Having good internet in a campervan while working remotely is one of the most important aspects of van life. However, if you want to travel between different countries and wild camp in remote areas it might be also one of the most challenging ones.
At least it was for us. Nevertheless, we were lucky to find a Wi-Fi campervan solution which provides us with better internet in the van than we had at home. Intrigued? Below you will find all the details about our router, antenna and internet provider.
What will you find in this article?
Wi-Fi router for campervan
If you already started to look for a Wi-Fi router for your campervan you know that it’s not an easy task. We read a lot of articles about various routers and decided to choose the Netgear Nighthawk MR2100. It’s a WLAN router with a SIM card slot into which you can insert a SIM card from any provider
Why is the Netgear router good for van life?
Here are some arguments that convinced us to choose the Netgear Nighthawk 4G router (model MR2100). It is part of our ultimate campervan Wi-Fi setup.
- good battery lifetime (approx. whole day of usage)
- possibility of replacing one battery with another fully charged one
- download speed up to 2 GBit/s (4G LTE)
- small and handy
- possibility of attaching an antenna
- good reviews on Amazon.de
- fair price = around 400 EUR on Amazon.de
Down site: the touch button in the front is very sensitive. Therefore, if you store the router together with other things it might get switched on on its own. As a result of that, it might run out of battery unintentionally.
Price of Netgear Nighthawk 4G
400 EUR isn’t cheap. So why did I mention that the price is fair? Because the newest Netgear Nighthawk 5G router (model MR5200) costs around 750 EUR! Its biggest advantage is the fact that you can use the 5G internet with it.
The 400 EUR price reached our financial limit so we decided to buy the 4G version of the router. Also, the 5G network is still being developed. Especially in wilder areas, there is mostly 4G or 3G internet. This means you will not have a lot of occasions to use it. At least not yet.
The Netgear Nighthawk was the best Wi-Fi router we could find 3 months ago. Currently, there are also other options you could take into consideration. For example the D-Link DWR-2101 router. Its price and technical details are comparable to Netgear Nighthawk 4G. However, on the one side, it is compatible with a 5G signal and has a slightly better battery. On the other side, it has worse reviews. If you decide to buy it check also if it’s possible to attach an antenna to it.
Router antenna for campervan
To make the internet connection better you can additionally buy a router antenna. Netgear is offering antennas for its routers. We decided to buy the Netgear TS9 Antenna which is compatible with the above-mentioned router. It’s the size of a hand which makes it perfect for a campervan. The Netgear Antenna costs around 40 EUR.
The main advantage of having an antenna in your campervan is a better internet connection. We experience a 20% to 30% higher internet speed while using it. Moreover, the antenna can be placed in a more exposed place than a router. It’s connected to it via a cable but you can attach it to a window thanks to the two suction cups in the back. This way it will easily catch the signal.
It’s a simple antenna but till now we never had a situation when we needed a better connection. It’s definitely enough if you travel throughout western Europe and wild camp in remote but relatively exposed places. Generally speaking, we are surprised how stable the internet connection is throughout the European coastline!
Internet connection quality
We are using this Wi-Fi campervan solution for 4 months now and we are very happy with it. Many times the speed of the internet was up to 150 Mbit/s download and 50 Mbit/s upload while we were wild camping at totally off-grid spots in Portugal, France or Spain. This is a much faster internet connection than we had in most of the AirBnBs we were renting.
However, we experienced one situation when we just didn’t have any internet due to the lack of signal. It was on a parking lot surrounded by the beautiful and very high mountains of Picos de Europa. Mountains are always tricky when it comes to reception. So, in case you decide to spend a night in the middle of them be prepared for a situation like this. If you are out of range you will have no internet.
We tried also to use our second, supposedly better, antenna – a Multi-band LTE Antenna – but it didn’t help. Maybe you could try an even more professional outdoor or campervan antenna which would catch a better signal. But even they cannot receive any connection through stone walls. Technology is giving us a lot of new possibilities. However, sometimes it’s just better to accept that we won’t have 4G (or any kind of connection) in the mountains. Let’s just enjoy the views!
SIM card and internet provider
The combination of Netgear Nighthawk router and antenna is the best normal-priced solution that we found till now for wild camping and remote work. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the price we pay for the internet itself. While there are some cheaper solutions they are rather workarounds than something you should consider. Especially if you are a developer living in a campervan and crossing European borders on a regular basis.
Unlimited internet in the EU from telekom.de
While finding the right Wi-Fi router for the van might be challenging finding a provider offering unlimited internet access in the European Union is almost impossible.
We searched for such solutions in Germany, Poland and Austria and found only one offered by telekom.de. It’s called MagentaMobil XL Premium. It includes unlimited internet access in the European Union, Switzerland, Turkey, Canada and the USA. Since it’s offered by the German Telekom you need to have a German address to book it.
Advantages of Magenta Mobile XL Premium
The internet speed can be up to LTE Max/5G and you have the advantage of free network selection, which means that you can use the internet masts of all the local providers and enjoy the best internet connection pretty much everywhere. Thanks to that we have 150 Mbit/s while wild camping in the most remote parts of Western Europe.
This is a crucial advantage of this offer for van lifers who want to park at wild spots and work remotely. In places like these, there is a very limited number of masts. In case you get unlucky and there will be only one mast from a local company that has no contract with your internet provider you might have no internet.
Example: Let’s say you have an internet flat in Portugal from a local provider called MEO but you are in an area where there is only a Vodafone mast, you will most probably have no connection. But with a free network selection, you can choose what’s best in your situation.
Wondering what’s the downside? Well, obviously it’s the price. The package costs 199,95 EUR per month and you need to sign a 24-months contract. The price is exceptionally high so many people will not be able to afford it. However, there is a way to make it cheaper. The package includes 3 SIM cards so you can find two other people that will share the costs with you. If you manage to do that you will pay just 67 EUR per month.
Besides the unlimited internet in the EU each year you will also get a new phone. This means you will get two brand new phones. When we decided to choose this internet package telekom.de offered an iPhone 11 for 1 EUR or an iPhone 12 Pro with 256 GB for 350 EUR. Not bad, right?
Local SIM cards
A much cheaper option is to buy a local SIM card in each country you visit. This means each time you will have to exchange the SIM card in the router. In most cases, you will also have to download the local provider’s app to top up your account. Sometimes, you will have to do the top-up in an authorized shop because some companies are not accepting payments from foreign bank cards.
Before buying MagentMobile XL Premium from telekom.de I was always buying local cards during my travels. However, every time I had some unexpected problems. For example bad internet connection, very low speed, too high rates, etc.
Limited internet in the EU
A limited mobile internet package for the EU can also be a solution. You can activate the hot spot function on your phone and use it as a router. However, in my opinion, this is only a temporary or emergency solution. Those packages mostly offer 5 GB to 30 GB per month. So in case you want to have some videoconferences or watch Netflix, it won’t be enough.
Moreover, even if your offer includes internet usage in the EU it’s allowed only for a limited amount of time. After spending several months in a row abroad most probably you will have to pay additional roaming fees for excess usage in a foreign country.
I got my first SMS warning after staying abroad for 4 months in a row. I ignored it because I didn’t think that my Austrian provider will take any action. The messages kept coming every month for the next 4-5 months. Suddenly, one day I realized that I have no internet at all. It took the provider around 10 months till they blocked my account and required me to pay the roaming fees.
Conclusion: the ultimate campervan internet solution
The Netgear Nighthawk 4G router combined with a Netgear antenna is the best campervan internet solution we found. We have an additional bigger antenna with a longer cable. It’s perfect in case we need to put it on the roof of the van. However, till now that wasn’t necessary. Even when we parked the van at wild campervan spots in Portugal, France or Spain we always had good internet. Very often the download speed reached over 150 Mbit/s – which means it was better than the internet we had at home.
In conclusion, it’s maybe not the cheapest solution – especially if you decide to buy the MagentaMobil XL Premium package from telekom.de. However, if you want to work remotely surrounded by nature good internet in the van is something you can’t give up on.