With sound quality as a given, we're looking for three key things when choosing an outdoor Bluetooth speaker:
2. Battery power
These four tune tubs are a selection of the newest speakers that make the cut:
LifeProof Aquaphonics AQ11, $299
The new LifeProof Aquaphonics AQ11 Bluetooth speaker hits the mark because, like all LifeProof gear, it's made to withstand the beating we put ourselves and our gear through in our outdoor pursuits. Submersible to one meter for up to 30 minutes, the AQ11 is waterproof (if floats!), dirt-proof—we took it to the beach for three days and the sand wasn't a problem as long as we kept charging ports sealed—and drop-proof from the height of most truck beds or picnic tables.
The speaker also houses a drybox compartment large enough to store your phone, car key, and a credit card or two in an inconspicuous way. It's a good way to keep your device close (the Bluetooth range is 30 feet) and protected should your tailgate party get a little raucous. Handles at either end make it easy to carry with you or tie down.
As many as eight people can sync their phones or devices to the AQ11, so if your phone dies before you get through all five Taylor Swift albums, someone can easily jump in. Or, plug your phone directly into the speaker and charge it from the USB port. With a 15-hour battery life, this Bluetooth speaker has some juice to spare. The extra-long battery life is a huge plus for boating and camping when you're not able to charge the speaker between uses.
The device is about the size of a loaf of bread and cranks at a volume of up to 88 decibels, which is about how loud a motorcycle is (but sounds much better). Weighing in at less than two pounds, this speaker sits comfortably on your shoulder if you're looking for that old school boombox experience. —Sierra Davis
Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell, $199
If you like to crank the bass, this is the speaker for you. The Big Turtle clocks in at 78 decibels of sound and a Bluetooth range of 32 feet. External controls all you to easily adjust volume, change tracks, play/pause, take a phone call or quickly pair a device using the voice prompts.
The low-profile design makes the Big Turtle Shell highly durable and easy to travel with, while still having enough design panache to have a home on the coffee table in your nice living room. Because it’s water resistant, you can throw it in the back of your truck without having to worry the snow melting from your skis and boots damaging the speaker (can’t say the same for that smell though). This Bluetooth speaker can get wet, but isn’t designed to go for a swim like the LifeProof Aquaphonics AQ11.
With up to 16 hours of batter power (that’s huge!), the Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell also includes a USB port for charging your phone or devices off the grid. A full battery will charge an iPhone four times, and a GoPro six times. If you’re charging multiple devices, however, or the volume’s cranked all the way up, you’re going to diminish the battery life significantly. —SD
Kicker Bullfrog BF400 Bluetooth Music System, $400
For a speaker that you can bring to the beach and plop in the sand and blast tunes, or come winter, set up a soundtrack for the tailgate in a slushy/snowy/muddy ski resort parking lot, pick up the Kicker Bullfrog.
This portable and Bluetooth-compatible speaker is sturdy and built to blast tunes outside. The volume is loud with speakers on both sides for sound in all directions, and it picks up a signal from as far as 100 feet away. The battery life is also strong. If you hook up an iPhone with a USB cord, the Kicker may well outlast your iPhone with its ability to play music for 20 hours on a single charge. Or if you want to go old school and play your favorite radio station, the Kicker has a built-in FM tuner, which is a pretty cool feature that makes it feel more like a boombox than a portable speaker.
But for as much punch as the Bullfrog packs, it doesn’t carry its weight well. The speaker is heavy, weighing upwards of eight pounds, but on the plus side, you could sub it in for a set of kettle bells and bust out a workout with the speaker while it’s kicking out your cardio playlist. —Julie Brown
BoomBuoy Floating Waterproof Wireless Speaker, $40
This pocket-sized speaker lasts up to seven hours of play time, and is just as durable as the bigger, pricier options above. Also waterproof, the BoomBuoy floats—think hot tub party—and can take a beating without losing sound quality. (This speaker has gone down hard while rollerblading and didn’t miss a beat. Get it?) Best use is clipped on the outside of your pack, or on our belt, for low-profile listening sans headphones. Because it’s smaller, it’s not meant to blast tunes to the entire parking lot, but the sound quality is great and volume goes high enough to be shared by you and your tandem bike mate. Skip tracks and control volume easily with the big, obvious buttons. —SD