TunnelBear VPN review: Buy or Avoid the Canadian Grizzly?

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As far as VPN claims go, TunnelBear’s couldn’t be bolder. The second you visit its website, you are greeted by a slogan that states: “The fastest VPN on Earth.”It goes on to claim that its online security software is ‘lightning-fast, super secure and really simple’.Offering a free ‘starter’package, this VPN provider is not surprisingly a popular choice for those who value their online privacy and security.

TunnelBear – For The Privacy Minded?

Based in Canada, the VPN appears to have successfully reached out to privacy-minded internet users with a core offer of simple apps designed to provide ‘grizzly-grade’ security. ‘Grizzly’ is a reference to the themed pricing plans which reflect this company’s quirky brand. If you are concerned about censorship or cybercrime and want to invest in anonymous VPN security, you’ve probably already heard the name TunnelBear.

Pros

  • Simple apps for multiple platforms, including Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Chrome
  • Fun to use
  • Great design
  • Unlimited data
  • Bandwidth Unlimited
  • Fast servers
  • Servers (‘Tunnels’) in 20+ countries
  • five simultaneous connections
  • AES-256 bit encryption
  • Good customer support
  • Supports OpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec VPN protocols

Cons

  • Based in Canada
  • Servers based in fewer countries than competitors, but the network is expanding all the time
  • No app for Linux users
  • Doesn’t support BitTorrent / P2P
  • Minimal logging (but not enough to link to an individual subscriber)

Pricing

If you’re looking to just test this service before moving on to pay, the Littlepackage is a consideration. If for no other reason than exploring what a VPN service is. It OK as a ‘try before you buy’experience, but has severe limitations. With the data-limit being one major drawback to start with.

However, if you a simple rolling monthly deal try Giant,, it costs $9.99 a month/$119.88 a year. Although, it does come with all the bells and whistles, and is easy to get onboard with.

Last but not least, there’s Grizzly,paid up front for 12-months this will set you back $49.88/$4.16 per month. And that makes it the most cost-effective of the packages.

As for payment methods, those on offer are fairly typical, you have the choice of debit and credit card. Plus, the option to use bitcoin; however, there is no PayPal, which is a little disappointing.

Testing TunnelBear

I used TunnelBear with Windows, though apps are available that work with other platforms and operating systems. Options include Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome.

There doesn’t appear to be an app for Linux users, which I am sure will come as a disappointment to some. For super-fast streaming and other intensive tasks, the app is a joy to use. It definitely lived up to its speed promise, when compared to other VPNs I’ve tried.

I liked the level of control this VPN offered, delivering all the features I need to protect my privacy and security whenever I’m online.

Is it the fastest VPN on the planet?It is pretty damned close. The speeds I achieved are set out in the server speed section below. But I have used faster, ExpressVPN for instance, although it is one of the fastest. If you value speed as well as privacy, TunnelBear is probably a product that is a decent fit for your needs. That being said, your priorities could be different.

TunnelBear Security Features

As well as offering simple-to-use apps, this VPN service provider offers unlimited bandwidths, up to five simultaneous connections and a cypher strength of AES-256 encryption.

Additionally, it has a strict no logging policy, round-the-clock customer support and it works with a number of protocols – OpenVPN, IKEv2 and IPSec VPN. Unfortunately, though, the TunnelBear does not support torrenting, because of Canada’s no P2P policy.

Kill Switch

TunnelBear’s kill switch feature is aptly named Vigilante Bear. It offers protection from data leaks during connection errors. The VPN’s stealth mode is not surprisingly called GhostBear. The company has developed this feature to disguise OpenVPN traffic to avoid censorship in restricted countries, such as China. This effective app can get around firewalls even in territories where censorship is tightly controlled by multiple agencies, including ISPs.

Obfsproxy

The way GhostBear achieves such a high level of privacy to offer complete anonymity is by implementing obfsproxy as a SOCKS proxy. If you don’t understand the terminology, it means the encryption is less likely to be decoded by cyber spies such as governments, ISPs and others. It works by making your data blend in with ordinary traffic, therefore avoiding the attention of the censors.

GhostBear doesn’t purport to increase security, just anonymity. The VPN can be slower when used in stealth mode, so if you want to take advantage of TunnelBear’s ‘lightning speeds’, you may want to keep it switched off.

TunnelBear Privacy

TunnelBear is up-front when it comes to privacy. It admits it keeps some connection logs, but only for a month, and nothing is timestamped. On its website, the company explains it has to comply with Canadian regulations. To make things crystal clear, it states:

“In the event, TunnelBear is required to comply with law enforcement where subpoenas, warrants or other legal documents have been provided, valid under Canadian jurisdiction. The extent of disclosure is limited to the Personal information you provided upon registration as well as THE overall number of connections; overall MBs used that month.”

That means, while the VPN can supply some data, it will not be enough to reveal what any one user has done in the month of data that is still stored.

Users who think they can breach TunnelBear’s adherence to Canada’s strict no P2P rules will be sorely disappointed. Because of its jurisdiction, the VPN can detect users most likely to be attempting torrenting.

What does all of the above mean for you? Personally, I don’t like VPN’s which collect user data with the aim to share it. As a member of the five-eyes intelligence sharing community, Canada, and subsequently, TunnelBear probably should be avoided for VPN use. Instead, if you’re in that country or had considered using this provider, an offshore solution may be better, such as NordVPN.

User Experience

Wow. This VPN client is so themed; you wouldn’t believe. I love the aesthetics of the design, which matches the company’s overall fun branding. It doesn’t detract from ease of use; I’m pleased to say.

When I used TunnelBear, I automatically connected to the nearest server. I could choose a location from a pretty awesome list.

I set the VPN to start automatically because I am one of those people who may forget to switch it on. That was very easy to do. All I did was go to Settings, and I found what I was looking for in General. It was really quick and so worth doing. VigilanteBear and GhostBearcan be found under Security.

Other aspects of an account are managed from the Account section of the client. Again, easy and straightforward to use.

Server Speeds

Download speeds, and upload speeds as you would expect varied. Mostly dependent on how far away I was from a connected server. I achieved the best download speeds with OpenVPN – that was 45Mbps. The quickest upload speed was 18Mbps, again in OpenVPN. Now that’s quite fast, but not the best available.

Customer Support

tunnelbear customer service

This VPN does not provide a live chat service. However, it does have a dedicated ‘Help’ page. It lists status updates and urgent issues, as well as offering subscribers a comprehensive selection of resources.

You can find helpful articles on a range of topics, from Getting Started to specific advice relating to individual apps and operating systems. You can also use a search bar on the page to quickly find what you are looking for. You can’t miss the search tool – it’s at the top of the page.

If you can’t find the information you are looking for, you can use the email button on the Help page. It will take you to a form, which you simply fill in and send. You will receive an automated response, but TunnelBear aims to answer all questions in 24 hours.

That is pretty good customer support for a VPN that charges so little.

TunnelBear Review: Final Thoughts

Yes, it’s cheap, and it’s fast, plus it has a fun design and is ultimately user-friendly. Oh, and if I didn’t mention it, the app can be set to start automatically. Meaning, you’ll never leave yourself exposed to threats. However, there is, as there always is, a drawback, and that is being based in Canada.

I know it’s a great country, but as I pointed out previously, in that country P2P is prohibited. Which means it won’t work for those who want to make use of torrents.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I don’t need torrents, and it can connect to Netflix (sometimes), HBO, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. Plus I can take part in FIFA 2018 tournaments online, which is perfect!

However, the elephant in the room is privacy. So, if after reading all of the above, that point has turned you off? Please go and check out my other VPN reviews here.

As I write this, the numbers of reviewed providers are nine including this one. But, that number will continue to grow, as I and my colleagues explore what is on offer.

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