Staying connected in the backcountry isn't as hard as it used to be with these three affordable devices.
Going off the grid used to be pretty easy. Load your pack, kiss your spouse goodbye, and head out the door for a few days in the backcountry. Luckily for your friends and family, there no longer are excuses to go days without checking in.
Thanks to new technology that utilizes the Iridium satellite constellation, you can take satellite devices to places where cell service is not available to provide phone, texting, GPS tracking, and even SOS capabilities in case a search and rescue is needed.
In this Petersen's Hunting Field Test, we stepped away from the usual satellite phone review and focused on three units that provide texting capabilities at affordable prices.
Delorme Inreach Explorer
The most comprehensive of our test, the inReach Explorer is more than just a texting device. Unlike the other units, the Delorme has a color screen and serves as a GPS unit. The inReach Explorer is capable of navigating your route, dropping waypoints, and directing your way back to camp. With service available almost anywhere, thanks to 100 percent global coverage from Iridium technology, texting personal messages is easy. Simply upload your contacts to the unit before you leave and send up to 160 characters straight from the Explorer or download Delorme's Earthmate app to connect the device to your cell phone for an easier texting platform. The message, as well as a link to your location, is sent to the recipient, allowing them to follow along on your journey. A large SOS button sits on the face of the device, and when triggered, a representative from Delorme's 24/7 rescue center is contacted to locate you and send help.
This device is a small but mighty satellite unit that provides tracking, preprogrammed texts, and SOS capabilities for the backcountry hunter. The unit is simple with only five buttons adorning the blaze orange device. Before leaving home, preprogrammed or custom messages can be set to send at the push of a button to check- in. The messages can be sent to 10 programmed contacts via email or SMS with a link to your location on Google Maps. With the SPOT Gen3, a vibration sensor tells your device when you are moving and sends updates of your location while in motion. In case of an emergency, the push of a button contacts an emergency help center to provide your GPS coordinates to local response teams. If you happen to find yourself in a non-life-threatening situation but in need of assistance, a Help/Spot Assist button is available that alerts contacts with your locale.
The Text Anywhere device is as simple as its name. The 4x4-inch unit uses Iridium satellite technology to allow users to text anywhere within the U.S. and email world- wide with your Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, tablet, or PC. That's it. Powered by four AA batteries or a car's 12v plug, the unit has no external buttons, except for the power button, but it provides a secure Wi-Fi connection for texting, emailing, or posting to social media. No app is required to use the unit — the messaging system is built-in and accessed through your device's Web browser. Different from the other units in our test, the Text Anywhere device does not provide SOS capabilities, but it does allow a link to your location to be sent to message recipients. Because of its simplicity, keep in mind that you have to carry your phone, tablet, or computer to use the device. That's OK, though — the unit weighs less than a pound and is small enough to throw in your pack.