Accessing a Wifi network anywhere isn’t tough: bring a portable battery and your home router. But of course, guaranteeing internet access is the kicker, and admittedly, your apps would get confused.
Thankfully, there are plenty of practical methods to stay connected to the internet while camping.
Here are eight steps showing how to get wifi while camping:
- Pick a campsite with Wifi
- Ensure a given campsite has suitable wifi
- Determine whether mobile carriers cover the campsite
- Invest in a mobile hotspot device
- Install antennae for remote areas
- Come prepared with a signal booster
- Find nearby venues with wifi
- Weigh up your satellite internet options
Table of Contents
1. Pick A Campsite With wifi
Many campgrounds offer Wi-Fi coverage that you can access from your tent. Depending on your priorities, picking your destinations based on Wi-Fi access is overwhelmingly the most reliable, as apparent as it may sound.
Tip: try searching Google for “list of campsites with Wi-Fi [enter state here] site:allstays.com” This will yield a map with various options sourced from the community-maintained Open Street Map project as the first result. This list won’t be exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start.
2. Ensure A Given Campsite Has Suitable Wi-Fi
Campsites often advertise Wi-Fi while being vague about specifics. Arriving and realizing the place has the equivalent of dial-up only accessible on a full moon can be a disaster. Sure, we may want to get away from it all, but sick relatives or running a small business means staying in touch or never taking a vacation.
Thus, double-check their service by contacting them directly to ensure the Wi-Fi is suitable for your needs.
Recommended questions to ask:
- What is the average download/upload speed?
- Where is the Wi-Fi accessible? At all campsites? Only the clubhouse?
- Do you have to pay for Wi-Fi? If so, what are the options?
3. Determine Whether Mobile Carriers Cover The Campsite
Check your phone’s carrier’s coverage maps to see if the network is accessible. Here’s a 4G & 5G US coverage map by the FCC, which displays AT&T, T-Mobile, USCellular, and Verizon networks. Most other American mobile network companies lease these towers.
If your mobile network carrier appears to service the area, count yourself lucky. Most phones have a “mobile hotspot” feature that will turn your phone into a speedy Wi-Fi access point, given a 4G or 5G connection. Though, some carriers charge extra for tethering. Check your plan before you travel to avoid sticker shock.
However, remember that using your network coverage or roaming features will consume plenty of extra energy. Make sure to pack chargers.
4. Invest In A Mobile Hotspot Device
A mobile hotspot device, also known as a portable Wi-Fi router, is a worthwhile investment for people who work while traveling or for families with multiple devices. The advantages of using a router over tethering are:
- Connecting devices at greater distances
- Avoid disconnecting devices when you need to take your phone elsewhere
- Preserve your phone’s battery life
- Some models are carrier-unlocked – you can swap between SIM cards based on coverage
One of the most popular examples is the Netgear Nighthawk, which isn’t carrier-locked. A few others to consider are:
To use a portable Wi-Fi router, you will need the following:
- A 3G/4G/5G network signal
- A matching carrier’s SIM card
- A data plan for that SIM card
Choosing a carrier and plan can be a hassle. You will typically want to avoid contracts, device restrictions, and most offerings that aren’t data-only. Pre-paid, unlimited, and pay-as-you-go are recommended according to your traveling and browsing habits. Some options worth considering:
- Customer-friendly plans by Visible, owned by Verizon, with good coverage
- AT&T’s prepaid data bundles may be a good, familiar option
- Nomad Internet is pricier but offers access to most major networks
5. Install Antennae For Remote Areas
Installing an antenna is a fantastic option for those camping just outside a tower’s reach. Most modern cellular devices use small internal antennae. These allow incoming EM waves to be converted to an electronic signal.
The bigger the antenna, the more sensitive it can be. External antennae for GSM, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks can be purchased or even made from home.
Receiving signal from a remote campsite might be finicky or worse. A cell tower might be within range or a few miles out, but your mobile hotspot may not have the requisite elevation and line-of-sight.
Realistically, externally mounted antennae designed for a portable router is an excellent choice. Installation varies considerably, though. As an example, this antenna is produced primarily for the Netgear Nighthawk. It can be mounted outside a vehicle or on a nearby structure for a better connection.
Whether you get one for your phone or an RV roof-mounted external device as a semipermanent Wi-Fi solution will depend on your needs and know-how.
6. Come Prepared With A Signal Booster
A signal booster provides a similar utility to an antenna: placement for best connectivity. However, whereas an antenna helps your mobile hotspot remain reliable, a signal booster also keeps your phone connected.
You can install signal boosters like this one of Phonetone’s on top of a car, RV, or in a nearby tree, where the signal is most reliable. In addition, WeBoost offers boosters suitable for various vehicles and camping setups.
7. Find Nearby Venues With Wi-Fi
When you’re stuck, check the nearest town for venues that offer Wi-Fi. Common places to try are:
If in need, ask around. Most service businesses have Wi-Fi for their staff. They may let you use it temporarily, even if it’s not publicly accessible. For instance, a couple friends traveling in Alaska once got stuck.
After asking, of all places, a tire shop for Wi-Fi, the staff were kind enough to oblige. The story has it that there were even divine cups of coffee for a dollar each out back.
Regardless, spending your camping trip in the nearest McDonald’s isn’t ideal, and there might not be any candidates.
8. Weigh Up Your Sattelite Internet Options
Without a nearby Wi-Fi network or cell coverage, Satellite internet is an excellent solution for camping in areas without nearby Wi-Fi or cell coverage. While they are expensive, they no longer cost the wealth of three small nations. The dishes typically cost hundreds of dollars but provide fast speed and flexibility to roam.
Satellites are ideal in open, rural areas. Crucially, they need line-of-sight, which can make connectivity in forested sites unreliable. In addition, network traffic congestion in populated areas can hamper satellite service speed.
Starlink is your best option, but the American East and West are at capacity and, thus, are relegated to a waiting list. HughesNet is the most common alternative and has been in the game for longer. However, do not expect fast speeds or latency from HughesNet; customers typically don’t recommend HughesNet and Viasat if you have any alternatives.
Note that the satellite service usually isn’t intended for dishes to be traveling. Still, it tends to work for customers nonetheless. Installing dishes on RVs is a common practice. Of course, it’s recommended that you ensure the equipment you purchase will work in your scenario.