the brightness rating) which means it will be hard to see the image unless it’s projected in complete darkness and at a small resolution.
But where they come into their own, is if you want to watch a movie inside of your tent, or against a tent wall or door from the outside onto a relatively small surface area. They are so small that they will fit inside of your hand, as you can see from the photo I’ve used above.
My recommendation for a very small portable camping projector would be a product called the AAXA P5 LED model (view latest prices on Amazon).
It’s ideal to use inside of a tent, fits inside the palm of your hand as you can see above, and is compatible with a wide range of video playing device connections including USB, VGA, smartphones, and tablets.
In fact, if you buy an AAXA mini projector, you don’t even need a media player device. Instead, you can store a video digitally on a flash drive or USB stick, and plug it straight into the projector to start playing immediately.
Take this into account, plus the fact it comes with a 135-minute re-chargeable battery, and it could be just the thing you are looking for if you want something truly portable as it can be carried in a backpack when on a camping trip. It is considered to be the best mini projector for camping trips by many people, as you can see with the online reviews found on Amazon.
Just don’t expect to be able to project movies at any decent size onto a standing screen at the campsite with this projector. Only buy it if you plan on watching movies on a smaller scale.
Don’t Forget the Camping Projector Screen!
Your projector is just one part of the overall ingredients to let you watch movies whilst camping. Depending on the type of camping you are doing, and the results you want to achieve will determine what type of camping movie screen you choose to take with you.
Large Portable Projector Screens
For example, if you want to project a large video image to a large audience of say 5 or more people, then you might want to consider either an inflatable movie screen or a free-standing one that can be tethered to the ground.
There are pros and cons to both, and I have written extensively in the past about what’s best, is it an inflatable or standing screen?
The primary consideration here though, is that an inflatable movie screen will need a constant supply of power. They have blowers that provide a constant flow of air into them to keep the screen inflated.
It’s not always going to be possible to have a constant power supply like that when camping, and in truth, it’s not going to be practical unless you are on a campsite with a power supply, or you are comfortable running power from a generator or vehicle.
But you can buy blow-up movie screens. These can be blown up using a foot pump, or by mouth. They don’t require any electricity and can offer a great viewing experience. However, they are still quite bulky and heavy, so are only really suitable to people going on camping trips where they have a lot of room in the car or van.
That’s the choice you need to make with inflatables.
But, I Wouldn’t Recommend an Inflatable Screen for Camping, Instead, Choose This…
Me personally, I don’t recommend them at all for camping, which is why I won’t be suggesting an inflatable product for camping, but if you are still keen, read this review I recently did of the best inflatable outdoor movie screen for less than $150.
What I prefer to do if I need a large camping projector screen is go for a free-standing version. These are simple to store, are lightweight, and very portable.
They can take a little bit longer to erect than blow-up screens, but don’t require any additional power and tend to be cheaper too. You simply unroll the screen material, erect the frame, and then tether to the ground using cords and tent pegs – which come with the screen, but you should already have some considering you are on a camping trip.
My recommended camping movie screen that is portable, cheap, and easy to set-up, would be the Vamvo foldable and portable camping screen. It’s a great product with amazing reviews and is designed exactly for this purpose.
If you want to know more about it and how well it’s considered amongst the camping community, then take a look at the reviews on Amazon.
It takes around 3 minutes to put up, it’s relatively stable as long as there are no strong winds, weighs around 6 pounds, has a 16:9 widescreen area measuring nearly 6 feet wide, plus comes with a carry bag. It can be staked and secured into the ground easily.
What’s more, because they have no power requirement, you can leave them out. So if it rains or you are off hiking somewhere, you can leave it in situ at the campsite with no worries.
You should be able to buy it for less than $60, and it’s small enough once packed to slide into your tent bag or backpack.
Small Portable Projector Screens
If it’s just going to be a couple of you watching movies, and perhaps in a tent, then you can get away with not actually buying a screen!
The portable camping projectors I have recommended in this guide can all project against anything, as long as it’s dark outside, and you are projected onto something that’s not completely transparent and is of a reasonably light-colored material.
In the past, I’ve set up our camping projector outside our tent and projected the movie against the closed door. If it’s completely dark outside, you can get quite good results, but for the best viewing experience, I would recommend that you place something up else up against the tent door or wall.
Something that works very well for this purpose is a material called Carl’s Blackout Cloth (view it now on Amazon). It’s made from a material that’s specifically designed to project movies against so comes highly recommended from me.
You can buy it, cut it to size, and keep it rolled up with the rest of your camping gear. It will weigh almost nothing once packed.
But, if you still really don’t want to spend any money, then try a white bedsheet or similar. Just be wary that this will blow around and will have wrinkles in it, meaning the movie won’t look that great.
Additional Items You Need to Consider
So that’s the screen and projector dealt with, but what else might you need? You might want to consider some of the following items:
- Devices to store movies digitally, such as USB or Flash Drive
- Waterproof carry case if the projector doesn’t come with one
- A stool, table, or tripod to sit your camping movie projector on
- Additional tent pegs, stakes, and cords to secure your screen
- Additional power sources or backup batteries
- Portable Bluetooth speakers for sound
You Should Invest in Bluetooth Portable Speakers
My recommendation for portable speakers would be the DBSOARS ones. As you can see from the image, they are very chunky, and can withstand a lot of punishment and bashing around – you can read the reviews on Amazon.
This speaker is waterproof and has a 40-hour battery life so no need to connect to a power source. In terms of sound quality, it comes with 60 watts of peak surround sound – so you could even have a party after you’ve watched a movie!
My view on audio is that it’s an essential requirement for any movie-watching whilst camping. Whilst your camping projector might say it comes with in-built speakers, they won’t always be suitable for larger audiences who are sitting just a few feet away from the projector.
The built-in speakers that come with projectors tend to be very quiet, tinny and will distort if you turn them up too loud. For the best experience possible, invest in some Bluetooth speakers to take with you, and make the movie night a memorable one.
If you are thinking about getting away over the summer on a camping trip, but don’t want to leave all your modern cons behind, need something to help entertain the kids, or give you a way to relax after a long hike in the wilderness, then projectors could be for you.
Bear in mind, that the small Pico portable camping projectors do have a limited battery life but will benefit from not having to have cabled power. That means you can slip them into your bag easily enough. Then, when it’s time to watch, just connect them up to your smartphone or small digital storage device, and you’re ready to start watching.
If you are on a campsite with power ports or have a generator or access to vehicle power, then I would recommend you choose something larger. You can then project larger movies onto a screen and really make an event of it.
You can search for campsites in the USA that have electricity hook-ups using the Go Camping America website – it also gives you the option to search for campsites that have Internet access which will be essential if you want to stream digital content from services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.
My final word: The one thing I have learned most from watching movies whilst camping is that not everyone is going to be a fan of this type of interruption.
Be very aware that your neighbors on a campsite might not actually want to hear or see movies being played, as many of them will be camping to get away from modern life.
Respect your neighbors at all times, but above all have fun!