TunnelBear is one of the best user-friendly experiences you'll find in a VPN. They may not have the biggest server network or the largest features list. But, their servers do have good consistent speed, their software is super simple to use, customer support is helpful, and their no-logging policy is as clear as can be. Especially if you're a VPN beginner, don't overlook TunnelBear.
- Consistent server speeds
- Strong encryption
- Clear, independently audited no-logging policy
- Very user-friendly software
- Free version (limited to 500 MB per month)
- Few advanced features
- Does not work with Netflix or other streaming services
- Very small server network
- No chat support
Unlike just about every other VPN provider, TunnelBear does not make any public claims about good server performance. Though, after my latest round of speeds tests, I’m confident they could – at least on the downstream side of things.
In pretty much every location I tested, download speeds are fast enough to make just about anyone happy. They’re incredibly consistent too. That, to me, is a sign of good network management and server load balancing.
The only result that is unlike the others is Australia. I will run another test there soon and update this article if the results improve. But, for the time being, if Australia is where you’d like to connect to, you may want to look elsewhere. PureVPN’s speed tests gave the best results in that part of the world.
Going in the other direction, while TunnelBear’s upload performance was just as consistent, it was far from inspiring. The vast majority of us care about downloads, and therefore, this probably isn’t a huge issue. But, if you tend to send large files often, on average, NordVPN offers the fastest speeds there.
One thing to keep in mind with my tests is that I use a very quick internet connection. It’s intentionally fast enough so that no VPN provider can match it. Testing this way lets us see the true maximum speeds of every server.
As such, the numbers you get may not be as good as the ones I do. If your internet connection download caps out at 30 Mbps, it’s just not possible to see VPN speeds in the 60 Mbps range. In that case, I would expect numbers just south of 25 Mbps.
Below are the TunnelBear speed test results for the seven locations most commonly connected to by VPN users. I have also included the results for what the client app considered to be my best server (i.e., the server which should theoretically give me the best performance).
And if you’re curious how TunnelBear fares against other providers, please check out my comparison of the fastest VPNs on the site’s homepage.
Few VPN companies have better name recognition than TunnelBear. They’ve been around since 2011, making it one of the early pioneers of consumer VPN products, and a trusted name in the industry.
The company was founded in Toronto, Canada by Daniel Kaldor and Ryan Dochuk, two tech industry veterans. Both came into the venture with years of experience in the technology sector, including stints at Microsoft and Research in Motion. In 2018, TunnelBear joined forces with McAffee, lending even more heft to its name.
Privacy and Security
One of the things most of us VPN users expect from our provider is a guarantee of our privacy. TunnelBear provides precisely that, in great detail and clear language. They spell out exactly what data they collect, why, and for what they’re using it.
TunnelBear does NOT store users’ originating IP addresses when connected to our service and thus cannot identify users when provided IP addresses of our servers. Additionally, we cannot disclose information about the applications, services, or websites our users consume while connected to our Services; as TunnelBear does NOT store this information.
Making privacy statements and following them are two separate things. And many VPN providers (sadly) do not like to play by their own rules. Not so with TunnelBear. They’re one of only a handful of providers that undergo an annual independent security audit and then publishes the results for everyone to see. Surfshark’s audit is the only other well-known instance of a VPN provider doing this.
Aside from good privacy, TunnelBear also offers state-of-the-art security. We’re talking 256-bit AES encryption over the OpenVPN or IPsec/IKEv2 protocols (depending on the platform you’re using).
Encryption strength wise that makes TunnelBear as close to bulletproof as possible with today’s encryption technology. You can feel pretty darn confident nobody will ever have the ability to have a peek at your data.
But, why settle there. TunnelBear takes it even a step further and offers a feature known as GhostBear. Its purpose is to disguise VPN traffic in a way that makes it difficult for any ISP to detect it in the first place. This technology takes your security and privacy to a whole other level.
One of TunnelBear’s claim to fame is that they’re one of the few major VPN providers to offer a free tier of service. You’re allowed up to 500 MB of traffic per account each month at no charge.
That is, of course, not a lot of data. And for any more serious VPN usage (like video streaming or downloading), you’ll want to invest in their paid tier. However, in a pinch, 500 MB is enough to keep you protected (when, for example, using public Wi-Fi).
Unlike most free VPN solutions, however, TunnelBear does not support their free tier though advertising or other user-unfriendly activities. So, as a free user, you’re not forced to compromise on your privacy. You can even double your traffic limit if you’re willing to tweet about your experience with the software.
There are, of course, plenty of other features both free and paid users of the service get.
TunnelBear’s name for a kill switch, it cuts off all traffic from your device if the VPN connection drops. If you’re concerned with the accidental release of data or IP leaks, this functionality will help prevent those.
The TunnelBear software gives you the ability to let it manage to where you connect. Based on background knowledge only it’s aware of (like server load and network congestion), it will pick a server that will give you the best speeds.
TunnelBear offers clients for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android, as well as browser plugins for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. In all cases, their software runs fast and is some of the most user-friendly I’ve seen.
Although not explicitly advertised, TunnelBear does support BitTorrent and other P2P file sharing protocols on all its servers.
In an example of no news being good news, TunnelBear doesn’t have many restrictions. They don’t actively block traffic and don’t throttle network speeds. There are just two limits of which to be aware.
One, TunnelBear only allows up to five devices to be connected at the same time. But, for most of us, that is plenty. The only other limit applies to free tier users. As one, you’re limited to 500MB of data per month.
TunnelBear’s customer support is responsive, as far as VPN providers go. They do guarantee a response from their support department within 48 hours of submitting an issue. In reality, however, you can expect an answer in two hours or less. That, at least, has been my experience.
There is no live chat available, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most of us. The Tunnel Bear representatives I’ve dealt with all answered questions via email in great detail and with easy-to-follow steps. They’re also quick to insert bear-related puns into any and all communications with customers. It lightens the mood, and I enjoy that. But, if you tire of such things quickly, it’s certainly something to consider.
Under the help section, TunnelBear’s website offers some decent getting started and troubleshooting sections. Although brief, both can be very helpful in resolving installation, connection or speed issues.
It’s also worth noting that TunnelBear has a no-refund policy. They will work with customers on a case by case basis if you’re having a problem with their paid service, but there are no guarantees. Since they have a free tier, though, it’s hard to view this policy as much of a restriction. Most of us would have already taken TunnelBear for a spin long before upgrading to a paid account.
On the network infrastructure side of things, TunnelBear is a bit on the light side. They currently run servers in 47 countries. Since all the usual suspects are there, that should be enough for most of us. But, it’s a far cry from the 218 countries HideMyAss offers, for example.
TunnelBear also does not specify how many servers they have at each location. It’s certainly multiple since I usually get a completely different IP address after connecting (a strong indicator a different data center is in use). And while it would be nice to know the exact numbers, maybe it’s not a big deal. My speed tests show good performance, and in the end, that’s what matters.