10 Essential Gadgets to Pull Off a Theater-Quality Outdoor Movie Night
When the weather gets warmer, it’s natural to spend less time indoors. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, you can gather friends and family together to watch a movie or TV show outside of the house. That may sound like lugging a bunch of heavy equipment around, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s possible to set up and break down an outdoor home theater system in roughly half an hour with a little prep work.
If you want a true home theater experience, one that you can use both inside and outside of your home, it’ll take longer, but we’ve collected the essential gear and accessories you’ll need for an outdoor movie night without much fuss. Our goal was to enable you to watch movies and TV shows in HD at home, in your backyard, or anywhere else, and stay comfortable while you stream. As long as you’ve got an internet connection, and some portable gear, you’ll be all set.
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1. Anker Nebula Mars II Pro
If you can’t get your hands on Nebula’s oft sold-out Solar Portable, the Mars II Pro is the ideal projector for an outdoor movie night. It’s battery-powered, and can last up to three hours on a single charge, so you’ll be able to get through one or two films before it needs to be plugged in. The projector’s native resolution is 720p, so your picture will look clear, and it can produce a 100-inch screen if you have enough space. The Mars II Pro’s best technical feature is its 500 lumen lighting system, which is bright enough to produce a clean image when there’s some light pollution.
One of our favorite features is its auto-focus system, which makes micro adjustments so you don’t have to get up and manually adjust the picture yourself. You’ll find connectivity with the app that lets you control the projector from your phone, so you won’t need to use the remote as much.
The Mars II Pro doesn’t have any built-in apps, so you’ll need to use your phone or mirror your laptop screen to stream services like Hulu or Netflix. It does have a HDMI and USB port, so you can play video files off a flash drive. This projector has a dual 10W speaker system that gets surprisingly loud, but we found there was a little less bass than we’d like. That’s less of an issue because you can connect external speakers through its headphone jack.
If you want a reliable, portable projector for outdoor movie watching this summer, Anker Nebula Mars’ II Pro is our top pick.
Buy: Anker Nebula Mars II Pro $459.99
2. Vamvo Outdoor 120-Inch Projector Screen
You can project a movie onto any surface, but you’ll get the best results if you use a dedicated screen. This one from Vamvo is made out of tough material, sits on two tripod, and is large enough to display a 120-inch image. The company says you can set it up in less than five minutes without any tools, and includes a storage bag to keep it safe when the screen is not in use.
Buy: Vamvo Outdoor 120-Inch Projector Screen $120.00
3. Edifier R1700BTs Speakers
If you want to upgrade the sound of your outdoor movie night, your best bet is to get a pair of Edifier’s R1700BTs powered speakers. They contain an amplifier, so you don’t need to connect them to a stereo receiver, but do need to be plugged into an outlet to work. The R1700BTs have two drivers (the part of a speaker that creates sound): a four-inch woofer to handle bass and midrange frequencies, and a .75-inch tweeter to handle treble.
Spreading frequencies between the two drivers results in better balanced sound. You can make little tweaks by twisting the bass and treble knobs on the left-hand side of the right speaker if you prefer.
You can connect the R1700BTs to your projector via a Y-Cable, which goes from the AAXA PX6’s headphone jack into one of its RCA (red and white) inputs. The speakers have an additional RCA input and Bluetooth support, so you can plug an additional home theater component, or stream music to them wirelessly. Edifier includes a remote with the R1700BTs, so you can adjust their volume and switch inputs on the fly if the video you’re watching gets too loud or soft.
Edifier’s R1700BTs are a great tech piece of audio gear for your outdoor movie night, indoor home theater, or computer.
4. Bose TV Soundbar
If you prefer soundbars to stereo speaker systems, Bose’s TV Soundbar is the right pick for your outdoor movie night.
At 23.3 inches long and 6 pounds, it’s easy to carry this soundbar in and out of your home. It has a pair of drivers (Bose declines to mention their size), and a specialized Dialogue Mode, which makes voices sound clearer. The Solo 5 TV Soundbar has an AUX input, so you can connect it to the AAXA P6X’s headphone jack with a standard 3.5mm audio cable. The sound bar also has one HDMI, optical audio, and coaxial input, and supports Bluetooth 5.0, so you can stream music to it wirelessly.
Bose bundles this sound bar with a remote, which you can use to adjust its volume, increase its bass, enable dialogue mode, and even control your TV. You cannot control the AAXA P6X with this remote, though. The Bose TV Soundbar’s small size and large feature set make it one of the few soundbars well-suited for outdoor use.
5. Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit
Solo Stove’s Bonfire Fire Pit is great for if you want to huddle around a cozy fire during your outdoor movie sesh, but don’t want all the pesky smoke blocking the screen. The circular pit sits on a base plate that allows air to flow inside. This keeps oxygen flowing through the fire pit’s double wall, and allows ash to fall down into the ash pan (less ash, less smoke).
The venting system also doesn’t use batteries or fans, and enables a feature Solo Stove calls a “secondary burn,” which occurs when hot air from the double wall is pushed up and over the flames. This air is hot enough to burn wood particles that would have otherwise turned into smoke. You end up with a pit that can burn wood better than similar pits, and one you can use even if it’s a little windy.
Solo Stove is also highly portable, at only 14-inches tall, 19.5-inches wide, and weighs just 20 pounds. If smoke and an extended cleanup time are what’s keeping you from getting a fire pit for your backyard movie night, Solo Stove’s Bonfire is the one you should get.
Buy: Solo Stove Bonfire $299.99
6. Fire TV Stick Lite
The Anker Nebula Mars II Pro doesn’t have any built-in apps, so if you want access to streaming services, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is the right call. The small media streamer can stream video in up to 1080P (Full HD), and enables you to watch content from over 100 channels (most channels and services require a monthly subscription to work).
The Fire TV Stick Lite has an HDMI jack on one end, so you can plug it directly into the HDMI port on the Nebula Mars II Pro. You can power the media streamer by connecting the MicroUSB cable Amazon includes with it into the USB port on the projector. Once connected, you can select or download different streaming services by pressing buttons on the remote, or hitting the microphone button on top and asking for your request.
If the movie or TV show you want to watch during your outdoor get together is available to stream, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick Lite makes it easy to find, pick, and watch.
Buy: Fire TV Stick Lite $24.99
7. Rumpl Blanket
You want a rugged, soft solution to getting grass stains on your pants after a long night of movie binge-watching? The Rumpl blanket is your outdoor movie night companion, with a durable, water repellent coating that will wick away all the dew on the grass (which is why we love them for festivals and camping too).
Another neat feature is the cape clip, which allows you to wear your blanket hands-free so you can get up to stoke the fire, futz with the picture settings on your projector, or just grab a drink. It’s fairly lightweight, but the built-in loops also make it easy to secure to the ground with stakes, so you won’t have to worry about it moving around. Available in one and two-person sizes, the Rumpl blanket can also be tossed straight in the wash afterwards, so don’t be worried if you spill your popcorn or soda.
8. Coleman Camping Chair with Built-in 4 Can Cooler
That being said, if you don’t want to feel your behind go numb on the ground after a few hours (though, we have recommended some more extremely comfy outdoor blankets that will help), Coleman’s Camping Chair is your function, comfortable alternative to movie theater seating outdoors.
Not only does the chair have cushioning on the seat and behind your back, it can hold up to 325 pounds total. But the biggest “it” factor for this chair is that it comes with it’s own cooler. Yes, you heard us right — just throw some ice in its side pocket cooler and keep up to four drinks cold by your side long before the credits roll.
We also like the addition of the pocket built into the seat for storing a book, magazine or your smartphone, if the movie gets a little slow. It folds up so you can carry it back inside with an included carrier.
Buy: Coleman Camping Chair With Cooler $34.99
9. Eero WiFi Routers
The last thing you want to watch during your outdoor movie night is a buffering screen, which is why you need a strong, reliable, far-reaching WiFi network. This set of three routers from eero is rated to cover an area of up to 3,500 sq. ft. (square feet) with an internet connection up to 350mbps (megabytes per second).
This is a mesh WiFi system, which means one router needs to be connected to your cable modem, and the others can be placed anywhere there’s a power outlet. The three routers send a consistent internet signal between one another, and your device connects to the router it’s physically closest to, which reduces congestion.
It’s easy to take fast internet speeds for granted when you’re streaming videos in your home, but stepping outside puts quite a bit of physical distance between your WiFi router and outdoor home theater setup. The upside is that getting a set of eero routers will improve the quality of your outdoor movie watching experience and create a better WiFi network you can enjoy indoors.
Buy: Eero Mesh WiFi System $199.00
10. Flowtron BK-80D Bug Zapper
Don’t let pesky mosquitoes and flies leaving you running indoors during your backyard movie night — Flowtron specializes in top-of-the-line outdoor bug zappers. This BK-80D is their most hardcore insect exterminator, boasting an incredible acre and a half of bug-killing coverage.
No matter what kind of weather report you have for outdoor festivities, this zapper’s rugged polycarbonate resists cracking, rust and fading while exposed to the elements. The Flowtron also features an Octenol attractant to target mosquitos and, unlike most zappers, doesn’t have a catch tray that needs emptying. With maximum coverage, great durability and bug-luring ability, you have the best outdoor bug zapper that will last the entire season, well beyond your movie night.
Buy: Flowtron BK-80D Bug Zapper $65.82
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