I think it’s safe to say that not many people have spent time in a true wilderness. I’m not talking about a campground where your neighbor’s tent is blocked by a few skinny pine trees, but the kind of wilderness where you are literally the only human being for many miles in any direction. Communication becomes a real problem in those locations, particularly in the event of an emergency or if you get separated from your group. Emergency beacons exist exactly for that reason, but they’re expensive and should only be used when you really need help. For more mundane communication in the wilderness, msglab has created this fantastic LoRa text messaging device.
LoRa is a relatively new communication standard that literally stands for “Long Range.” It’s designed specifically for transmitting over considerable distances using very little power. It also supports mesh networking. Those factors make LoRa a great choice for portable communicators that are used in locations where cellular coverage and WiFi are limited or nonexistent, such as in the wilderness. msglab spends a lot of time camping in remote areas and designed this device to replace walkie-talkies. It doesn’t support voice calling, but everyone hates voice calls anyway. It does support cellular-free ad hoc text messaging. That means that two users with these devices can easily send messages to each other, even if they’re kilometers apart in the wilderness.
This device, dubbed “LoRa Msg,” is controlled by an Adafruit Feather M4, which packs plenty of power to run the CircuitPython code and the required libraries. Communications are handled through an Adafruit LoRa FeatherWing board (the 900MHz version for software-tuned 915MHz in the US). The keyboard and screen are integrated into a single FeatherWing-compatible unit developed by Solder Party. The keyboard is a full QWERTY BlackBerry Q10 tactile keyboard and the screen is a 2.6” 320x240 color LCD. Power comes from an 1800mAh LiPo battery through the Feather’s on-board connection. The enclosure was 3D-printed and looks quite nice. msglab has built two of these so far, but notes that the current code is a bit cobbled-together. Even so, they have made the STL files and code available to you if you’d like to build your own LoRa Msg device!