Monday, April 24, 2017

Boosting your Internet Connection While Traveling

For anyone looking for a solution to boost your cell connection while on the road, WeBoost asked me to evaluate a new everything-in-one-box solution, that I really do think is about 99% there. And yes, this is #sponsored. Well, sorta anyway...
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So we've used @weboost (formerly Wilson Electronics) boosters since we started traveling: first a Sleek 4G cradle, then a 4G-M and now a 4G-X. Paired with a decent external omni antenna and, for particularly tricky applications, a directional antenna, they've squeezed (squozen?) a usable signal from some pretty remote places and are what I always recommend to others.
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While recently boondocking outside of Zion with about 7 other Airstreams, one of the rigs was having trouble getting a decent connection without a booster, a connection they needed to do the work that allows them to stay on the road. I dug into the back of my wardrobe and pulled out the Drive 4G-X RV kit that WeBoost had sent me to test. Honestly, I hadn't been sure what I was going to do with it, since I already owned the same booster and antenna it came with.
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That first day, we jury rigged the pieces together to test everything and immediately salvaged the spotty connection into a strong one for work (and even some NetFlix and Chill after the kids are asleep). So the other day, the owner of the rig completed the install... in a little over an hour on a beach on Lake Powell!
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So here's what I like about the kit: 1) It comes with the 4G-X, which is the booster you want. 2) For only $20 more than the booster alone, it includes an good omni antenna, enough cable plus adhesive mounting tabs for any roof and hardware for a couple mounting options, all packaged according to each step of the installation and accompanied by good instructions. 3) Plus, it comes with an internal antenna with a wider range than the regular "candy bar" that comes standard with the 4G-X. Honestly, the 10' it boasts is probably more like 5', but the 3' feet the other antenna promises is actually 3".
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Here are the shortcomings: 1) While the kit covers some mounting options, for an Airstream, you'll need to hit the hardware store for some kind of "L" bracket (we bent one out of some spare galvanized metal) to attach to the roof. and bolt the included bracket to. You'll also need some 3M VHB tape and some Dicor self-leveling sealant (see my note about the "Batwing" option below). No, drilling into the trailer is needed. 2) The kit comes with an AC adapter (would require shore power or an inverter) or a DC pigtail to hardwire it. I would prefer the switched DC "cigarette lighter" plug that came with my 4G-X (you can either buy one from them or splice one on to the included pigtail) since you're likely going to want to turn it off at night to save power while boondocking. Of course, you could just unplug it, but wherever you locate it, you'll likely also need power for your hotspot and possibly internal router, so installing a two port 12V outlet may be the way to go.
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A couple final notes: Some of you may remember my Airstream Modification posts in which I installed our directional and omni antennas on the HD TV "Batwing". While I still like this solution for the more rare cases that we need to use our directional, I'm now suggesting to people (and will make the mod on our trailer) that the omni antenna be hard mounted in an upright position. That way, this antenna that you'll use the large majority of the time is always ready without the need to raise the full array and look like an #FBISurveilanceAirstream. Oh yeah, and why not mount it as far forward on the trailer as possible so you can use your own WIFI from the tow vehicle while underway! 
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Anyway, get the info on the Drive 4G-X RV kit here and we get a little kickback. Otherwise, feel free to get in touch with other questions on different approaches to boosting your connection while on the road!

1 comments:

Bill said...

Really helpful post Dave, thanks. What else would be on your list of musts to "stay connected" and work from the road? What are you using for wifi, a hotspot I presume? Trying to get educated. Thanks!

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