best portable projectors for camping

Best Portable Projectors for Camping Reviewed 2022

Is it really possible to find the best portable projectors for camping? Yes, it is. That’s what we’re here to review.

Let’s see how you can make your camping nights even more full of adventures and entertainment. I definitely recommend watching a horror movie if no children are around, especially if you’re camping in an isolated place or in the woods. However, I don’t think you’ll get much sleep after.

If you want to make things even easier when you’re going away from home, I also recommend getting a tripod stand for your device to ensure stability and the best viewing angles.

Best Portable Projectors for Camping: My 5 Favorites

I will admit that my top recommendation is the LG PF50KA.  I know that it has a price that exceeds $500 but I think that it can work wonderfully for a lot of people.

Moreover, the rest of the models that I review from Nebula, BenQ, and ViewSonic are pretty much in the same $500-$600 price range.

I understand that there might be some people who are not willing to spend this kind of money on a projector for camping. That’s why I tried to include considerably cheaper models that can still deliver good images. Unfortunately, the Asus ZenBeam Latte L1 was all I could settle on as a cheaper model.

I am aware that, while I don’t consider some projectors under $300 to be the best portable projectors for camping, that doesn’t mean that I should bring some of those models to your attention.

I’m talking about devices like the ViewSonic PA503S, the DBPower RD828 or the Optoma LV130.

1. LG PF50KA Full HD LED: My Top Recommendation

I think that the LG PF50KA is a good example of what the best portable projector for camping should look like and what it should deliver. It’s really good for the outdoors.

However, considering that it has a price above $500, it could almost be considered high-end when it comes to choosing it for outdoor activities away from home.

Nevertheless, when you consider that it comes with 1080p resolution and plenty of other features, I would say that the price is a bit justifiable. Let’s see which are its main specs.

Lamp life

It’s a LED DLP projector with a lamp life of up to 30,000 hours. There’s no lamp to change in the future so it’s maintenance free.

Portability

It weighs 2.1 pounds. That’s ultra-portable.

Its dimensions are 6.7 x 1.9 x 6.7 inches.

Resolution

What I really appreciate about the LG PF50KA is its Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) native resolution. That’s a major step towards knowing that a good image quality is possible.

The image quality is definitely on par with the price. It’s crisp, clear, with very nice colors. It’s what attracted me first to this model, before even looking at its features.

It works for an up to 100 inches screen. Even if you have a large group of people, everyone will be able to enjoy what’s playing. If you’re traveling with a big crowd, just make sure to get a screen with awesome viewing angles.

16:9 aspect ratio. It has a 1.4 throw ratio.

It only allows vertical auto keystone correction. No left and right adjustments.

LG mentions that this model has a 100,000:1 contrast ratio. It’s definitely dynamic but it still manages to deliver a decent contrast that makes images feel life-like.

There’s no Zoom.

Brightness

LED projectors don’t need to have as many lumens as lamp-based projectors because their technology is different. You can read about why that is here, if you’re interested.

This LG only has 600 ANSI lumens but it’s still capable of decent brightness.

A proof of that is that it’s enjoyable even in the daylight but you will still get the best performance in the evenings.

Battery life

Another area where the LED technology is useful is for battery life. It also enables the device to run cooler.

The power consumption is 65W max. That’s quite low.

Battery life is estimated at 2-2.5 hours for Full HD movies.

Connections

LG PF50KA continues to bring its A-game when it comes to variety of connections, too.

First of all, this is a wireless device that can connect to your iOS, Android or Windows device via your network. It also includes screen share.

We also have Smart TV, which contains an app store, a web browser, and premium content providers, like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc.

There’s Bluetooth, 2 HDMI ports, USB, Audio out, LAN.

A speaker is also built-in however it might well be inexistent. You absolutely need a Bluetooth speaker. If you’re not an audiophile you can even get a very good one for $20-$30.

There’s also a remote control. Don’t forget it at home, you’re going to need it.

2. Asus ZenBeam Latte L1 LED 720p

If the name of this projector made you think about grabbing a cup of coffee, I don’t blame you. It did the same to me.

It certainly doesn’t look like a Latte, it looks more like a bulky Bluetooth speaker. Not the classic rectangular look of a projector. This one is cylindrical.

Asus describes it as an unique coffee-mug-shaped design with a fabric aesthetic. I guess that’s where it gets the name from.

Resolution

It’s cheaper than the LG that I recommended as my favorite projector for camping but you’ll notice the major difference between the two in a millisecond.

Asus ZenBeam Latte L1 has a HD 720p native resolution, while the LG is Full HD. They’re certainly quite different from the get-go.

The maximum supported resolution is 1080p so you can still play Full HD content.

The price is under $500 so it might be more within your expectations although I think it’s a bit expensive. Well, we’ll see what else it has to offer for the money.

It projects a 40 inch image from a 1 meter distance and up to 120 inches image at 3.2 meters.

Brightness

It states that it has 300 LED lumens. ANSI lumens is the international standard for measuring brightness so I really don’t like it when manufacturers use other measurements that impede us from forming an opinion based on comparisons between specs.

The contrast ratio is 400:1. I don’t even know what to make of this low number.

What I can say is that overall, the image quality is decent. It is surprisingly bright for what it offers and it even manages to have a bit of contrast. You can see a bit how good the images look in this video here.

Battery life

There’s a 6,000 mAh battery. As an idea, there are just a few phones who have a battery of this capacity.

It mentions 3 hours of video playback in Eco mode or 12 hours of audio playback. That’s decent. It certainly makes it ideal for longer movies or a few episodes.

Connections

It’s a wireless projector that can connect to various devices via your network.

Android TV is the place where you can run various streaming services. It’s where you’ll find apps for a large majority of them.

Besides that, it also includes HDMI, USB-A, and earphone jack. No USB C.

It also supports Bluetooth.

And it includes a remote control, carrying bag, and HDMI cable.

Speaker

Asus decided to impress some people in this area.

It has a 10W Harman Kardon Bluetooth speaker. Harman Kardon is quite the famous manufacturer, their products are not cheap.

The audio has movie, music, and game modes. For most people, this built-in speaker will be absolutely more than enough because it’s loud and clear enough.

I guess you’ll definitely save some money if you don’t need to buy an external speaker.

All in all, I still think that the Asus ZenBeam Latte L1 is just a bit overpriced for what it offers. The image quality is really nice and the hardware is quite good but if it were a bit cheaper, I would have liked it a lot more.

The cheaper version from Asus is the ZenBeam E1 but it only has a 480p resolution so I definitely won’t review that one here because there are so many other models to review.

3. Anker Nebula Mars II Pro 720p LED: My 2nd Favorite

It will be interesting to review the Nebula Mars II Pro because it’s quite close in price to the LG PF50KA, which features as my first recommendation.

Before that, I want to highlight a few things.

Nebula is one of the most popular manufacturers when it comes to portable projectors that also work on batteries.
They also have a couple of models that are a lot cheaper:

  • Anker Nebula Apollo is quite affordable but it only has a 480p resolution and not a very impressive brightness or contrast – nevertheless, if $300 is your price range, it’s worth checking it out
  • Nebula Capsule is even more affordable than the Apollo, with the same 480p resolution but with an even lower brightness – I can see definitely see it as more of a projector for kids but not for camping, the brightness is not satisfactory for the outdoors

Resolution

Nebula Mars II Pro manages to have some impressive specs but the 720p resolution is not something that absolutely impresses me. I had the same problem with the Asus that I reviewed above so it’s certainly nothing to do with Nebula only.

Nevertheless, I won’t fault it too much for the HD native resolution because it still manages to meet expectations when it comes to overall image quality, decent contrast, brightness, and vibrancy of colors.

The blacks look decent even when there’s sunlight pouring through a window. I’m certainly pleasantly surprised with how well it performed during daylight, as you can see in this YouTube Video here.

I wouldn’t exactly use it during the day when I’m outdoors but it’s a good choice as one of the best portable projectors for camping for the evenings.

The band at the top makes it even more obvious that this is a portable projector.

Brightness

The 500 ANSI lumens brightness is nice. It’s a DLP LED model that certainly takes advantage of the LED technology for a nice brightness.

As it’s the case with most LEDs, the lamp life is estimated at 30,000 hours.

Connections

The OS is Android 7.1. You’ll install apps from Android TV. This is a quite outdated OS that doesn’t offer the latest versions for your apps. This is definitely one of the biggest cons for the Mars II Pro.

Capsule II comes with Android 9 but it only has a 200 lumens brightness. I decided to review the Mars II Pro because it has a higher brightness, even if it comes with an outdated Android version. It certainly won’t bother those using a streaming device.

I highly recommend using a streaming device, like Roku, FireStick or Chromecast because those are up to date and they work fast. The other option is to just connect your smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc. and use them as a source device.

HDMI, USB 2.0, Bluetooth, Wi-fi roundup the connections.

Battery life

The battery life is estimated to last about 2-3 hours. It certainly seems to have the same performance as the average battery-powered projector.

Charging time is also 3 hours.

It’s 12,500 mAh, it’s certainly big.

There’s also a remote control.

Speakers

The Mars II Pro has 10W dual speakers. The built-in speakers are actually good quality.

I think that there are a lot of people who won’t feel the need for an external speaker. You can still get one and connect it via Bluetooth.

4. BenQ GV30 720p LED: Love the Design

If you’re looking for one of the latest models on the market of portable projectors, that would be the BenQ GV30.

I’ll admit that this projector catches your eye instantly. It just has such a unique, quirky design. I totally love it. If you leave it around somewhere in the house, no one will believe that what they’re looking at is actually a pretty impressive projector.

I totally love the design.

Portability

It’s just so nicely geared towards portability. Besides calling it one of the best projectors for camping, I would totally call it the best projector that kids can carry around because it’s 2.3 ft. (70cm) drop-proof. You don’t have to be gentle with it.

It also comes with a carrying bag.

3.53 pounds net weight.

Resolution

It’s not as beautiful as the design because it has a 720p native resolution but it still displays beautiful, sharp, vivid images with decent brightness and contrast.

It won’t blow you away but it will make you think “that’s quite a nice image, actually”. That’s not bad, although we still have the LG PF50KA, which is closely priced and has a Full HD native resolution.

This BenQ supports Full HD content.

Brightness

As a DLP LED projector, it doesn’t need that many lumens. This one packs 300 ANSI lumens. Nothing impressive but it will be nice during the dark.

Moreover, the contrast is very good.

On normal mode, light source life is 20,000 hours. 30,000 hours on Eco.

It has a 1.2 throw ratio so it’s not a short-throw.

Connections

Android TV is the place we get our apps from. We saw that the Nebula Mars II Pro had an outdated OS. That’s not the case here. This BenQ comes with Android 9.0.

All in all, the BenQ GV30 totally works as a projector for the outdoors, for kids or for the home theater.

It also offers wireless connectivity.

2 HDMI ports, USB-C, Audio out, Bluetooth.

Typical power consumption is 65W.

Speakers

I couldn’t leave out one of the specs that BenQ is so proud of.

This tiny, portable, camping model has a 2.1 channel Bluetooth speaker with extra bass. It certainly has the look for it.

There are 2 4W speakers and 1 8W subwoofer, thus the 2.1 configuration, which is pretty unheard of in a projector, especially for this size and price range.

It has really nice audio, which can save you an additional expense and it can also be one less thing that you have to pack when leaving.

If you want to see a bit about how it performs, check out this YouTube video.

5. ViewSonic PS600X

This is not advertised as a portable projector because it doesn’t have a battery, it needs a power source to work. Well, even battery-powered projectors need to be charged fairly often so I don’t think it’s that much of an adjustment. But you might see things differently.

It has a power consumption of 260W.

Anyway, the PS600X has an awesome price – in the same range as the LG model that I reviewed first as one of the best portable projectors for camping.

Moreover, I still view the PS600X as being portable because it only weighs 5.7 pounds. That still makes it easy to carry around.

Frankly, I wanted to review the ViewSonic M1+ Portable LED because it’s half the price of the PS600X but it has some considerable cons that stopped me from recommending it. You can still check it out and form your own opinion.

Lamp-based

Unlike the portable LEDs that are preponderantly featured in this article, this one is lamp-based, DLP technology, because it’s geared towards business and entertainment uses, the kind that happen at home or in an enclosed space.

Well, some of us might also see it as wonderful for camping, too. I guess you could see it as a business/home theater projector with a side of camping from time to time. You can get the best for all occasions, if your budget allows you to.

You won’t get 30,000 hours of life. You’ll have to change the lamp when it decreases in brightness. That’s an extra expense you’ll have to make further down the line.

It’s a short-throw with 0.6 throw ratio.

Resolution

Since it’s a business projector, the XGA resolution doesn’t come at a surprise.

At 1024 x 768 pixels it’s not extraordinary but still nice enough. It’s certainly no Full HD.

The max supported resolution is Full HD.

Brightness

The 3,700 lumens are absolutely impressive. It’s one of the top specs for this device.

It means that you can use it in ambient light, too. You can definitely watch a movie even before darkness falls.

Connections

Since it’s not geared towards portability, you won’t get Android TV or Wi-Fi connections.

You’ll have to go with the classics: plug in a streaming device (Rock, FireStick, Chromecast) into the HDMI or plug in your laptop/tablet. I imagine that you won’t take your gaming console camping but you can plug a PS4/PS5 or Xbox in the HDMI port, too.

So, we have 2 HDMI ports, LAN port, USB, mini USB, Audio in/out.

No Bluetooth.

If you connect a 3D Blu-ray player, it can even display 3D images. You’ll need compatible 3D glasses.

There’s also a 10W internal speaker.

It also comes with a remote control.

How to Choose the Best Portable Projectors for Camping

The specs I look for when choosing the best portable projectors for camping are:

  • resolution (it matters no matter if we use the projector indoors or outdoors) – Full HD is really awesome but lower resolutions can work if you have a lower budget
  • nice, vibrant colors are a must for any environment
  • brightness – it needs to have a nicely high lumens volume because you’re not watching it in a basement where no light penetrates, you’ll be watching in an environment where most likely some kind of light will be present, whether it’s from a campfire or an artificial source; some will need to be bright enough to overcompensate for ambient light
  • contrast ratio – since most projectors are used in the evening, a decent contrast ratio is needed if we want an overall image of high quality; a high contrast ratio makes blacks look really black but it’s also an essential feature for an overall beautiful, life-like image

Water resistant projectors

Water resistance is another essential feature to look for in a portable device. Being dust resistant is also implied. The best portable projectors for camping should be water resistant so you don’t have to worry about weather conditions and about ruining a device that you paid a considerable amount of money on.

Nevertheless, while water resistance is a very interesting feature, there aren’t a lot of models that incorporate it.

Water resistant models will have an IP (Ingress Protection) specification. This is the feature that indicates that they meet the standard for dust and fluid resistance.

Obviously, the higher the IP, the better they are at resisting any damage from water/dust.

How to Power a Projector while Camping

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the best models for a wide array of prices, let’s talk about the practical details. Later on I’ll tell you about outdoor/portable screens but, for now, let’s understand how to power a projector while camping. It still needs electricity to function.

Your first option is to get a model that works on battery. You won’t get a really high amount of time on battery but you might manage 2-2.5 hours for movies. That’s decent but you still need to recharge it at some point.

The other option is to get your power from an external source. When it comes to how much power a portable projector uses, the answer varies: it can need as little as 50W for a tiny device or a LED model or it can need as much as 150-200W.

The external power source can be:

gas-powered generator

a car battery that can power up a projector for a couple of hours but it has the big risk of running too low to start the car

portable power station that can charge a lot of devices

or you can use power banks, which can be cheaper than power stations but you still need a pretty expensive, powerful model and your projector needs to have a USB port

Do You Need an Outdoor Screen?

Simple answer: yes.

As you might be aware of, in order for projectors to display the image they’re truly capable of, they need a screen. You might have seen pictures with projectors being directed at the side of a tent, the tent acting as a substitute for the projector screen.

If you plan on implementing that kind of alternative, don’t expect to get the same quality that a screen can offer in the comfort of your home.

You can definitely try this method but I actually recommend giving a thought to buying an outdoor projector screen.

It’s an extra expense but if you want the complete outdoors viewing experience, I would say that an outdoor screen with a stand is something you need.

These outdoor ones can also be called foldable portable anti-crease projector screens. Search for them by both names and see what it’s available for purchase where you live.

What else you might need for projectors when camping

You have the portable projector for camping, you have the screen for outdoors and you already know how to power your device.

Now, let’s see what else you might need because we’re not over yet.

Wireless speaker

You might consider bringing a Bluetooth speaker.

Outdoor Bluetooth speakers are awesome because most of them are really tiny, quite a few are equipped for the outdoors being water and dust resistant and they have a long battery life.

Your model might have a built-in speaker but that won’t probably be powerful enough, especially for the outdoors.

You can also check out my article on the best wireless speakers for projector. There are quite a few models to give you an idea about what you should be looking for.

Media options

Another thing you must consider is the streaming device/media that you’re going to use as a media source.

These options are especially important if you want to watch streaming services like Netflix or Hulu while camping.

If your projector comes with Android TV all you need for it is a Wi-Fi connection. That can be delivered by using your smartphone’s hotspot.

Even if you don’t have a projector with Android TV, you can use a streaming device, connecting it to your projector via HDMI. However, you need a Wi-Fi connection for it, too.

You can also purchase a mobile hotspot if you don’t want to drain your phone of battery too quickly. Obviously, you can use an external battery for your phone and then you won’t have any worries about ending up with a drained phone.

These 2 are the easiest way to access media without any complications.

Or just connect your laptop or tablet via HDMI and use it as a separate source device. Play the movies directly from them and the best portable projectors for camping will display what’s on that little screen on a very big screen.