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RV Campgrounds: Why Do Most Of Them Have Bad WiFi/Cell Reception?

RV Campgrounds: Why Do Most Of Them Have Bad WiFi/Cell Reception?

Posted by Greg Knell on 3rd Jun 2022

Have you noticed when you’re researching RV campgrounds and parks, free WiFi is one of the first things they advertise? Free WiFi is one of the most highly requested amenities by RV travelers. Reliable and fast internet is something that most full-time and weekend getaway RV-ers desire. Though there are other options that allow people on the road to stay connected, such as cell phones in conjunction with a signal booster, WiFi usually requires the least work. This is one of the main reasons why free WiFi is so actively sought out by RV travelers.

But if you’ve ever stayed on RV campgrounds, you don’t need us to tell you that in most cases, the free WiFi in these parks is almost always bad. That usually goes for cell reception, too. What’s even more frustrating is when the connection gives you issues when trying to check email or browse the internet, but the signal icon shows the WiFi should be great. Most of the reasons for this are outside your control.

But there are some things you can do to make the most of the free WiFi at RV campgrounds, as well as the poor cell reception you’re likely to experience. We’ll explain some of those things below, as well as three of the most common reasons why WiFi is usually poor at RV campgrounds.

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You’re Too Far Away From A WiFi Access Point

Though this can be an issue in some smaller parks, it’s mostly a problem in larger RV campgrounds. In order for a reliable WiFi connection to exist in an RV park (or anywhere else, for that matter), the nearest access point must be within effective range. If it isn’t, the signal is going to be poor or nonexistent.

Most RV campgrounds give you a map of the site when you arrive. In our experience, most of these maps show you where the wireless access point is located. Though you can’t change the location of said access point, you do have control over which campsite you select. Before selecting, look at the map and choose a site in the RV campground that is closest (or at least as close as you can get) to the access point. That way, you’ll know you’re getting the best possible signal that’s available at that particular RV campground.

If the map you’re given doesn’t show the location of their wireless access point, your next best bet for reliable coverage is to pick a site nearest the main office. And depending on how important it is that you get the best WiFi possible during your stay, never hesitate to just ask someone in the office. Ask them which site they recommend for the best WiFi signal.

What If You Get There And There’s No WiFi Signal At Any Of The Sites?

If this happens, there are a few things you can try. First, walk to the main office and see if your phone picks up WiFi signal there. If you get signal there, then you may need to just go to that spot when you need internet. Better yet, many RV campgrounds have designated WiFi areas with tables, chairs, and sometimes even snacks.

If that doesn’t work, you next option is to find WiFi at a local business or restaurant near the RV park. McDonald’s, Starbucks, a local library, a grocery store. Those are places that often have free WiFi. If you just need internet for a short period of time, like to check your email or download something, this should help you get what you need.

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Last Resort: Use Your Phone As A Hotspot

If none of the above recommendations work for you, try using the hotspot feature on your smartphone. Depending on your data plan, your phone can emit a hotspot, a.k.a. a portable WiFi signal. These usually give you a connection speed somewhere between 5 and 15 GB. That’s not enough to watch Netflix (which you shouldn't be doing, anyway. More on that below.) But it’s definitely enough to browse the web, check social media, and send some emails. Of course, a hotspot won’t work if there’s no cell coverage at your RV campground. It really won’t work if you’re in a mountainous region or in pretty much any national park.

If you're a big RV traveler, you should consider spending some money on a high-gain directional USB WiFi adapter _for your laptop or a _cell phone signal booster. Having one of these (or both) will prevent you from running into WiFi connection and cell signal problems at RV campgrounds. One thing that’s nice about these devices is that configuration is extremely minimal. An RV cell signal booster from SureCall like the Fusion2Go 3.0, for example, takes less than 20 minutes in most cases to set up. And you can get a high-gain antenna USB WiFi adapter from Amazon or Best Buy for under $50.

Getting a WiFi Booster is also an option. It’s a little more complicated (and more expensive) than a USB WiFi adapter. But it boosts your signal by connecting to the RV park’s WiFi and then rebroadcasts it stronger in your RV. Digital nomads, full-time RV-ers, and anyone needing consistent connectivity in an RV should really consider getting one of these.

People On The Campground Are Streaming Video

Because most RV campgrounds broadcast the same WiFi network to all their visitors, internet activity that uses huge amounts of data (like streaming) is lethal to sitewide speeds. It slows everyone’s internet down. This is why many RV campgrounds tell visitors upon entering that streaming video is prohibited. Some even have built-in network restrictions that prevent visitors from even access popular streaming sites like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Though you could technically use a VPN to bypass such restrictions, you’d be making it worse for everyone else in the park. Don’t do that.

But if the campground you’re staying in doesn’t prohibit streaming, you and everyone else are almost certainly going to experience poor internet. These places just do not have the bandwidth to support streaming. And it’s not like you’re going to knock on every RV door in the park and ask them to please stop watching Netflix. So there’s really no way to know for sure if this is the reason for the awful internet at your site. It’s more likely that your neighbors are just as frustrated as you.

There aren’t any suggestions we can give you here other than the ones we already mentioned in the last section. Try using the hotspot from your smartphone or try to find a local business or restaurant with free WiFi. That’s really all you can do if inconsiderate people are streaming in your RV park.

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But when it comes to devices you can buy for situations like this, we do have two suggestions we haven’t given yet. The first is to consider purchasing a MiFi device (sometimes called a Jetpack) from your cellular carrier. You will also need to make sure that you upgrade to a suitable data plan that will support MiFi usage. These little devices only work where there’s at least mediocre cell coverage, or they can be used in conjunction with a cell phone signal booster). They produce pretty decent WiFi in most cases. But if you often go to the middle of nowhere with your RV, a Jetpack won’t do much for you. They need some cell reception to work.

The second suggestion is satellite internet. It’s more expensive than a Jetpack and, if we’re being honest, the internet it gives you is usually not that fast. But for those of you consistently going to remote RV campgrounds with no cell service at all, this might be your only option to connect to the internet.

Not Enough Bandwidth On The Campground

The third reason why RV campgrounds usually have bad WiFi is because there’s almost never enough bandwidth to support everyone staying in the park. In 2022, most people have multiple connected devices. Smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, GPS units, smartwatches, and more. When people pull into their site on the campground, they start connecting all their devices to the park’s WiFi network. This usually happens in most RV parks, but most predominantly in national parks and really rural RV campgrounds. Sometimes, a T1 line or DSL-based connection is all that’s available. In these situations, the bandwidth is even more limited than a traditional WiFi network. And even worse is when the campground only uses satellite internet for the whole property. You’re pretty much out of luck in that situation, unless you happen to be the only RV there. And even then, it’s probably going to be very slow.

Unfortunately, there’s not not much you can do in a situation where the bandwidth in the park is poor. You can try any of the options already mentioned above to see if any of them work. But it’s unlikely. The only options that’s likely to work is using your phone’s hotspot, but again, you have to have useable cell signal. Plus, if you’re in a popular tourist location, it’s likely that the local cell networks can be overcrowded. If so, it’ll really hamper your cell signal.

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Why Do Most RV Campgrounds Have Bad WiFi & Cell Reception? - Conclusion

As you probably gathered, the two fail-safe methods of overcoming bad WiFi in RV campgrounds are to hit up a local business or use your personal hotspot. We recommend that most RV-ers get cell phone signal boosters because chances are, you’re going to need it. And as you learned above, they’re also very helpful in situations where you need to use a Jetpack or search the net with your phone.