Meshtastic lets you use inexpensive (~$30/board) GPS radios as extensible mesh communicators. It’s great for hiking, skiing, climbing – essentially any hobby where you might not have reliable internet access. Each member of your mesh can see the location and distance of all other members and receive text messages sent to your private group chat. Data automatically forwards as needed, so everyone can receive messages from even the furthest member.
Communications encrypted by AES256
Miles between nodes with line of sight
Up to eight days of battery life
Growing community of contributors
Optional app for communication
1. Select your hardware
We recommend the T-Beam V1.1 w/ NEO-6M ($26.35), which comes with Meshtastic pre-installed and an OLED display (unattached). You just need to solder the display to the board, throw in a battery, and it’s ready to go!
Note: If you don’t go with this board, make sure to follow 7. Updating Firmare to load Meshtastic onto your board before you try connecting to it.
Meshtastic also supports these models of radios:
Make sure to get the board frequency for your country:
- US / JP / AU / NZ / CA – 915MHz
- CN – 470MHz
- EU – 868MHz, 433MHz
- Full list of LoRa frequencies per region is available here.
2. Get some batteries
The T-Beam boards each require one 18650 battery. These are lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and slightly larger than AAs. You’ll be able to charge the battery with the board itself whenever you have it inserted and are powering the board via-USB.
3. Attach the display
If you purchased a T-Beam board with an OLED display you’ll need to solder it into place. This isn’t as difficult as it may seem if you’ve never soldered before, but have access to a soldering iron and/or someone who’s familiar with it.
This image provides a quick-reference for which pins your OLED should line up with.
5. Connect to your board
Power on your board and then open the Meshtastic app on your phone. Click on the gear icon to go to the Connections tab. You should see your board in the list. If you select it, a bluetooth notification will appear and a code will be displayed on the board’s screen. Once you input this code you should be connected and able to set your screen name in the Connection tab. You’re good to go!
6. Grab a case
Your exposed board may seem somewhat fragile in practical applications. Thankfully, the community has been creating a variety of 3D-printed solutions for various boards. You can visit the ongoing 3D-printed Cases thread on the forum for the latest updates and options.
(Specifically for 1.3″ OLED displays)
7. Update your firmware
This will outline the method for manually updating the version of Meshtastic on your board. This step is also necessary for any boards not pre-loaded with Meshtastic to install in on the board (the process is the same). If you run into any issues or are looking to update via the command line, please visit the official GUI installation documentation.
1. Go here to see the latest Meshtastic firmware releases.
2. Click the latest firmware-0.X.X.zip to download the newest firmware for all supported boards and unzip it.
3. Download the latest ESPHome Flasher for your operating system.
4. Connect your radio to your PC via USB and then open ESPHome Flasher.
5. Click Browse and select the firmware for your board from the package we just downloaded.
Note: Be careful to install the correct firmware for your board. In particular, the popular T-BEAM radios from TTGO do not use the firmware-ttgo-lora32 files (they’re firmware-tbeam). If you install the ‘TTGO-Lora’ build on a TBEAM it won’t work correctly.
6. Click Flash ESP and wait until it’s finishing flashing the board.
7. You’re done!
8. Add your nodes to the Meshtastic Map
This is an unofficial map for finding other Meshtastic users, nodes, and repeaters. It’s great for letting others know about your network and collaborating on how to build it out.
Where can I get support?
You can ask questions and get support for issues over at the Meshtastic Discourse Group forum.
What's the practical range?
Tbeam boards with the stock antenna appear to be capable of at least 11km with an uninterupted line of sight. (source) This would still vary based on your radio, configuration, and line of sight. This ongoing Practical Range Test Results thread is a good sample of what people are reporting for various devices and scenarios.
How can I update the firmware?
BLE firmware updates through the Android app are coming soon. If you’d like to update the firmware manually via USB, you can find more information here.
Are there plans to commercialize this project?
No, but if some other person/group wanted to use this software and a more customized device we think that would be awesome (as long as they obey the GPL license). (source)
Are there any projects similar to Meshtastic?
Disaster.radio is probably the closest, but focuses on supporting a different set of radios. GoTenna is the most popular commercial solution, but is closed-source, expensive, and recently moved towards developing exclusively for enterprise-level solutions. Many other off-grid commuication solutions also exist, but are still under development.
Where can I learn more about mesh networking?
Ram Ramanathan’s 2018 article Understanding Mesh Networking (Part1 & Part2) is a great place to start. This general post, Introduction to Mesh Technology, provides an overview of some of the most relevant technologies. The darknetplan subreddit is also a good place for news and info on all types of projects.