Want to camp in more remote places and go boondocking, but worried about internet access to stay connected or continue working your remote job? Don’t let that hold you back! We are full-time RVers who spend about 50% of our time boondocking off-grid while working remotely.
We have tried several different options for boondocking internet and encountered plenty of stressors and challenges along the way. We are sharing what options have and have not worked for us in this ultimate guide to boondocking internet. After reading this article you’ll know what off-grid internet solution is best for you.
What is boondocking?
Boondocking refers to camping without electric, water, or sewer hook-ups (off-grid) and is also often referred to as dry camping or dispersed camping. Typically, this means your RV is self-contained and you can keep your batteries charged on your own accord and have a place to use the bathroom. This requires some form of power source, whether it be solar panels or a generator. If you are not self-contained, you must follow leave-no-trace principles and carry out everything you carried into your campsite and properly dispose of waste and trash.
You can boondock in a wide variety of places in the United States, ranging from truck stops and Cracker Barrel parking lots to FREE camping on public lands such as BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Land, National Forests, or dry camping in National Park campgrounds.
Boondocking sites are often free or much cheaper than RV parks or established campgrounds. To us, the best benefits come from the ample space and stunning views you can enjoy, with nature right outside your door.
Popular Boondocking Internet options
If you dream of looking out the window from your RV workstation and seeing rolling hills, epic mountains, and potentially not another RV in sight, you will love boondocking.
We have stayed in some breathtaking free boondocking sites, in some cases where the closest RV to us was almost 1 mile away! The U.S. is full of public lands open to camping and we might be a bit biased, but we believe they make great offices too! The catch is that the more remote you get, the more difficult to ensure reliable, high-quality internet.
Read more on Boondocking near Capitol Reef National Park
Typically, mobile internet used by RVers falls into 3 major categories (which we will do a deep dive into below):
- Cell-based data plan (with or without a cell booster)
- Satellite internet service
- Mobile hotspot
While this article focuses on getting high-quality, reliable internet for boondocking, it may also be worth considering these options if you plan to work or have the ability to stream while RVing as well.
While you may have internet at any RV Park you choose to stay at, in our experience, campground Wifi connections typically have poor signal strength (barely good enough for streaming and definitely not good enough for video calls).
A signal booster can help, but we think it is worth it to have backups if you rely on service for things like work or getting in touch with loved ones.
Below we dive into the different types of boondocking internet options, their pros and cons, and how much you can expect to pay for each type of service.
Internet Using Cellular Data
One major way to stay connected even while enjoying time camping in the middle of nowhere, is by tapping into cell towers. There are generally three ways to do this:
- Data-only plans using SIM cards in a wireless router
- A Wi-Fi hotspot device
- Using your cell phone as a personal hotspot
Data Only Plans For Wireless Routers
Mobile routers create the opportunity to bring together multiple internet sources (i.e. Verizon and AT&T) and provide strong internet to multiple devices, which can quickly connect to a singular network that you set up.
These routers can connect to various cell-based internet options, as well as pull in internet sources such as Satellite or campground Wi-Fi. They also have powerful ranges, making it easy to get a strong connection anywhere in your RV, and even outside while enjoying your beautiful boondocking spot.
With modems that accept any carrier SIM cards, you can utilize data-only plans from multiple carriers, providing backups should you require them. At one point we had an AT&T plan, a T-mobile plan, and a Verizon plan sitting in our Pepwave router.
Be sure to select a plan that allows for the amount of data you typically will require each month to avoid hitting data caps or experiencing throttled service.
We are huge fans of MobileMustHave. They are knowledgeable and reliable, which is exactly what you should be looking for when it comes to internet solutions. Reliable, high-capacity plans typically range between $100 and $200 dollars a month.
- 300Gb per month, 25 Mbps speeds ($129 per month)
- 300Gb per month, 50 Mbps speeds ($175 per month)
- 1,000Gb per month of high-speed 5G data ($175 per month)
Potential drawbacks to consider:
- Of all of the cellular data-based boondocking internet options, a wireless router is the most expensive option
- These are powerful routers and can be a bit more complex to set up and figure out due to their advanced features and customizability. Being a bit more tech-savvy will help here!
Wi-Fi hotspots (also called MiFi or Jetpacks) are another way in which you can utilize cell-based internet while boondocking.
In this case, you purchase a separate hotspot device that provides internet service to your connected devices. These can typically be purchased as stand-alone options or as add-ons to your existing cell plan.
Major Carriers offering hotspot device options:
This can be an affordable and easy-to-use option if you do not require the increased features and functionality of more high-tech routers and do not plan on needing multiple back-ups through different carriers. It may be a good option if you do not need high amounts of data and want to be able to connect to multiple devices while relying on one cell provider.
Device costs will typically be wrapped up in the monthly payment. Your monthly bill can vary depending on data limits and speeds, but $30 to $100 per month is a rough estimate for 5Gb to 100Gb of data per month. As you can see, the data limits are much lower and may not be adequate for full-time remote work.
There are several limitations to this method to keep in mind, including:
- Limited range
- Require specific data plans that often have data caps
- If you want the option to have plans from multiple carriers, you will need multiple hotspot devices
Personal hotspots require you to turn your cell phone into a hotspot with which you can then connect your devices.
This can be a great option if you do not require much data usage each month, and can be very cost-effective if you already have a cell plan you are happy with. Many cell plans include a certain amount of personal hotspot data usage each month.
There are several limitations to this method to keep in mind, including:
- It is not always easy or possible to connect devices to your personal hotspot (such as TV’s)
- Personal hotspot data is typically capped, usually throttled at a certain amount of data, or can be very expensive for increased use
- Internet signal can be weaker (signal won’t reach as far as a router) and less reliable, making it a poor option for long-term use if you do video calls
- Using your phone as a hotspot drains the battery quickly
- If you need to go somewhere, others relying on your hotspot are out of luck
We use our personal hotspots as a last resort option in our personal boondocking internet setup. It isn’t reliable enough to invest in further or rely on long term.
Home Internet Plans
You can also use “home internet” plans. We put that in quotes as they are typically meant to be used in one location, but it isn’t always enforced.
A great example of a home internet plan that we have personally used in our RV is T-Mobile Home Internet.
Helpful Tips For Cell-Based Mobile RV Internet
#1 Utilize a coverage map to check cellular service in the area you plan to boondock to see if your cell-based internet plan will likely work well or not. A few great options are:
#2 Use in combination with a cellular booster, which can help you have a stronger signal than just using the cellular-based internet alone.
Popular Signal Booster:
#3 If you choose to rely on cell-based internet, it is important to note that this may not be viable everywhere in North America. As we have spent more time RVing in Canada, we had to rely on our Starlink internet, as U.S. cell-based plans through T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T were not usable in Canada.
If you plan to travel to Canada or Mexico, you may want to invest in Starlink or consider getting cell-based internet options in each country itself, although we found this to be expensive and complicated.
Our phones worked in conjunction with Canadian cell towers and we did have some data to use our phones as hotspots, but it was not enough to sustain full-time work.
Starlink Satellite Internet
Starlink is a high-speed, low latency, broadband internet service that relies on over 3,000 (and counting) Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites communicating with transceivers on the ground. It provides an innovative way to deliver internet in rural and remote places that either previously had no internet or had poor service.
Through their service, Starlink offers internet without contracts or data caps that can be tried without risk as part of a 30-day trial period. Starlink Roam (previously Starlink for RVs) has opened up a whole new world of places to live and work for people pursuing a full or part-time travel lifestyle!
Starlink Roam (Previously Starlink for RV)
A great option for those who spend time on the road traveling and want the ability to pause service at any given time:
- One-time hardware fee of $599
- Monthly service fee of $150 for regional use within your continent; $200/month for global
- Pause at any time in the app (billed in monthly increments)
- Speeds are throttled at 1TB of data each month, which we do not come anywhere close to using (we use about 500GB data/ month)
Starlink has been a complete game-changer for our boondocking experiences, as it has allowed us to work seamlessly and stay connected, even when we were camping in remote places far outside the range of cell service.
It is fast, reliable, and easy to use. It’s great that it can also be used throughout North America (or the continent you are registered in) without additional fees or hoops to jump through. This was our lifeline while spending 3 months RVing in Atlantic Canada!
READ MORE: Starlink Roam RV Internet Guide & Review
This is the option that most readily comes to mind when you think about digital nomads. You can use cafes or local coffee shops to grab a bite to eat and enjoy free Wi-Fi.
A lot of this comes down to your preferred working style. We enjoy our home office setup and the consistency that it brings, often finding the environment in public places to be a bit too distracting.
This said it can definitely be a viable option for working while traveling! Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Internet strength will vary, so you will want to check it before hopping on your video meeting.
- If you are boondocking, you are most likely in a more remote area where public places offering free Wi-Fi are few and far between.
- Public Wi-Fi typically is not secure and creates vulnerabilities. Certain jobs may not allow working off public internet sources
- You are at the whim of the business (their operating hours, policies, etc.)
Factors that impact internet connection while Boondocking
Here is a quick rundown of additional factors to keep in mind when determining which boondocking internet option might be best for your needs:
- Cell Service: Cell signal requires local cell towers that work with your selected cell provider. As you explore further out away from cities and into more sparsely populated rural areas in the wilderness, you can expect cell service to become weaker…or in some cases even nonexistent. With a weak signal, you may not be able to make phone calls and will have a harder time using your phone as a hotspot or using a cell-based data plan.
- How much data you have on your plan: It is important to know how much data usage you have each month on whatever remote internet plan you choose, as well as how much data you are using while working, streaming, etc. throughout the month.
- Surroundings: If you plan to use satellite internet, this will require an open view of the sky. Services like Starlink suffer in areas with dense tree coverage, and can also experience outages during severe weather. We actually paused our Starlink subscription for months while traveling in forested areas along the East Coast, relying on cell-based internet instead.
- Power draw: While boondocking, you will not have access to electric hook-ups. It is important to determine what your power usage looks like on average, and what the boondocking internet option you are considering requires for power so that you can ensure you are comfortable with your ability to charge your batteries back up.
- Speed Caps & Throttling: If you require high-speed internet for video calls, you will want to look carefully into whether the plan or service you are considering for your mobile internet is capped in any way. Some will offer unlimited data but have speeds capped after a certain amount of usage. It is important to know if and when your data speeds will be throttled, as this can take your internet from fast as lightning to almost unusable in an instant.
Example Boondocking Internet Setup & Cost
Our boondocking internet setup (which is also our campground internet setup, National Park internet setup, etc.) has changed and evolved as we learned more about what worked and didn’t work for us with how we travel and what we require while working on the road.
Here is our current RV internet setup:
- T-mobile Home Internet: A small tower router is provided with the purchase of a plan. We pay $50/month for unlimited data. While this is not intended to be used as mobile internet, we let T-Mobile know how we intended to use it and have had amazing service and blazing fast speeds in areas with T-Mobile coverage. This only works in the United States for us.
- Starlink Internet: We pay $150/month for Starlink Roam. If we will be in areas with good cell coverage for a couple of months, we typically pause our Starlink service to avoid the additional $150 each month. We unpause the service when we explore remote areas. Starlink is something we would not remotely work and RV without.
- Verizon Data Only Plan & Pepwave Router with Booster: A MobilMustHave cellular internet solution was our first big internet purchase. Although it serves as a backup right now, it would become our main internet solution if anything happens to the terms & conditions of Tmobile home internet. It is extremely reliable because we have it wired into our RVs 12-volt system.
How Much Internet (Data) Will I Use When Boondocking?
If you are new to mobile internet solutions, you may not have a good idea of how much data you’ll need. Most internet solutions in a sticks and bricks home are unlimited, so you never have to think about it.
We live and work full-time in our RV, so keep this in mind when calculating how much data you’ll need.
We typically use between 350 and 500 GB of data per month. This includes working, streaming shows, uploading photos to the cloud, etc. This works out to about 90-125 GB of data per week.
Tips For Using Mobile Internet While RVing
If like us you plan to work as a digital nomad while traveling in your RV to more remote places, here are a few tips based on our experiences to help you set yourself up for success and avoid the potential stress and headaches of your internet not working 5 minutes before your next meeting…
- Have a backup internet source (and potentially a backup for your backup)
- Account for slower speeds in more populated areas
- Check coverage maps and upload and download speeds before setting up
- Check for obstructions (like trees or other RVs) and expect outages with severe weather if relying on satellite internet like Starlink. Consider a Starlink dishy flagpole for better ability to avoid obstructions.
- Know the limitations of your specific service plan (throttling and data caps are big ones to look out for)
The RV internet options are always changing as new technology is released. Even from the time we started full-time RVing in 2021 to now, we have seen major advances in mobile internet that have been a major game changer for our ability to work while boondocking in spectacular places off the beaten path.
Mobile internet is a gift and being able to boondock and spend time off-grid in incredible places while continuing to work our jobs and grow in our careers has been amazing. The future is here and we are embracing every bit of it!
The Mobile Internet Resource Center is a great place to get education on different boondocking internet options and get additional resources about the pros, cons, and costs of different types of equipment and plans!
Check out their video comparing personal hotspots, dedicated mifi hotspots, and routers:
Mobile Must Have is the perfect place to purchase mobile internet bundles or various plans or equipment, based on your specific needs. This is where we purchased our bundle when we set out on the road in 2021 and it was extremely helpful to make sure we had everything we needed for reliable internet that we could use to work from anywhere! We still use it today, in addition to our T-Mobile Home Internet and Starlink!
Other Helpful Boondocking Tips & Resources
All of our best recommendations and resources, based on our experience as full-time RVers who spend a lot of our time off the grid boondocking!
- Water Bladder (for re-filling your fresh water tank without having to move your RV))
- Water Filtration System (such as a Berkey or Clearsource)
- Water Pump
- Portable Waste Tank
- Generator (We love our 3300-watt Generac portable inverter generator as it is quiet and lightweight)
- Solar Panels, Inverter, and lithium batteries (not required, but can be a nice upgrade…see our RV power guide for a deeper dive into off-grid power and inverters)
- Hitch Lock (we use this king pin lock for our fifth wheel) and/or SimpliSafe System for added security
- Leveling blocks (site will be unlevel). Build your own DIY RV jack blocks instead!
- RV Life GPS (see our complete guide to RV LIFE for more information)
- Harvest Hosts for overnight dry camping at unique locations
- Campendium & iOverlander to find dispersed and dry camping spots
View our entire list of apps we have found most helpful for RV travel and camping.
Other Helpful Guides:
- RV Boondocking Guide: How To Live Well in Wild Places
- 51 Best Boondocking Tips
- RV Inverter & Power Guide
- How Much Solar Do You Need To Run An RV Fridge?
- RV Tips 101: Education Guide For Beginners
- Ultimate RV Maintenance Checklist