The days of disconnecting and experiencing the ruggedness of nature may just be behind us. Today, in most camping scenarios, you don’t have to forgo the modern luxury of internet connectivity. You can head out into the backcountry and not worry about missing a call, email, or even a new episode of your favorite television show.
So how do you get WIFI while camping?
There are several methods you can use to get WIFI while camping. Some of these methods are free, and some are paid options for getting WIFI while camping, and each has its own pros and cons. Here’s a list of 5 methods for getting WIFI while camping.
- Choose a campground that includes WIFI.
- Use your cell phone as a hotspot or bring a stand-alone mobile hotspot.
- Get a satellite internet provider.
- Use a prepaid USB provider.
- Get a range extender to pick up local open hotspots.
If you would like more information on finding campgrounds that offer WIFI, try this article that we wrote. 175 Campgrounds That Offer WiFi? ( List for all 50 states )
There are many ways to get wifi while camping, some of them familiar and others not so much. In this article, we will look at how to obtain wifi when you are backpacking, tent camping, or RV’ing. Also, we will take a look at the pros and cons of going without it while on your camping excursion.
Locate a WiFi Inclusive Campground
Many campgrounds are beginning to offer WiFi to their campground guests. This service may be offered for an additional fee, or include in a slightly higher campground reservation price. Wifi supplied by the campground does come with some caveats.
Usually, if the WiFi is not being offered as a separate and optional charge, the price to reserve a campsite will typically cost a bit more in order to offset the cost. Some campsites may provide an optional daily rate for internet if you don’t plan on using WiFi but would still like the opportunity to do so just in case.
Additionally, the WiFi supplied will likely be being used by a large number of people. This means that the speed may be slower than you are used to. It may not be conducive to downloading large files or streaming music or movies. The terrain may interfere with the WiFi’s speed and availability as well.
Because the WiFi is being shared by the entire campground, there are some rules of etiquette you should follow. Don’t stream entire movies, or leave your music streaming 24/7. Besides, try to refrain from downloading large files or images that would take up a great deal of bandwidth and slow internet speeds for everybody.
KOA’s are one of the most well-known campgrounds that have begun offering WiFi at nearly all of their locations. To find a campground that is not KOA owned but still has WiFi consider using a search engine such as allstays.com that offers WiFi availability as a filter option.
National Carriers and Tethering your Cell Phone
Another option is to use your cell phone service to gain internet while out and about in nature. Most major providers and carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T, will offer an internet hotspot option.
A tethering or mobile hotspot through your cell phone will allow you to access the internet on devices, including and other than, your cellphone. In essence, your phone is creating a WiFi network that other devices can connect to, typically with the use of a password.
By doing this, your phone will be using your data connection. This means that it is reliant on you having service wherever you are located. It also means that your data charge will be high, or in most instances, you will be required to pay an additional amount to your cellular provider in order to obtain mobile hotspot capacity on your cell phone.
Using this type of connectivity may be expensive, is not optimal for camping in extremely rural or backcountry areas where service is limited, and will quickly drain your cell phones battery.
Satellite or a Dish
Using a satellite or a dish is perhaps the most extreme option for obtaining internet connectivity. If you live a nomadic lifestyle and never know what type of location or situation you will find yourself in next, using a satellite is likely your most reliable choice.
Using a satellite is also limiting in that it must be affixed to something, typically a camper or RV. It can be a time-consuming process to attach it to your vehicle and difficult to find the correct position to receive service. In most instances, you will have to remove it from your camper before departing and then reattach it and readjust it at the next campsite.
A satellite is not useful for tent campers or those that do not have an RV or camper. Additionally, it is not a great option for those who will not be camping for a long period of time or are infrequent campers.
Satellites and dishes can be quite costly. You will have to purchase your satellite dish and subscribe to a monthly service.
Prepaid or Subscription USB
USB’s are another internet connectivity option for those who need data on the go. They look like a typical USB but are essentially a miniature version of a modem or router. They plug into the side of a laptop or computer and access 3G internet.
To access 3G you will need to have a plan. You can subscribe monthly to a plan for a fee or buy a prepaid stick with a predetermined lifespan.
Like cellular hotspots, you will want to verify the range and extent of the provider’s coverage before purchasing anything so that you can be sure they will provide internet access in the area in which you plan to camp.
WiFi Extender, Range Extender, or WiFi Booster
In some cases, it may be helpful to have a WiFi extender to give your internet access a boost. An extender or booster is not a source of WiFi on its own but will provide you will better coverage.
A range extender is a device that uses your WiFi and rebroadcasts it to cover weak spots in your service. This can be useful if you are a ways away from your WiFi source or if you frequently experience dead spots.
They make Wifi boosters and extenders that are specifically made for RV’s and campers (as well as houses) and can be easily attached to your home away from home.
Free Internet Options
As always, there are a few waves to find free WiFi when you are on the road. In a free WiFi situation, you will want to plan on using the internet or working once you locate a hotspot or WiFi zone and unplugging when you are at the campsite, and the internet is unavailable.
Coffeeshops, fast food locations, and libraries often provide free wifi for guests. Sometimes you can use the WiFi from the parking lot, and in other cases, you have to go inside and purchase an item or ask for the password.
Retailers occasionally offer guest WiFi as well. Some of the most common stores with internet access for guests are Target and Meijer. As with the restaurants, coffee shops, or fast food chains, you may have to purchase some items to use their service.
One thing to bear in mind is that public WiFi can be unreliable and slow. You often have no way of knowing if the WiFi will be available or if the service is down. Also, as it is being used by an innumerable number of people speeds will usually not be conducive to streaming, gaming, or large file downloads.
Another free WiFi option is your friends. If you are passing through an area where you have friends or family, ask if you can use their WiFi, also known as driveway surfing. You will want to use proper etiquette if borrowing someone else’s service and be sure to adequately thank them.
Do You Really Need the Internet?
Now that we have discussed different ways to obtain internet access while away from home, one question remains. Do you really need internet access while on your camping trip?
If you are a constant traveler, frequent camper, or live fulltime out of your RV, then you likely need some form of reliable internet. However, if you are going away for the weekend or even a week, you should consider unplugging.
In this day and age, it can be hard to be disconnected from our phones, laptops, and devices. We are always engaged with email, social media, and keeping up on the latest news. However, sometimes, it can be quite beneficial to leave it all behind.
That is not to say that you should forgo carrying a phone entirely, or not have any way to contact another person or emergency services. When camping, especially in a rustic or unpopulated area, it is very important to be able to contact the appropriate emergency personnel. But, devices have a time and a place at campsites.
Taking a break from the internet can help you reconnect with your friends, family, and nature. Everyone is so tethered to their phones, but constantly carrying it and being on it can detract from special moments.
Additionally, your use of your device can impact those around you. Other campers might not want to hear the sounds of your movies or music interrupting the peaceful solitude of nature. If you have to have your shows or tunes, consider using headphones, so your internet usage doesn’t impose on anyone else.
If you are an internet junkie, or truly need it to stay connected to work, friends or family, or live life out of your RV, there are many ways you can access WiFi from your campsite or on the road. If you are camping only for a few days, it may be helpful to bring your phone along for pictures, GPS, and in the case of an emergency, but forgo the WiFi.