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Tech Savvy: Enjoy the great outdoors with portable projectors and smokeless fire pits

Jan 27, 2024

BRAINERD — So it finally feels like summer, which opens a couple of doors for technology — from ways to bring tech outside or to the screen porch for movie nights, to ways to make the most of the short season.

As May warms up and before bugs take over, get the family outside for movie night. The blank garage door or the white bedsheet still work for a movie screen, but there are also plenty of options for portable outdoor screens and projectors.

An Insignia 114-inch inflatable outdoor projector screen, with 4.5 stars in reviews on Best Buy, was recently listed at the retailer for $149.99. It comes with an air pump and a tie-down kit with stakes. Multiple reviews stated the sound for the air pump was not an issue or a distraction for watching the movie.

There are a host of portable projectors to bring the movie night outside.

The Vankyo-Leisure 470 Wireless Mini Projector was recently listed at $113.99 at Best Buy and rated 4.4 stars with 561 reviews. The Wi-Fi projector synchronizes with a smartphone to project movies onto the big screen. One of the benefits comes in the many ports on the projector to connect with a USB, VGA or HDMI cable or use a micro SD card slot or AV cable so it will work with the smartphone or laptop or TV stick or PlayStation4, X-Box, Wii or DVD players.


The projector is high definition 1080P and can go up to 250-inch display. Some reviewers said it was a great way to bring a movie experience even inside for entertainment on a massive screen. The unit comes with a handy carrying case to take the movie night wherever you want to go.

Vankyo states it is 80% brighter than other equivalent projectors and provides a viewing experience from a 39 inch screen up to 250 inches with a projection distance of 4.27 to 26.57 feet.

"The large-screen eye-protection light source and built-in 3W*1 stereo speakers let you enjoy whatever you may be watching," the company reported.

There are even smaller projectors that can fit in the palm of your hand. Elephas makes a 1080P projector that will work with a smartphone or TV stick with HDMI and USB. It was recently $79.99 on Amazon. It too has a 4.4 star rating out of 2,871 reviews. It comes with a tripod and carrying case and can work with a 200-inch screen.

Kodak also makes an ultra mini portable projector high definition at 1080P that can support an image for a 100 inch display. It also fits in the palm of the hand and was recently listed for $179-189.

"With multiple inputs and easy controls, all you need to do is connect your device and press play," Kodak stated for the portable pocket projects as a way to "pack the party in your pocket."

There are a lot of choices when it comes to portable projectors with many known brands in the mix like Kodak, Epson, Anker and ViewSonic.

Gadgets to make the great outdoors really the extra room for your home include dependable electricity.


The Wyze Plug Outdoor, weather resistant, affordable, voice controllable with Alexa and Google, is one of's picks for best outdoor smart home devices for 2023. But one of their other top picks may be most useful — a smart sprinkler.

The Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller is among's top picks.

"The Rachio 3 is one of the best, controlling up to eight separate sprinkler zones with automatic weather-based or custom app-controlled watering schedules. You can even control it with Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands," reported.

So the grass is green, the fun outdoor lights — either solar powered or plugged in — are adding ambiance and what else is needed for a night under the stars? How about a smokeless fire pit.

CNET recently looked at the best fire pits for cooking, portability, durability, value and smokeless varieties. The Pit Boss Pellet Fire Pit, for about $300, was at the top of the list for a smokeless option that runs on pellets. The American-made Breeo fire pits were also noted for generating more heat outward, something needed on a cool summer night or to extend the season into the fall and even winter.

"Experience an entirely new level of relaxation around the campfire with one of our smokeless fire pits — no more burning and watering eyes, no more shifting and moving your chair to dodge the smoke," Breeo states on its website. "Just you, a cool night under a clear sky, and the warmth of your Breeo smokeless fire pit."

The fire pits also come with the ability to add an insert ring to fit a stone or concrete surround to fit into a patio setting. Prices for the Breeo fire start at about $400. Breeo states its smokeless fire pits increase air flow, which puts more oxygen in and the smoke is burned off before it leaves the pit.

Popular Mechanics also rates the Breeo X Series (there is also a Y series) as the best smokeless fire pit.


Among the top picks in Popular Mechanics was a smokeless Tiki Patio Fire Pit for about $400 that uses 12-13 inch logs or pellets.

"We found the firebox to be a little shallow at eight inches, but we were able to get two layers of logs loaded in," Popular Mechanics stated. "This meant re-loading a little more frequently, but that had no bearing on its smoke-free performance."

CNET noted factors to consider include ease of lighting the fire — namely airflow, ease of cleaning (removable ash pan), and whether cooking is desired as an option. As a plus, the smokeless option is also more environmentally friendly.

There is even a Fireside Outdoor Pop-up Fire Pit designed to travel to the campsite and make setting up the fire a breeze. Forbes notes if heat is a main element for those gathering around the fire, the smokeless variety may not be the best choice as a regular fire pit will give off more heat. But if it's the fun of gathering with friends and family around a fire pit on the patio, roasting marshmallows and being mesmerized by the flames without getting smoke in your eyes, the smokeless fire pits may be just the right yard addition for this season.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or [email protected] . Follow on Twitter at .