Wife wants me to get a Sat Phone

CrzyTrekker

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San Luis Valley, Colorado
Hey,

New to the forum here. Great mind-share here.

I recently spent 3 days scouting my elk unit in Colo. I usually send a text to my wife with my general route before leaving on any backpacking trip, with instructions to call S&R if I don't come back.

Problem: I got home and admitted that I went way off grid because the small high altitude spring I typically rely upon for water (even late in the year) was bone dry. Not wanting to give up the trip, I hiked into another drainage and camped at the confluence of two small streams. Funny enough, elk woke me up the next morning.

So the wife says I need to get a sat phone and let her know about these little detours. Admittedly, I am infamous for changing my plans, particularly when hunting. She is not ok with this, and I realized after reading Becca's evacuation story that it could happen to me (and I am often alone).

Do I go Iridium Extreme or Inmarsat Isatphone? Isatphone is way cheaper, but is economy worth it when you fall down, can't get up, and have no signal? You might say SPOT, but I think I prefer to go all-in and get two-way comms. Iridium Extreme looks pretty lightweight too. Pricing isn't terrible with an emergency plan. And heck, the backcountry is my only hobby. I'm sure the wife would agree to me calling only in the event of a detour, delay, or other event.

Please share your experience.
 

Yellowknife

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I've used Iridiums extensively and can vouch for the toughness. Dropped calls are always an issue, but you can eventually get your message through. They are what they are (i.e. NOT a cell phone), but at this point it's a proven system and my first choice. Texting is a great option for getting/receiving short messages. You can also sent txt to email.

I haven't used the Isatphone, but I have rented an Inmarsat semi portable unit and used several other types of geostationary serviced units (MSAT, iConnect). The geostationary sat units in general will experience less dropped calls once you have a connection, which is the big advantage in my mind. The drawback is that you have to be able to "see" the satellite from your position, and blockages can be caused by mountains, etc. Probably not a big issue in the L48, but certainly an issue in Alaska. The theory is good, but I'll likely never get a chance to use one in Alaska, so can't really comment on the actual function.

If you do get one, I'd sure like to hear about how it works

Yk
 

luke moffat

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I've owned a sat phone for 7+ years now. I rented a economy sat phone/service to see if it'd work, and it was so hit or miss I figured if I can't rely on it to work why even carry the extra weight.

I no go Iridium. Phones are expensive but they are a one time purchase. The cost is $400 annually for 400 minutes and the minutes roll over so long as I renew each year.

My phone so far as literally saved two peoples lives in the time I've owned it (one of which was my wife's on a goat hunt on Kodiak island when she broke her leg) the other was a extended family member that suffered a heart attack 100+ miles from the nearest road and it was -40 degrees out and they rode to their cabin on snowmachines. In situations like that you'll gladly pay 10X that amount.
 
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CrzyTrekker

CrzyTrekker

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Thank you YellowKnife and Luke! I want to backpack Alaska with my oldest son in another year or two, so I appreciate your feedback YellowKnife.

Luke, two lives saved! Guessing your wife is Becca Moffat. I read the story... By the way, thanks for this site. I've picked up some great information just lurking here and it will definitely enhance my hunting.

Well, I am leaning towards the Iridium.
 

docdb

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I have an Iridium 9555 and take it with me on all my outings. It's just peace of mind, and kinda nice to talk to a "home" voice. No lives saved on my end, though. I will tell you that there is plenty of acerage in North Georgia where the signal is spotty and hard to get a signal. Many times I've stood in the middle of a river to get enough of a view of the sky to get a call out. It's a real bummer to venture out into that river, usually knee deep or so, and not get a signal even then. One word of advice, don't get an Iridium wet, if you do, they are DONE! My service provider suggested not even wasting the time sending it back in for repair.
Don
 

luke moffat

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One word of advice, don't get an Iridium wet, if you do, they are DONE! My service provider suggested not even wasting the time sending it back in for repair.
Don
Yep mine lives in a quart sized zip loc, then two heavy weight socks (always nice to have an extra pair of heavy socks anyways, plus it protects the phone from bumps and shocks), then all of that in a gallon sized zip locs. Seems to be pretty safe from water and bumps this way and way less bulky and lighter than a standard pelican box.
 

Yellowknife

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One word of advice, don't get an Iridium wet, if you do, they are DONE! My service provider suggested not even wasting the time sending it back in for repair.
Don
I usually use the zip lock method also, but a small sil-nylon bag is even better. The 9555 will actually handle a fair amount of moisture (i.e. light rain) with no issues (done it many many times), but I would avoid dropping them in large bodies of water if possible. Even then I have heard of guys bringing them back to life by putting them in a bag of rice, or sitting on the hot water heater for a while. Not sure it's something I ever want to try though!

All in all, the simplest method it too just buy the Iridium "Extreme" if you can afford it. Solves those issues the right way.

Another tip. Learn to use the txt feature. When coverage is spotty due to mountains, tall trees, etc, you can usually get a txt out because it only needs a few seconds of minimal lock to get the job done. Your wife can also send you messages right from the Iridium website http://messaging.iridium.com/ and you can pick it up the next time you turn the phone on. Replies would go to her email.

Yk
 

aggieland

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N.E. Texas....
So you buy the phone for say $1,500.00 and then $400 a year and that will get you 400 min's. What about texting etc is that included. I guess their is all kinds of plans like cell phones.
 
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CrzyTrekker

CrzyTrekker

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Guys,

Thanks for the heads up regarding water. Would have thought these phones were really robust. I am looking at the Extreme model, so maybe that gives me a little more insurance...

I love the texting option you described. Wife will like it too.

I know what you mean about sending txt messages with a spotty cell signal. I've done that with my cell phone on backpacking trips where a voice call would have been impossible.

Speaking of Georgia, I did some training at Benning and went backpacking a couple times up north, not on the AT but another trail that slips my mind... Beautiful, but thick, thick country and some really monstrous spiders.
 

hodgeman

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Delta Junction, AK
There are several new satellite 2 way texting devices hitting the market now. A fraction of the price of a sat phone. As much as I'd like one I think they're too expensive for the service.

When I go solo, I just turn the SPOT on to the tracking mode. The wife can go to the website and see exactly where I am, if I'm moving or what not. In the event I'm delayed, if she sees me moving around she doesn't worry- figures I'm just on to something.

If SAR is needed- they have an accurate "last known location" to start looking from.
 

swat8888

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Curious if anyone has gone over the top and created a list of the different SATPHONE/PLB/two way text devices and their associated cost? Hoping someone else has already done the work to save me some time. since I'm moving back to AK I'm going to buy my own this time and stop spending top dollar to rent satphones.
 
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CrzyTrekker

CrzyTrekker

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I agree the tracking ability of the SPOT is pretty cool. And texting is ideal - quick and to the point.

For me, I think it boils down to the fact my wife needs me to talk to her (even now she is saying, "what are you doing on your computer over there?") :)
 

Yellowknife

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I think the SPOT is a legit way to go. It would likely be what I would use if I didn't have a Iridium through work. If you can swing it though, the Iridium does have advantages and my wife also really likes to have me call in once in a while.

The Delorme version of the SPOT uses the Iridium satellites, which is an advantage in my mind, but on the other hand I've had a bad experience with a couple of Delorme products, so I'll let others do the field testing.

Yk
 

tstowater

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Take your wife along and skip the sat phone if that is the only reason for getting it. Personally, my contact with my wife is limited at best, usually at the start and finish of a hunt. We made this decision before the first major hunting trip I went on years ago. I don't want to be bothered unless it is really important and we have mutually decided what that is. She is given contact phone numbers (if available), otherwise the area or outfitter I will be hunting with and whatever other details I can give her. Don't want to underestimate her concern, but don't underestimate her neediness also. My .02.
 
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CrzyTrekker

CrzyTrekker

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I hear you, and used to handle communications the same way. Decision to get a sat phone is really two fold, a result of (1) the wife, AND (2) the fact I am going more remote and I will be happier with the ability to signal my location and any major problem.

For years, my backpacking trips consisted of (1) straight up backpacking trips along "linear" routes (i.e. trail networks), (2) elk and deer hunting trips where I hunted from an outfitter tent with one or more buddies, and (3) occasional off-trail hikes to remote lakes or peaks for fishing or mountaineering.

The consistent theme with all those trips was my ability to give someone (my father, later my wife) a brief written plan with my anticipated and almost certain route. What's changed, is the fact I am now telling my wife I will be gone for X days and here's my anticipated route, but the second I see elk over yonder, I will abandon the plan and go there. I want that freedom to change the routed based upon what I am seeing. Hunting with my home on my back is changing it up...

For me, I am at a point where the cost of two-way sat comms are worth it so she can talk to me every other day or so, and I can let her know (for my peace of mind) that I am now in an entirely different location.
 

whuppinstick

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The cost is $400 annually for 400 minutes and the minutes roll over so long as I renew each year.
Is there any way to do a sat. phone for less than $400/year?
I only need it for emergencies (maybe 20min/year). I know they can't make any money off of people like me which is why they have minimum purchases, but is there anything anybody knows about in the 50min/year range? I've searched before but the 'yearly maintenance' always seems to be pretty expensive.
 

luke moffat

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Not that I've found. I split my phone purchase and yearly costs with a buddy so it was $750 apiece for the initial investment and $200 a year for the minutes. At this point its very much worth the $200 a year to have the phone with me for as much as I am in the field out of cell service.
 

R Miller

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ACR Res Q Link for me, If the fit hits the shan im hitting the button otherwise im dragging myself out. $280-340 depending on the retailer, one time hit to the wallet and it weighs 6ozs or so. If the cost of a sat phone is prohibitive this is a good option, I think it also has the option of sending out pre programmed messages for a small subscription fee but i havnt looked into it yet.
 

Ozz08

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Castle Rock, CO
For me I think I worry more about my wife and two young boys at home more than they worry about me! I was set to get a spot II but I want something for my wife to reach me or get a message to me while I'm out not the other way around. If something should happen at home while I was away and my wife or kids couldn't get a hold of me I'd never forgive myself. That worries me more than anything happening to me in the wilderness.
 
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