When we started camping several years ago, I disliked it.
And not just a little bit of dislike, but I had full-fledged hatred for this activity that happened to be one of my husband’s favorites.
The bugs, the heat, the cold, the sleeping on the ground/air mattress/sleeping bag, cooking over a fire and so many other things left me scratching my head, trying to figure out why on earth he loved camping so much, when we could be comfortable, at home, Netflix bingeing.
But you know what I disliked the most?
The whole no camping internet service thing.
We were pretty strapped for cash, which means no data plan on the cell phone. A traditional cell phone company hotspot was completely out of the question (hello, expensive data costs!) and as a result I couldn’t even escape from the discomfort by stalking the people I went to high school with on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Instagram.
But you get the picture: I like being connected.
Intentionally disconnecting is great (and I’ve learned to enjoy camping MUCH more since then) but as someone with high-functioning anxiety, I want to have the option to connect to the rest of the world.
Regardless of whether or not I actually use that connection.
Thankfully, at the beginning of this year, we upgraded from our tent to a pop-up camper, and while I’m sort of pining for a hard-sided camper, the pop-up has made the camping experience infinitely better.
We have air conditioning at night, pretty nice mattresses to sleep on, a grill, and even a small refrigerator.
The only thing we were missing?
Camping Internet Service.
Will It Work?
The biggest thing, besides the cost, that was holding me back from making camping internet a reality, was the question; “Will it work?”
While we don’t go to Alaska to go camping, we do go to some pretty rural areas, and I had concerns about paying so much money for mobile internet, only to have it not work at the campsite.
To pay for it, and then have it tease you with no-quite-almost-working has got to be one of the most infuriating things in the world.
So, while I’m going to share out own wifi solution with you, please, please make sure to do your research for your region of the country. I’m going to lay out what we use + other really reliable options, but not every wifi solution works everywhere.
For us, the best solution was a hotspot.
I didn’t want something that mounted on the camper because I wanted to be able to take it with us when we drove a few hours north to visit family.
But, I didn’t want to pay an obscene amount of money for the actual hotpot, or pay a monthly fee for the service. I wanted an affordable, pay-as-you-go mobile hotspot, with an extensive network….which I realize was a tall demand.
After looking at plans from Sprint and Verizon – and disregarding them as too expensive + a monthly contract, I eventually started researching which pay-as-you-go hotspots were the most well-reviewed.
Eventually, we settled on the myKarma hotspot. Here’s why we love it:
- Nationwide LTE coverage: The myKarma has more than 460 cities of coverage and is on Sprint’s LTE network. (See the coverage map) Sprint is known for specializing in rural areas, so it will have the most coverage at camping sites.
- You only pay for the data you use: There are no monthly fees to use myKarma. You purchase data, then use it at your convenience. No contracts.
- Affordable Data: Data is a straightforward $15/GB, which you can buy in increments of 1GB, 5GB, or 10GB. Or, you can try pulse, which drops the cost of data down as low as $3/GB
- The ability to earn FREE data: One of my favorite features is earning free data every time a friend connects to my Karma hotspot. Friends won’t use the data you paid for, but they can connect completely free! When they do, they’ll get 100mb of free data, and so will you!
- The device is affordable and reliable: The device runs on Sprint’s network (reliable), and is only $99 ($49 if you get it on sale!)
- Connect up to 8 devices to the Karma at once: A game-changing feature.
- Speeds as high as 25 Mbps: We have been REALLY impressed with the speeds. I work remotely, editing pictures online, uploading and downloading videos and images, as well as working with Pinterest (a lot, since Pinterest management is my job) and the internet has always been fast enough to do my work with.
Camping Wifi Alternatives
If you’re looking for data that costs a bit less, and are open to a monthly contract, then Verizon or Sprint are going to be your best bets. Both are incredibly reliable, with about the same monthly costs, just be sure to check the coverage map for the area in which you usually camp, as their networks differ slightly.
Be prepared to sign a 2-year contract, or pay $200+ for the hotspot device, but if you’re constantly on the road a monthly service plan might just the the right option for you.
One final note about mobile data contracts: Basically every company has phased out unlimited data plans, but if you have $1,000 to shell out for a “grandfathered” unlimited data plan you can save a BUNCH of money in the long run by paying a bundle to assume someone else’s plan NOW. Check out eBay for a grandfathered data plan to find the most options.
In rural areas, sometimes the only internet you can get is satellite internet (also known as line-of-sight) internet.
Satellite internet involves a physical dish attached to the outside of your camper, and while you can use it nearly everywhere in the country, you do have to set up and take down the dish at each new campsite, and it will almost definitely require adjustments each time to find the best signal.
BUT, if you live on the road, or just need unlimited data at a lower price, satellite internet is far-reaching and affordable.
Did you know you can actually get FREE internet if you don’t usually camp very far out?
That’s right! FreedomPop has a really cool FREE data program that allows you 200mb of data free every month. They have free SIM cards for tablets, or you can purchase (for a small fee) a hotspot that gives you free data each month.
It’s not a lot of data, but if your internet needs are pretty light, then why not go free?
Finally, in a pinch, phone tethering can get you connected while camping.
Some carriers will allow you to do this, and others won’t, so be sure to check your terms before doing this.
We use Republic Wireless because their plans start at $15/month with no contracts, and they just recently introduced a tethering feature to their service which I’ve used in a pinch. It’s easy and great a backup for when I’ve accidentally packed my hospot instead of leaving it out and need to get some email handled!
What is your favorite solution for camping internet service?
Til Next Time,
This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosures for more information.