How to take your Helium Hotspot Off Grid

It seems pret­ty straight­for­ward; gen­er­ate pow­er and a con­nec­tion to the inter­net, and you’ve got an off grid Heli­um Hotspot set­up. Still, you’ll have a few minor details to sort out, like what type of enclo­sure, how to mount it, how to make sure it stays weath­er­proof if you use an exter­nal anten­na, and how to vent it.

Actu­al­ly, those aren’t minor, and they’re typ­i­cal­ly not cheap.

For an off-grid install plan on spend­ing US$1–2k and you’ll be pleas­ant­ly sur­prised. If you want to expe­ri­ence the anguish of cheap­ness (as I have), try and spend less than $1k. That may cost you $4k as you real­ize you skimped so you’ll have to dou­ble-buy, and you end up with extra almost-good-enough-for-a-seri­ous-remote-install gear lay­ing around the shop. Your choice. 😉

Hey, before we go any fur­ther, please know that I’m NOT an elec­tri­cian, this is NOT pro­fes­sion­al advice, I’m just a dude who enjoys tin­ker­ing and build­ing things. Some of these com­po­nents, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to the bat­tery & charg­er, can cause seri­ous haz­ard if not cor­rect­ly installed. Please find a local pro­fes­sion­al to help you exe­cute a safe deployment. 

If you want to just buy an off grid set­up from some­one, I’d start with IoT Off Grid. If you want to see how I built my own, well, keep reading. 

Let’s start with a draw­ing to give the big picture. 

You may see that and say, “Nik, why don’t you just use an out­door hotspot, like the Nebra?” Well, the out­door Nebra is per­fect for a PoE con­nec­tion when you’ve got access to pow­er & hard­line inter­net, but:

If you’re going to go off grid you’ll need to pro­tect your bat­tery, charge con­troller, and cell modem. You’re going to have to buy an enclo­sure for all that. Might as well put every­thing in one box (enclo­sure) and save a lit­tle on the hotspot.

There is an updat­ed ver­sion of my think­ing on off-grid min­ers, that blog post is here. Much of the below infor­ma­tion is out­dat­ed, but I’m leav­ing it up as a record. Enjoy!

Ok, let’s lay out some numbers:

Ok, so that adds up to 5 watts but when it comes to solar, you should always plan for more. 7.5 watts con­tin­u­ous is pret­ty safe. Let’s use 8 watts just to give our­selves even more cush­ion. As it turns out, that’s what my remote set­up (a DIY, from way back when that pro­gram was open. It’s NOT any­more) is using, as mea­sured via Barkin­Spi­der’s SolarShed direc­tions but using Influx instead of Grafana:

I know that’s a cute pic­ture and pic­tures can be per­sua­sive, so: –> Before you just take my word for it <–


Cal­cu­late your pan­el & bat­tery sizes off of YOUR sit­u­a­tion, not mine.

Now you’ll have to fig­ure out 2 things. First, how big a bat­tery will you need? Sec­ond, how much solar wattage will you need? 

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia I can use a 100 watt pan­el and a 50 Ah bat­tery. That’s for a remote install that is 6 miles down a rugged trail wind­ing up (and down, and up, and down, and final­ly up) a moun­tain. While I don’t mind work­ing hard in pur­suit of a wor­thy goal, I don’t real­ly love *extra* work. Over­siz­ing the pan­el & bat­tery makes it less like­ly I’ll need to do extra work.

How do you fig­ure out your bat­tery size?

  • Step 1: Add up all your pow­er draws for a 24 hour cycle
  • Step 2: Fig­ure out how many cloudy/overcast days a year you’ll have.
  • Step 3: Mul­ti­ple the result from Step 1 x Step 2 x at least 1.5. The larg­er you make that last num­ber the more expen­sive you bat­tery will be, but the longer it will last. Do NOT skimp on this.
  • Step 4: Shop for bat­ter­ies. This is my go-to source for bat­ter­ies. I like nice things, and they make ’em.

What about solar pan­els? In con­junc­tion with cal­cu­lat­ing bat­tery require­ments, you’ll need to fig­ure out how much solar wattage you’ll need to keep your bat­ter­ies charged. Use the worst case sce­nar­ios: The longest cloudy weath­er stretch your region encoun­ters in the bit­ter depths of win­ter. You’ll thank me when it comes, even though you may not be psy­ched with the up front cost.

Now that you’ve got all your kit, what will you put it in, and how will you con­nect it? 

Start by mea­sur­ing the dimen­sions of every­thing, then order an enclo­sure. I get mine from Allied Mould­ed. They make pro­fes­sion­al qual­i­ty out­door enclo­sures. They ain’t cheap, but they’re the ones that Heli­um Inc used when run­ning their first off-grid test, way back in April of 2020. You can DEFINITELY find cheap­er ver­sions. My gen­er­al approach is “buy the best stuff you can afford, then you won’t have to wor­ry about it.” When I’ve gone against that, it usu­al­ly costs me even more as I have to replace cheap shit. 

Mea­sure twice, then mea­sure again, then dou­ble check by plac­ing every­thing in the enclo­sure before you drill any holes. Then take a day off to think about it. Make a list of the hole sizes you’ll need, plus the cable glands, exhaust vents, fan mount holes, etc.

You’ll notice in that list and on my shared sheet a call out for a Dragi­no LHT65. By the way, that sheet is out­dat­ed, so use it to give you a *sense* of what you need, but don’t just go buy­ing every­thing on the list.

Back to the Dragi­no! That’s a sen­sor that gives you temp and humid­i­ty, but more impor­tant­ly it’s a way to check if your remote hotspot is actu­al­ly work­ing. On Heli­um Con­sole, you can see what hotspot is pro­cess­ing the pack­ets from that sen­sor. It’s faster and more accu­rate than check­ing Explor­er, at least in my experience. 

Back to set­up. Once you’ve mea­sured and list­ed all your parts and holes, lay it all out. 

DO NOT BE CONFUSED BY THE PICTURES BELOW, this is for a DIY set­up, which is why you’re see­ing a Pi and not a hotspot at the top right. The DIY pro­gram is closed due to secu­ri­ty con­cerns from fuck­ing gamers who ruined it for every­one. Ok, mov­ing on.

I found it super use­ful to just write on the back­plate where I would put every­thing. I still made a few mis­takes, and the final fit was much tighter than I’d like, but it works. This is the guts of Ama­teur Jade Hare.

Here’s what it looks like from the back; you can get an idea of the fit­tings & con­nec­tions to the pole. 

From expe­ri­ence, most peo­ple want to use that same anten­na. Trust me, you don’t. First, they’re a PITA to hump in. Here’s me at 5 miles in after 3,000′ of ver­ti­cal gain. Deep in the well of phys­i­cal misery.

Sec­ond, they’re a PITA to mount. Third, they’re so pow­er­ful you have to ask your geeky tech friends for help to dial back the trans­mis­sion pow­er. Final­ly, they’re huge wind catch­ers, so you need to mount guy wires to keep ’em steady. Fun to set up once, but not so amaz­ing that I can rec­om­mend ’em.

Learn from my expe­ri­ence and stick with a more appro­pri­ate anten­na. You’ll prob­a­bly nev­er thank me because you won’t know the ass-pain you’re miss­ing, but trust me, that’s a hook-up piece of advice.

Ok, that should wrap up both the big pic­ture and a few details on installing a remote Heli­um hotspot. If you want help putting one up and this post isn’t enough, you can hire me for con­sult­ing, more on that here.

If you’d like to see the results of some­one who’s done a con­sult with me, check out this blog post of an off grid com­mer­cial roof install.

Post ques­tions in the com­ments if you have ’em.


  • Solar calcs sheet This is for a DIY hotspot run­ning a Rasp­ber­ry Pi4 & 2287, not a full fat min­er. This just gives you an idea. DO YOUR OWN CALCS! YPDMV
  • Olivia Wire­lessOnly appro­pri­ate for DIY min­ers or Light Hotspots, as they data plan size is tiny.
  • A Rough Guide to Heli­um Hotspot Place­ment — Before you get all hot and both­ered about going remote, see if this’ll help you find an eas­i­er, bet­ter location.
  • Gear List — This’ll give you an idea of what you’ll need to get. It’s def­i­nite­ly NOT the only way to do it.


56 responses to “How to take your Helium Hotspot Off Grid”

  1. Not real­ly. Wait for Light Hotspots. That seems like a lot; how long has it been on, and what type of min­er is it?

  2. The real ques­tion I have is, how do I get rights to set­up my anten­na in the hills? Is there some spe­cial use per­mit or license I need to use?

  3. Hi Mike, find the landown­er and ask ’em per­mis­sion. Pro­ce­dures vary across public/private lands, but that’s the basic two-step.

  4. I noticed that 10ft 12AWG charge con­troller adapter you linked says its good up till 30A of cur­rent, but the Ren­ogy solar pan­el can pro­vide 31–41Ah. I was just curi­ous if this may have been a mis­take or if this exact gauge worked for you? I’m def­i­nite­ly not try­ing to over-engi­neer any­thing haha

  5. Dis­re­gard my last ques­tion, I actu­al­ly saw some ground­ing wire tables that showed 10AWG is plen­ty, so I think 12AWG must’ve been for redun­dan­cy. Appre­ci­ate the guide!

  6. Rob Wood Avatar
    Rob Wood

    I need help with data plan and SIM card for a MNTD min­er that is off grid. I had an AT&T plan but that SIM card is not work­ing any longer and need to find replace­ment. MNTD is using 30 gigs a month of data. Any sug­ged­tions? I con­tact­ed Olivia and look for­ward to talk­ing to them.

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