Computers

Laptop computers are a great addition to a camper van or motorhome, especially for longer trips. With your laptop you can watch DVDs, listen to music, watch television (with an adapter), browse photographs from a digital camera, write notes and send emails. It is possible to use your mobile phone to connect to the Internet and send emails when traveling, although this can be expensive. You can also make use of WiFi, which is available in more and more places each day. Laptops use a reasonable amount of power. If you are connected to a mains power supply, such as in a campsite, then you will have no problems. If you have a 12 volt power system then you will either need to plug your laptop into an inverter, or use a 12 volt adapter. Inverters are inefficient at converting energy, and a 12 volt laptop adapter is a better idea. If your laptop computer has a DVD player you should be able to use the built in software to watch DVDs. It is now possible to buy television adapters for laptop computers. The television adapter is normally a USB device that once plugged in, allows you to watch television on the laptop. Analog and Digital television versions are available. They normally come with a small aerial, which you may want to upgrade.

WiFi

WiFi is a wireless system that allows computers with a WiFi adapter to connect to a WiFi access point or router. Once the laptop is connected to the access point or router the laptop can use the Internet. WiFi is available in more and more places. More and more campsites are offering WiFi. There are many cafes and bars in urban areas that offer free WiFi access to all customers. Many libraries offer free WiFi access also. There are several places where you can pay for WiFi access.

Free WiFi access

There are an increasing number of locations offering free WiFi access. This makes carrying your own laptop computer a good option. Some cafes, bars and fast food restaurants offer free WiFi access with a purchase. Some campsites also offer free WiFi. An increasing number of libraries offer free access. It is possible to find many unsecured WiFi signals in urban areas. Secured signals will not allow you to connect without the appropriate key. However an unsecured one will generally allow anyone to connect. If you park in a town centre or outside of an apartment block then you will normally be able to receive many different signals.

Note: It is generally illegal to use someone’s WiFi connection without their permission.

Increasing your WiFi reception

If your laptop has a built in WiFi adapter then you may find you have limited reception whilst in your vehicle. This is because the vehicle is mainly made of metal or solid materials and the WiFi signal cannot pass through to the interior. Sitting in the glass cab area can improve your reception, but please be security aware. I recommend not letting anyone know you have a laptop in your vehicle. If you have an external WiFi USB adapter you will find plugging the adapter into a USB extension lead will allow you to place the adapter, which has the aerial built in, at locations around the van, such as higher up or near a window. This will allow improved signal reception. An even better choice is one of the new Belkin and similar adapters which have an extended range. I have tried one these and it works well, receiving signals the built-in WiFi adapter cannot.

Paid WiFi access

Some Internet cafes offer paid WiFi access, whereby for a fee you are allowed access to their network.

Laptop tips

If you use an email client program to receive and send your emails (such as Outlook or Outlook Express) then you can compose and reply to emails without being online. Then, when you go online your ready to send emails are sent, and new emails are delivered to your inbox. This can greatly reduce the amount of time you actually need to be online. You can spend as much time as you like composing and replying to emails whilst parked in your vehicle.

Shopping guide

The cheapest place to buy computers and computer accessories is online. If you are not sure what to buy you should consult a friend who does, or a high street store. Below are some websites that we recommend for buying laptop computers

UK

  • Amazon.co.uk – The worlds biggest online retailer. Lots of choice, great value, probably the safest place to buy online.
  • ebuyer.com – Probably the UKs best and cheapest supplier of computers and parts

International

  • The Wifi Shop – Supplier of long range Wifi solutions suitable for camper vans and motorhomes.
  1. Watt consumption on laptops
    One thing to consider when buying a laptop are the electrisity consumption.
    I have solar panels, and most of the year I use only 12v, with a 2000w 220v converter for boiler, stove, microwave etc., but of course I have to keep an eye on usage, and all lights inside are LEDs.
    But, my 15″ laptop use 75w/6A while charging on 12v or 220v.
    And the batteries holds just 2,5 hour, so most of the time it was connected to a charger while in use.
    So I bought a new Asus Eee 10″ that use only 10-12w/0,8-1,0A.
    That is ca. 6 times less than the 15″!
    Yes, its a much smaller screensize…
    What I did was to buy a fantastic:) small pocket-projector at Clas Ohlson for those evening I wanted to go to the “cinema” while wildcamping:)
    Works great, with screensize up to 150″, and use close to nothing electrisity since its a LED-projector.
    Also rechargeable batteries inside that lasts 2-3 hours.
    Why not get a smartphone or a small tablet-pc to carry around. Send mail, dnld news, and with a Skype-account call “free” when you find a wifi-connection.
    Then get a sun-charger for mobiles?
    I´ll stop here:)

    Reply

  2. safe place for laptop
    Hi Darren,
    My 17 year old daughter, husband and I will be leaving from L.A. on July 11 for a YEAR of camper vanning in Europe! I wondered about laptops and thieves. How do you hide or secure yours in the van? Thank you for your time, Diane P.S. We are thinking of renting from tour-europe.de. Do you know anything about his company? The website looks good and we’ve made contact. He rents Westys. Thanks again.

    Reply

    1. Wow, sounds like an exciting
      Wow, sounds like an exciting trip.
      With my laptop, I never let anyone see it. So I only use it inside, with the door closed.
      When leaving the vehicle I store the laptop away where it cannot be easily found.

      You cant stop determined thieves, but you can make it harder for opportunist thieves.

      Reply

      1. Thieves
        You´re absolutely right, you cant stop them, but you can make it harder for them…
        Most of them are so stressed, they dont take time to go trough the whole vehicle.
        They mostly just take whatever are laying around, easy to grab. Thats why its a good idea to leave an old wallet with just a little money and some old creditcards in eyesight. Also 2-3 cds and a bottle of wine/vodka, cigarettes or whatever, somewhere easy accessible. All you want is that they leave without ruining anything, so just “give” them something so they feel the breakin was worth it.
        I have two bolted safes hidden away, one for cameras and one for laptops, and IF they find them, they will have to use a long time to break them up/loosening them and steal them.
        By the way, its a good idea to leave a small radio on when you leave the car 🙂
        They find another car if they think anybody is home.
        And of course, an alarm are very effective. I have one, that among other things sends me an sms to my mobile if someone breaks in. Even simply an alarmsign/decal in the window with a blinking LED can be effective.
        I now also consider a GPS-tracker…
        After all, its my home, and wont be easy to find if stolen. I absolutely prefer to use a small amount of money on security, than all the trouble afterwards if something happen.

        Reply

  3. cellular data
    cellular data plans have become into acceptable price ranges also in recent years. making them work with your laptop is a bit more technically challenging than turning the wifi switch.
    my recent experiences: in greece, it’s €19/week; in italy it was €30/month; in my home contry estonia, it is €1/day or €20/mo.

    Reply

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