The ultimate internet setup guide for full-time RVers and travelers

One question we get asked frequently is how do we connect to the internet in our RV. The simple answer is that we are on Verizon’s Unlimited Data plan. The long answer is that we had to make several adjustments to our setup in order to keep all devices connected and operating, no matter where we are camped. After a great deal of trial and error, we’re finally happy with our setup and we’re ready to share it with the four people who read the blog. This setup could be used by anyone living in an RV, or who is forced to rely on Verizon (or another cell company) as their only source of internet.

iPads and iPhones

The best internet experience is with devices that connect directly to Verizon’s network: our iPhones and iPads. The iOS devices each have unlimited LTE data (with some important caveats which I’ll explain later). This means they have the fastest, most reliable connections. As a result, my wife and I both use our iPads a lot, and our laptops very little. I’ve been using my iPad as my primary work device for a couple years now, and working from the cellular iPad is, for me, a dream. We recently got another iPad so my wife could enjoy the benefits of a cellular iPad. The iPad isn’t as ideal for her real estate work. For instance, many bank systems are antiquated and don’t support touch devices well. She’s adjusted and found a good setup for her tasks.

Initially, we thought we’d simply tether other devices to our iOS devices, but this proved to not work. At. All. Not only was it inconvenient (imagine re-tethering 5 devices every time you return home), some devices never operated properly when using a tethered connection.

Occasionally, for work, I’ll tether my laptop to my iPad or iPhone. Fortunately I don’t need to do this very often. I also have to be careful because I’m limited to 15gigs of LTE tethering per device per month.

Our love/hate relationship with the Jetpack

The rest of our devices get internet from a Verizon Jetpack device. A Jetpack is a small device, about the size of a deck of cards, that gets internet from Verizon and shares it with up to 15 devices via WiFi.

The Jetpack doubles as a wireless router. In the name of minimizing, we left our high quality Netgear router in storage and used the Jetpack for our wireless network. This proved to be a mistake—the Jetpack is a terrible router. While it allowed each device to connect to the internet, the signal strength wasn’t great and didn’t reliably broadcast its signal throughout our RV. It also didn’t handle local network connections very well. This meant playing movies on our Apple TV via Airplay or over Plex was out of the question, as was doing file transfers between devices.

So, we pulled our Netgear router out of storage, only to discover you can’t connect the Jetpack to a router. It seems they designed it this way as the Jetpack has no Ethernet output, only USB output. The USB connection is meant for giving internet to a computer, so hypothetically it could connect to a router with a USB input. But, apparently they’ve locked down the USB connection on Jetpacks to only work with Windows computers.

So, as a temporary fix, I did something clever with my wife’s laptop. Macs allow you to share internet connections from any source to any other source. So, I connected the laptop to the Jetpack via WiFi which gave me an internet connection, and I shared that connection out using the Ethernet port on the Mac, and plugged it into our router. Boom.

However, having an expensive laptop basically only functioning as an internet forwarding device seemed silly and wasteful, so I started looking for other options. I found this IOGear Ethernet to WiFi Adapter on Amazon. It’s designed to connect older devices, like TV’s that have Ethernet connections only, to a WiFi network.

This seemed like a promising option, but my limited networking knowledge made me concerned. I’ve learned that more links (or devices) there are in a network chain, the more likely I am to encounter problems that I can’t resolve. Thankfully, I was able to get all the pieces working. The Jetpack connects to Verizon, the IOGear connects to the Jetpack and shares the connection via Ethernet to my router, and all our wireless devices connect to the router. The router basically functions in bridge mode and it all seems to work fine.

We finally have a good internet and WiFi solution. We have a high quality WiFi router for allowing our devices to talk to each other on the local network, and each of these devices has access to the internet (albeit slow internet) because the Jetpack is connected to the router.

Network coverage

One of the reasons we’ve been Verizon customers is their outstanding network coverage. RV living means we’re always pushing the boundaries of where we can connect like never before, especially since we are always looking for remote (and free) camping options.

When planning our travel route, and especially when trying to select a location to camp, we always check a coverage map to make sure we’re going to have service. Two apps in particular have been helpful.

  • Coverage which has quite detailed coverage maps for all networks
  • Sensorly which aggregates user submitted data about signal strength and speeds.

These two apps help us predict what kind of coverage we can expect in a new area. They aren’t 100% accurate, but for the most part they’ve been dependable.

Generally, we’ve been able to find good camping areas that also have Verizon coverage. There’s only been one or two occasions we’ve had to scramble to find different camping options because we couldn’t find coverage in areas we thought we’d be able to connect. It would be nice, on occasion, if we could park in areas with no signal (such as inside of National Parks) but we still have bills to pay so we stay where we have service.

Boosting antenna

To help us stay connected in rural areas, and to increase the number of amazing places we can camp, we use a WeBoost Drive 4G-X system. Basically, this system can take you from 1 bar to full bars. If you are constantly on the edge of connectivity, like we are, this system is your best friend.

We’ve camped in several areas where the signal strength was essentially fluctuating between one bar and No Service. We flip on the booster and we have almost full signal strength. I’m able to do my video conferencing for work, stream videos, and more. This thing works.

The system we purchased is the trucker version with a heavy duty outdoor antenna. We mounted it to the rear of the RV. To avoid feedback, your outdoor antenna is supposed to be far away from the indoor unit, and ours certainly is.

The indoor antenna that came with our bundle works well, but only if you’re sitting right next to it. In fact, I often have to set my phone or iPad right on the antenna to get the boosting effect. It works, unquestionably, but the range is terrible.


We recently bought a new indoor antenna, but haven’t had the chance to test its efficacy yet. Our recent camping spots have had very strong signal strength, so we haven’t been able to test. We hope it allows all devices in the RV to get the boosting effect.

“Unlimited data”

Verizon’s unlimited plan has some important restrictions that we always bump up against.

Once each device uses 22gb of data, that device is still allowed to connect at speeds “up to” LTE speed, but your data is prioritized behind other customers. I’ve spoken to Verizon to better understand this limitation, and I was told the prioritization happens at a specific cell tower, not the entire Verizon network. So, in some areas you won’t notice any slowdown! In others, you can barely load your email.

We’ve observed that the closer we are to cities, the slower our internet is. We suspect the cell towers in cities are far more overloaded than rural ones. However, crowds in rural areas can overload a tower, and when that happens the internet feels broken since there are fewer cell towers supporting the crowds.

Perhaps the most interesting case was in Moab, Utah a few weeks ago. We happened to be here during Fall Break, when all the Utah schools had a long weekend. Moab was extremely crowded, and our internet barely functioned. However, as the weekend came to a close and people started leaving, we watched our speeds slowly return until we were finally enjoying decent internet again.

The second important limitation is our Jetpack. It only gives you LTE speeds for the first 15gigs of data. After that, it’s down to 3g speeds. Each month when our data resets, we don’t even get to enjoy this momentary bit of speed. Our connected devices gobble up that data before we even wake up. Once a month I wake up to texts that say “Congrats, its a new month. You have 15gig of LTE Speed” followed by “Your 15gig of LTE speed has been used. You will have 3g speeds until the billing cycle resets in 30 days”.

I’d love LTE speeds for our Jetpack. However, the 3g speeds are enough to allow our other devices to function. It is incredibly slow, but at least it works.

What about free WiFi?

Many RVers take advantage of free WiFi at businesses, libraries, or RV parks. There are WiFi boosting antennas that even allow you to connect to networks over a mile away.

For us, 90% of our camping has been miles away from civilization and businesses who might offer free WiFi. At some point, we may look into this option further, but so far it doesn’t seem like it’d be much help for us.

Hey, at least it’s internet!

Our internet feels nothing like the high-speed residential WiFi networks we were used to. It’s nowhere near as fast, or reliable. Many of our devices feel like crippled versions of themselves (goodbye Xbox live, goodbye Netflix streaming on Apple TV).

That being said, we wake up most mornings in places like this (this photo is a view from my bedroom window). We stay out in the middle of nowhere, and we’re able to communicate with the world. We are able to do all of our work. We can still watch Youtube and Netflix (on our iPhones and iPads). We haven’t had to sacrifice much (from an internet perspective) to make this lifestyle work.

Installing Solar Panels on the Roof of our Fleetwood Bounder Motorhome

It seems like a rite of passage for full-time RVers to install solar on their RV. We’ve been running two 100watt panels as a portable ground setup, but we wanted something permanent and bigger.

There are so many good articles and videos about doing RV solar installs, so I won’t try to do a comprehensive report. Also, despite my intentions to document each step, I got so engaged in the project I forgot to take pictures.

Parts List

Here’s what I bought for this project:

Here is what I had purchased previously that I was able to reuse:

  • Renogy 40amp MPPT Charge controller (can’t find the same product on Amazon anymore. I think they may have replaced it with a new model)
  • Magnum battery monitoring kit with shunt (picked this one because it was compatible with my Inverter, which came with the motor home)

To tilt or not to tilt…No tilt!

One decision you have to make during the planning phase is whether to use flat mounted panels or install tiltable brackets. The tilt brackets require you to climb on your roof and set the tilt angle each time you park, although I’ve heard of one person who had motorized tilts on his panels.

I decided not to do tilt mounts based on something I read on an online forum. As I write this, the foolishness of relying on random forum opinions is settling in, and I’m wondering if I’ll regret the decision. The poster suggested that rather than installing tilt mounts and having to climb up your roof constantly, just buy an extra panel to offset the inefficiencies of a flat mount. I was sold on that idea.

Additionally, we still have our ground panels that we can tilt and angle to our hearts content to get some extra juice, if needed.

Reviewing the basic solar setup

Before starting the plan, I needed to review the basic solar layout to help me determine what to buy. The basic structure of a solar system looks like this:

I already had a charge controller and battery monitoring kit, but I wanted to replace some parts. I wanted to replace my basic, 20amp auto fuses with auto resetting 40 amp versions. I also wanted to swap out the cables running from my charge controller to my battery. Previously, I’d used standard solid core 10AWG cables used for home electrical. I know that stranded cables are better, particularly for automotive uses so I picked up some higher quality, stranded cables to replace my existing wiring.

Determining number of panels

Since we already had a charge controller for our ground solar panels, I didn’t want to purchase another one. That meant I’d size the system based on the charge controller’s rating, which is 40 amps.

I already knew how much each panel would generate. On a sunny day, our 2 ground panels generate about 11-13 amps when they are optimally tilted. After some estimating, (er, sophisticated math) I figured each panel would produce around 5 amps max. I already had 2 panels, so I figured I’d get 6 more, brining our potential to about 40 amps (5 * 8).

Amazon screwed up my orders, and so I ended up getting an extra panel out of the deal, so we ended up with 7 new panels, 9 total with our existing ground panels. I diagramed my layout and discovered that by buying 2 sets of branch connectors, I could eliminate the need to buy a ton of Y connectors. Boom!

I’m guessing I wont get a full 5 amps per panel with them being flat mounted, so I doubt I’ll get a full 35amps with my 7 panels. However, I very well might approach tha number on sunny days, and having 7 panels may eliminate the need to use our ground panels every time we park. Time will tell.

So why have ground panels at all? Simple: we like parking in forested areas. We’ve been able to place the ground panels in full sun while our RV sits comfortably among the trees.


I spent an evening on the roof with a tape measure, getting a bunch of measurements which I drew on my iPad. I didn’t want to put the panels in areas where shade from an AC unit or anything else could land on the solar panels, so I decided to group the panels at the rear of the RV.

An additional consideration I took into account was position of the panels relative to the slide outs. I anticipate needing to do slideout or awning maintenance at some point, and don’t want to have solar panels in the way when I do that. I was able to keep my panels away from all slide outs and awnings.

Once the panels arrived, the first thing I did was lay them out on the roof and finalize the position I wanted them to be in. They fit great at the rear of the roof, as I planned, and still allowed me room to get to the front of the roof.

Routing wires

I watched the video from Gone with the Wynns and, since we also have a Fleetwood Bounder like they did, I took wiring inspiration from their video. They routed the wires behind the fridge, cabinets, and finally into the storage bin where the inverter lives.

I took this route as well, but wasn’t able to get the fridge out easily. My workaround was to have the wires enter the RV above the fridge, then simply route the wires down the side of the fridge, fairly close to the front of the fridge. There was a gap in the floor the fridge sits on, and I was able to route the wires alongside a heating duct under the oven and behind the kitchen cabinets.

Once I had the wires behind the cabinet drawers, I saw the backside of our outdoor TV. Using the speaker box as a reference point from both inside and outside the RV, I determined where to drill in order to access the storage box without damaging anything. A few drills later, I had successfully routed my cables into the final place.

I bought tons of wiring, and knew I’d need to cut wires to make the project work. I purchased some MC4 connectors so that I could add them to the ends of my cut cables. This worked out really well, and was quite simple. I followed the instructions in this video for reference.

Once the main wires were in place and connected to the charge controller, I hooked up the solar panels. I’d left them disonnected from the system wires so I didn’t risk a shock. I wired them in parallel since the panels were 12v each and my system was 12v. Parallel wiring maintains voltage, but increases capacity (for batteries) or output in amps (for panels).

Final thoughts

The project took roughly 12 man hours to complete, which was spread out over a Friday evening and Saturday. My wife helped with some of the project, so I personally spent about 8 hours on the project.

Much to my surprise, the project was completed without a single problem. I was trying to think about any project I’ve ever done that went this smoothly, particularly at this scale, and I can’t think of one. I think this is the result of adequate planning.

We haven’t had the chance to test the panels in full sun. We finished them on an overcast day with smoke from forest fires adding additional coverage. So, for now, we’re plugged in to shore power at our family’s home. We’ll test production in a few days when we get out on the road again.