Nature is always calming enough, and a camping trip with your friends or family might just be the best thing for entertainment every once in a while. And for doing so, a projector can be excellent!
Projectors are able to project anything anywhere as long as there’s a screen, making them a perfect source of entertainment on camping trips. But since you can’t find any electricity or power sources on a hill or other camping areas, people might wonder how to power a projector for camping.
Car batteries or generators can work well, but there are other unique solutions as well. All the solutions have different advantages and disadvantages, meaning one might work better for you than the others.
Here we’ll be covering all about camping, projectors, and how to power projectors correctly. So without further ado, let’s begin.
Can You Use A Projector When Camping?
You don’t need to worry much since powering a projector is not that big of a deal. However, you will have to consider a few things beforehand.
The first is to get a projector that is weather and water-resistant. Storms or winds will completely ruin the projector if you don’t do so.
But the thing that affects projectors more than the weather is ambient light. Since some projectors, especially on the cheaper side, aren’t bright enough, you sometimes won’t even be able to see anything projected on the screen.
You can get over this by purchasing a projector with a high brightness output, preferably between 1000-3000 lumens or more, since that way it’ll be bright enough to brute force its way out and defeat the ambient light.
But if you aren’t looking to buy another projector, you can just use them at night time. Since there is no ambient light at night, your projectors will be bright, and their quality will be excellent.
What Products Do You Need For Projectors While Camping?
Besides the projector itself, you’ll need quite a few products to project the video content while camping. So here’s a list of all the necessary products and items —
1. Video Source
The source material the projector is processing is the most necessary, and there are a few options for it. A smartphone or laptop can work, but a DVD player can do the job just fine as well.
But if you don’t want to download the media beforehand, you can use streaming services such as Netflix through your laptop or your smartphone using mobile data.
2. Video Content
For the media and video content projected on the screen, you can usually just download it before leaving for the trip on your laptops or your smartphones. But if you don’t have enough space on these, flash drives can work great as well.
They’re small and highly portable, and even though they have so much storage, they’re relatively affordable. You can buy some online or from a tech shop nearby.
3. Power Source
Usually, a few batteries will work fine, and you can power your projector correctly. If not, you can use your car’s battery if you have one or a generator. we’ll be getting more into this later in the article, so read along.
4. Audio Output Source
Some projectors already have an output source, meaning you won’t have to purchase any extra accessories. But if they don’t, we’d highly recommend you to get a Bluetooth speaker.
Try not to cheap out on these, as they play one of the most critical roles in your projector experience.
5. Projector Screens
This is the final thing you have to worry about for using a projector on camping, excluding the projector itself. Screens are the most important part of a projector, as they decide the quality and detail of the videos being played.
Some people usually try to get DIY projector screens made of bedsheets, vinyl, or other surfaces. But personally, we wouldn’t recommend them. They come with tons of disadvantages, and you won’t get good quality.
For camping, a basic 1080p projector screen can work fine. But if you’re all in for the quality and depth, a 4K projector screen will be fantastic. And since it’s for outdoor use, you should get a big projector screen, preferably between 80” – 150” or more.
You’ll be able to find better deals on projector screens online through Amazon or other shopping services since there are more options and more diversity than a tech store.
How To Power A Projector For Camping
By now, you know all about setting up projector screens with the necessary products. And if you’ve done so, a stable power source is the next significant issue. But you don’t need to worry since there are tons of cheap and viable options.
Here’s a list of all the most viable ways to power a projector screen while camping —
1. Gas Powered Generators
Generators are the most stable and the easiest way to get power in potentially any scenario, especially while camping. They’re incredibly easy to use and will function as long as you have gas.
However, the downside to this is noise pollution and air pollution. They emit a lot of harmful carbon monoxide, which can take the freshness out of the air.
Some camping sites don’t allow generators either. But don’t worry much, as there are other safer options.
2. Portable Power Stations
Instead of using a generator, you can use a portable power station, preferably a 12-volt one. These are like batteries, and they have power outlets and indicators for showing the remaining battery left.
You can always recharge them after use, and they can charge your projectors, laptops, smartphones, and most other devices. These can be extremely helpful for camping, but they might be a bit pricey.
Personally, we’d recommend the Jackery Portable Power Station for camping. It’s relatively affordable, and it comes with tons of great features and good battery life.
3. Car Battery
If you use a car, you’ve probably charged your phone using the car’s battery many times while it’s running. Thankfully, it can charge a projector and supply it with power similarly to your phone.
A 12V car battery can easily supply enough power for the projector for a couple of hours if you use a 200-300 watt-hour of power.
However, this does come at a disadvantage. You can’t fully use up the car’s battery; since then, it won’t be able to start if you try to drive it, and the power will be too low. So if you need to use the car again, which you likely will need to at some point, make sure to leave a decent chunk of the power left, and don’t use it on the projector for too long.
Our suggestion is the Tripp Lite 200W Car Power Inverter since it has two three-pin slots as well as two USB slots. It comes at an affordable price as well, and it’s decently small.
4. Power Banks
Power banks are like a much less lightweight and inexpensive version of power stations, and surprisingly enough, most of them can power projectors for a decently long time.
The capacity of the battery may vary, but most of them are lithium-ion batteries with decent enough capacity to run a projector for at least an hour. Along with that, they can charge other devices such as phones, laptops, speakers, and more.
We’d recommend the Goal Zero Sherpa 100C Portable Power Bank, since it only weighs about 2 pounds and has enough capacity to keep a projector running for several hours.
5. Solar Power
Lastly, if none of the options above seem fit for you, you can try using solar power instead. It’s clean, completely quiet, and doesn’t cost much either. It’s completely free to use after you buy the panels and set them up.
Campsites often have solar panel stands as well, and you can place yours there for it to face directly towards the sun. However, since it requires the sun, it won’t be able to give off much power on cloudy days or at night time.
This is why having a backup battery for cloudy days or night time can be an excellent idea, and we recommend the ALLPOWERS Portable Solar Panel & Mini Power Station. It comes with a 100-watt solar panel as well as a capable battery on the power station.
They’ll require little to no maintenance, and on sunny days they can keep your projector running for almost the entire day after setting it up.
These five seem to be the most viable options for powering a projector. There might be other options you can find, but they’re likely only able to give off enough power to charge phones or laptops for a few hours.
Projectors require a lot of power to display the images brightly and in the proper quality, so try not to cheap out on your power supply. Solar panels, Car batteries, and portable power stations have worked the best for me and required little to no maintenance.
What To Look For While Picking A Projector For Camping
Since camping takes place outdoors, usually in sunny or cloudy environments, a typical projector won’t do you any good, and it won’t be able to display bright, crisp videos either.
So here’s a list of a few things to look for while picking a projector for camping —
1. Compact Dimensions
Projectors that are compact in size and dimensions are much easier to carry, and they’re excellent for camping in general.
2. Lightweight Design
Bulky projectors will slow you down a lot, so try to always aim for lightweight projectors instead of the big and heavy ones.
3. Bright Display
Go for projectors that have bright displays since you won’t even be able to see the media displayed on the screen outdoors if it’s not bright enough. As a rule of thumb, get something that is 500 – 3000 lumens or more.
4. Long Battery Life
Projectors with good battery life are essential for camping trips since you’ll have no electricity to recharge them most of the time. Even if you can supply it with enough power, the battery of the projector itself needs to be capable as well.
5. High Resolution
Usually, projectors will be within 720p to 4k in resolution since they’re typically not overpriced and deliver tons of useful features. However, if you’re using an older or cheaper projector with a resolution under 720p, we’d highly recommend getting a new one.
This is because for outdoor camping, you will get some decreased quality to begin with from the brightness difference, and then lower resolutions will make it look even worse. Overall, it’s not recommended to use low resolutions such as 480p.
Power Source Management Tips For Camping
Now that you’ve kitted yourself out with the projector itself, necessary products, and the power supply, here are a few tips we found for managing the power on your projector —
1. Use Devices With Replaceable Batteries
If you’re on a campsite where there isn’t much electricity, we’d highly recommend you to use power source devices with replaceable or chargeable batteries, such as Power Stations or Power Banks. Reducing the number of devices running on electricity will increase the power allocated to your projector.
2. Use Energy Saving Mode On Your Projector
Nowadays, projectors are much more advanced, and if you’ve recently picked up a projector, it probably has an Energy Saving Mode. Compared to older models of projectors, these low-power modes can double, sometimes even triple the amount of time you can use the projectors without any decrease in quality.
3. Use Portable Power Sources
Instead of using power sources that are hard to move, such as generators, consider using portable options such as car batteries and mobile power stations. You can never really tell when you’d need to move campsites since there might be dangers nearby.
4. Use Water-Resistant Connectors
By using water-resistant connectors and sockets, you can prevent damage to the power source and the projector and reduce hazards for shocks.
5. Avoid Damp Areas
You should always try to avoid damp areas when putting your projector’s power supply since it can damage the battery of the power source or potentially even create shock hazards. Either way, it’s not safe, so always try to put them in dry and secure areas.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How can I get my projector to work outside?
For using a projector during the day, you need something that can emit at least 3000+ lumens of light. If it fails to reach this brightness, you won’t be able to see the videos from the projector as it won’t be bright enough due to the light from the sun.
Putting your projector under shade can help, since this way, you’re allowing less light onto the room.
2. Can I watch Netflix on a projector while camping?
Yes! Thanks to Netflix’s offline downloading system, you can download your favorite TV shows or movies before going camping and enjoy them later, even without an internet connection. This works with other streaming services as well, such as Hulu.
3. How much power will I need for a small projector?
Small or Mini Projectors often need half of the power necessary for bigger projectors. Usually, they’ll need 50W for the smallest projectors and 150W – 500W for the bigger-sized mini projectors.
For camping, we’d recommend average-sized projectors because of their viewing angles and the size of the screen.
4. How many amp-hours do projectors use?
On 117VAC, a projector can use as much as 1.9 amps within a few seconds of turning it on. It will hold this value for about a minute, and then it drops down to 1.5 or 1.65 amps after 5 minutes or so.
5. Is a TV better than a projector for camping?
Since TVs usually require you to bring lots of cables and other stuff, they’re a bother for camping trips. You’d need electricity as well, so projectors are the better choice.
They don’t need cables or other devices to project the media, and you only need to bring a power source. Most outdoor projects can cost as little as 100$ with good quality, so it’s a solid choice, especially for camping.
Hopefully, now you understand how to power a projector for camping. The most common options are generators, but batteries work great as well.
From our experience, we found that a portable power station or car battery was the cheapest source of power. They’re easy to manage as well, especially the car battery.
However, portable power stations are superior for more advanced campsites where you can recharge the battery. And you likely won’t need to recharge it later anyway since it can run projectors for multiple hours.
But car batteries are the cheapest method, so it’s up to you. But with that being said, good luck camping, and cheers!