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Satellite Messengers

Old 02-03-22, 08:35 AM
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Satellite Messengers

Comments on experience with devices like the In Reach Mini 2 or similar? My wife has always been and still is supportive of my travels, but has gotten more concerned about me especially when I disappear into the woods for longish treks. This is probably more so in the back country canoeing or backpacking, but for long tours as well. On road tours I can mostly stay in touch with a cell phone with texts, emails, and the ocassional voice call. Also even when I fail to stay in touch my track is still available so she can check where I am and see that I am still moving. When more off the beaten path it gets harder and I am considering a Satelite Messenger device to set her mind at ease.

The In Reach Mini 2 looks like it checks all the boxes. I prefer to have a small device that can operate stand alone when the phone battery is dead at least for preset messages and position tracking. It looks like the Spot 2 can (awkwardly) even do custom messages in stand alone mode. One thing that I am less than thrilled about is that it has a built in battery. The battery life is reportedly excellent though. Still I wish it took something like lithium AAAs so backup batteries could be carried. The Spot X offers that and looks like it is cheaper both for the device and the service, but it is kind of a big clunky device. It does offer what looks like easy stand alone operation with a blackberry style keyboard.

The service for these things is kind of expensive, but I'd only buy whatever was needed for a given trip in increments of a month unless I was doing enough travel to warrant the annual rate.

I'd be interested in whether folks are using Satelite Messengers and if so which ones and how they have worked out for them.

If I get one it will probably be used more for backpacking that touring, but I can see it as useful for both.
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Old 02-03-22, 12:45 PM
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Is she worried that you will break a leg on a trip and be stranded and kill yourself. Or is it a desire for daily communication.

If it is simply having a means to call for help if you are hurt, there are the personal locater beacons, living in Florida you could probably check those out at a marine store. Avoids the monthly fee. Periodic battery replacement necessary.
https://www.westmarine.com/personal-...r-beacons-plbs
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Old 02-03-22, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
there are the personal locater beacons
They are a different beasts. Beacons are one-way communication, distress devices. Once activated, they will usually trigger a SAR operation. Makes sense on a boat, but probably less so on bike/foot.

I have an old SPOT (pings at interval or on demand so you can be followed, or can send an SOS) and have "upgraded" to inReach Mini, which allows you to text back and forth wherever you happen to be. Has great battery life (used once a day to send a "all is good, love you" message, the battery will last more than a month). Can be used as an emergency navigation device. Can trigger SAR. Now possible to subscribe to a monthly plan. Very small form factor. Weighs next to nothing.

The field is expanding so I'll read with interest. (staehpj1 you may want to look at cell coverage maps -- over the years dead zones have been shrinking quite a bit. Not entirely clear that you need a satellite messenger)
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Old 02-03-22, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
They are a different beasts. Beacons are one-way communication, distress devices. Once activated, they will usually trigger a SAR operation. Makes sense on a boat, but probably less so on bike/foot.
...
I thought that I was clear on that when I said: "a means to call for help if you are hurt, there are the personal locater beacons"
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Old 02-03-22, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I thought that I was clear on that when I said: "a means to call for help if you are hurt, there are the personal locater beacons"
I got that and being a former sailor am aware of those. I am looking for something that gives her a bit of feedback. I would like a device that can report where I am and show that I am still moving. It doesn't need to be set to update every 10 minutes if battery life is iffy for the trip length. The track suffices when I invariably fail to check in as often as I should. I have gotten better over the years with touching base and will generally text or email (I hate calling on the phone especially when the signal is poor), but having a few canned messages on a gps device would be nice and sufficient. She is used to my weirdness with the phone.

Having a signal some of the day and none in camp usually meant I didn't call home. Sometimes back in the day I wound up not calling for a week. Not a good situation at home. It is a wonder she didn't shoot me when I got home. Texting or emailing helped because they would go out with a poor signal and if they didn't they would at some point later if the phone was on to use for something else. I figure the GPS based device would be even better at making sure my wife wasn't in the dark about my whereabouts and condition. I guess there is the downside in that it is a one way communication so I'd still need to check email when there was a signal if I wanted to hear from home.
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Old 02-03-22, 06:09 PM
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I have family asking that I get something that I can use to call for help if I need it. They already know that if I have wifi or a data plan every day, they are not going to hear from me more than a couple times a week, so more hardware would not help them in that regard. But I am resisting the beacon. Recently an organization had some used ones for less than a hundred on Ebay, probably only need battery replacement.

I used to kayak with a former co-worker, we were out of cell range, but he had his own business and his wife was his office manager so he wanted to call every day. So, we are sitting on some small island in Lake Superior and he pulls out his satellite phone to call her. I think he said it was a buck a minute, but he had clients that might need to contact him.
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Old 02-03-22, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
the downside in that it is a one way communication .
​​​​​​Garmin InReach mini offers two way communication. SPOT basic is one way (out) and limited to presets (three or four IIRC).

Ping every 10 minutes will probably drain the battery over a day. (that's 50+ a day and essentially requires that the device keeps the GPS on when you are in motion. Once or twice a day takes a couple of minutes (power on, find satellites, contact Iridium). My experience is that a charge lasts a month.

You could also look into sat-phones. They can be rented. Still, much more expensive (we used it once, for ocean crossing).
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Old 02-04-22, 05:40 AM
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The OP states satellite messenger (or what SAR calls a SEND....satellite emergency notification device). A PLB is not a messenger. The market has exploded in recent years with new models (zoleo, acr bivystick, somewear labs global hotspot, yellowbrick, etc) other than the old garmin and spot messengers. Andrew Skurka may have different needs than you, but here are his thoughts on the new mini 2.

https://andrewskurka.com/garmin-inre...-2-assessment/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satell...ication_device

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Old 02-04-22, 06:57 AM
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Originally Posted by BikeLite View Post
The OP states satellite messenger (or what SAR calls a SEND....satellite emergency notification device). A PLB is not a messenger. The market has exploded in recent years with new models (zoleo, acr bivystick, somewear labs global hotspot, yellowbrick, etc) other than the old garmin and spot messengers. Andrew Skurka may have different needs than you, but here are his thoughts on the new mini 2.

https://andrewskurka.com/garmin-inre...-2-assessment/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satell...ication_device
I often find that Andrew Skurka's preferences are not in line with mine, but he is always worth reading. Some good stuff there. I already got a bit more understanding of the Zoleo, Spot X, and Somewear as well by reading the InReach Mini 2 review. I will read his reviews of those devices as well. It looks like they may give a better understanding of how they actually work out in the real world, something that was so far eluding me.
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Old 02-04-22, 08:54 AM
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Pete,
My wife basically makes me take the 2nd generation of InReach (not the Mini 2) if I am on a remote tour without cell coverage by myself. We made our son (22 at the time I think) take one on his solo Edmonton to Cabo san Lucas bike tour. I must say it is nice but a bit pricey. The accuracy is down to about 5 feet or less. The wife could literally see where I was with every ping, i.e. what restaurant I was at, if I went off route, what road I was on, etc. The battery life was very good; easily 1 week with the ping level every 10 minutes, longer if you turn off at night using regular batteries. Occasionally, it would not ping, i.e., in tall canyons and extremely (lots of trees with trees under them creating a roof) canopied areas. We had the "unlimited" plan. I had a few pre-planned messages which were pretty simple to send, i.e. "Stopping here for the night."

The downside is that it can easily take 10-15 minutes for a round-trip message/response. My son got off the wrong road in southern British Columbia on the Great Divide. I noticed this and ping him. It took easily an hour to direct him back to the right turn because I would send a message, he would respond with a question, I would reply, he would reply. Each time, the message would take several minutes or more to be received by the recipient. However, while this is a pain, when you consider I was messaging him from 2000 miles away with no cell coverage, I guess an hour is OK.

I called Garmin and asked the size of the Mini 2 battery. It is only a 1250mA batery so you would need a powerbank if away from electrical mains for a while. Remember, it will use somewhat more battery when sending messages. I am totally guessing it was around 25 more battery with 2-3 preplanned messages a day.

If you are sending the tracking to multiple people, depending on this year's cost format, it may be cheaper to send the tracking just to your email and then have it automatically forward it to your group list. Also, remember that when tracking, if you set it up to send an email with every ping, the people receiving it can get up to 144 emails a day from you if set on 10 minute intervals.

Overall, I would recommend. If/when I need a new GPS, I might consider the 66i but like you I really prefer the use of regular batteries.

Last edited by John N; 02-04-22 at 09:16 AM. Reason: Added paragraphs
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Old 02-04-22, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I would like a device that can report where I am and show that I am still moving.
The garmin edge bike computers do this via what's called Livetrack. Works via the Edge connected to your phone via Bluetooth and your cell phone signal.


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Old 02-04-22, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
The battery life was very good; easily 1 week with the ping level every 10 minutes, longer if you turn off at night using regular batteries. .
Interesting. Just to be sure I understand -- this is for the handheld version, with AA batteries, right?

(and regarding RT communication, my recollection is that by default it'll fetch messages when power is turned on, whenever a location point is sent (10 minutes in your case), or manually. i.e. incoming messages are not pushed to the device, unlike how it works with smartphones)
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Old 02-04-22, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Interesting. Just to be sure I understand -- this is for the handheld version, with AA batteries, right?

(and regarding RT communication, my recollection is that by default it'll fetch messages when power is turned on, whenever a location point is sent (10 minutes in your case), or manually)
This was using the 2nd Generation of InReach which is a handheld. I "think" the Mini2 is the 5th Generation. But yes, I was using regular AA batteries, probably Eneloop XX rechargeable batteries or 2000mA each.
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Old 02-06-22, 07:52 AM
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After reading what these little devices can do I am starting to wonder if maybe they have another different usage that I hadn't considered. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am terrible about letting anyone know where I am on a daily basis around home. My wife hates it. She sleeps in much later than me. I might be up before daylight and head out somewhere on the spur of the moment. Nine times out of ten I fail to leave a note if it is a close to home local outing of less than a few hours. To make matters worse often either cell coverage is either spotty or I am doing something where I don't hear the phone. She is used to it, but it annoys and worries her. I am considering if maybe just carrying a device that puts up a track on a web page is the answer. I guess that could be a cell phone app but the InReach Mini 2 seems designed for exactly that and has a ton of other features that make it especially suited for going into the woods. My wife could look at a track and make a very good guess whether I went riding. mushroom hunting, to the national forest shooting range, canoeing on the local lake, mountain biking, or whatever even if I did no more than just turn on and carry the device.

Does anyone use these devices around their local area on a day to day basis?
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Old 02-06-22, 03:17 PM
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I got an Garmin InReach Mini a couple years ago. I went with the freedom plan so just activate it when I have trips planned. My husband likes that he can see where I'm at via a webpage. I like that I can use an app on my cellphone that communicates with it via Bluetooth to make it easier to send him a text when I don't have cellphone service. I also leave it turned on when I'm driving on my trips so that friends who I'm staying with have an idea of when I will show up on their doorstep. I just have to provide them the link to my webpage ahead of time.

The $34.95 a month I pay when it is activated is well worth the peace of mind for me.
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Old 02-06-22, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Does anyone use these devices around their local area on a day to day basis?
I don't. InReach would be a fairly expensive solution (IIRC monthly subscription with unlimited tracking will set you back $35CDN/month. Location sharing can be done for free with your smartphone, or a small fee with a tag (the latter being perhaps a more robust solution -- I'll follow the thread with interest).

(I believe that this is my wife's reason for allowing our younger one to have here own iPhone
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Old 02-06-22, 07:53 PM
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Iíve been interested in a beacon and thinking about one for trips y bicycle or motorcycle when I retire. This thread and one on advrider sparked my interest on rescue insurance. Helicopter rides can be expensive. check this out. I thought Spot was the only one but Inreach also has it. Just have to pay an annual fee for each person. Also the SOS has to go through the service.

https://www.nwmtbch.org/uploads/docu...about_Spot.pdf
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Old 02-07-22, 04:48 AM
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Originally Posted by biker128pedal View Post
Iíve been interested in a beacon and thinking about one for trips y bicycle or motorcycle when I retire. This thread and one on advrider sparked my interest on rescue insurance. Helicopter rides can be expensive. check this out. I thought Spot was the only one but Inreach also has it. Just have to pay an annual fee for each person. Also the SOS has to go through the service.

https://www.nwmtbch.org/uploads/docu...about_Spot.pdf
GEOS will probably always look for ways not to pay for your rescue. You will always leave out a step no matter what ; ).
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Old 02-07-22, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by biker128pedal View Post
Iíve been interested in a beacon and thinking about one for trips y bicycle or motorcycle when I retire. This thread and one on advrider sparked my interest on rescue insurance. Helicopter rides can be expensive. check this out. I thought Spot was the only one but Inreach also has it. Just have to pay an annual fee for each person. Also the SOS has to go through the service.

https://www.nwmtbch.org/uploads/docu...about_Spot.pdf
I read the pdf you provided. I guess what I don't understand is how do you ONLY notify GEOS. I am not exactly clear who gets what when you press the SOS button. I wonder if your insurance pays for this or is paid for by the community since I would think rescue would be a community service. Interesting and eye opening article.
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Old 02-07-22, 12:04 PM
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I bought and used a Spot Gen 4 last year for a bikepacking race. My wife could track my location on Spot's website and I could send her a couple of different pre-programmed messages. The Spot Gen 4 isn't a two-way communication device, but it does what I need. I never considered the Garmin products because I've had bad experiences in the past with their reliability and their user interfaces.

A friend of mine recently got saved by search and rescue after having an accident backcountry skiing by himself. He crashed and then used his In Reach to call for help.
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Old 02-07-22, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I got that and being a former sailor am aware of those. I am looking for something that gives her a bit of feedback. I would like a device that can report where I am and show that I am still moving.
In ReachMini will do this. You can leave it running during an activity so as to have the SOS function available. Typically and if you are worried, you can sign on to rescue insurance that will cover the costs of rescue of you activate SOS. At all times the unit is running and you are paying for subscription, you can send new or preset messages to anyone you choose via e-mail or text to cell. Things like "I am at my destination for the day, all is OK". The device can be set to send a location as well. I purchase an InReach on sale at REI as I do some remote gravel bike exploring out of range of cell service. it's good piece of mind to know it works. I spent time at home figuring it out and sending some messages to verify that it works.
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Old 02-09-22, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by John N View Post
I read the pdf you provided. I guess what I don't understand is how do you ONLY notify GEOS. I am not exactly clear who gets what when you press the SOS button. I wonder if your insurance pays for this or is paid for by the community since I would think rescue would be a community service. Interesting and eye opening article.
I think one has to use your device to call for help. And itís only for you unless you can add a family member. If say you have cell phone service or call another way your dollar. This is from my limited research.
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