How to Get Wi-Fi for Camping and RV

Are you ready for an adventure in the great outdoors? Don’t forget the Wi-Fi!


 

Internet options for camping and RV

With so many companies encouraging employees to work remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more people are working in RVs as mobile offices in the great outdoors. And there’s one thing these mobile professionals all have in common: the need to stay connected to the internet. 

If you’re packing up the RV for a long adventure, we’re here to help you identify your Wi-Fi options. You can get Wi-Fi from plenty of scenic locations around the country so you can stay connected (and productive). 

There are several ways to connect to the internet while you’re on the road in an RV or in a tent. Using a phone as a mobile hotspot is the most common way people connect while they’re on the road, but mobile hotspotting has data limitations that are generally too restrictive for people who are working full time while on the road. 

Developed campgrounds are more likely to have campground Wi-Fi networks, be closer to towns with free Wi-Fi, and be within range of cell phone towers (which you’ll need for cellular hotspotting, 4G LTE internet, and a mobile hotspot device).

Bear in mind that the farther away you camp from cities and suburbs, the fewer of these options you can use. Also, geography can severely limit your ability to access any internet signal. Canyons, forests, and tall buildings can interfere with internet signals. You might need to drive around to get a good signal sometimes. 

Still, there’s likely an internet option out there that will work for you. We’ll dive into each of the options for camping internet below so you can decide what will work best for your situation: mobile hotspotting, 4G LTE internet, and portable satellite internet.

Our pick: mobile hotspot device

Our top recommendation for getting Wi-Fi while camping in is getting a mobile hotspot device. Using a mobile hotspot like the AT&T Nighthawk LTE or the Verizon 5G Hotspot will deliver a steady connection in many camping areas. Mobile hotspot devices offer more data than hotspotting off your phone and they don’t drain your phone battery. The drawback to a mobile hotspot device is that it doesn’t work in areas without cell phone reception—you have to be close enough to a cell phone tower to get a signal. 

If you’re planning on doing a lot of backcountry camping, a mobile hotspot device may not work. For example, if you’re boondocking in the backcountry and you’re 100 miles from the nearest cell phone tower, you may only be able to get online using a portable satellite dish, which is expensive and slow. But if you’re content to save online activities for when you’re staying in established camping areas, a mobile hotspot device might be great. 

Travelers who rely heavily on internet access for working remotely or staying connected during long trips will benefit most from getting a mobile hotspot device. Occasional campers may not need a dedicated device for internet access while camping.

Best mobile hotspot devices

Verizon hotspot
Carrier
Verizon
Model
Inseego 5G MiFi M1000 Hotspot
Price
$649.99
NETGEAR Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot
Carrier
AT&T
Model
NETGEAR Nighthawk M1
Price
$249.99
MiFi 8000 Mobile Hotspot
Carrier
Sprint
Model
MiFi 8000 Mobile Hotspot
Price
$240.00

Data as of 7/16/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

When selecting a mobile hotspot, most people get one with the same provider as they use for their cell phone. That way they can save money with bundling plans. Mobile hotspot plans cost around $20 per month with most providers. To learn more, check out our full mobile hotspot review, which includes information on service plans.

Cellular hotspotting using your phone

Using a mobile phone to access the internet or hotspotting from a phone to a laptop are the most popular ways that people get online while camping. The only catch is you have to be camping in an area with cell phone service. The internet activities you’ll be able to use your phone for will depend a lot on how strong your signal is.

What is hotspotting?

Most mobile phone plans allow you to share your internet connection from your phone with another device, such as a laptop or tablet. This is called hotspotting. Be sure to first check with your cell provider to find out if hotspotting data is part of your plan. 

  • To hotspot on an iPhone, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot. Switch the button to “on.”
  • To hotspot on an Android, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Hotspot & Tethering. Toggle the button to “on.”

Data restrictions will apply—plans give you somewhere between 3 GB and 30 GB of full-speed data per month while hotspotting. After you reach the data limit, you’ll have really slow speeds—even if you have unlimited data. You can learn more in our guide to mobile phone hotspotting.

Best cell phone hotspot plans

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PlanDataPriceCoverage ranking
Verizon Get More Unlimited30 GB/mo. at 4G LTE speeds, then unlimited data at 600 Kbps $90/mo.#1 in US
AT&T Unlimited Elite30 GB/mo at 4G LTE or 5G speeds, then unlimited data at 128 Kbps$50/mo.#2 in US
T-Mobile Magenta Plus20 GB at 4G LTE speeds, then unlimited data at 3G$85/mo.#3 in US

Data as of 7/16/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

4G LTE internet

If you want to bring your home internet connection with you wherever you go, 4G LTE internet is a great option for camping in an RV. It doesn’t require complicated installation of a satellite dish or data monitoring, and you can get a signal in the same places as you can get cellphone service. Some carriers have better coverage in rural areas. You can use your 4G LTE internet service for your home internet provider and for your RV internet service, which is a big perk. 

Also known as wireless internet, 4G LTE internet service delivers data using cell phone towers—the same way you get data on your smartphone. Most 4G LTE providers offer download speeds of 10–25 Mbps, which might not be fast enough to play fast-paced games like Fortnite or Diablo online, but it’s ample speed for browsing, emailing, fetching directions, making reservations, making video calls, and even streaming  movies or TV on Netflix or YouTube. 

To take your 4G LTE internet with you on the road, you just need to carry your modem/router out to your RV and plug it into a power source and you’ll have internet access for your devices on the go. And you don’t have to be going far—you can use it in the barn, in a workshop, or anywhere you have access to power. When you plug your modem/router in, you’ll have the same network name and password that you set up at home.

Perfect for rural areas, vacation spots, and RV campgrounds, 4G LTE internet service offers portable internet service that’s also great for RVers. There are dozens of small 4G LTE internet providers around the country. Here are a few worth checking out.

Best 4G LTE internet providers

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Wahoo InternetLadybug WirelessSpark Services
• Runs on T-Mobile network
• Connects up to 10 devices
• 500 GB/mo. of data
• Runs on AT&T and T-Mobile network
• Connects up to 20 devices
• Unlimited data*
• Runs on AT&T network
• Connects up to 30 devices
• 500 GB/mo. of data
View plansView plansView plans

Data as of 7/16/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.*Excessive data use (over 50 GB/day) may result in termination of service.

4G LTE home internet

Like cell phone service, 4G LTE internet depends on proximity to cell phone towers to get a signal. It won’t work well in extremely remote areas, canyons, or in heavily forested areas. Lakes and swamps can also interfere with cell signals. 4G LTE works best when you’re in an open area and you’re located close to cell phone towers.

For heavy data users or seasonal RVers who travel extensively, 4G LTE internet might be a better way to get internet than cell phone hotspot. With 4G LTE internet, you can use the same plan for home internet and Wi-Fi on the road—and it delivers a lot more data than mobile hotspotting. If you’re cruising around the country in an RV for months on end, you might need more than the 15 GB of data per month that you’ll get from hotspotting off your cell phone. 

Do you like to escape the city during your travels? Plenty of RVers like to stay close to popular beaches, resorts, and cities while they travel, but not everybody likes the crowds. You can venture a little farther off the beaten path if you use a signal booster, which will help the 4G LTE modem/router pick up a signal from a little farther away. 

Portable satellite internet

Although it is possible to get your RV set up for satellite internet, we don’t usually recommend satellite internet for casual RVers. The equipment costs are extremely high and the speeds are about the same as old school dial-up from the 1990s (up to 1-2 Mbps ). So, satellite internet doesn’t usually make sense for most people on the road. Most campers would rather spend an afternoon in town or hotspot off their phones to get occasional internet access than invest in a portable satellite internet setup.

But, if you plan to spend a year or more boondocking in remote areas and you have at least $7,000 to spend on internet service, a satellite internet setup for your RV can give you the widest ranging signal for basic internet tasks like emailing. But satellite internet for RVs doesn’t have enough bandwidth to work for video streaming, gaming, or video chat. 

Neither HughesNet nor Viasat (the major residential satellite internet companies) offer portable satellite internet service. You can get satellite internet for your RV from RVDataSat. There are two types of satellite dish setups available for RVers: the RVDataSat 840 (which costs $6,995) and the DataSat 960 (which is more powerful and costs $15,995). Both will need to be mounted to the top of your RV and the cables will need to be wired through the roof and walls.

In addition to equipment costs, you’ll also need to sign up for a satellite internet service plan with iDirect. All service plans require a one-year contract, which means you’ll be paying for the service plan even during the months when your RV is parked in your driveway. 

iDirect portable satellite internet for RVs

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Plan nameDownload speedPriceGet it
Access 1001 Mbps$129.99/mo. + 1-time equipment cost ($6,995.00 & up)Learn more
Access 2001.5 Mbps$129.99/mo. + 1-time equipment cost ($6,995.00 & up)Learn more
Access 3002 Mbps$209.99/mo. + 1-time equipment cost ($6,995.00 & up)Learn more

Data as of 7/16/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Boosting campground Wi-Fi

The most obvious internet option while traveling in an RV is trying out campground internet or getting internet at restaurants, coffee shops, and libraries. Sometimes you may luck out and camp in a site with decent Wi-Fi. But most campground Wi-Fi is weak, slow, and unreliable, so we don’t recommend that you rely on it for anything important. 

When you check in, go ahead and get the sign in info from the camp host for the campsite Wi-Fi. It won’t hurt—it’s free in most cases. And if it’s a cold night in the middle of February and you’re the only camper, you might get enough bandwidth to stream a few YouTube videos (if you’re located close enough to the main office).

Most campground Wi-Fi networks have two problems: they’re overcrowded with too many users, and the router and modem are too far away from the campsites. You can’t fix the first problem, but you can use a booster or extender to fix the second problem.

If you want to use campground Wi-Fi for casual use, or use roaming Wi-Fi on your cell phone, a booster or extender will help you get a better signal. For more details, check out our guide to Wi-Fi boosters and extenders for RVs.

Best Wi-Fi boosters for RV

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Bearifi BearExtenderAlfa Camp Pro 2 KitWinegard ConnecT 2.0
• Roof (pole) mount or use on portable tripod
• Windows/Android only
• Connects to 1 device
• Roof mount
• Mac and Windows compatible
• Connects 4+ devices
• Roof mount
• Dual function: boosts Verizon and AT&T cell signals and campground Wi-Fi
$57.49*$149.99* $349.99*
View on AmazonView on AmazonView on Amazon

*Amazon.com pricing as of 7/16/20 10:15 MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SatelliteInternet.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

If you’re familiar with boosters and extenders, you know that they work to amplify an existing Wi-Fi signal so you can pick up signals from farther away. Boosters made for home networks won’t work because they’re designed to be placed as close to the router as possible. A booster or extender made specifically for RV use will work best. There are a lot of good options for RVs, so we’ve created a guide to help you get the best booster or extender for your RV

Final takeaway

If you need an internet option that’s reliable enough to work remotely or watch Netflix around the campfire, opt for a mobile hotspot device or 4G LTE internet service. Both of these options offer service to areas with cell phone coverage, although they won’t work in areas without cell phone service.. 

Most casual RVers won’t need portable satellite internet, which is a good thing since it’s so expensive. So, we recommend satellite internet only to extreme campers and RVers who work or live fulltime in highly remote locations. 

Camping Wi-Fi FAQ

How can I get Wi-Fi at a campground?

If you’re camping you can get Wi-Fi with a mobile hotspot device, by hotspotting from your phone, or by boosting campground Wi-Fi signals into your RV. If you’re camping in an area with cell phone service, you can turn your phone into a personal hotspot (which shares your phone’s data with a laptop or other device) or sign up for 4G LTE internet service from Blazing Hog Internet or Ladybug Wireless (which is a great idea if you’re going to spend a lot of time camping). If you will be in extremely remote areas, portable satellite internet may be your only option, but it may require setting up or repositioning a satellite dish every time you make camp. 

What are the best internet options for camping?

The best internet option for your camping trip depends on how much you want to spend and where you’ll be. If you’re going to be traveling frequently and need reliable data, we recommend a mobile hotspot device (which only works when you’re camping in an area with cellphone service). For casual internet use, you can also use campground Wi-Fi or use your mobile phone as a personal hotspot (which has data limitations).

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