Easy RV Mod -> Better WiFi & Internet Control With The WiFiRanger Elite Pack
I’m finally getting around to writing an Easy RV Mod post that I’ve had on the back-burner for several months! Earlier this year we were offered a WiFiRanger Elite Pack by the folks over at WiFiRanger in return for an evaluation. It’s a product we’ve been eyeing on and off over the years, but just have never gotten around to buying. We installed the product while we were in Eugene, OR in May and we’ve now had ~3 months of use on it so I feel I’m finally ready to write about it. Also, just to make it all fun we did a final (post-installation) video review too.
So, if you’ve ever been curious about WiFi enhancement or WiFiRanger feel free to view the video and/or read the written overview & step-by-step installation below. Here goes….
Discount Code: If you decide to buy anything from the WiFiRanger website you’re welcome to use coupon code ‘WHEELING5′ for a 5% discount at checkout. We don’t make any money from the sale, but it’ll let the WiFiRanger folks know the recommendation came from us.
What Is The WiFiRanger Elite Pack?
The WiFiRanger Elite Pack is a combo pack that contains two devices -> an external WiFi device (called the “Elite”) that you mount outside your RV and an internal device (called the “Go2”) that you put inside your RV. The package comes with 30-ft of Ethernet cable, metal installation brackets, a “quick start” guide and includes both 110VAC Power Adapter & 12V wire harness for the router.
What Does It DO?
The WiFiRanger Elite Pack is a combo WiFi enhancer + snazzy central control station for all your internet signals.
The Elite is a powerful little antenna** (1000 mW adjustable power) that is installed on the outside of your RV and will scan for WiFi signals up to 2 miles away (with direct line of sight). It basically helps to “suck in” weak WiFi signals outside your RV and send them inside to your Go2.
The Go2 is a smart router** that you place inside your RV. On the input side the Elite connects to it, and if you have a compatible cellular data device (e.g. a Verizon MiFi), you can tether (= connect w/ a wire) that to it too. The Go2 accepts all these signals and is able to monitor, track and prioritze whichever signal you want to use (WiFi or cellular). That’s the “smart” part. Then it creates a single, private wireless signal on the output side that all your home-use devices (phone/computer/pads etc.) can connect to. It has several other cool features too (e.g. secure surfing, guest sharing, bandwidth monitoring etc.), but basically it’s just a really snazzy central control station for everything to do with the internet = all your various internet source signals go into it, all your devices connect to it and you’re able to control & monitor exactly what signals you’re using through the Go2 control panel in your browser.
**NOTE/ You can actually use either the Elite or the Go2 by themselves (the Elite has it’s own integrated router and the Go2 has it’s own internal antenna), but the combo package (= using the Elite as the “antenna” & the Go2 as the “router”) provides the best combination of WiFi signal sucking power plus centralized control. The Go2 can also be paired with other WiFiRanger antennas. For details on stand-alone use or alternate pairings refer to WiFiRanger website.
What Does the Elite Pack NOT DO?
It’s not a cellular booster so it won’t help you to improve your cellular signal (you need a separate cellular booster for that). Also it can’t help improve WiFi that’s bad by design. For example if you’re in a campground that is overloaded (e.g. it doesn’t have not enough bandwidth for the number of people logging on) your WiFiRanger can’t do anything to improve that and your speeds will be poor no matter what you do. The Elite Pack can help you get a stronger connection to the campground WiFi, but it can’t create fast internet when there is none available.
Do You NEED One?
This is a nifty product for some folks and not as useful for others.
If you rarely or never use campground or free WiFi signals (say, you’re always out in the boonies or camping in spots without access to WiFi) then there’s not much point spending big $$ on a device that looks for WiFi signals.
If, on the other hand you regularly switch between WiFi & cellular, or you’re on a limited cellular plan and need to rely on WiFi the rest of the time, or you have a bunch of devices (and people) all using internet and you want more central control about where all your data is being used then a WiFiRanger can be a really nice solution. The WiFi range and central control features are both outstanding.
WiFi Elite Pack Installation Equipment
NOTE/ For our installation & step-by-step we simply did an exact copy of the RV Geeks WiFiRanger installation process. The RV Geeks have the absolute best installation video for this product, so I definitely encourage you to click on the link and view their detailed step-by-step video. Everything below comes from them….
Some of what you need to install the WiFiRanger Elite Pack comes in the pack when you buy it, but you will require a few additional items to complete the process.
1/ Socket wrench or Philips head screw driver (to tighten the metal brackets for the antenna)
2/ Self-Adhesive Cable Tie Mounts and Nylon Cable Zip Ties (to secure the cable run on your roof)
3/ Wire cutter
4/ Electrical Tape
5/ Putty knife
6/ Dicor Self-Leveling Sealant and Caulking Gun (to fill any holes you make in the roof)
NOT SHOWN -> If you have a MiFi that you plan to connect to your Go2, make sure you have a USB cable that can do BOTH charge and data (a charge-only cable will not work).
Step By Step Installation
Once again, as I mentioned above this is an exact copy of the RV Geeks installation process. Here’s the installation process in pics and words:
Step 1 -> Secure The Elite Antenna Onto Your Rooftop TV Batwing
NOTE/ We have a crank-up Batwing TV antenna on our RV, so we chose to install our Elite onto that. You can also install your Elite onto an RV ladder, a flagpole or even directly onto your roof (using a flat-mount bracket). It just needs to be somewhere on the outside of your RV and preferably as high up as possible in the air (for better line of sight).
1/ Decide where to place the Elite on your TV Batwing so that nothing snags and the top part of the antenna is able to completely clear the Batwing when cranked up. Do a few “test cranks” (cranking Batwing up/down) to make sure you have the position just right before you go onto the next step.
2/ Once you have your antenna position fixed, crank up the Batwing slightly so that you can easily slip in the circular metal brackets (included in the Elite Pack) between the sliding arms of the Batwing and around the base of the Elite. Insert your brackets.
3/ Tighten down the 2 metal brackets, one on each end of the antenna base. They should fit nicely into the two small indentations of your Elite antenna base.
4/ Your antenna should now be secure on your Batwing.
Step 2: Secure The Elite Cable Onto Your Batwing & RV Roof
1/ With your TV Batwing still slightly raised, slip a zip tie between the Batwing arms so that you can tie down the top of your Elite cable to the outside of the Batwing arm.
2/ Cinch tie and cut off the excess with a wire cutter.
3/ Place one more tie towards bottom of Batwing so that cable is secure along the entire length of the arm and doesn’t move during crank up/down of the Batwing. Do a few “test cranks” to make sure everything is secure and there are no snags.
4/ Prepare a roof mount (= self-adhesive cable tie mount with a zip tie through it)
5/ IMPORTANT STEP = BEFORE securing the cable to your roof make sure you leave enough slack at the bottom (between Batwing & roof) so that the RV Batwing can fully raise, lower and rotate without straining the Elite cable. Several inches of slack are needed! Secure the cable onto your roof with a self-adhesive roof-mount making sure to preserve the necessary slack.
6/ You can add one or two more roof mounts if you wish, but don’t completely fasten the whole cable onto the roof yet. Leave some cable free for the next step.
Step 3 -> Feed The Cable Through The Roof
NOTE/ We already had a hole and some old (unused) cable on our roof from the time we removed our satellite dish. So we used both of these for our cable run. If you don’t have any holes you’ll obviously need to create one or find some other way to run your Elite cable into your RV.
1/ Prepare your roof hole for the cable run. In our case all we needed to do was remove a cable entry plate and some old Dicor (using our putty knife) from an existing hole near our Batwing antenna.
2/ Your roof hole should now be clear to run your Elite cable.
3/ Wrap the end of your Elite cable with the plastic bag that your metal brackets came in. This will protect the fragile ethernet plug while you run the cable through the roof hole.
4/ Use electrical tape to tape your wrapped Elite cable to whatever you will use to pull it through the hole in your RV roof. In our case we used some old satellite cable that we’d kept on the roof after we removed our satellite dish last year.
5/ Pull the cable through the hole. Once it is completely through and taught, secure it to the roof with a roof mount and start to Dicor the hole.
6/ Re-install the cable entry cover over your Dicor’d hole and screw it in place. Once it is secure seal & cover the entire thing with more Dicor.
7/ Your Elite antenna installation is now complete!
Step 4 -> Connect Everything To Your Go2 & Use Your System!
1/ Connect Elite cable and power into the bottom of your Go2 router inside your RV. Your Elite antenna cable will plug into the yellow ethernet port on right and your power cable will plug into the black power port on left. The other (blue) ethernet ports are open ports that you can use for other things (e.g. external hard drive, direct connect devices etc.) if you wish.
2/ Connect your MiFi (if you have one) to the USB port on right-hand side of the Go2. Make sure you use a USB cable that can handle both data & power (a “charging only” cable won’t work). Once your Go2 shows a SOLID red light (on #5) you are good to go.
The installation of the Elite Pack is now complete! From here you all you need to do is find the Go2 wireless signal on your computer and connect using the temp password included in your Elite Pack. Then you will go into mywifiranger.com (the browser control panel) to change your password, set-up your priorities and start monitoring & prioritizing your network.
When we got the Elite Pack I honestly wasn’t sure how useful we’d find it. We do a lot of boondocking and public park camping so in the 7+ years we’ve been on the road we haven’t used a lot of campground or public WiFi. Plus, as those of you who travel a lot know, campground WiFi mostly sucks. This also delayed my blog post about the product since we needed to stay several places with WiFi before I could really say anything concrete about the product.
Since we installed the Elite Pack we’ve stayed at 4 parks with accessible WiFi (either through the campground or nearby sources) and I have to admit we’ve been impressed. Here’s what we’ve seen:
- Many More accessible WiFi Points -> The Elite is definitely a powerful little antenna and picks up waaaay more WiFi signals that any of home devices are able to see. As an example in our current location (Ketchum, ID) I can only “see” around 6 WiFi connections on my personal computer, but through the Elite/Go2 we can “see” 25 WiFi networks. Now, in most places the majority of connections are private (password protected), but in bigger metropolitan areas we will often catch a few “open” ones too.
- Stronger WiFi Connection -> There’s no doubt the Elite creates a stronger connection to WiFi than our individual devices are able to, and when that WiFi is decent (i.e. it isn’t overloaded) this leads to very significant stability and speed improvements. Again, as an example here in Ketchum, ID we have a pretty weak connection to the campground WiFi through our computers (when we try to connect directly we get speed tests around 1.5-3 Mbps down, 0.05-1 Mbps up), but if we go through the Go2/Elite we get a strong, stable connection good enough to stream video (5-9 Mbps down, 1.5-3 Mbps up). It’s a HUGE improvement!
- Great Internal Network -> One bonus I didn’t expect was that the Go2 creates an internal network that is far more powerful that our MiFi did on it’s own. Before the Go2 we had to move our MiFi wherever we needed the signal (need it in the front, take it to the front…need it in the back, take it to the back). Now, we don’t have to move anything. The Go2 signal is powerful enough to reach all corners of our RV, even from inside our “tech cabinet”. It’s a minor bonus, but a rather nice one.
- Easy, Central Control (Once You Figure It Out) -> The WiFiRanger Control Panel is somewhat complicated to figure out at first (TIP: watch the training videos on the WiFiRanger website), but once you get the hang of it, it’s a really snazzy, central way to control all your internet signals. I can easily set priorities (between WiFi and cellular), I’m able to switch signals at the click of a button and I can see exactly how much data each device that is connected to the network is using. Plus I love that I only ever have to connect my computer/pad/phone to one signal (the Go2) no matter where we go. For control freaks, this thing is a frikkin’ dream.
- It’s Not Magical -> I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating so that folks who buy the product don’t get needlessly disappointed. A lot of campground WiFi sucks by design and the WiFiRanger won’t magically improve that. As an example, when we were in Portland, OR we didn’t see any improvement in the campground WiFi using the Elite Pack. This is basically because the campground WiFi there is always heavily overloaded and horrible no matter how strong a connection you have to it. So, the Elite Pack was not able to help us. Magic, it cannot do.
- Safe Surf Degrades Speed -> I really, really like the idea of the safe surf feature (= the ability to create a secure connection over public WiFi), but we’ve found it hard to use due to speed degradation. Here at the campground it reduced download speeds pretty significantly from ~5-9 Mbps to below 1.5 Mbps with moderate reductions in upload speeds. The extra encryption seems to just slow things down quite a bit all-around. For the time being we’re not using this feature much, but we’ll keep testing it.
- It’s Pricey -> At $599, this is a pretty significant investment.
Overall the pro’s have been a nice bump for us. We really like the improved internal network, ease of use and ability to control/monitor all our connections. Plus the times we have been able to get a good campground WiFi connection (like here in Ketchum, ID), we’ve really been able to take advantage of the extra stability and speed. It’s two thumbs up from us!
Related External Links:
- WiFiRanger Official Website -> Click HERE
- RV Geeks WiFi Ranger Installation Video -> Click HERE
- RV Mobile Internet Resource Center. Want to learn more about mobile internet? Cellular boosters? Other WiFi enhances? This website, run by our friends Chris & Cherie is the place to find out -> Click HERE
- There are LOTS of other installation & WiFiRanger overview videos & blogs on the web. Just Google & enjoy….