Hi Ho WifiRanger, To the Rescue!
What’s in the Box – WifiRanger Mobile Ti and Go2
We may not travel as often as some fulltimers, but we have many of the same internet connectivity frustrations as our more mobile Airstreaming friends. A few of them have written about a new product that helps keep you online no matter if you’re on cellular or WiFi – it’s called the WifiRanger. I reached out to the folks at WifiRanger and explained our situation. They sent us over an evaluation unit and we’re impressed with how well it works!
I love it when a company is hyper-focuses on providing the best solution after listening and getting to know their customers’ pain points. From the first time you visit their website, to hooking up and using their products, it’s obvious that WifiRanger is for RVers who’ve had trouble connecting for years.
Let’s start with the hardware. WifiRanger shipped us two routers – the WifiRanger MobileTI and GO2. Why two you ask? The MobileTI installs outside your RV and connects via hard wire to the GO2 router inside. This setup serves two major purposes. First, to capture Wifi and Cellular signals from outside, avoiding what’s known as the “Faraday Cage” problem of living in an aluminum tube. An ethernet cable brings the captured signal inside to a second router which serves as an internal wired OR wireless hub for connecting other devices and computers (ahem, Xboxes) you may have scattered throughout your home. This setup alone serves to boost the available signal inside the Airstream, but the WifiRanger also has added WiFi signal boosting capabilities built-in as well!
Everything you need to install the units come in the box — from cables to mounting tape, they’ve thought of everything. They even include a mounting bracket for the folding “batwing” TV antenna common on many RVs and Airstreams! Unfortunately, they don’t send out a technician to install the outside antenna, which would have been nice if you ask me, but they’ve thought of just about everything else!
Understandably, WifiRanger didn’t include specific instructions for running cable from the rooftop into my 2010 27FB Airstream International. After doing it myself now it’s obvious that this is a case-by-case affair depending on how your rig is setup, where holes are pre-drilled, etc.
Disclaimer – I’ve never drilled into the hull of our Airstream. The thought makes me a little queasy. The rest of this section is my experience – if you’re an old pro at this sort of thing, you can skip ahead or stay here and laugh at our troubles!
WifiRanger does a great job of preparing you with tools, but you’ll also need these things:
- Drill with #21 bit (I used a 1/8 drill)
- Rivet gun with 5/32 rivets Olympic rivets (I used pop rivets, appearantly a no-no, so i’ll be replacing these this summer)
- Razor or exacto knife
- Alcohol or mineral spirits
- Vulkem or other brand Polyurethane sealant
- A partner for running cable
- a plan
I decided that going through the vent for the refrigerator was the path less dangerous for me, so on the roof I went. Instead of finding a perfectly open hole, I found a cover and screen fastened to said vent with rivets. Despite my best efforts, I had no choice but to drill into the top of the Weasel’s head.
Turns out, it was easier than I thought to get the rivets out. I recommend a tool to start the drill bit so you’re not skating all over the place like I was, but you can do it without one if you’re careful. I only needed to pop out the rivets on one side of the vent to use enough hole space to drop in the cable. (I realized after the fact that i used the wrong rivets… so I’ll be replacing pop rivets with 5/32 Olympic rivets this summer).
Up next, fishing the cable down behind the fridge. This is definitely a two person job and proved the most challenging for us. We opted to NOT remove the fridge. We should have, but we didn’t. I took out the false wall behind the cubby above the fridge and collected all the cable from above. Then, with Tiff craning her neck up from the outside access door behind the fridge, I started poking the cable down. This took a long time – maybe an hour or more.
FINALLY we poked through and Tiff was able to grab the bottom of the cable. We pulled through and into a pre-existing hole set up for other cables. Then we just ran the cable under Lucy’s Bed our side couch under the TV where we keep the Mac Mini, Xbox, and now, the WifiRanger GO2.
Setting Up and Getting Connected
With everything connected we started the setup process. It’s important to remember that there are two routers – you set one up to act as a slave (the outside Mobile unit) and the other a Master (inside GO2). You’ll see two wifi sources appear on your PC if you leave the GO2 wifi on. WifiRanger gives you two options to log into your router – simply typing in ‘mywifiranger.com’ takes you to the master, or you can also type in an ip address to go directly to the settings page for each router. I really liked how they pre-set the router number to an ip address for easy memorization – another touch that reminds us they are thinking about pain points!
Wifiranger Control Panel
Our setup experience overall was very much a plug and play affair. We “had to” (ok , I wanted to!) tweak a few settings to get everything dialed in and avoid searching for cellular signal (for now), but that was easy thanks to preconfigured settings you can load from the user interface. Again, there are quick start and full docs online to help you dig deeper into the settings.
Overall the software interface is very nice once you understand there is one for the slave and one for the master. Any changes you make to one don’t necessarily carry to the other, nor should they. For example, you want to make sure the antenna strength outside is strong, but the one inside is lower so you don’t get interference. But this is an easy concept to grasp. Everything else is very well documented with help tips and of course full documentation is available online.
Closing Up Shop
Now that we’re sure everything is set up, it’s time to button up the installation. We fed enough cable down to keep a ring of slack on top of the refrigerator. We also made sure there was plenty of cable to allow the WifiRanger MobileTI to easily ride up and down as we raise and lower the batwing. I tightened the fastener screws on the batwing one last time and zip-tied the cable to the antenna. Then I re-attached the vent hood.
It was my first time riveting and applying Vulkem to anything. I can’t say I did a great job here – more like passable (except for using the wrong rivets). First I cleaned off any excess old sealant and wiped the area with alcohol. Then I applied a layer of black Vulkem in a small bead. This stuff is BRUTALLY sticky, so a little goes a long way. It’s pretty tough to work with overall. I pushed the vent back down, ensuring a solid seal, and tried to clean up as much excess Vulkem as I could. Then I re-riveted the cover down using the original rivet holes.
Here’s the final product – again, passable. Ok, so maybe I overdid it on the Vulkem! I’ll be checking on it over the next few months to make sure we’re not leaking anywhere.
Ifs, Ands, or Buts
We’ve really not found too many problems with the WifiRanger setup yet. Having two connected routers instead of one takes a tiny “getting familiar” period. Of course NOT requiring a drill to the top of the roof would have been a plus as well. I believe this is an option for the Sky model, but we wanted the extra range and lifetime warranty given by the MobileTI.
We’ve had a few major internet outages so far while using the WifiRanger, and I can’t blame the WifiRanger for any of them. I updated the firmware on the GO2 but forgot to do so on the Mobile once, resulting in an inconsistent signal. An error message would have been nice, but I know what to look for now! Other outages were the result of a bad router and inconsistent internet sources.
It’s also important to note that this is NOT a cellular antenna or amplifier. It catches and boosts WiFi signal only. You can attach an aircard to the GO2, or you can connect a Mifi wirelessly as your cellular internet source, but you get no other benefit to increase the cellular signal. WifiRanger sells a separate cellular booster if that is something you need.
One really nice feature is the ability to “failover” from one connection type to another. So if you’re cruising along on WiFi and something happens to the signal, the router can automatically jump to a backup cellular, ethernet, or other WiFi signal. This is particularly nice if you travel with lots of WiFi devices. You’ll only need to log the WifiRanger unit into the new signal. All your other devices happily stay connected to your internal WiFi.
Speaking of cellular signals, there are lots of options to track data and limit how strong or weak a signal is before you join. You can also “rate” your signals to help remember and more easily connect to favorites.
The MobileTI itself is really solid. It’s weatherproof, comes with a Lifetime Guarantee, and the bracket and unit feel sturdy and solid. And since it attaches to the external extending TV antenna, you can raise it above lots of interference causing obstacles.
My favorite feature is the ability to turn your WifiRanger into a WiFi Broadcaster! You can set it up to reflect the signal it gets back out so that others around you can get online. Obviously something to be careful with as long as cellular data prices climb, but is a nice option for friends who don’t have access.
Overall, we’re super impressed with the WifiRanger MobileTI and GO2 units as a long distance WiFi connection device. It’s rare that a product lives up to the hype the way the WifiRanger has for us. We look forward to putting the cellular capabilities to use once we go fully mobile. For now, we’re finding its range to be astonishing for distant WiFi signals – we’ve connected from 1000ft and get signals as far away as 2000ft. Connection is simple and setup is a breeze (once you break out the drill and fish the cable inside).
We highly recommend the WifiRanger MobileTI and GO2 units for anyone looking to solve their WiFi internet connectivity issues on the road or anywhere distance is an issue.
Have any of you used the WiFiRanger? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
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
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
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!
We’ve been fortunate here on Whidbey to meet a lot of cool and interesting people who moved here for more or less the same reasons we did: a more laid back place to raise a family and run a business — and over all, just to live a more simply. Enter Janae and Kelly who just happen to be awesome woodworkers as well! Do yourself a favor and visit their site, Turnco Wood Goods, or check out Food52.com or Beam and Anchor to buy.
Cutting Board with bark edges – super cool!
Wanting to live and work in their own space on their own property, Janae and Kelly moved to Whidbey Island from Vancouver, British Columbia, bringing with them a love of mid-century design and the skill to make super high quality items.
Turnco Woodgoods Jar and Salt Cellar
As you all know, living in a small space requires being clever with your home items — multi-use tools and smaller sizes of essentials like cutting boards are a joy — when you can find them. But we haven’t found a lot that are also really high quality. And it’s just a bonus that they’re made by people down the road from wood they procured from the neighborhood. You should really give them a shout if you’re on the island and see about stopping by the studio. (Above: These jars have suctioning tops, so you can put them in the cupboard when you’re on the road and things won’t fall out.)
The World’s First “Sized for Airstreamers” 13 inch wood Rolling Pin!
The item I love the most (so far) is my rolling pin made from local Madrona wood. It fits perfectly in the silverware drawer and is a dream to work with. We’re so impressed with the work of Kelly and Janae that we’re not stopping here — we’re talking to them about making us a wooden table for the dinette. I think it’s going to be beautiful!
A few months back we moved to Whidbey Island, WA. The reasons behind this move were many, but started a year ago with a job at The Whidbey Island Distillery. We’ve never worked in a distillery, and we really didn’t know anything about distilling, but we’re typically up for anything, so we took the weekend job and started learning.
For booze, head this way.
In January we decided to change direction a bit, but stay on the island fulltime. A friend offered up a corner of his beautiful 40-acre property to park the Airstream , and now we’re learning the ins and outs of raising chickens, planting orchards and building all kinds of wooden structures (but so far I’m not allowed to use the excavator).
Us, Chickens and Snow.
Over the next few weeks (or months), we’re going to write some posts about our experiences here and the people we meet- focusing on the southern part of the island, South Whidbey, and the things to do and see when you come up here to camp!
To start with, here are a few facts about the island….
There are about 6 alpaca farms just in South Whidbey. My favorite is Fern Ridge Alpacas, located in Clinton. Hal loves his alpacas and he and his wife have a great store!
Coupeville Ferry pulling in from Port Townsend.
There are three ways to get to Whidbey Island. Two by ferry, one by land. If you’re in the greater Seattle area, you can take the Mukilteo-Clinton Ferry, which drops you off on the southern-most part of the island. If you’re on the Olympic Penninsula side, you can take the Port Townsend-Coupeville Ferry (pictured above) which drops you in the middle of the island. And if you’re north, or don’t like ferries, you can drive over the bridges of Deception Pass to the northern-most part of the island (the town of Oak Harbor).
My advice when parked, always get out and keep watch on your trailer until all cars are parked.
We’ve taken the Mukilteo Ferry a few times, and it’s about $50-55 one way – it looks a little tight, but it’s fine. (Hi Jacquie!)
So now you know how easy it is to get here, I expect to see you this summer. You know you want to see some alpacas.
I had a birthday recently, which typically brings on the conversation with my family that starts with “What can we get you for your birthday? We know you don’t have a lot of space.” So true. This made me think about gifts I need/want and how other people might be wondering what to get the RVer in their life.
Guided by the light.
One of the most useful thing to us has always been our headlamps. When we bought our first Airstream in 2008, the seller said “Go out and buy yourselves good headlamps, you’ll need them.” He was totally right. This gift will not disappoint!
Continuing in the light/lantern category is the Black Diamond Lantern, which we also like a lot. It comes in 3 sizes and you can hang it up or set it on a table, plus it’s nice and bright!
Sometimes RVers don’t have electricity, but hopefully they’ll still have the sun.
Sometimes you need more than one.
RVers always need more water bottles, but they’re so awkward and sometimes just taking up room. I like this collapsible one.
Another tool that always comes in handy another screwdriver. You can never find it when you need it. Enter the Swiss Army Knife. Nuff said.
Before a big trip, I get a little freaked out thinking about not having my coffee maker when boondocking. We’ve tried various french presses and they’re a great option. Recently we discovered the Aeropress, used it on our Canadian Caravan, and it worked great. It makes strong espresso, is easy to clean and lightweight. For under $30, it’s a winner.
On the high end of the price scale, but guaranteed to make you the most favorite relative ever, is the Traeger Grill. Weighing in at 40 lbs with enough grill space for two pork shoulders, the Traeger Portable Grill is the best grill we’ve used. We were introduced to the Traeger line by Riveted who used the bigger one to cook many awesome meals on the road, and we fell in love. The portable works really well for two people, and everything we’ve cooked (pork shoulder, brisket, ribs, wings, chicken, baked potatoes) has turned out wonderfully.
I’m not afraid to dump tanks, grease the hitch or chock the tires, but I’d prefer to do it while wearing work gloves. Gloves protect my hands from looking gross.
We got this compass in the winter for snowshoeing. It’s small, it works and sometimes it’s just nice knowing you’re heading north.
We’ve written about these glasses before…. I love them.
We actually got this as a gift two years ago from a fellow camper, our friend Brian. I never thought about buying a hammock, but this thing rocks. And it fits two! Plus, Laura liked it so much, she bought one.
We have three games in the Airstream: Scrabble, a deck of cards (a gift from Laura and Kevin) and Cards Against Humanity. They’re all small and provide a ton of fun, sometimes too much fun. This travel Scrabble has clicking letters so you can fold up the board mid-game if, say, your campsite was suddenly attached by bears.
Deke got me binoculars for Christmas last year and I love them. I didn’t really use them a lot at first, but I’ve learned that hear on the island, a pod of whales can pop up at anytime and it’s a really good idea to have a pair of them around.
Don’t just take our suggestions…
We also wanted to ask a few fellow Airstreamers what they’d want this holiday season. Here are a few of their suggestions!
Leigh and Brian at Aluminarium had a great suggestion with microfiber bath towels. They don’t take up a lot of room, they dry easily, and these get great reviews on Amazon and come in a lot of colors.
Leigh also mentioned she likes getting spices — they travel all the time and might not get to a spice shop regularly, so getting something to spice up their meals is awesome. I know Leigh is a fan of Penzy’s and I’ve ordered from Savory Spice — both have amazing selections, great quality and most importantly Gift Cards.
Dave and Kelly are aiming big this holiday and looking to find, in a very big stocking, an Oru folding kayak and folding Ritchey bike!
Top of the list from Riveted and WhereIsKyleNow? is Amazon gift cards — How could you go wrong with that?