Jurisdiction: Canada | 3rd party audit: Yes, by Cure53 | RAM-only servers: No | Native apps: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS | Simultaneous connections: 5 | Browser extensions: Chrome, Firefox, Opera | Advanced features: VigilantBear (Kill Switch), GhostBear (Custom Protocol), SplitBear (Split Tunneling) | Servers network: 1800 servers in 23 countries | Streaming and P2P: P2P only | Free trial: 500MB Free. Yes, ask support team
Any savvy internet user knows that a VPN is essential to protect one’s privacy online. Without a VPN your connection is not encrypted. And who knows what bad actors could gain access to your browsing history or other personal information. The fact is, a VPN is a must-have.
But there are so many options from which to choose. One slightly under-the-radar veteran option is TunnelBear. Like any option, they have plenty of strengths and weaknesses. Without further ado, here’s our TunnelBear review. We’ll give you everything you need to know to find out if TunnelBear is the right VPN for you.
TunnelBear Company Background
TunnelBear was founded in Toronto, Canada, in 2011. Their website conveys a casual culture, covered with puns and images of bears. Even the About Us section features each of the company’s executives depicted with a bear avatar. That serves to symbolize both the privacy offered users by their VPN and the laid-back nature of the company.
For the first years of their existence, TunnelBear existed on its own as a specialized small business. But in 2018, they were acquired by industry giant McAfee.
About TunnelBear Products
That’s all well and good, but what has that relaxed corporate culture actually produced for us? They offer two main products: TunnelBear VPN and RememBear password manager. Let’s take a quick look at each before diving into the details momentarily.
TunnelBear VPN is a freemium VPN service that utilizes AES-256 encryption (except for users of iOS 8 and earlier, who get AES-128). There is a free option (which maxes out at 500 MB of data per month), as well as a paid option with unlimited use and more extensive features.
RememBear is a simple and secure password management system. The system has an intuitive interface and efficiently stores all of your passwords and credit card info. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting a password and getting locked out of a system.
But you can also rest assured knowing your passwords will be safe as well. RememBear uses significant end-to-end encryption and is independently audited to ensure maximum security.
As we mentioned earlier, TunnelBear was founded in Toronto and remains based in Canada to this day. That comes with some strengths and weaknesses in terms of regulation and privacy law. Once upon a time, being based in Canada meant that TunnelBear was not suitable for torrenting, but that is no longer the case (more on that later).
Each year, TunnelBear hires an independent team of third-party experts to examine every aspect of their product, from the very code to the app interface and everything in between. Then, they publish the results on their blog.
These reports serve a variety of purposes. They give a clear picture to the customer of exactly where TunnelBear is at that moment. On the other side, they show the company precisely where they need to improve.
When it comes to VPNs, something that was cutting-edge yesterday could be obsolete and dangerous today. With TunnelBear, you can be confident that they are consistently appraising and strengthening their own weaknesses.
Overall, TunnelBear scores quite well at transparency. A VPN openly publishing their own third party reports—good and bad—is quite rare, which definitely will help TunnelBear users be more confident in their service.
TunnelBear NGO Partnership
TunnelBear has a program partnering with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) fighting for digital freedom and opposing censorship. They provide accounts to partner NGOs who offer counsel to journalists or activists fighting for a free, fair internet, and those organizations can distribute those accounts as they choose.
If you’re interested in such a partnership, contact them here.
Devices Supported by Tunnel Bear VPN
TunnelBear supports most major devices. They have streamlined apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. As mentioned, iOS 8 and earlier works with AES-128, whereas all other devices and OSs run on AES-256.
Paid accounts can use TunnelBear VPN on up to five devices simultaneously. However, each device must use a different protocol.
TunnelBear VPN Browser Extensions
If you’d rather not work within the app, TunnelBear has a free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. The extensions are multi-platform, functioning with a variety of operating services. However, it is only a proxy service rather than a full VPN.
TunnelBear Tracking Blocker for Chrome
The TunnelBear Chrome Blocker takes the standard ad blocker and brings it to new heights. It blocks ads with ease, but that’s just the beginning. It also complements the privacy-boosting features of the VPN as a whole, by blocking online tracking and other privacy-invading techniques.
There is also an unmatched level of control over what, specifically, you block. If you want to shut out everything, that’s fine, but it also gives you the option to support pro-privacy websites by allowing advertising while visiting TunnelBear’s NGO partners and sites like them.
All of this comes within an intuitive, streamlined add-on. It’s easy to use, easy to control, and delivers excellent blocking performance.
TunnelBear VPN Features
Nothing else matters if a VPN doesn’t have the features to deliver the performance you need. Is TunnelBear safe? Is it fast? Does it give you the privacy you need? Let’s take a deep dive into TunnelBear VPN’s features now.
Let’s lead off with TunnelBear’s obfuscation technology, known as GhostBear. GhostBear allows TunnelBear users to essentially use the program in “stealth mode,” concealing your use of a VPN from your ISP.
The use of obfuscation does not make your browsing any more or less secure. But if you’re operating from a location where there are restrictions on VPN use, GhostBear is an excellent feature.
Another cool feature is VigilantBear. If you’re dealing with connectivity issues—either your wifi is cutting in and out, or you are moving from one network to another—your data could be at risk of moving over an unsecured connection and leaking out.
VigilantBear protects you in these situations by acting as a killswitch. If you ever lose your VPN connection and your data ever becomes unencrypted, VigilantBear will shut down your internet connection and prevent you from losing anything. The feature is available on Windows, Mac, and Android.
Some VPNs require you to manually start them up each time you log on. With TunnelBear, simply enable the Always On feature, and it will automatically activate each time you open your internet browser. You’ll never have to worry about re-connecting, and you will always be covered.
Sometimes, a VPN user will want to connect to a server in a specific country. If that’s not the case, though, you can utilize TunnelBear’s Closest Tunnel feature to improve speed and performance.
TunnelBear has a system that determines what server would be the fastest for you while still preserving privacy. If you’re not worried about what specific country you want to connect to, just select the option labeled “fastest” in the dropdown.
That means your data travels the least distance possible, and you receive the best speed performance you can get. Closest Tunnel is available on TunnelBear Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS.
If you’re wondering how to use TunnelBear, never fear. The service is incredibly intuitive across all of its apps and extensions. If you don’t want to have to think about your VPN, simply sign up for a subscription to tunnelbear, download the app, enable the auto-on feature, and forget about it. You can browse in privacy without lifting a finger.
If you’d rather have more control, that’s available to you as well. With a simple click of a button, TunnelBear users can choose precisely what stays out, what stays in, and where they want to connect.
Tunnel Bear Servers Network
TunnelBear has more than 350 servers spread across 23 countries in North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia. Subscription holders can connect to any of these servers.
That means that rather than connecting through your own ISP, your data and web activity will work through that server, enhancing your privacy and allowing you to work around some geoblocking such as TunnelBear Netflix.
It should be noted that the free plan does not include access to the Australian servers. However, free users can still connect through the servers in the other 23 countries and four continents.
Tunnel Bear VPN for Streaming and Torrenting
Until recently, TunnelBear VPN was not suitable for torrenting largely thanks to its location in Canada. But recently, TunnelBear download reversed course and now allows for both P2P as well as access to Tor.
When it comes to streaming, though, it’s a bit of a different story. On the plus side, it performs at a speed that is perfect for quality streaming. As long as your connection is secure, you’ll almost never have to worry about lag or buffering issues with TunnelBear. Netflix users will get to watch all their favorite shows in high quality.
However, TunnelBear explicitly forbids unlocking geoblocked content on most major streaming services. That is a major perk that many people prioritize when seeking a VPN, so if that is your main goal, you may have to look elsewhere.
About RememBear Password Manager
We’ve talked a lot about TunnelBear VPN, but that’s not all TunnelBear has to offer. If you’re interested in internet security and privacy, you don’t just need a VPN. You should also consider a password manager. With TunnelBear, you can get both in one place, as they offer a password manager service called RememBear in addition to TunnelBear VPN.
RememBear is available for Mac, Windows, Android and iOS. It stores logins, credit card information, and even secure notes that require protection. It can help you log in to sites faster by autofilling usernames and passwords. And it can help you check out faster by storing and autofilling payment information.
You’re also able to store one time 2FA codes, and the system will help you generate new passwords that are easy to remember and hard for intruders to guess. It also offers support for fingerprint and face ID. RememBear syncs all stored information across each device supported by your account.
It seems clear that RememBear is incredibly convenient. But is it secure? The last thing you want is a password manager that can’t successfully protect your passwords. Thankfully, RememBear uses AES 256 encryption. Further, it’s independently audited, and featured in the same transparency report as TunnelBear VPN.
TunnelBear is what is often described as a “freemium” product. That means it has a free option, along with paid pricing tiers that offer more comprehensive performance.
The TunnelBear free version offers most of what the paid service provides, but with a handful of key restrictions. Most notably, users only get 500 MB of VPN data per month. If you would only be using a VPN here and there, it’s likely you’ll get everything you need with the free version.
Free users get access to hundreds of servers spread across 23 countries in North America, South America, Asia, and Europe.
Tunnel Bear Pricing Options
If you’re fine with the above limitations, you should stick to the TunnelBear’s free version. However, if you want access to everything TunnelBear VPN has to offer, you should explore TunnelBear’s pricing options.
The full version has several subscription options. Check them out here:
- The monthly plan will cost you $9.99 per month. It renews each month automatically, so if you want to cancel, you’ll need to actively do so.
- The yearly plan costs $59.88 per year, which averages out to $4.99 per month.
- Finally, you have the two year plan, which is by far the best value per month. It costs $79.92 for two years, which averages out to $3.33 per month.
TunnelBear once offered a 30-day money-back guarantee, but that is no longer the case. All purchases are non-refundable.
TunnelBear offers a fantastic student discount, providing students with 70% off of the two-year plan. Simply register with Student Beans to verify your status as a student, and you can secure these significant savings.
Tunnel Bear for Teams
Another specifically-tailored plan is TunnelBear’s Teams tier. This option goes above and beyond standard VPN services, offering a comprehensive system tailored for organization-wide use.
The model protects users’ entire teams when they’re using public wifi. That is incredibly valuable; anyone sharing that public wifi network with your team can intrude on their data and steal your organization’s information. TunnelBear Teams helps mitigate that risk.
It offers proactive alerts when team members connect to less-secure networks, full-device AES-256 encryption, and an excellent team-management interface. The intuitive UI allows you to manage your team with ease, controlling billing information, adding or removing users and admins, viewing invoices and more all from one centralized location.
TunnelBear for Teams has a sliding cost scale depending on the size of your organization. For three-person teams, it costs $207 per year. On the high end, if you have 199 members, it costs $13,731 per year. Both these prices were accurate at time of publication; keep in mind that they may change.
NordVPN vs TunnelBear
Let’s get down to Brass Tacks. You’ve heard a bit about what TunnelBear brings to the table. But how does it stack up against an industry standard?
NordVPN has become one of the most prominent VPNs on the market in recent years, thanks to their excellent connection speeds and array of privacy features. But which one is more suited to your needs? Let’s take a look at NordVPN vs TunnelBear, category by category, so you can make the best possible decision.
Jurisdiction and Privacy Laws
NordVPN is based in Panama, which has excellent privacy laws. TunnelBear, based in Canada, is required to keep logs for one month at a time.
NordVPN gets the win when it comes to Jurisdiction and Privacy Laws.
TunnelBear truly sets the standard for transparency within the VPN industry. The fact that they not only conduct independent third-party evaluations of their programs, but publish the results of those reviews is nearly unprecedented, and NordVPN does not match them here.
TunnelBear gets the win for transparency.
NordVPN has one-month, one-year, and two-year options, all of which come in slightly more expensive than the equivalent options for TunnelBear. NordVPN also doesn’t have a free option, as opposed to TunnelBear.
TunnelBear gets the edge in this category.
As we mentioned, TunnelBear certainly has the speed for high-quality streaming but isn’t suitable for eluding geoblocking. That is due in part to its jurisdiction, and TunnelBear makes it clear from the beginning that this isn’t something they do.
Meanwhile, this is one of NordVPN’s greatest strengths. They unblock Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, and BBC iPlayer, among others. NordVPN is in a league of its own when it comes to streaming, and if this is your priority they should absolutely be your choice.
NordVPN is the clear winner when it comes to streaming.
Here’s a category that had a surprise winner. NordVPN has a great reputation for connection speed, and they do indeed perform well in this area. They can handle HD streaming and is capable of downloading files relatively quickly.
But TunnelBear has download speeds more than double those of NordVPN. And is the only one of the two that can stream in 4K.
TunnelBear is the winner in terms of connection speed.
Security is one of the most important features of any VPN. In the end, if a VPN can’t protect your privacy and your data, it’s not worth much.
Thankfully, both TunnelBear and NordVPN are more than up to the task here. They both utilize AES-256 encryption, have kill switch protection, and DNS Leak protection. NordVPN has SSTP and L2TP/IPSec encryption, which TunnelBear lacks. But TunnelBear has GhostBear, a stealth mode feature that conceals your VPN usage.
Overall, security is a draw.
This feature is close, but NordVPN has the edge. NordVPN allows for up to six simultaneous connections, whereas TunnelBear includes up to five.
NordVPN gets the win for simultaneous connections.
For a more detailed comparison, check our article NordVPN vs TunnelBear.
Other Free TunnelBear VPN Alternatives
Now you know how TunnelBear stacks up against arguably the most prominent VPN on the market today. But NordVPN does not have a free option. If TunnelBear doesn’t seem like the option for you, but you don’t want to pay for a VPN, here are some more free options that each offer something TunnelBear doesn’t.
ProtonVPN is a free VPN service based in Switzerland. ProtonVPN is similar to TunnelBear in a lot of ways, focusing on privacy and fighting internet censorship.
Windscribe is a VPN and free browser extension that combines to encrypt browsing activity, block ads, and unlock geoblocked content. Obviously the latter feature is one area where TunnelBear lacks.
Finally, Speedify is a VPN that focuses on speed and performance. They are the only VPN that uses channel bonding to make your connection as fast as possible.
Overall, TunnelBear is a VPN that, while imperfect, truly excels in certain very important areas. Their commitment to transparency is unmatched in the industry, posting annual letters revealing the results of their third-party audits—both good and bad.
Meanwhile, they utilize excellent AES-256 encryption and have some of the best connection speeds in the game, easily handling 4K streaming.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear is not suitable for unlocking geoblocked streaming content. This weaknesses will be deal-breakers for many VPN shoppers.
But they’re just about the only one significant weaknesses TunnelBear has to its name. If those areas aren’t priorities for you, TunnelBear is a VPN that you should certainly consider.