If you're looking to hit the road and be a digital nomad or maybe you're just looking to binge Netflix when you get to your camping spot – then you'll need a great cell signal for your mobile Internet.
How I stay connected on the road as a digital nomad is a hot topic and what equipment I use to make sure I have a cell signal the majority of the time.
I have multiple devices, a cell booster system, and I'll show you how to set it all up and explain the process of how it's connected inside and out so you can decide if this is something you'll want in your travels.
First Method to Getting Internet on the Road
The first piece of equipment you'll need is a hotspot like a Jetpack from Verizon. Verizon came out with the most fantastic plan yet that us digital nomads have been waiting for forever!
It's a prepaid, unlimited, unthrottled, no cap plan. I purchased the plan to test it out, and so far it's performing well, even in cities too where there's more traffic congestion on the networks.
I know, amazing huh?
Make sure you watch the review and click the link to take you right to the exact place to get the plan if you're interested. Part of my video shows how to set this plan up because most of the Verizon agents don't know about it.
A hotspot works off your current cell phone and/or data plan. The major players in the market that have the most coverage nationwide in the United States is Verizon, #1, and AT&T, #2 as of this posting.
I have a Verizon hotspot as well as an AT&T hotspot. I like having both because sometimes AT&T is better in one area than Verizon or vice versa. My entire business and consulting practice are online, so it's essential that I almost always have a cell signal for the Internet – unless of course I just am taking a break and need some digital downtime.
Now, in my video from last week, I talked about how I use my Verizon hotspot with a new prepaid plan so check that out. You may want to look into that because the Verizon hotspot that I was on before with my regular cell phone plan just didn't work that well.
The hotspots will allow you to get Internet on the road, but what about when you're in rural areas or places where the cell signal is weak?
Boosting Your Cell Signal So You Can Boondock Most Anywhere
So here's the thing, as a digital nomad, you need to make sure you're connected everywhere you go. I'm online 24/7, and it seems like I'm always charging my equipment, I'm always online loading videos or answering emails, social media, etc.
As a digital nomad, it's very important that you are always online and connected. So to make that happen, I have the two hotspots with Verizon and AT&T.
The other thing that's super important to make sure you're connected is a cell booster. The system that I use is called a weBoost, and it is connected to an antenna on the roof that boosts the cell signal inside the van and to my devices.
weBoost Antenna and Cell Signal
The weBoost is mounted to the side of the wall under my bench seat so it's out of the way and that is connected to AC power. To have AC Power you do need to have your inverter on to make that work properly.
The antenna that came with my weBoost is not the antenna that I'm using currently. The one that came with the system is one that you hard mount onto your van or to your RV, and I didn't want to punch any holes in my RV, so I got the magnet instead. This antenna is one that I specifically bought because it has an earth magnet on it and is very strong so it will mount on top of the van and stay there, even if I drive with it.
I do take it on and off when I travel and then when I'm stationary I keep it up on the roof. The cable runs down the side of the van and in through the driver door, and then that connects to the weBoost inside.
That is how I stay connected to a cell booster. The cell booster, if you're not familiar with it, will boost your signal typically when you're going to be in rural areas or places with weak signals.
The cell towers are far and few between, more so than in an urban area, so you sometimes to boost your signal. The weBoost has helped me so many times when I'm in rural areas, and sometimes it'll say I have no signal whatsoever or just maybe one bar and then I'll plug it in and voila, I can sometimes get anywhere between two, three and even four bars.
That will help me to get that cell signal in those rural areas.
If you're going to be doing a lot of boondocking, make sure you get some kind of a cell booster. There are different ones out there, weBoost seems to be the best one in my opinion, and so that's the one that I went with, and it's the first one that I bought when I started RVing.
I haven't had any issues with it, except the fact that – oh guess what? I had a different antenna, and that antenna was just a slender antenna that had an earth magnet on it. I would put it on the top of the roof, and I could drive around a lot with that one on, but I was on the coast so much, and with all the salty air it got rusted.
So I had to replace it with the one I have now which won't rust when exposed to the environment.
How to Set-up weBoost Inside of Van
So you have your cell booster set up now, it's plugged in, the green light is on.
Now the green light means that it is getting a signal from the antenna on top of the roof and that it's working properly inside. The next question is how do you get that cell tower signal boosted to your devices? Like your hotspot or your cell phone and how does that whole system work?
You have the antenna on top, you have the weBoost system connected to the AC power, so then you have an inside antenna that's plugged into the booster. I place it on my table where I do most of my work, and I'll place my hotspots up in the window so it's getting a signal outside and it's close to this inside antenna.
The inside antenna is what ties it all together so that you can get a good cell signal to your devices. The closer it is to the antenna, the better.
Making sure that I use my weBoost and cell booster and these two hotspots – that's how I stay connected most of the time.
Most of the time I use my hotspots in the current set-up I explained, but there are times when it might be necessary to seek out WiFi.
My goto places are typically places like a Starbucks or a place that offers free WiFi.
The only time I've had issues is when I go to other countries like Canada and Mexico where my cell plan will cap me at a half a gig of data a day. So I will make more use out of the Starbucks, or believe it or not, Home Depot has excellent WiFi if you sit out in their parking lot next to the contractor section. I'm sure that sounds weird, but I've done all over New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, Canada.
That's an option too if you are traveling and for some reason, you don't have a hotspot, or you can't get a good cell signal. Go to a Starbucks, or Home Depot, a Lowe’s, or Walmart. I've had sporadic luck with Walmart and better luck with Home Depot for free WiFi.
Keeping Devices & Gear Charged in Camper Van
The other thing about being a digital nomad is making sure that you have enough power to charge everything.
I tend to use a lot of power because I have a lot of things to charge like a computer, a camera – well several cameras – an iPhone, and my two hot spots. Those hotspots need to stay charged up so that I can always stay connected.
My weBoost needs to be plugged in so that it can get a signal as well and that draws energy using AC power so the inverter must be on. I do have my solar panels which charge the batteries, and most of the time this is sufficient for my needs.
All of the devices also use AC power, which means I need to have my inverter on to get power to the USB port and the plugs.
I have to turn on my inverter, and I have to make sure my lithium batteries are on, and then I will be able to have power to everything.
I'm pulling so much energy from my batteries, so I want to make sure that I'm getting enough solar power so that:
- I am charged up by using my solar panels which means that my batteries have to be on to convert the solar energy to store into my batteries, or…..
- I'm driving throughout the day to charge the batteries, or …..
- I can turn on my under hood generator, which is part of the Hymer Aktiv van system and charge my batteries.
And that allows all of the batteries to charge in the van.
It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it and you understand the charging and solar power system. You get to know your van or RV and figure out how much power you're pulling in from the sun and how much energy you're pulling out of your batteries on an everyday basis. As a digital nomad, that is something that I have to pay attention to daily.
I'm very conscientious of how much power I'm using just to turn the lights on or how much power I'm using when I'm cooking. I want to make sure that I'm entirely powered up throughout the day and just managing how much energy I'm using and consuming.
One of the things you might think about too is getting that Verizon hotspot that's prepaid and that is not throttled and completely unlimited. Go ahead and watch that video so you can see how you can get that hotspot, make sure that you're always connected, no throttle and unlimited.
That's a big deal in this digital nomad community as well.
Panasonic Lumix G85 Camera – For most still images and vlogging
Sony Action Cam FDRX3000 – For dash cam and walking/talking video
Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.
Xenvo Iphone Wide Angle (and Macro) Lens – Clips onto your iPhone did give you a wide angle view of your surroundings.
Ulanzi Metal Smart Phone Cold Shoe Mount – Attaches to a selfie stick, but allows you angle the camera and it has a mount for an external microphone.
AllStays app – Use on phone or desktop for finding gas stations, RV parks, campgrounds, propane, and more on your travel route.
Verizon Data Plan – Best nationwide coverage as of this post while traveling.
weBoost Cell Booster – A must have when traveling full-time especially if you work and are staying in areas outside of cities.
weBoost Antenna – Rust proof antenna to use on the earth magnet mount
weBoost Antenna magnet mount – Used for antenna mount above