Too many satellite options

The whole point of the MoHo is to see new cool stuff. Preferably outdoors. But it does rain some days.  And other days, you just want to watch a good movie.  Which means TV.  And in a MoHo, that basically means satellite.  Sure, some campgrounds have cable hookups, but its pretty basic and not very dependable.  Cable isn’t an option at all when boon docking.

So this is definitely one of those first world problems.  But hey, its a problem nonetheless.

I had assumed that this was a simple problem, but it turned out to be more complex than I imagined.  The first thing I learned is that each satellite network uses multiple satellites.  Let’s say 3.  The real answer is more complex, but let’s just stick with 3. Some channels are on one satellite, and some channels are on another, some are on the 3rd.

DirecTV further complicates the situation by putting its HD channels on a specific satellite frequency requiring a full-size dish. More on that in a minute. Actually, a little more now.  If you want DirecTV AND you want HD, your choices are limited quite a bit.

Anyway, there are two basic kinds of dishes for the MoHo roof. Well, really three but I’m not going to talk as much about the third option.  Options:

  • Dome
  • Winegard Trav’ler (Full size)
  • In motion
King Tailgater

#1 – The first is a dome-type dish like the King Tailgater.  These are small dishes under a plastic bubble that mounts to the roof of the MoHo. When you get where you are going, you hit a button and the dish automatically finds a satellite and locks on. They are about the same height as the roof air conditioners so they don’t increase the MoHo height. They aren’t impacted by high winds at the campsite if a storm blows in. They also get their power directly through the coax lines from the receiver box(es) inside the coach, so there isn’t much to install in the RV.  The are around $350 and about the same to have installed. They look pretty cool too!  You see these on a lot of motorhomes and travel trailers.

Seems perfect right?  Well, not so fast.

Unfortunately, these are capable of pointing at a single satellite at a time.  Say what?  Who cares! I’m not an astronaut!  Why would I need more than one satellite at a time?

Well, To start, if there are two people trying to watch two different channels, and the channels are on different satellites, then one person doesn’t get to watch what they want. (aside: between Heather and I, I’m pretty sure I know who that would be – Home and Garden TV beats History Channel every time in our house).

Next, the DVR may or may not work reliably if it is trying to record a show on a channel carried by a different satellite than the one the dish is currently pointed at when the recording is supposed to start.  Some reviews have complained that the dish itself makes a lot of noise during channel surfing as it repositions to point at one satellite or another. Others say they don’t notice.  Given the relative age of many of the target customers, the difference in perceived volume might not be equipment-related, if you get my drift.

The size of the dish is another concern…it is smaller than the standard dish and so signal strength will always be lower vs. a traditional full size dish. Not a big deal in a clear sky, but lots of RV parks have trees, and thunderstorms could definitely rain on your parade.

Lastly, these are not capable of getting DirectTV HD.  Not at all. You’re stuck with Dish Network (which is fine for most people) if you use a dome and want HD.

So what options DO exist for more traditional Full Service satellite TV?  Inquiring TV junkies want to know!

Winegard Trav'ler
Winegard Trav’ler

#2 Hello Winegard Trav’ler!

This bad boy is a collapsible full-size dish that can lock onto 3 satellites at once and will provide the same experience you get at home.  Full DVR.  Full HD (both DirecT and Dish Network).  Full signal strength. So what’s the downside?  COST!  Well, that, and if you drive off with it still raised, you can rip a huge hole in your roof and cause thousands of dollars in damage. Remember your preflight checklist, people.  Its also takes about 5 minutes to start up and shut down so its not quite as fast as the dome-type dishes but this is not a big deal.

This unit is obviously subject to high winds if a storm blows in.  The manufacturer says its good for winds up to 70mph, and while I don’t doubt that, I am not sure what the stress on the MoHo roof structure would be. I will probably lower the dish if I am in winds over 40mph.  (incidentally, a Winegard engineer posted on IRV2 that 40mph would be his top limit too, and the official limits were higher than he would be comfortable with). So, this is something to keep in mind vs. the dome-type dish.  If the winds come up, pop in a DVD.

The Winegard Trav’ler itself is almost 5x more expensive than the dome, and the installation is double the price.  So naturally we had to have this option.  Sure, its more expensive, but never missing an episode of Downton Abbey? Priceless.  (Sheesh. Pro Tip people: EVERYTHING on an RV costs money.  Get ready for it)

There is a 3rd option that I said I wasn’t going to talk as much about.  These are ‘in-motion” dishes which let you view satellite TV while driving down the road.

King Dome dish
King Dome dish

They are basically a specialized version of #1 – the Dome – that has a wider angle view of the sky as accordingly, can (more or less) keep at least one satellite in view as you go down the road.  There are plenty of limits, and it mostly works on the interstates (flat, no trees), won’t work in canyons, etc.  At first I thought this was a total gimmick, especially since I don’t have kids to keep entertained. Tagline: In-motion dishes, replacing “are we there yet” with “let it go, let it gooooooo” since 2007 (when did “Frozen” come out?).

This option is about halfway between the dome price and the Winegard Trav’ler. And in terms of capability, its essentially the same as the standard dome. Like no DirecTV HD signals on this kind of dish and only on satellite at a time with either Dish Network or DirecTV.

But it could be handy to make sure scheduled DVR recordings actually happen, even if you are causing along HWY 15 in the middle of nowhere.  At least in standard def. I didn’t look much into this option as its pretty expensive for the limited extra ability, but it might be perfect for you.


Next blog will be about choosing DirecTV or Dish Network. Because we haven’t picked providers or receivers yet.

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