What is the best coax cable to use for a boat?

The life of a marine installer isn’t an easy one. You have to figure out how to fit a large building’s worth of electronics into a very small space. And you have to make sure it’s all waterproof and safe from the elements. It’s a challenge.

The challenge is even greater if you choose the wrong cabling and have to redo it. Getting all the cables you need into those cramped spaces is hard enough. Taking out existing cables before putting in new ones makes it even harder.

Choosing the right cable

In a case like this, I think the right choice is always going to be to overbuild. Put in cable that serves every possible need you have now, and you won’t have to replace it later. Use good quality materials now and you’ll spend less time dealing with problems in the future. That leads me to some very simple, common-sense choices.

Always choose RG6 cable (except when you don’t)

If you have been doing commercial wiring for a while, you might remember when people used a lot of RG59 cable. RG59 cable is designed to handle the frequencies used in over-the-air broadcasting. It can generally handle satellite or other telecommunications signals but there is a lot of loss compared to RG6 cables. RG6 is the standard now and really there’s no reason to use anything else…

Except, of course, when you should use something else. A lot of communications equipment specifies 50-ohm cable. RG6 has an impedance of 75 ohms. If you use cable with the wrong impedance you’ll lose a lot of signal. It isn’t worth it. There are a number of choices for 50-ohm cable and generally LMR400 is the best choice. It combines low loss with high transmissibility over a large frequency range. It’s also available in spools just like RG6 cable.

When choosing RG6 cable, keep these two things in mind

The first thing to consider is the center conductor. High-quality RG6 cable uses a center conductor that is solid copper. Less expensive cable uses a center conductor made of solid steel, with a copper plating on it. Copper-coated steel, as it’s called, does work for most uses but it won’t carry current. The ability to carry current is used when you need to power a dish or other device.

Even though you won’t always need solid copper, it’s best to put it in because you never know what your future needs for that wiring will be.

The other thing to consider is shielding. It’s hard to know the kind of stresses your cable will be subjected to in those small confined spaces. That’s why I always recommend quad shielded cable for marine use. Quad shielded cables have an extra layer of braiding and foil to make sure that no outside signals interfere with the signals your cable is supposed to carry.

Yes I’m telling you to get the most expensive cable.

This is the cable I recommend. Yes it is pretty much the most expensive RG6 cable we sell. It’s worth it. A few extra dollars spent on cabling are going to pay dividends in happy customers with working equipment.  Take this cable and pair it with high quality compression fittings. Do the work right and you’ll be able to move on to the next high-paying job without costly re-work.

No matter what you need, you’ll find all the tools and equipment for any marine installation when you shop at Solid Signal. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Call us at 877-312-4547 and we’ll see if we can get it for you!



About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.