Wifi for Campervan Internet Access & Remote Work
This post is part of our series on remote jobs for van life.
One of the first questions I get when I tell people that I live on the road full-time is, “But how do you pay for stuff?”
As much as I wish that I could have had a trust fund or won the lottery, the reality is that I must have a job to feed myself, my dog, and my van.
Many of us need reliable campervan wifi not only for our vanlife jobs, but also for other everyday needs such as finding their next campsite, navigation, and for posting beautiful photos to Instagram.
Fortunately, I have some great solutions for helping you find consistent wifi for campervan traveling.
Why is Campervan Wifi important to my Vanlife Success and Safety?
Social media doesn’t give you the whole picture of what vanlife looks like most days. A lot of time is spent tracking down a campsite with a reliable cellphone signal.
Not only do I need the internet for my job, but for many aspects of vanlife. Having a cell signal is what allows me to live my life on the road.
As a solo female traveler, a strong, consistent cell signal is a huge component to my safety on the road. Being able to call for help if needed brings me peace of mind.
My family also uses an app called Life360 to track my location so that someone always knows where I’m at, but this only works when I’m “on the grid”.
Like many other vanlifers, I also keep a blog and social media account to share my travel stories. This helps me keep in touch with friends and family while I’m on the road.
All vanlifers find different ways to stay entertained on the road. From Netflix to podcasts to Skyping with friends and family, wifi for campervan entertainment helps pass the time between adventures.
Campervan Wifi Hardware
During my time living and working on the road, there are a few tools that I’ve found the most helpful for obtaining internet access.
The first, most helpful piece of hardware that I have for campervan wifi is my hotspot. I use Verizon as my phone carrier because they have the largest US network, so I purchased a Verizon Jetpack as my hotspot.
This hotspot connects to the Verizon cell towers and acts as a campervan wifi booster so that I can connect to the internet from my computer or tablet.
It is small, making it ideal for living in a tiny space, and the battery life on it is pretty good too.
While many phones can also be a hotspot, most plans will limit you to a certain amount of high-speed data.
Once you reach that limit, your internet speeds will be throttled and video conferencing or watching YouTube becomes difficult.
I personally use a combination of my phone’s hotspot as well as my Jetpack to ensure I have enough high-speed data each month.
Some people will also purchase a hotspot or other device from a different cell phone carrier in order to tap into two networks, which offers them even more coverage as they travel across the country.
Campervan Signal Booster
The other piece of hardware that is critical for campervan wifi is my WeBoost Drive 4G-X campervan wifi booster.
My camper van wifi booster helps turn a campsite with a weak or unstable cell phone signal into my next outdoor office space.
This campervan wifi booster is easy to install and has a small magnetic antenna that easily attaches to the top of most campervans.
It also has an antenna that gets installed inside your campervan and a small unit that plugs into an auxiliary DC outlet or cigarette lighter.
The WeBoost 4G-X campervan signal booster transmits a wireless signal so you do not have to plug your phone into the unit, and you can boost a signal to several devices at once.
Do signal boosters for cell phones work?
It’s important to note that this is a camper van wifi booster, which means it makes an existing signal stronger. If you are in an area with no service, this device won’t magically bring you 4G LTE.
It is best used in areas with a weak or unstable signal and can boost you to higher, more stable network speeds. It can be the difference between 3G and 4G but likely won’t be helpful if you’re in an area with no service at all.
Finding Reception on the Road
Finding a reliable cell signal while on the road can sometimes be a difficult or time-consuming process. Here are a few of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned for wifi for campervan success.
The first thing I do when looking for a campsite is check some of my favorite campsite-finding apps. I do my best to stay in free campsites, so my favorite resources are the iOverlander app and freecampsites.net.
Both of those contain user-submitted information and will sometimes include reviews with cell reception information. Freecampsites also has signal strength by carrier for some of its campsites.
Once I’ve narrowed it down to a campsite or two, I cross-reference a signal map. Carrier-provided maps (especially Verizon’s) don’t always show enough information, so it helps to use a few different sources.
An app I like to use is OpenSignal. It can provide information such as maps of cell towers and some coverage information.
Then it’s time to take a chance and drive to the campsite. Even the best-laid plans don’t always work out, especially with so much user-generated information, which can sometimes be less than perfect.
Once I’m at camp I test my signal speeds with OpenSignal to ensure my wifi for campervan work or entertainment is fast enough.
Of course I test this with my campervan signal booster on to ensure the best signal speeds.
Sometimes I strike out on finding a campsite with cell reception, so I try to always have a backup plan.
That occasionally means a nearby Walmart or other campervan approved parking lot in a city where my hotspot will have no trouble providing me with campervan wifi.
Wifi for Campervan Life
While most of us would love to spend all our time “off the grid,” parked on mountain tops and in remote locations, that typically isn’t the reality of vanlife. For most of us, internet connectivity is vital to life on the road.
With just a little bit of planning and these tips, wifi for campervan living isn’t all that hard to obtain.
Thanks for reading
Please comment below with your Wifi for campervan internet access experiences, gear and questions
Jenny has been traveling on the road full-time with her dog, Dakota, since September 2018.
She lives in her self-converted 2006 Dodge Sprinter and spends her days hiking, camping, mountain biking, and writing about her adventures.
She’s attempting to visit all 50 states and see all the National Parks.
You can read about her adventures on her site, here.