If you’ve ever been out on a large lake, up a river, or out in the ocean, you know there is one thing that immediately gets everyone’s attention, loss of cell phone signal. Being stuck without access to any mobile network while out boating is more than just an inconvenience; it can lead to life-or-death situations. So how do you go about resolving that issue? You buy yourself a Wi-Fi extender.
Having a Wi-Fi extender on your boat can fix all your connection problems immediately. But how do you choose the best marine Wi-Fi extender with so many options available? The answer depends on what you will be using the signal for and how strong a signal you need. Buying a weak Wi-Fi extender may cause a spotty connection, while spending a lot of money on a great Wi-Fi extender may be overkill and a waste of money.
Testing each extender or doing extended research on each of them will not only be a painful experience, but it will also require a lot of money and time. So as always, I’ve done the hard work for you. Below, I’ve provided you top 5 marine Wi-Fi extenders, my top pick, and a guide on choosing an extender depending on your needs. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Do Wi-Fi Extenders Work and Do You Need One
If you believe that the internet you currently have on your boat is not strong enough for your needs, you should consider adding a Wi-Fi extender to improve your internet connection. And you don’t need to wonder if Wi-Fi extenders work because they do. The question you should ask is, can you install it correctly.
I am not going to go into how to properly install Wi-Fi on your boat because that is not the purpose of this article. If you are not sure how to do that, call the technical support that every supplier provides and make sure your Wi-Fi booster is properly connected.
What are the Top 5 Marine Extenders?
Today I’ve chosen the 5 Best Marine Wi-Fi Extenders, each geared towards specific uses and needs that you may have while having fun on the open waters. Many things affect the overall quality of the antennas you may be looking at, most of the time, this being how far away you will be from the nearest tower.
Larger boats can easily enjoy having more complex antenna systems, while smaller boats should have smaller systems that are just as effective. Even further still, I know that many boats have several antennae on them to ensure that the internet on the boat is properly working at all times, with different lengths to the shore being adjusted for. When considering the range, the quality, the durability, and the aim of the antennas on the market, choosing the right one becomes a head-scratching pain.
Winegard Company WF-200M
- Enjoy increased range and faster speeds from Wi-Fi networks from your boat; turns Wi-Fi dead zones into entertainment zones
- Consistent nationwide 4G LTE, in-motion cellular connectivity when Wi-Fi networks aren't usable or available; flexible, affordable monthly prepaid data plans
- High-gain Wi-Fi antennas and MIMO technology improve range of transmission, helping you capture signals from farther away at Wi-Fi hotspots
The all-in-one option and what I think is the best of both worlds, the Winegard WF-200M. This is the best way to ensure that your connectivity never dips, no matter how far you go. You can enjoy having a moving connection that never gets interrupted with an easy connection to both onshore Wi-Fi networks or 4G/LTE networks. This is the system that you should be using when you know that you might be in the range of your home or you might be taking a short trip further than you thought.
I love this little aerial because it makes a Wi-Fi hotspot as well. It has the full router, extender, repeater, and connector that will ensure your boat is never without a stable connection. If you are sure that you will not be able to connect to an onshore Wi-Fi system, you can also opt-in to the nationwide LTE connection available from Winegard. This means that you can go park in the middle of the great lakes and stay up to date on the news, friends, Netflix.
- Onshore Wi-Fi repeater
- 4G/LTE connection
- Create Wi-Fi network
- App-based controls
- Three 2.4 GHz amplifiers
- Not easy to install
- 12V power required
- No 5GHz Wi-Fi
King KF1000 Falcon
- fully automatic, directional wi-fi antenna with extender
- provides fast, reliable, and secure long-range signal acquisition from your wi-fi network
- setup is simple with the with free king wi-fi app, available for android and ios devices
With the focus of connecting to the Wi-Fi network you have set up at your home, the King KF1000 Falcon is perfect for larger ships traveling along the coast of lakes. The system is straightforward to install on the roof of your boat, with the aerial on top having the special ability to acquire the best direction automatically. Once connected to your on-shore network system, the system will create a Wi-Fi network surrounding your boat.
However, it should be noted that it does not create a connection to any mobile networks, and therefore requires that a network spot be created along the shore for it to connect to easily. There are many limitations to this, not least of which is the limited distance and problems of the line of sight with your home network. Using this system is recommended if you know that neither your boat nor your home location will switch every few years.
- Automatic directional change
- 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
- Long Range Wi-Fi extension
- Easy to install
- Requires pre-existing network
- Line of sight disadvantage
- Affects wind resistance
Proxicast 7 dBi Pro Gain Bullet
- IMPROVES SIGNAL STRENGTH and SPEED on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Telus, Bell Canada, Rogers, DigiCel and all 3G 4G LTE xLTE AWS GSM CDMA cellular broadband services
- COMPATIBLE WITH routers, modems & gateways from CalAmp, Cisco, Cradlepoint, Digi, MoFi, Netgear, Novatel, Pepwave, Proxicast, Sierra, SureCall, ZTE and many others
- WEATHER and IMPACT RESISTANT sleek black ABS radome. Includes STAINLESS STEEL 3-way pole/wall/rail mounting bracket and hardware (mast sold separately)
You may have seen this Wi-Fi extender on many boats around you, especially on the great lakes and oceans around the world. Proxicast 7 dBi Pro Gain Bullet will strengthen the signals to an extreme level. It can be installed in a few moments, and it will greatly increase the overall quality of the signal on your boat. However, unlike other systems, this is not an antenna that pushes out Wi-Fi or connects to an onshore Wi-Fi network.
You will need to have a router or modem already that can connect to the internet, which is why many people that use these go out to buy full router systems. You will need to pay extra to get data; everything that needs to make a connection will have to be connected to the cable of the Proxicast. This limitation has made me think that this is best used when you need to boost an already existing system.
- Can connect to 3G, 4G, LTE, or other cellular broadband services
- Compatible with most routers or modems as it connects to the serial port
- Impact and weather-resistant
- Low and high operating temperatures
- Needs extra equipment to work
- It does not create a Wi-Fi signal
- Must receive power from the router via a 50 Ohm Coaxial cable
Bearifi BearExtender Outdoor Marine
- WIFI EXTENDER FOR SINGLE COMPUTER - Extends the Wi-Fi signal only to the computer to which it is connected by USB cable. It is not a repeater or router for multiple devices. Not a 3G, 4G, LTE or cellular booster.
- 802.11AC DUAL BAND MEANS FASTER SPEED - High speed 802.11ac 2.4/5 GHz dual band USB Wi-Fi booster with built-in 10 dBi directional antenna and integrated premium shielded 16 ft USB cable draws power from computer (no AC power supply needed). If your...
- INCLUDES 3 VERSATILE MOUNTING OPTIONS - Detachable tabletop stand with removable rubber cover, stand doubles as wall mount, also includes O-ring clamp for easy pole mounting.
I found this aerial to be good for those with smaller boats that do not have more than 2 people who may need to connect to the internet. Capable of connecting through USB to only one computer at a time, the Bearifi BearExtender is brilliant for small research vessels with one computer crunching person that needs a constant connection to an onshore Wi-Fi network.
A neat feature of this antenna is that it does not need to be attached to the boat; instead, it has multiple options, with the one I recommend using is the tripod feature. Further, the antenna is compatible with almost all Windows versions and can be made to work with Linux if needed. This means that your computer can easily connect to a Wi-Fi that is miles away. This is a giant Wi-Fi antenna that drastically increases what you can do on the beach.
- 2.4 GHz Boost with no AC power needed
- USB connectivity
- 3 Mounting options, tripod, Velcro, or mounting pole
- IP65 Certified
- Does not connect to cellular networks
- Connects to one PC only
- It does not create a Wi-Fi signal
- It does not repeat the network to be used
- Only usable with a PC
ALFA Network Wi-Fi CampPro
- WiFiCampPro 2v2 is a professionally tuned and highly integrated system that retrieves and extend Internet access for RV & yacht from remote WiFi hotspots.
- Intuitive QR Smart phone/Web Configurator device setup: Simple & Comprehensive Setup QR-Setup via smartphone or wizard via web configurator demands no expertise during setting up
- Improved wireless performance & Signal Coverage: Extends WiFi hotspots Internet access from far away, and enhance the WiFi coverage inside your yacht or RV . Easily make WiFi or VoIP calls when cellular signal is weak.
When it comes to versatile solutions, I have learned that one of the first brands you need to consider is ALFA, as they are easily some of the people that will know what is needed. This is why I looked at the ALFA Wi-Fi CampPro system when I first started looking at solutions for connecting to the shore from a boat. The system that they provide has no fancy bells and whistles, but it does have everything you need to create a good connection to the shore.
Further, because the company is a specialist, I was glad to see that they have an application through which you can control multiple aspects of the system. However, I was disappointed to see that all it can do is create an extension of an already existing Wi-Fi system on the shore. This limitation is so much worse because of the complicated installation process of the system.
- Wi-Fi extension
- Everything included
- Creates a Wi-Fi access point
- It has an easy access app
- Low cost
- Complicated installation
- Only extends Wi-Fi
- Limited range
How to Chose a Marine Wi-Fi Extender
Picking the right material for the Wi-fi extender is actually quite important because it is exposed to the weather elements all the time. Make sure that the extender you decide to buy is both waterproof and dustproof. Also, make sure that it has UV protection against the Sun. If you are unsure if the extender has UV protection or prefer to buy one that does not get yourself a UV protectant spray and you should be good.
Internet speed is also something to consider if you are going to use the internet frequently or if you expect to have more than a couple of devices on board at the time. Personally, I am not interested in fast internet when boating, but other people are, and it should be something to look at when picking the Wi-Fi extender.
Single Band or Dual Band Router
There are two types of routers you can consider, single-band and dual-band. Single-band router works with 2.4 GHz frequency band. Any single band extender will pick up a signal from this router with no problems. On the other side, the dual-band router works with both the 2.4 GHz frequency band and the 5 GHz band. A Dual-band extender will work with both single and dual routers and is the best choice if you are not familiar with all the technicalities.
Range of the Extender
Are you boating in a small lake or an ocean? How far are you going to go offshore? This is an important question everyone should ask themselves when trying to buy the best Wi-Fi extender. Ensure the Wi-Fi extender you are buying will be able to reach the shore from your boat because what’s the use of a Wi-Fi extender if it does not work.
Choosing the best marine Wi-Fi extender can be a challenge. I know the one I chose was pure because I needed something that was entirely overkilled. If you are unsure what you need, consider how far out on the open waters you may go and how bad the connection will be. Sometimes, foregoing a Wi-Fi connection at all will save you hours of headaches.
Always be sure that you do have something on your boat to connect to the internet though, no one wants family phone night to be interrupted with a board game.