Best Caravan TV Aerial
We wanted to know what is the best caravan TV aerial for our new caravan to get great picture quality and receive analogue and digital Freeview channels.
I created this page because the standard Status S530 aerial built into our brand new Swift Challenger 570 caravan we often find is poor at receiving television signals, despite having a booster unit as well.
Our Swift Challenger is a 2010 model, and has the Status S530 aerial built in (I think these are around £120 to buy, let alone install in a caravan). Sometimes it does give a reasonable signal and picture, so its usually easiest to connect up and try it when you first arrive at a campsite, but more often we discover that the picture is poor quality, or that it does not tune in very many channels.
Our new Satcure supplied
V10-040 Super by Vision
Log-Periodic Caravan TV Aerial
This is surprising because it is a "log-periodic aerial", which is the same type of aerial as the one I am recommending on this page (the picture above shows the V10-040 by Vision which we prefer to use when staying more than a day or two at a campsite and gives great signal strength).
Perhaps the most frustrating part about watching TV when at a campsite, is a snowy shifting picture (when watching analogue), or a picture which pixelates, stutters and breaks up when watching digital.
Several times at different campsites around the UK I have spent ages trying to rotate the S530, and swap it from horizontal to vertical in an attempt to judge the direction of the nearest transmitter, and then tune (and re-tune!), to see how many Freeview channels our digital TV would receive. Ending up with only a handful of unstable digital channels because of low-signal strength, and snowy/shadowy analogue reception.
If viewing television when on a camping holiday is important to you (or your kids), then the main problem is you just don't know until you arrive at a campsite how good the transmitter signal is going to be. So you might as well buy an aerial that is going to be man enough for all situations.
Of course you could play games, chat or indulge in healthier activities, but then there's the usual unreliability of the British weather, and rain soon limits your options and the kids turn into square-eyed zombies again :o)
Although a log-periodic has a relatively low gain, it is more immune to picking up impulse interference and unwanted signals from other transmitters. This fact means that it is possible to amplify the signal from a log-periodic more than from other types of aerials without causing any problems. A Log-periodic will often give surprisingly good results, compared with other wideband aerials. It's also smaller profile and has less wind resistance than others. It's estimated that a log-periodic aerial would be suitable for around 85% of installations in the UK.
One of the primary factors in getting good TV signal reception is mast height ! The other factor is the size/length of the aerial to absorb as much of the signal being transmitted as possible.
First I'll tell you about our existingStatus S530 (which I am not that impressed with).
The S530 included with our caravan comes with an electronic booster, and is capable of receiving horizontal and vertical signals (no idea what thats all about!), by means of an integral gearbox and a winder handle inside the caravan which rotates the aerial through 90 degrees.
The aerial can be loosened by a collet grip, and then rotated in a circle to point in the correct direction of the local transmitter. Once loosened it can also be raised up by about 1 foot to give some extra height above the roof of the caravan.
Great idea, and conveniently you can adjust the aerial inside your caravan/motorhome, but for me the aerial just doesn't work so well in remote locations (and some not so remote!).
After reading other peoples experiences on caravaning forums I will mention that some are perfectly happy with this aerial, both in the UK and abroad, but I think it depends very much on where you like to travel, and hence how close you are to the nearest transmitter.
So I went in search of the best caravan TV aerial or antenna, coupled with a reasonable quality aerial mast which would fix securely to the towbar of the van.
V10-040 mounted "vertically" in a loft.
Here is the TV aerial I bought. Ok, its not that pretty, and its large, but it certainly "does what it says on the tin" !
We got this as a complete kit (AERKIT2 V10-040 complete loft/room kit £29.95) from Satcure.co.uk who know their stuff when it comes to aerials, and this is what they recommend, after much research by themselves, and feedback from many customers.
I also chose their optional masthead amplifier (4-way Masthead Amp with PSU £19.95).
Satcure are aerial specialists, not camping suppliers, so I then bought separately an aerial mast with jockey-wheel clamp (£20.49) suitable for fixing to the towbar of the van from Aerial Shack, plus the optional 900mm extension pole, giving a total mast height of 3.5m.
I decided to order the "loft kit" from Satcure, which includes:-
- 30 or 40 element log-periodic aerial with vertical/horizontal mounting bracket (there are two sizes, and I went for the 40 elements to ensure good reception even in the most remote places)
- Loft spike (mounting tube) - I didn't use this, but it might come in handy one day!?
- 15 metres WF100 cable (choose colour)
- 100 brown cable clips with nails - didn't use these, but no doubt will for something else.
- 3 x TV plugs - very generous
- 5 x WF1 'F' plugs - even more generous, and we used several of these to connect everything, including other family members TVs to our aerial !
- 1 x male-female adapter - this also came in handy
- 1 x silicone grease - Satcure say its very important to grease aerial connections, which may be true for permanent installations, but for occasional summer holiday camping may not be so necessary (it's yucky, but I used it anyway)
- Optional 4-way adjustable-gain masthead amp (with power supply to plug in near TV)
Anyway, if you're interested in this aerial go to the Satcure page where you can read all the technical stuff about why this design of aerial works so well, here it is:-
What's the best Indoor aerial or outdoor aerial for home or caravan?
How well does the V10-040 Log Periodic aerial work?
When the new aerial arrived, my neighbour had signed for it, and didn't realise it had been damaged in transit by the courier being careless. When I opened the box I discovered that 3 of the "elements" (aluminium rods) had become bent, and when I tried to bend them back again, two of them broke off.
Regardless I thought I would assemble and try the aerial anyway, because we were about to go on our 2-week summer holiday in a days time, and so there was no time to return the damaged goods. [Upon return from our holiday we found that Satcure had without hesitation sent us a replacement aerial].
I had already read the assembly instructions (and watched the video about making the connections using the WF1 'F' plugs) provided on the Satcure website, and using wire strippers and stanley knife I assembled the aerial, plus masthead amplifier, and made all connections in about 1 hour. It's really very straightforward.
In this time I had also un-packed the aerial mast and jockey-wheel clamp from Aerial Shack, and put this together in about 5 minutes to make sure I allowed sufficient length of cable to come down the mast, to the masthead amplifier box at the bottom of the mast (I simply used the loop strap on the amplifier box dropped over the jockey-wheel handle to secure it loosely in place). The cable then continued from the amplifier to the battery compartment of our caravan where there is an "F"-type socket for the TV aerial to plug in and supply the signal into the van.
Since we were going on holiday imminently, our caravan was already parked up on our drive. At our inland home location (Grantham, Lincs), with the original S350 aerial and its booster turned on at high amplification, the TV tunes in 7 analogue and 96 Freeview channels (installation setup mode). The S350 has to be pushed up to its maximum height above the caravan roof, otherwise it gets no Freeview channels at all, and unless lined up properly often gets digital breakup. The analogue channels are ok, but a couple of them like C4 and Five have considerable snow or shadowing.
Once the new V10-040 aerial was erected, and everything was connected up, and the aerial (with broken elements remember!), was pointing vaguely in the right direction across the road where a 3-storey house sits in the way, I tuned the TV in again (installation setup mode). It got 97 channels (not surprising only 1 more than the S350 because digital either works or it doesn't in terms of number of channels coming in because they all come from the same transmitter). But this time all digital channels were rock solid. This time it got 13 analogue channels, and that was without the aerial even being aligned properly. So an encouraging start for an aerial that isn't even at roof height like normal house aerials are.
I suppose the V10-040 has an unfair advantage in its size over the S350, but thats the whole point really. I wanted an aerial that would be pretty much guaranteed to give great performance. Yes, it takes a little more effort to put the aerial up, but for more than an overnight stay I think it's worth it.
Our holiday was right on the coast in Devon. There the new aerial picked up 102 Freeview channels, and I think it was 13 analogue channels again. After we got the new mast erected and the aerial connected up (took about 10 minutes), the girls started to watch the telly.
But I also wanted to fix a guy line to the aerial mast in case it got windy. The amazing thing was that in order to attach the line, us guys had to dismantle the upper section of the mast, Brian held it horizontally while I attached the guy line, before putting it up again, and all the while the girls were watching their program blissfully unaware of what we were doing outside!! No digital breakup whatsoever.
The other neat thing about having the 4-way masthead was that as a family we often go away together (1 caravan, and 2 folding campers) and so we each have our own TV aerial cable, plugged into the 4-way amp, and the one aerial giving us all perfect pictures. Nice.
Update August 2011: Still pleased with this aerial which has now been used at several different campsites over the last year.
- http://ukfree.tv/txlist.php - UK Transmitter List, providing coverage information, analogue shutdown dates and information like whether your TV aerial should be horizontal or vertical.