From Nine(ty) to Five
After a tough week at work the last thing you need is to be stressed out at your tailgate. Our Texas A&M Tailgating crew has continued to improve each year by adding new items to the mix that help us enjoy the Aggies football season.
Through the years we’ve added at least one key piece of equipment—a grill, a generator or even a TV. Typically, after the addition you wonder how you ever lived without the product before.
This year, after careful consideration, the big addition to our Texas-sized tailgate will be the Winegard Carryout – GM-1518. The Winegard is a fully automatic, portable satellite TV antenna.
In previous years, I’ve spent approximately 90 minutes per tailgate setting up the antenna in order to watch other football games during pre and post game.
When doing this manually it’s more than threading a needle. It’s more like threading the needle after finding it in the haystack. On more occasions than I’d care to mention, I’ve ended up on the phone with the Dish Network help line working through some technical issue while friends and family enjoyed the tailgate.
Watching TV at tailgate is one of the best experience out there, but when it’s taking your blood pressure to new heights it’s time to look at new options.
In walks the Winegard Carryout.
What the Azimuth?
To set up the antenna on your own you need to establish a level location, set the dish perfectly to triangulate three key angles—one of them being the hard to acquire azimuth–and then lock on the satellite. The weekly set-up that I went through for two years made Harrison Ford’s work in the Map Room during Raiders of the Lost Ark look like child’s play.
One of my well-intentioned, buddies–a CPA in fact–wanted the TV at the tailgate as much as I did and he tried to pitch in during satellite set up. However, he lasted about three weeks on the satellite assignment and asked to be reassigned–he said promoted–to grilling duty. While he loves the TV he said that the whole process was too precise and reminded him way too much of his day-to-day accounting work.
Additionally, during a typical setup 5 to 10 people would come by and ask how the system worked. Texas A&M is a friendly place with a strong engineering school. As a result lots of well-intended, logical questions came from good-hearted, helpful Aggies. Truth be told though, it’s kind of stressful explaining what you’re doing when it’s not clear that you know what you’re doing.
After checking back and forth on pricing and compatibility with Dish Network (click here on an article comparing Dish Network vs. DIRECTV) I set my sites on the Winegard Carryout over the VuQube (the VuQube is reviewed here by Dave) as I sought the solution to our satellite TV setup problems.
Although, I typically had the TV working, this commercial isn’t THAT far removed from our previous experiences . . .
- Tailgating Tip: Be sure to have at least one test run at home before you take any system to game day so you can familiarize yourself with the equipment and the entire set up process.
The First Test Run
After taking my Honda A2000 generator out of storage for its first work of the year and dusting off all the equipment, I went through the necessary steps of reactivating the Dish Network service, connecting the Winegard, and connecting the TV. As mentioned, it had previously taken me up to 90 minutes to get the satellite locked each week.
This time though it took me 90 minutes to get everything out of off-season ice and up and running. Full functionality was achieved including time spent checking the spark plug for, the oil level of and the gas level for the generator.
Accessory note: I purchased a 110v AC/DC converter for the Winegard on eBay so that I could run the unit off of my generator. The Winegard Carryout comes standard with a 12v cigarette lighter connector for use in most vehicles.
The Second Time
Now that I had the system working, I came back a few weeks later to see just how fast I could get everything going again.
I put the DishNetwork receiver, the Winegard Carryout, the Honda generator, the Samsung TV and all the wires on the ground in front of me without any completed connections. Then I started the timer on my iPhone and went to work. In less than 5 minutes the generator was purring, the wires were connected and the the satellite antenna was locked on. What a huge difference!
It took another 4 minutes for Dish Network to download the programming. All told it took me 9 minutes and 41 seconds to start surfing channels with my remote control.
So the product and I are ready for tailgating in Aggieland. There’s a difference though between the backyard and the tailgate parking lot and I have, admittedly, a few more hurdles to clear.
First, I have to figure out how to elevate the Winegard. They sell a two foot tripod; however, since we’re in a high traffic tailgating area that’s a little removed (approximately 20 yards) from where we park, we could have intermittent transmission difficulties due to random people walking by.
For most parking lot tailgating from the back of a truck or SUV, it would be easy enough to put the Winegard Carryout on top of your vehicle without any issues; however, that’s not the case for us. In a parking lot situation though, I can’t imagine a better scenario than plugging the 12v adapter into your car, placing the antenna on the roof and watching the games. Almost too easy.
Also, they say the warranty is voided if I paint the dome, but I know that a custom maroon shell will play really well in College Station. Moreover, they sell a black dome as an accessory so I’m thinking there is a way around this.
If anyone has ideas or potential solutions on these topics please feel free to respond below.
The customer support line consists of one guy on call on Saturdays. No one works on Sundays, which could be a downer for NFL fans, but this guy—Kevin—has to be as lonely as the Maytag repair man. When we talked he appeared to genuinely be pleased to be speaking with me.
He noted that he mostly helps first time users work through connection issues with either Dish Network or DIRECTV. As anyone who has researched this category knows, each company has its own demons, but Winegard really doesn’t appear to be the kind of product that needs to have too much in the way of troubleshooters because the product, simply enough, works.
Details about the product can be found on Winegard’s company website by clicking here.
Detailed specs are also listed here for reference:
- Automatically find satellites – no remote or controls needed
- Lightweight and durable
- Easy grip handle for effortless carrying and security
- Standard programming: Dish Network, Bell TV and DIRECTV
- HD programming: Dish Network and Bell TV
- Supports up to 2 receivers
- Dimensions: 15.6” dome height, 20” diameter
- Unit Weight: 13.5 Pounds
If you are looking for a game changing experience the answer is yes. If you have a grill and a generator or you just love watching football on game day this IS the absolute next step.
Satellite TV Tailgater wanna-be’s would be well served to start with this product, too. You might save a few dollars by buying dish equipment or you could take the satellite off your house, but in most cases the pain involved in any of those scenarios just doesn’t make sense. Sure, I learned the hard way, but why not learn from my mistakes?
The real benefit to the product is how easy they’ve made a very, if not THE most, difficult part of tailgate setup. You may have some buddies that mean well, but when they are in the hot September sun and have the choice of grabbing an adult beverage from the cooler or helping you triangulate the TV there really isn’t much of a choice is there?
Thanks to the Winegard Carryout I’ll increase my available tailgating time by more than 10 hours this season and reduce the stress level at the tailgate. Priceless.
This product is a game changer and is on the fast track to being a must have.
To be fair though, we’ll reserve final judgment on the product during back-to-back tailgates in College Station, Texas during the Texas A&M Aggies season opener vs. Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 4th and then again on Sept. 11th when the good guys take on Louisiana Tech. Check back for details.
For more articles written by Foster “Jim” Flint click here.