Improved Our Internet/Wi-Fi Reception In Caravan Parks And
and how you can too!
A solution for every
budget - from $7.00 up to several hundred dollars.
We always enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi when available in Caravan
Parks, but invariably, the signal can fluctuate between poor and
lousy. Free Camping in the Outback
presents even greater challenges, where a signal can't be
established for love nor money.
I had read on Forums, where
caravanners had employed an outside antenna as a means of
boosting any available signal, but my knowledge and
understanding of such things was rather limited.
So in 2014 I set about trying to educate
myself a little and see if a solution could be found. I knew it
could be done... it was just a matter of finding a
suitable, affordable solution for us.
where all good searches start... Google. As always happens, one
search led to another, then another. I read numerous articles on
the subject and viewed lots of YouTube videos.
I soon learned,
was pretty much a given, that I needed an outdoor antenna of
some description. Some suggested a Omni-directional antenna,
like the one on the right,
while others recommended a Directional antenna. Both had their
pros and cons of course. The Omni pulled in signals from all
directions, but from lesser distance. The Directional could pull
in signals from greater distances, but had to be aimed at the
So loaded with my newfound
knowledge, I went shopping. I wanted to buy several antennas, so
as to give myself the best chance of pulling in a signal from
various locations around Australia.
► The first purchase was a
TP-Link 14dBi Outdoor Directional Panel Antenna
a guy who does all this Wi-Fi stuff (and more) for a living.
he outlines what they had done, to achieve a strong Wi-Fi signal
wherever they travel... in their case, overcoming weak Wi-Fi in
I took his lead and ordered the same
unit from a supplier in Melbourne. The Antenna arrived quickly,
along with 6m of Low Loss Antenna Cable, also from TP-Link.
The next unit that caught
my attention, again through a
YouTube video, was the small
Booster from Alfa Networks. If you have some
signal in the Park, the Desktop Booster should be perfect for the RVer that wants a powerful Wi-Fi booster,
but doesn't want an
The device doesn't need to be
pointed, as the antenna is omni-directional.
Simply place the Desktop Booster in
a window that is facing the Park access point and attach it to your laptop
The Third Wi-Fi device
We wanted to be able to
connect more than just my laptop. We also wanted to connect Bev's laptop,
our phones and
Wi-Fi Printer as well.
To achieve this,
we had to couple our Desktop Booster to a Extender/Repeater.
There are a number of choices on the market to achieve this, but
the one I chose, was the Alfa Networks R36 Extender/Repeater.
I bought both units from
RFShop in Adelaide.
With this setup, the feed from the
connects to the R36 Extender. The R36 is a nifty little 12v unit and can be
programmed as your own secure,
password protected Hot Spot.
One point of mention though,
if you're considering a set-up like this, be aware that it's
not Plug and Play. You will need to be a little computer
savvy, as the R36 needs to be "programmed" with your info,
but there are very clear instructions available, as well as
step-by-step videos showing what needs to be done.
Fourth Wi-Fi Device
By this time, I was starting to get the hang of things and as I
like to have more than one arrow in the quiver, I added another
antenna to the mix, in the form of an Outdoor Omni-directional
antenna. The one I chose, is also a Alfa Networks product, the
This component comes with a 8m USB
cable, that runs to the USB port on the R36. It by-passes the
Desktop Booster, as the base of this antenna, into which the
antenna screws, is a 1-watt
(1000mW) high power amplifier (Booster), a receiving radio that
picks up the distant Wi-Fi signal.
It is fully weatherproof and can
handle outdoor temperatures down to freezing.
If desired, the Tube-U can also be plugged into the USB port
of a compatible Windows computer to extend the range to just that
PC, but using it with the R36 allows you to share reception
with multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices at once.
The Omni antenna is sold separately
and screws into the top of the "Tube".
One thing I wasn't aware of when I
was shopping for solutions was, the Tube-U and the R36
Booster/Extender now comes as a kit, called the Alfa Wi-Fi Camp
At time of writing,
RFShop in Adelaide sell the Kit complete, for $149.
This kit combines the R36 portable
Wi-Fi router, with the Tube-U outdoor USB wireless adapter, and
a high performance outdoor antenna AOA-2409.
Camp-Pro offers convenient, extended wireless access whenever
you're in a camping site or even on a boat. Remote wireless can
easily be connected via the Tube USB wireless adapter and the
R36 broadcasts the received signals to your local devices.
JANUARY 2019: Alfa have now released their new
Wi-Fi Camp Pro2 Repeater Kit containing the new
R36A USB router. It's $215 with free shipping
anywhere in Australia. Click image for full description.
The Fifth Wi-Fi Device
next piece of hardware added to the Wi-Fi Kit, and the one I now
use most frequently, is the Ubiquiti NanoStation (Loco M2). The
NanoStation is a powerful Radio/Antenna combination, that can
pull in a Wi-Fi signal from as far as 10klm away.
I mention it last here, mainly because the set-up stumps most
people. Ubiquiti products are very commercial, so the internal interface is not
intuitive. Good for Installers, but not the average layman. You'll need to be computer savvy.
that, I'm no Brain Surgeon and I certainly had no problem following the detailed, step-by-step
instructions in the video below.
So, if you're
considering buying a NanoStation, watch this great
Instructional Video. You'll soon know whether or not you're
up to the task. Even though the video is 4+ years old now,
all the info is still current and applicable.
Putting It All Together
Now that I had the necessary tools,
the next task was to source a suitable Antenna
Mounting Pole. It needed to be extendable and be long enough to get the Antenna
higher than the caravan. The one I settled on, was a
telescopic aluminium painter's pole from good old Bunnings. It
was around $37, but it's strong and sturdy and extends from 1.8m to 3.8m.
To make attaching the Antenna to the
pole an easy task each time, I fabricated a mount for each
device... one for the Panel Antenna, one for the Tube-U and one
for the Ubiquiti Nano Station.
This was achieved using some 32mm PVC pipe and a
few $3.00 paint roller handles. The
metal roller attachment end was cut off and the screw-in section wedged into the pipe. I
used a heat gun to soften the PVC pipe end to accommodate the square end
of the handle.
pack away in their nifty little bags that Bev made for them and the
pole takes up very little room in the tunnel boot.
The painter's pole attaches either to the
drawbar by a simple
'L' bracket and antenna mast clamp arrangement, or by a jockey
wheel clamp on the rear bumper, depending on the location of the
More Wi-Fi Options
By now, I had really caught the Wi-Fi Bug and as
my knowledge and understanding grew, I wanted to see what else I
could add to the arsenal.
Without boring you with the details, here are
a few of the
extras I added to our 'Wi-Fi Kit'.
► A Yagi Antenna - a high
powered Directional Antenna, that can pull in a signal up to 20klms
► Several Cantennas -
directional antennas I made from cans. (Big surprise, my best performer, I
made from a Beetroot can! $7.00)
► Another Omni Directional
Antenna similar to the Tube-U Antenna, without the Booster.
need to be connected to the
Desktop Booster mentioned previously.
Now that I have all the parts to
the puzzle assembled and have used them all, how would I rate each one?
sheer simplicity, it's hard to go past the Alfa Desktop
Booster, providing the Park has a decent Wi-Fi system.
Suction cup it to a window on the Access Point side of
the van and plug it into your laptop. Bear in mind though, you can only connect one device.
Desktop Booster, coupled to the Alfa R36 Extender, takes
things to the next level, by allowing you to connect
multiple devices to your own private, password
protected, secure hotspot.
simplicity, would have to be the Alfa Camp Pro Kit. The
Tube-U/Antenna combo, coupled to the R36 Repeater, makes
a great, all-round, powerful Omni Directional setup.
Being Omni-directional, it doesn't require pointing and
is great in fringe areas. For around $215 the Wi-Fi Camp
Pro 2 Kit is a great solution.
I use the least, is the first one I bought... the TP-Link
Panel Antenna. Make no mistake though, it's a powerful Antenna. Get it high and pointed at the source (it's
Directional, remember) and you'll have fantastic reception. The
Panel costs around $99, the low-loss cable around $40 (essential)
the Desktop Booster $40 and the R36 to connect other devices $70.00,
for a total of around $250.
raw power and ease of setting up at camp, the Ubiquiti
NanoStation gets my number one vote. This beast will
'see' Access Points miles away. Yes, the initial set-up
is more complicated, but not overly difficult.
As part of
their NanoStation system, Ubiquiti have stopped producing
their AirGateway product and have replaced it with a device
they call AirCube ISP. This is the device you connect all
your devices to wirelessly.
The new video
that walks you through the setup step-by-step, is shown
The "Under $100"
mentioned in this latest video, refers to the
United States in US$.
It will cost more than that in Australia.
No matter which Wi-Fi
boosting solution you choose, all of the components will work.
It all depends on a number of factors:
How far from the broadcast point
you are parked.
If you're stuck down the back or bottom of the park, you're going to
need a strong unit.
good your line-of-sight is to the Access Point.
Wi-Fi is line-of-sight, so the less trees and buildings in your
path, the better. That's why you need a tall pole to get as high as
possible in some situations.
strength of the signal broadcast by the Park.
Not all Caravan Parks have or can afford the best Wi-Fi Broadcast
equipment. You may have the best equipment available, but if the
signal is too weak, there's nothing more you can do, except ask to
be moved to a site closer to the point.
Well, that's how I
did it... perhaps you can see something there that you can use to
improve Wi-Fi reception in Van Parks and elsewhere.
have no commercial connection with any of these
devices and/or suppliers... just a happy customer.