Don is a retired engineer and shares his experiences and knowledge with his readers to help them as technology gets more complicated.
Camping Can Feel Like Stepping Back in Wi-Fi Time
I think I can get away with stating that everyone uses WIFI in their daily lives nowadays, but when you are an RV traveler you can often feel like you have stepped back in time.
At home you have the support of your local communication companies who are competing for your business. But the reality of campground services is that the owners often seem to be unconcerned about your needs.
Sure, you are a visitor to their campground, and many campground owners feel that just don’t need to invest much money in something that is an expense for them.
And honestly, when they look at the costs of providing Wi-Fi and the complaints they get from the ones who use their systems, they often feel that “it just isn’t worth it."
Levels of Campground Wi-Fi Service
What you, as a traveling RV owner, need to understand is that at differenc campgrounds you will encounter different levels of Wi-Fi support.
Old-School Basic Wi-Fi
I’m an engineer, and I can remember when I first took my laptop PC with me on one of my families camping trips. My boss had told me that while we were on vacation, I needed to make sure I received, read and responded to his emails.
There was a technical problem that might have to be managed, and I was the resident “expert”, so he needed to have access to me on short notice.
I reluctantly agreed and my family and I were on the road the very next day. I had already contacted the campground we would be using and they assured me that they did have Wi-Fi access for me to use. So I felt great about my situation.
Well, when we had set up our camper on our campsite, one of the first things I did was turn on my PC and search for a Wi-Fi signal. There was nothing out there; no indication of any Wi-Fi systems at all.
Concerned, I walked up to the main office and asked for the manager who I had previously talked to, and this older gentleman walked out of a back office and we started talking about my problem.
As I explained my problem, he looked confused for moment and then he caught on and he told me; Sir! We do have Wi-Fi here, but it is only functional in our clubhouse. You can use your own PC in there, or you can use our PC that we keep on a desk in the clubhouse for our customers.
He went on to say; Of course, we do have a lot of our campers who come in here to use our Wi-Fi, so I recommend that you come up here early in the morning or late in the evening, after everyone else has stopped using our system.
That was a terrible week for me, because being someone who was used to essentially unlimited access to the web, I know had to share this single slow system with a campground full of Wi-Fi users throughout the day.
I got through that week without any major problem, but I did spend most of my vacation week walking back and forth to this campgrounds clubhouse.
Contractor Wi-Fi Systems
As the technical world evolved, so did the pressure on campgrounds to provide better and faster Wi-Fi access for their customers.
But, let me say here that campgrounds exist for people to use for camping, not for providing Wi-Fi. The owners, as a whole do not have any technical skills and in order to support their customers the simplest thing for them to do was to hire a specialized contractor.
These contractors would install a system of towers, antennas and cabling around the campground so that every campsite could have access to Wi-Fi signals.
Access to these contractor systems is not free. Some of these contractors are so large that they may have hundreds of campground Wi-Fi systems that they are responsible for.
And of course, they charge you for access to their systems.
If you are staying in a campground that has one of these systems, you can pay for service for 2 days, 1 week, 1 month, or even purchase an annual contract with them if you know that you will be using them often.
The great thing about doing this was, the campground didn’t have to be responsible for this much more complex Wi-Fi system in their campground. They could now just give you the phone number of the contract service provider and tell you to take your problem to them.
It’s frustrating for us traveling campers, but it’s the real world we have to live in as we travel and require digital access to the rest of the world.
Your RV’s Wi-Fi System
The smart RV camping family will have their own Wi-Fi system installed into their RV. It might take a little work to do this, but it will make your camping trip much more enjoyable for everyone.
You know this, of course, but if you are a typical family, everyone will be carrying their own SmartPhone which not only operates on “cellular data”, but they can also operate on available Wi-Fi systems.
Your SmartPhone will tell you if it detects any Wi-Fi signals and if you know the password for one of them, you can then log on and use this Wi-Fi link.
The big problem is that most people who have a Wi-Fi system of their own also do not share their password, which leaves you out from using all of these systems.
Without getting technical, some RV owners will purchase a “Modem” that usually has a built-in “Router”. This modem design can use the campsite’s cable system, if allowed by the campground service provider. Once this is done, you can access the contractor’s site and then everyone in your camper, kids and all, can use your personal Wi-Fi system, thus saving you a lot of money.
Of course, you need to have a compatible modem. You can often rent a modem from the campground, or you can purchase one of your own that is compatible with most systems, and simply set it up with the appropriate passwords and system data.
There are probably a half dozen modems you can purchase which will operate on nearly all network Wi-Fi systems around the country.
If You Will Need Wi-Fi, Call Ahead
Hopefully, what I have written here is useful to my fellow RV travelers who are used to having good WIFI access when they are in their RV.
Probably the most important thing you can do to prepare yourself and your family is to always call ahead and have the campground office personnel tell you exactly what level of WIFI they have available for you to use.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Don Bobbitt