I’ve noticed the growth in the Airstream and RV ownership, with more than $20 billion in sales and services. Statistically, there were already about 9 million RV owners, but the 2020 COVID-19 conditions have made the RV lifestyle even more popular.
I’ve been living full-time in my Airstream for almost a year now and there are a few things that I’ve learned to appreciate, and a fast, stable internet connection is definitely one of them!
RVs support a flexible, on-the-go lifestyle, but it‘s more economical than many of the more traditional residential or vacation options. I’m searching for total freedom, but I also love how I constantly face new challenges in my cross-country adventures. It feels good to be out in nature wherever I go, but it’s also a healthier lifestyle.
That’s why nearly one million people make an RV their full-time home. Even before COVD-19 conditions hit, many Americans had espoused the adventuring digital-nomad lifestyle. I can work from anywhere in my star-gazing way of life. With that many people living and vacationing in their RVs, connectivity is essential for 84% of RV travelers. I’ve tested and discovered the best internet solutions for my full-time RV lifestyle. This is one of those situations where I go with the flow and go with the option that works best wherever I am in my RV. Here they are a few of the top options on the Internet for full-time RVers.
WiFi Range Extenders
WiFi is the option that I’m most familiar with and it’s often the top choice in the Internet for full time RVers. I’ve always used WiFi with the range extender at home, which is probably why I gravitated toward this option first. So, I’ve tested the WiFi options with my extender on the road with varying results. I’d argue that it’s potentially the easiest and most cost-effective option, particularly with my WiFi range extender. The extender increases the range of the signal, which means that I can work from my RV even when the signal is lackluster. As with all these options, though, there are drawbacks to consider. Here are the pros and cons.
Cons of WiFi Range Extenders for RVs
- Can’t always rely on the possibility that the RV park or campground will have Wi-Fi. Or more importantly, that the campground will have enough bandwidth to support everyone connecting to the campground WiFi.
- Even if I have access to WiFi, the signal may be limited, restricted, or throttled, even with my WiFi range extender.
- WiFi access may be restricted to certain areas.
- I’ve also found the WiFi access to be expensive in some places.
WiFi extender is adversely affected by external obstacles like concrete wa
Pros of WiFi Range Extenders:
- WiFi access can be free at some locations. If if there is a cost involved, the price point is typically more economical compared with other options.
- It’s quick and easy to setup. I can plug the WiFi extender into the socket.
- I can use my old router to extend my WiFi signal.
- My WiFi range extender takes whatever signal that I can get and extends for optimal use.
- The extender repeats and boosts the Wi-Fi signal.
- My extender is compatible with most cell phone networks.
- There are lots of extender options to choose from. Some of the most popular WiFi extender options are the TP-Link AC1750, NETGEAR WiFi AC750, or GALAWAY 1200Mbps.
WiFi access, with a range extender, can be a great option for my RV travels, but it is subject to so many external variables. When I park my RV in a location with clear and unfettered access to a WiFi signal, this option is a great solution for my internet connectivity needs.
The cellular booster option takes the power of my cell phone and my mobile hotspot options and takes the combo to the next level of the Internet for full time RVers. I’ve been camping and RVing with just my cell phone. I quickly discovered that my cell phone is not a viable option for most long-term use situations, particularly in more remote locations. With my cellular booster, I have more flexibility when I’m on the road, but there are some drawbacks. Here are the pros and cons.
Cons of Cellular Boosters:
- The cellular booster still relies on cell phone tower technology.
- My distance from the cell-phone tower means that I still may not be able to get a strong enough signal for viable internet connectivity.
- Obstructions like hills, mountains, and trees can also adversely affect the internet connection.
- Connectivity also varies depending on which cellular provider that I use.
Pros of Cellular Boosters:
- The cellular booster supports the best possible signal no matter where I am in my Airstream.
- Cellular boosters are widely available from chain stores like Best Buy or online portals like Amazon.
- A cellular booster is the fastest, easiest, and most effective way for me to access the internet in most situations.
- It’s a technology that I’m familiar with and I can easily put it into place and troubleshoot most issues.
Here, again, the cellular booster is a great option when I have cell phone access, even if the signal would otherwise be abysmal. Even the cellular booster doesn’t do me a whole lot of good in those remote locations where there are no easily accessible cell phones. Still, I’m familiar with cellular technology. It’s relatively easy-to-use and cost-effective. As long as I’m cognizant of the optimal conditions, the cellular booster can be a good option. That’s also why a cellular booster is often the preferred method of connectivity by many full-time RVers.
Satellite Internet For Full-Time RVs
Satellite internet works in much the same way as your Satellite TV. I’ve seen lots of RVers use this option, particularly if they are full-time road warriors. Satellite internet was once the only real solution on the Internet for full-time RVers, but there are a myriad of options now available. In my testing, it depends a great deal on where I am and the level of connectivity that I need. I’ve experienced some pros and cons while testing this option.
Cons of Satellite Internet:
- This option requires me to install the satellite dish to the outside of my RV.
- The cost is somewhat prohibitive. The hardware equipment can start ~$600+, plus the monthly fee.
- The connection speeds tend to be slower than other options.
- Bad weather, trees blocking the direct path to the satelitte and other environmental conditions can affect my connection.
Pros of Satellite Internet:
- Rental options are available.
- It means that I don’t have to use my cellular data, which incurs its own cost and hassle.
- It’s a great alternative option when I am not able to achieve internet connectivity via other options.
While Satellite internet is no longer the first internet connectivity option that I think of, it’s still worthy of thought, discussion, and even testing. The price point of this option is usually the biggest turnoff, but when I’m desperate for the internet and I can’t get it any other way, I can rent the equipment. While it may not be the easiest option, it’s still something to consider.
However, I think that Elon Musk plans to completely disrupt the satellite internet market in the next year or so with his Starlink internet company. SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites for the past year and a beta-testing program for Starlink is currently underway, so stay tuned to see if Elon Musk delivers.