I’ve been thinking about playing darts outside lately.
As the weather gets nice, it seems like mounting a dartboard outside would be the perfect way to take one of my favorite bar games and play it in the great outdoors.
Yet what seems like a very simple idea turns out to be a little more complicated.
There are a few things to consider here. First, what is the best way to set up a dartboard outside? Is there a right or wrong way to do this? What factors should I take into account?
Also, do you need a special type of dartboard or set of darts for outdoor play? What works best?
Below is what I’ve learned. If you’re also interested in setting up a board outside, this post is for you.
Setting Your Dartboard Up Outside: Things to Consider
Keeping it Dry
As we mentioned in our article about dartboard maintenance, you never want a bristle dartboard to get wet. The sisal fibers are just not meant to absorb moisture.
So, the first consideration is finding a location or set up that provides protection from the elements. Whether it’s an overhang or partial roof, you’ll need some coverage if you plan to leave the board outside for extended periods of time.
However, the best option is to install a bracket so you can hang the board and easily remove it when not playing. This way we can just bring out the board when we’re ready to play in dry conditions.
Avoiding Direct Sunlight
You should not mount the board in a location where it gets direct sunlight.
If it’s an old board and we’re not too concerned about its condition, this is less important.
But, in general, a bristle board should not be exposed to long-term direct sunlight, as this will ultimately fade the board and damage the integrity of the sisal fibers.
Keeping it Safe
When playing outdoors, you might not have the benefit of a large wall behind the board to block those wayward darts. And these become more common after a few beers.
If this is the case, make sure you are setting the board up in a place that does not pose a safety risk for children or bystanders.
If you are mounting to a barn wall or other siding, as we’ll discuss below, this is less of a concern.
However, you should always make sure that the dart throwing area is designated as such, and remove any potential risk of someone standing or sitting in the vicinity of your games.
Keeping it Official
When playing darts outside, you should still be following the official dart rules, including setting up the board at the correct height and marking the line at the right throwing distance.
We have a whole article about setting up your dartboard correctly, but to sum it up, you should have a space outside that allows for a dartboard height of 5 feet 8 inches (at the bull’s eye) and throwing distance of 7 feet 9 1/4 inches.
These are the official height and distance measurements for a standard bristle 18″ dartboard.
With these factors in mind, here are a few popular approaches to mounting a dartboard in the great outdoors.
Examples of Outdoor Dartboard Set Ups
If you have a barn or shed, or some other structure or outbuilding, this could be the perfect place to mount your board outside.
You simply mount the dartboard to the wall at the correct height and you’re good to go.
You can use a dartboard backing or cabinet for this if you’re worried about damaging the siding.
If it’s an old barn or something, just throw the board up there and don’t worry too much about doing any damage.
A custom backing surface or nice rustic cabinet, however, is still a nice touch.
For example, these reclaimed dart cabinets from Royal Billiards are handcrafted and available in different high-quality recycled hardwoods.
Note: If you re worried about damaging the siding of the house, shed, etc., maybe try one of the following options instead.
The Stand Alone Option
These are becoming popular lately. Here, you basically have a single or double post with a dartboard surround attached to it. The dartboard just mounts to the surround.
You have to create a base for the post(s). This can be as simple as a big heavy planter, or something that is installed directly into the ground. Of course, you still need to make sure this is at the correct height.
With a single post setup, you’ll have a smaller surround, and thus less protection from missed darts.
With two posts, however, you can create a larger rectangular wall behind the dartboard and a safer and more stable darting environment.
My favorite option is mounting the dartboard to a tree. More specifically, we would mount a bracket to a tree so we don’t nail the board directly to the trunk, and then we can bring the board inside when necessary.
A good way to protect the tree from damage is to use french cleats, as demonstrated in this guide. And you can go a step further by attaching a custom backing surface or dartboard cabinet to the cleats.
The challenge with the tree method is getting the board level at the correct height.
If you can find the right tree, though, this is outdoor darts in its purest form.
There are pros and cons with each of these options. You’ll have to weigh them and decide for yourself.
If you have a nice patio with some weather protection and a good wall (and a quality dartboard surround for damage control), that might work best.
But if you want to play out in the yard, I would suggest the two post or tree method.
With our dartboard outdoor set up in mind, now we can consider what type of board we should mount out there.
What dartboard should you use?
The ideal option for an outdoor dartboard would be an older bristle board that you aren’t too concerned about damaging or exposing to the elements.
Yet, if you don’t have a spare board or you don’t want to take your current indoor board outside, I would consider finding a basic, regulation size bristle board that’s not too expensive but will give you the quality you need for a nice game of darts outside.
There are tons of options available in this category.
Bristle Boards Only
As a side note, you’ll notice that we’re not talking about using an electronic dartboard outside, for obvious reasons.
These are great fun and provide a ton of options for playing different dart games and many variations with multiple players, but they are not suited for outdoor play.
Of course, if you have a covered area that’s fully protected but has open sections to the outside, this is a different story. In that case, you can pretty much use anything that would also be an indoor option because this is essentially just a three season room.
Quality Bristle Dartboards for Outdoor Play
My favorite basic regulation size dartboard that could be used indoor or outdoors is the Unicorn Eclipse Pro.
Another good option is the Winmau Blade 5.
It’s similar to the Eclipse Pro in terms of price and overall quality.
One nice additional feature with the Blade 5, especially when it comes to outdoor play and safety concerns, is the increased scoring area and improved dart deflection for reduced bounce-outs.
Actually, this feature is good for a dartboard in any environment.
You could also go with something like the budget-friendly Viper Shot King, a classic tournament size bristle dartboard with a removable scoring ring, staple-free bull, and thin radial metal spider wire.
You could add a nice dartboard cabinet to any of these boards, or create a custom cabinet or backing surface.
The advantage of a dartboard cabinet is that it will usually have built in scoreboards.
If not, or if you’re starting from scratch, you could easily mount a chalk scoreboard next to or near your outdoor darts set-up.
Find Some Cheap Steel Tip Darts
Apart from the dart board itself, we need to think about the type of darts we’re going to be throwing outside.
You could use just about any type of steel tip darts for outdoor use on a bristle board. But it’s probably best to designate a cheaper secondary set of darts for outdoors, while leaving your expensive tungsten darts indoors.
And don’t leave your darts outside.
Playing darts outside does not mean that we need to also change the way we throw.
Let’s keep in mind that proper form and technique are still important here. Also, we need to have the exact specifications of our throwing area marked as well.
If you need a refresher, check out this roadmap on how to play darts.
Once you have the set up and board figured out, including some lighting for those evening rounds, I think playing darts outside is one of the best outdoor bar game options.