I’ve wondered if it was possible to play Xbox while you were camping and how hard it would be to make it happen. I learned that it’s actually very possible, even in locations without electricity! Many balk at the concept of playing Xbox while camping, however, over 70% campers of people reported using a smartphone while they camped in 2017. It’s clear that most people rely on technology in one way or another even when we’re out in nature!
How can you play Xbox or another console while camping? Playing a console while camping requires power (the trickiest part), a screen for uneven surfaces, a secure location for your equipment, preparation to support offline play, a location with as little glare as possible, and audio equipment.
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By far the most difficult part about play Xbox or other consoles while camping is getting power. While electrical outlets are a distinct possibility for many campsites, many locations have no chance of power. However, battery power is possible for lower power consoles such as the Xbox One S, but other means are necessary for more power-hungry consoles.
*note* As I’m writing this, I’m noticing there are a lot of links to Amazon in this post. I am an Amazon Affiliate so I do get a commission if you buy these items through these links, however, my goal in writing this article is to give you options to solve a problem, and to be as helpful as possible. I like it, personally when I can see the tools to solve the problem, and so I hope that is helpful for you.
Getting Power: Finding Electrical Outlets While Camping
By far, the easiest, and simplest way to find power for your Xbox is to reserve campsites with electricity. The only piece of equipment for power that you need at that point is a power strip and an extension cord.
However, there are some risks to think about concerning your electronics and these campsite outlets:
Not enough power
Many developed campgrounds offer a few campsite options, and many of those campsites have electrical outlets. For example, a campground might have 50 primitive campsites (with perhaps a picnic table or a camping pad), and 30 drive-in campsites with water and electricity.
One thing the campground is counting on is that not everyone is using all of their electric capacity at once. You may run into this issue if you are camping alongside heavy electricity users and you may find that not enough amperage is available for your devices. This can actually be a dangerous situation for your electronics if they try to draw current that is not available.
Although rare, sometimes the voltage available could be thrown off for a number of reasons. You can use an outlet tester as is mentioned in the Grounding Issues section.
Trust but verify! It’s entirely possible that the outlet at your campsite is not wired properly or that overtime the outdoor conditions have created a non-ideal electrical connection, or that the GFCI functionality isn’t working anymore, etc. You can find wiring issues or ground fault problems with an inexpensive outlet tester (see the price on Amazon).
No Campsites with Power Available
Even if you are going to a campground with electric sites, it’s not uncommon for these electric sites to get reserved farther in advance (it totally depends on the ratio of electric sites to primitive sites), so you may be up a creek without a paddle. Or rather, you might be in a tent with no electricity.
Camping at a non-“campsite”
What if you’re not camping at an established campground? Or what if the extent of the “amenities” is an outhouse? You are on your own for getting electricity at this point.
Tents with Power Ports
One convenience problem with using an extension cord and your Xbox is that draping an extension cord through the door of your tent is a good way to let bugs into your tent and also trip your friends.
Tent manufacturers have caught onto this, and many actually have power ports, which is basically an entrance that you can slip an extension cord through directly into the tent. See the ideal tents for gaming section down below for more info.
Getting Power: Gas Generators
Sit down, friend, and take a camp chair. Have some spam. There’s a lot to learn about using a gas generator for your power needs while camping.
Noisy Gas Generators
One of the biggest problems with using a generator for electricity is noise. When you’re camping, you don’t have the noise of the freeway or the city to mask any sounds you’re making. Many campsites have quiet time starting at 10 PM, and after that, even normal conversation is heard loud and clear. While some might be in an RV, many others are in tents, and every noise travels really well through that thin layer of polyester or nylon.
If you’re wanting to use the generator in the evening time before quiet hours, there are actually generators with quiet in mind, so you can have as little noise impact as possible. The difference between a traditional open-frame generator and a quiet generator is significant.
After some research, I’ve found that a generator that seems to shine in its noise levels and in its capacity is the Honda EU2100e generator (see the price on Amazon) This generator provides plenty of power for any Xbox and any accessory you can think of.
A cheaper alternative is the Westinghouse iGen2200 generator (see the price on Amazon), and although this again will fulfill any gaming needs and then some, some say that the Honda does better under load and can handle more stress. I’d hope so since the Honda is twice as expensive at the time of this writing.
In this video, this guy tests the noise level of several gas generators. There are some slight differences, surely, but the noise level of this style is comparable. For comparison, he fires up an open-frame generator and you can definitely hear how much louder it is than the others.
Even though 60 dB is compared to a “normal conversation” on CDC’s website, you can hear in the above video that it’d be impossible to miss hearing these generators running, even if the overall noise level isn’t very strong. (source)
Blocking the Sound of Your Generator
Another option for sound blocking is to build a soundproofing box for your generator. Some of the homemade ideas you see on YouTube seem to scream “fire hazard”—I’d opt for going for a solution that gets 50% of the noise, and not try and get rid of all the noise. These generators need air to function, generate toxic fumes, and also generate a lot of heat, and so covering the generator should be done with care.
Getting Power: Playing On Battery While Camping
So, if you don’t want to go the route of always looking for a campsite with electricity, or investing in a generator, then your next easiest option is to use a Power Bank. This is really only feasible with low-power consoles like the Xbox One S, or the Xbox 360 E because of their spectacularly low power consumption. Other consoles will burn through any battery you throw at it fairly quickly.
Power Consumption Table for Common Consoles
I’m going to assume a 23″ Dell LED monitor, which will burn about 25Wh.
|Energy Consumption During Gameplay
|~105Wh Console + 25Wh Monitor = ~130Wh
|Xbox One S
|~60Wh Console + 25Wh Monitor = ~85Wh
|Xbox One X (source)
|~175Wh Console + 25Wh Monitor = ~200Wh
|~115Wh Console + 25Wh Monitor = ~140Wh
|Xbox 360 E (source)
|~55Wh Console + 25Wh Monitor = ~80Wh
|Xbox 360 Launch (source)
|~165Wh Console + 25Wh Monitor= ~190Wh
The power usage of a console varies with what you are doing with it. Consoles use a surprising amount of energy when they aren’t doing anything at all. This video shows how these numbers are gathered for the console themselves and what power use during gameplay looks like:
How Long Will a Power Bank Last?
Once you start looking at portable power banks, you’ll swiftly realize how many of them there are, and price and capacity don’t always seem to correlate 100%.
I picked 3 well-rated examples from Amazon and did some calculations on how long they would last. I’ll list them from least expensive to most expensive. Let’s assume we’re using an Xbox One S with a 23″ LED monitor, which will consume around 85Wh.
|Length of Xbox One S Play Time
|PowKey 200W Power Bank (see the price on Amazon)
|10V*12AH / 85W = 1.4 hours
|Rockpals 300W Power Bank (see the price on Amazon)
|10V* 20AH / 85W = 2.3 hours
|Aeiusny 400W Power Bank (see the price on Amazon)
|10V*25.5AH / 85W = 3 hours
As a comparison, if you used the Xbox One X instead of the Xbox One S with the Aeiusny power bank, your game would last 1.2 hours.
Choose the console you’ll use with a power bank, carefully. The less energy it consumes, the better it will work.
Don’t forget to unplug your console and other devices when you’re not using it while camping. These devices burn a remarkable amount of energy when not turned on. Even monitors burn energy when “off”.
Charging a Power Bank While Camping
So, 3 hours of gameplay is great, but what if you are camping for a week, and you want to play more than 1 or 2 nights that week?
These power banks can be charged with many different options. These power banks can be charged by your home electric outlets (fastest), your car (next fastest), and by solar panels (Slowest).
Solar panels are one of the most commonly used. They aren’t as fast as getting it from your wall outlet (which got its energy from a coal-burning plant), but it’s essentially the freest energy you can get. Rockpal sells a very highly acclaimed panel here (price on Amazon)
There are other types of personal generators out there, though.
- Stationary bicycle generators
- River/Wind turbines
- Thermoelectric Generators
- Many others
There are several ways to make electricity charge a battery bank, so you are limited only by the calories you want to burn or your creativity.
Playing a Console Without Internet While Camping
Part of the problem with playing your Xbox while you’re camping is the lack of internet. Our consoles and devices have gained a strong dependency on the internet. In fact, some games on PC require an internet connection to play at all!
While you’re camping, it’s a different story. Here are a couple of things to remember.
The Xbox One must be activated with the internet. In order to use your Xbox One at all, you must first connect it to the internet and set everything up. So don’t buy a console specifically for camping without setting it up first.
Also, if you’re taking your console out of storage, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hook it up at home to give the console a chance to phone home so you don’t run into any problems.
The Xbox One consoles–and other consoles–have an “offline mode”.
It’s as simple as going to your Network Settings (from your System Settings), and hitting “Go offline”. (see the full guide here on Microsoft’s website)
Consoles (including the Xbox One) can survive without internet even without going to Offline Mode, but if for nothing else, you will save a little bit of energy disabling the network discovery process. It’s an easy thing to do, and it’s recommended if you are going to be using your Xbox while camping.
Don’t forget to take your device out of offline mode when you get back, though. 🙂
Getting the Internet While Camping for Online Gaming
One thing to think about is that even though you are camping, it’s very possible that you will have some cell signal that you can even use to game with.
The problem is that many times these cell signals are navigating through trees and hills and other natural obstacles, and so if there is a cell signal, it can be very spotty and unusable. However, with another antenna, you can capture more cell tower waves!
Cell Boosters exist that you put as high as possible, and can amplify a cell signal to you that was previously not accessible by your phone’s tiny antenna. Once you have a signal, you can use your phone’s hotspot abilities to give your Xbox wifi.
There’s lot’s more info about this to learn. I wrote an entire article about getting internet while camping that could prove helpful to you. Remember, satellite internet will never work for low-latency online gaming because of that darn speed of light problem.
Play Your Xbox on a Screen
Another important aspect of gaming is that you need a screen to game on! This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Bringing your 5-year-old TV that has a fluorescent backlight will work great if you have a campsite with electricity, but that might not be a good idea with a battery backup, as that fluorescent backlight can burn through your battery bank quickly.
Choosing a monitor with low-power consumption is essential to being able to play for any decent amount of time.
There are a few keywords to look for in a monitor that consumes less energy. You want to look for a monitor an LED backlight. An OLED screen will use more energy than a regular LCD LED screen. Also, the smaller the screen, the less power consumption.
In order of most energy-efficient:
- LCD with LED backlight
- OLED screens
- LCD with Fluorescent backlight
- The rest of the screen family (CRTs, Plasma, etc)
However, the complications don’t stop at power consumption, read on to find some principles for an ideal monitor setup
Monitors and TVs don’t do well with toppling. Many a screen has been cracked because of falls like these and falls like this happen all the time in our houses. If you are planning on playing some Xbox in your tent or on a table, getting a completely level playing surface can be difficult.
If you only have your monitor or TV stand, make sure and surround your screen with something soft so if a topple happens you won’t break your screen.
One easy solution is to find a monitor that can attach to your Xbox. G-Story, for example, makes a monitor that attaches directly to the Xbox One. It’s a 12″ monitor, so its power consumption is very low, allowing for more time playing if you’re playing on battery.
But in this case, making the base of the monitor be the Xbox itself will stabilize your screen so you don’t have to worry about a monitor toppling.
You can check out the price for the G-Story monitor here.
Damaging Your Xbox and Screen
One thing to know in general is that your camping gear is going to get wear out over time as you go camping. Tents, tarps, dust, dirt, mud, rain, etc., you are basically living outside–so it’s impossible to avoid wear and tear for your camping gear.
Taking expensive electronics like your Xbox presents some issues. Whether it’s dust and dirt, or smoke from your campfire, particulates will get into your Xbox and any other electronics.
Not to mention just getting beat up from being with all the other gear as you shuttle back and forth to your campsite and throw things in and out of the car.
A very simple way to protect your console and gear is keeping your electronics in their own tote. This will help you keep things organized, and protect your things in transit.
All-in-One Xbox, Case and Screen Systems
Another way to protect your Xbox and gear is to invest in a case for your Xbox. There are such things as playable cases where the monitor and cabling are all integrated within the case itself. Another term for this is PGE or Personal Gaming Environment. One example is the GAEMS Sentinel Pro.
Rather than having to bring all your cables, monitor, controllers, speakers, and Xbox all separately, you can use an integrated case that has everything you need all built-in. All you need is to plug in the case and you’re done! You don’t have to buy a monitor or speakers or extra cables since it is all included.
The Sentinel Pro also supports many different form factors of the PS4 and the Xbox.
I learned about PGEs for the first time while researching for this article, and the Sentinel seems fully-featured. You can check out the price here on Amazon.
Another option is to just bring your monitor or TV from home. I’d definitely suggest bringing something you don’t mind if it gets damaged. Thrift stores often will sell LCD monitors now (even though they have fluorescent backlights at this point which takes more power), and these work great for a monitor you don’t have to worry about.
If you do end up picking up an old used monitor, make sure you get a cable or an adapter from VGA or DVI to HDMI (depending on what connections the monitor supports)
Play Your Xbox On a Projector While Camping
Probably the coolest screen option of all for gaming while camping is to use a projector!
There are thousands of different projectors out there, and I think only two types are an option, so I’ll talk about those:
DLP Mobile Projectors (the super tiny projectors that fit in the palm of your hand): These have the advantage of being small and compact, which is ideal for lugging around, rather than a bulky projector or a regular monitor.
Additionally, one benefit of DLP Mobile Projectors is that they are often powered by an internal battery. If you are at a campsite without electricity, this could come in handy. Even if you are using a battery bank, it will take less to charge and power these tiny projectors than others.
One downside to these projectors is their price, in comparison to other types.
Another downside is that the quality of these screens is usually max 720p (or at least for the kind that you and I would have money to buy).
An example of a highly rated DLP projector: The Miroir HD Projector MP150A (see the price on Amazon)
Mini Projectors: These projectors are significantly cheaper than the smaller projectors, but they come at the disadvantage of using a lot more power (if you are running off of batteries, this could be an issue). You can find some, though, that run on around 40-50 watts, which isn’t crazy or unmanageable.
Because there is a little bit more real estate, these can handle 1080p without problems.
An example of a highly rated mini projector: The Vankyo Leisure 3 Mini Projector (see the price on Amazon)
Gaming is definitely not as good without sound. The easiest way to make this happen is to bring wired headphones that you can plug into the Xbox One controller or the Xbox console, itself. Failing that, though, there are a couple of other options.
If you invest in an all-in-one system as we talk about above in the all-in-one system section, you get speakers already in your set up. You might choose to use headphones anyway, but that is up to your own choice. Additionally, many monitors and TVs have built-in sound, so you may be fine without any additional work.
Camping Tents Ideal for Gaming
One last thing to think about if you’re planning to game while your camping is what tent would work best for your camping scenario.
If you are planning to game in your tent while it’s still light out, then you might consider a dark tent.
A dark tent? Do those exist? Well, actually, yes! Coleman sells several tents with “darkroom” technology. This blocks a lot of the suns rays so you can retire early and get out of your tent late if you want to. It’s mainly for people who want to sleep in, but it also has an added bonus of reducing that glare if you want to play a game or two in your tent. Here’s a link to the 4-person darkroom tent from Coleman on Amazon.
Several other tent manufacturers sell similar designs. Kelty makes good quality backpacking tents, one of them being the “late start”. We actually use a Kelty 2-person tent (and have for several years), and we’ve been satisfied with its quality. You can check out the Late Start here on Amazon.
If you are planning on using a projector in your tent, then you can actually use your tent as a projector wall.
You can also use a white sheet, too. You’re not going to be able to recreate your home theater, but for best results, you want a white matte surface. This can be the side of your tent!
Power Port: As mentioned in the Electric Outlet section above, one annoying problem with putting an extension cord through the tent is that you now have a hole in the front door (and if you’re trying to keep out mosquitoes, they will find this entrance. Furthermore, it’s already hard to not trip while entering and exiting your tent, even without an extension cord. Power ports allow you to put an extension cord directly into the tent without interfering with the door. Sweet!
Phew! That’s a lot of information! I hope you find it helpful! Hope your gaming goes excellently.