TunnelBear review

TunnelBear offers simplicity, and also a useful free version

TunnelBear review
(Image: © TunnelBear)

Tom's Guide Verdict

TunnelBear is one of the most user-friendly, no-nonsense VPNs. It has important safety features, like a kill switch, a no-logging policy, and frequent third-party audits. Not all tools are available on all platforms, and there are some other hiccups, but overall TunnelBear is a decent choice if you're new to VPNs.


  • +

    Super simple to use

  • +

    Annual independent privacy audits

  • +

    Intuitive UI

  • +

    Great connection speeds


  • -

    Too basic for advanced users

  • -

    Inconsistencies between apps

  • -

    Some services are no longer offered

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

If you're just starting to dip your toes into the world of VPN, TunnelBear is the perfect place to start. It doesn't place high on our guide to the best VPNs because it doesn't have as many extra tools, doesn't unblock a lot of streaming services, and isn't the best for torrenting. But being stripped down makes TunnelBear the easiest to use.

Despite being a bit limited, it still is a powerful VPN with around 1,000 servers in 47 countries (although this is fewer than my last review six months ago). And you can use its free VPN version to see if TunnelBear is the one for you. You're limited to only 500MB of bandwidth a month, but if you do decide to buy the full version you'll get unlimited data. 

TunnelBear is based in Canada and is owned by McAfee, one of the leading antivirus services. This means it takes security and privacy very seriously and undertakes security audits at least once a year. 

While it's not the best choice for more advanced users or experts, all things combined TunnelBear is a good pick for those delving into the VPN world for the first time.

TunnelBear review - TunnelBear homepage

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

TunnelBear on paper

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Number of servers1,000+Row 0 - Cell 2
Server countries47Row 1 - Cell 2
Supported platformsWindows, Mac, Linus, Android, iOSRow 2 - Cell 2
Simultaneous connectionsUnlimitedRow 3 - Cell 2
Split tunnelingLimited to mobileRow 4 - Cell 2
Kill switchYesRow 5 - Cell 2
Protocols supportedWireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2Row 6 - Cell 2
Country of registrationCanadaRow 7 - Cell 2
SupportEmailRow 8 - Cell 2

TunnelBear 1-minute review

It doesn't get much easier than TunnelBear, and you can try it out with its Free version. You'll only get 500MB of data, but it's a good stepping stone if you're just getting into VPN. Once you've decided TunnelBear is for you, there are three private subscription options and a small business option.

For private users, you can choose between a monthly subscription for $9.99, a full year for $59.88, or three years for $120. Both of these latter options make TunnelBear a decently affordable option. Just know that it doesn't have any guarantees and won't give a refund if you're not happy.

While TunnelBear is pretty scaled back, it does have some good features and has recently added a few more. For one, it has a no-log policy that is independently audited and verified at least once a year. And even if there are issues found - for example, audits may find minor issues with features like the kill switch - TunnelBear makes this public along with any fixes made.

TunnelBear now offers WireGuard alongside the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. It's only available for Windows, but it helped increase overall connection speeds. Now speeds are a little faster than average at 640Mbps.

TunnelBear is really simple to use on both desktop and mobile. It even has browser extensions that let you hide while browsing online. It has a decent number of servers - about 1,000 in 47 countries - and will mark in the apps which are available for you to use. For mobile users, you now get split tunneling capabilities, although this feature still is missing for desktop users.

It can unblock Netflix in the US, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. Other than a couple of local channels in Australia, that's about it. If you're looking for a streaming VPN, TunnelBear isn't the right option, unless you're only interested in watching shows in the US.

TunnelBear is a decent choice if you looking into using a VPN for the first time and you're not really tech-savvy, or if you don't need too much more than a quick, private solution. It's super easy to use, which is good since TunnelBear doesn't have the best support options.

Latest updates

  • WireGuard now supported
  • Increased speeds
  • Unblocks more streaming services
  • Now offers split tunneling on mobile
  • Dropped server in India
  • No longer supports Bitcoin

TunnelBear price and payment

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Plan lengthOverall costMonthly cost
1 month$9.99$9.99
1 year$59.88$4.99
3 years$120$3.33

TunnelBear has three basic service options - Free, Unlimited, and Teams. The Free version is pretty self-explanatory. You get access to the VPN at no cost. But you won't have as many configuration options or available protocols, and you will be limited to a frankly pathetic 500MB of monthly data. This is enough bandwidth for 6 hours of browsing, and is thoroughly trounced by just about every other free option.

The Unlimited version is geared towards consumers hoping to secure personal devices, both computers, and mobile. For month-to-month subscriptions, you'll pay $9.99 per month. This isn't the cheapest VPN, but it is about average for a monthly VPN.

You'll start to see better deals when you purchase the yearly subscription. For TunnelBear this ends up being $59.88 total, or $4.99 per month. But you do have to pay for the entire year at once in order to get this deal. The same is true for the 3-year subscription.

For users who commit to TunnelBear for 3 years, you'll get a fairly good deal that works out to $3.33 per month. In total, this adds up to $120 for 36 months of privacy and security protections.

TunnelBear does have a corporate plan that is great for small business users. You need to have at minimum two user accounts, but for the $5.75/per user per month fee, you can use TunnelBear on unlimited devices.

There isn't a money-back guarantee if you do decide to purchase TunnelBear, though it does mention in its FAQs that refunds are paid on a case-by-case basis. This is why I recommend checking out the Free version for a few days before fully committing to TunnelBear.

  • More: Save your money with the best cheap VPN

How private and secure is TunnelBear?

Privacy is a big deal and the main reason most people use a VPN. But on top of keeping your online activity shielded, you also need a VPN company that doesn't log your online history. This is where TunnelBear really impresses.

TunnelBear hires Cure53, one of the Big Four auditing firms, to look over everything it does and provides these reports freely for anyone to see. Even if something fishy is found, TunnelBear wants you to know it, along with the steps they've taken to correct the problem. 

TunnelBear doesn't collect the IP addresses of users visiting the site, any DNS data while users are connected, or any other identifying info. It does collect operational data, like how long you're connected to the VPN, but there’s nothing here that could identify any user. And Cure53 has verified TunnelBear's no-logging policy time after time.

TunnelBear doesn't collect the IP addresses of users visiting the site, any DNS data while users are connected, or any other identifying info.

TunnelBear has a good kill switch that shuts off your internet connection if the VPN fails. This ensures your online information remains private until a secure connection can be re-established.

Also, as part of my testing, I looked at how well it identifies and stops trackers. Being that it is part of the McAfee family, I wasn't surprised that TunnelBear does this pretty well. Ironically, TunnelBear itself has a few trackers on its website and within one of its mobile apps. These trackers are usually used by companies for marketing purposes, but it's still not perfect form to have them on a VPN website.

TunnelBear doesn't really tout itself as a torrenting VPN. It does mention that it's capable of supporting this, and by reaching out to its support team I was able to learn about a few servers that they recommend for P2P transfers. These include servers in the US, UK, Germany, and Sweden. But I also tried out torrenting with servers in Greece, Portugal, and Brazil. All three did well with no issues.

However, if torrenting is your primary concern, check out Private Internet Access (PIA). It is one of the best designed specifically for this.

TunnelBear review - TunnelBear VPN app

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

How fast is TunnelBear?

Swipe to scroll horizontally

I'm impressed with how much quicker TunnelBear's speeds are. During the last round of testing, it only has OpenVPN protocols available, and speeds reached 310Mbps.

This time, TunnelBear also has WireGuard available for Windows, so I went ahead and checked it out. For a new protocol, it impressed with a top speed of 640Mbps. This isn't as fast as other top VPNs. For example, both Surfshark and TorGuard hit max speeds of 950Mbps. But it is still about average for most services.

I tested TunnelBear’s speeds on a 1Gbps line, using a number of speed testing tools including SpeedTest's site and command line app, and nPerf. This is how I was able to get a good average speed.

It’s worth noting, though, that this all depends on the base speed of your connection. If you’ve only got 75Mbps to play with, you won’t be able to get more than that, no matter which VPN you use.

How good is TunnelBear for streaming?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
NetflixWorking (US)Row 0 - Cell 2
PrimeWorkingRow 1 - Cell 2
iPlayerUnavailableRow 2 - Cell 2
Disney PlusWorkingRow 3 - Cell 2
10PlayUnavailableRow 4 - Cell 2
9NowWorkingRow 5 - Cell 2
HuluUnavailableRow 6 - Cell 2
ITV PlayerWorkingRow 7 - Cell 2
All4WorkingRow 8 - Cell 2

Personally, I wouldn't count on TunnelBear as a streaming VPN. It has the capability to be great in this area, but it doesn't seem to want to put the resources into fully developing this part of its service.

In my testing of VPNs, and specifically TunnelBear, I tried to unlock the most common TV streaming services in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. It receives full marks for working in the US, but in other countries, it falls flat.

Netflix in the US, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ are all unblocked with TunnelBear. Other Netflix services, including the UK, CA, AU, and JP, remain locked.

For Australian viewing, you can watch some programming on 9Now and ITV, but it's a no-go for 10Play. The same is true for the UK. If you'd like to watch BBC iPlayer, look at NordVPN. It unblocks everything including a wide range of Netflix locations and Hulu.

How good are TunnelBear's desktop apps?

Because TunnelBear is basic, it is one of the better solutions for newbies or those who are less experienced with configuration or not really comfortable with technology. Once TunnelBear is downloaded, you will see a simple map with server locations marked by tunnels.

Your current location will be shown along with the iconic bear of the company. You can simply click the On button on the screen and the bear will "tunnel" to the newest and fastest server available. If you have the free version, servers are only available in two locations - US and Canada.

For paid clients, you can move the map around and click on any one of the thousands available across the world. Clicking on any tunnel will start your VPN session with that server. Or, you can pull up a list of servers on the left-hand side of the map and scroll until you find the location you want.

TunnelBear has always had OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols available, but it now also has WireGuard and decent speeds to go with it.

Previously, TunnelBear had servers in 49 countries, but it recently dropped its service in India. 47 countries is still a good number, but India is one location a lot of VPN services like to work in because of the privacy it affords them and the ease of unblocking certain geo-restricted websites in that region.

TunnelBear has always had OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols available, but it now also has WireGuard and decent speeds to go with it. However, this is only available with the Windows desktop. Mac and Linux versions don't have this option. Also, the app will still decide between OpenVPN and IKEv2 if you don't choose WireGuard. You simply aren't given the option.

There isn't a lot of help when it comes to Linux users, but there are some articles in the online knowledgebase to help you.

Now let's chat about the kill switch – called VigilantBear. Should your connection ever fail, a kill switch is designed to stop any and all traffic from leaving your computer until your secure connection is restored.

TunnelBear browser extension

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

In my testing with OpenVPN, I force-closed the connections and VigilantBear cut my traffic immediately – no leaks of my true IP. However, when the client was using an IKEv2 connection (again, there’s no way to select this yourself), when I closed the connection, traffic continued to flow freely. The VPN was restored in a matter of seconds, but no matter how short the leak was, the kill switch did fail to protect me.

Finally, the three browser extensions offer a fast, simple way to protect your data and internet browsing activity. However, these are limited and include only a list of locations and an on/off switch. Note, also, that they only protect browser traffic, unlike desktop and mobile apps.

While TunnelBear is great for desktops and some browsers, there are a lot of devices it won't work with. These include Kindle/eReaders, Windows mobile devices, Apple/Android TV, gaming systems, or routers and modems. One of the best options for multiple devices is Windscribe. It works with Amazon Fire TV and a plethora of routers.

Overall, TunnelBear is very easy to use, and the lack of options does make it incredibly plug-and-play. However, there’s plenty to be improved upon – especially the kill switch – and for anyone beyond an absolute beginner, the lack of features could prove restrictive.

How good are TunnelBear's mobile apps?

The mobile apps look and work similarly to the desktop versions. On both Android and iOS you see the same map, tunnels, and bear icon. You can choose to tunnel to locations on the map or scroll through the server list.

One new feature available for mobile users is split tunneling. This allows you to shield some programs or information with the VPN while leaving others alone. One advantage of this is increased connection speeds, which are especially helpful for those who torrent a lot.

While this is a great addition to TunnelBear, it is limited on both mobile platforms. On Android, you can only funnel apps through the VPN. On iOS, you can split-tunnel websites themselves, but only through the phone's browsers. This is an issue with iOS itself and not TunnelBear and one I don't see changing any time soon.

iOS does have a cool advantage over Android. While both have a good kill switch, only the iOS app will automatically connect the VPN if it senses an app or website is untrustworthy. You can choose to turn off this feature, but it is a really neat piece of security to have.

The WireGuard protocol is now offered by TunnelBear, but it isn't available on mobile just yet. And just like on the desktop app, you can't choose between connecting with OpenVPN or IKEv2.

TunnelBear mobile apps

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

How good is TunnelBear's support?

TunnelBear has a pretty decent web-based help section. It's clearly marked so it's easy to navigate to the topic you need, including troubleshooting, account information, and how to get started for the first time.

There is an option for reaching out to TunnelBear directly if its knowledge base doesn't have the answer you're looking for. This is limited to an online email form, and you do need to log into your account first before you're taken to this page. From here you are asked specifics about your question before sending off the request.

While TunnelBear doesn't have 24/7 support or even limited live support like chat, you will get a good, friendly, and helpful response. When I tried this out I got it the next day. It still would be nice to have some faster support available, especially since TunnelBear is geared more toward newbies than true, VPN configuration enthusiasts.

Should you buy TunnelBear VPN?

I highly recommend TunnelBear for anyone who isn't too sure about using a VPN, especially if you're not really tech-savvy. But I do suggest trying out the free version, first. While it is very limited in what you can do with it - maybe get 6 hours of browsing in a month - it will give you a good feel for how a VPN and TunnelBear specifically work.

If you choose to go straight to the paid version of TunnelBear, note that you're stuck with it until the end of your subscription time. TunnelBear doesn't offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and rarely pays out refunds. 

Major selling points are the simplicity of use, strong privacy, and the fact that the company is openly presenting itself to detailed security audits for all to see. It will unblock some streaming sites in the US, but leaves out most TV programming in other countries.

It’s not without its faults, especially for more advanced and demanding users, as it doesn’t have that many features and its unblocking abilities aren’t that great. However, if you don’t care much about all that and just want a beginner-friendly VPN, TunnelBear could be a great choice.

Sign up for TunnelBear if:

  • You're new to VPN
  • You're not very tech-savvy
  • You want to stream Netflix in the US

Avoid if:

  • You need a more customizable VPN
  • You want super-fast connection speeds
  • You want to stream programs outside of the US
  • You need more server locations
  • You need a VPN for torrenting
  • You need split tunneling
  • You prefer a company with a money-back guarantee

With contributions from