How to Get Wi-Fi While Camping

Answer the call of the wild and emails with equal ease.

  • Best for short trips
    Visible Prepaid cellular plan
    • $25.00-$40.00/mo.
    • Unlimited data
    • No contracts
    • Wide coverage
  • Best for glamping
    T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000
    T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000
    • $299.99*
    • 5G Connection
    • Wi-Fi 6
    • Up to 30 Wi-Fi enabled devices supported
  • Best for work camping
    nomad internet
    Nomad Internet
    • $149.00/mo.
    • Unlimited data
    • Easy setup
    • Portability options

The best way to stay connected while camping is using internet over cellular networks. Most people don’t spend much time online while camping, but sometimes you need to stay connected, even when you’re off having an adventure.

In some cases, the ability to stay connected while out in nature can give you more opportunities to get out of the house. Whatever your circumstances, here are our tips on how to get internet service in the great outdoors.

Best internet options for camping

ProductPriceData capGet it
Best for short tripsVisible$25.00–$40.00/mo.Unlimited dataView Plan
Best for glampingT-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000$299.99* (plus data plan)2–100 GB/mo. (depending on plan)View on Amazon
Best for workampingNomad Internet$149.00/mo.Unlimited dataView Plan

How to pick the right internet solution for your camping needs

What kind of camping you do and how much you rely on a strong internet connection dictate which mobile internet type is best for you. Depending on the intensity of your online activities and the frequency of your camping, internet solutions fall into three main categories:
Hotspot phone plans—If all you need is a way to connect to Spotify when you’re out roasting marshmallows on the weekends, you probably don’t need an elaborate setup. The best option is going with a phone plan that gives you unlimited hotspot data, or at least unlimited phone data with a high data cap when acting as a hotspot.

Mobile hotspots—For those who use multiple internet-connected devices on their trips, a dedicated mobile hotspot is a reliable choice that doesn’t tie up your phone. A hotspot requires its own SIM card and data plan, so this option is best for frequent campers.

Portable 4G internet service—For those who need a long-term solution capable of doing most online activities, portable 4G internet service is the way to go. There are quite a few 4G internet options for those working a 9-to-5 job out in the wilderness. They can give you the speedy and reliable connection you need for work, school, or whatever else you might need.

Pro Tip:

Since actual download speeds often depend both on which network you use and where you’re trying to use it, many mobile internet providers simply advertise “4G speeds.” In general, 4G speeds run about 28–35 Mbps, but this can go up in more urban areas and down in more remote ones.1

Best for short trips—Visible

Best unlimited data phone plan

Price: $25.00–$40.00/mo.

  • Unlimited data
  • No contracts
  • Wide coverage

If you like to get away on the weekends but want to stay connected, your mobile phone plan may be your best bet, especially if you have unlimited data and hotspot tethering.

This is a convenient option that makes use of things you probably already have, so it doesn’t require a large investment. In fact, if you already use a lot of data while camping, switching to an unlimited data plan could save you a lot of money by eliminating overage charges.

Visible is an excellent phone plan for unlimited data. It lets you not only run data-heavy apps on your phone without worry, but also use your phone as a hotspot to connect another device like a laptop to the internet.

The downside of Visible is that hotspot data speeds are capped at 5 Mbps, so while it’s great for posting pictures to Instagram or listening to Spotify, it’s not well suited to getting out a laptop and watching Netflix.

One important factor in choosing a phone plan for camping is the provider’s coverage area. Most phone plans use AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile’s cellular networks to deliver service. All three of them are nationwide, but coverage areas vary, especially in more remote areas. Before choosing a plan, make sure its network covers the areas you most frequently visit. Visible runs on the Verizon network.

Pros:

  • Unlimited data
  • Low monthly cost

Cons:

  • Slow speeds

Best cell phone plans for camping

PlanPriceData capHotspot dataGet it
Visible$25.00–$40.00/mo.UnlimitedUnlimited (at 5 Mbps)View Plan
T-Mobile Magenta MAX$85.00/mo.Unlimited40 GB (then reduced to 3G speeds)View Plan
Verizon Do More Unlimited$80.00/mo.50 GB15 GB (then reduced speed)View Plan
AT&T Unlimited Extra$75.00/mo.50 GB15 GB

Best for glamping—T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000

Best mobile hotspot
T-Mobile Inseego 5G MiFi M2000

Price: $299.99*

  • 5G connection (4G LTE backup)
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • USB-C Port
  • Up to 30 Wi-Fi Enabled Devices supported

Glamping is an increasingly popular way for people to enjoy nature while also enjoying many of the amenities you might expect in a hotel or resort. Many glamping locations come with Wi-Fi, similar to a traditional hotel, but this isn’t a given, especially in smaller locations.

If you want to make sure you can always get online without relying on the site to have Wi-Fi, a mobile hotspot like the Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 may be your best answer.

Much like your smartphone, wireless hotspots connect to cellular networks to access the internet. They then put out a Wi-Fi signal for your devices to use. In contrast to using your phone as a hotspot, a hotspot is designed specifically for the task, allowing faster speeds and more connected devices. Hotspot data plans also usually give you more data at a lower price compared to phone plans, which often specifically restrict hotspot data.

The Inseego 5G MiFi M2000 is one of the best hotspots on the market. Although some hotspots allow you to use SIM cards from any carrier, the M2000 uses only T-Mobile’s network; however, the default plan for the M2000 comes with 100 GB of data for just $50 per month—a pretty great deal.

The M2000 also comes with Wi-Fi 6, the most recent and most powerful Wi-Fi standard. Wi-Fi 6 can handle a large number of devices on its network without slowing, which means that even if the place you stay has internet, your Wi-Fi might actually be better.

Pros:

  • 5G connection
  • Multiple devices supported

Cons:

  • T-Mobile exclusivity
  • Limited 5G availability

Best mobile hotspots

ProductPrice*NetworkMax devicesGet it
Inseego 5G MiFi M2000$299.99T-Mobile30View on Amazon
NETGEAR AC797 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot$139.00Any15View on Amazon
Alcatel LINKZONE$69.99Any16View on Amazon

*See full disclaimer.

Best for work camping—Nomad Internet

Best 4G LTE
nomad internet

Price: $60.00–$149.00/mo.

Specs:

  • Unlimited data
  • T-Mobile or Verizon network
  • 4G LTE speeds

With more and more workplaces switching to remote work, online workers have been making the most of this flexibility by packing up their laptops and heading out on adventures any day of the week.

Portable 4G internet has long been a staple for digital nomads, but those taking the first steps into remote work, this flexible technology can provide speeds and reliability comparable to many wired types of internet, so you can work from anywhere with cell reception.

The downside is that portability comes with a price—these plans are considerably more expensive than home 4G plans that require a fixed location.

Nomad Internet is a great option for remote flexibility. Perhaps most importantly, it has no data caps, which is a big deal if you’re planning to use it for your job. In lieu of activation and equipment fees, Nomad charges a one-time membership fee that covers all your initial costs. It also gives you the choice between a standard router or a battery-operated travel router. Nomad Internet can run on either T-Mobile or Verizon networks.

Pros:

  • No contract
  • Unlimited data

Cons:

  • Inconsistent speeds
  • Higher costs than fixed 4G

Best portable 4G LTE internet

PlanPriceNetworksData capGet it
Nomad Internet$129.00–$149.00/mo.T-Mobile
Verizon
UnlimitedView Plan
UbiFi$99.00/mo.AT&TUnlimitedView Plan
Ladybug Wireless$99.99–$219.99/mo.AT&T
T-Mobile
Verizon
300–750 GBView Plan

Considerations for internet while camping

Data caps and coverage area are incredibly important when camping. Being out in the wilderness requires some forethought. For example, nationwide 4G networks cover the majority of the US, but there are a lot more dead zones in unpopulated areas (like where you might go on a camping trip).

As such, there is no perfect solution that works no matter where the wind takes you. Rather, it’s always a balancing act between how much speed and reliability you need, where you want to go, and how much you’re willing to spend. It’s pretty easy to find a way to post selfies on a weekend trip, but it’s much harder to work a full-time job from the middle of a national forest.

It’s also important to keep your options open and look for novel solutions. Instead of trying to find a dedicated 4G plan that can allow you to work everywhere you want to travel, you might be able to get by with just a phone plan—as long as you can stop at a nearby coffee shop anytime you have an important meeting.

Camping generally involves giving up the comforts of civilization for a few days, but if you know what you’re doing, you can keep just enough contact with the rest of the world that you can truly relax while you’re out in nature.

Dealing with data caps

No one likes data caps, and they’re a much more common issue with wireless internet compared to wired home internet. It’s surprisingly easy to burn through terabytes worth of data per month with normal activities like watching Netflix, so we generally suggest going with an unlimited data plan if you have access to one.

If you have minimal internet needs or have occasional access to free Wi-Fi on your trips, it’s possible to make due with a cheaper plan with a restrictive data cap. Just remember to be disciplined about your internet use because overage charges can negate any savings you made very quickly.

Campground Wi-Fi

You’re not the only one who likes to stay connected while out camping. Many campgrounds, including big chains like KOA, offer public Wi-Fi to guests. This might be all you need on your camping trip, but even if you need a more flexible solution, connecting to campground Wi-Fi periodically can help you save on data usage or give you faster speeds when you need them.

Campground Wi-Fi isn’t always the most reliable, especially if it’s crowded. To get the most out of your Wi-Fi connection, try to pick a spot near the transmitter that doesn’t have any major obstructions like trees blocking line-of-sight.

If you’re not staying at a Wi-Fi-enabled campground, there are lots of other places with public Wi-Fi you can use:

  • Coffee shops
  • Diners
  • Fast-food restaurants
  • National Park Visitor Centers
  • Truck stops

Internet access is such a basic necessity these days that you can probably find it in a lot more places than you might think. For more tips, check out our guide on how to find Wi-Fi hotspots.

Choosing a 4G network

Many 4G devices let you choose which wireless carrier you want to use. The three major carriers, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, all have nationwide networks that cover most cities in the US but have significant holes in coverage, which get bigger the more remote your location is.

If you have specific locations you know you want to visit, consult each provider’s website to see which one covers those areas best. Although there used to be a clear winner in terms of the largest 4G network, all three are currently neck and neck, so it’s likely that you can make due with whichever you want.2

It’s worth noting that some services that let you choose your network have different monthly costs depending on which one you choose. Unless you frequent an area that is covered by a specific carrier, it’s probably best to choose the cheapest network your 4G provider offers.

Our verdict

Unless you have one place where you camp on a regular basis, your internet experience is going to vary a lot from place to place. As such, we suggest going with the cheapest and easiest option that will meet your needs.

Although having a fast, reliable source of internet to take on your adventures can open up a lot of new opportunities, you can often get by with just a phone and a bit of ingenuity.

Internet for Camping FAQ

Should I get a 5G internet plan?

5G internet has a lot of advantages over 4G, but it’s not usually relevant when camping. Although many devices are 5G compatible, 5G coverage is much more limited than 4G and is primarily located in densely populated urban areas.

Getting a device that also supports a 5G connection might be a nice feature if you’re planning on using it for other purposes, but it’s not a major selling point for camping.

Can you get internet without cell service?

The most practical options for internet while camping all use 4G cellular networks and won’t work in areas with no cellular service.

You can get internet access in extremely remote locations using a satellite phone, but this is an extremely expensive option that you won’t need on a weekend camping trip. Unless you’re planning a cross-country hiking trip or other extreme wilderness adventure, we suggest going with a cheaper option.

Sources

  1. Francesco Rizzato, Opensignal, “Mobile Network Experience Report,” July 2021. Accessed February 28, 2022.
  2. Francesco Rizzato, Opensignal, “Mobile Network Experience Report,” January 2022. Accessed February 28, 2022.

Disclaimer

Author -

Peter Christiansen writes about satellite internet, rural connectivity, livestreaming, and parental controls for HighSpeedInternet.com. Peter holds a PhD in communication from the University of Utah and has been working in tech for over 15 years as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman.

Editor - Rebecca Lee Armstrong

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.