Practical Range Test Results

In our test. without direct view, but with better antenna, 9.9 kms

Range is essentially unlimited on these devices in practical terms. Obviously there’s a hard limit range when calculating link budget and other factors. However after spending quite a bit of time testing (and driving, bloody hell), any range issues are not because of the actual hardware and its underlying technology. As long as you can get proper RF line of sight (and by this I mean all factors associated with it, such as weather), and software/hardware is operating correctly, you WILL get a signal.

When it comes to range issues in dense areas with trees and/or buildings, all this goes out the window, and I have no idea how different setups (antennas, cable lengths, TX/RX power etc) affects this.

But when it comes to proper RF line of sight, it appears none of that is really important on stock devices with the included stock antennas. This is even using completely different devices. In my case a T-BEAM and RAK4631.

Max range was not due to hardware limitation, but to line of site issues:

Total distance - 119km (approx - unfortunately I had set the wrong long/lat on the RAK device, and was reading the wrong location). One day i’ll replicate this properly and show the proper readings here.

Mobile Unit: A T-BEAM magnetically mounted to the top of a vehicle in 3D printer case. Farthest location was near Hammer Hill Stables, Strathmore, Alberta.

Repeater Unit: RAK4631 unit mounted in an weatherproof electrical box and using an antenna borrowed from another stock T-BEAM. Location was just above the foothills of the Rockies (a little over an hour south of Banff, Alberta).

So really, considering the theoretical RF LOS range is hundreds of KMs, range is almost irrelevant (unless you’re using something like a weather balloon), because due to the curvature of the earth, there’s not a lot of places you’re going to find that will meet or exceed the device’s max range.

When it comes to extending range in urban areas, I think time and money is better spent on obtaining a third device, and strategically placing it as a repeater, rather than messing with antenna setups. If you’re in a town that is in a valley (like I am), trying to make 2 nodes speak to each other is going to be far more difficult over simply placing a 3rd node as a repeater at a elevated location overlooking the valley, and bouncing your messages back and forth between it.

As for RF interference I had no problem getting a signal from the north edge of Calgary, over downtown, all the way approximately 50km south.

Weather appears to play a big factor. Although when originally placing the RAK device in the mountains, lightning was hitting peaks around me so I didn’t stay too long. I was still getting a signal through some dense cloud cover, but it was only localized. As the days passed and all of southern Alberta was overcast, it was much harder to obtain a signal.


That’s where the baloon get’s relevant again :wink:

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Nice range test!

What speed did you have the devices on?


LongSlow. However i’m pretty sure these ranges would still persist even using ShortFast. Most people would encounter earth curvature issues long before the reduced max distance is reached (I think? I’ll be testing this soon).


Yesterday turned out to be an interesting and eventful Mother’s Day (those on Discord are already aware, as the # General channel exploded yesterday morning).

Through a group effort we were able to hit a new Meshtastic range record.

In a sleepy little Canadian town of Carbon AB: Rook, Starwatcher and CVR (as they identify on Discord) launched their balloon carrying some cool gadgets including a Meshtastic router node. I believe it was a TBEAM unit, but I won’t go into too much detail, as I don’t want to steal their thunder, and hopefully we will get details and pictures here later. But I will show one of their teaser pics:

A number of us already have a pretty sizable mesh going in the Calgary area and were monitoring it. Realizing I was farthest south and was already getting a direct line of sight signal of 145km, I hopped into my vehicle and headed even farther south. Since the balloon was slowly moving along a SW route, the distance was increasing at a slower pace as I was driving and trying to increase the gap. Slowly the node distance numbers increased until eventually it hit 167km.

Unfortunately, I hit a valley, and as I was trying to get some traceroute data, I drove down the road forgetting I had left my node on my roof, and it decided it wanted to follow in the balloon’s footsteps and take flight. As it tumbled down the highway, it damaged the antenna:

I’m sort of glad this happened, because even with the broken antenna, even with the awful signal now, I was still able to get an occasional ping and hit 171km.

This is a good example of how resilient and forgiving not only LoRa but the Meshtastic software is (kudos to our excellent devs).

The little Chevy Tracker I was in, while great for reaching those hard to reach mountain areas, does not do well in strong highway crosswinds. And it was indeed a very blustery day. As I headed back, things didn’t feel complete. So when I returned home, I grabbed my backup T-BEAM, and a vehicle better suited for a long Southern Prairies drive. At that time the balloon had caught up distance and was just a little under a 100km away. However to add to this, the balloon had run into an issue and its altitude was decreasing. So now it was a race against time. This time I took a different route which was the most direct. I kept an eye on the distance slowly increasing again. Sometimes it was a bit of hesitation as I’d dip into a deep valley and momentarily lose signal and not see any increase, as well as seeing the balloon altitude gradually decrease from 28km all the way down to 9.7km (which is still over a good 30,000ft).

However as I entered the outskirts of Cardston, Alberta, I finally saw the Meshtastic node list show the VE6TS9 balloon node read 200km. I drove a bit longer to try and find a good spot to gather the proper data with a final distance reading of 206km:

Tracking Route and Final Distance Reading:

Signal Information:

Nodes Involved:

Direct TraceRoute to confirm no other hops:

Talking to the balloon:

Ground T-BEAM node location:

It’s a lovely day for a distance reading:

Meshtastic Software/Firmware was 2.1.10
T-BEAM is using the stock omni antenna and channel settings set to LongFast

TLDR: Meshtastic signal distance has hit 206km

While I was just at the right place at the right time, the real heros are our devs and the balloon team. Congratulations on such a great achievement! Hopefully we can see more info from them soon on their side.


Thanks for this well written report, which gives us the opportunity to feel your exitation!
Awesome tool!

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Did anyone try the Ebyte E22-400T37S SX1262 433/470MHz 5W or E32-433T37S SX1278 long distance 5W ? These are both powered 5W and have a theoretical range of 25km according to the spec sheet.

Well done on the new range record beating me by 40km on long fast! :slight_smile:
That is incredible


Got ACK’s a ton this time too!

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We thank you and bow in reverence. :pray: You will always be the OG! :smiley:

We unofficially hit 226km on another balloon flight this weekend, but signal was spotty and intermittent. Couldn’t get a proper trace to confirm. However we’re learning a lot with these attempts.

We had quite a bit of smoke coverage from neighbouring wildfires, the balloon antenna placement was less than optimal (T-beams simply sitting in an insulated box), and the SWR on these stock antennas aren’t wonderful.

However this is all good news too. Being off-grid means things probably won’t be pretty or idealistic. Yet even without tuned or quality components and under average conditions, people can still reliably expect over 200km of LOS before things start to break down and require more precision.

Funny enough, i’ve never actually met the balloon team in person until this weekend. We’ve only spoke through our public Meshtastic channel and Discord. So now we’ve got their blessing to share pictures from their side of the events:

Unofficial distance record:

Go for balloon launch:

Mapped path:

Balloon Retrieval:

Slushy Ice Cool T-BEAMS (Dr. Pepper Flavour):

Equipment loadout:

One of the T-BEAM devices was also controlling a screw valve motor on the balloon to allow it to adjust altitude (and in turn take advantage of directional wind currents at different altitudes to control direction, just like a hot air balloon). Pretty wild!

The Meshtastic Distance Record Team:


LOS between a RAK1262 and a LILYGO® T3S3 V1.0 ESP32-S3, an 8dbi omni antenna to a 3.5dbi omni antenna at the receiving end. 5.6 Km range, lots of trees and low density housing. Hight is might.

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New Meshtastic Range - 254km (158 miles)

WARNING: This will be a long post! :melting_face: Canadian apologies in advance.

NOTE: If you right-click and open images in new tab, you will be able to see full quality.

Achieving large ranges with the weather balloon was a really great experience, and even aside from the record range able to be achieved, it was just damn awesome to see what other things Meshtastic was capable of. Shout-out to my Calgary Meshtastic pals StarWatcher, Rook and CVR, as the previous record would never have happened without their knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm.

That being said, for a while I keep hearing snippets of “using a balloon is cheating” or “that’s just using trickery to get that far” or people replying “ya but that was using a balloon” (almost as to suggest that using aerial devices use some sort of quantum bypass for signal distance).

For a while now I’ve been mulling over ways to get maximum distance to two ground point locations, using practical hardware (no communication towers, or yagi antennas). LoRa already has such a generous link budget, that it should be technically possible to get better range even with stock antennas, as long as one can get line of sight. Furthermore, with the last 2 distance records using only T-beam devices, I also wanted to demonstrate that the device hardware used, was NOT a limiting factor for practical distances.

This journey starts a while back with a Router/Repeater node placed near the peak of a mountain (Hailstone Butte) in the Canadian Rockies meant to serve the public mesh in Calgary and the southern Alberta Foothills. It worked, but had to go through a few iterations (and yet another cold-weather version to come) before it was decent enough to be left alone indefinitely. The first couple versions used the original RAK Wireless solar enclosure to house the RAK4631 hardware. At 80mA, the built-in solar panel just wasn’t enough to keep the device charged over long periods. After then switching to a 200mA solar panel with a similar setup in another location I had great results, but it was also placed for optimal sun coverage. The Hailstone Butte node, unfortunately would need to face east due to terrain.

I decided to use the popular Soshine panel with Keith’s great 3D printed mount design. A 5 watt USB panel. These style of panels can be found for cheap now due to the flood of Ring and Ring-style cameras on the market. On top of that, they’re already built for outdoor weather, and using USB they’re already well suited at 5v power for the RAK devices. Since I was also prioritizing distance over nearby coverage, I decided to use an outdoor 5.8dBi antenna.

After resolving a few mounting challenges, this became the new repeater/router node:

Currently this is the visibility cloak using the mapping tool at heywhatsthat:

As you can see, the bottom-right corner shows a sliver of LOS reaching over the Canada/US border. The Sweet Grass Hills in Northeast Montana offer some mountains in the middle of the flat plains. Upon closer inspection, one of them called West Butte offered a possible location to send/receive a signal:

Unfortunately, the signal fresnel zone shows it’s more than 60% blocked which is usually a no-go. However, i’ve experienced this in the past while still getting a signal. I believe this is a combination of map data not being exact and the resilience of the LoRa protocol. At this point it was when I decided to take a chance… ROAD TRIP! If nothing, it would be a fun adventure.

Since I was going solo, I reported to a few people of my intended trip route and expected return time (always do this on any hike, no matter how small!!!). Of course, I decided to take this trip during a “Severe Heat Warning” in the area. I left very early in the morning so I could get a head start to beat the heat. After a 3 hour (and very scenic) drive, I arrived at the Coutts border crossing. After a few minutes I was able to convince the customs officer that I would be fine on my own. Just before I crossed over into the USA, I was even able to see the West Butte in the distance:

Then I found myself in the tiny little town of Sunburst. Named very well, as I had to make full use of sunglasses and roof visors as the sun was rising. Being in a different country, seeing the Canadian and US flags together made me feel welcome:

The town is so small, I didn’t even see a gas station. However if you’re ever in the area, make sure to get your supplies from Sunburst Mercantile. A lovely mini-grocery store with very friendly staff. I appreciate the use of their VERY clean and spotless washroom (bathroom for US folks).

After a 30 minute drive east I found myself finally near the base of the West Butte. I had to check my AllTrails map for this, as part of the area is a private property cattle ranch. After consulting the maps, I made my way up towards the peak. However, halfway up I started to get spotty signals already from the Calgary mesh! As the hike up the mountain was taking longer than usual, and the day was starting to heat up fast, I made the decision to get to the first open area near the first peak and attempt to get the signal data there (and enjoy the view of course):

Calgary is somewhere out there:

After finding a nice place to sit and take measurements, I proceed to first take a reading with a RAK4631 device, getting a direct trace route of 255km (254km actual) to the Hailstone Butte node Repeater/Router:

Yes, you are correct. That is a your average small little 2dBi LoRa antenna. When I measured the SWR on this one, it was just below 1.5.

Next I performed the same test with a Heltec v3. This time with a ZIISOR 3dBi 90 degree antenna (TX915-JKS-20 SMA-J) :

Meshtastic Technical Data…

Receiving Node:

(sorry, time stamp sync was off on that one)

Sending Node (RAK4631):

Sending Node (Heltec v3):

Direct Message ACK (RAK4631):

Direct Message ACK (Heltec v3):

Direct Message Received from a Calgary mesh user (Android - T-Beam):

He was also kind enough to send some telemetry info from his end (thank you Drake):

Message sent to the Primary public Calgary mesh channel:

It was about this time that things were heating up. It was time to head back down the mountain. The heat hit 36 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) and even with plenty of fluids and sun protection, the physical exertion in that heat was getting to be too much. If I spent any more time in it, i’m pretty sure heatstroke was coming. So I just wanted to take this time to thank this bush:

Its shade allowed me time to recuperate and recharge enough to get back to my vehicle safely.

I think one of the neat and notable things with this range attempt, was that both the US and Canada were involved on this one. So thank you to our American folks for letting me come visit your lovely country to make this possible!

Hopefully this new (somewhat more practical) range test result will put some comments to rest!

Here’s some more data (and yes it appears that almost all of the fresnel zone was blocked where I took measurements, but again as mentioned before I think this is due to the resilience of the LoRa protocol, and the accuracy of the mapping tools:

Device: RAK4631 Core Module with RAK5005-O Base Board
Firmware: 2.1.17 beta
Antenna: 902-928MHz 5.8 dBi Slinkdsco Outdoor with IPX/u.fl N Type Female Pigtail adapter
GPS Module: None (Fixed Location)

Channel Setting: Default Long_Fast
Frequency: 915MHz
Bandwidth: 250
Spread Factor: 11
Coding Rate: 4/8
RX Boosted Gain: Enabled
Device Role: Router & Client

Geographical: Hailstone Butte, Kananaskis AB, Canada
GPS Coordinates: 50.21014, -114.45600
Altitude: 2.3km (1.4 miles)


Device: RAK4631 Core Module with RAK19003 Mini Base Board
Firmware: 2.1.18 alpha
Antenna: Standard LoRa 915MHz 60mm 2dBi Omnidirectional
GPS Module: RAK12500 (u-blox ZOE-M8Q)

Channel Setting: Default Long_Fast
Frequency: 915MHz
Bandwidth: 250
Spread Factor: 11
Coding Rate: 4/8
RX Boosted Gain: Enabled
Device Role: Client

Geographical: West Butte, Toole County MT, USA
GPS Coordinates: 48.92749, -111.54013
Altitude: 1.8km (1.1 miles)

Device: Heltec Lora32 v3
Firmware: 2.1.17 beta
Antenna: ZIISOR 915MHz 195mm 3dBi 90 degree Omnidirectional (TX915-JKS-20)
GPS Module: None (using Apple iPhone XR device GPS)

Channel Setting: Default Long_Fast
Frequency: 915MHz
Bandwidth: 250
Spread Factor: 11
Coding Rate: 4/8
RX Boosted Gain: Disabled
Device Role: Client

Geographical: West Butte, Toole County MT, USA
GPS Coordinates: 48.92746, -111.54018
Altitude: 1.8km (1.1 miles)



What an impressive feat! And thank you for the very thorough write-up of your accomplishment. It was quite fun to experience it vicariously through your story! Congratulations :partying_face:

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Oh wow! This rocks!

Using long_fast too. Very cool!


An incredible amount of planning went into this. Really well done. Hats off.


Well done very well documented too.
Really hard to find a link like that over land.


This is great! Thank you for the detailed write-up and sharing your adventure.

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Very impressive! Super exciting to see this.

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That’s awesome! What phone app are you using?