Campervan WiFi is increasingly becoming an essential commodity for campervan and campervan owners, be it for a rainy day Netflix binge or to put in a hard days shift for those digital nomads. The question is, how do you get WiFi in a campervan?
Well, you’ve got a few campervan WiFi options. Here, Van Life Matters goes through your choices, highlighting the pros and cons so you can make the right decision for your campervan.
Using a Smartphone to tether and hot-spot
This method makes use of your smartphone or tablet and its existing data plan to turn your device into a mobile router.
Providing your device has a strong enough signal, you’ll be able tether/hot-spot to share the internet connection with any other device.
You’ll need to have a mobile data package on your SIM card/ smartphone contact – something you’re almost certainly already have but you should monitor how much mobile data you’re using.
Some contracts limit the amount of data you can use when tethering or using a hot-spot, so it’s worth checking what your package includes and how much you expect to need.
Tethering from your phone is probably the easiest way to get WiFi in your campervan without any need for additional equipment but it does have limitations, especially if you have poor signal wherever you’re parked-up.
Pros: You'll likely already have a smartphone with a SIM data package in your pocket, ready for you to tether/hot-spot - you don't need anything else. Cons: Depending on your data package and how you use the internet connection, you could quickly use a large amount of your mobile data. Always monitor how much you use.
WiFi dongles for campervans
If you don’t have a smartphone with lots of data to spare, it’s worth considering a WiFi dongle.
As well as the dongle itself, you’ll need to buy data SIM card to use with it – this is different to a mobile phone sim card.
The internet speed depends on the mobile device you are using, the network it’s connected to and the strength of the coverage where you are.
If you are using a modern device, are connected to a 4G network and have excellent coverage, you shouldn’t have any problems.
However, if you want to download and upload big files or watch 4K movies with poor network coverage, it could get a little frustrating.
Pros: A relatively simple and reliable method on connecting, providing you're somewhere with good network coverage. Cons: You can only connect one device at a time and it still requires decent 3G, 4G or 5G mobile data connection.
Campervan MiFi internet connection
Campervan MiFi dongles are similar to WiFi dongles but give you the added freedom of connecting multiple devices, so you can share and access information on one secure signal, similar to your WiFi network at home.
A MiFi dongle is a portable, battery-powered wireless device that uses SIM card data to generate a WiFi hot-spot for your devices to connect to.
MiFi device batteries last for around six to eight hours and can be charged-up using your campervan’s 12v leisure battery.
Some MiFi devices feature an external, roof-mounted antenna Wi-Fi kit to boost the internet connection quality.
Pros: When used with an external antenna, MiFi tends to outperform tethering/hot-spotting from your smartphone. You also have the freedom to connect multiple devices. Cons: Even MiFi requires decent 3G, 4G or 5G mobile data connection and without that antenna, you could find yourself struggling in remote areas.
Satellite internet for campervans
Sooner or later, you’ll likely end up somewhere with really poor 3G/4G/5G mobile data signal, the downfall of the tethering/hot-spotting and dongle options.
If you regularly find yourself in remote areas and need a reliable campervan internet connection, a satellite internet kit could be your only option.
At prices upwards of around £3500 for the kit and ongoing monthly charges to an internet service provider, satellite internet isn’t cheap though.
Pros: Even when in the-most remote places, campervan satellite internet kits. Cons: It's not most practical option and it's costly too. And while satellite internet is generally the most-reliable way of getting internet in your campervan, bad weather could still end up blocking your signal.
While not strictly speaking a campervan WiFi option, it’s worth considering that many established campsites now have their own WiFi which campers can connect to, sometimes for an additional cost.
While the speed and connection stability is unlikely to be as good as what you’re used to at home, it is usually good enough to connect your devices for basic browsing on the internet.
Don’t get your hope up though, you’ll unlikely be able to watch videos or use streaming services without lots of interruption.
Pros: More and more campsites now have WiFi available which is adequate for basic browsing. Cons: You won't know how good it is until you get there - every campsite will be different.
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