WHITE PAPER: Enjoy Satellite Service in your RV!

Why stay home when you can roam? That’s the motto of RV’ers everywhere and while you’re roaming, why not take your satellite service with you? Our new white paper shows you all the options in an easy-to-use interactive PDF. The text is listed below, but you’ll want to download this one and click away for a customized guide showing exactly what you’ll need!

Click here to download our interactive PDF!

Enjoy TV while traveling

Whether it’s a big, loud tailgate party or a quiet evening spent watching TV while it’s rainy out, there’s nothing like bringing your home entertainment experience with you. It’s easy if you put up an antenna, but an antenna isn’t going to take you all the way, right? You want DVR service, recorded programs, pay-per-view, and all those sports channels!

Luckily you have options. Whether it’s a simple tripod that keeps your budget intact, a full-fledged system that keeps your family entertained while you’re driving, or something in between, we have the solutions you need to get satellite TV hooked up and rolling!

Our interactive PDF has a chart showing all the options.

Choosing the right provider

In the US, you have two choices for satellite TV. If you already have satellite service at home with one provider or the other, the decision is easy. Both DISH and DIRECTV let you use receivers that you supply from home, but most DISH setups require a specific receiver that you may not have at home.. If you haven’t made up your mind,here’s a list of plusses and minuses that might help.

Use any receiver, even a DVR or Genie
Watch NFL Sunday Ticket and other DIRECTV-specific sports programs
Pause live TV (with DVR)
Auto-aiming HD dish is more expensive
Easy to add more receivers with a
SWM-enabled dish

Most installations only work with a particular receiver
Watch Pac-12 network
Cannot use the Hopper DVR or Joey
Wide variety of auto aiming HD dishes
Most installations won’t let you use multiple receivers

Really, the choice is up to you. If you are happy with the provider you have at home there is no reason to start up a separate account just for RV’ing. On the other hand, complicated tailgate setups are usually better with DIRECTV, while it’s easiest to get HDTV on a single receiver with DISH. Remember, though, it’s never ok to borrow a receiver from someone else. Also, both DIRECTV and DISH say it’s ok to use their service on your RV as long as you aren’t using it at home at the same time.

Dishes on Tripods

Why choose a dish on a tripod?
If you are on a budget and don’t mind doing the aiming yourself, you should consider a dish on a tripod. All of these kits come with everything you’ll need, including a long cable and a short flat cable that can be used to run through a window. You’ll want a post level, which you can get at any hardware store. The trick with a dish on a tripod is to make sure it’s as level as possible.

If you only want SD programming, look no further than our basic Sat Kit. It’s easy to aim and inexpensive. If you want HD, you’ll need a dish specific to your provider, and DIRECTV gives you a choice of the regular or SWM dish. You will want to get a SWM dish if the dish you use at home uses SWM technology.

These dishes can be disassembled so that they take up very little space in your RV when you’re done with them, but remember to treat them delicately.

Don’t forget the meter!

If you are aiming a basic satellite dish, you can get away with a simple signal finder, but if you are aiming an HD dish, you have two choices. Either you can use the built-in meter on the receiver (which can take up to 30 seconds to update) or, for really professional results, you can use the SatLookLite signal meter which is pre-loaded with settings for DISH and DIRECTV!

Auto Aiming All In One Dishes

Why choose an auto-aiming all-in-one dish?

If you’re technically minded and practice enough, you’ll get good at aiming a satellite dish in under ten minutes. Not everyone can do it, though, and not everyone wants to. That’s why there are auto-aiming dishes. These dishes are simple: Put them on a level surface and connect them up, and they do the rest. There are several choices at different price levels. Choose the one that makes sense for you.

The Winegard GM-1518 is the only auto-aimer that will support multiple receivers at the same time. That can be an important consideration for you. It works on DIRECTV and DISH satellites, but only DISH will give you HD with this unit.

The Winegard Carryout Anser and its twin the Pathway X2 support only one receiver at a time but at a lower price. The Pathway X2 will work on DISH’s Eastern Arc or Western Arc. Both dishes will give you HD from DISH but neither will give you HD from DIRECTV.
DISH’s Tailgater will give you HD service from a DISH receiver but won’t work with DIRECTV. It’s a little bigger than the Winegard products but it’s easier to place.

All of these dishes should get a good signal by themselves within just a few minutes after being connected to the receivers. All are powered by the receivers themselves.

A note about receivers: 
Any DIRECTV receiver except Genie and H25 will work with the Winegard products, but in order to use any of these with a DISH account you must use the ViP211K or ViP211Z HD receiver. That means that only DIRECTV will let you hook up a DVR with this dish.
DISH’s receiver will sense the dish type when you do a “Check Switch.” For DIRECTV use, these should be set up as dish type 01, 18” Round, and the multiswitch type should be “multiswitch.”

Manual RV-mounted dishes

Mount that dish straight to the RV.

You can save yourself a bit of time by mounting a dish straight to the RV. Basic installs can be very inexpensive. The easiest and least expensive option is to mount a round dish to the side of the RV. Any round dish like the DIRECTV 46DTVE2 will work. In general DISH receivers can use the round dish for standard-definition programming even if it’s a DIRECTV dish. (The round dish is the only one that can be shared between the two providers.)

If you mount a “plain-old” dish to the RV, you might choose to take off the reflector and LNB (the “dishy” part and the part that sticks out in front of it) when you travel. You’ll have to gauge the wind load and how well you’ve secured it. If you’ve mounted to the side of the RV you may be able to simply take off the LNB arm and turn the dish sideways to the wind. This will take some trial and error, because not every situation is the same.

Aiming a standard-definition dish is fairly easy because you only need to find a single satellite.

If you’re looking for something a bit more permanent, check out the RM-DM46 from Winegard. It’s a standard definition dish with a unique crank system that lets it fold flat. The dish mounts on the roof of the RV and can be cranked and aimed from inside the RV. This makes it easier to aim and it means you’re not climbing up there all the time. It’s recommended for someone who uses the system every night but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money.

You can mount an HD dish to your RV as well but you should take off the reflector and LNB before you move. The HD dish is about twice the size of the standard definition dish and it’s very likely that it would be damaged by the wind while you’re driving.

Auto Aiming RV-mounted dishes

When only the best will do.
The ultimate in RV luxury is an auto-aiming dish. Sit back and relax and let the dish do the work! It’s true that these solutions are expensive but when looked at as part of an entire RV purchase they really don’t add more than 1-2% to the overall cost and with a dish that aims itself, you’re free to relax and enjoy! Auto-aiming dishes can pull in HD programming and will support almost any receiver or DVR.
When looking for an auto-aiming dish, there are several choices but the leaders are the Winegard Trav’ler series and KVH’s Tracvision line. The big difference here is the the Winegard products are designed to be used while parked, while KVH’s unique auto tracking system will let someone in the RV (not you, you’re driving) watch live TV while you’re in motion!

Winegard’s Trav’ler SK-1000 is designed for DISH customers while the SK-SWM is designed for DIRECTV customers. Both have a full-size HD dish mounted on a special gimbal that lets them fold down when not in use, then open up and automatically aim themselves. Both dishes can be used with all the latest technology including the Hopper and Genie systems. If you combine them with an LTE hotspot from your wireless carrier, you won’t miss anything, not even on-demand!

KVH is the premier name in mobile satellite dishes, and there’s a good reason: no one else makes it so easy to watch TV while in a moving vehicle, and no one else gives such a wide variety of equipment choices. Full-sized RVs with plenty of room on the roof can use the domed HD7, while vehicles as small as a minivan can use the low-profile A7 for entertainment on the go.

When it comes to KVH products, professional installation is definitely recommended and there are a lot of products to choose from, so it’s best to call for a personalized recommendation.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.