If you’re a seasoned camper — with at least 15 to 20 years of camping under your belt — you probably remember life before the invention of Bluetooth speakers. You may have had a cassette or compact disc (CD) player (commonly called a boombox), along with a bulky collection of cassette tapes or CDs in a binder or cassette box that you carried with you when you went camping.
And you probably had a handful of D batteries at the ready so you could carry your wireless boombox with you around your campsite — all the while trying to keep your boombox from falling off a picnic table and breaking or attempting to keep it free from dust and water while listening to music outside.
Outdoor speakers have come a long way over the past two decades. Engineers are continually evolving outdoor speakers — making them more rugged, portable and clearer-sounding. Today’s selection of rugged outdoor speakers are ideal for camping and far outperform what was readily available in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
After all, Jaap Haartsen didn’t even lay the foundations for the system that would later be known as Bluetooth Wireless Technology until 1994. And consumers only had access to a Bluetooth device in 2001 by way of an Ericsson T39 mobile flip phone that connected to the first wireless headset.
But now, you can easily play music effortlessly at camping events using a smartphone, tablet or computer paired to a variety of different consumer speakers. Gone are the days of lugging around extra D batteries, cassette tapes and CDs out camping.
Here are three of the best outdoor camping speakers for 2021 that allow you to wirelessly stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device.
1. Turtlebox Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re looking for a speaker that can fall off your car or truck and survive or that can fall into a lake during your camping trip and continue working flawlessly, the Turtlebox speaker is for you.
The hard-shell rugged Turtlebox speaker is portable, waterproof and loud — ideal for windy camping environments. The speaker itself weighs in at 10 pounds and measures 11.5 inches wide by 6.5 inches deep and 8.75 inches tall. It has an easy-to-hold rubber handle that feels like you’re carrying a large lunch box.
The sound is impressive. With a loud and super clean 50-watt amplifier paired with an efficient driver and speaker, it’s enjoyable. It also has a loudness rating of 120 decibels (which is way more than what you’ll need while camping). I found that the middle-of-the-road volume is still loud outside and carries well in open spaces. You can also keep your speaker outdoors in dusty conditions without worrying about particles getting in and ruining your speaker. And the outer shell is even resistant to UV light, so the exterior color shouldn’t fade in the sun.
What’s the most impressive about this speaker though is the battery life. It has an 85-watt-hour built-in Lithium-Ion battery pack (9 cells) that can last for more than 20 hours at half volume in moderate weather conditions. Even at the loudest volume, you’ll easily get five to six hours of play time without a charge. There’s also a built-in USB-C port to charge your phone off the battery.
You can also connect two Turtlebox speakers together via Bluetooth for a surround sound at camp.
2. JBL Xtreme 3 Bluetooth Speaker
For a compact portable speaker, the JBL Xtreme 3 packs a powerful pro sound into a small space. It is waterproof, dustproof and weighs in at 4.34 pounds, so you also can easily take it out on your kayak or canoe while camping. The speaker measures 5.28 inches high, 11.75 inches wide and 5.35 inches deep and comes with a carrying strap with carabiner-like clips and built-in bottle opener.
The “pro” sound is possible with JBL’s built-in four drivers with bass radiators. It’s cylindrical with passive radiators on both ends. The sound is immersive, detailed and clear and carries well in open spaces.
If you’re worried about water getting into your speaker, you’ll feel confident knowing that this speaker has an IP67 rating, which is one of the highest ingress protection ratings for a consumer product. You can submerge your speaker up to a meter for 30 minutes without doing any damage — ideal for beach camping, as it’s built to keep out dust and particles like sand.
And with 15 hours of playtime at half volume (10 hours at full volume), you won’t have to stop the party at camp to worry about constantly recharging your speaker. To fully charge the speaker’s Lithium-ion 36.3-watt battery takes about 2.5 hours.
The rubber grips on the bottom of the speaker help to keep the speaker grounded, and you can easily pair two of the speakers together to create surround sound.
3. Bose Soundlink Micro Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re looking for a quality outdoor speaker that’s lightweight, fits in your backpack and is waterproof, this Bose Soundlink Micro speaker is for you.
Weighing in at just 0.64 pounds and measuring 3.9 inches wide, 3.9 inches tall and 1.4 inches deep, this speaker has the same crisp and clear sound you’ve come to expect from Bose audio products. It has a wireless range of about 30 feet and comes with a tear resistant strap so you can carry it easily and strap it to things at camp like a cooler, backpack or a camping chair. If you’re biking at camp, you can easily strap this little speaker to your handlebars for on-the-go sound.
The battery life is 6 hours of play when fully charged, and you can pair the speaker with another Soundlink Micro for “party mode.”
You also don’t need to worry about this ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker getting wet. It has an IPX7 rating, making it waterproof. It also has a rugged exterior, so it won’t dent, crack or scratch easily while you’re out camping if it falls off of a table or out of your vehicle.
This tiny speaker is ideal for both beach and backcountry camping.
Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.
Main feature image courtesy of Turtlebox
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