Best Camping Projectors for that Big Screen Cinema Experience
Introduction to Mini Projectors for Camping
In this article we explore the growing use of mini projectors for watching TV and movies in campervans, tents and caravans. From the units we’ve tested it has become clear to us that the best camping projectors marry the latest technology with small size, saving space while delivering entertainment in spades. Camping projectors can effectively replace a TV, a laptop and a Bluetooth speaker in one discreet package.
Using projectors at home has never really caught on with the mainstream because large flatscreen televisions screens don’t really take up much space against a wall in the lounge and don’t need moving much. They also don’t need the curtains drawn to produce a stunning picture! However it’s clear you can’t easily fit a 50” TV in a VW campervan!
When camping it is a completely different story. Space is at a premium, and most viewing is done in the evening when the blinds and curtains are normally drawn anyway. You therefore can get a dark environment without incurring any extra hassle. Win win!
So what are the key features of the best camping projectors which make them so useful for life on the road?
- Size – at their largest, the projectors are not much bigger than a can of baked beans. This is the key reason for considering a camping projector as you can sell the TV you usually use and save valuable packing space.
- Image size – if you can find a large flat surface to project onto, you can easily obtain an image size of >1m across. This is so much better than straining your eyes to look at a small TV or laptop screen.
- Integrated battery – very useful for camping because the projector can run for several hours without plugging in – this gives flexibility to where you watch.
- Integrated loudspeaker – the sound quality of the built-in speakers can vary considerably between models. Often Bluetooth or an aux socket can be used to play sound through an external speaker.
- Ability to connect to your phone wirelessly and project the phone screen itself (casting) – this effectively allows you to watch content without plugging in.
- SD card or USB stick – allows films to be preloaded before your camping trip and not rely on phone signal in the middle of nowhere!
- HDMI port to connect to a Firestick or laptop and project the image.
- Android TV – some of the high-end models include this which means you can stream content directly from the projector – all it needs is a data connection via a phone hotspot or campsite WiFi
- Auto focusing is a great feature on the more expensive models – cheaper projectors need to be focused manually via an adjustment wheel
- Keystoning is another great feature on the more expensive projectors – it means that the projector will automatically square the screen image when projecting at an angle on to the screen.
Useful Accessories for Campervan Projectors
The mini projectors we have reviewed below were tested in both a Mercedes Marco Polo campervan and an Eriba caravan with both the internal lighting on and off. We wanted to mainly explore using natural features of the vans (such as the pop-top canvas) to project onto rather than bringing along a dedicated screen which incurs extra cost (and space).
However in a caravan or campervan, a screen hung between the front seats (as shown in the title photo above) is a great option for viewing if you don’t have a pop-top canvas or an available flat surface to project onto – it also means you can use a projector in a tent – just be aware of your neighbours!
You may need a tripod to fine-tune the orientation of your projector – some come pre-supplied with one so check the specifications closely. All of the tested units were able to stand unassisted without a tripod, but it means you can only project out horizontally unless you tilt the projector somehow.
Using a tripod such as the Crosstour Mini won’t break the bank and it allows a wide range of orientations to be used without involuntary cursing. Make sure it is sturdy enough to hold up to 1 kg at a non-vertical angle though – some of the small plastic tripods will struggle with this.
For the projectors without integrated Android TV (i.e. the cheaper ones!), we recommend buying a device like the Amazon Fire TV Stick which gives you streaming access to a wide-range of TV and apps for not a lot of money. They’re very small, come with a remote control and have an HDMI connector which means it will connect directly to all the projectors on test.
So let’s take a look at some of the best mini-projectors we found for Campsite Cinema entertainment.
Yaufey Mini Projector - Joint Best Camping Projector OVERALL
If you’re looking for an ideal combination of small size, rechargeable battery, affordable price whilst also running native Android then look no further than the Yaufey Mini Projector 2
We only recently came across this fabulous projector after a friend bought one and along with the LG Cinebeam range it is our pick for best overall camping projector – let’s explain why….
Firstly, the size.
The overall dimensions are excellent for campervan use at 14 cm (h) x 8 cm (d) by 8 cm (w). Pretty darn tiny, and easy to pack away into a drawer when you’re not using it. It only weighs 550g too, but contains battery, loudspeakers, user interface and projection optics within its body – impressive!
The Yaufey comes bundled with a charger, carrying bag, tripod, carry case, hdmi cable, and remote control which saves having to make additional purchases. For once, a manufacturer has at least thought about how their projector might be used in the real world. This isn’t always the case with other brands.
Complete Wireless Operation
As mentioned before, the Yaufey contains a rechargeable lithium battery (19 Wh) which means you can power up and watch a programme or film without mains power. This is true portability. The battery can be charged either by DC power or a USB power bank (not supplied) and lasts around 2 hours – enough for most films.
The projector also includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, so you do not even have to physically hook up a device in order to watch stuff. You can wirelessly mirror your phone onto the projector which is exceedingly useful. With the Bluetooth, you can connect a wireless keyboard and/or mouse for navigation around the Android OS or alternatively connect to a Bluetooth speaker for better sound. Neat! On top of this, there is 32Gb of in-built memory for watching films and TV which have been side-loaded via the USB port or downloaded via Android.
Picture and Sound Quality
The Yaufey pumps out 150 lumens and runs at a native 480p for a screen size of up to 120” diagonal (3m!).
Now we’ve made our feelings on 480p clear before – for typical watching in a campervan, caravan or tent this resolution is no problem for us (although we are in our 40s and our eyes aren’t as great as they used to be!).
We would prefer 720p if possible, and this is the only minor downside of a projector which has so many positives. We would urge you to overlook the resolution issue and see what you think – perhaps give it a go and if it’s not right for you then send it back – one of the perks of ‘distance-purchasing’ in the UK! We think the picture quality is perfectly acceptable for films and computer games, but not for computer working (e.g. spreadsheets). For higher resolution choices check out the Anker Nebula Capsule 2 or Xgimi Mogo Pro.
The 150 lumen brightness of the Youfey is ample for most watching although it obviously benefited from our campervan blinds being drawn. The Yaufey also incorporates automatic keystoning which is when the picture is optimally focused and the screen dimensions adjusted when shone at an angle against a wall. This is excellent functionality to see in action, and mind blowing for this price!
With version 2 of the Yaufey, keystoning now works for both the Android interface and a source connected via HDMI.
Sound from the Yaufey is excellent from the inbuilt stereo speakers. You can also hook up to a wireless Bluetooth speaker such as the Anker Soundcore if you like.
Having built-in android is a godsend on a mini battery-powered projector costing less than £250. If you compare it to the Anker Capsule 2 and the XGimi Mogo Pro then you are paying more than 2x the price for the same functionality (but at admittedly higher resolution).
The Yaufey comes with a remote control which can be used to scroll through the apps (Netflix, yay!), but we found that a small folding Bluetooth keyboard with in-built touchpad was the best option for navigation because it made typing passwords in easier. The Android interface itself is smooth and lag-free and really great to have for YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime watching.
Overall, we were really blown away by the Yaufey mini projector. For a great price, it includes an insane amount of functionalty. We would unhesitatingly recommend it for purchase if you can accept the 480p resolution. In practice, this is a perfectly acceptable resolution for TV and films when camping.
The Yaufey mini projector is the best combination of size and price we have found whilst also including native Android, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You really cannot expect too much more from a campervan projector. Loses just half a point for the 480p but otherwise outstanding!
LG Electronics CineBeam PH30N - Joint Best Camping Projector OVERALL
If picture resolution is a more important parameter for you whilst maintaining value for money then the best camping projector on the market is the LG Electronics CineBeam PH30N. This is a very similarly priced projector to the Yaufey above, but is slightly brighter and has enhanced resolution equivalent to HD 720p.
The downsides of the LG vs the Yaufey are the slightly larger size and weight as well as no on-board operating system for streaming apps like iPlayer and Netflix – for that you need to pay more for the LG CineBeam PF50KS. However you can use a cheap media stick with the PH30N like the Amazon Fire which plugs into the HDMI socket. We recommend doing this if you can get a Wi-Fi hotspot set up whilst camping.
Battery or AC power – the choice is yours!
Dimensions are 3.8 x 13 x 13cm which is not exactly huge, but because it is not a vertical stander like the Yaufey, it takes up more precious tabletop space. Weight is reasonable at 1.1kg and there is a standard tripod mount on the underside of the projector which we recommend using.
Crucially for the portability factor, LG incorporates a rechargeable battery in the PH30N which delivers up to 2.5 hours of playtime on a single charge – more than enough time for most movies – unless you’re trying to watch Once Upon A Time In America which is 4 hours that is!
A remote control is supplied which allows you to navigate the LG operating system as well as adjust settings and flick between sources. Just having a single HDMI port is fine for camping, however for home use it may be a bit limiting. However there is also a USB port which can allow you to stream media off a suitable USB stick.
Picture and Sound Quality
The picture quality from the LG is very good, allowing screen sizes up to a max of around 100 inches before you start seeing unacceptable pixels. The brightness is rated at 250 lumens, and we measured close to this in our garden setup as shown below. This image was taken simply projected onto a white sheet, which shows the flexibility you can take advantage of while camping.
The LG allows automatic keystoning which is the adjustment of the picture to a standard rectangle if it is arriving on the screen from an angle. This worked well, but focusing is simply performed manually via a control on the top of the unit. As for most projectors of this size, adjusting the screensize is achieved by simply moving the projector backwards or forwards – no great difficulty if it’s within reach in your camping space.
Sound quality from the speakers is nothing miraculous, but there is a 3.5mm socket or Bluetooth to connect to an external soundbar or speaker. We would recommend doing this.
Overall we were impressed with the LG Cinebeam PH30N. It offers a great picture for the money with 720p HD quality at a very competitive price. The lack of streaming apps on board is no great problem with the Amazon Fire so cheap now – just plug it in and off you go. It’s an excellent value for money portable HD projector – what more can you want or expect?
The LG Cinebeam PH30N is a great value for money projector which ties for top position as best overall camping projector. We don't miss the streaming apps because a simple Amazon Fire stick is such a great value alternative - plus you get Netflix with it which is not the case with some on-board Android projectors. Highly recommended!
Anker Nebula Capsule 2
With the Nebula Capsule 2 they have produced a mini 720p projector which combines all the key features we listed above into a package the size of a can of beer. It’s not the cheapest campervan projector but if you consider that it’s replacing a TV, a sound system and also saving space then it becomes more acceptable – at least to us gadget freaks!
This is a solid bit of kit which gives reassurance in the hand, and at 680g in weight it isn’t going to topple over. It incorporates Android Play with >3600 apps including YouTube, Amazon Prime etc. You just need to get it connected to the Wi-Fi to start streaming these. This can be a hot spot from your phone or the campsite Wi-Fi for example.
The Capsule 2 didn’t originally have an app for Netflix, but this is now accessible in the ‘Nebula Manager’ software suite you get pre-loaded on the device. In addition, there is 8Gb of onboard memory to store films, or you can also plug in a USB stick loaded with your faves.
The Capsule 2 can be fully controlled via some nifty touch buttons on the top and it can also respond to voice commands via Google Assist which works surprisingly well. This is useful for a camping projector because you often find yourself multi-tasking!
We tested the Capsule 2 in both a Marco Polo campervan and an Eriba caravan. We found that even in daylight hours with the blinds open, the 200 lumens of output is ample to see the screen effectively if the projector is positioned reasonable close to the screen (i.e. less than 1m away for a roughly 30-50cm screen width). We found that the Capsule 2 auto-focused very effectively within a couple of seconds in all lighting conditions – very nifty!
With the blinds down, the picture quality improved even further due to the better contrast. The screen size could then be significantly expanded to >1m across and made for an exciting and absorbing cinema experience in both campervan and caravan. It’s worth repeating again that the sound quality from the Capsule is fantastic, which really helps with generating atmosphere and immersion whilst watching. Have a look at some of our videos illustrating the picture quality..
Videos of the Nebula Capsule 2 camping projector in action
Our video shows the Anker Nebula Capsule 2 being used in an Eriba caravan. Running off battery power it was simply placed on the caravan worktop to stream Match of the Day effortlessly against the wall. No screen was needed even in daylight, and sound quality was excellent.
Projecting onto the pop-top canvas from the rear two seats of the Mercedes Marco Polo using the Capsule 2 gave a fantastic cinema experience. (NB Apologies for the drunkenness in this video, but it was shot after a day’s walking and a few whiskies had been consumed!)
Loses a point for the price and the lack of a native Netflix app, but the Nebula Capsule 2 is a nicely-sized 720p mini projector and perfect for all camping trips.
Just a note to say that the original Nebula Anker Capsule is still available and considerably cheaper than the Version 2. It emits at 100 lumens with 480P resolution and runs Android 7.1 rather than Android TV but is still a great all-round campervan projector.
Watch where you shine that Campsite Projector!
It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are projecting onto the pop-top of your campervan from the inside that the image can be seen from outside. You may want to tailor your choice of material accordingly….
As mentioned above, this potentially embarrassing see-through behaviour can be counteracted by buying a roll screen to hang up at a convenient location in your camper, caravan or tent. More gear to carry though…
You can also improvise with a white sheet and some suckers – thanks to Katrina Magee on the Marco Polo forum for that suggestion!
Apeman Mini M4 - Best Campervan Projector for SIZE
Measuring only 9.8 x 9.8 x 2.2 cm, the Apeman Mini M4 projector is the smallest and lightest camping projector we’ve reviewed in this test roundup – it’s also one of our ‘best value’ recommendations due to the combination of great portability at an affordable price. Perfect for campervans!
The Apeman Mini M4 is a ‘back-to-basics’ projector which does not include any Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Android TV – you simply power it up, connect an external source (e.g. phone, laptop, games console) via the HDMI port and it will show up on the wall in all of it’s 854 x 480 resolution glory. Only 480p you say? Well actually, we found that this wasn’t a particular hindrance in terms of picture quality – for films and general TV, the resolution in the camper van and caravan was perfectly watchable.
The Apeman pumps out 100 lumens of light intensity which means it’s not a staggeringly bright output and therefore gives the best picture with the blinds drawn or if it’s dark outside. Bear in mind the size of this thing though – it’s literally pocket sized and only weighs 200g – perfect for keeping in the drawer of your campervan or caravan.
Check out our video below to get a flavour of the performance…
Focusing is performed manually using a little wheel on the side of the projector, and this must be adjusted each time you move the device relative to the screen. A bit of a faff, but not the end of the world for the price.
Sound out of the Apeman’s dual speakers isn’t too bad either in all honesty, but can be made louder if you use the headphone socket into a separate speaker, such as the Anker Soundcore Mini. However, that increases the number of gadgets you need to bring along in your camping gear. Worth it though in our opinion….
All in all, for the size of and price of the Apeman Mini M4 we can highly recommend it as a camping projector. It’s not an ‘all-in-one’ solution – you still need a phone or other device to supply it with a signal, and it also benefits from a separate loudspeaker – however, the picture is very watchable (DLP technology) even at the native 480p resolution, and for the size of it, it’s impressive!
The Apeman Mini lives up to its compact name. If you tend to typically bring a laptop or phone with you on your trips away then it's a great campervan projector for blowing that screen up to epic proportions. It literally fits in your pocket!
XGimi Mogo Pro - Best Camping Projector for PICTURE QUALITY
The XGimi Mogo Pro mini projector offers the best performance and picture quality of all the projectors we’ve looked at, but marginally loses out to the Anker Nebula Capsule 2 in our opinion due to its size (the both cost the same). This opinion is subjective because for some people the improved 1080p resolution and Harmon Kardon sound of the Mogo Pro would place it above the Capsule 2. However in our view as camping enthusiasts, the utmost display resolution is of secondary importance to the difficulty of packing the projector away in a campervan or caravan of limited size. Your mileage may vary!
This is not to say that the Mogo Pro is a huge beast. As you can tell from the photo, it’s about 14cm tall with a 10 x 9 cm base. We would still class this as a mini projector, but when it’s on a tripod it is certainly no shrinking violet, weighing in at about 900g.
The 300 lumen projected picture is magnificent however. To our eyes this ranks up with the best TVs in terms of picture quality – no evidence of pixilation even up to a display size of 100 inches – this is true 1080p! Seriously impressive and good enough to use at home – the Mogo Pro can also project 3D movies if you have the correct glasses. As mentioned above however, this performance may be slightly OTT for camping, especially if you’re projecting on to a wall or canvas pop-top of your campervan.
In terms of extras, the Mogo Pro has got it all. It has 16Gb of onboard memory for storing movies/TV as well as its own processor running a version of Android TV. This allows you to watch TV directly from the projector itself as long as it has a Wi-Fi connection. Of course it will also connect to devices such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick via HDMI and will also allow wireless direct transfer of material via Chromecast if you have an Android phone.
Sound quality is excellent as you would expect with any device having Harmon Kardon on board. You can use the Mogo Pro as a Bluetooth speaker, and it plays your music collection beautifully. There are touch buttons on top of the device for pausing and skipping tracks etc. A well-designed remote control is also provided for this task.
One slight negative of the Mogo Pro is the power supply used for charging it up. It’s one of those power bricks which older laptops use – it distracts slightly from the otherwise gorgeous, sleek design.
Set-up is very simple. The Mogo Pro will auto-focus at any position in a couple of seconds and will also adjust the picture to take into account the angle of the screen (known as ‘keystoning’). This is useful in a campervan as you could be projecting on to any random surface.
Battery life is extremely impressive, lasting around 3.5 hours in projector mode while streaming. For just playing music via Bluetooth it will last over a day with ease.
All in all, The XGimi Mogo Pro is certainly the best specified and best performing mini projector we have tested, but also the largest and most expensive (tied with the Anker Nebula Capsule 2). Choosing the best overall projector between these two titans is difficult – they are both excellent, but the smaller size of the Capsule 2 just wins out for us. If you want to also use the projector at home then go with the Mogo Pro. You won’t be disappointed!
The XGimi Mogo Pro offers superb design and performance for both home and camping use. Just check whether you're happy with the size and that bulky power supply for charging.
Campsite Projectors on a budget
It’s clear that our ‘best-buy’ mini projectors reviewed above are not the cheapest items in the world to buy, and you would be forgiven for thinking “do I really need one?” at those sort of prices. This is a very valid point!
Some people go camping in order to get away from the dreaded screens and choose not to look at a single gadget or TV show while they’re away. That is absolutely their prerogative and we would suggest they look at our beginner’s Stargazing Guide if they’re looking for an interesting hobby to get into.
For other TV fans on a budget, we’ve selected some cheaper options, often under £100. It should be noted that you normally end up losing out on projector size when you spend less money. The picture quality and sound is usually very good. If you have a big car, caravan or motorhome then you may not see the size as a problem and these projectors may be for you. Personally though, we would spend a little more for the compactness – it’s certainly a minefield of personal preferences!
QKK AK-81 Projector – Best VALUE (but no battery – mains powered)
With a name more like a machine gun than a very competent projector retailing at a STUNNING price, the QKK AK-81 is the real deal!
Let’s get the negative points out of the way first.
- It’s on the largish size, measuring 18 x 15.3 x 6 cm but actually that is not too outrageous if you have the storage space for it.
- There is no internal battery – the AK-81 only runs off AC power, but if you have an electric hook-up or AC generator at your campsite then this isn’t a problem. However you do lose a bit of portability and flexibility.
That’s pretty much all the negatives summed up in a couple of bullet points! And just wait until you hear about the positives. Oh boy….
So what do you get in the box? Well, first off you get the projector, a remote control, cables and a 100 inch screen as standard!
Native resolution (i.e. the resolution that the projector shines out) is an excellent 720p – this is the same as the Anker Nebula Capsule 2 reviewed above which costs about 9x as much. By whatever yardstick you use to ascertain value, that certainly must top the scale!
The AK-81 has HDMI, VGA, 2 x USB ports, a headphone socket and SD card connection points. The USBs and SD slots enable you to play your own pre downloaded material. There are dual speakers for decent sound as well as dual fans for efficient cooling – these are not too noisy and do not interrupt your viewing.
Light output is rated at 6000 lumens using a lamp bulb with a rated lifetime of 50000 hours – that’s alot of movies. We found that the picture was good enough to watch in reasonable light levels and you didn’t have to draw the blinds unless you wanted the absolute best visibility.
For a bit of fun a TV show was projected onto the side of a white van with perfectly watchable clarity – check out the photograph opposite. Please act responsibly with these gadgets though – we recommend not upsetting your camping neighbours!
Overall, the QKK AK-81 is phenomenal value for money if you are happy to have an AC powered device which won’t quite fit in your pocket. From a performance point of view, it’s the equal of much more expensive devices and even has keystoning capability to straighten up the image, although this is manually adjusted..
The QKK would have received the full 10/10 if it could run off battery power, but in terms of the price, the capability and the inclusion of a screen in the box, this is truly phenomenal. Buy buy buy!
Crosstour Mini DLP camping projector
The Crosstour mini projector is a fantastic battery-powered projector at the budget end in terms of price, but with very acceptable performance. It is great value.
Of similar size to the Apeman Mini reviewed above, the Crosstour is just slightly taller but is still most definitely pocket-sized. So it’s both cheap and small – what’s not to like? Well resolution is only 480p, but we sincerely do not see this as a major impediment when camping. The battery can last up to 3.5 hours (although we only managed 2) and the projector can be easily hooked up to your phone to watch YouTube for example without using HDMI. This worked well for us.
The key thing about the Crosstour is the size and weight. It is ridiculously small at only 8 x 5.5 x 9 cm and weighs only 0.21kg. You can barely feel it when it’s resting on the palm of your hand. How they fit in a battery and all the optics I have no idea!
The Elephas is reported to have 5000 Lumen, but we find that hard to believe for a battery-powered unit like this! It definitely requires the blinds of your campervan to be pulled down for the best picture, but this isn’t a massive problem.
At the current price point, the Crosstour mini projector is stonking value and definitely worth a look for a great campervan projector on a budget!
Vamvo L6200 1080p Projector
The Vamvo L6200 is a great mains-powered projector with superb native 1080p resolution and a searing brightness of 6000 Lumens.
Both the picture and sound quality are superb – the only downside is the size of this beast. The L6200 measures a whopping 30cm across and is 24cm deep. Not an ideal size to be used in a small campervan in our opinion because of this. However the price and performance on offer may persuade you otherwise!
The L6200 has no in-built apps – this is basically a pure projector which is connectable via HDMI (two included) to your source of choice. It’s worth noting though that you can also play video directly from a USB stick or microSD card.
The sound is powerful and of excellent fidelity through the stereo speakers and it actually supports Dolby audio which is a rare treat at this price point.
Overall, a very decent projector but a bit big if you’re in a small campervan! If you’re in a bigger caravan or motorhome then fill your boots!
That concludes our roundup of of the best camping projectors. We highly recommend you try one out because the cinema-like experience has to literally be seen to be believed.
Go on, ditch that bulky TV screen and fly into a Camping Cinema future!