This is the first of a two part post on getting WiFi in an Airstream. Read the second post in this series here to find out how we solved our WiFi problem! 

Getting Decent FREE WiFi…Bwahaha!

We’ve lived in our Airstream full-time for just over 3 years, and for 3 years now, getting decent internet has been a hassle. I completely understand that getting 4G in the middle of Death Valley or off the coast of Oregon might be a little much to ask, but when you’re in $35 per night RV park in Dallas, TX offering “Free WiFi,” I expect at least a decent signal. To date, getting decent “free WiFi” has been the exception, not the rule. Here are a few things we’ve tried to do to remedy this problem over the years.

 

A 4G affair

Our next Antenna Option? - photo from http://www.qrz.com/db/N9FN

Our next Antenna Option? – photo from http://www.qrz.com/db/N9FN

My first attempt was to bite the cost bullet and simply go 4G. After all, how expensive could it be? Turns out it can be brutally expensive, especially for those of us into things like watching Netflix and playing Xbox! And until recently, there weren’t many reliable ways to watch your data use until it was too late and the bill shot north of $300.

Then there’s the reception. We used a MiFi unit from Verizon. It worked ok for reception most days, but it really didn’t like being inside our aluminum cage. So, I did what any internet starved Airstreamer would have done – I bought an antenna…and a booster..and cables. I ended up spending over $300 just to try to improve my signal inside the Airstream! Finally, after rigging up a series of connected PVC pipes to get the antenna up as far as I could, I was getting 2-3 bars of reception – assuming it wasn’t overcast or rainy. But, when is it ever really overcast or rainy in the Pacific Northwest?

 

Drinking From a Fire Hose – DSL!

After months of poor reception, overage fees and insane cell phone bills, we found a new park  where more options became available. In fact, we had a DSL line installed directly to our spot! Now, for those of you coax / fiber nerds, I know. DSL? When was this post written, 1982? After getting just under 2Mbps and paying a fortune, drinking in 4Mbps at $39.99 per month was pure glory! This is an option for select few RVers, and not one we plan to have again anytime soon – but it was great while it lasted!

 

Back to the Free Wifi Desert

We’ve recently moved again and find ourselves at the whim of the airwaves to bring internet into the Airstream. We’re staying on a friend’s property who have graciously offered to share their WiFi. It’s much more reliable than most park provided free WiFi and there’s no one else connecting to it. The only problem now – we’re too far away to get a signal!

I pull out my precarious rig of cabling, antenna, and booster, and realized a core missing feature – the ability to boost or otherwise carry a WiFi signal back into my RV with my current setup. My booster only works for cellular – I would need to buy yet another device to handle WiFi! Argh!!!

 

A Light at the End of the Tunnel?

The WiFiRanger Mobile Ti and Go2

The WiFiRanger Mobile Ti and Go2

Instead of blindly leaping into another technological whirlpool, we turned to the vast know how of our Airstreaming pack for advice. Laura and Kevin of Riveted have an awesome 3G / 4G / Wifi setup that we’ll eventually want to grow into. Chris and Leslie of tincantardis.com have a Wifiranger solution, but troubles with installation and drilling holes seem scary.  But after researching more on the sometimes stoic Airforums, we found more raves about this new-comer, claiming Wifiranger to be the “solution to all the worlds problems!” After reading the awesome installation account by the much respected Vintage Airstreaming Podcast, I knew we had to give this thing a try.

 

 

Will it work for us? Can it really live up to the high praise from our most respected tech-saavy and internet dependent Airstreaming friends?

Check back soon for our followup post – WiFi in an Airstream: The Solution!