Starlink: Homemade Antenna Mast

I knew from the beginning that, while the antenna base included with Starlink was good enough for now, it wouldn’t be good enough for a windy Arizona winter. Even on the ground, it might tip over, and if it got blown off the top of the van it could destroy the equipment. I needed a way for Dishy to be self-supporting. Fortunately, I’d already worked most of this out for my ham radio equipment.

For years, I’ve used a painter’s pole as an antenna mast. It shrinks to six feet long to fit inside my old car, but it extends to twelve feet tall, which is still far above my van and trailer. I just needed a way to attach Dishy to it.

The answer was the Starlink Pipe Adapter. This piece of hardware attaches to the end of a pipe up to 2.5″ in diameter. Dishy simply clicks into it the same way as the standard base. The top section of my painter’s pole is approximately 1″ in diameter, and is about as small as the adapter will support, but it works. Be sure to run the cable up through the center of the adapter before tightening it into place. There won’t be room for the plug to fit through afterward.

Once secured into position, just plug the cable into Dishy, then click it into place, the same as on the standard base. The top end of the mast is good to go.

At the bottom, the mast slides into a special mount by GoVertical.com that I bought a while back, specifically designed to hold an antenna mast. I’ve never used it before on this van because my old motorcycle carrier was heavy, bolted to the bumper, and was a serious pain to remove. But now that I’m towing a trailer instead, it’s easy to remove the tow bar and replace it with this instead.

The end result worked, but there was room for improvement. The fiberglass bottom half of the painter’s pole swayed a little bit in a light breeze. This was fine in my friend’s yard, but I didn’t trust it to hold up to 50 mph winds in the Arizona desert. All in all, I’d say it was about as secure as simply placing the standard base on my roof. It worked fine for the rest of my visit and proved that the concept would work. I also knew exactly how to improve this.

Version 2.0

A trip to Home Depot on the way to my next camp provided everything I needed. The most significant change was replacing my painter’s pole with a 10-foot section of 1 1/4″ galvanized pipe. Though slightly shorter, it still elevates Dishy above the roof of my van and my trailer.

It’s also much stronger than the painter’s pole. This came at just the right time, as some moderate to strong gusts came along just after I put this up. I would’ve worried about the painter’s pole breaking, but all the pipe did was sway slightly. It’s going to hold up just fine. I went with the galvanized pipe instead of less expensive steel so that it would hold up to the elements better, and not rust.

I lost one of the small screws for the Starlink Pipe Adapter, so I replaced that at Home Depot. I also replaced a missing thumbscrew from the mast mount with an eye bolt with the same thread that will do the same job.

Time will tell how well this continues to work, but I’m optimistic. It’s not the most convenient setup, because I have to detach the trailer in order to use the mast holder. It would be more convenient to have a mount on the side of my van or trailer where I could just click Dishy into place and remove it anytime I want. But anytime I set up Starlink, I’m putting myself in a position where I can’t just drive off anyway, so it’s not a big deal. Plus, I’m still using a setup I already had before van life, reducing the cost a bit.

2 comments

  1. You could get two different sizes of pipe, and less than 10′ long, like maybe 8′, that can slip inside each other. Then simply drill holes in it for multi-position adjustments and use a cotter pin to secure at the desired height. Just make sure you don’t extend *completely* or you’ll have no reinforcement from the outside pipe. Physics FTW!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is true! I just updated this to describe my setup that now uses the 10′ pipe as my mast. It’s still taller than my van and trailer, and so far seems to be working well. Your idea to get it higher could certainly work, but past a certain point it’ll start to sway more in the breeze, and I’d need guy wires to secure it. That’s too much work for me.

      Like

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