View topic - Two-Way Off-The-Grid Communication: The choices in 2020

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PostPosted: June 11th, 2020, 2:17 pm 
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The Outdoor Gear Lab website has a nice review of the main choices for off-the-grid two-way communication devices.

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We have come a long way in the past decade. That Spot Connect I bought in 2012 was replaced by the Garmin inReach Explorer+ in 2017. It is an investment I still feel good about, even given some of the attractive new choices out there.

https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/ ... mmunicator

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PostPosted: June 11th, 2020, 5:28 pm 
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Thanks for sharing. I should have something like this. P.

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PostPosted: June 11th, 2020, 6:44 pm 
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I'm still looking to borrow or rent one of these. Cheryl mentioned she *may* have one, or we might rent one from an outfitter for our expedition this year. One of the outfitters (Mattice Lake Outfitters) where we're going just bought a few Spot devices this year.

It's a bit hard to find something compact, if difficult to use, with a Big Red Button, and the capability of two way satellite SMS; at least it is to rent or borrow. I don't want to invest in something like this until I know it will work for us.

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PostPosted: November 28th, 2020, 8:46 pm 
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Hi True-North,
I've been eyeballing these, and after reading about the tragedy in Algonquin over Thanksgiving, have decided to get one. But which? I currently don't own a GPS, so was trying to decide if the Explorer makes sense, however it doesn't seem to get good reviews as a GPS in itself. When I have "needed" a GPS in the lat 2 years, I have used my phone and Canda Topo app, which has done the job even in a bog in Temagami. What would you go with today if you were me?
thanks


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PostPosted: November 28th, 2020, 9:38 pm 
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I have Inreach Explorer+. It's awesome - not for me, but for worried family members.


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PostPosted: November 29th, 2020, 10:20 am 
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I have the older Delorme Inreach Explorer and won't go anywhere without it.
Even lend it to friends so they can be in contact with the families.

The monthly is pricey. It's $4.46 a month to keep it suspended rather than the $40 a month when activated. The $40 a month gives you 100 texts whereas the $23 a month plan it's $1 per text. Any message, if you want, includes a URL showing where you are on google maps. I move between suspended and active 3 or 4 times a year.

When tripping, I always send a "here's my camp and all is OK" every evening.
I really like the idea that it bluetooths to your phone as making texts is so/so much easier. It also has several self-created messages that you can just pick and send.

All in all, a wonderful product that keeps the family/friends informed and interested in your trip.

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PostPosted: November 29th, 2020, 12:12 pm 
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Racecris46 - Like you, I make use of my iPhone with the free Canada Topo app;

https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/topo-maps-canada/id392857820

I like the iPhone's large screen size and the excellent - and free - Natural Resource Canada maps! However, due to the way that on-all-day GPS drains the battery, I only use the iPhone a few times during the day to confirm my reading of the paper copies of the Toporama-sourced maps we still use as our #1 navigation aid.

You ask - What would you go with today if you were me?

I’d buy the inReach Explorer+again. While it is not cheap, I think of it as an investment or insurance policy coverage. As scratchypants and Ted mention, it also provides peace of mind for the folks back home, allows them to stay in touch, and monitor your progress in real-time.

As you note, the GPS feature of the Explorer+ does not get the highest marks; I still like the fact that I have it as a decent and usable backup.

If you really don't want the GPS map feature, you could get the stripped-down version of the Explorer+ - it is called the SE+ - and save $100. The inReach SE+ has all of the following features except E. -

A. 100% global Iridium satellite coverage enables 2-way text messaging from anywhere (satellite subscription required)
B. Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center
C. Track and share your location with family and friends
D. Pair with mobile devices¹ using the free Earthmate® app for access to downloadable maps², U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more
E. inReach Explorer+ device adds preloaded DeLorme® TOPO maps with onscreen GPS routing plus a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer


The SE+ and your iPhone would make for an excellent combo. $100. more gets you the additional features mentioned in E. above. The Garmin page below has more details -

https://buy.garmin.com/en-CA/CA/p/561286/pn/010-01735-00

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Last edited by true_north on November 29th, 2020, 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: November 29th, 2020, 1:09 pm 
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We typically travel as a family of 4 which means 2 phones, but when I have gone solo, I could see that the Garmin GPS, even if not great, would be better than none for those times when I did actually need it and I may have managed to break my phone or kill its battery (which in the nature of emergencies would be exactly when that happens!). I run my phone in airplane mode, use it as a camera, and only turn the GPS on as needed which is maybe every other day.

I am tempted by the Mini plus a phone combo. Anyone have experience with those?

TrueNorth, I have enjoyed your blogs btw and your log of French River inspired us 2 years ago to go from top to bottom including the Eagles Nest. So thanks for that!

Do you just do pics on your iPhone or do you take a different camera? your pictures always are high quality


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PostPosted: November 29th, 2020, 4:45 pm 
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If I go anywhere that actually requires a GPS I bring a map and compass and find that I use those more. The GPS is for fun - tracks, average speed, etc. If you (and I don't mean any of you personally) are not taking regular fixes with the M&C in combination with the GPS, if and when it packs it in, getting back on track can test your confidence.


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PostPosted: November 29th, 2020, 5:18 pm 
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For anyone who resents the thought of paying another monthly subscription, there's the ResQLink PLB. SOS button only, no texting or any other features.

This is what we got to start. I'm happy to have it, but sometimes the ability to text or get weather is worth a lot too. Depends how much you'd use those features, but at the very least, this PLB is wise to have.

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2020, 4:12 pm 
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Any comments on this: bivy stick blue - satellite communicator

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2020, 4:40 pm 
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For a long time I was sitting on the fence regarding purchasing a two way communication device but I finally took the plunge this summer. The tipping point was that it's not only my group that may need assistance but in the event I came across another group in need I could potentially safe a life. Prior to a trip down the Coulonge River in August I purchased a Garmin 66i because my GPS needed to be replaced and I only wanted one device. I must say no regrets at all. Planning our trip on The Garmin Explore site was easy and having the ability to text our shuttle driver Denis was great. The weather forecasts were basic but fine and it was nice to suspend my inReach subscription for the winter.


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PostPosted: November 30th, 2020, 6:04 pm 
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The SOS device that Jonathan mentions - the ResQLink PLB - and the one that cheryl asks about - the bivy stick - are both discussed in the review on the Outdoor Gear Lab web site. Since I posted the link to the original review, it looks like they have updated it and added the BivyStick Blue (a follow-up to the BivyStick Orange) to the list of recommended devices. It shares "Editor's Choice" with the inReach Mini.

Here is the summary sheet of the second half of the review.

Image

The site has a detailed review of each device. Use the following link to access the entire article.

https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/c ... tor-beacon

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2020, 8:04 pm 
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For a number of reasons I am skeptical of any emergency communications device which requires pairing with a smartphone or tablet. These are great if you are just sending/receiving everyday messages but in a true emergency situation the potential for issues is high.

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PostPosted: November 30th, 2020, 9:00 pm 
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The Garmin mini seems to have pairing as an option, not a requirement. seems like the "i've fallen and can't get up button" can be used anytime and you can text directly from it if not quickly.

I read more today on the explorer and from what I can tell it's using old maps that you can't upgrade or change. some sites suggested a mini and a "real" gps or phone as the way to go.

My phone actually worked great for when I needed to find myself (to confirm that I really was where I thought I was using my map and compass). we only really needed to use it when lost in a bog in the dark and on the twisted creek with endless beaver dam leftovers. we thought it would never end!

The mini is in sale right now for $329 through Dec 3. I think this is what I am going to get.


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