A camping trip is a fun and affordable way of escaping city life and enjoying the great outdoors with friends, family, or yourself. While many enjoy the technological disconnect you experience while camping, some music lovers prefer to carry music with them for that day by the lake, the hike in the woods, or just for some atmosphere around the campsite.
Depending on your goal, your criteria for selecting a Bluetooth speaker for camping can vary drastically. In this article, we’ll run you through the various features and factors to consider when looking for a camping-friendly Bluetooth speaker.
Durability – Consider Your Environment
Whether camping in the sun or the snow, a Bluetooth speaker out there will fulfill your audio needs.
The most crucial factor when choosing a Bluetooth speaker for camping is durability. The speaker should be rugged enough to withstand outdoor use, including exposure to dust and rain. Look for a speaker with a somewhat robust IP rating, which indicates the degree of protection against water and dust. While your level of weather resistance depends on where/how you plan on using the speaker, we recommend an IP65 rating or higher for camping since this protects the speaker from water and dust exposure.
If you plan to use the speaker close to water, such as in a canoe or on the side of a lake – I’d recommend prioritizing speakers with an IP67 rating. An IP67 weather-resistance rating ensures the speaker is protected from dust and submergence in water. The ability to survive submergence for up to 30 minutes should be considered an emergency feature and not a challenge. Keep your speaker out of the water as much as possible, as an IP rating is not guaranteed.
In addition to the IP rating, look for a shockproof speaker with a durable casing. A rubberized or silicone casing can protect against unplanned drops and impacts. Shock resistance is a nice feature to have. Still, you’ll also need to keep in mind that there are limited Bluetooth speakers with this type of protection, and you may need to work through the tradeoffs of build features compared to audio performance, as many white-label Bluetooth speakers market themselves as durable but suffer in other ways.
While snow is sometimes a consideration for the more extreme outdoor enthusiasts, most Bluetooth speakers don’t offer any distinguished protection from snow. That’s not to say that it isn’t protected, but manufacturers will typically not address its protection from snow outright. Most speakers that offer water protection should be fine in snowy conditions, with IPX7 or IP67 speakers being the safest choice.
How Demanding Are Your Hiking Trips?
Some Bluetooth speakers are great for camping trips with minimal climbing, while others excel in portability and can be easily hiked.
Portability is another essential factor when choosing a Bluetooth speaker for camping. The speaker should be lightweight and easy to carry to take it anywhere. While these guidelines aim to help the inexperienced, you should use your judgment in alignment with your capabilities. You know your physical abilities better than we ever could.
Speaker Weight Guidelines for Camping
Under 2 Miles
3 to 10 Miles
Over 10 Miles
It’s not just the weight that you need to take into consideration. There are other ways in which the form factor of a Bluetooth speaker may hinder your camping experience. You probably don’t need to worry about a carry handle or straps if you’ve got a large backpack or a small speaker. However, more prominent Bluetooth speakers often use a built-in or detachable handle/strap to make transportation easier. If you have higher volume demands and require a larger speaker, investing in one that offers an easy method of transportation is essential.
Similarly, if your camping trips tend to result in bruises and scratches, chances are your speaker will also suffer some trauma eventually. For this reason, you should consider the durability of the speaker. There are speakers like the Turtlebox 2, specifically designed to be put through the outdoors lifestyle, and then there are others which, even though made for the outdoors, would still be prone to get snagged on branches or scratched when they fall out your hand.
Battery Performance Considerations
When you’re away from a power point, having a speaker with a battery life that can keep up is essential.
Battery life is a crucial factor when choosing a Bluetooth speaker for camping. If you’re more of the ‘glamping’ type, you won’t need to worry much about battery life as you can use the campsite power point to charge your speaker.
If you tend to camp more in the wilderness and don’t have access to a direct power socket, having a robust battery life will be essential. We consider anything more than 10 hours of battery life viable, but we would recommend looking closer toward 15 or 20 hours, ideally. There are versatile Bluetooth speakers on the market offering more than 20 hours of battery life, thanks to the current adoption of Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer batteries (if you’re not sure of the differences between Bluetooth batteries and how they can impact your speaker, we recommend reading our guide on Bluetooth batteries).
It’s not just the battery life itself you should consider. Pay attention to the advertised charging times as well. Some speakers charge more efficiently than others, and there can be significant variations in the amount of time it takes to charge your speaker fully. If you’re hiking, for instance, and you only have limited time with power at certain rest stops, you’ll want to ensure you have a speaker with an efficient charging time.
We tend to see between 5 and 8 hours of recharge for larger speakers, while more portable alternatives can fully charge between 2 and 5 hours.
Get a Speaker That Sounds Good Outdoors
A Bluetooth speaker’s audio performance and sound signature can change depending on whether it’s indoor or outdoor-focused.
Audio quality is always an interesting discussion, with some arguing that sound is like art and subjective to one’s preferences. The others maintain that sound is more scientific and the only correct sound is balanced. Regarding Bluetooth speakers made for the outdoors, it’s not even that simple, as there are unique aspects to listening to music outdoors that can change the qualities one looks for. That’s to say, a speaker that sounds good indoors doesn’t always sound good outdoors.
Because sound travels in waves, it bounces off solid surfaces, pushing the sound into various directions as they ricochet between the confines of the room. These acoustic properties can add a sense of more bass, soundstage, and volume. Speakers dedicated to indoor use will typically focus more on creating a balanced sound that focuses more on clarity and is more tailored toward critical listeners.
When using a speaker outdoors, you don’t have the same kind of acoustics that an interior provides, and because of that, speakers made for indoor use can often sound flat, boring, and just not all that fun to listen to outdoors. Speakers made with camping or the outdoor lifestyle in mind may focus more on a V or U-shaped sound signature that sees the bass and treble accentuated to compensate for the lack of acoustics.
Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide what sound signature you like. But we recommend that not all Bluetooth speakers sound great outdoors. However, most popular Bluetooth speakers marketed toward an outdoor lifestyle have a sound signature that, at a minimum, works outdoors.
Some outdoor Bluetooth speakers focus on providing an improved soundstage, sometimes by utilizing a design where the audio comes from the front and the back of the speaker, like on Marshall’s Emberton II. Then there are those with a full 360-degree audio experience, such as the Treblab HD77.
Don’t Ignore Volume Capabilities
And how to know how many decibels you need.
Knowing how much volume you need will be crucial when buying a Bluetooth speaker for camping. An excellent general rule is to get more than you need cause it’s easy to turn the volume lower, and it’s also a lot cheaper than having to buy a new speaker a year down the line.
If you’re unsure what kind of volume you need, our guide on understanding volume may prove a handy starting point. However, as an easy reference, here’s what we’d suggest regarding decibel output, depending on how you plan to use your speaker.
For Use In The Tent
Because tents are confined areas where your speaker will sound louder than outdoors, you won’t need a lot of volume.
Recommended Volume: 75 to 85dB
Small Social Gatherings / General Outdoor Use
Small social gatherings can be considered any interaction where the other parties are within a few meters of the speaker. However, there is a marked difference between 80dB and 90dB due to how decibel measurements are exponentially categorized. A 90dB speaker can power a moderate gathering when pushed to its limits.
Recommended Volume: 80-90dB
Bonfires & Large Social Gatherings
While most camping trips don’t involve large gatherings or parties, some do. If you’re going to a large festival or a social camping experience where the focus is the party, you’ll want a speaker that can keep up with demands.
At 90dB, you’ll be able to cater to a group of around 30 people, while louder Bluetooth speakers that offer 120dB (such as the Turtlebox 2 and Soundboks Go) can drive a party of 50 or more.
Recommended Volume: 90dB+
Not All Bluetooth Is Equal
Bluetooth technology is constantly evolving and improving the quality of your experience.
Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t change much between Bluetooth version updates in that the basic science remains the same. But each generation does see improvements made to the feature in one way or another. Typically, Bluetooth advances result in improvements in range and latency. So when buying a Bluetooth speaker for camping, we recommend going for a product with a very new iteration of Bluetooth, as you’ll likely be moving away from your speaker regularly when outside.
Bluetooth enhancements are usually felt thanks to improvements in the used codecs. As codecs (how AV data is compressed and transferred) improve, the latency is lowered, and there are even mild improvements to audio quality.
Additional Features & Connectivity
It’s not just about Bluetooth.
Some Bluetooth speakers have additional features that can be useful for camping trips. For example, some speakers include built-in microphones, allowing you to make hands-free calls or use the speaker as a makeshift PA system. Some speakers double as emergency radios and come with built-in flashlights or lanterns, which can be helpful if you’re camping at night or in low-light conditions.
We also see speakers with LED lights that are focused less on utility and more on ambiance. While these may not resonate with everyone, something must be said about a moody-lit tent out in the wilderness.
While we discussed Bluetooth versions, there are additional connectivity considerations you should make. Some Bluetooth speakers offer auxiliary input, which can be useful when your source device has an aux-out but no Bluetooth.
In addition, some outdoor speakers even feature smart home speaker assistants. The Ultimate Ears Megablast, for instance, is a portable, waterproof Bluetooth speaker that offers both WiFi and voice assistant, even though it’s a somewhat durable speaker that could be taken on a camping trip. So if you like the idea of a speaker that can do it all and go with you as you need, whether seated in your kitchen at home or in your tent while camping, there are also options for you.
Know What You Want & What You Want To Spend
Buying a good Bluetooth speaker for camping isn’t as simple as picking a product from a lineup. Your budget is going to be a determining factor in what you buy. If you require specific features from your Bluetooth speaker, you should consider how much those features weigh into the ultimate price.
If you have $50 to work with and have no volume requirements, there’s a plethora of Bluetooth speakers on the market. However, if you need to be able to drive large social gatherings with your speaker, you’re going to need to multiply the cost by 10 to buy something like the Soundboks Go or Turtlebox 2.