Just because you are on a RV adventure – whether it is for a few days, a few weeks or something you do pretty much all the time does not mean that you actually want to disconnect from the world. Or more specifically, from the wonderful world of the Internet.
Free WiFi has been a real game changer in the world of RV living. Offered by most campsites (and coffee shops, and restaurants and truck stops, the list goes on and on) it means that you can now enjoy the latest blockbusters in your camper – courtesy of the likes of Netflix and Hulu – real TV, via services like Sling – and even non stop music thanks to Spotify and its competitors.
Using any of these services requires one important thing though. A good Internet connection. The free WiFi at many RV parks, sadly, leaves a lot to be desired. Often you’ll find yourself frustrated by buffering and dropped connections. There is a solution to the problem though; an RV WiFi Booster.
If you are going to invest in an RV WiFi booster though, which one of the many available should you opt for? Do they even work? And what is a WiFi booster anyway? We’re going to answer all of these questions and more right now…
Our Reviews Of The Best RV Wifi Boosters
Alfa WiFi Camp Pro 2
This is a ‘new and improved’ version of a setup that was already very popular among RV owners. As its name suggests, it is specifically designed for use on the road, both in RVs and out on the water in a boat, so sets about to solve the specific challenges found in those environments.
One of the biggest challenges that frequent RVer’s face is keeping their PC connected. As the concept of the gig economy grows in popularity, and more people are working from home, doing so while travelling in an RV is an alluring idea. However, as most people rely on their computer to work, if you can’t maintain a decent WiFi signal you’ll literally end up losing money.
To address this, the booster offers a more powerful than most antenna that can be mounted on the outside of the RV in an optimum location. It’s tough and weatherproof and offers direct USB connectivity, so that you can give your PC the best shot at maintaining a good WiFi connection while also serving several other devices.
The number of devices in use in your RV is another issue that can make things more complicated. The chances are that if you are out there with a family of four there will be at least three or four mobile devices clamoring for WiFi as well as a laptop and maybe even a couple of gaming devices.
The Alfa WiFi Camp Pro 2 offers functionality that allows you to set up a local WiFi network, so that once one device – usually your PC – has locked on to the best signal it can easily share it with any other devices within 200 feet of it. This is a lot like the WiFi set up you probably have at home, so as you can imagine, while not perfect, the WiFi everyone can access will be boosted.
This kit grabbed our Editor’s Choice spot because it is just what a busy RVing family needs to keep everyone more connected. It’s also durable, relatively easy to set up and while it’s not the cheapest option on this list, it does offer great value for money.
included in the box
NETGEAR WiFi Range Extender EX2700
This RV WiFi booster is one of the cheapest options on our list and yet it is also one of the bestselling and best reviewed, which goes to show you that spending more money may not always get you the best product.
NETGEAR is, of course, a name that most of us are very familiar with, as many of us have been making use of NETGEAR modems and routers at home for years. That name recognition factor alone is comforting to some people, because at least they know they are dealing with an established industry leader that has a reputation to uphold.
When you look at the NETGEAR WiFi Range Extender EX2700 it is very small and unobtrusive, so it might be hard to imagine how much it can really do to boost the WiFi in your RV. The answer is that appearances can be deceptive, this is quite a powerful little gadget.
The unit itself is not too much bigger than a standard plug and it is designed to be plugged into an electrical outlet. It can operate alongside a standard router but can also help boost an incoming WiFi signal from anywhere by up to 300Mbps. It’s little ‘ears’, which sit at either side of the device itself, are actually antennas and they can be easily adjusted to help tweak and boost the signal even more.
This option is a great one for those looking for a budget priced RV WiFi booster to improve the performance of just a few devices though. In other words, it’s great for couples and solo travellers but may not quite offer the performance a family is looking for. However, for the price – under $25 – it’s hard to find too much to complain about.
Halo Long Range Marine & RV Wi-Fi Extender System
If you are in an RV park, the chances are good that you are not too far from the original source of the camp’s free WiFi. If you are a lot further out – maybe out in the woods – you may be able to pick up the WiFi signal from a local hotspot, but the chances are that the signal will be so weak that just remaining connected is a struggle, let alone making it through a show on Netflix.
This is our top pick for the best RV WiFi booster for really weak signals. The Halo Long Range Marine & RV Wi-Fi Extender System is specifically designed to help in those kinds of situations. It can take a very poor signal (think one bar) and boost it by a considerable margin. Certainly enough for you to make it through a binge session of Stranger Things (or your latest Netflix favorite) in most cases while also keeping mobile devices connected so you can stay in touch with the outside world (and upload all those fab vacation shots to Instagram)
Out of the box the set up is very simple. There is an 18” stainless steel antenna, which can be mounted almost anywhere, indoors or out, with relative ease, the WiFi extender box itself, a repeating optimizer and a standard electrical outlet adapter. This is essentially all you need to get started and while set up is a little more involved than some other options, it’s really nothing a good second read of the included instructions won’t fix.
This is a great choice for those who like to stray off the beaten path a little more often , but as it is rather expensive. It’s probably best for those who travel a lot, as you may not get the best return on your investment if you only go RVing once or twice a year.
Alfa AWUS036NH Long-Range WiFi Network Adapter
This WiFi booster is simple, compact and lightweight. Deceptively so, as it is also a very powerful WiFi booster that does a great job while only taking up inches of space.
In a smaller RV, space is usually at a premium, so finding room for yet another device can be challenging. The Alfa takes up just eight square inches of ‘shelf space’ and its mountable antenna attaches easily to a window or windshield, which is extremely convenient (and easy to do).
The ‘rubber ducky’ antenna that attaches to the unit itself is durable and easily maneuver if you want to tweak its positioning a little to improve the quality of the signal you receive even further. We should also mention that this little USB Wifi Unit with a wireless compatibility of 802.11a/b/g/n and boasts a very impressive output of 2000mw, which would allow you to connect a 2.4 GHz outdoor antenna as well and can detect roughly 10-14 Networks.
It’s interesting to note that a lot of the most positive reviews you’ll find online come from gamers who found it to be the best option to keep them connected while gaming online, so if you like to keep playing while on the road that’s something to keep in mind. This USB adapter can receive between 20Mbps – 54Mbps for most networks which is pretty impressive and has a strong long distance signal which in my opinion is more important that transfer speed since without signal you cannot transfer.
The only real criticism of this WiFi booster made by some is that it is harder to set up – in terms of the technical side of things – than other options. The key however is reading the instructions thoroughly and the manufacturer does offer instructional videos on the website that you can follow along with too if you really get stuck.
Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WF2
A growing number of people are actually spending most of their time living in their RV these days, and it’s out of choice, not necessity. These people range from Baby Boomers who want to make the most of their active retirement by travelling the country in their RV to Millennials who take advantage of the fact that the booming gig economy allows them to work and travel.
For these people the look of their surroundings is, perhaps, just a little bit more important as their RV really has become their home away from home. So we were wondering, is there an RV WiFi booster that looks as good as it functions? And the answer, we found, was yes. It’s the Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WF2 .
Offered by a very well-known name in wireless technology and WiFi in Winegard, this is another device that is specifically designed for use in RVs.
In terms of function, this little device offers a lot. Once set up – which is very easy and really does take just a few minutes – whenever it is activated the device scans for all networks in the area and locks on to the best one automatically. You can also choose a network manually but we found that allowing the booster to make the choice for you works out just fine most of the time.
In addition to boosting the signal it finds the Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WF2 allows you to create your own private WiFi network to share with other devices in the immediate area. You can even connect a secure, password protected network if you don’t want to share your boosted speeds with everyone in the area!
In terms of looks, the device is a sleek, monochrome affair that measures 8″ by 18″ high and it looks a lot more like a shelf ornament than it does a tech device. This allows it to blend in better with its surroundings and not detract from all the hard work you’ve put into your RV decor. Surprisingly though it is suitable for outdoor use as well.
This particular model also offers another optional benefit that those who spend a lot of time on the road with a number of devices may want to consider. It can be linked to Winegard’s 4G LTE network via an affordable data plan. You may also be able to use a sim compatible with your A T & T or Verizon wireless data plan to ‘power’ a connection as well (check with your wireless provider for details of that though).
RV WiFi Booster Buying Guide
The options we’ve chosen for our best of list are some of the best on the market right now, but it’s fair to say that they are not the only good options available. As more and more people take the time to hit the road – RV usage in the US is still growing – then more and more products designed for RV use are appearing, and WiFi boosters are no exception.
Whichever option you do eventually choose though, there are some basics you should keep in mind as you shop to ensure that you get the best option to meet your needs. Here’s a look at some of the most important, and the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Each WiFi booster you consider should include – somewhere in those little specifications on the box (or in the small print in an online listing) an average connection speed. Although these can’t be guaranteed as a lot depends upon the devices being used and the WiFi they are trying to connect to, look for one that offers at least 12 Mbps but if possible over 20 Mbps (which all of the options on our list do) as that will better support streaming video, music and gaming.
Ease of Installation
This consideration is really an issue in two parts. There is the physical set up of the device itself and then the actual creation of the connection (the techy bit).
Most RV WiFi boosters are reasonably easy to physically assemble and install, calling for just a few simple tools and a willingness to read the instructions. Some people find the ‘techy’ stuff – installing drivers, setting up security – a little more complicated. Most do come with good support help though, but if you are really technically hopeless look for an option that is essentially ‘plug and play’ like our top budget choice, the NETGEAR WiFi Range Extender EX2700.
Some WiFi boosters are designed for indoor use only, while others have antennas that can be mounted on the exterior of your RV if you would prefer. Some people find that if they choose an outdoor mount their signal is boosted even further, but that is not always the case. You should also remember that adjusting an outdoor antenna may be a lot more difficult than tweaking an indoor one.
Power output can be important in terms of boosting speed, but experts say it does not really make enough of a difference to be taken as a hugely important consideration when choosing between WiFi boosters.
What you should consider though is how the option you are considering gets its power. A USB only power connection can be inconvenient in an RV setting, so ideally you should opt for a device that can connect to either a standard electrical outlet or both an outlet or a USB. Our Editor’s Choice – the Alfa WiFi Camp Pro 2 – even offers a car charger connection to use if you needed to in a pinch!
Do you need a lot of extras when looking for an RV WiFi booster? Essentially, for anything beyond the ability to boost and speed up a WiFi connection, no not really. But they can be nice to have. Extra connection options, extra antennas, window mounts and more are available with some options, but whether you need them or not is up to you.
What you should ensure is that everything you need to make basic use of your new gadget is included in the box. That means all the plugs, chargers, wires and connectors you need. Most of the time this is the case, but occasionally you’ll find that an essential cable or power plug is sold separately. It would be awful to head off on a trip expecting that your new WiFi booster will supercharge your Internet usage on your trip only to find you are missing one little cable that you needed to make it all work.
Some WiFi boosters are not compatible with certain types of devices. For example, in doing our testing and research for this piece we came across a number of options that were not compatible with iOS based devices – iPhones and iPads – and so given that we know that there are a lot of Apple fans out there, and iPhones, they did not make our list.
To avoid the disappointment of finding out that the booster you chose can’t send an improved signal to your particular device, check the compatibility specs in the technical small print before you make your purchase.
Design is important. If a device is too clunky, or needs a rats nest of wires to connect it then it is hardly going to be a welcome addition to your RV’s decor! We took it into consideration when making our top choices and while we think that perhaps the Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WF2 is the best looking of all, none of the choices we made would be considered eyesores once they are properly set up.
This is where things get tricky. There are options on our list that cost under $30 and there is one that retails for just under $400. Our top choice costs a little over $100, a price we found to be very reasonable for the functionality offered.
When shopping for an RV WiFi booster price will of course be a consideration, but you should focus on functionality first, as well as how well the product suits your needs. If you are travelling with tech savvy kids, for example, the fact that they will be able to play their favorite games, and the harmony that will bring you is probably well worth paying an extra few dollars for!
RV WiFi Booster FAQs: 6 Questions & Answers
1. Why is Campsite WiFi So Bad?
People often get quite excited when they see that the campsite they are headed to offers free WiFi. They are then massively disappointed when they find that while the WiFi might be free it’s really not very good.
The fact is that it’s really not all the campsite management’s fault. There are some factors they can control – the speed of the connection and the capacity of the modem that supplies it – but there are lots of other things that can affect a WiFi signal that are out of their control, including the distance people are from it, how many people are using the connection at the same time and even the fact that there are trees and buildings (and other RVs) in the way can seriously degrade the signal by the time it reaches you.
2. How Does a WiFi Booster Work?
A WiFi booster works in a rather simple way. It receives the WiFi signal from the router it is being transmitted from and then amplifies the signal before then sending it to the wireless device that is ‘asking’ to use it.
Some WiFi boosters – including most of those on our list – can also transfer that signal into a new private network – one you have set up yourself – to reduce the traffic using the signal, essentially creating the kind of private secure network you have at home so that you are not sharing your new, boosted WiFi with the people in the RV next door, which will not only potentially slow your connection down again but also pose a security risk.
3. Do WiFi Boosters Really Make Difference?
They do. How well they perform depends on their technical makeup but we’ve tested out all the options on our list and could see a difference. Want to ‘see’ the difference yourself? Try a test like the OOKLA Speedtest which can measure the difference in the connection speed and strength with and without your WiFi booster if you like.
A WiFi Booster cannot turn a weak signal into a super signal though, and it cannot always overcome all of the obstacles between it and the router sending the WiFi signal -trees, buildings, other RVs etc – but most people who make use of a good one are pleased with the improvement they get.
4. What is the Difference Between a Wi-Fi Booster, Extender and Repeater?
Essentially devices labelled as boosters and extenders do the same thing, it is just a matter of semantics and branding when it comes to which you choose. A repeater is slightly different however. It is best used to repeat the strong signal from a home modem across the rest of the home. Repeaters are not suited for RV use as the signal they have access to to repeat is usually already quite weak.
5. Should I Just Get My Own Internet Connection?
There are a number of options available now that will provide you with a dedicated wireless Internet connection, usually via 4G mobile connections. One of the options on our list, Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WF2 , offers a 4G connection package to users and it can also make use of a sim from your wireless provider.
If you spend a lot of time in your RV, this option may be worth considering. However, you should understand that it can all get very expensive very quickly and you will usually be subject to bandwidth caps and speed restrictions. Therefore, before you sign up for any program make sure that you understand all of the terms, conditions and fees very clearly to avoid any nasty surprises when you get the bill.
6. How Secure is a Boosted WiFi Connection?
A boosted WiFi connection will only be secure if you make it that way. Almost all of the WiFi boosters on our list offer you the chance to create a secure, private network for your new boosted signal to be broadcast across.
Doing this creates a level of security that can bring you a lot more peace of mind than if you were simply making use of an unsecured WiFi network. While some businesses that offer WiFi do encrypt their network and require users to enter a password to sign in the fact is that most do not, the WiFi is just out there for anyone to take. This is far from secure and is certainly a ‘use at your own risk situation’.
By creating your own secured network via your WiFi booster you will protect yourself – and your devices – from all the bad things an unsecured wireless network can bring, so security is actually another very good reason to buy an RV WiFi booster in the first place!
Stay Connected on the Road, Get A Booster
And there you have it. Our answer to the question ‘do RV WiFi boosters really work (yes) as well as what we hope is a very useful guide to buying one and a look at the five best RV WiFi boosters – in our opinion – available right now.
Why have less bars and G’s when you can have more? Thinking back to that list, we ultimately chose the Alfa WiFi Camp Pro 2 as our top pick. That was because we felt it ticked all the right boxes – speed, connectivity, ease of use, functionality and design – at a reasonable price. But we stand behind all our other picks too, they are excellent devices, just better suited to some uses than others.
Whatever device you choose we hope the information we have provided is something you’ve found interesting and useful. Now all that remains is for us to wish you happy trails and happy (Internet) surfing on your next RV adventure.
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