How to Choose the Best Speaker for Camping

When you’re ready to take your tunes outside, here’s what to look for

Every memorable party has a good playlist, get-togethers in the outdoors notwithstanding. With a rugged, Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker, you can groove anywhere in the world without having to sacrifice sound quality. When you’re ready to take your tunes outside, here’s what to look for in terms of functionality, durability, and bonus features.

Size

On one end of the spectrum, portable wireless speakers can be as big as a paper towel roll; on the other end, they can be as small as a hockey puck. Typically, the larger the speaker, the louder and deeper the sound. Consider your carrying capacity when you select speaker size and weight. Are you car camping where size doesn’t matter? Or are you hiking to a camp deep in the backcountry where every ounce counts? 

Sound Quality

Differing components and design characteristics will determine your speaker’s overall audio performance and power.  

Accuracy

In general, you’re looking to see how faithfully a speaker reproduces sound—the “frequency response” charts the range of frequencies a speaker is capable of producing. Ideally, you want to seek minimal frequency variations for the smoothest and most accurate sounds. Since speaker components vary widely and human ears hear ranges differently, if you’re highly concerned about quality, give the speaker a test-listen in person, if possible. 

Loudness

If you’re concerned about loudness, check out a speaker’s sensitivity, which is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the sensitivity rating (or decibels), the louder a speaker can get. (An average speaker comes with a sensitivity of around 87 to 88 dB; anything over 90 dB is considered excellent.)

Woofer Position

A woofer is the part of the speaker that creates and pushes out the sounds. Consider how many woofers the speaker has, and where they are positioned—if you’re looking for 360-degree sound output, make sure there are multiple woofers and tweeters (smaller versions of woofers) facing in different directions.

Battery life

Nothing kills a mood like a speaker beeping its out-of-battery tones. The best portable speakers can keep a charge for more than 12 hours. Always making sure your speaker is fully charged before leaving home will set you up for success, and pack charging equipment (solar panels, car adapters, battery packs) if you’ll be out for a long period of time. 

Some speakers take battery life a step further and integrate a power bank that allows you to also charge and recharge other small devices (think smartphones providing the music) directly from USB outlets on the speaker itself. The number of device charges as well as volume levels will impact the speaker’s overall battery life and playback time in the field.

Photo: Seminority Studio/Shutterstock

Bluetooth Range

You don’t want to be stuck glued to your portable speaker. Some of the best Bluetooth speakers have up to a 100-foot range, so you can still tote your phone around to take pictures or use other camping apps.

Durability

First off, consider exposure to water and dust, then potential hazards during transport and set up. 

Waterproof

Rain, spilled drinks, splashes from the creek, a surprising ocean wave—you never know what elements the outdoors will throw your way. Waterproof speakers reduce stress, giving you one less thing to worry about, and can save you from having to replace damaged equipment down the line. Some speakers are designed to float and bump tunes from the water; others are built with waterproof or -resistant materials and coated with waterproof finishes. 

Dustproof

Pesky dust can and does get everywhere. Does the speaker have protective flaps over its charging ports to keep fine granules and other materials out?

Structural durability

Portable speakers are often made for use outside, but still check to ensure they’re made with materials that won’t melt in the sun or bust after being knocked over. Some speakers tout the ability to be dropped from over 10 feet; others can roll down mountain slopes relatively unscathed. 

Attachment Systems

In particular, micro speakers can feature unique attachment systems so you can bring music with you no matter the distance, height, or terrain type traveled. Some are designed with built-in carabiners, so you can attach them to your backpacker or harness; others have silicone straps that can be affixed to bike handlebars. 

Settings Extras

Whether you want to tune into a big game while you’re camping, or need to check the weather, some portable speakers come with built-in AM/FM radio tuners that let you toggle between your own playlists and over-the-air broadcasts. Many of the latest speaker designs also come equipped with a voice assistant like Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. Though most smart-speaker functions will be lost offline in the outdoors, voice-command operation of the wireless speaker still has its hands-free benefits. 

Lights

When the sun goes down, the party doesn’t have to stop. Some speaker models integrate built-in light systems that’ll add flair to any campsite ambiance. Look for multicolored lights, strobe lights, even lights that can sync and change with the music.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.