Tailgating is one of our favorite pastimes. I mean, come on, grilling out, drinking, relaxing and playing games… does it really get any better than that? Well, if you add in the ability to watch the big game LIVE without ever leaving the parking lot, then yes, it does! But sadly to make that happen you need someone with serious skills to set up a traditional satellite perfectly and acquire a signal. And if you’ve ever tried that, you know it can be a major pain in the butt and rarely works the way you planned it. That is until now…

Introducing the DISH Tailgater – a  portable satellite antenna that gives you access to DISH Network‘s programming, no matter where you want to watch.  The DISH Tailgater is the first truly automatic portable satellite antenna – and recently we took it on a test drive to some of our favorite tailgate and camping spots to see if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be.

tailgater-on-truck

tailgater_hero_and_interior

Key Features:

  • Fast and simple “plug in and push button” setup
  • Full HD and SD DISH programming
  • Automatically acquires satellite signal
  • Lightweight and portable — under 10 lbs.
  • Durable and weather-resistant casing
  • Pay as you go or add to your DISH account.
  • No startup or cancellation fees.
DISH Tailgater Review Breakdown

Design:

Shaped like a bubble, engineered to be totally weatherproof and weighing in at just less than 10 lbs, the Tailgater is a pretty slick device if you ask us. Inside the hard plastic bubble is a motorized mini-satellite that can automatically adjust to pick up DISH HD and SD signals. Most impressively it does this without any batteries or power cord – the only thing you plug into the Tailgater is a coaxial cable, which feeds enough low-voltage power to activate the dish and power its movement. During setup, if you listen really close you can actually heart the inner dish doing its work to acquire a signal.

tailgater-on-field

The Tailgater also comes equipped with soft rubber feet and a nice handle for carrying from location to location.

Setup:

TAILGATER_BUNDLE__86683.1405464238.1280.1280To get the Tailgater up and running you need a few things. First the Tailgater itself. Second a DISH compatible receiver. For our testing purposes DISH hooked us up with their ViP 211k single-tuner HD model. Thirdly you’ll need a TV, the bigger the better we always say! Last, and most importantly you’ll need a source of power. The receiver and TV run on 110W power so make sure you have an outlet near by, a super long extension cord or a generator on-hand.

Once you’ve put together the full package you’re ready to activate and acquire signal. This process is quite simple and take 15 to 20 minutes for initial setup. Our unit came pre-activated so we didn’t have to go through the whole activation process, but activation requires a phone call to DISH and a selection of your Pay-As-You-Go plan. With the Tailgater you pay by the month, there’s no contract, activation or cancellation fees. They want you to be able to access the DISH network whenever you want and then drop it when you’re not.

Once your Tailgater is activated by DISH you simply need to make sure everything is hooked up properly (power, HDMI, coaxial cable) which is super simple. There’s even a quick-start guide which we highly recommend following.

Once everything is hooked up, just make sure the front of the Tailgater (the handle is at the back) has a clear view of the southern sky (trees, buildings or anything tall can and will block it’s view) so make sure to pick a good spot with an open view of the sky when setting up your tailgate or camp site. Once you’ve done this you can power the TV and receiver ON and the Tailgater system will begin acquiring signal. You will have to input your state and zip code, but that’s about it! This process can take up to 15 minutes, so be patient and give yourself something to do. Beer Pong is a great choice!

Once the Tailgater has established a solid signal with its 3 satellites high above the earth, the program guide will download and the channels you payed for will become available. Making you the ultimate tailgater!

Our experience with setup and installation was a breeze. Our pre-activated unit took less than 15 minutes to fully setup and we were watching TV. One thing you should be aware of is the fact that if you leave your receiver inactive for more than a month, you will need to reactivate it with DISH upon your next use. This takes nothing more than a phone call to DISH and is a pretty simple process. They deactivate the receivers after a month of non-use to prevent piracy. A smart move on their end and a little bit of a hassle on yours, especially if you plan to only use the Tailgater sparingly.

remoteEase of Use:

Once you’ve completed the setup of the Tailgater you’ll want to master the remote and channel guide. DISH has a pretty good channel guide and controller setup so finding the proper channels isn’t really an issue. We’ve seen better guides, but theirs is actually pretty good overall. We highly recommend printing out a channel guide as a cheat sheet.  When you’re stuck an can’t find what you’re looking for use the “search” button on the remote and save yourself some time and frustration

PRO TIP:  ESPN = Ch. 140, BIG10 Network = Ch. 410 and NFL Network = Ch 154.

Durability:

Designed with a hard plastic shell to protect its inner satellite the Tailgater feels fairly durable. Though if you dropped it onto concrete we’re not completely convinced the plastic wouldn’t crack or the inner workings wouldn’t take a good beating. That being said if you can keep it secured, it is fully protected when it comes to rain or snow – meaning it should last for years and years of use.

tailgater-review

PRO TIP: give the outer shell a fresh coat of Rain-X every so often and rain and snow will bead-off.

Value:

If you like to camp, tailgate or go boating in the lap of luxury the DISH Tailgater will bring your living room anywhere you want to go. We’ve been testing our Tailgater for almost two months now and it’s yet to let us down. With a price tag of $350 for the Tailgater itself and $449 for the Tailgater+Receiver bundle we feel that the Tailgater provides a very good value. It might not seem necessary or even affordable at first glance, but when you have everything all set up and you’re broadcasting the your favorite show or the big game from the comfort of your RV or SUV you quickly realize that this is one of the best investments you can make. Not to mention how many people’s jaws drop when you’re “that guy” with the game!

Buy Now: $350 – $449 Pay-As-You-Go Packages

DISH Tailgater - Tech Review
If you're not sure you need the DISH Tailgater, let us help you... you do! It is simple to setup, easy to navigate and ready for all weather conditions. It might be called the Tailgater but this thing can go anywhere you can bring power. Making it ideal for camping and boating as well. Throughout testing we have been truly impressed with the Tailgater and it's ability to find satellite signal. When you're the only one in the parking lot with the game on TV a crow will form and instantly you become the life of the tailgate. The Tailgater from DISH is our new best friend!
Design10
Setup8
Ease of Use9
Durability8.5
Value9.5
9Overall Score
Reader Rating: (20 Votes)
8.8

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief

Busted Wallet’s resident testing and review specialist, Josh has a keen eye for all things tech, booze, and sports-related. After working closely with brands such as Nike, The North Face, EA Sports, Beam Global, Burton, HP, Oakley, Sony, Cannondale, Confluence Watersports, Taylormade Golf and many others over the past several years he’s grown to become one of the most reliable reviewers in the business.

7 Responses

  1. Roland

    I have a Dish VIP211 receiver in my house. When I go away in the RV with the tailgater can I use my in house receiver and by-pass Tailgater Pay-as-you-go charges?

    Reply
  2. Buddy Hancock

    My Tailgater antenna motor is not operating– when hooked up it does not turn Took the top off and the little green light blinks but no searching for siginals–was working perfect the last time used-Can this be sent back for repair or do I need to buy a new antenna. If so would u recommend a regular dish with tripod or go back to a tailgater Thanks Buddy

    Reply
    • Sam

      Same thing just happened to my Tailgater. When testing the switch nothing happens and get a screen saying check for obstructions or cable is disconnected. Does anyone know what can be done short of a $300 replacement od the dish Tailgater?

      Reply
  3. Roger Mallett

    I have had 3 tailgators all 3 of them after 7 to 9 months stoped working I noticed rubber wheel that moves the dish up and down is wore out black powder all inside can I order a new wheel

    Reply
  4. Myron Mertens

    Bought the King Tailgater in spring of 2016. used a few times during summer, put in storage for winter, now does not work, took cover off and found it full of water. pretty expensive unit to be junk in less than 1 year… very unhappy at this point. Dish basically told me told me ” too bad” ! DO NOT waste your money on this jumk!

    Reply
  5. Joel Martin

    Bought the Dish King Controls Tailgater in the fall of 2015 for a 2000 mile trip in Canada. Was not informed that it doesn’t work in most of Canada due to the low angle required to lock on the satellite. Used on 2 stops for a couple of hours. Parked for the winter. In 2016 the only trip we took was again to Canada, so we didn’t try to use it. This year we planned a 2000 mile trip in the USA. On our 2nd stop outside Chicago, we tried to use it without success. Contacted DISH tech support and after trying almost 2 hours they told me to contract King Controls tech support. After 15 minutes, including opening the Tailgater box to check whether the green light was working, I was told that it would need to be repaired at an estimate of $150 since it is “out of warranty”. I declined having wasted nearly $500 on the Tailgater and receiver with only a couple of hours of view time. This is my 2nd King Controls product. I also purchased the “Jack” antenna to replace my old broken bat-wing. It did not work with my single square bar set-up and when I taped it to the old antenna to see if the quality was worth the cost to have parts made to mount it, it did not work. Poor quality and quick to hide behind their warranty which for a product used only a few months of the year results in very little use before failures. Never again with King Controls for me.

    Reply
  6. Pat

    We have a Dish Tailgater for those times we take RV trips…the supposed “pay as you go” option. We bought it for that purpose. We only use it when we are unable to get cable or are in remote areas. It appears (so far) the “pay as you go” option in close to false advertising. It’s supposed to be as simple as calling in to inform Dish as to your needs. HOWEVER, every time we sign up for service, select our package and travel, they NEVER disconnect our service at the designated time. We also call them in advance notifying them of our disconnect service date. They IGNORE those requests repeatedly, always billing us for service we didn’t request. Customer service is a joke–it’s one rep’s version over another’s. This should be such a simple process. One would think they could key in a code for “pay as you go” noting start and stop dates. After all, this isn’t rocket science! Anyone else experience this headache?
    NOTE: just signed up for month of June, took our trip, NEVER USED DISH TAILGATER the entire time (we had cable), called in advance of trip and before end of June to deactivate unit following trip. Of course, they are STILL billing us.

    Reply

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