We’re Connected!

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 132015
 

As I’ve said many times, there is no more beautiful place on earth than the Oregon coast. But one big drawback for a lot of RVers is the difficulty of getting online in many places. The combination of having few cell towers outside of the larger towns and the rough terrain makes getting a signal difficult, if not impossible in many places.


One such place is here at Whalers Rest Thousand Trails, which is located about 5 miles south of Newport. The campground is very nice, but many people find it impossible to get online unless they haul a laptop computer to the clubhouse and use their free WiFi. That works for some folks, but for others it’s a deal breaker. It almost was for us, since our business demands we be able to get online several times a day. But thanks to advice from Greg White we’ve solved that problem, and after a small investment in money and time, we are now able to work from our campsite here on the north side of the campground.

Since a lot of blog readers have e-mailed to ask me about the setup, I’ll explain how we did it in today’s blog, with the caveat that I am not a technical person and will not attempt to get in over my head.

The first step was purchasing this Wilson Electronics Directional Antenna and coax cable from Amazon. Wilson recently changed their name to We Boost, but it’s the same company and many of their products on Amazon still have the Wilson name on them.

Antenna and cable small

When it arrived I discovered that while the coax connected to the antenna with no problem, I would need an adapter to connect the other end to my older Wilson signal amplifier. I had to scramble to find something locally, but finally got lucky at the Electronics Superstore in Lincoln City.

Adapter small

To get the antenna up in the air, we purchased two ten foot long sections of 1 1/2 inch metal conduit at Ace Hardware and had them cut both in half, giving us four five foot sections that will easily fit in one of our motorhome’s storage bays. We also bought these connectors to join the sections of conduit together.

Conduit connectors small

We put three sections of the conduit together to make a fifteen foot tall mast, and after mounting the antenna and connecting the coax, we set it up next to our motorhome, using plastic swimming pool noodles to protect the RV. The mast is secured to our patio awning with industrial strength Velcro straps. We could have used a shorter mast and mounted it to the ladder on the back of our Winnebago, but Terry’s bike is back there and we didn’t want to go through the hassle of taking it off and locking it up. And we would have needed more coax than I ordered.

Antenna mounted small

Finished project small

With everything set up outside, we ran the coax in through a window and I connected it to my older Wilson signal amplifier, which is in turn connected to a Wilson flat plane antenna. We have an old grandfathered 3G Verizon air card, which is connected to a Cradlepoint router and picks up the signal from the antenna.

Signal amp small

Flat plane small

Greg explained how to use the free Open Signal app on my Samsung phone, or at least tried to, but like I said, I’m not very technical. So we just rotated the mast to point the antenna toward Newport and we’ve got a moderately fast signal, as good as we’ve had many places in the country like Elkhart, Indiana, or Apache Junction, Arizona, or Clermont, Florida using our roof mounted Wilson Trucker omni-directional antenna. And three days ago I had to take my laptop to the clubhouse to get online to check e-mail or post the blog. We are definitely happy campers! This will open up a lot of campgrounds to us that we’ve avoided before due to the difficulty of getting online.

Total time to put everything together and working was about 90 minutes, part of which was explaining what we were doing to some curious folks who were having the same problems getting online here.

And cost? The directional antenna was $51.99 and the 20 foot coax was $31.63 with free shipping with Amazon Prime. The coax connector was $6, the two sections of conduit and the conduit connectors, and Velcro straps were $33. The swimming pool noodles were about $4. So for about $127 we are only at good speeds in a location where getting online at all was almost impossible. We already had the signal amplifier, flat plane antenna, and router. I’m not sure what current prices on those are. It would depend on the models you choose, if you need them.

I hope this overview gives you an idea of what was involved in this project, and hopefully will help you if you are in the same situation we were and need to get online in marginal signal areas.


Congratulations, Kathy Brophy, winner of this week’s drawing for an audiobook of Ben Rehder’s Gun Shy! We had 95 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – People don’t take trips, trips take people. – John Steinbeck

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  8 Responses to “We’re Connected!”

  1. Nick I am about like you when it comes to the tech stuff, but I was told and found out also that to long of a coax will in fact reduce your signal strength. I had (2) 20 foot pieces together and was doing pretty good. Then when I was told that it might benefit me to get rid of a piece of 20′ coax I found that it did in fact help my signal quite a bit. The info I received come from the guys at the 3G store and they are in my opinion a leader in this type of situation. Just a little more info for you is all. I’m going to Amazon and ordering the antenna now.

    Thanks

  2. I think you just sold a lot of antennas … hope they go through your Amazon link above!!!

  3. Nick,
    To confirm, this was to get your cellular wireless signal and not the park WiFi?

    The mention of the cradle point makes me think it is.

  4. I believe the tower Signal that you’re picking up is coming from over by the airport
    So I will give you something that will help you a lot better then hitting and missing
    This is under Google play now as a note you can also use Apple apps as well there are a lot of good ones there as well
    OK if you have an android phone there are two apps that you can pick up for free one is called ,,,opensignal,,,all one word and the other is ,,,RF signal tracker,,,
    If you download any of those two apps you can use your phone as a signal locator with a map that will point you towards a cell tower and And help you line up your antenna did I say it’s free FREE is always good
    Enjoy your day

  5. Michael, yes it is to get cellular signals

  6. Sounds good ,But thats we have a HOT SPOT. Works anywhere.

  7. August, we have a hot spot too, this is to bring in a signal in fringe areas. Your hot spot may work everywhere you have been so far, but trust me, there are a lot of places where it will not work.

  8. Thanks Nick, Enjoy the Oregon Coast – and when you get to the Long Beach area and you need that odd ball thing – Jack’s in Ocean Park is the first place to go.

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