Spec5's Ranger Is an Espressif ESP32-Powered Ready-to-Run Meshtastic Communicator

Slick handheld comes with a "weather resistant" housing, built-in keyboard and trackball, and eight-hour active battery life.

Mesh communications startup Spec5 has launched a compact "weather resistant" handheld designed for the Meshtastic network and powered by an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller: the Spec5 Ranger.

"Engineered for adventurers and emergency preppers, the Spec5 Ranger offers seamless technology integration, ensuring connectivity off the beaten path," the company claims of its creation. "It's ready to use straight out of the box, lightweight for easy carrying, and boasts long-range communication, GPS integration, weather resistance, and a full QWERTY keyboard. The Spec5 Ranger is your lifeline to safety and connectivity in the great outdoors, making it essential gear for those who venture into the unknown with confidence."

The ruggedized Ranger is built around an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller, with 16MB of flash storage and a claimed 18MB of pseudo-static RAM (PSRAM) β€” though, given the specifications of available Espressif ESP32 modules, this is likely to be 8MB in actuality. The module is linked to an unspecified LoRa transceiver, configured for 915MHz operation and with an external antenna β€” while an internal ceramic antenna provides a signal to a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver.

The front of the device is dominated by its display, with a BlackBerry-style compact QWERTY keyboard and trackball for control. The firmware, meanwhile, is Meshtastic β€” an open source project that turns low-cost hardware into nodes in a long-range low-power mesh network. In the case of the Ranger, Spec5 claims it can deliver a range between nodes of 1-3 miles in urban settings and 3-5 miles in rural settings β€” while an internal battery offers eight hours of active use and a 24-hour standby time.

The main selling point of the Ranger, though, is that the hard work of getting Meshtastic running is done for you. "The Spec5 Ranger sets itself apart with its unparalleled ease of use," the company claims. "Right from the moment you unbox it, this device is ready to go. Charge it, power it on, and you’re instantly connected to the Meshtastic network."

The Spec5 Ranger is available on Tindie at $194.99; the company also has a cheaper Trekker model, which lacks the on-board keyboard and trackball and instead relies on connecting to an external device to read and compose messages, at $119.99.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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