Netflix & Grill
Backcountry Hacks for The Ultimate Backyard Movie Night.
As vacations wrap up and the school season approaches, it's easy to feel like summer is nearly over – but don't be fooled: you've got weeks of glorious summer nights left perfect for time outside, even if it's (very very) close to home.
Outdoor movie nights are a classic summer celebration – in this guide, we're giving your open-air screening a camp-worthy twist: everything you need to pull this off is waiting in your gear closet.
Let's dive in.
Backcountry inspiration: Rope tension serves many purposes when you're off the grid - one we are particularly fond of here at BioLite is using it as a quick way to elevate things off of the ground. For example, attaching rope to a tarp with grommets (a staple piece of gear in our kit) and hoisting it into the air to protect your campsite from the elements.
How it plays out in your backyard: There are a variety of ways to build an outdoor movie screen - we pulled from our off grid experience and went the tension route. This DIY screen is not only cost effective but it is relatively easy to set up. Grab a ladder, a white bed sheet, a grommet installer kit, a hammer, and two old climbing ropes (this is a great way to recycle an old climbing rope that's on its last leg). Pro tip: It’s helpful if you have two people for the set up.
- Install grommets on each corner of your sheet (cutting a hole sans grommet might be tempting, but you'll want the reinforcement to avoid a surprise rip mid-movie).
- Attach carabiners & climbing rope to each corner.
- Identify your screening wall - with our tension-based set up, spots with access to a tree branch or beam are ideal.
- Hoisting time! One side at a time (and with the careful use of a ladder), wrap your climbing rope around a tree/branch/beam. Pull simultaneously until you reach a desired height. Secure the rope in place with a slipped overhand knot for easy removal post-movie.
- Sheet too long? Fear not. Fold up the bottom edge with some office clips and you can reach desired height without breaking out the scissors. Bonus, the added weight helps keep your screen in place when wind hits.
Backcountry inspiration: Whether you love laying low on a blanket or propped up in a chair, one backcountry must is a little bit of insulation between you and the ground – cold and damp does not need to be part of the program.
How it plays out in your backyard: A mix of high/low seating is actually perfect for a backyard movie night, an indirect version of stadium seating: for the folks down in front, we recommend laying out blankets built for the outdoors like Rumpl’s Puffy line; they give you the plush and warmth of a sleeping bag but in a classic rectangle form, making it a lot easier to share than your mummy sleeping bag. Plus, it can be tossed in the wash so don’t be afraid of a little dirt.
For the gang in the back, break out your camping chairs. Helinox’s Chair One assembles with just a few flicks of the wrist (seriously, it basically assembles itself) and the lightweight frame makes it really easy for your guests to move around to different areas in the backyard with a lot less disruption than dragging heavy patio furniture.
With your seating sorted, make sure you’ve got some extra blankets and layers on standby for those summer nights that end with a chill. (Editor’s note: have a pile of clothes you’ve been looking to give away? Bring a few out as an offered layer for movie night, chances are your guests will leave wearing them).
Backcountry inspiration: Cooking over a fire is awesome.
How this plays out in your backyard: Let your fire play host – seriously. Movie Night often has that pre-screen purgatory where the sun isn’t quite set, but all your guests have arrived. Occupy their time with an interactive snack bar that allows them to customize their eats.
In our setup, we’re re-imagining two campground favorites: campfire and s’mores. The BioLite Firepit’s smokeless flames make it perfect for the backyard (no shuffling around mid-movie to avoid plumes of smoke) and our friends over at SMASHMALLOW make s’mores feel brand new again with their unexpected flavors like Cookie Dough, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Strawberries & Cream. (Our favorite? Cinnamon Churro – you’ve been warned). Folks can gather round to build their own wood-fired treat and it’ll be dark before you know it.
Looking for a tabletop option for your s'mores? The CampStove 2 is a great way to fire up your snacks with an even smaller footprint.
(Editor's note: Forgot the firewood? The FirePit's dual-fuel system means you can load it in with charcoal and you're good to grill).
Backcountry inspiration: There's no extension cord in the backcountry, so rechargeable and wireless is the name of the game.
How it plays out in your backyard: Sure, your backyard might be within striking distance of an outlet, but long cords just ask to be tripped over; with the rise of re-chargeable gear and wireless connectivity, your movie and sound solutions can literally fit in the palm of your hand.
Projector: We used Anker’s Nebula Capsule for our projector. Set it up on a table in the middle of your seating area making sure it’s just the right distance from your screen. We recommend testing it out before the crew comes over so that you’re not learning to use it in real time. If you need to keep it powered up, position a BaseLantern XL nearby to serve as a backup power source.
Sound: Once you’re squared away on the visuals, you need a speaker so everyone can hear the film. Outdoor Tech’s Turtle Shell 3.0 was built for nights just like this. One of the best parts of this speaker is that it's scalable: you can daisy chain multiple Turtle Shells together for surround sound, perfect for larger groups or if you've got some competing ambient noise like a nearby street. (It’s also ideal for listening to music before the movie starts).
Backcountry inspiration: There’s nothing worse than getting to a campsite and getting pummeled by mosquitoes. Bug bites always get in the way of a good time.
How it plays out in your backyard: Outdoor movies are awesome - bug bites not so much. Breaking out the bug spray works, but we've never liked coating our clothing and gear with smelly repellent. Keep the space around your movie theater bug free without the need for spray with Thermacell’s Radius - it’s a rechargeable, scent-free repellent that protects your crew from pesky bugs within a 110 square foot area. Position the Radius centrally so your friends and family can stay bug bite free for the entirety of the film. And the great thing is you won't feel the need to shower down after the movie ends.
Backcountry inspiration: Once the sun sets at your campsite, light becomes crucial for you to do a variety of jobs (ie. finding your way, seeing inside your tent, cooking, etc).
How it plays out in your backyard: Take a bit of time to set up the right area lighting so your group hangout goes off without a hitch. We chose to hang up SiteLight Minis around the movie screen. String lighting not only sets the ambience but also helps people navigate their way to and from their seat without fumbling around or using their phone’s flashlight.
After the movie starts place a few SunLights into party mode on your snack table so friends can see the snacks they are grabbing without being disruptive. While you’re at it, place a BaseLantern XL in the middle of a group hangout area to make it easy for your guests to find their way back to their seats. Set it to your favorite color and keep it there - it sets a fun vibe and isn’t so bright that it’s distracting from the movie.
Thanks to Anker's projection technology, you can easily stream from Netflix, giving you a kickass library to choose from; below is a list of some of the best outdoor/adventure films available for streaming right now – hey, if you can't get to the mountains in the final days of summer, you can still watch 'em.
- Meru - A group of ambitious climbers document their trek up Mount Meru.
- Into the Wild - A recent graduate decides to forego a prestigious career to journey through the Alaskan wilderness.
- Planet Earth - Seasons 1 & 2 of this incredible nature documentary are on Netflix. Sometimes you just need to sit back and be amazed by the world we live in.
- Endless Summer - The iconic 1966 documentary following world class competitive surfers on a global surfing adventure.
- National Parks Adventure - A team of modern day explorers adventure through national parks across the United States to showcase their beauty.
- 180 Degrees South - An adventurer and documentarian retraces the steps of Yvon Chouinard & Doug Tompkins 1968 trek to Patagonia.
- Touching the Void - Two climbers set out on a journey to be the first to reach of the summit of Siula Grande.
- Chasing Ice - This documentary follows James Balog as he and his team set out to track the planet’s rapidly melting glaciers over a multi-year period.
- Finding Traction - Follows ultra-runner Nikki Kimball as she heads out on Vermont’s 273 mile Long Trail.
The next time you find yourself wanting to get to the campsite but the closest you can get is your backyard, consider pitching a party right outside of your house. Grab your outdoor gear kit, get into the fresh air, and don’t forget to invite your friends.
To make planning your next movie night that much easier, we partnered with a few friends to bring one lucky winner all they need to set up their own outdoor movie.