Smart Adventurers Use Satellite Phones (and Here’s Why)
Things are not looking good. You are isolated from civilization somewhere in Yosemite National Park, possibly injured or hungry, and night is setting in. You turn to your cell phone, but there’s no signal. You are dangerously close to becoming one of the park’s 300 annual search-and-rescue incidents. Adept outdoors-man or not, should you have considered bringing a satellite phone?
Satellite Phones Are Affordable, Accessible, Reliable
Satellite phones aren’t a new technology. In fact, they have been around for several decades, but advancements in satellite technology and manufacturing have made them significantly more affordable and reliable. While Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite phones can cost thousands of dollars, many manufacturers are producing sturdy, reliable, consumer-level satellite phones that provide many of the same services. Today, many shops and e-commerce sites offer satellite phone rentals, some even allowing you the use of a phone for less than $200, minutes included. Many satellite phone rentals come with a bevy of accessories, such as additional batteries, car chargers, international adapters, headsets, and antenna extenders.
Satellite Phones are extremely reliable. Outside Magazine Online’s review of the Iridium Extreme 9575 notes satellite phone manufacturer Iridium has the largest coverage area for satellite phones, and even has coverage at the Earth’s poles. The Iridium Extreme is an excellent example of the rough-and-tough construction common to satellite phones. Their rugged exterior is shock- and dust-resistant, and even resistant to jet water.
Additionally, satellite phone service is unaffected by many of the natural disasters that can destroy cell phone network infrastructures. Acts of nature, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and brush fires, can collapse traditional cell towers and eliminate service. For adventurers traveling to dangerous hot spots around the world, such as war zones or conflicted areas, sudden unrest can tear down cell towers when they are needed the most by travelers. Satellite phones do not rely on local systems and are thus unaffected by even the worst earthbound disasters.
Since satellite phones utilize either fixed Geostationary or Low-Earth Orbit satellites that float between 500 and 1,000 miles above the earth’s surface, not even violent storms affect their reception and reliability in the field.
How Far Do You Go Into The Wilderness?
If you’re a casual hiker, chances are your needs are going to be met by any standard cell phone. Network coverage is much more complete and widespread than it was a decade ago, and leaving the safety of the city for a light hike isn’t going to put you in a dead zone. Apps such as CellMaps Mobile even allow you to check the coverage of your cell carrier to see ahead of time if you will lose service. It supports four major U.S. mobile service providers.
However, cell networks in the wild are not always as trustworthy as they may seem in urban areas. This is where satellite phones can make the difference. With a satellite phone, hikers can stay linked to civilization, regardless of where they trek. Satellite phones require a clear line of sight to the open sky to make or receive calls, and many are capable of accessing the Internet and receiving and sending emails.
While airtime for satellite phone calls can seem expensive, those traveling to Asia, the Poles, Africa, and rural South America will find standard cell phone calls can cost up to $6 per minute. Those traveling the world by sea can return home to find bills with cell phone roaming charges in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, according to Forbes.
If you are headed on an adventure to a truly remote region, such as the mountains of Nepal, it’s safe to assume your 3G Network isn’t reliable enough to bet your life on. For the truly rugged and worldly adventurer, satellite phones are the safest and most reliable choice available for unrestricted communications.
Satellite Phones Have A Few Limitations
Satellite phones do have some notable downsides when compared to standard cell phones. For one, their data speed is much slower than that of an average smartphone, though this speed is increasing every year. Additionally, satellite phones are utilitarian in design, which means they can be quite bulky and, frankly, pretty ugly. Most satellite phones have a flip out antenna that makes them stand out in a crowd, which can be dangerous for travelers abroad in chaotic urban environments prone to theft.
Despite these shortcomings, if you plan on heading somewhere remote on your next adventure and want to be certain you can call loved ones or emergency services, there is no better and more reliable solution than a satellite phone.
Have you thought of getting a Satellite Phone to include in your wilderness survival or disaster preparedness gear?
This is a guest post by Elliot Simpson who is a grad student from Arizona who studies sustainability and writes about energy-efficient technology news.
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