TunnelBear is a well-known brand among VPN users.
Is it a good choice when compared to the other VPNs out there?
How does it stack up when it comes to pricing, speed, torrenting, streaming, and other factors? I’ve taken a look at all the data to bring you a solid overview of TunnelBear.
Ready? Let’s get started…
What is TunnelBear
|OVERALL RANK:||#29th out of 74 VPNs|
|LOG FILES:||No Logging|
|ENCRYPTION:||OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2|
|COST:||$4.99 (free version comes at 500mb data cap)|
TunnelBear is a provider of both free and paid VPNs.
It’s been around since 2011, when it was founded by Ryan Dochuk (Corporate Bear) and Daniel Kaldor (Quantum Bear).
Between the two of them, they have experience working at Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, RIM, and a mobile security startup. So they’ve certainly done their time in the tech world.
The company is based in Toronto, though their VPN servers spread throughout 20 other countries around the world, including servers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
TunnelBear Pros +
1. No Logging
TUNNELBEAR EXPLICITLY DOES NOT COLLECT, STORE OR LOG THE FOLLOWING DATA:
- IP addresses visiting our website
- IP addresses upon service connection
- DNS Queries while connected
- Any information about the applications, services or websites our users use while connected to our Service
That’s great news for privacy-conscious users. It means that they aren’t selling any of your data, and that when law enforcement comes knocking, they don’t have anything interesting to give them.
They will hand over the personal information they’ve collected, as is required by Canadian law (like WindScribe), which TunnelBear is subject to. (Canada is not a good jurisdiction for a VPN provider)
They don’t store your full credit card number, though they can access it through their PCI-compliant payment partners.
2. Free Plan & Works on Multiple Devices
It’s capped at 500mb (only), though.
I always like seeing a free plan for VPN services. It lets you try everything out without committing any of your money—and that’s really useful.
Even though TunnelBear’s free plan is very small, it lets you check out the app and do a few speed tests on your own. I think that’s definitely a count in favor of the provider.
Tunnelbear is all about making VPN use as easy and accessible as possible. They provide streamlined apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. There’s also a browser extension for both Chrome and Opera, and a tracker-blocking extension that compliments all of their services (or can be used on its own).
3. Extremely Safe and Secure
Of course, no matter how cheap the VPN, you need to know that it’s safe.
Tunnelbear uses industry-standard OpenVPN encryption on Windows, Mac, and Android devices.
OpenVPN is a recommend option by default.
Recent iOS versions get IPSec/IKEv2, and older versions get IPSec (not recommended).
All in all, it’s the encryption you’d expect.
These are strong encryption protocols; OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 provide 256-bit AES protection, while the IPSec protocol offers still-respectable 128-bit AES encryption. The US government uses 256-bit AES encryption for secure data, so you can trust that this is a solid protocol.
The service also provides strong data authentication and secure Diffie-Hellman key exchange to ensure that you’re connecting to a TunnelBear server and not a nefarious man-in-the-middle miscreant.
One of the cool services that TunnelBear provides is called VigilantBear—this feature protects you while you’re connecting and disconnecting. If your wifi drops, or you move between access points, there’s the possibility that some of your data will go out over an unsecured connection. VigilantBear prevents that from happening (acts as a kill-switch).
In January 2017, Hackernoon took a deep dive into the TunnelBear code to see what they could find. You can read the entire breakdown if you like, but it gets quite technical. In short, they didn’t find any notable vulnerabilities or surprises. They were even impressed that TunnelBear includes functionality to detect both DNS and IPv6 leaks, which is great for protecting your privacy.
TunnelBear hasn’t had any big leaks or evidence of their encryption being cracked. All signs point to the fact that TunnelBear is extremely safe to use.
One thing to note is that the Diffie-Hellman key exchange method may have some flaws. While the desktop, Android, and iOS 9+ VPNs use 2,048-bit DH groups, which are considered safe, older versions of iOS use a 1,024-bit DH group. And it’s possible that some powerful nation-level attackers could be able to compromise that key exchange.
4. Nice Features
TunnelBear comes together with some great features, such as:
- Anonymous IP
- Kill-Switch (VigilantBear)
- 5 Simultaneous Connections
Some websites are blocking traffic that appears to be coming from a VPN. It’s annoying, and a constant battle between VPN providers and those websites to gain the advantage.
For example, I found out that TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature does its best to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. This will fool some businesses and governments, but not all.
Before you use GhostBear, it’s a good idea to see if you can connect to the site you want via the standard TunnelBear connection. If you can’t, it’s worth trying GhostBear. Hiding the fact that you’re using a VPN will slow down your connection a bit, so I don’t recommend leaving it on all the time.
5. Easy to Use
TunnelBear’s mission is to make VPN usage easy for everyone.
And in my opinion, they’ve certainly done that. The app is extremely simple and easy to use. It may not provide all the advanced settings you want from a high-end VPN, but if you’re just getting started with encrypted browsing, it makes the process much easier.
By default, it only shows you what you need to see: where you are, the tunnel you’re using, and where you appear to be browsing from.
There are additional settings you can find, but if you don’t want to dig into them, you can just enjoy the simple, clean interface.
The browser extensions are the same; just turn them on and leave them alone. It doesn’t get much easier than this.
6. Independently Audited for Security
There’s been a lot of bad press for some VPNs over the past few years. Bandwidth selling, logging data, overstated security… it all erodes confidence in VPNs. That’s why TunnelBear has an independent organization audit their VPN for security.
This is a rather rare thing in the industry, and it takes a lot of humility for TunnelBear to give it a shot. They published the results of the audit, and you can read them online.
TunnelBear says that they’re content with the results, and you can bet that they’re using them to improve their service. This isn’t the fastest VPN out there, but it’s doing its best to become one of the most secure. And that’s worth a lot.
TunnelBear Cons –
1. Speed Problems (Slow)
This is likely to be a primary consideration for many users. Unfortunately, I had quite poor results with TunnelBear when it comes to speed testing.
Some users have reported good download speeds, but in our test, my 100 Mbps connection dropped down to 52.26 Mbps when I was using the EU servers.
That’s a huge drop.
Here are some of the results that I achieved with a 100mb connection:
US Server (New York)
- Ping: 120ms
- Download: 33.38 Mbps
- Upload: 15.04 Mbps
EU Server (Amsterdam)
- Ping: 39ms
- Download: 52.26 Mbps
- Upload: 27.20 Mbps
Asia Server (Hong Kong)
- Ping: 345ms
- Download: 7.54 Mbps
- Upload: 2.63 Mbps
UK Server (London)
- Ping: 44ms
- Download: 50.10 Mbps
- Upload: 48.36 Mbps
As you can see, the best download speeds were only half of what I was expecting for my non-VPN connection. And while you should always expect to lose some speed, that’s a significant drop that will likely affect your browsing experience.
These speeds are probably fast enough for streaming—at least on the non-Hong-Kong servers. But you will likely get increased load times and might have to wait longer for buffering to complete.
While these certainly aren’t the worst speeds, we’re listing them in cons here, because there are cheaper services that will get you better speeds, such as ExpressVPN.
2. No Netflix
Unfortunately, Netflix is getting better all the time at blocking VPNs. They’ve successfully blocked many larger VPN providers (including PIA) with more servers in more places around the world, so frankly, TunnelBear didn’t really stand a chance.
It’s possible that GhostBear could unblock Netflix, but in the constant bear-and-mouse game, Netflix is likely to win. They just have too much money to throw at the problem.
If you need a VPN for Netflix, here’s a list of top 100% working VPNs for Netflix.
3. No Torrenting
Lots of people use VPNs for torrenting, both for added security and for keeping their ISPs from snooping on what they’re doing.
But TunnelBear doesn’t support torrents. They just flat out say no.
That doesn’t mean this couldn’t change in the future, but as of now, you won’t be torrenting with TunnelBear.
4. No Router Installation
TunnelBear doesn’t support installing its VPN software directly on your router. If you weren’t planning on doing this anyway, it’s no big deal. But if you’re considering using a VPN this way for the increased protection and ease of use, you’ll need to find another provider.
It’s possible that there are ways to get around TunnelBear’s prohibition. But it’s easier when the provider just supports what you’re trying to do.
5. Support via Tickets Only
TunnelBear’s support team isn’t bad… they’re just not as easy to get a hold of as we’d like. For example, there’s no live chat option to get in touch with the Support Bears. There’s no phone number you can call, either. You have to email the support team. Which means you could be waiting a while for an answer on a busy day.
Note: TunnelBear for Teams, the business side of TunnelBear, does offer priority support. So if you’re looking at TunnelBear to secure the connections for your team or company, this will be less of an issue.
TunnelBear Pricing, Plans & Facts
Tunnelbear’s pricing and plans are as simple as their app:
It’s always good to see a free option, as you can use that to test out the app and the service. It’s only 500 MB per month, but that’s enough to give you an idea of the speeds you might see and the service’s ease of use.
The first paid plan, Giant, will run you $9.99 per month for unlimited data.
The biggest plan, Grizzly (which, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t include laser eyes) is an annual plan, so you’ll pay $59.88 up front for 12 months of unlimited VPN service.
On each plan, you can use up to five devices protected. So if you’re looking for a VPN that will cover your whole family, TunnelBear is a good bet.
As far as VPNs go, this is a cheap one. It’s tough to beat 60 bucks for a year of unlimited data, yet NordVPN has done it.
However, it’s worth mentioning that TunnelBear doesn’t offer any refunds (money back guarantee). Instead, they let you use their free version.
- No logging: Yes.
- Ease of the VPN software: Their app is quite simple and straight-forward.
- Hidden fees & clauses: No refunds.
- Upsells: No upsells.
- Instant access after payment: Yes.
- DNS leaks: None.
- Jurisdiction: Canada
- Protocols: OpenVPN, IPSec and IKEv2
- Kill-switch: Yes.
Do I Recommend TunnelBear?
So is TunnelBear worth using?
It depends on what you need a VPN for.
If you just want something to protect your privacy while you browse without getting in your way with complicated options and interfaces, it’s a great choice.
You might suffer a bit on the speed side, but there’s no disputing that it’s very easy to use and does offer solid security.
But if you need more than that, you’ll probably want to choose another VPN. If you want options and customization beyond what’s offered here, for example. Or if you want to stream or torrent. These are pretty common things that people use VPNs for, but TunnelBear doesn’t support them.
If you need a safe, all-around VPN, you’d be much better off with ExpressVPN.
The lack of torrenting/streaming support and the lackluster speed mean I can’t recommend this as a go-to for everyone.
If you only need—and want to pay for—the basics, TunnelBear is for you. If not, you should check out one of the other top VPNs.