TunnelBear is a VPN provider registered in Canada and acquired by McAfee in 2018. It has servers in only around 20 locations and only basic features, like a kill switch.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear cannot help you access some of the popular geo-blocked streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Such restricted content on YouTube, on the other hand, is easily accessible.
Torrenting is supported on all of TunnelBear’s server locations, although not all servers are best suited for such purposes. The company’s helpful staff can help you select the best servers for torrenting at a given time.
Each account allows one person up to 5 connections to the VPN network at any time. If you do go above that limit, you’ll receive a notification in the TunnelBear app and by email. It doesn’t support routers so this limitation cannot be removed. TunnelBear for Teams is supposed to be a good solution for situations in which you need more connections.
Plans and pricing
The provider offers a free plan that comes with a monthly 500MB traffic limit and can be used for the most basic VPN needs like browsing. This limit can be increased by tweeting about the company, which can get you additional 1GB of traffic.
The paid plans include a 1-month and a 1-year option and they remove the traffic limit. The former has the price tag of $9.99, while if you make the 1-year commitment, it will cost you $4.99 per month (or $59.88 billed every 12 months). The TunnelBear for Teams pricing option costs $69 per person, billed annually, and has a 7-day free trial so you can test the service out.
Payment options include MasterCard, American Express, and Visa cards, and the 1-year option can be paid for in bitcoin.
The money-back guarantee seems flimsy at best, as the company states it “may” consider “certain refund requests” on a “case-by-case basis,” which doesn’t say much.
Privacy and logging
TunnelBear protects your privacy with several solid mechanisms in place. First of all, it automatically uses OpenVPN connection protocol in its Android app and IPSec/IKEv2 in iOS.
OpenVPN and IKEv2 connection protocols are used in its Windows and Mac apps. However, the user cannot switch the protocols himself/herself. TunnelBear explains this system by stating that protocols “race each other to see who’ll connect first”, and the one that wins remains in use until you turn the client off. You can, however, choose between TCP and UDP.
The industry-standard 256-bit AES encryption is used in combination with SHA1-HMAC and 160-bit Secure Hash Algorithm data authentication which protects against threats like the man-in-the-middle attacks.
Just like the majority of its competitors, TunnelBear as well employs a kill switch under the name VigilantBear. It is activated in an event of a sudden VPN connection interruption and blocks all internet traffic, preventing any leaking of your sensitive data.
The split tunneling feature called SplitBear is an Android-only option that allows you to select the apps you want to put under the VPN protection and those you want to leave on your regular internet connection.
The optional GhostBear feature is used to make VPN traffic less traceable on your network. You can turn it on in an event you cannot establish or maintain a connection normally because this could mean your ISP is blocking the connection.
TunnelBear’s Chrome extension has a Blocker feature for blocking simple ads and preventing online tracking.
The quality of the provider’s security features is regularly confirmed by independent audits.
The no-logs policy includes the usual claims - the company guarantees it doesn’t collect, store or log information like IP addresses, DNS queries, or any other information relating to apps, websites, or services accessed while under the protection of TunnelBear.
TunnelBear’s performance is very good. Connecting to each of the provider’s servers is easy and connection times are fast. Download speeds are high and consistent for server locations in near and medium proximity, while they can drop significantly low for some far-away servers, although still usable.
The provider’s native clients are limited to Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices and are fairly simple to download, install, and use. If you need any help, you can consult the TunnelBear website for instructions or contact the support. Limited support and instructions are available for the installation of the service on Linux. Browser extensions exist for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
As mentioned, TunnelBear doesn’t support installation on routers which, in addition to the lack of Netflix support, is a serious disadvantage in comparison to other VPN providers. The service cannot be installed on any e-readers, smart TVs, gaming systems, or Windows mobile devices.
The company has a decent help section divided into categories like Getting Started and Troubleshooting. It has also included Announcements in the mix, which is currently empty. Although troubleshooting and other sections could be expanded a bit, the explanations in them are thorough and precise.
If you don’t manage to find answers to your questions there, you can get in touch with the customer service. They cannot be reached via live chat, but you can send them a message with the details about your inquiry. After submitting the question on the Contact page, you get an automatic message that the team is doing its best “to address all issues within 48 hours.” That said, it usually doesn’t take them that much time to respond.
TunnelBear is as simple a VPN service as they come. It certainly doesn’t support many platforms and doesn’t have many servers or features, but as far as security and performance go, it provides a sturdy and safe platform for your essential privacy needs. It won’t give you access to Netflix either but it will facilitate fast and secure torrenting. Moreover, its free plan is a good option if you need an emergency VPN for simple browsing.
Our score: 3.5/5