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If you’re hitting the road in your RV odds are you have adventure on your mind. But there’s another important aspect of life that often needs to be maintained while on the road. I’m talking about being connected to the internet.
It’s vitally important for us to have a working internet connection in our RV due to how we make our living.
You may just be looking for nightly entertainment, either way internet has become an integral part of a lot of our lives.
When looking at internet options we quickly became overwhelmed due to the amount of products and price points out there. It didn’t help that we were also in the middle of our RV Renovation at the time.
Our RV Internet Setup
Below, I’ll explain what we use currently for our RV internet setup as well as explain how our story has unfolded. Hopefully we’ll be able to help point you in the right direction.
Check out the video on our (original) RV internet setup below:
Equipment We’ve Used:
Our Phones/Mifi – We have the Verizon Unlimited Data Plan
When we first left our sticks and bricks home we knew we’d be heading to Wisconsin. We also knew we’d be relatively close to an internet source. So when one of our family members gave us the C. Crane US3 Super USB Wifi Antenna 3 and a repeater we were pretty excited.
As I mentioned before we were busy working on our RV before we left, which took up a ton of our time and attention. But based on the research we’d done before the renovation we figured we’d be fine with the antenna and repeater we had.
Once there we hooked up all the basics for the RV, you know water, sewer, and electricity. The only thing left to do was connect the computers to the internet.
But… there was a problem. It turns out we were given the C. Crane antenna, and an extra long USB to USB cable for connecting the antenna at a long distance. Why I thought we had a repeater as well is beyond me.
I gave up on tearing the RV apart looking for the repeater and decided to try and connect the antenna directly to one of our computers.
That’s when we ran into our second problem. We couldn’t get the internet to come through to the computers from the antenna.
Come to find out after more research most antennas are not able to directly connect with Macs. Turns out the best way to get Macs connected is by using a Wifi antenna in combination with a Wifi repeater. Which is exactly what we thought we had.
With a Wifi repeater we’d be able to create our own wireless signal based off of the signal our antenna was pulling in. Therefore bypassing the need to connect the antenna directly to the computer.
So we went back to Katie’s research notes from before and decided to go with the Alpha R36 Repeater.
Attempt One and a Half:
We’d found the repeater we wanted but we’d have to wait a few days to get it. We couldn’t go a few days without internet and didn’t want to drain our cellular data so we had to look at other options to hold us over.
We went to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and various other electronic stores trying to find what we were looking for. There were a ton of different options out there but none of them seemed to be designed for what we needed or have the reviews to back up the expensive purchase (we were in a small town so it was kind of slim pickings).
We ended up heading back to Wal-Mart where we picked up the Belkin Dual Band N600 Wireless Wifi Range Extender.
When we plugged in our Range Extender it worked. We were pleasantly surprised that we were able to get an internet connection so we began plugging away online.
We soon found out the speed of the internet was slower than we needed. These types of extenders are designed to extend the range of a home router to farther places like say a garage, or into the front yard. Meaning the extender is suppose to be located within the original routers strong signal range.
In our situation the extender was well beyond the routers range for a strong signal. So while we were able to get online it wasn’t a strong enough signal for us to navigate without some frustration. While the connection was slow we were able to make it work to hold us over.
If you’re in a pinch and need some sort of internet but don’t have many options this may be able to get you by for a bit. But overall if you are looking for a more consistent internet feed you may want to go with another option.
The key part to our RV internet setup arrives in the mail, our Alpha R36 Repeater .
Once we received the R36 we immediately went about setting it up. The R36 is fairly easy to set up.
Here are instructions on setting up the R36.
Once everything was set we had to move the C. Crane antenna to various spots in order to locate the strongest connection with the router. When we found the best location for the antenna we were browsing the web as if we were sitting in my aunt and uncles living room.
The joy ended up being short lived. About a month and a half later the R36 quit acknowledging it had a USB antenna plugged in. The confusing thing was the antenna still flashed the correct lights, indicating it was functioning properly.
You can see the R36 is registering a USB antenna by the flashing light on the front of it.
I spent two days going through every setting I could find and researching everything possible on the internet. I used our data plan hotspot in order to get on the internet. While this option worked it’s our least favorite option because it can get rather expensive.
In the end I wasn’t able to find a solution so we sat back and thought about it. The conclusion we came to was the C. Crane antenna had already run it’s course, as it was a few years old. We also gave a call to the service department for C. Crane but found that our antenna was out of warranty. This in turn led us down another path.
Looking into other Wifi antennas/boosters led us to the Alfa AWUS036NH. From what we read we found that most people had been extremely pleased with it. At this point we’d been really pleased with our repeater and this booster/antenna combo was made by the same company, so we figured we’d give it a try.
When we purchased our Alfa AWUS036NH we decided to get an upgraded package that came with both 5 DBi and 7 DBi antennas. From what I understand, the higher the DBi, the farther the antenna is able to reach for an internet signal.
Turns out we’d made a great choice, because when we received the booster/antenna we plugged it in and it worked like a charm. When we used the 7 DBi antenna we actually ended up getting faster speeds and a more constant connection.
We ended up using this setup for about two and a half months, right up until we left Wisconsin. There were a couple of days where the connection would slow down but for the most part we had reliable internet.
Thoughts on Alfa R36 with Alfa AWUS036NH Booster/Antenna:
This setup worked great and helped us stay connected the entire time we were in Wisconsin. As we’d come to find out later, it does have limitations. Even with the limitations this is a RV internet setup I would suggest everyone has on hand if internet is a must.
All of that has led us to where we are now, which is testing out a couple of new antennas. You see when we arrived in Florida our main internet source to connect to was about 30-50 yards further away than the one in Wisconsin. We also have a lot of trees in our path, and the router we’re trying to connect to is located in a metal shed/trailer.
We’re currently testing out the new antennas and are hoping to have an updated post out here soon that will let you know how they’re working.
Thoughts on Internet Options We’ve Tested to this Point:
Hopefully as you read the information above you gained a better since of which options worked well for us. But I think it’s important for us to all understand the most important thing Katie and I’ve learned which is…
You’ll need many options to stay connected!
We’ve found is whenever we move to a different location the situation changes. Sometimes we may not have a clear line of sight to the router, there may be trees or other buildings in the way, or maybe even tons of people trying to pull the same signal.
Regardless of what issues arise it’s important to understand they will happen. Try your best to stay calm and level headed. While in Florida our connection percentage would jump from 40% to 100% then back down to 26%. I couldn’t figure out what was happening.
While the internet was iffy from the Wifi source, we made sure we had the data from our cell plan to act as a backup RV internet setup. This isn’t ideal considering how expensive data plans can be, but it gave us time to research and bring in new options in the meantime.
There are a lot of options out there at many different price points. We tried to stay on the more affordable side of the spectrum while still getting quality. If you’re looking for internet options try not to get overwhelmed, keep your head up, stay flexible, and you’ll find what’s right for you.
Do you maintain an internet connection in your RV? If so we’d love to hear about your RV internet setup in the comments below.