DVR & Slingbox

DISH Tailgater Portable Automatic Antenna Review

Hands on Review

Build Quality
Ease of Use
Final Thoughts

Whether you’re throwing it in the back of the truck for tailgating at your favorite college or NFL parking lot, or you're packing it in the RV to enjoy some entertainment in the middle of nowhere—plugging-in when unplugging—the Tailgater will exceed your expectations.

Overall Score 4.7 Review
Readers Rating
2 votes

In the early 1980s, DISH’s antenna inventory was a staggering two (2)—as in, two dish antennas…for the whole company. While delivering one of these to a remote customer in not-near-a-city Colorado, a powerful gust of wind whipped up, blowing the antenna off its trailer and into a roadside ditch. There goes half of the company. Summed up as a “bad day” in the infancy of DISH, the founding trio, Charlie Ergen; Candy Ergen; and Jim DeFranco, overcame this initial setback to build what is now a Fortune 250 company that employs thousands and serves millions throughout the nation—a seemingly unlikely future on that blustery day. Products like the DISH Tailgater portable automatic antenna are now redefining the way the company is capable of meeting consumer needs.

As a kid in the early ‘80s, I remember the first house in the neighborhood to get a satellite antenna. It was bigger than a Crown Vic (a Ford Crown Victoria—your grandfather’s land-yacht), and needed its own foundation to be installed. “Wow, does that thing shoot lasers into the sky or something?” was a common question. I’m not sure how many channels they actually got back then, but it might as well have been a bazillion in our minds.

DISH Tailgater handle

Fast-forward to 2014 and the Tailgater. “Is that the new 1200 ounce thermo-cup of the world’s best cup of coffee?!” It is full of goodness, but it’s not coffee. It’s full of genuine HD. Encapsulated in this oversized coffee-cup lookalike is a fully-automatic, portable satellite antenna that brings you live HDTV service…from outer space!

DISH Tailgater lid off

It’s easy to describe the reasoning behind why you’d want a Tailgater, but consider this hypothetical scenario to whet your imagination:

Wife: “Hey, Honey” (sipping her Saturday morning coffee and talking loudly to reach her husband in the next room) “I promised my parents that we would go camping with them next weekend.”
Husband: “Say what?! I could’ve sworn you just said that we’re going camping next weekend…with your parents.”
Wife: “Yeah, that’s right”
Husband: “Ummm, next weekend? As in playoff weekend???”
Wife: “You can watch playoffs any year. Wouldn’t you rather be with family, hangin’ out at Lake Wheretheheckarewee?”
Husband: “Babe, do you really want me to answer that?”
Wife: “Well, that’s where we’re going!”
Husband [phoning his best friend]: “Hey, Chad, my wife has us booked to go camping with the in-laws next weekend. Playoff weekend!!! What am I gonna do?”
Chad: “Dude, you have DISH already. Get online and buy the Tailgater. Remember, that was the thing I was telling you about…Get HDTV…live…anywhere.”
Husband: “Oh yeah. Thanks, Bro—that’s what I’ll do.”
Husband: “Hey, Babe, do you mind if I take the Tailgater with us camping?”
Wife [thinking this must be some sort of grill attachment]: “Sure, Honey, that’s fine.”
Husband [fist-pump]: “Yes! Playoffs and smores, here we come!”

Testing and Use

Setup couldn’t be easier. Open the box, pull out the fully-protected Tailgater and the included 50ft of outdoor coax. Attach the coax to the Tailgater, and run the other end to your DISH ViP 411 or ViP 211z series receiver. Ensure that you place the Tailgater (antenna) in an area clear of overhead obstructions, especially towards the South. Fire it up, and you can enjoy some of that HD goodness no matter where you are.

DISH VIP211z set top

General Use

Using the Tailgater is not much different, if any, than using your typical satellite receiver. The first time you turn on the receiver after hooking up the antenna, you do need to go through the calibration process. This doesn’t require you to move from your camp chair, bean bag, or leather sofa in the RV, however. You just wait a couple minutes as the automatic-motorized antenna—encapsulated in the weatherproof housing—finds the satellite on its own. You will see the on-screen status as it steps through the process.

DISH Tailgater connections

In case you thought I missed something, I didn’t. Everything in the Tailgater antenna—motorized positioner and all—is powered through the coax coming from the receiver, so there are no other wires to run.

You should try to keep the Tailgater antenna out of the high-traffic areas. If it’s moved too much, it will need to go into recalibration again. It’s not the end of the world, just a few minutes later, and you’re back in the game—pun intended.

DISH Tailgater antenna openLiving in Florida provides a great opportunity for testing weather-related bugs, as we’re not short on rain and thunderstorms. In addition to including the Tailgater on several excursions, I connected it up to an extra TV in my home. Then, I purposely left the Tailgater out in the weather and connected to a ViP 211z receiver continuously for months. To date, I’ve yet to have any issues with any functionality, even with a few bumps from kids on their bikes and ATVs. What’s more, I get full DVR functionality out of the ViP 211z simply by adding an external USB hard drive and activating the DVR feature.


As in the previous instructions for setup, tear-down of the system is just as simple. Detach the 50 ft coax from the Tailgater, coil up the coax for storage, then grab the handy-dandy handle on the Tailgater to place in your favorite storage location. Boom, it’s ready for your next tailgating session or camping trip. This is a product you’ll want to keep in your RV storage compartment and take out as soon as you get to your campsite or favorite tailgating location at the big game.


There’s really only one conclusion for this kind of functionality and price: Buy it! I mean, we’re talking about watching HDTV wherever you go. In addition, it’s very simple to set up. With only one wire to run, it’s easier than setting up a folding tent. It also functions exactly like your existing DISH receivers, and it holds up extremely well under virtually any kind of weather thanks to the sealed compartment.

This is one of those rare occasions when the new technology lives up to the hype and is simple to use. DISH has added a great asset to its lineup, and they’re king of the hill when it comes to watching HDTV anywhere. For $350, it’s hard to find any reason not to recommend you pick up the DISH Tailgater portable automatic antenna.

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