goTenna Mesh community

My Gotenna mesh camping network

Last week a whole bunch of family & friends went camping and I setup solar powered gotenna relays on hilltops surrounding the area where we camp, bike, & boat. With nearly two dozen gotennas deployed to users and 5 deployed as solar powered relays this was my largest scale gotenna mesh test to date.

Our ability to communicate vastly improved over previous years of using FRS radios. Only a handful of us have ham licenses so we have used FRS for all the non hams who have no interest in getting their license.

We were able to communicate over multiple hills, ridge lines, mountain tops, and down into neighboring valleys. Locations that were previously in dead zones for cellular and FRS. I was even able to establish gotenna comms from our lake camp (which is surrounded my mountains) into the small town over 8 miles away.

Campers were able to relay messages to family and friends to coordinate bike rides, off roading adventures, & even reminding one another to grab extra bags of ice while in town.

Simply put. The system worked GREAT! The max amount of hops reported on that trip was 4. My max amount of hops to date is 5.

Gotenna Mesh is definitely here to stay with my group of friends and family. I got them all hooked!

9 Likes

Awesome pics of the GTM, panel, and lake. And a great testament to how the individual reception problems that seem to irritate so much tend to fade away as the mesh multiplies and amplifies the capacity of the network and its reach.

2 Likes

How often were you using the devices? How many messages do you think were being sent at once and/or over the time you were out there? Always keen to hear about experiences in larger groups!!

Which panel are you using there? (brand, wattage), and so you like it? It looks somewhat flexible. I’m curious about the conversion rate.

Thanks!

Lixada 10W Solar Panel Charger 5V USB Ports for Cell Phone High Effiency Outdoor Activities Lighting Use Portable Ultra Thin Monocrystalline Silicon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCXZJ8Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_29ABBbSDA55YG

2 Likes

Most people just had them in case they needed help. I’d say at peak usage there were 4-6 people communicating/auto sharing their position simultaneously.

A couple times messages needed to be resent by users who were further away.

Our biggest problem was the gotenna app was sharing out of date position data and confusing the whole group when trying to meet up with each other while biking and hiking.

Here is the link to the solar panel. It ran all the relays for 2 week straight without any problems.

I’ve also used this panel with a gotenna on my roof for 6 months straight without the gotenna going dead. No extra external battery in the mix either.

1 Like

It’s not really 10 Watts. The seller on amazon is lying. It’s exactly the same as the 7.8 watt. They just charge you an extra dollar. They are both in reality only around 5 Watts. But they still work great for gotennas if they have a clear sky from dust to dawn.

Question? It says the panel is not waterproof. How are you handling that?

This looks like a good deal for those of us wanting to put up a permanent node. Assuming 5 watts is accurate that is a 1 amp charger. That should be more then a Gotenna can use. Given decent conditions anything higher would be a waste without an external battery.

Edit:. I’m purposely draining a couple Gotennas so I can monitor their charge rates. I expect the actual draw to be a curve based on battery level.

2 Likes

Where I was camping and the time of year meant very little chance of rain. So I didn’t worry about waterproofing.

I had a very similar setup on my roof last winter season when we had quite a bit of rain. I had the gotenna in a cheap little waterproof case with a hole drilled into the side for the USB cable. Then used shoe glue to seal back up the hole.

To seal the solar panel just plug in the USB cable then seal it up with shoe glue, liquid electrical tape, or silicone calking.

2 Likes

I’m glad that’s working since my idea was similar after checking out your panel recommendation. I was thinking about silicone or caulk around the port and PVC as a container. I’ll check out the shoe glue.

1 Like

No external battery and no charge controller? Are you sure you didn’t damage your GTM devices?

It’s a 5v USB solar panel. Has its own voltage regulator.

And the GTM has an internal charge controller that essentially does everything a normal charge controller does.

1 Like

Went to the woods this week and took along the mast I use to turn the Meshmobile into an even better temp relay than the roof-mounted pickle-jar provides. It assembles and breaks down quickly, so I wanted to have it available. As it turned out, we all did enough hiking that we landed in our comfy chairs when we got to camp, so no need for extended GTM reception. I thought about a special test hike the last evening out, but everything under foot was sand and I was too pooped to do my Lawrence of Arabia thing without a camel.

Instead, we sent up a small internet hotspot very similar in size to a GTM and it proved popular with the expedition we ran it to its data limit before we got out of the woods. People on the ground either had marginal or no service, but using the hotspot 14’+ in the air worked wonders. While I didn’t test them together, what this sort of dual use could do is provide a way to facilitate porting messages out via the Twillo service available as part of the goTenna Plus package — even if it may at first seem like there is “No Service.”

Here’s a pic of the very simple parts for the mast.

The Land Cruiser has a great place to mount the tube that acts as the base, which I attached with some gargantuan zip-ties. I do not recommend driving around with this sort of mount, even if lowered to a suitable height for use on the highway in your jurisdiction. For a stationary mount, it works great for your event’s need for a better base station to keep everyone in touch with your goTenna Mesh units, or other devices. The part that’s somewhat variable but essential is the extendable paint roller handle. It needs to be right around 1” diameter to fit in the PVC tube, then etc, etc. I can send or write up what I have, but what’s important is everything best nests as it fits together and has a solid mount to whatever is driving things underneath. And you don’t need the roller, just the handle, which is soft enough metal used for the roller axle it is easy to bend into a better hook for your mast mount. The case need only fit your goTenna Mesh and add a case to add the hotspot du jour for the internet.

2 Likes