Every vanlifer or overlander will someday face the inevitable, a lifeless car that won’t crank and start.

Maybe you forgot the light turned on all day, or you let the radio play all night and forgot to switch the power from your main car battery to the auxiliary. Well if that happens, you might need some help to boost the car or to get it towed. If you are in the city, that’s no big deal, but stranded in the middle of nowhere, with poor cell service, that’s a different story. So is there a way to have that extra safety or insurance so no matter where you are, you’ll be able to communicate with someone to reach out for help? Well maybe, and the weBoost Drive Reach may just be the closest contender for that job.

The weBoost Drive Reach is a cellular signal amplifier, that will use the already existing signal, or weak signal, and boost up to 32 times. Just like a regular city like signal would be, but off the grid. 

So obviously, do not expect it to give you a signal where there is absolutely nothing. We’re not reviewing magical stuff here! Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed, right? But can it still assist in getting cleaner and more constant calls, or help us work remotely? Let’s find out. 

First, this is what you get in the weBoost Drive Reach bundle.

  • The signal booster
  • The outside antenna
  • The inside antenna
  • The power supply 

When you first open the box, it could seem a little intricate to install because there is quite a lot of cables to run, but once you’ve decided where to put it, it becomes pretty simple.

You will have to find a way to take the outside antenna and mount it on the top of your car. It’s easy for people who already have cables run out for solar panels for instance, but maybe a little tricky for a regular car, or if you don’t have holes drilled in the roof. You could also simply take the antenna out the window, or through the door trim. 

For the stuff that stays inside the van/car, it’s quite more simple. Find a place to put the booster, stick the inside antenna on a wall or cabinet that will be accessible and ideally, 3 feet away from where you will be using your phone or laptop. Then, run the power supply cable from your power bank, or a regular 12v car outlet. 

Now, this is how it works. The outside antenna reaches out for a signal coming from the cell tower and will send it to the booster. Then, the booster will amplify the signal, and drive it through the inside antenna. This one is the one that gives you a good signal. 

Now to test it 

So I tried the booster out on a mountain biking/camping trip up in the Vallée Bras-du Nord, a beautiful region about an hour away from Quebec City. Usually, this place has a very weak cell signal, but with the weBoost Drive Reach, I was able to have a better constant signal on my cellphone. Enough to send text messages, which I usually wouldn’t be able in the same location. As I said, it’s not going to give you a signal if there is nothing to start with, but it certainly helps with the flow and consistency of the signal. It won’t give you more bars on your cellphone, but you will see the difference in the upload and download speeds. I tested it with an app on my cellphone, and here are a few numbers. 

  • In the Valley:
    • With the booster
      • Download –  2.19mbps
      • Upload – 2.34mps
    • Without the booster
      • Download – 0.61mbps
      • Upload – 0.02mbps
  • Downtown Quebec City:
    • With the booster
      • Download – 42.5mbps
      • Upload – 4.02mbps
    • Without the booster
      • Download – 25.4mbps
      • Upload – 4.51mbps

So as you can see, the booster is definitely helping when the signal almost isn’t there. You’re not getting incredible numbers, but still. And even in the city, the booster is still helping us achieve much better speeds as well.

Rating : 7/10 

Price : 699$ CAD / $499.99 USD (for the weBoost Drive Reach bundle) 

Conclusion

700$ seems a little expensive for a signal booster. Is it worth the purchase? Maybe. If you are a person who likes to stay an extra few days out in the wild, in a location where the signal is weak but existing, and you need that extra power so you can work remotely and still send light files and communicate with the main world, I would say yes. The weBoost will be a friendly tool to add to your home on wheels. Otherwise, I would suggest driving the extra miles to get to where the signal actually works. 

**All text and photos provided by Paul Dussault**