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Being out on the road and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is something different, isn’t it? Getting to enjoy the simplicities of life such as hiking in national parks, cooking on the grill, and reading a good book by torchlight is truly good for the soul and spirit.
However, there will come a time when you’re camping that you need to be connected to the Internet, whether that’s to help you with directions to nearby attractions or beauty spots, or just staying in touch with grandma when you’re out in the wilderness.
There’s no need to worry about being cut off from the rest of the world as there are plenty of ways to stay connected to the internet whilst you’re camping or traveling on the road.
The 8 Ways You Can Stay Connected Whilst Camping
- Find a local venue with free WiFi
- Using your cell phone data
- Staying at a campground or site with WiFi
- Buying an internet USB
- Buy a WiFi Booster
- Set up your van or RV with WiFi
- Buy a portable WiFi router
- Using satellite WiFi for your RV or vehicle
Some of the above ways you may have already tried yourself, but some others may prove to be more convenient for you and your family to stay connected whilst you’re on the road.
This article will be the ultimate guide to staying connected to the internet whilst camping and will include helpful step-by-step instructions to get you started and connected.
How To Get WiFi When You’re Camping And On The Road
There are various ways to connect to the internet whilst you’re camping and some are better than others and some may be more suitable for your circumstances. Here’s a brief overview of the different ways you can stay connected with some helpful tips about why they’re good and some drawbacks of each of them.
To find out more about each of the various methods and how to set them up when you’re camping, continue reading this article.
Finding a local venue of location with free WiFi might be one of the most cost-effective methods as you’ll be able to connect for nothing, however, you will have to have a nearby town or city near your campground and it will entail you to have to leave your campground every time you want to connect to the internet.
Using your cell phone’s data and hotspot is an easy and convenient way to stay connected. You’ll be able to use the WiFi hotspot on your phone which connects to your service provider’s network.
People with unlimited cell phone data will find this a good method, but those on Pay As You Go or who have limited cell phone data will find this easily eats up their data and can also quickly ramp up your phone bill.
Staying at a campground with WiFi is a great option, especially if you tend to spend a lot of time on the site instead of exploring the local area. Most popular campground sites come with inclusive WiFi so you’ll be able to stay connected without worrying about network coverage on your cell phone.
Buying an internet USB will allow you to connect to a 3G/4G/5G network depending on where you are, however, your USB may not have network service if you’re too far out in the sticks but most campgrounds should have decent coverage.
Purchasing a WiFi Booster will permit you to connect to a nearby router or modem and improve the coverage so you can connect directly from your spot in the campground or your RV. However, this means you’ll need to be connected to a modem nearby and won’t guarantee you are connected throughout your travels.
Setting up your van or RV with WiFi is a good option if you’re someone who loves to spend a lot of time on the road or camping. Some RVs will come with WiFi installed but you can also get it installed at a later date. However, the engine needs to be running for the WiFi to work in most cases so it can quickly eat up your gas.
Buying a portable WiFi router for your RV will give you a more reliable connection and they work similarly as USBs and cell phone data as they’ll provide to an internet network. However, you must have good coverage to the network to stay connected which can be difficult if you’re camping in the middle of nowhere.
Having a satellite in Your RV will give you the best connection out of all the methods, but it is also the most expensive way and should only be opted by those who are avid travelers in their RV or for those who have the budget to spare and cannot be without the internet for short periods.
Finding Somewhere Nearby With WiFi When You’re Camping
One of the most cost-effective ways to connect to the internet is by finding a nearby venue or location that offers free WiFi.
However, this can be difficult as you’ll need to walk from your campground to these places each time you want to connect, so it’s recommended that each time you use the internet at these locations you do your research and plan ahead for your trip, just in case you lose connection later on in your trip.
This may also require you to do some research before your trip so you can see what places and venues nearby offer free WiFi. Lots of places in cities and towns offer free WiFi and you may even be able to connect by sitting outside.
Some common places that offer free WiFi:
- Coffee shops (Starbucks, Dunkin)
- Restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway, etc…)
- Grocery Stores (Walmart, Target)
- City-run WiFi Hotspots in public parks or facilities
Typically chain stores and restaurants are the most common venues that will offer free public WiFi, for example, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Walmart allows you to connect whilst you’re outside the store and won’t require you to go in and buy something just to connect to their WiFi.
However, independent restaurants or stores may offer free WiFi to their guests upon request when they’re using a service or dining inside their restaurant. Unless you plan on spending some money in these sorts of places, we’d advise against asking for their WiFi password as you’ll probably be greeted with a polite no.
If you have a gym membership that allows you to enter a multitude of gyms in various locations, then they’ll often offer free WiFi for their customers and they’ll also offer nicer showers than what you’d find on the campground.
How To Find Somewhere Nearby To Your Campground With WiFi
Understandably you don’t want to be walking for miles to find a town or a nearby city that has venues with free WiFi, so the best way would be to do some research before your trip to find out free WiFi hotspots nearby to your campground, or you could even ask the staff or other visitors on the campground where they would recommend you go to to stay connected.
You may even find yourself another method to connect to the internet by asking around as someone may be willing to share their data or internet in their RV for you to use.
You can also use apps like WeFi or Wi-Fi Space to find free WiFi spots when you enter a certain location. However, you’ll need data or WiFi to use this app, so it’s best to use it before you set off on your trip and write down where you’ll need to go or use the app each time you connect to the internet to find a WiFi hotspot in your next destination.
Using Your Cell Phone’s Data For WiFi
If you have a smartphone, you may already be familiar with using your cell phone’s data and personal hotspot to connect to the internet whilst you’re out and about. The most popular phone networks will offer a hotspot setting that will allow you to connect to the network when you’re in public and away from your home’s WiFi.
You’ll be able to use the internet directly on your smartphone and you’ll also be able to use it as a personal hotspot for other people to use from their phones, tablets, or laptops. This is a good option if you want to stream or download Netflix shows to watch whilst you’re traveling.
You’ll be able to use your cell phone’s data when inside your RV and when exploring the area whether that be hiking or swimming in the lakes, as long as you have a connection, then you should be able to use the internet wherever you are.
However, a major drawback of this method is that it can quickly drain your phone’s battery, especially if other people are connecting to your hotspot. It can also quickly eat up the data on your phone’s plan and then you could incur additional charges for going over your data allowance on your plan.
Before using your cell phone’s data for WiFi, ensure you’re aware of your data allowance so you don’t go over it and get charged extra on top of your standard bill. If you’re on the road a lot, then it could be worth upgrading your phone plan to have an unlimited data allowance so you won’t incur additional charges.
This method will be completely pointless if the area you are staying in does not have a signal to a network. Before embarking on your trip, research to see if the campground or area you’re staying in has at least a 3G connection for you to connect to with your phone.
Preferably a 4G or 5G connection will provide you with faster and more efficient internet and will be better for numerous users to use.
How To Set Up The Internet Through Your Cell Phone
If you’re not sure your phone or network provider offers this function, then it may be worth getting into contact with them. Connecting to the internet via your cell phone’s hotspot will be different for Android and iPhone users, so if you need some familiarizing with the steps then follow the instructions below.
Help For Android Phones:
- Open your phone’s Settings area
- Select Network and Internet and then Hotspot and Tethering
- Tap WiFi Hotspot and swipe over it to turn it on
- Connect other devices to your cell phone’s hotspot
Help For iPhone Phones:
- Open your phone’s Settings area
- Click on Cellular Settings
- Click on WiFi Hotspot and swipe the toggle to turn it on
- Now you can connect to your phone’s hotspot from other devices
Finding A Campground That Has WiFi
If you don’t want to fuss around with additional equipment or installing devices into your RV or vehicle, then you could always try to count on a campground having WiFi to connect to the internet on your trip.
Most popular campsites will offer free WiFi during your stay, others may charge a daily fee, or they may even have an internet cafe that you can pay for to use the internet.
However, relying on this method may not be the best as if the campground you’re staying at doesn’t have WiFi and you can’t connect to a network via your cell phone data, then you may be unconnected from the rest of the world for a short while.
You could always explore nearby cities or towns to see if anywhere offers free WiFi for you to use, however, this will require you to venture outside of your campsite each time you would like to use the internet.
If using the internet will be imperative on your trip, then make sure when you’re booking your spot on the campground ahead of time that they have WiFi available to use.
Sometimes this isn’t always possible though, as many people will also book last-minute or turn up at the campground in the hopes they have a pitch or spot available for them to use.
How To Find A Campground That Has WiFi
- RV campgrounds are the most common ones to offer WiFi to those staying there as this is a more luxurious style of camping, in comparison to camping in a tent which is very basic and ‘with nature’
- Google search ‘Campgrounds with WiFi’ for the area that you are planning to stay in and it should come up with what campsites offer WiFi
- Use Google Maps or Google Earth and type in ‘Campsites with WiFi’ and a location and it should bring up nearby campsites that offer WiFi in that location as well as directions and other information
- If campgrounds don’t offer WiFi all over the site, they may have a recreational room or a cafe that has a WiFi connection that you can use
Connecting To WiFi Via An Internet USB
A convenient and easy way to connect to WiFi whilst camping is using an internet USB, which is a small stick that plugs into your computer. You can buy them at most electronics, tech, and superstores.
These work by connecting to a local network via a 3G connection to give you an internet connection.
These are quite cheap ($50 on average) and may be better for those who will only use the internet for certain things and will prevent anyone from leaving their hotspot on their phone and using all their data up.
However, there isn’t just one internet USB that fits all, there are two options that you can pick from which will be better for some uses than others.
Two Options For Internet USBs:
- Prepaid USB with a limited allowance
- Unlimited data USB through a cell phone network contract
Prepaid Or Contracted USB: What’s Better?
When buying a prepaid USB, you won’t have to worry about having a rolling contract and once the data has run out on the USB, you’ll have to go back into a store to put more data on it. This is great for those who don’t go on regular camping trips and will want to only have data on the USB when they plan to go away.
- The initial cost is cheaper than a contract USB
- Only pay for the internet that you use
- Ideal for people who won’t always use the internet
- Will need to go into a store to add more data when it runs out
- Coverage can be spotty out in the sticks
- Can run out when you need it most
Contracted internet USBs are better for families who go on regular camping trips and will always want to have internet. It also means you won’t have to go into the store to put more data on it every time it runs out, which it quickly will if the entire family is using the internet every day.
- Unlimited data which allows extensive use by the entire family
- No need to worry about adding more data to it in a store
- Good coverage
- Good for families who take regular camping trips
- You’ll have to pay a monthly bill, even if you don’t use the USB that much
- May encourage users to overuse the internet instead of enjoying camping
How To Set Up An Internet USB To Use Whilst Camping
Certain USBs may have different instructions on how to set them up and use them with your computer. However, generally, most USBs follow the same method.
- Start up your laptop or computer (or your tablet if it’s compatible with a USB)
- Insert the USB stick into the USB port on your laptop or tablet
- Wait for your USB to connect to a local network
- Once it’s found a network you will be able to use the internet on your laptop
- Make sure you eject the USB stick from your desktop before removing it out of the port after using it
- Keep the USB safe and clean in between using it
If your USB cannot connect to a network, then you may have to change the locations of where you’re trying to connect. You could also try the common method of unplugging the USB and plugging it back in to see if you can find a better connection to the internet.
With a Prepaid sim, you may be able to monitor how much data you have left so you can make sure you don’t use it all up and so you can limit how much you and your family are using the USB to browse online.
Using A WiFi Booster To Have WiFi Whilst Camping
This is a good option for those who know they’ll have a WiFi connection on their campground but would like to improve the connection in their RV and don’t have to be right near the WiFi router.
However, the WiFi booster will still need to be in fair proximity to the original WiFi source, so if your campsite is fairly large then you may not be able to pick up the WiFi connection to extend it.
You can also use a WiFi booster if you’ve already got WiFi installed into your RV or vehicle, which will allow you to have a good connection all over the RV and also outside, so if you’re going to be watching some movies under the stars, then the WiFi booster will allow you to do so.
A WiFi booster extends the WiFi range further out so if you’re slightly out of range to get a connection, then a WiFi booster will allow you to still get coverage.
A WiFi booster is great if you’re camping out in the backyard and you still want to enjoy streaming some movies online from your tablet or laptop by using your home’s WiFi network.
How To Set Up A WiFi Booster For When You’re Camping
If your RV already has WiFi installed, or you’re considering camping in your backyard but still want to stay connected to your home WiFi, then you can follow these easy instructions below.
- Find out where the dead zone for WiFi is around your RV or in your backyard and then choose to place the WiFi booster there to improve the coverage
- Plug your WiFi booster into an extension cable and then follow the instructions that come with the booster to connect it to the original WiFi source
- Try to connect to the WiFi from the dead zone to see if it works, you may need to move it around until the connection gets better in the dead zone
Setting Up Your RV With WiFi
If you’re an ultimate roadie and love nothing more than driving around in your RV and camping under the moonlight, then you may want to consider setting up your RV with a WiFi connection, that’s if it doesn’t already come with them.
Upon buying your RV, you will have been informed that it has a WiFi connection, as it is a popular feature, so you may have already made use of it. However, if your RV doesn’t come with WiFi already installed then you can still install it afterward.
If your vehicle (car) has WiFi, you’ll need to have it on your campsite and not in the car park for you to be able to connect to the internet.
Most vehicles will only have a strong connection inside the car and you may be unable to connect whilst outside it. In this case, you should opt for a WiFi booster instead to be able to connect to your vehicle’s WiFi on the campsite.
You can get WiFi installed into your RV or vehicle at your dealer, but this may cost you more. You can also go to an electrical auto shop as they specialize in additional tech equipment for vehicles like cars and RVs.
If you’ll be traveling and sleeping in your RV, then having WiFi installed for your trips will be useful, whether it’s for finding your way to destinations via Google Maps or watching some late-night Netflix.
How To Set Up Your RV Or Camping Vehicle Of Choice With WiFi For When You’re Camping
Unless you’re trained in this department, you’ll need a professional to install the WiFi into your RV or vehicle as it requires some technicality and you’ll want it to work properly.
If you’re buying WiFi from an electrical auto shop they will probably also offer an installation service inclusive in the price. Alternatively, you could buy the WiFi that you want and then take it to another dealership or auto shop for them to install.
It’s advisable to confer with the person who’ll be installing it into your RV or vehicle about what one you are thinking about purchasing, as certain ones may only be compatible with certain models and some may also require additional parts to be installed, which can come at a higher price.
Buying A Portable WiFi Router To Stay Connected
If you want to have the best internet connection whilst on the move, then purchasing a portable WiFi router may be the best option, but it’s also one of the most expensive ones.
A router will run from the same network as internet USB or your cell phone data and will cost anywhere up to $500 to buy, depending on the quality of the one you buy. If you’re always on the road, then it may be worth buying a more expensive router to ensure you have good coverage.
As with USBs or cell phones, you’ll need to decide whether you would like to have a prepaid plan that has a limited WiFi allowance or go for a contracted plan which will renew every month.
If you’ve got an entire family who will be using the WiFi throughout the trip, then it may be the best option to get a WiFi router as it’ll allow many devices to stay connected without slowing the connection down.
How To Set Up A Portable WiFi Router Whilst Camping
Portable WiFi routers work by having a SIM inside like a cell phone does and will come in two formats, prepaid SIM or a contracted SIM.
Prepaid Or Contracted: Which One To Go For?
- You only pay for the internet that you use
- SIM is unlocked so you can change up the deals that you go for
- Good for travelers going out of the country
- You will have to go to restore to add more data to your router
- Internet coverage might be spotty when out in the middle of nowhere
- No need to refill when you run out of data
- Good coverage and service whilst on the go
- More convenient for large families
- SIM is locked and won’t allow you to use other companies
- If you do run out you may have to look for additional WiFi elsewhere
- Standard monthly fee regardless of how much you use
Make sure your SIM contract is set up or you’ve bought data for your SIM in a store and then insert it into your router in your RV (this will need to be plugged in). Switch the router on and wait for it to connect to a network and then connect your devices to the internet.
Buying Satellite WiFi To Have Internet Whilst Camping
If you and your family like to explore the back end of beyond i.e the middle of nowhere, then it may be a good option for you to invest in satellite WiFi for your RV. This will allow you to stay connected to the outside world and ensure a safer trip if you’re in a very rural location.
Other methods like USBs and cell phone data connection to the network via a tower, however, these towers are not always present in rural locations but because satellites connect via satellite signals, you should always be able to get a connection.
It is also the most expensive method, so recommended for those who always use their RV. This small satellite is portable and can be taken on trips with you.
How To Use Satellite Internet When You’re Camping
Every satellite router is different, so you’ll need to follow the designated instructions that come with your model. In most cases though, the router will need to be in plain sight of the sky.
Upon purchasing the satellite router, you’ll probably set it up with a network carrier and then you’ll be able to insert the SIM card into it and ask the network to activate it.
You’ll need to switch the router on, put it in view of the sky, pair a device with it and then an app should pop up which will allow you to finalize the setup steps and allow other devices to pair with it.
So there we have it, you’ll have plenty of methods to stay connected to the internet even when you’re out in the sticks on your RV adventures.
Remember before opting for one choice over another, consider your circumstances, your budget, and also where you’ll be traveling in your RV or camping as some methods are more suitable than others.
For occasional campers or RV travelers, a USB, cell phone data or WiFi router may be the most convenient and budget-friendly option, whereas those who spend weeks or even months of the year traveling in their RV and camping may want to go for a satellite router so they’ll always be connected regardless of where they are in the world.