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Campground Networking



I've travelled a couple years full time in an RV, working remotely. This can be a challenger, many campgrounds have poor Wi-Fi setups, and cell service is not always great (Do not plan on doing any work from the Grand Canyon National Park). Calling ahead and asking usually does not reveal accurate information, you are best off using campground reviews, search them for WIFI and read what people say. 

The best network I have seen was at Eagles Landing RV Park in Holt, FL (Pan handle) http://eagleslandingrvpark.com/. Still not perfect. At poor sites, more than once did I offer my assistance in trying to configure and improve, but even the places which have no vendor maintain their system do not want any other hands on it. A couple of times I helped out anyway, default passwords on routers, so I upgraded their firmware, disabled 802.11b, and set a password so no-one else would mess with it.

My RV network setup is not of a common type, you sort of have to be a bit of a network-guy to use specialized setups, using an outside mounted directional antenna, 5Ghz if hey have it, and dial the power down just good enough to reach their home base AP, or the nearest performing one.  If you don't grasp what I just mentioned I would not spend the money on such equipment, it will need manual configuration at every site. 

Here are some common recommendation for Campground Visitors:

  • Do NOT use any WIFI booster or repeater system (unless it is a true outside/inside separate SSID with channel separation, requires configuration at every site). 
  • If your Camper has a WIFI booster built in, turn it off.
  • Limit what you connect, if possible only turn on what you use, e.g. turn Wi-Fi off on your phone when not using it - point here being that more radios create more interference. Disable Bluetooth as well.
  • If your Neighbors Roku works, but not yours, get a newer one that support 802.11AC or better networking.
  • In General devices that support 5Ghz band and AC-protocols will be better in the long run, not all campgrounds support this yet.
  • Cell Phone Boosters can be of value,  do NOT buy a cheap one - spend at least $250 on one, reviews for these things are not always reliable, but check them anyway. A requirement here is that it must have an inside/outside component which requires elevation separation. In a very few circumstances with weak signal this will help. (Only deploy if you have 1 bar signal or so when walking around - if you have 2 or 3 bars LTE, I recommend staying on that as long as it has connectivity).

I also have some recommendations for those who want to improve their campground networks, I am not an expert in outdoor Wi-Fi, but I have seen some of what works and what doesn't

  • Do not put a high powered omni's up high "in the middle" - you will get way too many clients on one radio. Instead deploy smaller cells, low powered radios at just about 14' or lower.
  • Deploy to achieve 5Ghz coverage if possible.
  • 2.4Ghz should not be available on all radios - probably every other one (assuming 5Ghz coverage)
  • Obviously try to obtain channel separation
  • Never deploy 802.11b, even G should be avoided if feasible.
  • One Strategy may be to deploy 5Ghz as AC (and better) only, while 2.4 can support some older radios, meaning those with old gear can fight all the spectrum interference, while 5Ghz can stay pretty clean with "good" clients.
  • Add to your rules and signage: WiFi Boosters not allowed
  • If your backhauling must be wireless, use non 2.4 or non 5ghz if possible - such as 6Ghz or Microwave. Properly mount and secure your directionals, and check signal on a regular basis. Use P2P L1/L2 protocols, such as vendor specific stuff, no SSID broadcast.

Many keep asking me what I use, so here is a list, generalized, as my models are no longer current:

  • Mikrotik 2.4Ghz Directional Antenna
  • Mikrotik 5Ghz Directional Antenna
  • Ubiquity Router (for NAT/DHCP/DMZ/.Q)
  • Mikrotik AP dual band for inside
  • Cisco 3560G 8 port
  • Intel NUC as server running a few vm's, Buffalo NAS for backups.
  • HiBoost RV cell booster
  • Ran Cat6 from a couple spots outside to my "behind tv" datacenter inside
  • 1 1/4" pole on the back for outside mounting


Above, Cell Boost Antenna, and Directional Client Radio, deployed at Rivers Edge Campground, Brookings, OR.

Below, Cell Boost antenna, Deployed at the Grand Canyon National Park, RV Campground.





Comments

  1. I have not tested it myself, but Starlink is growing rapidly and a viable option for RV living, low orbit satellite link, way better than legacy satellite internet - still has some latency, but manageable, even for remote desktop use.

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