Sat phones?

Blowby

Member
You mentioned that you are not a fan of Garmin,but I have been using the Garmin Mini for several years now and have been very satisfied
with its performance.
My wife and friends are able to track me while out on the trails as I generally do not carry a phone and I can program it for quick texts or also can text on it but it is a bit of a chore.Also has the SOS feature and the advantage that you can deactivate it over the months you don't plan on using it.
 

deserteagle56

Adventurer
I have had an Iridium Model 9555 sat phone for quite a few years now. It has always worked, no matter where I was. And the reason I went sat phone versus a PLB or an InReach or Spot unit is that I wanted something with good two-way communications. I'm very often out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone coverage and my biggest fear is having a mechanical breakdown of some sort. With the sat phone I have the ability to call one of my buddies, explain exactly what is wrong and perhaps have them bring me repair parts or just come tow me out, whatever. I wouldn't want a full-blown SAR response, which is what you get with a PLB. And at least for me, it is hard to have coherent communications using the InReach or Spot messaging services. With my poor eyesight and trembling fingers I can't even do legible texts on my cell phone.

It is expensive. There are many different plans and you have to decide which one works best for you. The plan I have gets me access to the Iridium system for ~ $400 a year - plus any calls I make cost $7 a minute. But I have to look at it as life insurance. I'm out in the outback probably half the days of the year so to me it is well worth it. What is your life worth?
 

Neil

Observer
I was looking into an Inreach but read that you are restricted to one message every maybe fifteen minutes roughly speaking?
Jason.

I have Inreach. I wasnt aware of this restriction. However, it has never been the case for us. Messages take about 5 mins to go , so they are slower, but we have had relatively real time messaging with family back home. The only restriction is cost and the details of your garmin allowances etc.

We havent used it much because phone coverage is probably much better than you imagine. We have had 3g and above for probably 80% plus of our time in South America and its dirt cheap. This was a suprise to us.

Most of the travellers we have met who have a sat phone keepnit un charged in the bottom of a draw and havent used it in years, but i guess that one occasion will be worth it.

Neil
 

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
Thanks Neil. Weirdly my wife got immobilised with a warning light on a quiet road only a few miles from home, but we didn't have an OBD2 reader at that point so could have overridden it at that point to get home perhaps. Phone signal at home doesn't exist, nearby is variable.
 

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
Just something to consider, but Garmin inReach, any of them, use the Iridium satellite service.

With that being said, I currently use Spot X, which uses Globalstar, and have only had one or two problems. I have been thinking of switching to a Garmin unit as I like some of the functionality that they offer.

For those of you having issues with the inReach line, can you provide the model that you are using?
 

Cabrito

I come in Peace
Just something to consider, but Garmin inReach, any of them, use the Iridium satellite service.

With that being said, I currently use Spot X, which uses Globalstar, and have only had one or two problems. I have been thinking of switching to a Garmin unit as I like some of the functionality that they offer.

For those of you having issues with the inReach line, can you provide the model that you are using?
Buckle up for a long post from me :)

I would love to have an actual Sat Phone (Maybe when I'm independently wealthy) but for my needs the inReach has been great and turned out to be an invaluable piece of kit for my travels. There is noting more frustrating than when our expensive devices don't work as intended, and I completely understand loosing faith in the platform of a specific manufacturer or device.

Looking back in this thread I see the OP has a SE+, and another person had the Explorer+ - both of those units were released after Garmin bought inReach and replaced the older SE and Explorer models. Basically the SE does not have maps while the Explorer has maps (screen too small to be really useful).

All communication/navigation devices can fail much like our vehicles. Even a paper map can fail if it gets ripped or something. Why they fail is sometimes unknown and can be due to many different reasons making it hard to troubleshoot. Failure because "Garmin Sucks" isn't a reason and makes it impossible to diagnose.

Failure to update is a problem, but without being there and being able to troubleshoot doesn't give me enough information to form an educated decision on a units reliability.

I would guess that there are literally thousands of these devices in the field working without issue is that they have a high success rate compared to the failure rate.

Failure to send and or receive messages or having long delays is also almost impossible to diagnose without being there. Too many factors involved. Was it the senders device? Was it my device? Did the unit just fail? Did the sender turn their unit off before it sent? Did my unit get turned off before it sent? I've had messages deliver weeks or months after they were sent, but I know that I had turned mine off before the original message was sent to me so I received it when I turned mine back on.

I have the much older SE which is a legacy inReach device without any maps. Bought it used on eb*y. I've run it for countless days and hours in tracking mode for weeks at a time in the US and Baja. It's been dropped, banged up, crashed with, and it has failed once. It shut off on a long remote leg in Baja and I didn't know until I got to my destination. I thought it was dead, but a web search I found how to do a hard reboot and it has worked flawlessly since then. I noticed the newer units (Still legacy inReach) have the hard reboot button sequence printed on the unit when I compared with other ones in my group. My unit is so beat up that all the writing on the back has been worn off. When I got it working again I received all the messages that had been sent while it was down. The messages were for help for a disabled motorcycle in our group. We had secondary communication devices aka Ham Radios so we were able to coordinate the recovery but that's another story for another thread.

When my inReach failed it was in my cargo pocket on my pants while on my motorcycle. I've since stopped carrying it there on superstition. Maybe that down low location made it overheat and turn off, who knows.

I've had a few spot devices that just stopped working completely without warning (once at the beginning of a long road trip) Spot customer support was great in helping diagnose the issue and confirming that the units were dead. Once I think it overheated by leaving in my tank bag in the map case with clear plastic window, and again failed during a trip. Super frustrating, but not the actual reason that I switched to inReach. I switched for the two way communication.

I've hammered on the inReach in a few situations in Mexico sending messages back and forth for hours coordinating and injured rider extraction and coordinating our large group of riders who were spread out over different areas on a few different occasions. I went 23 messages over my subscription and I think it cost me all of $13 extra (well worth it).

The time the inReach really paid off in Baja:
Rider broke both his tibia and fibula just before sunset several miles from pavement near the tip of the Bay of Conception south of us in Mulege. Thankfully we had a van with our group and we scrambled immediately to get the rider and transport to a hospital. We had a major flurry of messaging going back and forth between inReach devices for our injured rider who was over 50 miles away and it was at night in Baja. We were sending medical instructions via the Nurse who was with us and getting valuable information about the rider. We had multiple updates on location using KM markers to meet them in our van and then transport him an additional 90 miles to a hospital all at night in Baja. It was pitch dark with no street lighting in remote highway areas, but I was able to easily find our injured rider using a mix of messages and the location info from them with my GPS and the inReach application on my phone. I can't imagine how long it would have taken without these devices. I won't leave home without mine. The whole story is for a different thread, but it was a major event in my travels to say the least and cemented my faith in these units and overall in teamwork.

One of the biggest issues I've found is not being familiar with the device and its limitations, and our own unrealistic expectations. I have this problem with my Ham radios and other devices that I don't use frequently enough. Before I go on any trip I make sure I get reacquainted with my devices to avoid issues. When in groups I strongly advise other members to get familiar with their devices and have had lots of issues with people being frustrated with them because when the time comes to use them in a hurry they are not prepared. I like to run tests with them to make sure they are working before the trip and I insist on this with groups.

Chance favors the prepared..
 

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
One of the biggest issues I've found is not being familiar with the device and its limitations, and our own unrealistic expectations. I have this problem with my Ham radios and other devices that I don't use frequently enough. Before I go on any trip I make sure I get reacquainted with my devices to avoid issues. When in groups I strongly advise other members to get familiar with their devices and have had lots of issues with people being frustrated with them because when the time comes to use them in a hurry they are not prepared. I like to run tests with them to make sure they are working before the trip and I insist on this with groups.

Chance favors the prepared..
Great post and I'm going to really add to your last point which is, in my observation, grossly overlooked.

I've been using Spot since 2010 when they were only making the tracking version that was one way only. With the spot-x, wife and I can text each other and I really enjoy that.

But the point to add to your point is familiarity. Even before I bought the device, I did a lot of research in how it worked "behind the curtain". I often hear users refer to these as GPS transmitters and that is not entirely correct. All of these units only use GPS as a means of generating your position, and only passively. Unless something has drastically changed in the last few minutes, the GPS portion of these devices are receive only. Globalstar and Iridium are the statilite systems and are, from the GPS system, different orbit, distance, frequency, etc. It is up to the user to understand that so that he/she can effectively communicate with the system.

And too often, folks will buy something, toss it in the glovebox "just in case" and then get mad when "it doesnt work" when the actual problem is the user. I make it a point to use all my stuff at least once a month: Air compressor, radio, satcomm, jack, whatever. Not only does it help me in understanding my equipment, I want to know if it works or not while I'm in my garage and not on the trail.
 

EMrider

Explorer
I carried a sat phone for probably a decade when in remote areas. Used both the Iridium and Globalstar networks.

In two words, they stink. The quality and stability of voice communication on either network was poor. Indeed, the Globalstar network was comically/tragically unreliable.

After 2-3 years of using a Garmin InReach I prefer that platform by a wide margin for all communication when beyond cell service. With InReach, texts can be sent easily and reliably. I have sent hundreds of texts with no fails. It might take 3-5 minutes, but they have all gotten through. Yes, there is word limit, but it is simple to send a second text and 95% of my communication needs can be covered in a few sentences. I can only conclude that transmitting texts is much less of a strain on the Iridium network that live voice communication.

And with InReach every text, and SOS signals, includes a link to your exact location with full GPS coordinates. I once had to call in a medical helicopter on my sat phone and it was a not possible for the person I was speaking with to hear me well enough to record the GPS coordinates. So I had to ride 1 hour to a location with cell service. For emergencies, I will take an InReach any day over a sat phone.

R
 

grizzlyj

Tea pot tester
Chance favors the prepared..
Can I ask if you have the Delorme or Garmin? I found an old Delorme for sale and wondered if that has advantages over the newer Garmins.
One difference compared to a sat phone in your Baja story is texts sent in that way allow a group to chat. A sat phone as one on one might very very good if talking to medical services is what you need but excludes everyone else (on that device at least.)



And with InReach every text, and SOS signals, includes a link to your exact location with full GPS coordinates. I once had to call in a medical helicopter on my sat phone and it was a not possible for the person I was speaking with to hear me well enough to record the GPS coordinates. So I had to ride 1 hour to a location with cell service. For emergencies, I will take an InReach any day over a sat phone.

R
That would sound similar to the handheld VHS radios with a built in gps. They will send your location as a data burst which hopefully can travel further and more reliably than a voice transmission might, but you can't just turn it on and expect it to know immediately where it is. EPIRBs and PLBs too, press the button and help will be notified but a gps fix might take a bit longer. Different satellites as said already.
 

Cabrito

I come in Peace
Can I ask if you have the Delorme or Garmin? I found an old Delorme for sale and wondered if that has advantages over the newer Garmins.
One difference compared to a sat phone in your Baja story is texts sent in that way allow a group to chat. A sat phone as one on one might very very good if talking to medical services is what you need but excludes everyone else (on that device at least.)
Hey grizzlyj,

I have the older Delorme inReach SE pictured below. It still has good battery life and will last two or three days on one charge running most or all day long. I turn it off when I reach my destination. I've been running it for around five years and it was used when I got it. Your results may vary. I'm not sure that it has any advantages over the newer Garmin offerings other than purchase price. I'm about to pull the trigger on the Garmin Montana 700i after seeing one in person yesterday and getting a good amount of info on the 700 and the inReach Mini. This user showing me said he had problems with very slow message sending and receiving with his Mini and regretted the purchase.

The group chat is possible, but I'm pretty sure each message would need recipients individually added. If you just reply to the original sender with out adding additional recipients it will only send to the Original sender (I think) When we're coordinating different groups or extractions/rescues we usually settle on two points of contact to minimize the chaos.

On the topic of groups - we us the Spotwalla site and arrange with the Spotwalla people to create a group page. This will show all group members with Spot or inReach on one web page. Spotwalla is another invaluable tool for group tracking, especially when groups get separated. Also fun for family & freinds to follow along virtually. This takes group coordination and cooperation ahead of time with each member registering their device on the group page.

Screen grab from a Spotwalla group page
1614693948806.png


Delorme inReach pre-Garmin
1614692675082.png
 

jjrgr21

New member
Mine is the explorer SE plus, and it will not update no matter what I do. I think that's probably the biggest problem with it but I can't get anything done about it so it doesn't matter
 
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