Campgrounds with free WiFi…
You know by now that many — if not most — campgrounds in America advertise “Free WiFi” as an enticement and amenity to guests.
You also know by now that you often get what you pay for — or rather don’t pay for.
Quite simply, the free Internet access is weak at best, shared by a whole campground full of other campers who — like you — probably have more than one device accessing a limited amount of WiFi bandwidth.
It’s no wonder you can’t get online half the time.
But that’s why you’re here. There must be a way, you think, to improve your Internet access while staying at these low-signal facilities.
Now that we’ve defined the problem, what’s the solution?
We at Blue Mountain Reviews have scoured the RV and camping forums to determine a consensus answer.
And what follows represents the three-pronged solution that seems to work for many RVers and campers.
It’s centered around two products, both from a company called Peplink, which, according to many customer reviews, delivers quality products and good customer service.
But the bottom line?
It remains dim for those wanting strong, free Internet access at campgrounds that won’t invest in a strong WiFi transmitter.
And that bottom line for you is:
- Be willing to invest in a high-quality WiFi booster that significantly raises your chances of capturing and augmenting the campground’s weak signal, and
- Be ready to use your cell phone’s unlimited data plan to supply your own hotspot — so you always have clear, streaming access 24/7 while those around you do not.
These products can make that happen for you.
Here’s what to do to gain better WiFi access:
- Try using the following products to capture and boost the campground’s free access. Park within 150 feet of the building that houses the transmitter — usually the camp office.
- The Peplink Pepwave Surf On-The-Go Wi-Fi Router will give you strong access to the signal right out of the box — provided you are close enough.
- If, however, you are parked more than 150 feet from the source, you’ll need to switch to a second, much stronger product — the Pepwave Device Connector.
- That should furnish a strong signal up to 1,000 feet away — just by using that product straight out of the box, with its built-in short antennae.
Uh, oh — the indoor antennae aren’t doing the job.
- Once you get more than 1,000 feet from the source of the signal, however, you’ll need to remove the small antennae on the back of either the On-The-Go Router or the Device Connector and attach the cable leading to the exterior Outdoor Omnidirectional Antenna, which you’ll need to attach temporarily somewhere outside.
- Many RVers clamp it to their roof ladder and just run the long cable through a window or snake it through an existing conduit leading to the roof.
- That should capture the signal even on the other side of the campground — assuming there’s not too much interference.
- We should also mention here that many RVers swear by a good highly directional antenna in place of the omnidirectional one mentioned above.
- One good example of this is the Yagi type of antenna. These are pointed directly at the source of the campground’s signal for best result.
- Here are two brands that have high ratings: The GoGear 25DBI High Gain Yagi WLAN WiFi Wireless Directional Antenna Booster, and the The Tupavco 16 DBI Directional Wireless Antenna.
- Generally, the higher the DBI number, the better signal you’ll be able to pull in.
Finally, if you’re still unable to connect:
It’s time to give up on the idea of gaining free WiFi access and simply attach your smartphone to the USB port on the back of the smaller Pepwave router.
By the way, you’ll still need a separate router to hook up all your hard-wired devices — like your desktop PC and your TV. (Or, if you already have a router with multiple ethernet ports, use that).
But many RVers and campers report that having at least the Peplink Pepwave Surf On-The-Go Wi-Fi Router outlined below is worth the investment, providing (a) a good shot at free access and (b) a reliable backup that will accommodate your cellular data plan if all else fails.
Here’s a product review on the Surf-On-the-Go:
Peplink Pepwave Surf On-The-Go Wi-Fi Router
With over 60 five-star reviews, this product consistently performs at the top of its class of medium-priced personal extended range WiFi routers.
Turns your unit into a rebroadcaster of your campground’s sometimes anemic signal.
Called by the manufacturer the “Swiss Army Knife of Mobile Web Access,” this cunning little device is a WiFi repeater (meaning that it grabs your campground’s weak signal from up to 150 feet away and boosts it for your use.)
It also makes wired devices, such as printers, play nice within your wireless network.
And if all else fails, you can give up on free access and share a single paid WiFi connection from your cell phone via USB cable, routed to your laptop, tablet, and other devices.
Things we like about this unit:
- Gives you the option of either using the campground’s free signal — or, if that is substandard or out of reach. it lets you use your cell phone’s unlimited data plan to instantly provide a Wifi “hotspot” to connect all your devices.
- Its compact size and white color allow it to virtually disappear wherever you put it — on a desk, on the dinette, or on a kitchen counter.
Things we found less than perfect:
- Some users report that it is a bit hard to set up initially, but all said the call-in tech support was very supportive.
- You’ll still need a reliable router with multiple outputs to connect hardwired devices like your TV and desktop unit.