For many RVers, roughing it no longer means going without cell phone service. With the growing popularity of online education and remote work, even the most off-the-grid RV adventurers are needing to stay connected during their travels. As a part-time digital nomad, I’m constantly balancing my work commitments with exploring beautiful, remote areas that offer little to no cell phone coverage.
Over the years I’ve tried a couple of cell phone signal boosters on my campervan, with varying degrees of success. While I’m most familiar with the weBoost line, other companies, like King and Winegard make comparable products.
How Do Cell Phone Signal Boosters Work on an RV?
A booster uses an outside antenna (usually mounted near the roof of your rig) to amplify your cell phone signal. An interior antenna will then broadcast that amplified signal inside your RV. Think of it like a guitar amplifier—while you can strum a guitar to make sound, an amplifier enhances the magnitude of that sound. Signal strength is measured in decibel milliwatts (dBm), the higher the dBm, the more powerful the signal.
A cell phone signal booster won’t magically create a signal where there isn’t one. You need at least one bar for a signal to be boosted. It’s a good idea to mount the exterior antenna as high as possible on your RV for an unimpeded signal. For my rig, I used PVC pipe to create a telescoping antenna that was about 5 to 10 feet higher than my van roof.
The bars on your phone will give you a rough estimate of how well the booster is working, but you can also use a speed test app on your phone for more specific numbers. Some boosters even have their own apps for you to check your signal strength or locate the nearest tower.
If you know you’ll be traveling in areas that will have no signal available, it’s recommended to always carry an emergency beacon in case of an unexpected crisis. Outdoor beacons, like this one, use GPS to send out a distress signal for emergency situations.
Will Every Booster Work With My Cell Phone Carrier?
Most booster systems are designed to work with multiple cell phone carriers, but there are a few on the market that only work with a single carrier. These boosters are typically more powerful and ideal if you (and your travel companions) only plan to use a single carrier on the road, but they aren’t convenient if you routinely travel with friends and family who use different carriers.
Some traveling couples will have separate carriers in case one company has a stronger signal in certain locations over others.
What to Know When Purchasing a Cell Signal Booster for Your RV
While there are plenty of options on the market, you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $600 for a quality RV cell phone signal booster. Some cell phone carriers, like Verizon, even offer boosters that you can roll the cost into your monthly data plan.
For RVers, it’s important to look for boosters that are specifically designed for RVs and travel. RV-specific devices will make it easier for you to mount your exterior antenna to your rig and some can operate while your vehicle is moving. They also typically allow you to hardwire your booster to your RV’s 12V system, so you can power it without your inverter.
Popular RV Cell Phone Signal Booster Options
From boosters I’ve personally put to the test, to some of the most popular models amongst RVers, here are a few options to consider.
Best Driving Options
If you plan on needing cell signal while your rig is moving, these are both viable solutions and they’re easy to use. While the range isn’t as strong as others on the market, if you’re an RVer who is constantly on the move and looking for a hassle-free setup, these are both great options.
Of the two weBoost models I’ve extensively tested, I prefer the Drive RV X over the Destination RV. Although the Destination RV is significantly stronger—boosting signals up to 85 dBm versus the Drive RV X’s 50 dBm—it’s more of a hassle to use.
Best Stationary Option
If you don’t need a signal booster while driving, this kit is great for stationary use and offers a premium range compared to other options. The included telescoping pole makes it easy to extend the exterior antenna above natural formations that could disrupt the signal. The downside is that the signal seems to work best when you can point the antenna directly toward the nearest cell phone tower.
Best Outdoor Signal Option
The best feature of this kit is the fact that your signal can be amplified both inside and outside your rig. This booster doubles as a mobile hotspot so you won’t need to tether it with your other devices. One caveat of the Winegard option is that it requires a data plan or needs to be used with an AT&T or Verizon Wireless SIM card.
Best Carrier Option
Designed for compatibility with all cell phone service carriers, the King booster kit simultaneously supports multiple users and carriers. Easy installation also makes this kit a great option if you pack up and move camping locations frequently. RVers have noted that a drawback of this booster is that the exterior antenna works best when extended well above your roof.
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