What satellite communication device do you use? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 12-23-2018   #1
Salt Lake City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 114
I've been lucky to raft with a friend with a satellite messager for use on multiday trips, but I've been thinking of getting one for myself. I don't think I want the expense of a sat phone or the hassle of renting one. I like the idea of taking it backpacking, ski touring, 4 wheeling, or rafting where cell phones don't work. My friend's is older and has a klunky interface that makes it take forever to type a message. I've looked at a few online but wanted some thoughts from real world users who take them for 4-7+ days at a time and have dealt with the ones with phone interfaces etc. Really looking for ideas about durability, battery life, ease of use, and also what plan you use to manage subscription costs.

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Old 12-23-2018   #2
Electric-Mayhem's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,498
Inreach (formerly Delorme now Garmin) is about as good as it gets. It uses the Iridium network of satelites with global coverage which is currently most of the way through being upgraded to the cutting edge next Gen version. They allow two way text communication and do location tracking. You can share it to the website where anyone can keep track of you. The Iridium sat phones are great too, but as you say...they are spendy.

The Inreach (and most other satellite based stuff) use a monthly subscription service with lots of options from about $11/month up to $150 or more per month depending on how you plan to use it. They do two styles...an annual one and one that you can start and stop on a month to month basis. The start stop one is a bit more expensive, but if you only need it for a couple months out of the year its the way to go for sure. Its still kind of expensive...but all the services are pretty comparable in price.

I think the Spot device has upgraded to two way messaging now and there are a couple of other services starting to pop up that do similar. The Spot uses Globalstar and I've heard mixed reviews on their coverage.

They all provide SOS services for when you get into trouble. I've never had to use it...but the one for Inreach seems pretty badass. It has a SOS button on it, and when you activate it, it connects you to a global incident response team and they help you coordinate your rescue. For places like national parks with their own rescue squads, you can connect directly too.

They both have their places...but Sat Phones are awfully spendy and you only get about 2 minutes of talk time before the satellite goes out of range and you have to wait for the next one. The nice thing about the Inreach and similar devices is that as soon as the satellite comes into range it sends a message and recieves any coming in. That, plus it tracks your location, makes keeping track of your trip pretty easy and allows you to share it with friends and family so they can keep track of you too.
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Old 12-23-2018   #3
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,863
I just received my Bivystick. check out their website for details.

Bivystick is text messages and uses iridium sat network.

reasonable pricing for the device and use plan.

It is a startup and they are working things out. Good guys out of Salt Lake City area. I am really looking forward to 2019 boating season and using my Bivystick as needed.
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Old 12-23-2018   #4
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 168
I have an inreach mini, and like it. It is tiny, and can pair to a phone or tablet to streamline text communication. It also has an app that allows it to be used as a GPS, with great maps. The battery life isn't amazing if left on, but I just turn it on when needed. Worked great on a grand trip this year, and charges easily using a USB and a small power pack. Definitely happy with the purchase.
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Old 12-23-2018   #5
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 189
We have a Delorme InReach that's a few years old. Paired with a phone for easy text entry it's been super useful for letting the family know where I am, getting weather reports, rearranging shuttle drops when weather went south etc. I typically turn it and the phone on every evening, send a 'we're here & ok' message and leave it on for 10 minutes or so to pick up any replies. Batteries show <10-15% used after a week.
I decided to just pay the plan all year so it would be available to throw in the pack anytime I'm exploring out of cell service.
Have not had to use it in a real emergency yet but trust its effectiveness.
From what I understand the Iridium satellites are in very high orbit so you are more likely to connect with one and text messages go out even if they go by fast. Globalstar satellites are lower on the horizon and canyon walls may be an issue.
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Old 12-24-2018   #6
summit, Colorado
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 250
We have a DeLorme InReach as well, and it works great. The biggest downside to it is if you manage to drain the batteries in the middle of nowhere, you can't just pop new batteries in. It has to be re-charged.
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Old 12-24-2018   #7
athelake's Avatar
Newman Lake, Washington
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 178
I've been looking for a Satellite Messenger also, mainly the Garmins.

The new In Reach mini retails for @ $350. It has 50 hours of run time and has a smaller screen than any other Garmin. The other Garmins have 100 hour run times.

The Explorer+ has a bunch of tracking and waypoint features and is @ $450. It has internal maps. It has more features than I need.

Amazon and Costco both have the SE+ for $290. It has mapping, tracking and waypoints if used with a smart phone and the Earthmate app.

I ordered an SE+ from Costco. It mainly want it for the Emergency Communications. It will live in an ammo can when not in use.
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Old 12-24-2018   #8
Englewood, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 47
I'll pile on, Delorme (now Garmin) Inreach user here. I've used it for years (maybe closing in on 8-10??) and I've been super impressed. I have the gen 1 model of the deluxe version (not the SE), fwiw. I used to have a SPOT (also gen 1). It was OK, but clearly not as good, just no comparison.

Pros to the Inreach:
-Battery life is great. On a recent 3 day trip it didn't go below 80%, and that was with fairly heavy use (it's my GPS unit). I would not recommednd the tracking function, however, that's a battery drainer and IMO sort of silly. Just set and occasionally check a few waypoints. I keep it turned off when not in use.
-I am very impressed with the ability to transmit in a canyon. It may take longer, but I always seem to get a ping out.
-Pairs well and easily with my Samsung smartphone. You REALLY want to pair it, that lets you use the phone's screen for GPS work, and most important you can use the phone keyboard to type messages. The Inreach's keyboard is pretty bad, way too small and slow.

-The always on, year 'round plans are a monthly cost. I suck it up, I use mine every month.
-Keyboard, see above.
-Oddly, the features, way too many. I've played with the altimeter and compass, used the weather function once or twice, but 99% of the use is the GPS function (I like Garmins's interface, fwiw, intuitive and simple), and messaging, both custom typed pre-sets and just real time texting to my wife. Very reliable. In hindsight, if the cheaper SE version does all that, I would have saved a few bucks and went with it. Just too many features I don't use.

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Old 12-24-2018   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 270
Another inreach user. Maybe 6 years for me? What the guy above said is all true and what you need to know. At this point, I believe it to be the best option and have no plans of changing anytime soon. I do use the tracking function often as I enjoy taking the data points later and laying them into google maps to see all the places Iíve been. Thatís a personal quirk that I enjoy. The satellite reception is outstanding and as stated the NEXT iridium network is, I believe now 100% functional. Since getting mine 3 of my friends now also own them. My wife loves it, and having it saved me ass this summer in a mishap. No SOS but was able to get message to my wife so she could call someone who was coming in the next day to help us.
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Old 12-24-2018   #10
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 358
WiFi hotspot

Has anybody had any experience with satellite wifi hotspots? My work constrained boating options would increase substantially if I could access the internet once a day (online teaching). Are these things any good?
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