Back in the day we thought nothing of putting up a two man tent and slumming it for a few days watching the motor racing at Silverstone or the Superbikes at Cadwell Park. As we have got older our camping needs have changed. The 2 man tent is being eaten by mice in the back of the garage and we now have all the creature comforts that come with having a Motorhome. We still love rural camping and think nothing of heading out into deepest darkest Yorkshire to get away from the hubble bubble of real life.
Caravan and Motor-homing life is very different now though from when we first started out. Often you see BBQs that are powered by gas, most people have an electric point for the kettle, even those in tents! And yes, I will admit it; I have taken my hair straighteners on one or two occasions!
We all take different gadgets with us to make life easier but one of the overwhelming things in recent years that people have wanted, when camping, is the Internet! We are all about the big outdoors, hiking, cycling going to the village pub for steak pie and a pint but when we hang up our walking boots at the end of the day and get tucked up in our ‘vans and tents we want to watch the tele, update our mates on Facebook, tell all our twitter followers how many sheep we saw or just check out the local tourist information website to see what to do tomorrow. How can we do this though? There is no phone signal; we are in the back of beyond!
Fortunately many sites offer free WiFi or a WiFi service for a nominal fee. Often though, this is from a mast on a central club house or just at the reception building. If your unit is at the far end of the site you may struggle to pick up the WiFi signal, especially if you are inside a Caravan or a Motorhome. What you need is a Patriot! No, not a missile, a Patriot from Solwise!
The Solwise Patriot is a WiFi antenna that you mount on the outside of your Caravan or Motorhome. It is not a permanent mount to your ‘Van so there are no screw holes, it comes with suction cups so you can leave it up there for the duration of your stay, making sure you take it down for travelling. Once we had the Patriot mounted outside we fed the lead through the window and plugged the antenna into the laptop’s USB port. Our laptop detected the Patriot and so installation was a breeze. The majority of Campsites that offer WiFi will give you access details and, as with any other WiFi hotspot, you will likely have to enter a username and password to get on.
The Patriot from Solwise is great for getting the laptop online, but what if you want to use your smartphone or a tablet? Many mobile type devices don’t have a USB port so the Rocket is no good directly for that. When we are away there are three of us that might want to get on the Internet, doing this one at a time is just not practical on most occasions. This is where you need to create a mini-hotspot in your ‘Van!
We still have the Patriot on the outside of the ‘Van but instead of connecting it to the laptop inside we attach it to a USB WiFi Repeater also from Solwise. The WL-USBWIFIRPT-3000 takes the signal from the Rocket and re-broadcasts it inside the ‘Van for all the smartphones, tablets, eReaders etc. to connect too. Everyone is happy.
Since writing this article, when the antenna was the old Rocket, things have moved on quite a bit. We now use the Patriot as detailed above and Solwise has made it very easy by providing all that you need in a handy kit. This includes mounting brackets to suit all needs. We have been considering a barge break and we would certainly take this kit with us as there is even a bracket for boats! The Patriot is far superior to the Rocket, it is much more hardwearing and certainly feels better quality.
Disclaimer: I have worked for Solwise since 2001. I have reviewed this WiFi kit as part of my job however our use of it has continued due to it being so useful when we are away. I might work for Solwise, but it is worth noting, I would be using this kit even if I didn’t!
This article was updated Sept 2016 to reflect the change in hardware from the old Rocket to the new Patriot.