Best Options to Get TV While RV Camping

Why would you want to watch TV in your RV?

For weekend campers, this article probably doesn’t apply since the whole reason you’re camping on the weekend is to get out in nature and get away from sitting in front on a TV.

For people who camp for months at a time or full-time, where the RV is an extension of regular living, watching TV becomes part of a ritual just as when you’re living in a normal home. Whether it’s watching your favorite TV shows, catching your favorite sports team live, or keeping up on the nightly news and weather forecast.

While getting TV channels is quite easy in a stationary home, it can prove very difficult/expensive when your home constantly moves. The same applies to internet since many times they are connected into one service at your regular home.

More and more campgrounds offer cable and internet as part of your nightly rate, but depending on your campsite, the cable may be fine, but the internet may be non-existent if you’re far away from their wifi signal. If you don’t stay in campgrounds, then you’re on your own to figure out how to receive a cable or internet signal. You can see how to get internet for your RV in this article.

In this article I’m going to discuss the four different way that you can watch TV while living in your RV. Many RVers use all four options at different times. My next article will discuss the best ways to get connected to the internet while on the road.

Satellite TV

King

King EquipmentKING VQ4500 Tailgater Portable/Roof Mountable
KING VQ4100 Quest Portable/Roof Mountable
King Controls KD3000B King-Dome Air In-Motion
Dish or DirectTVDishDirectTVBoth
Dome or Open FaceDomeDomeDome
Portable or Roof MountedBothBothRoof Mounted
Allows multiple TVsYesYesYes
In-motion CapabilityNoNoYes
HD or SD CapableBothSD onlyDISH HD
DirectTV SD
Western or Eastern ArcWesternWesternWestern

Winegard

Winegard EquipmentWinegard PL-7000 DISH PlaymakerWinegard PA-6002 PathwayWinegard GM-6035 CarryoutWinegard RT2000T RoadTripWinegard SK-SWM3 DIRECTV TRAV'LER RV Satellite System Winegard SK-1000 TRAV'LER RV Satellite TV Antenna for DISH
Dish or DirectTVDishDishBothBothDirectTVDish
Dome or Open FaceDomeDomeDomeDomeOpen FaceOpen Face
Portable or Roof MountedBothPortableBothRoof MountedRoof MountedRoof Mounted
Allows multiple TVsNoYesYesYesYesYes
In-motion CapabilityNoNoNoYesNoNo
HD or SD CapableBothBothDISH HD
DirectTV SD
DISH HD
DirectTV SD
DirectTV HDDishHD
Western or Eastern ArcWesternWestern and EasternWesternWesternWesternWestern
Multi-SatelliteNoNoNoNoYesYes

We’re both University of Florida alumni and follow our sports teams regularly. It’s not hard to find a local channel in Florida showcasing a game. But in Utah? That’s bit harder.

We started researching our options for watching them through satellite TV and found out our options were Dish or DirectTV or going to the local sports bar with satellite TV. Though we decided not to go with Satellite, we researched all the options and read a lot of RV forums to see what other RVers liked or disliked about their equipment.

It seemed to me after reading through the forums that if you used your RV occasionally for camping or tailgating then the portable equipment such as the King Tailgator or Winegard Playmaker worked well with Dish or DirectTV.

If you camped more than 6 months out of the year, then the options got more complicated due to RVers wanting more features to view multiple TVs at once and recording shows on DVRs. They wanted their chosen equipment to work rain or shine or being in the Western or Eastern part of the country.

The two main equipment manufacturers for satellites are Winegard and King. While going through many full-time RVer forums, it seems like Winegard has a slight edge over King and they have more equipment options than King. A widely held belief was also that the dome satellites didn’t receive satellite signals as well as the open face satellites and was worst at receiving signals in poor weather such as rain or snow.

With all the different options, we created a chart to showcase the most popular satellite equipment options. I did not include receivers as those as dependant on the satellite provider that you choose as well as the particular satellite equipment. Many of the links in the chart show options to bundle it with the necessary receiver.

The Dish subscription options are great if you already have them at your stationery house. Only $7 more a month and you just had to buy their remote equipment. They also have the pay as you go so you can stop service up to 6 months to save you money. Another main difference is that you can get HD service with their Dome satellites which you can’t with any DirectTV dome. A final benefit about Dish is they offer discounts to active and retired military which is great since we are a military veteran family. You can view all their subscription and equipment offerings at their website for Dish.

DirectTV has the exclusive NFL package which may make a difference as to which service you use. Just like Dish you can also suspend service for up to 6 months. You can view their RV offerings at their travel page

Related:

​​RV Entertainment systems​​​

Streaming TV

This is the option that we choose to get our TV. We were lucky that we had the original Verizon unlimited internet cell phone plan. I remember when all the cell phone companies offered this service and in our area, verizon had better coverage. When they no longer offered the unlimited coverage, we were able to be grandfathered in.

Fast forward several years, and we would regularly use 100-150 gigabits of data streaming our TV while traveling. About six months before we went on the road in 2012, we were ahead of the curve by getting rid of our cable box. When Netflix and Hulu became available we realized that we could watch most everything via their services, except live sports.

We came up with an arrangement with our best friends to let them use our hulu subscription if they gave us their cable access to Watch ESPN live. We have been watching TV that way ever since. Though we did have a 3 month stint using sling.com while playing on a family football league and watching more NFL.

We use chromecast to cast any video from our phone and laptop to our TV. It’s as simple as plugging in the Chromecast adaptor to your HDMI outlet on your TV. If you have android phones or tablets, then chromecast app is already installed. Find the cast symbol, click it and watch your video on the TV. It really is that simple but we did just realize that it doesn’t work on apple phones.

Nowadays, more and more TVs are considered “smart TVs” and have internet capabilities with many streaming options already on them. If you’re able to connect the TV to your internet, you can turn the TV on and go directly to Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu etc.

Here is a chart from PC Mag listing all the streaming TV options, pricing and a thorough explanation of each option. 

Stay tuned for our next article about how to stay connected to the internet while traveling since that affects your ability to use option #4 streaming TV as an option for watching TV in your RV.

Over the Air

Our 1996 LazyDaze came with a standard crank TV antenna that you crank up when you get to your campsite and manually turn to find channels.

I think we only forgot once to crank the antenna down. Luckily we were staying at a state park and as we were leaving we went to the dump first. One of us looked up and saw the antenna up and luckily we put it down before we sheared it off riding down the road. Ever since that time, cranking down the antenna was on our packing up checklist.

We learned that our crank antenna, an earlier 90s version of Winegard Antenna would routinely give us several local channels that we could watch most of the time without interference.

Other times, we’d turn that antenna every way possible and couldn’t get anything on the TV or the channels would cut in and out. This current model shows a range of 55 miles for the antenna which sounds much farther than our older model range.

After doing some research, Winegard offers an amplifier that you can install on the antenna that helps boost the range and reviews indicate that people are happy with the results. 

Also getting good reviews from RVers is the King Jack digital over the air antenna. If you’re tired of remembering to put down the antenna then this will work great as it doesn’t have to be lowered.

Out of the 4 ways to connect, over the air is one of the cheapest but you don't get many channels. Many RVers who have satellite TV still use this option to get the local channels since many times you can’t get local on the satellite. If you’re not a big TV fan and only watch local channels occasionally, then this is the best way to connect.

Cable through Campgrounds

Most private campgrounds now offer cable in their nightly rate, sometimes it costs a little extra while most of the time it’s included in the rate. Depending on the campground, the channel offering is really great or non-existent

When we first started rving, we didn’t know that our RV had an outside cable hook-up. It literally took us two months before we found it as I was filling up the water tank and noticed it towards the bottom curved panel.

We had purchased a Flat Cable to go through our window without having to keep the window cracked in order to hook it up to our TV. I got so excited that we wouldn’t have to do that anymore but the excitement didn’t last because the outlet didn’t work.

I couldn’t trace the cable at all underneath and didn’t want to open up any walls so we continued to use the flat cable. The biggest pain about using campground cable is programming your TV each time you set up.

Anytime we were wanting to watch something live I swear it took the TV twice as long to finish programming to find the channels. Cable through campgrounds is also a cheap method to watch TV while traveling but if you don’t regularly stay in campgrounds, this option won’t work for you.

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