There’s limits to TV. Any more renovation or cooking shows and its over.
What I really mean is that “normal” TV has a reception limit. You don’t have to travel far out of a town to find that you don’t get much of a TV signal with a normal antenna.
The Winegard H/V TV Antenna pictured above is as good as it gets in my opinion. If you can’t get reception with that antenna, you need satellite. (On the other hand, if you have any other antenna, the Winegard H/V is worth a look, as it has far better reception than all the others).
There’s a range of satellites available for caravans. Which one do you choose?
Roof Mount or Portable?
Portable satellite dish systems start around $600 and are a great easy way to get Satellite reception. You sit them on the ground and manually point them at the satellite. They come with a “direction finder” which helps you.
Trade offs are – you still have to store it somewhere. At 75-90cm diameter its a big bit of gear, so often gets put on top of the bed. It’s not all that secure left out on the ground. They have cables running along the ground to your van. And they take a bit of time to setup. As you move around Australia, you will have to adjust the LNB (the knob thing on the arm), to adjust for your latitude.
Roof mount units are fully automatic. Just push a button inside and it finds the satellite for you in a few minutes. It can’t be stolen (easily), and there’s no storage issue to worry about.
There’s the compact square style and the larger round dishes. Both are great options. The larger dish will generally get coverage all over Australia, whereas the compact square style can be a bit limited in central Australia.
The larger roof mounted dish can be problematic to fit due to the large amount of real estate it requires on the roof. The compact unit is sometimes the only option for roof mounted installations.
We get a lot of questions about whether a caravan roof is suitable to support a satellite dish. We haven’t found a van yet that we can’t fit a dish to! They sometimes just require some extra reinforcing to make sure it is secure enough.
What is VAST?
Once you have a satellite dish, and its receiving signal, you’d think you’d be able to watch TV right? Wrong! It’s not like normal TV. The satellite signal is encoded and requires a “Decoder” to actually watch TV.
A decoder is a box that takes the satellite signal, decodes it, and outputs to our TV. In order for it to work, you need to have a VAST subscription / license. For travellers in Australia, this is free – you just need to register your details once your system is setup. Once you’re registered, you can watch all the commercial free to air channels as well as ABC, SBS etc.
VAST boxes are available as 12V units, so no additional power systems are required.
Better than a VAST box
A VAST box requires its own remote control, and outputs to just one TV (normally).
If you like to move your TV around (e.g. bedroom to outside), or have multiple TVs, you either need multiple VAST boxes or complicated switching systems… OR you can get a TV with the VAST system built into it. These are pretty cool because there’s less wires, just one remote control – making the whole process much easier and enjoyable.
What about Foxtel?
Foxtel is a paid commercial service. You don’t get it just because you have a satellite.
However, providing you already have a Foxtel service connected – e.g. at home – you may be able to take your Foxtel box, or use a 2nd one in your caravan. (We recommend you check your service terms & conditions first).