We rarely do anything without our mobile devices and want fast reliable data. Will a cell phone booster help? Is it an essential piece of equipment? The average price for an RV cell phone booster is around $500. So this is an important question.
If you plan to do a lot of boondocking in remote areas, then you’re probably going to want one. If not, your signal may be adequate as mobile carriers continually improve their 4G coverage areas.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before buying a cell phone booster.
1. Do you need Internet access?
Working RVers who also enjoy boondocking will often own a cell phone booster. My wife and I definitely see ourselves in this category.
Whether we stay a day or week in a boondocking site will depend on our ability to get Internet access there.
Having a cell booster allows us to stay and work in more locations than we could without the booster. We prefer quiet remote locations which are often in weak signal areas. Luckily our weboost booster can usually boost that to one strong enough to work and even stream video. This alone justifies the cost of the booster for us.
Here are some real-world tests of our weboost booster showing how effective it has been.
Typically parks and campgrounds near major highways will have decent cell coverage. Do the campsites and RV parks you usually stay at have a good 4G signal available? If so, then a cell booster isn’t needed.
2. Is making phone calls and send text messages sufficient?
In most cases, you’ll still be able to make phone calls and send text messages over 3G.
We’ve camped in many remote locations where we couldn’t get 4G LTE but were still able to get limited 3G access to make phone calls and send text messages.
Of course there are dead zones where no signal is present, but we usually know where they are ahead of time. Just check the coverage areas and reviews ahead of time.
3. Do you travel and camp in remote areas?
Consider traveling for a while and make note of how often you’re unable to stay connected.
You might find that you’re able to get online just fine. Mobile carriers are continually upgrading and expanding their networks. We’ve noticed these improvements occurring over the last two years. That’s great news for us all.
You can see a coverage map for each mobile provider here.
If you plan on staying in RV parks, give their WiFi a try before using your mobile hotspot. Most RV park WiFi has been known to be pretty poor, but I’ve heard that improvements and upgrades are being made.
Do you plan to be boondocking in remote locations? If so, you’re eventually going to want a booster to enhance your signal. Some locations have great 4G while others don’t. Having a booster installed will simply open up more potential sites for you.
Popular campsite review sites like Campendium now show cell signal strength as part of their ratings. This is valuable information to have. So keep an eye for those ratings when doing your research.
Here’s an example of a campendium cell signal rating on a campsite review.
Finally, keep in mind that mountains, hills and large structures can obstruct your cell signal. So you’re more at risk of getting a poor cell signal when camping in valleys or wooded locations compared to wide open areas like in the southwestern desert.
4. Do you rely on mobile apps for navigation while driving?
Your smartphone apps may not work in poor signal areas. A mobile cell phone booster can help keep your apps running while you’re out looking for your next campsite or planning your next stop.
Gone are the days of relying solely on paper maps or the stand-alone GPS for navigation. Instead, we rely on our smartphone apps to steer us down the right path. Apps like GasBuddy help you find the cheapest gas and AllStays will tell you about restrictions at the nearest Walmart.
Google Maps is also a great tool for storing your favorite campgrounds and boondocking spots. I’ve actually switched from using my Garmin GPS to using Google Maps for navigation because of this.
5. Have you tried using an external MIMO antenna first?
Not using a booster or turning it off in areas where multiple antennas and towers are available may result in a better signal. Here’s why.
4G LTE cell phones, hotspots and cellular routers use multiple antennas (over multiple channels) to receive and transmit your signal.
This technology is called MIMO which stands for Multiple In / Multiple Out. You can read more about MIMO here.
Many mobile hotspots and cellular routers allow for attaching one or more powerful external antennas to improve weak signals. MIMO devices like these may provide a better signal in areas where you already have moderate cell coverage. If a boosted MIMO setup gives you better results, you may not need a cell booster at all.
Unlike MIMO devices, cell phone boosters are single channel devices using a single powerful external antenna to receive and transmit data.
So, try turning the cell booster off periodically and check your signal.
Which is the RV best cell phone booster?
There are a few options out there, but they come and go. Based in Utah, weboost (Wilson Electronics) was the first to design and manufacture signal boosters over 20 years ago.
Their boosters have been preferred by many members of the RV, Trucking, and 4×4 community for years, that includes us.
Weboost has even offered to give you a discount. Here are the details.
Get 5% OFF at Weboost
Shop Weboost.com and enter discount code “WBWITHTITO5” at checkout
Have you figured out if you’ll need a booster? For us the booster is like having insurance. It’s not needed all the time, but when you need it, you’re glad you’ve got it.