Whenever I’ve mentioned in conversations that my husband, Justin, and I live and work remotely from our RV, most people seem a bit bewildered. They ask us all kinds of logistical questions about how it works, from where we get internet and electricity to what our work setup looks like. So if you’re considering doing your job on the road and have similar burning questions, here’s everything you need to know about working from your RV.
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Table of Contents
- How to get internet while working from your RV
- How to get power while working from your RV
- What your work set up should look like for working from your RV
First things first- there’s all kinds of different ways to work from your RV.
In this post, we’re going to mainly focus on remote jobs that involve working behind a computer. However, while we’ve been on the road, we’ve met people who have done all kinds of things for work. Travel nurses, gig workers (i.e., Uber or DoorDash drivers), folks who sell crystals or crafts at trade shows- the list could go on and on!
No matter what your training or background is, you can find something to earn cash while you’re out exploring.
If you’re specifically interested in becoming a digital nomad and working remotely, though, there’s really only two main things you need to worry about when you’re traveling in your RV: #1: whether you can get good, reliable internet and #2. how you’ll get power.
Let’s get into it!
How to get internet while working from your RV
There’s three ways that you can get internet when working from an RV- 1/ using someone one else’s WiFi signal, 2/ using a cellular-enabled mobile hotspot to make your own WiFi network, and 3/ using Starlink, a satellite internet provider.
1. Using Someone Else’s WiFi Signal
For the first option, some paid campgrounds provide WiFi- the signal is usually strongest closest to the park’s main office but even then, it’s usually incredibly unreliable- so much so that I would strongly recommend against relying on it for the purposes of your livelihood.
Alternatively, some digital nomads rely on WiFi signals at other public places, like libraries, coffee shops, or breweries.
Justin, and I occasionally do this as a last resort if we can’t get internet at our campsite (have I mentioned public libraries are amazing?!), but it definitely takes some legwork to find a place that has consistently strong signal. Additionally, if your job requires any kind of meetings or phone calls, you’ll have limited control over network reliability, your privacy, and background noise.
2. Using a Cellular-Enabled Mobile Hotspot for WiFi Signal
In the past, Justin and I primarily used Internet connectivity through the second method, a cellular-enabled mobile hotspot with wifi signal. In fact, we still use this method, from time to time!
This relies on a mobile router (also called a “mobile hotspot” or “cellular router”), which uses a signal from a cell carrier (e.g., T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T) to provide internet to a wifi network within your RV itself.
We love this approach because, so long as we can find a cell signal for one of our carriers, we can work from literally anywhere in the privacy of our own little adventure mobile. And we’ve been able to work remotely from some REALLY cool campsites- in the middle of Sedona’s red rock desert, literally on top of a mountain outside of Glacier National Park, and next to our own hot spring in Mammoth Lakes at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas, all with great connectivity.
Equipment for a Cellular-Enabled Mobile Hotspot
To do this, we use the Nighthawk Netgear M1 mobile router, which aggregates cell phone signals to provide a speedy internet connection of up to 1 Gbps download speeds and 150 Mbps upload speeds (given your data plan supports those speeds). This device is pretty neat, given its multifunctionality- we can pop SIM cards in it when we travel internationally to use it as a mobile hotspot and it doubles as a battery bank for other electronic mobile devices when you’re on the go.
When we’re in our RV, we also connect a small, flat MIMO antenna (short for Multi-In Multi-Out) to our Nighthawk, which usually helps improve its performance. This optional accessory requires no additional power and simply suction-cups to any nearby window and then you’re all ready to go.
Some people swear by cell phone boosters, like this popular one, which uses an antenna mounted on the outside of your RV to rebroadcast a cellular signal indoors.
Based on the way the technology works, when the antenna picks up a cellular signal, it can help increase your upload speeds (e.g., when your computer is sending information out, like when you’re sending an email or your audio and video is sent through Zoom) through your mobile router, but it may not help or can even reduce your download speeds (i.e., when your computer is receiving information, like when you’re trying to open a document or stream Netflix).
Unlike a MiMo antenna, which uses multiple antennas to receive signals and uses the “best” signal from those antennas to get you the fastest speeds, boosters only use one antenna and amplifies whatever signal it receives through it.
So while boosters can help in some limited circumstances, a MiMo antenna will be more helpful than a booster in the majority of settings you’ll find yourself in. In fact, the super helpful Mobile Internet Resource Center estimates that MiMo antennas are actually better in up to 80% of circumstances.
If you have all the money in the world (hi, can you adopt me?), a cell signal booster may be a handy tool in your mobile internet arsenal, but if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, a MiMo antenna is probably the way to go.
Mobile Hotspot Data Plans for a Cellular-Enabled Mobile Hotspot
The fancy tech gear is only part of the equation. Your router will be totally useless without a mobile hotspot data plan. Most plans will provide you with a tiny plastic SIM card that you will put into your mobile router (these plans are typically provisioned specifically for use with mobile routers, and your cell phone’s SIM card won’t work as an alternative).
In terms of data plans, you can purchase a monthly data plan from any of the main carriers for a variety of budgets and needs- Justin and I have used a 100 GB/month plan from T-Mobile for $50 per month and an unlimited AT&T plan for $75 a month. As an aside, while AT&T’s coverage is admittedly pretty awesome, we’ve routinely had problems with their customer service, which ultimately led us to canceling our plan.
If you’re planning on living and working on the road full-time and relying on a mobile router, I strongly recommend getting two data plans- between two networks, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a usable signal at whatever campsite you’re visiting, and redundancy is key in case something goes wrong with one of the networks, especially for something you depend on for your livelihood.
Before you purchase any plans, though, be sure to read the fine print and understand what you’re purchasing- are there activation or cancellation fees? Are you paying an introductory rate that will later be increased? Is the data throttled at a certain point (looking at you, AT&T)?
Finding Campsites with Service for a Cellular-Enabled Mobile Hotspot
Once you have a mobile router and a data plan, all you’ll need to do is find campsites that have a decent cell signal for your particular carrier and you should be able to get consistently reliable internet.
This step can be easier said than done, but here’s some of the best RVing apps we use:
- Campendium: This is our favorite tool for checking coverage, thanks to its HUGE catalog of camping options (from dispersed camping areas, to national parks and fancy upscale RV resorts). It’s absolutely packed full of information, including what kind of amenities the campsites provide, user reviews, and most importantly for this article, cell coverage maps.
Once you select a certain campsite on its app, its specific page will offer a bunch of useful information, including how many bars of data (anywhere from 1 to 5) that users reported for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. If you pay to become a Campendium member, you can even filter out campsites based on how many bars of data users have reported for their particular carrier.
It’s important to note here that, while “bars of data” do not necessarily tell you how good of an upload and download speed you’ll get at the campsite, they’re certainly a fairly decent indicator. If you look through user reviews on the site, you’ll occasionally find a handy tip from another user working out of their RV with more specifics regarding the upload and download speed.
- The Dyrt, another application that helps RVers find campsites, offers similar data coverage information on a campsite-by-campsite basis
Pssst… click here for a free seven day trial of The Dyrt Pro, which allows you to filter campgrounds by cell service coverage and have offline access to The Dyrt’s maps.
In my experience, these maps provide much less granular detail as compared to Campendium or The Dyrt (i.e., it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see whether your particular campsite gets data). However, it’s at least a helpful data point to know whether or not there’s signal near the town you’re headed to if the campsite happens to not be on one of the apps I listed above.
Even with these tools in your back pocket, you’ll obviously have to drive to the campsite and confirm you actually get signal there.
Once we’ve reached a potential camping spot, we use the speedtest.net website and also their phone apps first thing to test our internet speeds- while this may vary depending on how data-intensive your job is, a good rule of thumb for us is that, for speeds you can actually work on, you’ll need at the very least 5 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up.
In our experience, there’s been a handful of times where other reviewers on Campendium have reported stellar cellular service (or at least… something) at a particular site and after we’ve made the, at times, hours-long trek there, we have absolutely no service on either of our networks.
A REALLY important point to understand about getting internet in your RV via a mobile router is that all of the mobile internet gear in the world does not make a cell phone signal exist where it doesn’t- it can only help you use some kind of signal that’s already there.
So in case there’s no usable signal at your planned campsite, it’s best to always have a Plan B- and sometimes even a Plan C- campsite in mind (as noted above, redundancy and prior planning is key for living that RV life!).
Justin and I also have a rule about trying not to move campsites on weekdays, in order to prevent the panic and anxiety that sets in when you arrive at a site the evening before a workday, only to discover there’s no cell service to be found. There’s been a couple times when we’ve had to stay up pretty late, driving around chasing cell coverage to make sure we have solid internet for our work in the morning.
3. Using Starlink
Starlink is the new kid on the block, a subscription service that provides you satellite internet pretty much anywhere you go, even in the most remote sections of the planet. You don’t have to worry about cell service or whether satellites service your area when you have Starlink- all you need to find is a site with clear and open skies and enough power to run the system. That’s it.
To use it, you’ll need to get Starlink’s proprietary hardware, which varies a bit by the type of subscription you sign up for, but generally consists of a compact dish that sits outside of your RV and a router that preferably sits, tucked away inside.
Starlink Subscription Plans for RVers
The main Starlink subscriptions that RVers sign up for are (at the time I’m writing this):
- Roam is a service where you can use your portable Starlink dish to get satellite internet anywhere within your given continent or anywhere in the world (for an additional fee). It can not, however, be used to get internet while in motion (e.g. when you’re dricing down the road). In motion use was previously “allowed” with this plan, however it’s been reported that Starlink can detect when it’s happened and has started preventing this for some users.
The one-time hardware costs $600 and the monthly internet costs $150 for coverage on your continent or $200 for global coverage.
- Mobility is a service where you can take your portable Starlink dish to get satellite internet anywhere in the world AND while you’re in motion. The one-time hardware costs an eye-watering $2,500 and the monthly internet subscriptions start at $250.
The hardware for this plan includes a slightly different receiver dish with no moving parts and is designed to be mounted to the roof of your rig. This is convenient to never have to pack-up and install the dish when moving from campsite to campsite, but it’s worth mentioning that we will frequently (if not most often) park somewhere that’s partially shaded and rely on our dish’s 75′ cord to get it away from our trailer and other nearby obstructions.
It’s worth mentioning that there are other Starlink subscriptions available, like for people who live on boats (if that’s you- hi, do you want to be friends?!) or even for airplanes.
While Starlink’s residential offerings are known for INCREDIBLY fast speeds, its Roam service maxes out at 5Mbps–50Mbps down. Starlink Mobility, on the other hand, may see speeds as blazing fast as 220Mbps down.
Additionally, while either of these plans will offer unlimited data, Starlink Roam is treated as being the lowest priority on the network. This means that, if you’re in an area with a lot of Starlink users, like in a city, the network will prioritize other traffic (e.g., residential users) first, which can result in slower speeds for RVers. Conversely, Starlink Mobility is considered the highest priority on the network and should work like a charm, even in the middle of a congested city (… so long as there’s a clear view of the sky!).
I’ve read a handful of tech write-ups about the pros and cons of Starlink Roam, the entry-level product that will make sense for most RVers. Most of these write-ups list the deprioritized speeds as a big con.
However, Justin and I have been exclusively using Starlink for a few months to do our pretty data-intensive jobs (e.g., uploading and downloading videos and photos and attending Zoom calls) and haven’t ever found our data speeds to be an issue. This might not be the case if you plan to camp in congested areas, like cities, (given your speeds may be noticeably lower there), but otherwise, I think most RVers should be able to get by just fine with Starlink. That is, so long as you’re okay hunting down campsites with open skies!
Power for Starlink
While Starlink is nearly foolproof, it has one potential barrier to entry that may prevent it from being an out-of-the-box solution for some RVers. The most recent combination of Starlink router and and receiver dish require AC (alternating current) power, as in, the stuff you’d find in a house wall socket. If you exclusively camp at campgrounds with electrical hookups at each site, then you can skip this section, but if you, like us, enjoy boondocking, dispersed camping, or prefer more affordable primitive sites that don’t offer utilities, keep on reading.
It’s becoming common for newer RVs to be equipped with power inverters, that invert 12v, 24v, or 48v DC (direct current) power coming from batteries, into 120v AC power that can be used for larger appliances like coffee makers, hair dryers, CPAP machines, microwaves, etc. And more increasingly, RVs are being shipped new or are retrofitted with lithium batteries (like this 100AH LiFePO4 battery that we installed in our trailer) which is the new and impressive battery chemistry on the block that’s rapidly replacing old lead-acid batteries, like the ones you’d find under the hood of your gasoline car.
But this is certainly not the case with all RVs currently on the road and may require some modifications before Starlink is an option for you.
We find that our Starlink hardware uses anywhere from 30W to 80W of power continuously when turned on, usually averaging somewhere around 50W. And that power consumption can be even higher if you enable the receiver dish’s internal heating pad which keeps snow and ice from accumulating on it in wintery conditions.
Rewiring your rig for solar, an inverter, and higher capacity batteries is way outside of the scope of this article, but there is an easy solution… generators. Just be sure that whichever one you go with has a “pure sine-wave” inverter built in, as that is essential for creating clean power for sensitive electronics like routers and laptops. In other words, the $400 Harbor Freight special will not work for powering your internet browsing needs.
We personally own the EcoFlow DELTA Pro solar generator. This is essentially a massive bank of lithium batteries on wheels with a collapsable suitcase handle that can power a Starlink setup for days without needing to be recharged. We used to travel with this in our old RV and made a whole video about our setup (see below). It’s got everything you need including a built-in 3000W inverter and, if you want to recharge it with the power of the sun, you can use solar panels, like our EcoFlow 400W portable solar panel that packs flat and takes up little space.
Alternatively, if dealing with solar panels doesn’t sound like your style, we also own and recommend the ultra quiet Honda EU3200i generator. This is a 3200W generator that runs on unleaded gasoline, can provide 30AMP service to your RV, and has the ability to power huge and power-hungry electronics like air-conditioners.
Just note that, a gas generator may not be an ideal standalone power solution for all Starlink users as it would need to be running constantly, which may not be a very efficient use of gasoline. Instead, this would be great for intermittently charging up RV setups with a modest battery and a smaller (pure sine-wave) inverter, like this one, that can be plugged into a 12v cigarette outlet.
If you follow the steps above, reliable and fast Internet from the road is totally attainable. Justin and I have lived in our trailer for hundreds of days and literally have never had an Internet issue that prevented either of us from doing our jobs (which both highly depend upon constant and reliable connectivity).
So don’t let fear of getting the Internet from campsites prevent you from living in your RV- you can do it!
How to get power while working from your RV
So now that we have your Internet squared away, the other most important factor you have to consider is how you’re going to get your electricity, so you can power your laptop and other mobile devices necessary to accomplish your job. If you have a 200 amp-hour lithium battery and simply plan on working remotely on a Friday to get your weekend started a bit earlier, you probably don’t need to worry too much about what your power situation looks like.
However, if you’re trying to figure out how to work from your RV remotely on a more long term basis or have a less powerful battery, you’ll have to consider where you’ll get your juice from.
On the power front, you have three main options: electrical hookups, a generator, or solar power.
1. Electrical Hookups
Are you willing to pay for a campsite with electrical hookups? If so, great news- that’s basically all you need to do!
Electrical hookups are awesome cuz, well, you basically don’t have to even think about your battery and can charge allll your devices to your heart’s content.
The downside to sites with hookups are their price tags (I’ve seen some campgrounds that charge $100+ a night!), you usually are surrounded by a bunch of other RVs, and just generally tend to not be quite the “getting back to nature” vibes that most RVers are going for.
If you’re a cheapo like me and prefer free or inexpensive campsites (which typically do not come with electrical hookups), you have a couple of other options:
Do you have or are you willing to buy a generator? Generators typically run on gasoline, diesel, or propane and, depending on the size of your battery, can take anywhere from about two to over ten hours to fully recharge your battery. Generators, like this one, are awesome because they’re totally portable and readily accessible whenever you need that extra power bump.
The downsides are they tend to be a not insignificant upfront cost, require buying/burning fuel for power, and tend to be pretty noisy (we’ve all been at a campground when someone was running a generator at an inappropriate time of night, amirite?).
And finally, my personal favorite- solar!
If you buy an RV with factory-installed solar panels, are willing to retrofit your trailer with them, or even get a solar-powered generator like this one, solar power is such a cool option- the panels usually just lay on top of your RV, soak up those rays, and effortlessly charge your battery!
We’ve seen people with some pretty epic solar arrays on their rigs (up to 1000 watts), but we get by just fine with the 220 watt panels that are on our trailer. The benefits of solar are, after your initial purchase, it’s totally free (i.e., you don’t have to purchase fuel for it), there’s no maintenance, and there’s no nasty smell or noise byproducts of using it (so stated another way, it’s the most eco-friendly of these option).
That being said, you still need to do some legwork with solar- you’re dependent on finding destinations with clear and sunny skies, as well as finding campsites that are unshaded. If you’re solely reliant on solar for power, it’s a good idea to have a big enough battery that can carry you through the cloudy days, given that clear skies are never a guarantee!
Okay, and now a bit of an electricity lesson. Your RV likely runs on and puts out direct current (DC) power, as opposed to the alternating current (AC) power that we typically use in our homes. The exception to this is when you’re using your RV’s inverter (if it has one), which, you guessed it, inverts DC power into AC power.
For the most efficient charging of devices with your RV’s battery, you’ll want to try sticking with using your RV’s DC power, rather than using any inverter-powered AC plugs.
So if you’re looking to conserve battery power (who isn’t?) and have a more moderately powered tablet or laptop, you may be able to find a DC-to-DC adapter that plugs into the 12-volt power outlets in your RV (similar to USB chargers you’d use in your car) that does just that.
For example, Justin uses a Microsoft Surface Pro 5 and charges it using a DC-to-DC adapter like this one. Make sure to check the wattage of your laptop and purchase an adapter that supports your particular wattage- some more power hungry laptops (like mine!) use too much power to rely on this kind of adapter.
For similar kinds of power-hog devices like mine, you’ll need to use the inverter-powered AC (we have this inverter that was factory-installed in our trailer). Using AC power from your inverter draws more power from your battery than simply using DC power, given that the electricity goes through conversions resulting in inefficiencies. This can be anywhere from 10-20% less efficient than using regular ol’ DC power, which, unfortunately, can drain smaller RV batteries pretty quickly.
Over the course of months of living in our trailer, Justin and I have figured out some great tricks to use our inverter without totally killing our battery- like primarily using it to charge up our devices while the sun is directly over our RV and relying primarily on our device’s batteries once the sun has past its peak every day. With time, you’ll figure out tricks that work for your devices and RV’s electrical configuration as well!
Between electricity (free from solar), gas, water, sewer, and waste, we spend—at most—$50 a month on utilities which is almost one TENTH what we spent on the same utilities for our previous home in Seattle. Check out our video below to learn more.
What your work set up should look like for working from your RV
RVs differ vastly in size and layout- there’s teeny teardrop trailers all the way up to Class A Motorhomes that can span 40 feet in length and have their own garages. So it’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all recommendation for what a RV workspace “should” look like- I can, however, tell you what I’ve learned is essential for the office space in our trailer.
1. Surface space:
Obviously, you’ll need a space to set up your computer and its accessories. We have a medium sized dining table at the front of our trailer that’s mounted on a Lagun mount, allowing the table to swivel lengthwise. When the table is set up in this configuration, Justin and I both have enough room at each end to set up our own workspaces.
Depending on your RV, you may have a full-fledged desk you can set your workstation up on or I’ve seen vanlifers with not much more than a small slide-out tray they can balance their laptop on. Even if you don’t have the real estate for a table or tray (like if your rig is a smaller campervan), you could use something like this stand to hold all of your computer accessories. So long as you can fit a laptop on it, you can really make do with a pretty tiny workspace!
2. Additional monitors:
When people have asked Justin and I about working remotely from our RV, one of the most popular comments we’ve been told is “I could never do that- I’m so dependent on both of my monitors for my job!” But who’s to say you can’t totally have two monitors while you’re RVing?
While hauling a big ol’ monitor around wouldn’t be very practical, we each have one of these super thin and lightweight portable monitors that easily plugs into our laptops using a single cable. These are great, given how much extra screen real estate they provide and how easy and power-efficient they are to use (they can be charged right from a USB port from your laptop!).
Given our table would be quite cramped with four monitors, we also have a lightweight adjustable laptop stand, which elevates one of ourscreens- our main laptop sits on the table, while the portable monitor goes directly above it, which frees up quite a bit of tablespace.
This also gives you the benefit of not constantly craning your neck down to stare at your laptop and allows you to have better posture than if your laptop just stayed directly on the table. And with those simple accessories- voila! Justin and I each have our own two-monitor workstations ready to go!
3. Wireless ergonomic keyboard and mouse:
If you have no space to be farting around with portable monitors and laptop stands in your rig, it’s totally fine to use your laptop’s keyboard. Otherwise, using that keyboard is generally not particularly comfortable and I’m going to be honest- working remotely from your RV is generally going to be not as ergonomic as say, working from your stand-up desk or that $2,000 fancy office chair provided by your company.
So let’s take comfort where we can get it and if you have the space for it, I’d recommend picking up a wireless ergonomic keyboard and mouse set, like this one, to use with your laptop set up to help you stay Carpal tunnel-free.
4. Comfortable chair:
This one is a bit tough, cuz, unless you’re driving around in a massive RV, chances are you probably don’t have the footprint to bring some kind of seating solution that will offer any semblance of the comfort provided by an office chair designed for someone sitting eight hours or more a day. And most of the manufacturer-built RVs that I’ve sat in (including my own) are not built to be used in that fashion and, frankly, tend to be pretty uncomfortable to sit in for any meaningful period of time.
The best advice I have is to try a variety of different seating configurations in your RV- for example, I usually oscillate between using the back support pillows that came with our trailer to prop up its seating cushions and removing them. You might want to try something like a lumbar support pillow with your RV’s seating options or maybe a backrest pillow. Eventually you’ll find something that feels like it’s not actively injuring your back- I’d consider that a win!
5. Headsets or headphones:
If you’re on calls all day like me, you’re going to want some kind of headphones or headsets to make sure you don’t sound like you’re in a tin can (… which you kinda are). If you’re on calls intermittently and don’t have to worry about overlapping calls with whoever else is living in the RV with you, you can probably get away with a lighter weight solution, like these noise-canceling earbuds (I use mine all the time and LOVE them).
If, on the other hand, there’s going to be multiple people on calls at the same time, you may want to consider getting an actual headset. For the best headsets for working remotely in an RV, I’d recommend trying to find something that’s comfortable, has a long battery life, and has noise cancellation, like these or these.
That’s all the main tools you’ll need for working on the road from your RV! Do you have any tips from your own experience? Any other burning questions you have about working from your RV? Let me know in the comments below!