Communicating in the wilderness used to mean sending up smoke signals or hoping someone heard your emergency whistle. Now, the newest small and light two-way satellite communicators mean you can venture far into the backcountry and still easily keep in touch with loved ones and emergency services.
All have dedicated SOS and check-in buttons, and feature weather forecasts and alerts. They require additional fees separate from the purchase price, usually activation and a service plan of some sort. Regardless of features or fees, you can be confident that any of these five best-in-class devices will help you keep connected in far-flung, zero-bar locations.
1. Garmin InReach Mini
Though it also piggybacks off your smartphone (and pairs with other Garmin devices, like its smartwatch), this scant satellite communicator sets itself apart with an ultra-low-power LCD screen, which is easy to use when your phone dies. Included is Garmin’s GPS navigation Earthmate app with unlimited North American topo maps.
Activate: $30; fees from $12/month (annual contract) or $15/month (no contract).
Battery: 90 hours for the 10-minute tracking mode.
2. Somewear Global Hotspot
Upgrades to the newest iteration allow the shockproof-rated waterproof device (it floats) to cache data from prior tracking—meaning, folks back home can track your location from a smartphone.
Activate: $25; fees from $8.33/month (contract) or $15/month (no contract).
Battery: 240 hours for 10-minute tracking.
3. Bivy Stick
Slim and simple, this uses an updated app with an intuitive UI. It’s also shockproof-rated with a GoPro mount-compatible base for secure attachments in rough terrain. Bonus: Bivy Stick Orange owners can upgrade for a $50 credit.
Activate: Free; fees from $18/month (no contract).
Battery: 100 hours for 15-minute tracking.
4. Spot Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger
Rated to operate down to -22°F and up to 21,320 feet, the geofencing feature will send an alert if it strays outside of a predetermined area. It also uses four AAAs so you can always have backups to keep power flowing.
Activate: $20; fees from $12/month (contract) or $15/month (no contract).
Battery: 400 hours for 10-minute tracking.
5. Zoleo Satellite Communicator
With a mobile app interface that’s most like a typical texting experience, Zoleo also provides a dedicated phone number and email address so you can be easily contacted, and offers “seamless” coverage between satellites, cell towers, and WiFi.
Activate: $20; fees from $20/month (no contract).
Battery: 200 hours for 10-minute tracking.
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