Should you buy an outdoor projector for camping?

Campers watching a movie using an outdoor projector
(Image credit: Getty)

Outdoor projectors have become a big trend over the last year or so, allowing you to watch movies and TV shows outdoors. It might sound appealing, particularly in the warmer months, but is it a good idea?

First of all, it's important to think about the noise and light. Many frontcountry campsites have rules about music and loud conversations after a certain time of night to avoid disturbing your fellow campers, and although they may not mention projectors specifically, they'd definitely fall under the same restrictions.

There's also the potential effect on wildlife. Campsites might not have strict rules against lights, and your best camping lantern and best headtorch are unlikely to be a problem, but bright lights like projector bulbs that are left on for a long time can attract and confuse nocturnal insects like moths, and potentially disturb animals. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, bright lights can also affect the breeding success of glow worms, and disorient nocturnal birds.

How to choose an outdoor projector

So you've checked out your campsite and are certain that you're not going to disturb the local birds, bugs, and animals. What should you look for when choosing your ideal outdoor projector to make sure you get the best outdoor cinema experience?

First of all, take a good look at its brightness levels. Brighter projectors are typically more expensive, but offer a better picture, especially if you're enjoying a movie or TV show before nightfall when there's much more ambient light than in a dark home theater.

It's also important to consider resolution, as well as throw, which is the necessary distance between the projector and the surface it's projecting onto.

Anker Nebula II Mini outdoor projector and can of beer

Than Anker Nebula II Mini is an outdoor projector that's about the same size as a drink can (Image credit: Anker)

Some outdoor projectors come with white screens, but if yours doesn't then you'll need to pick up something suitable for it to project onto. You can pick up a folding screen quite cheaply, but check that it matches the aspect radio of your projector for the best experience. It's also a good idea to look for a screen that's waterproof and can be washed down with soap and water; outdoors. there's a good chance the bottom of your screen won't stay white for long.

Check out the projector's speakers as well. Most come with a speaker built-in, but you could also connect a Bluetooth speaker for better sound quality,

The best outdoor projectors

If the weather is good then you could take an indoor projector with you, but this will likely limit you to frontcountry campsites with electrical outlets that you can use with an extension cord. If you want to watch movies in the great outdoors frequently, you'll be better off with a battery-powered projector like the XGIMI Halo, which has the capacity to play an average-length movie at 600 lumens.

Another camping-friendly option is the Anker Nebula Solar Portable. As the name suggests, you can power up this outdoor projector's battery during the day, then enjoy up to three hours of movie time in the evening at a brightness of 400 lumens. The lower brightness means dark scenes may be harder to make out, but on a dark campsite with limited light pollution this shouldn't be too much of an issue.

If you're travelling light, the Anker Nebula Capsule II Mini is an outdoor projector that's about the same size as a drink can. Its brightness is just 200 lumens, and it has a relatively low resolution of 720p (most projectors are at least 1080p), but it's one of the few options that's feasible for backpacking.

What can you watch on an outdoor projector?

Anything that's stored on, or streamed from your phone. If you're going somewhere remote then it's a good idea to download your shows or movies before leaving in case you lose mobile data connectivity. 

Are outdoor projectors waterproof?

No, outdoor projectors generally have no water resistance rating, so only use them in dry weather or when completely sheltered from the rain.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.