What’s The Best Antenna For Your Helium Hotspot?



Here is a step by step method for under­stand­ing how to choose the best anten­na for your hotspot place­ment. Each place­ment demands a well matched anten­na in order to pro­vide val­ue to the Heli­um Net­work and con­se­quent­ly earn the most HNT pos­si­ble for that loca­tion. Do NOT, by the way, try to get the giant anten­na in the pic­ture below. While it looks huge and cool and rad, it is the wrong anten­na to use for these deploy­ments. I spent a fair amount of blood and trea­sure to learn that les­son. You don’t need to. 

First: Hotspot place­ment opti­miza­tion is FAR more impor­tant than what anten­na you use, more on that here.

High Mountain antenna placement for Helium in the backcountry of San Diego

Sec­ond, for those of you who just want AN ANSWER: Sim­ple: Pick from the McGill selec­tion. They’ll all work well. 

Put it out­doors at least 10′ above all the build­ings around you. Run 40′ or less of LMR400 cable to it from your hotspot. If you have to go more than 40′, use LMR600 if you’re feel­ing extrav­a­gant. That’ll prob­a­bly get you 80% of the results you could get with far more effort and expertise. 

Wait, you want to actu­al­ly learn and match your anten­na to your sit­u­a­tion so you get the max­i­mum rewards possible?

Ok, let’s start with broad strokes: The anten­na you choose for your hotspot place­ment should match your topog­ra­phy, your ele­va­tion, and your lines of sight.

Let’s start with topog­ra­phy. Topog­ra­phy refers to the build­ings, earth, and water that sur­round, chan­nel, and block your radio sig­nals (prop­a­ga­tion.) The top­ic of radio prop­a­ga­tion involves a tremen­dous­ly deep dive all the way down to the fun­da­men­tals of physics, but we’ll keep it pret­ty simple.

BLUF (Bot­tom Line Up Front) — The flat­ter your topog­ra­phy AND the more trees/vegetation you have block­ing your Line of Sight to oth­er hotspots, the high­er gain anten­na you can use, up to 9 dbi.

Remem­ber, topog­ra­phy isn’t just hills and moun­tains, it includes build­ings, trees, and oth­er obstacles. 

Ok, let’s get dirty! In gen­er­al, earth in the form of moun­tains or hills will block radio sig­nals. Even though a hotspot may seem very close to you, if there’s a hill between the two of you, you prob­a­bly won’t wit­ness each other.

You may check out your loca­tion on the Heli­um Explor­er Cov­er­age map and think you’re per­fect­ly posi­tioned in regards to near­by hotspots, like this:

Remem­ber to check Google Earth!

See how that spot is tucked into a bunch of hills? Unless you put up an anten­na that’ll stick over the top of the hills, you’re restrict­ed to wit­ness­ing only oth­er hotspots in your imme­di­ate area, and in this case, that area is small!

One of the best tools to use when assess­ing a new site is Heli­umVi­sion. Remem­ber, loca­tion is FAR more impor­tant than anten­nas. If you’d like to learn more about Heli­umVi­sion (I use it in every one of my con­sults) I’ve built a Mas­ter Class on it, over here.

Ok, so that’s earth. Earth = No Radio Waves Get­ting Through.

What about build­ings? How much will build­ings block or reduce the pow­er of radio propagation? 

Accord­ing to a study done in 2012 on a wide swath of build­ing mate­ri­als and focus­ing on the GSM 900 MHz band, a rein­forced con­crete wall that is 20cm / ~8″ thick will atten­u­ate the sig­nal by 27 dB. An inte­ri­or plas­ter wall will reduce pow­er by any­where from .8 to 3 dB.

What does that mean? Dis­claimer: RF geeks, I’ma get loose with terms here. Relax.

This reduc­tion in pow­er is called “atten­u­a­tion.” In gen­er­al with radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions, you don’t want any atten­u­a­tion. Atten­u­a­tion can hap­pen with earth, build­ings, forests, and even win­dow coat­ings. How much pow­er will you lose? Let’s run some numbers.

Amer­i­can based hotspots start off by push­ing out 27 dBm. Euro­pean and oth­er areas start WAY low­er, at 14. Add the gain (dBi) from your anten­na and sub­tract the loss­es from any con­nec­tions to fig­ure out your Effec­tive Isotrop­ic Radi­at­ed Pow­er (EIRP).

That means a 6 dBi anten­na will give you 33 dBm of EIRP with a US hotspot. 27dBm + 6dBi = 33dBm in the direc­tion of anten­na gain. Now you’ve got to cal­cu­late cable and con­nec­tion loss.

As a rough rule of thumb, each con­nec­tion (hotspot to anten­na cable, anten­na cable to anten­na, or going through an enclo­sure wall using a con­nec­tor) will drop your EIRP by .5 dB. Cable loss­es vary by cable, which is why most peo­ple use a “low loss” cable like LMR400. If you want to run your EIRP num­bers, here’s how.

Ok, ok, ok, why does it mat­ter whether or not you know your EIRP

Let’s take a short detour into dBm and pow­er. dBm is based on a log­a­rith­mic scale. For every increase of 3 dBm, there is twice as much pow­er out­put. Every increase of 10 dBm has a ten­fold increase in pow­er. The dif­fer­ence between a 3 dBi anten­na (what most hotspots ship with) and an after­mar­ket 9 dBi anten­na is a fac­tor of 4! 

Of course, that 4x pow­er comes at a cost; the beam is focused; more laser and less light­bulb. That means that unless you aim your anten­na very care­ful­ly, you can blast all that pow­er into places that have no hotspots.

Here is a great exam­ple demon­strat­ing atten­u­a­tion and topog­ra­phy. This hotspot is placed on the north side inside a build­ing. It’s up high with a high­er gain anten­na, and in gen­er­al, inac­cu­rate­ly aimed over most of the near­by hotspots.

Most of the wit­ness­es it’s get­ting are fur­ther north. Some of the sig­nals bounce off to the side, prov­ing that “RF is weird.” 

To the south, the sig­nals are blocked or atten­u­at­ed by inte­ri­or and exte­ri­or walls, but appar­ent­ly there is a small win­dow or open­ing where those weak­ened sig­nals are escap­ing, then going pret­ty far over the water. Pret­ty neat, right? I mean, not for the hotspot own­er, but it’s a neat demon­stra­tion of the concept.

That image is also a great exam­ple of why you should nev­er put a hotspot anten­na inside; you are los­ing a ton of pow­er before the radio waves ever get out­side the building.

Water allows radio sig­nals to trav­el much fur­ther than nor­mal; look at any hotspot next to a body of water and you’ll see it will con­nect with oth­er hotspots at much fur­ther ranges across the water than it will across land. 

Let’s not get too into the weeds here. As I said at the begin­ning, the gen­er­al rule for topog­ra­phy is this: The flat­ter your topog­ra­phy, the high­er gain anten­na you can use, up to 9 dBi for 95% of place­ments. Beyond 9 the pat­tern gen­er­al­ly gets too pre­cise to pro­vide the Wide cov­er­age (the W in WUPU) that we want.

Remem­ber, topog­ra­phy includes not just hills, moun­tains, and water, but all the build­ings, bridges, and oth­er struc­tures that might block your radio sig­nal. Cities in gen­er­al do not have a flat topog­ra­phy, even if they’re built on flat land. All those spiky build­ings stick­ing out will gob­ble up your radio signals.

That brings us to ELEVATION. If you want to bend your mind a lit­tle bit, think about this: The high­er your ele­va­tion, the flat­ter the rel­a­tive topog­ra­phy is, and the LOWER dbi anten­na you can use. Wait, what?

Remem­ber, a high dbi anten­na focus­es the sig­nal of your anten­na. In an omni anten­na (we’ll get to direc­tion­al or sec­tor anten­nas in a minute), that shape becomes a flat­ter and flat­ter plane. If that plane is super flat, it’ll fly right over the tops of all those hotspots you want to hit. Let’s go through 3 examples.

Now, those aren’t how it *actu­al­ly* works. The gain pat­terns are nowhere near as dif­fer­ent, and a high gain anten­na will STILL hit the ground with­in 1,000′ of even a 100′ build­ing. Still, you can see why in *most* cas­es, you want a low or medi­um gain anten­na up high.

You can also run that idea back­wards; if you’re in a real­ly flat area where you don’t have a lot of obsta­cles, a high gain anten­na might be your best bet. Still, most peo­ple don’t live in the desert, and the flat­test state in Amer­i­ca has a ton of trees on it. If that’s your sce­nario, get a high gain (6–9 dBi) anten­na up over the tops of those trees for max­i­mum coverage. 

That brings us in a round­about way to Lines of Sight. Remem­ber that $39 paper I quot­ed ear­li­er regard­ing how much RF ener­gy a giv­en build­ing mate­r­i­al would absorb? The gen­er­al take­away for us Heli­um Hotspot own­ers is this: Our anten­nas won’t blast through much more than 2 build­ings.

That means if you’re INSIDE the build­ing, you’ve burned most of the ener­gy of the anten­na just get­ting out­side the walls. If it hits just one more “thing”, whether it’s a build­ing, a tree, or a bill­board, that’s prob­a­bly the end of the line.

This “Lines of Sight” idea has an impor­tant impli­ca­tion in under­stand­ing how some of the top earn­ing hotspot/antenna com­bos are doing so well. The hotspot Docile Bone Pony* (when this was writ­ten, one of the high­est earn­ers in the world) is on top of a 16 sto­ry build­ing in a major city with a medium/high gain anten­na (8 dbi from eBay on 60′ of LMR400.) It has Lines of Sight to a lot of oth­er hotspots, BUT those oth­er hotspots don’t have great lines of sight to oth­er hotspots around ’em.

That means that DBP is see­ing a lot of hotspots that AREN’T see­ing a lot of hotspots. I’m going to anthro­po­mor­phize this a bit, but their only option is to com­mu­ni­cate with DBP. So they do. And DBP earns like crazy. It’s an exam­ple of the incred­i­ble earn­ing poten­tial that exists when pro­vid­ing asym­met­ric val­ue to the network.

While we’re on Lines of Sight, let’s talk about the range of a stan­dard hotspot. Accord­ing to some excel­lent work done by the inim­itable @para1 on Dis­cord, most hotspots do most of their wit­ness­ing with­in a 10km range. Now, an in depth dis­cus­sion of the impli­ca­tions and restric­tions of this table is beyond the scope of this arti­cle, but your gen­er­al take­away should be “Opti­mize your anten­na for hot­pots with­in 10 km” aka most peo­ple don’t need a high gain antenna.

@para1’s table, post­ed in Discord

I’ll dou­ble tap this range thing with an exam­ple of a hotspot I run, which has a 3 dBi HNTen­na on top of a 20′ pole on top of a ~30′ build­ing. It *rou­tine­ly* gets wit­ness­es over 200km away. While it seems that a high gain anten­na will get you bet­ter range, it does­n’t real­ly mat­ter. It’s Line of Sight that is the secret here.

Final­ly, Lines of Sight can be blocked by forests. Depend­ing on who you lis­ten to, LoRa does­n’t go through much more than 60 meters of dense for­est. I’m sor­ry rur­al Flori­da, you’ve just got a tough row to hoe on that one. Dense for­est in between you and oth­er anten­nas is about the only time a high­er gain (up to 9 dBi) makes sense, and even then it may not make a giant dif­fer­ence. Forests are RF sinks.

There is one more thing to think about with Lines of Sight. The 900 MHz fre­quen­cy needs some run­way, ide­al­ly 50′/15m to fan out enough to dif­fract around obsta­cles. Read that again and you’ll have an advan­tage over every­one who does­n’t get that concept.

The con­cept of Fres­nel zones and dif­frac­tion in radio wave com­mu­ni­ca­tion is one of the fun­da­men­tal dri­vers of the “RF is weird” refrain you’ll hear when­ev­er you see a pat­tern that does­n’t imme­di­ate­ly make sense. Basi­cal­ly, the fur­ther out your radio waves go, the more they can spread out along their radi­a­tion pat­tern, the less like­ly that all of the waves get blocked, and the more like­ly that at least some of ’em will get to anoth­er hotspot. 

At some dis­tance they’re so spread out that you’re basi­cal­ly not going to make a con­nec­tion, so the effec­tive “win­dow” shrinks back down. Like this:

Check out RadioMo­bile to get deep on Fres­nel zones.

If you set up your anten­na so that you’ve got lots of clear space around it before it hits obsta­cles, those radios waves have enough spread to start “bend­ing around” those obsta­cles. This is yet anoth­er rea­son not to set up inside. 

Here’s anoth­er “I def­i­nite­ly did­n’t go to art school” draw­ing to demon­strate the idea of run­way and diffraction.

If you give those radio waves some room to spread out, they can get around obsta­cles. Let ’em breathe!

Ok, we’ve got one more thing to con­sid­er before wrap­ping up. Many of you will have been scour­ing ham radio sites to fig­ure out how to improve the range of your anten­na. Keep in mind that the goal of many ham radio oper­a­tors is incred­i­ble range, but that can come at the cost of broad cov­er­age. Doing exact­ly what a ham oper­a­tor does may give you the results they want, not what you want.

YOU want to hit as many high scale hotspots as pos­si­ble. You’ll usu­al­ly do that by using a low gain anten­na up high, with clear lines of sight all around.

Remem­ber, you’ll earn the most by deliv­er­ing the most valu­able & prov­able cov­er­age to the net­work. The con­cept is sim­ple. The exe­cu­tion can be com­pli­cat­ed. If you want help with get­ting the max­i­mum val­ue out of your place­ments or strat­e­gy, I’m avail­able for hire.

For those of you who skipped all that and just want to know what anten­na to get, here are 4 gen­er­al­ly good options for the 3 most com­mon scenarios.

  1. In a build­ing in the city? Get an out­door HNTen­na or a McGill in the 3–6 dBi range, put it out­side up as high as you can.
  2. In a build­ing where you just can’t get up high? Use the stock anten­na that came with your hotspot. Also, find a bet­ter place­ment loca­tion. You did read about that, right?
  3. In a sub­ur­ban house? Get either the HNTen­na or a McGill in the 3–6 dBi range and put it on a pole out­side and up high.
  4. On a moun­tain where you can’t pos­si­ble trans­mit behind you (because the moun­tain will block your sig­nal) and you have an enor­mous view of civ­i­liza­tion and your near­est hotspot is more than 5 miles away? Try a 8–9 dBi patch anten­na, like these.

I’ll round this out with what to def­i­nite­ly NOT do. Don’t just look at the gain of an anten­na and think high­er is bet­ter. Don’t both­er with Yagi anten­nas. Final­ly, don’t wor­ry too much about your anten­na. In the big pic­ture of earn­ings, it is FAR more impor­tant to have good place­ment and ele­va­tion. The fan­ci­est, coolest, most high tech anten­na in the world won’t get you much if you’re in a crap­py loca­tion down low.

Best of luck with your place­ment and earn­ings, I’m stoked to be a part of this amaz­ing com­mu­ni­ty! If you’re look­ing for work in the Heli­um ecosys­tem, check out  Heli­um Jobs. You can post and find jobs there, help sup­port the ecosys­tem by mak­ing it eas­i­er to con­nect pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and let the world know that YOU exist and want to help con­tribute with­in the Net­work. Rock on!

Resources and Further Reading

A deep­er dive into under­stand­ing how RF works.

Cal­cu­lat­ing RF Pow­er Val­ues (explains why a 6 dBi anten­na dou­bles your power)

900 MHz: The Wire­less Work­horse. (Prob­a­bly why Heli­um chose LoRa)

List of Helium Hotspots & Their Antennas

Before you read this and assume that you must have a high gain anten­na in order to get great earn­ings, please keep in mind that these hotspot own­ers are gen­er­al­ly tin­ker­ers and often have some exper­tise in RF the­o­ry. The results are a lit­tle skewed because of that.

UPDATE: Heli­umVi­sion now reports this for all hotspot own­ers who have entered this on Heli­um app. I’ve closed sub­mis­sions on this page. 

Docile Bone Pony — Ele­va­tion: 16 sto­ries, Area: Greater Boston, MA. Anten­na: 8 dbi omni from eBay, Cables: 60′ of LMR400

Sweet Sage Pike — Ele­va­tion: 43′ above ground, Area: San Diego, CA. Anten­na: Near­son 9, Cables: 5′ of LMR400

Chilly Blood Mon­goose — Ele­va­tion: 41′ above ground, Area: San Diego, CA. Anten­na: Laird FG9026 (6 dbi), Cables: 5′ of LMR400

Lucky Men­thol Wasp — Ele­va­tion: 60′ above ground, Area: San Diego, CA. Anten­na: RAK 5.8 dbi, Cables: 11′ LMR400

Nice Lip­stick Chim­panzee — Ele­va­tion: 25′ above ground, Area: San Fran­cis­co, CA. Anten­na: RFMAX | ROSA-900-SNF, Cables: 5′ LMR240

Inter­est­ing Pearl Star­ling — Ele­va­tion: 35′ above ground, Area: North Shore, MA. Anten­na: RAK 5.8 dbi, Cables: RAK pig­tail inter­face con­vert­er bun­dled with antenna

Jumpy Iron Fer­ret — Ele­va­tion: 34th sto­ry, Area: Chica­go, IL. Anten­na: Stock, Cables: N/A. Indoor setup.

Kind Infrared Lynx — Ele­va­tion: 15′ above ground, Area: Den­ver, CO. Anten­na: Tao­glas 8 dbi. Cables: 15′ LMR400

Lucky Dijon Scal­lop — Ele­va­tion: 33′ above ground. Area: Engle­wood, CO. Anten­na: RAK 8 dbi. Cables: RAK pig­tail cable

Sticky Pear Dol­phin — Ele­va­tion: 311′ above ground (moun­tain). Area: San Fran­cis­co, CA. Anten­na: Oukeione 3 dbi. Cables: Bingfu

Petite Men­thol Leop­ard — Ele­va­tion 25′. Area: Napa, CA. Anten­na: 5.8 RAK. Cables: Bingfu

Best Tan­ger­ine Racoon — Ele­va­tion: Sec­ond Floor Win­dow. Area: Bay­onne, NJ Anten­na: Stock 3 dBi Cables: 1m pigtail

Warm Juniper Pan­ther — Ele­va­tion: 4th floor rooftop. Area: Bay­onne, NJ Anten­na: Near­son 9 dBi. Cables: 4′ LMR400

Scrawny Egg­plant Pan­da — Ele­va­tion: 35′ Area: Lake­wood, OH Anten­na 4 dBi Mul­ti­pole Cables: N/A

Ancient Cider Grasshop­per — Ele­va­tion: 40′ Area: Kansas City, MO Anten­na: RAK Wire­less 8 dBi Cables: 30′ LMR400

Oblong Slate Platy­pus — Ele­va­tion: 400′ Area: New York City, NY Anten­na: Prox­i­cast 10 dBi Cables: LMR400

Ripe Banana Gob­lin — Ele­va­tion: 2nd floor win­dow Area: Van­cou­ver, BC Anten­na: Stock 3 dBi Cables: N/A

Trendy Rain­bow Lizard — Ele­va­tion: 1st floor win­dow Area: Van­cou­ver, BC Anten­na: Stock 3 dBi Cables: N/A

Striped Pewter Osprey — Ele­va­tion: 20′ Area: Los Ange­les, CA Anten­na: RAk 5.8 Cables: LMR400


491 responses to “What’s The Best Antenna For Your Helium Hotspot?”

  1. Hi Nik,

    thanks a lot for your great arti­cle. My city is real­ly crowd­ed (Beirut, Lebanon) and it will prob­a­bly be filled with hotspots soon­er than lat­er. I plan to put my anten­na at the rooftop. High­est point. Should I get the 5.8 dbi one (fiber­glass) ? Or get a low­er gain anten­na (from hnten­na) or just stick with the original ?
    Prob­lem with the orig­i­nal is that I am going to need an exten­sion to pro­tect the min­er from the rain/high temp/… so it will be a few meters far from the anten­na, which can­not be cov­ered by the stock anten­na (4 dbi).
    Fyi: my build­ing is 15 floors tall (around 55 meters tall).

    What do you suggest?


  2. Hi Moh,
    I’d use the HNTen­na there; they usu­al­ly do real­ly well in urban environments.

  3. What to do if I am in flat area but the clos­est hotspots are more than 10km away in all direc­tions. Which anten­na would you recommend?

  4. Get your anten­na high enough to have a clear Line of Sight to oth­er anten­nas. I’d use the HNTen­na, but any of the good name brands will be fine.

  5. carlos castillo Avatar
    carlos castillo

    hel­lo sir, thanks for all this valu­able info.
    so, when would you use a 15db anten­na? I pur­chased a 12 and a 16db and plan to install them on poles on top of roof at total of 35 feet or so in Orlan­do subs, in flori­da where there are no moun­tains. I fig­ured it would help by reach­ing some hotspots in down town as well, some 5–10 miles away, giv­ing me an edge on reach. I ran the sim­u­la­tor on hotspot RF and it shows that the high­er gain anten­na would reach more hot spots with high­er db anten­na. What are your thoughts?
    thank you!

  6. Hi Car­los, in the US you’d nev­er use a 15 dBi anten­na; it breaks FCC lim­its. 9 dBi is the max. With clear Line of Sight you can go hun­dreds of km, so a high gain anten­na does­n’t give you any advan­tage with only 5–10 miles to cov­er. Hotspot RF has said they’re only accu­rate to 60% +/- 20%, and with the net­work chang­ing so rapid­ly it’s prob­a­bly even less reliable.

  7. Great Arti­cle. I’m con­sid­er­ing set­ting up a heli­um hotspot in Hawaii. I live on the 10th floor of a 20floor+ build­ing over­look­ing a canal and it’s pret­ty open. Not sure if I can just pur­chase a stock bob­cat and have a decent amount of coverage.

  8. Right on Adam, that should work. Try putting a small met­al sheet (think cook­ie tray) under the Bob­cat anten­na, that seems to increase per­for­mance. Keep us post­ed on how it goes!

  9. Hey Nik, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing is it bet­ter to point an Anten­na through a wall (close to it) or set it up next to a win­dow? 2nd sto­ry house upstairs bed­room place­ment. CAN’T do out­side. Try­ing the 4 dbi bob­cat and will soon try the 5.8 and 8 dbi rak­wire­less as well as the 3 dbi indoor hnten­na. Subbed to yer youtube and read a lot from you but missed this ques­tion above. I can get about 18 inch­es high­er than the win­dow if I set­up next to the wall (would be close to ceil­ing). Should anten­nas be placed clos­est to wall or locate a foot back from it? Will report back on all anten­nas once I get some insight from you and com­plete all 4 anten­na tests.

  10. Depends on win­dow and wall type. New­er reflec­tive win­dows can be a bear to get through. Give the sig­nal some space to breathe; a foot off or more.

  11. I hope you can help — I need a cable to con­nect my bob­cat 300 to my RAK 5.8 anten­na to get it up on the roof of my house. I can not seem to find any­where sell­ing LMR400 cables with the cor­rect con­nec­tors, which I believe are N Female (into the min­er) & RP-SMA Male (into the RAK antenna)??

  12. Check with USACoax.com, and call ‘em if you don’t see it on their site.

  13. Hi Nik, Great arti­cle ! I am look­ing more into the type of anten­na i will need. My user­name is unique ceram­ic deer, it is almost done sync­ing up. Giv­en my sub­ur­ban loca­tion, with bare­ly any high build­ings, do you rec­comend using the stock anten­na, but sim­ply set­ting it up on a real­ly high pole ? 

    How much bet­ter would a 2 DBI ( stock anten­na ) up high be VS say the HNTen­na 915 ?
    Thank you in advance !

  14. Hi Louis, I’d test the stock anten­na and get it up as high as you can. The HNTen­na will prob­a­bly do a lit­tle bet­ter, but it won’t be magic.

  15. Jason Williams Avatar
    Jason Williams

    Hel­lo, I’m some­what con­fused on which anten­na would be the best for the area that I’m in. My hotspot names are, live­ly fog­gy sala­man­der , hid­den cham­pagne camel. Both loca­tions are in a Neigh­bor­hood, flat with just trees. The clos­est hotspot is 3km to 6km away. The high­est I would be able to get the anten­nas would be about 9ft. On the ledge of house.

  16. If lots of trees you may ben­e­fit from a 5.8, at least until PoCv11 comes. Oth­er­wise, see if you can get it high­er and roll with a low­er gain antenna.

  17. Andy Margesson Avatar
    Andy Margesson

    Hi Nik, I had a con­sul­tant come and ass­es the instal­la­tion of an anten­na on the roof of the 4 storey build­ing I live in. The issue he has is access­ing the roof as it’s 25m high. I can get into the eaves and install the HNten­na there, but would there be a sig­nif­i­cant loss of sig­nal through the roof tiles? Thanks

  18. Great arti­cle! Thanks so much for mak­ing it.

    I live in SUPER flat Flori­da, but there are Pine and Oak trees every­where between all hous­es and neigh­bor­hoods (no tall build­ings or geog­ra­phy), if I can get an anten­na on top of my roof, but prob­a­bly not quite over the top of the trees what would be your rec­om­men­da­tion for my Bob­cat miner?

    The begin­ning of your arti­cle makes it sound like I should go high­er, up to 9dbi. Does that make sense con­sid­er­ing all I have to clear is most­ly just the tops of trees?

    Thanks again!

  19. Hi Andy, get the thing as high as you can and if it’s below the roofline, away from the side of the build­ing. With­out see­ing your sit­u­a­tion it’s hard to advise, but…the best you can do is the best you can do.

  20. Flat­test state in the Union! If all you’ve got is the tops of trees for miles around, get­ting sig­nal out will be hard. A 9 dBi will help a bit, but dense veg­e­ta­tion real­ly damp­ens the sig­nal. It’s kind of like fight­ing a for­est fire with a gar­den hose: It’ll help save the house, but it won’t solve the prob­lem. Bet­ter off get­ting it as high as pos­si­ble or find­ing a bet­ter location.

  21. Great arti­cle
    I will need the 8 DBI anten­na for my case
    but the device is not here yet

  22. I live on a hill over look­ing all of Los Angeles.
    Behind me is more hills. In front of me is city lights. Less than 10 miles away is down­town Los Angeles
    There are many min­ers in my imme­di­ate vicin­i­ty, but I am one of the high­est in ele­va­tion. How would a yagi work for me? Line of sight is great, would you advise against a 9dbi? What would work best in this situation?

  23. Hi Gio, stick with a low gain omni like the HNTen­na. A yagi will just lim­it your options.

  24. Hey Nik, GREAT arti­cle. I’m about to set­up my fiirst hotspot, it’s in a loca­tion 15km far from the near­est hotspot but with a great ele­va­tion in a moun­tain and with direct sight to it (and the whole city). Do you think the patch anten­na would reach this distance?

  25. Hi Arturo,
    Yep, a patch anten­na will eas­i­ly reach that, but an omni will also eas­i­ly reach it. I’d go with an omni.

  26. Hi Nik..
    my hot spot is in the for­est where I have a week­end .. I have 500m to the sea … the near­by town is 3km away .. across the sea I have towns that are 45km away .. it makes sense to have a hot spot and what would I need to reach hot points I am from Europe Slove­nia Croatia

  27. Depends on clear line of sight across the water. It may work well if your hotspot can “see” those oth­er hotspots. If you’re sur­round­ed by dense for­est it’ll be much more challenging.

  28. Steven Smith Avatar
    Steven Smith

    Hey, Nik. Any changes to what you would sug­gest for anten­na with PoC11 coming?

  29. Nope. I’ll stick with the HNTen­na for all my setups.

  30. Hi Nik,
    Thank you for your advice and well writ­ten article.
    I have the (915) 902–928MHz from HNTENNA. What cable do you rec­om­mend I use to con­nect the anten­na to my bob­cat? The pin size looks dif­fer­ent than the stock anten­na. Do I need an adapter? Appre­ci­ate your help! Have a great weekend!

  31. Depend­ing on length you’ll prob­a­bly want LMR400 or LMR240. Use the 400 for any­thing over, say, 10′. Check your con­nec­tors here, then order the cor­rect cable & fit­tings from USACoax.com. https://gristleking.com/helium-hotspot-reference/

    Should be RP-SMA male to N‑type male. Always dou­ble check! 🙂

  32. Giovanni Ghinelli Avatar
    Giovanni Ghinelli

    Hi Nik,

    Thanks a lot for the arti­cle, real­ly help­ful. I just have a spe­cif­ic doubt about the myn­er I just installed.

    I live in Mod­e­na, a rel­a­tive­ly small city locat­ed in the plains in north­ern Italy, and I have posi­tioned the myn­er at about 20 meters high (on the top floor of the building).
    I set up the myn­er (Sense­cap with 2.8 Dbi anten­na) about a week ago and I was won­der­ing about the best out­door anten­na to buy (to date I have the myn­er and anten­na inside the house posi­tioned in front of a small win­dow open all day) so I can install it direct­ly on the roof.

    In your opin­ion, 5.8 Dbi is bet­ter or you can achieve bet­ter per­for­mance with the 8.0 Dbi? 

    Thank you very much,

  33. Hi Gio­van­ni, in a city with ele­va­tion you’ll want the anten­na to be as low dBi as pos­si­ble in order to get max­i­mum local cov­er­age. I’d got with an HNTen­na, but any of the low­er gain anten­nas (4 dBi and under) will work.

  34. Hi Nik,

    Great arti­cles you post! I have 5 spots I just set­up this last week. One of them is called Wob­bly Glass Perch. 

    My ques­tion is this, can I run a cable from the device (Rak V2) to just the anten­na to place out­doors? Per­haps the HNTen­na or an out­door anten­na? Hope that makes sense. I can’t place the Rak out­side, so I have a 9db anten­na attached to the out­side of my spare bed­room about 15 meters up from the ground with a decent clear view. I have an HOA here, so I’m try­ing to be uti­lize as much con­ceal­ment as pos­si­ble as well as gain­ing the best cov­er­age. Thank you!

  35. Sure, use anten­na cable to con­nect the Hotspot and the anten­na. You can buy that from USACoax.com, make sure you get the right con­nec­tors and you’ll be fine.

  36. Hi Nik- thanks for all your efforts, you are a gen­tle­man and a schol­ar! Would using a mast on top of a res­i­den­tial roof (to get more ele­va­tion) pose any issue with it being a light­ning haz­ard? Do you take that into con­sid­er­a­tion at all or are there any mea­sures that should be tak­en to reduce the risk?

  37. Hi Pauli­to,
    I use a mast on my house. It’s more light­ning risk, but for me I’m fine with that. Use a light­ning arrestor to mit­i­gate the risk to your equipment.

  38. Stefan Hochstatter Avatar
    Stefan Hochstatter

    Hi Nick,

    I live in the sub­urbs out­side of Mil­wau­kee. There are three very poor­ly per­form­ing hotspots with­in a mile of me (one is being relayed). And then there are a ton of hotspots between sev­en and 10 miles to the south. Since most of the hotspots are that far away, does the low db anten­na still make sense? Or should I move into medi­um gain?

    I’m plan­ning to mount it on an 8 foot pole on the peak of my roof, which will put it above all of the oth­er roofs. I am at a some­what high­er ele­va­tion than any­thing south or east and some­what low­er than any­thing north and west but it’s very grad­ual. So it seems like I have a par­tic­u­lar­ly good loca­tion to hit hotspots to the south where all of them seem to be. Thanks for the advice! And great article.

  39. Hi Ste­fan, sounds you’ll have clear lines of sight, so you’ll prob­a­bly be best served with a low­er gain (3–6) anten­na. 7–10 miles is no prob­lem for LoRa at our out­put pow­er & spread­ing factor.

  40. My min­er is on the way but I’m unsure if I should pre­order the RAK 5.8dbi anten­na or if I should just use the stock MNTD anten­na. There is a min­er down the street from me “Bril­liant Hon­ey Bee­tle” but I can’t seem to tell what anten­na he’s using. By my loca­tion, do you think I’d be able to ben­e­fit from a 5.8dbi?

  41. Depends on where you are. In the US, a 5.8 is a safe bet, though the clear line of sight your anten­na will have to oth­er min­ers is far more impor­tant than what anten­na you buy. In the UK/EU, you’ll need a 5.8 dBi min­i­mum due to the low­er out­put pow­er of the radio.

  42. Michalis Avatar

    hi bud­dy and con­grats on the arti­cle. i live in Cyprus (EU) and i placed one of my min­ers to a friends house which is locat­ed on a slope. from the roof of the house you can see the whole town. basi­cal­ly at 180 degrees you can see the whole town. the rest of the 180 degrees basi­cal­ly you see the moun­tain. do you think that a Direc­tion­al Anten­na would suit bet­ter in this situation?
    thanks alot!!

  43. Thanks Michalis. How far from the town are you? I’d look at a slight­ly high­er gain omni; nev­er hurts to cov­er extra area, espe­cial­ly if that cov­er­age might one day be useful.

  44. Salvatore Rainone Jr. Avatar
    Salvatore Rainone Jr.

    Hey great arti­cle! My ques­tion to you is, what anten­na should i use for my set up. My min­er is locat­ed in Queens, NYC and its about 20–22 feet up right now in my attic. I would like to move it to my roof on top of my chim­ney. I have a bob­cat min­er and i use the stock 4bi anten­na. Should i just get the out­door enclo­sure kit and use the stock anten­na or should i buy a dif­fer­ent one? Please let me know if you need any­more info!

  45. I’d get the anten­na up high and try and leave the Bob­cat indoors where it’s temp con­trolled. Prob­a­bly worth it to get an after­mar­ket anten­na; I like the HNTen­na, but it’ll also depend on cable length.

  46. Salvatore Rainone Jr. Avatar
    Salvatore Rainone Jr.

    If i leave bob­cat in my attic i can run the anten­na cable about 20–30feet to the top of my chim­ney. What dbi do you recommend?

  47. Depends where in the world you are and what cable you use. LMR400 and the US? HNTen­na. Out­side the US? 5.8 — 8 dBi omni from any of the rep­utable brands.

  48. Salvatore Rainone Jr. Avatar
    Salvatore Rainone Jr.

    Im in the south part of queens in NYC. Lot of min­ers in NYC and i am basi­cal­ly on the water so every­thing is ele­vat­ed above me. I was plan­ning on get­ting out­side set­up for bob­cat min­er so i dont need a 30ft cable because there will be cable loss. If its bet­ter to keep in my attic i will do that and run the wire to my roof and mount an anten­na. I just would like to know what dbi is good for me. thanks

  49. Well, to be straight with you, any­thing in NYC is going to be a tough row to hoe, and the anten­na won’t make that much difference.

  50. Salvatore Rainone Jr. Avatar
    Salvatore Rainone Jr.

    oh ok. Maybe i should just buy the bob­cat enclo­sure and put it on my roof with the stock 4bi anten­na. its 22 feet up right now but on my chim­ney it would be 30 feet so that should make a difference.

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