Using Starlink While Camping

Does using Starlink at camp degrade the experience of camping? Would it be better to have no connectivity at camp? We share our perspectives on traveling with Starlink and how t changed our experience for the better and worse.

Using Starlink While Camping
Using Starlink at our dispersed campsite

Buying a Starlink was a bit of an impulse purchase. It wasn't something I had planned to buy. I signed up for the Starlink waitlist a few months before. But it was more about having a ready option than about committing to purchasing. As a lifelong learner, I am always curious to try out what's next to develop an opinion for myself. And then Startlink RV was announced in May 2022, an official plan for Starlink to use it from anywhere with Starlink coverage without the hassle and ambiguity of changing service addresses with every new location. At the same time, Val and I had about to leave for a summer-long roadtrip. And while we didn't anticipate needing always-on coverage, traveling through remote places we've learned that cellular data coverage can be sparse. So we thought it might be helpful to have Starlink with us to help during our trip. So when the email arrived with an offer to buy Starlink RV we said yes!

Part of acquiring a new piece of gear is figuring out when and how to use it. And that’s been true for Starlink as well. During the first weeks of our trip, we figured out how to store and transport it making a DIY storage case. We figured out how to set it up, where to point it, and what conditions provided the best connectivity. We learned how to power Starlink using our camper's solar panels and batteries.  And we even made a DIY tripod adapter that's much smaller and easier to store than the standard stand. But one thing that wasn't so easy to figure out was when to use Starlink and when to turn it off. Not turning it off to save power but turning it off to enjoy being disconnected without the distraction of the internet whispering “Come check out this and check out that and get lost in the internet”. One of my favorite things about adventure, travel, and camping is getting away from the modernity, responsibility, and routine of daily life. And the internet is a large part of what I like getting away from. I love the internet in balance, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

I often relish being disconnected and having no cell phone signal. I relish carrying an inReach but knowing it’s really only enough connectivity to say “We’re safe for the night” or “We need help”. With the addition of Starlink, we have to decide when to setup it up and when to flip the inverter switch to on or off. After some experimentation,  we learned that one of our favorite features of our Starlink is the ability to turn it off.

Using Starlink at camp

A few years ago I was volunteering on a Historicorps trip to rehabilitate the Alamosa Guard Station. After each long day of hard sweaty work restoring and repairing years of damage to the historic structure, our crew sat around the evening campfire enjoying dinner and each other's company. We’d talk about this and that and often someone would say “I’ll have to Google that when I'm back home”. This happened so often that many of us started keeping actual lists of things to Google later. In the years since then, I have found myself making lists of things to Google the next time I have connectivity. I often find myself finding a few minutes of connectivity at a gas station or brewery checking one or two of these off my list. Checking the weather. Downloading new maps. Making a quick reservation. Or researching an upcoming hike.

And so Val and I found ourselves making similar lists during our summer trip. When we got to a campsite with a clear view of the sky for Starlink, I'd ask myself and Val "Do we need internet?". And if so, I'd set up Starlink, set a 60-minute timer, and say "Internet hour has begun". Internet hour is when we intentionally use our Starlink. Val and I then do our thing. We research this or chat about that. We upload a few photos. We check our email. To other people, we probably look like zombies lost on our screens. And then after about an hour, I check in with myself and Val. When the timer goes off, I ask “Do you need more time?”. And if we're done, I flip the switch off and put Starlink away if we'll be moving the next day.

When internet hour is over, it’s time to be here and now. Here with this place. Here with each other. Here with the people we're traveling with or the people around us. Having a Starlink doesn’t mean always-on connectivity, at least not for us. Starlink is a tool for connectivity. It's a tool I love. But it's also my choice when to use Starlink and when to put it away. And while I love having Starlink with us on our adventures, I also love having an off switch.

See you out there,