Watching outdoor movies has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I remember from a young age going to the old drive-in movies with my parents and laying out on the hood or popping out the back window of our woody station wagon. Pre-Travato, I used to host outdoor movie nights for my neighbors with a large projector and big screen. Obviously, if I wanted to take that show on the road, I needed to make some modifications to my setup in order to make it work for van life.
Finding the Right Projector
When looking for a projector for RV life you need to find a good balance between size, battery life, picture quality, and brightness. For home viewing, I have a projector with 3200 lumens, but it weighs almost five pounds and is almost a foot long, not really a good option for traveling in the Wine-o-bago.
The projector I selected for the van was the ELEPHAS DLP mini projector. While this projector does have far fewer lumens at 1800, that balances out with the lighter weight of only nine ounces. And it only takes up less than a quarter of the space of my home projector. We all know RV storage is tight – especially in a Class B – so size is probably the top consideration.
Besides size, the other main consideration is battery life. While you may have the option to plug in if you are at a campground, that might not always be an option. Outdoor movie night is generally an event better suited for more remote boondocking situations, where you won’t be disturbing your neighbors during designated quiet hours. I would recommend checking out the projected battery life of the device. This is one area where my device falls short – as it generally only lasts about an hour before it needs to be plugged in – so something like an external battery pack can come in handy as well.
The other consideration is the source of the movies you wish to play. Some projectors are capable of connecting with your smartphone or laptop either through a cable or with Bluetooth. Or if you want to connect your existing RV video systems you may need a projector with an HDMI port. Personally, I generally connect through my RV entertainment system which then allows me to use the outdoor speakers of the Travato. (Just make sure your HDMI cord is long enough). If you don’t have this option, don’t forget to ensure you have a speaker you can hook up with the projector as well.
Best Screen Options
Now that you have a projector, you are going to need something to play your movie on. If you are lucky enough to have a large white class A then you’ll have a built-in screen. I have two options depending on if I’m at home or on the road.
When I’m at home, I opted for a larger, more stable structure since I have plenty of room to store it. When I’m on the road, I needed a more packable space conscious option, so I went for outdoor fabric. This fabric is bright white, durable, inexpensive, and easy to pack and store.
Since the Travato is a large metal box, I was able to use heavy-duty magnets to hang up the screen on the side. If you don’t have a van, you might try adding some grommets to your screen so that you can hang it on some nearby trees.
Putting it All Together
Now that you have your audio, video, and screen taken care of, you need the right movie. Pick a movie that fits your setting and your audience.
During our Winnie B September Meet Up in Ridgway, CO, someone brought True Grit which was filmed in the area. We all had a great time pointing out sites we had seen during our visit. Over the New Year holiday, I spent some quality time with fellow GoLife contributors, Noel Fleming and Chris Miller. The perfect movie for three ladies full of wanderlust was Eat, Pray, Love!
Last but not least, don’t forget about the refreshments. Whether you like Red, White or Rosè, I’m sure you can find a great option to pair with your outdoor movie adventure. Cheers!