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Old 05-02-2010   #11
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 332
Sat Phone

I just bought an Used Iridium 9505A from Outfitter satellite. They are much less expensive and come with a 6 mo guarantee.

My wife and I spend an average of 100+ days a year on the river all over the west and after our first Lower Owhyee trip this spring we decided to make the investment.

We did a 5 day trip and low water and had no issues on the water or at our camps. The real fun began when we reached the T.O. at Leslie Gulch at 0930 on the last Day. Through all our research, no one mentioned that the low lake level meant that the concrete boat ramp is 300-500ft from the waters edge. It rained the whole night prior to there. The silt was slimy but firm under foot until I backed the trailer in and began pulling out. It turned out to be bottomless mud.

My truck is a work truck and I have every piece of recovery equipment that lives in a tool box. The only thing I didn't have was the winch. After 2 hours of digging, jacking, chaining, more digging, cussing, kicking and more cussing, the left rear tire was buried to the axle. There was no one around and the winch would not have done any good without another rig to be the anchor. We quickly realized that our only option would be to start walking.

We packed Bivi Gear in two small backpacks and set out. We reached the summit of the pass about 4 hours the 8.5 miles later. It became very obvious that if we did not get down the other side it was going to be a very uncomfortable night with the wind howling and 2-3 ft of snow. Our little walk turned out to be an 18mi death march when it was complete. Our dog Weber, walking twice the miles we did and enjoyed every step. We stayed next to the road by a one room school house in Rockville and used the phone in the morning to get assistance from Jim's Shell in Jordan Vally.

Once we arrived back at our rig in took all of 5 min to winch us out. We were on the road 24hrs late and tired but safe and with another story to tell.

We chose to get the Sat phone, over the other options, because I would not want to initiate a SAR team for being stuck in the mud. I also refuse to Make the front page of the Boise newspaper for such a incident.

P.S. I always get a chuckle out of the intensity that people use when the subject of dogs and kids come into discussion. Maybe some day, the opponents to having loved ones on the river, will get the congress to pass a bill banning such a gross violation civil rights. Perhaps this legislation will limit wilderness access to the conservative, christian, right wing republican, straight white American male.

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Old 05-02-2010   #12
Coeur d'Alene, idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 32
I have almost no experience with these devices. But I do seem to remember a sat phone carrier that offered a certain number of minutes per month for free. After that the price per minute was ungodly, but if you just want it to call in an emergency then that may be a good option. That way you could actually call in details of your emergency. Though, I don't know if they could find your position like a SPOT so if you didn't know your exact location (understandable in an emergency) then the sat phone would be less ideal.

Also, I seem to remember a friend of mine (in Canada) that had unlimited minutes on a sat phone with a certain carrier (once again, I apologize for not knowing which one). The catch was that the carrier didn't have nearly as many satellites and so the coverage was spotty.

There is also the cost for the device to consider...

I apologize for not being more help, but I think a little research on the sat phone carriers will yield specifics to all of my vague assertions.

By the way, I am with you on the kids issue. No one knows your and your kid's abilities like you do. I don't know if I would do it, but I have plenty of friends who have taken their kids on Main Salmon trips up here in Idaho. Pretty remote, but pretty safe if everyone is minding their P&Qs.

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Old 05-02-2010   #13
thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 600
For the price the Spot works fine. At least from my sofa, I used it to check-in-to myself, just to make sure I am ok. Just for my peace of mind and that it is working as advertise. I also used it driving in the mountains to check-in-to myself and it worked fine. So when I really need it, I hope it works fine.
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Old 05-03-2010   #14
The Russian
kazak4x4's Avatar
SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 1,380
You can rent SPOT or Sat phone and decide which one you like better. Sat phone's ongoing rate is about $1.80 per minute to place a call and $8-10 a day rent. Spot you are paying $100 a year for the service, plus additional if you want on going tracking (cool feature, but I don't have it). You can rent SPOT for $8 a day I believe.

I count SPOT as part of my First Aid Kit, along with my survival bag, my splints, snake bite kit, etc, you get the point. It's a tool that sometimes might help me get home alive.
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Old 05-03-2010   #15
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Technology Partner, Littleton, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 642
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I own both a SPOT and a Sat phone, only had to use both once (same incident) with a guy who had a cardial event. Both or either one are worth the investment. Cost shouldn't enter into it when it comes to saving a life or lives. It's kind of like buying health insurance or life insurance, you don't really need it when you're healthy and alive, but you know you're probably going to need it at some point.
And the Lord said, let there be whitewater. So on Friday, the 13th day of the month....
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Old 05-03-2010   #16
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
Originally Posted by BLott View Post

I didn't even think about the folks who would take this opportunity to criticize me for being an irresponsible parent. i'm going to have to live with the fact that nameless strangers on the 'net don't agree with my parenting. George hit the nail on the head with the fact that it's not like I'm concerned about them getting injured in a "rapid" (class two waves!), but more the dangers around camp (I have no doubt that the snakes, rocks, cliff bands, beach-drownings and sunburn are way more dangerous than the boating iteself.)

I also take my 6 year old skiing, and have since she was 2.5 yrs old. I'm sure there are plenty of people that think it's bad b/c she could so easily hurt themselves, or be hit by another skier. Also, my kids ride bikes, which also can be viewed as totally unsafe. But, they also ride in cars to go to school, play with our pets, swing on trapezes, eat grapes and do a zillion other things that they could hurt themselves doing.

life is full of risks, and making good decisions and being well prepared is how we get through it. I don't expect to 'rely' on a PLB/Sat Phone or change the way I make decisions because I have's just an extra, potentially time/life saving tool.

Those spots look interesting. I like being able to tell others that we're okay. most of the trips we're going on are with other families...maybe if we buy the spot the others in our groups will chip in to help with the yearly fee. Really though, something that if I were to press a button sends in the calvary is really what we're looking for. A-hope-you-never-use-it-and-stays-in-the-pocket sort of tool.
Irresponsible parent? That wasnt what I was thinking at all and yes I know I am not helping and I will stop after this. Its just amazing to me that our parents basically threw us out there and hoped we survived, well in my case maybe they didnt hope that I did, but these days everyone goes to great lengths to make sure their kids are safe. I was more commenting on how the parental mindset had changed over the years.
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 05-03-2010   #17
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 520
We have a spot, and really like it. The grandparents love it too because they can see on a map and sattelite images all the cool places we and stepson are visiting, and my stepson's mom appreciates it too. I even put the receptionist at work on the email list so she could know if something was amiss and I wouldn't be returning to work on time. People do get a bit worried it they are expecting a check in, and don't get one, so we check in daily with it if we have told people they will be on the SPOT list. They get a canned message saying all is good, you cannot change the meessage while you are out (unless you happen to have internet service through a phone or ipad or some crap like that).
We have never used it for a help call out, but are always sure to put people that would actually be useful in a nonlife threatening situation on the list. There are stories of folks calling for life threatening emergencies when they were fine, but somehow I think you are more self rescue oriented than that.
One big difference between PLB's and SPOT is that if you push the button for a true SOS, the signal does not go straight to emergency services, but is routed through Spot who then contacts emergency services.
We have rented a sat phone before, and would do so again for a larger more dangerous expedition.

Keep taking your kids outside!
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Old 05-03-2010   #18
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
Sat or No Sat

I have been on quite a few trips with no sat phone.

Been on other trips where we had a sat phone but did not use it.

Was on a trip last year where we debated over renting a sat phone. Finally rented the sat phone just in case.

Turns out we needed the Sat phone. That phone changed a situation that could have been very dangerous with no help to one where we called for help and got it from our shuttle service at no extra cost.

There are all sorts of reasons to rent or not rent a Sat phone.

Bottom line tho is like any other rescue gear, no matter how many times you bring it along, the few times you do use it, cost is not much of a problem.
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Old 05-03-2010   #19
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Up North, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,147
P. Helfrich did just about everything without our modern conveniences, the least of which a digital satelite communication system, and he lived to a ripe old age with several children. I guess I might be biased, I don't even own a cell phone.
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Old 05-04-2010   #20
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Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: '05
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 394

This is where my rant about how happy I am being childless used to be. I Deleted it out of respect for a rafter attempting to be a good outdoors parent. Seriously. It was long, witty, and insightful. May have convinced all you parents that you made a hideously bad call.

A very close friend of mine, experienced rafter and outdoorsman, had a SPOT and he returned it after his first trip out last summer. The email thing didn't work, it wouldn't transmit from where he was half the time, and he hated the monthly fee. If you're serious about hearing a hands-on account (negative) about a spot, PM me and I'll connect you to him.

Dude, I'd see you on the river but I'm hardly ever out there.
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