SAT Communicator or SAT Phone?


Expedition Leader
The InReach devices use the Iridium satelllite constellation, which are multiple satellites in low Earth orbit, and thus do not require 'line of sight' to the single fixed point in the sky that the Inmarsat system does. Therefore, InReach (and Iridium satellite phones) should work in more places than Inmarsat.
Globalstar (Spot) also uses a revolving LEO constellation. The advantage to a GEO is that initiating a call may be easier and it won't drop due to a handover. But that's the only advantage for a mobile handset. The path distance dictates the need for a larger antenna and higher power, low angle, higher latency (delay) make it less attractive.


Expedition Leader
Used my inreach this weekend paired with the Earthmate app on my phone. Worked seamlessly. Just don't forget to download maps ahead of time like I did. Luckily Verizon recently added a tower up on Hawkins Peak and I had 4g coverage to get the maps.

The two way feature could save a lot money also. I'm thinking a situation like I've broken my leg. I can tell the rescuers I have food and water and can wait for ground rescue, save the helicopter for someone else.


To Infinity and Beyond!
What we are talkin about here is communications and the value of your life can very much come down to your ability to communicate with people who can help you out when you need it most.

How much would you like your cell phone if it only transmitted a voice or text signal and did not have the ability to receive a like response?

A transmit only cell phone would be about as useless as your current cell phone when you stuck with the dreaded NO service icon on your phone!

You would never purchase a "Transmit Only" cell phone so why are you currently using, considering to purchase or now purchasing a new to you "Transmit Only" personal safety device?

In today's world and environment the ability to have only 1 way communication makes no "Cents" at all!
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Expedition Leader
That's nonsense. Tell all the rescued pilots, sailors and such that a one-way device with a planned response isn't useful. And a one-way tracker is a step beyond just a EPIRB since it's got a breadcrumb trail already started. Another one-way device is an avalanche beacon. You don't even have to do anything, it's always chirping since you can't predict when you'll get buried.


Expedition Leader
Why would you waste money on a device that can only text when there exists devices that do voice? Why would you waste money on a device that can only text or do voice when there's ones that can do data? Why waste money on a device that can only do text, voice and data on satellites when there's once that can do it directly without any infrastructure?

Cost, weight, ease of use. If all the options were the same price, ran on the same batteries, cost the same for service then of course, buy the most features. The #1 reason I like my Spot tracker is it takes AAA batteries and since I'm usually *not* using it in a vehicle it's a lot easier to carry 4 spares than to carry a solar panel, buy a battery pack (that'll also need to be charged from somewhere) or buy a Dynamo hub. A helluva lot cheaper, too.

The world is full of compromise and choices, yours is right for you but maybe not right for me. And to imply that without two-way you're gonna die is, yes, nonsense.


We all have to evaluate our own situations and decide what works best for us. For me, it was a satellite phone that works on the Iridium system.

Most times, it's not an immediate life or death situation when I need to call for help. It's more like - I'm stuck, or I'm broke down - to where I need help getting out of here. I always carry GPS so I've always got my coordinates handy - and there are multiple people I can call on to come help, without having to initiate a full-blown rescue attempt by national SAR authorities.

I find the arguments about inReach working "better" than a satellite phone pretty silly. Both work on the Iridium satellite system so if the inReach can access the satellites so can the satellite phone. I have yet to find a location in the western US where my satellite phone didn't work (slot canyons excepted!). Yes, it is expensive. So is my car insurance, medical insurance, etc. But being able to call someone and explain exactly what is needed to get me out of my situation without activating SAR is priceless.That's all the phone is - insurance that if I get in a sticky situation and need help getting out, I can call help.

By the way, I am a member of the local SAR unit. On a search we carry cell phones, sheriff's department radios, HAM radios - and satellite phones. In outback Nevada, unless we can access the top of a tall mountain only the satellite phone works!


Having owned an iridium for years, having used it mostly in the marine environment, when it works, can’t beat it, when it gets flaky I want to smash into the wall. All this being said, I like the ability to talk to rescue personnel directly, and have!


Expedition Leader
Maybe this should be a new thread but let's start here:

5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1... Runty-birds are go: 12,000+ internet-beaming mini-satellites OK'd by USA

FCC signs off on broadband-in-space plans, plus connections to Europe's GPS
By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 15 Nov 2018

"America's broadband and telly regulator, the FCC, today approved a vast expansion in satellite networks around Earth.

This effectively gives the green light to the launch of tens of thousands of mini-satellites that will operate in low orbit and mesh together to form next-generation communications networks.

The federal regulator also formally approved connecting US equipment to Europe's Galileo GPS system, and launched a review of rules and policies covering space debris.

Who is the regulating entity? Well maybe not the FCC. Maybe the Department of Commerce.


Usually broken down on the side of the road
I forgot about Dave Pozar's opinion about the subject of consumer satcom from 18 years ago, just remembered it, and I thought it might be worth mentioning:

We'll see how VLEO fares in a world of 5G.

(Apologies to the OP, sorry this is OT)
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Active member
My experience with sat comm has been mixed. In 2001 we had a (Brunton brand I think) comm unit that had an annoying ABC keyboard and you could (eventually) send email with it. That allowed us to keep family updated.

Later trips we rented a sat phone for the trip. Only used a couple times- calls were short and you often had to “hunt” for satellites.

We also used “spot” for live updates to the web site during later trips.

I am interested in learning more about “inreach” and will look into it.


Active member
My 2¢

Here is my synopsis of this discussion, leaving out the 'tastes great', 'less filling' arguments:
(I probably missed some)

Personal Locating Beacon (one way alert), cost = $
--Advantages: simple to use, lasts ~5 years, pinpoints location
--Disadvantages: alerts SAR only, no communication with SAR/family/friends

Satellite Communication Device (Spot, inReach,; 2 way text communication), cost = $$
--Advantages: texting capability, communicate with family/friends/SAR, pinpoints location, weather reports
--Disadvantages: not as simple as PLB, monthly subscription fee > $15, needs periodic recharging

Satellite Phone, cost = $$$
--Advantages: can use like regular phone.
--Disadvantages: does not give location, airtime costs, periodic recharging.

As I see it the lack of being able to communicate with SAR is a big negative; a completely different response is needed for "I hit a rock and punctured my oil pan" and "I hit a rock and punctured my head". SAR peeps can comment on what the response is when nothing is known other than location.

The satellite phone's lack of giving location to me is a risk. If I hit my head and am not lucid enough to relay GPS coordinates the phone is not much help. I don't know how easy it is to pinpoint a satellite phones location.

Since I travel alone I like the ability to keep in touch with my family. The inReach prerecorded message with map and pin is what I use most. Texting back and forth when needed has been sufficient and the ability to get a basic weather report has helped on a couple of occasions.