Everyone needs a break from the norm.
When you have a fully-outfitted adventure van, breaking out of the mundane is as simple as starting the engine and hitting the road. Whether heading into the mountains or towards the ocean with your surfboard in tow, your van is your ticket out of everyday life.
Traveling in an adventure rig is a bucket list item for many. You can take your time seeing the sights, not get flustered if you make a wrong turn, and blast your favorite tunes in your van all day long.
Nothing is quite as freeing as traveling into a new area or state, and it is equally exciting and liberating, providing you with the chance to tap into your wanderlust soul truly. But with these epic journeys into the unknown also comes the need to be prepared with all the essentials.
One of the most important aspects to consider, especially if you plan to work while traveling around in your van, is quality WiFi. This is a necessary accessory that you will want to investigate thoroughly before purchasing. After all, you don’t want to be the one person on the Zoom call with shaky internet.
If you still need to make a living while traveling in your van or want access to the digital world for your nightly Netflix binge, WiFi is an absolute necessity.
How Does Campervan WiFi Work?
So how exactly does WiFi in a van work? There are several ways to do it, and most options make it easier than you’d think.
Like WiFi in a house, you’ll need to start with a device that can get the internet. Once you have the internet connection, you’ll be able to create a WiFi signal to connect your devices. Then, voila — you’ve got an internet connection and access to the outside world.
Ways To Get WiFi on the Road: 4 Options
To help you get started on the hunt for the best way to get WiFi inside your van, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite WiFi solutions for when you are enjoying a weekend on the road and need some stability when it comes to the internet.
1. Use Your Phone as a WiFi Hotspot
Using your phone as a mobile hotspot is a great way to get WiFi in your van. If you already have a data plan on your phone, it’s convenient and straightforward to use your phone as a hotspot.
However, you’ll want to make sure you have a good data plan to support your internet usage needs. This method can quickly drain your data for the month. Before you know it, your phone’s data plan could be throttled for the rest of the billing cycle, even if you have an “unlimited” data plan (always read the fine print!). In addition to data consumption, this can quickly drain your phone’s battery.
Still, this can be an excellent option for brief internet usage when you’re on the road. Many providers offer the opportunity to upgrade your data plan on the go, but this may or may not be ideal depending on how much and how often you want to use it.
2. Use a Mobile Hotspot
A mobile hotspot, sometimes called a travel hotspot or MiFi, relies on a cellular provider to get you online. You still need to be in a location that has cellular reception to use it, but it’s typically much faster than your phone, lets you binge watch your favorite shows, and won’t leave you with a dead cellphone battery.
Since space is a top priority when you’re on the road, you’ll be happy to hear that many mobile hotspots are remarkably portable. Some are easy enough to transport that you can take them with you into cafes and coffee shops to have your own private WiFi connection. In addition, many have built-in batteries, allowing you to save some electricity and be wire-free.
As you’d expect, pricing and plans can vary when using a travel hotspot. Many provide access to a single provider, while others allow you to switch providers with a sim card or even give you access to multiple providers all at once so you can use the fastest in the area. While you can easily add a line with your current plan, you may want to consider using a different provider for your hotspot in order to have access to more than one network at a time.
We highly recommend researching your options to get a clear sense of which mobile hotspot and plan work best for you. To help get your research started, here’s a quick list of a few mobile WiFi hotspot options to consider for your van:
The Verizon Inseego Jetpack MiFi 8800L Hotspot offers the reliability and speed of the Verizon Network. This pocket-sized hotspot has a sizeable battery that’s removable, allowing you to swap it out with a fully charged battery. You can also use this hotspot as a charger for your phone, then use the quick charge technology to get it back to 100%. This hotspot can also work internationally, depending on your plan with Verizon.
- Favorite Feature: Quick charge technology, global-ready
- Battery: 4400 mAh
- Multiple devices: Connect up to 15 devices
- Screen: 2.4” touchscreen
- Size: 4.29” x 2.64” x 0.71”
- Weight: 5.36 oz
- SIM: Verizon w/pre-installed SIM
The T-Mobile MiFi M2000 made by Inseego is probably the best deal you can find with a carrier, offering 100GB a month for a reasonable price and access to 5G. It’s the only 5G hotspot we (currently) think is worth it since T-Mobile happens to have the most 5G coverage compared to the competition, and it also uses 4G LTE as a backup, and you won’t miss out where 5G doesn’t exist yet. The M2000 is slightly larger than its competitors, but the size pays off thanks to the fast performance and ability to connect up to 30 devices.
- Favorite Feature: Quick-charge technology, removable battery you can upgrade
- Battery: 5050 mAh
- Multiple devices: Connect up to 30 devices
- Screen: 2.4” touch screen
- Size: 5.9” x 2.2” x 0.7”
- Weight: 7.4oz
- Network: T-Mobile SIM only
The Netgear Nighthawk M1 is a high-end mobile hotspot device that offers a fast and reliable connection offering download speeds up to 1Gbps. The M1 is an unlocked device, meaning you can use it with the carrier of your choice - but you will need to get a sim card from that carrier to use with this device. With the ability to connect up to 20 devices and long battery life, this unit can make family road trips a whole lot easier.
- Favorite Feature: Speeds up to 1 Gbps, LAN port
- Battery: 5040 mAh
- Multiple devices: Connect up to 20 devices
- Screen: 2.4” LCD Screen
- Size: 4.15” x 4.15” x 0.8”
- Weight: 8.5 oz
- Network: Use any provider’s SIM card
The Solis (formerly known as Skyroam) can seek out which provider has the best connection based on your location. If you don’t want to be limited to a single carrier, this palm-sized option is ideal for domestic and international travel. You can also choose a flexible pay-per-GB plan instead of a monthly contract, allowing you to use your allotted data over longer periods of time.
- Favorite Feature: Flexible data plans without being locked to 1 carrier
- Battery: Up to 16 hours
- Multiple devices: Connect up to 10 devices
- Screen: No screen, uses app
- Size: 4.8" x 4.8" x 1.73"
- Weight: 5.44 oz
- Network: Automatically selects the fastest network based on your location
3. Equip Your Van With Satellite Internet
For those willing to invest in satellite internet, this is the best option for getting online when you’re in areas that don’t have cell service coverage. Installing satellite internet for your van is a much more involved installation, and you may even want to hire a professional to do this for you. Still, this method is ideal if you spend most of your time in the middle of nowhere and need internet access.
Unfortunately, your van needs to be parked to establish a connection since satellite internet can’t connect when you’re on the move. In addition, you’ll need clear skies to get a solid signal; trees, buildings, and other obstacles can interfere with your connection.
Another potential downside of this option is that satellite internet performance can be spotty and slow. That means it’s not a reliable option for online gaming, video conference calls, or anything else that requires a consistent connection.
Nevertheless, setting up satellite internet in your van has some significant benefits, particularly getting access to the internet in areas where you don’t have a cell signal.
4. Coffee Shops, Libraries, and Truck Stops
If you find yourself in an area with coffee shops, chances are you can access their free WiFi by going in and treating yourself to a coffee. You can get on public WiFi for a small fee and get all the work done that you need — or download the movies you want to watch later in the day.
Other great options are public libraries, your gym, or even truck stops - but don't forget to use a virtual private network (VPN). While these options may not have the same cozy ambiance as coffee shops, they are equally helpful for free WiFi for anyone passing through, including the adventure van weekend warrior!
Get a Signal Booster for Your Van
While this option doesn't get you WiFi on it's own, a signal booster is worth mentioning since it can get you a better signal to your cellular service provider when inside your van.
Boosters include an outdoor antenna to pick up the signal; then, the signal is amplified by the booster and distributed by an internal antenna. While it is not guaranteed to work all the time, it certainly makes a big difference when your phone starts to struggle. You can even use it to get a better signal to your mobile hotspot, but you must have your hotspot directly on the internal antenna otherwise you can run into extra slow speeds and wasted data.
The main benefit of a signal booster is to get better service on your phone when inside your van. Vans are great signal blockers being made of metal and glass, so if you notice you lose a couple of bars when you're inside your van but have full service outside, this could be the solution you need to avoid dropped calls and slow speed.
Connected to WiFi While Connecting With Nature
Exploring new places on the road is thrilling. While it’s healthy to disconnect from the digital world and be in the moment, sometimes we need to connect to WiFi to get online.
With technology quickly changing and the 5G field still under development, we expect better and faster options at some point, but until then, we hope these tips and tricks will help you find the best way to stay connected.