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These 6 gadgets are lifesavers for my backyard parties

Summer means barbecues, cookouts, and backyard gatherings with family and friends. And you can create the ultimate outdoor entertainment space with my favorite tech.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Nina Raemont
Weber Lumin | Best electric grill
Close-up of two chicken breasts and a foil packet of broccoli being cooked on a Weber Lumin electric grill
Weber Lumin
Best electric grill
View now View at Walmart
Auking mini projector | Outdoor movies and more
Close-up of an Auking M8-F mini projector on a teal tablecloth
Auking mini projector
Outdoor movies and more
View now View at Walmart
Sony SRS-XB23 | Pump up the jams
A blue Sony SRS-XB23 Bluetooth speaker, tabletop mosquito torch, and iPhone on a black glass-top patio table. The iPhone screen shows the Spotify image for Paris Hilton's single Stars Are Blind.
Sony SRS-XB23
Pump up the jams
View now View at Amazon
Google Pixel Tablet | Entertainment control panel
Google Pixel Tablet
Google Pixel Tablet
Entertainment control panel
View now View at Best Buy
Addlon 48-foot LED outdoor string lights | Add some ambiance
A long shot of a 48-foot Addlon solar light string. The bulbs are illuminated and the rest of the yard is bathed in twilight.
Addlon 48-foot LED outdoor string lights
Add some ambiance
View now View at Amazon
Solo Stove Yukon 2.0 | Party on 'til after dark
A Solo Stove Yukon 2.0 smokeless, stainless steel firepit on a grey background. Flames are coming out of the top of the firepit
Solo Stove Yukon 2.0
Party on 'til after dark
View now View at Walmart
Show more (1 item)

Whether you're hosting the annual family cookout, throwing a summer birthday party, or just want to invite friends over, it's important to make sure your backyard is prepped and ready to handle a crowd. 

From Bluetooth speakers for pumping high-energy playlists and electric grills for hassle-free outdoor cooking to string lights and other gadgets that set the mood, I've gathered a list of my favorite outdoor tech and equipment to help you build the best outdoor entertainment space and throw killer parties all summer long.

Also: This indoor smoker turned me into a BBQ pitmaster in my own kitchen

The Weber Lumin is a compact electric grill that is more than capable of taking on gas, pellet, and charcoal counterparts. The cast-iron rack and infrared fins help evenly distribute heat for more consistent cooking; which means you'll have fewer hot spots that can burn and ruin your food or cold spots that make your burgers take 45 minutes to finish cooking. And with the open rack design, drippings from your food vaporize on the infrared fins, creating a self-smoking unit for that char-broiled flavor you've come to expect from grilling. 

The compact size is great for smaller patios, decks, and balconies. But you'll need a small table to set it on, as it doesn't come with a stand, though you can buy one separately.

Also: This electric Weber grill still delivers big flavor

I've had my Auking M8-F mini projector for a couple of years now. It was originally a birthday gift from my wife so I could host Mario Kart parties for friends and not have to crowd around our living room's 50-inch Samsung TU8000. But after about three years of road trips, Halloween movie marathons, and the aforementioned Mario Kart tournaments, the Auking mini projector remains a great, affordable option for streaming media outdoors. 

The LED lamp has a life expectancy of up to 55,000 hours so you never have to worry about replacing lamp bulbs. You can also adjust the screen from 35 to 200 inches, perfect for projecting onto an exterior wall of your home, a dedicated screen, or a blank interior wall. It connects to your laptop or game console via HDMI, and while it's not the brightest projector, you still get great colors and sharp detailing with 1080p HD resolution.

Read also: The best outdoor TVs you can buy  

The built-in speaker is also great for when you don't want to set up extra sound equipment in the yard, and it has surprisingly clean audio quality if you don't crank the volume too high. It's handled everything: God of War Ragnarok on the PS5, Overcooked on the Switch, and even one night in the woods when my friends and I watched the Blair Witch Project. The Auking mini projector is a great addition to any outdoor entertainment space, and I can't recommend it enough. 

A blue Sony SRS-XB23 Bluetooth speaker, tabletop mosquito torch, and iPhone on a black glass-top patio table. The iPhone screen shows the Spotify image for Paris Hilton's single Stars Are Blind.
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

If you're looking for a Bluetooth speaker that can handle pumping out the jams for a backyard barbecue or beach day, the Sony SRS-XB23 is a great option. It features a compact, cylindrical design that's great for tucking away on a shelf, in a corner, or hanging off something with the included lanyard. 

The upward and downward-firing subwoofers give you enhanced bass for your favorite playlists while also giving you consistently clear audio quality, even at high volume, and you won't have to worry about the neighbors as the XB23 gets loud enough to enjoy at a party, but not loud enough to warrant any noise complaints. It has up to a 12-hour battery life and plenty of playtime for a weekend party, beach day, or cookout at the park. And with IP67 water and dust resistance, you won't have to worry about a little rain, ocean spray, sand, or dirt ruining your good time. 

Read more: The best Bluetooth speakers: Compare Bose, Sonos, and more

As party host, you're going to need a way to not only play DJ, but also try to control the vibes around you. That includes any smart lighting or Wi-Fi cameras to keep an eye on off-limits areas or prevent any mishaps. The Google Pixel Tablet can be used in a similar way as the Google Nest or Echo Hub, letting you set up a custom smart home network control center for setting mood, lighting colors, and intensity, queueing up the perfect party playlists, and keeping an eye on security camera feeds. 

Read the review: How I used the Pixel Tablet as my smart home display (and key things to consider)

ZDNET's Maria Diaz used the Google Pixel Tablet as her smart home display and said she loved that it worked well with both Android and iOS devices for a better user experience. Plus, she complimented the improved Google Assistant voice controls over Siri alone. But she noted that some product brands didn't play well with the tablet, like Nanoleaf, and that the built-in microphone left something to be desired when making video calls. 

Also: The best tablets you can buy: expert tested

It can't be denied that accent lighting like string bulbs, walkway laps, and wall sconces can do wonders for the atmosphere of your backyard. My wife and I picked up two sets of the Addlon 48-foot Edison bulb-style string lights for our deck and backyard two summers ago, and they're still going strong.  

Read also: Everything you need to build out a smart home

We chose them because, first, they're solar-powered, so we don't have to worry about remembering to change batteries or taking up the single outlet on the deck. Second, they come with both clamp and ground stake options for placement, which makes it easy to set up along railings, shepherd's crooks for hanging garden baskets, and whatever else you want illuminated. The bulbs aren't very bright, but they add a nice, soft, sodium-orange glow to the yard after sunset that perfectly complements a bonfire. 

Fire pits are almost a must-have for any backyard party, especially if you plan on an evening event. I've had my eye on the Solo Stove Yukon 2.0 for a while now to replace our current fire pit because of its stainless steel construction, which will stand up better to humid Cleveland summers. It also features a unique airflow design that makes your campfires burn hotter, which means there will be virtually no smoke. Which is great news for anyone with neighbors close by and doesn't want to accidentally get the fire department called on them. It also has a removable ash pan and base plate for removing leftover ash, charcoal, and debris.

Also: The best fire pits of 2024

Why should you trust me?

As a long-time tech journalist, I never buy anything for myself unless I am absolutely certain that it's worth the money. I've chosen products for this list that I've either been using for years in various iterations or have been researching and reading about as I plan to improve my outdoor spaces. I spent hours reading both positive and negative verified customer reviews as well as testing various tech to find the very best on-offer and help you find the right setup for your next outdoor party. 

What sort of furniture do I need for an outdoor party?

Anything that's comfortable and can seat a lot of people. If you have a 4, 5 or 7-piece patio set, like the Royalcraft rattan set from Walmart, you should be set for a typical backyard party as most guests will be up and mingling. You'll want to choose furniture with materials meant to be outdoors and exposed to the elements: rattan, treated lumber, and composite materials are all great choices. Metal is also a good option, but make sure you choose furniture that has been properly painted with powder-coat to prevent rusting. 

What are the downsides of having a fire pit in my backyard?

A big downside to having a fire pit is trying to mow around it and your firewood supply, and then dealing with a bare patch of dirt and regrowing grass if you move it. Another downside is dealing with smoke that can annoy party guests as well as neighbors if they're close by. And if your fire pit is made of metal, you'll have to invest in an all-weather cover to prevent rusting and weather damage.

Are propane fire pits worth it?

If you don't have a yard that's big enough to have both a fire pit and a decent fire wood pile, a propane option can work. There are even models that are small and safe enough to use on a deck or table top. With a propane fire pit, you won't have to worry about annoying smoke, cleaning up ashes and coals, or dealing with bugs and rodents that decide to call your wood pile home.  

However, the trade-off is that you'll have a propane tank to maintain, which can get pricey if you use it often. Propane also carries its own risks, so make sure that your tanks are always in good working order and filled properly. Also do visual checks of your fire pit's connections and hoses to avoid accidental explosions and uncontrolled fires.

Other outdoor-friendly tech we think you'd love

Close-up of a Flowtron 40V bug zapper
Flowtron/Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

Nothing ruins a backyard party faster than mosquitoes deciding you and your guests look mighty tasty. The Flowtron 40W bug zapper uses electricity to create a bright light which attracts pests like mosquitoes, gnats, and biting flies and dispatch them without the need for pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

Chilly evenings no longer mean you have to take your party inside or end early. The Amazon Basics propane patio heater is capable of a 46,000 BTU output, which can heat up to a 9-foot radius; perfect for gazebos, small patios, decks, and small seating areas. And with a tilt protection valve, the heater automatically cuts the propane supply if it gets tipped over to prevent fires. 

Trying to keep drinks cool and food at safe temperatures can be a nightmare with regular coolers and ice: constantly needing to replenish melting ice and inconsistent cooling can cause food to spoil before it's cooked. The AstroAI portable fridge eliminates the need to invest in an ocean's worth of ice by using refrigeration tech to cool drinks and food to 32F (0C) in as little as 15 minutes.

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