Staying Connected Off the Grid

Got customers looking to stay in touch while they're in the backcountry? Here are a few options to recommend.

Staying Connected Off the Grid

One of the best things about hunting is getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and out into the fields and woods for some much-needed solitude. While refreshing, really getting off the grid can be a dangerous proposition.

Fortunately, satellite technology can allow hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts to get away from it all and still be able to call for help in case of an emergency in the woods, plus allow family to contact them in case of a problem back home.

One quick cautionary note: The luxury of being able to stay in touch with the outside world doesn’t come without some hidden costs, as a service agreement with a satellite provider is required for this type of communication.

That said, here are three cool products to stay connected while off the grid — all with interesting features and capabilities. All could be a good addition to your product line for hunters, backpackers, campers and others who enjoy the great outdoors.

Spot Gen3
Spot Gen3

Satellite Beacons

Satellite beacons, the most primitive of the satellite devices we’ll look at, are great for allowing hunters to get help in the case of emergency while still allowing them to be largely out of touch with the world.

The Spot Gen3 satellite GPS Messenger fills the bill quite well in that respect. For starters, to say the unit will fit in the palm of your hand is an understatement. At 3.42 inches long, 2.56 inches wide and only 1 inch thick, it’s tiny compared to most satellite gear. While that’s great, it also makes it easy to lose in a pack full of equipment, so find a specific place to store it so you don’t spend more time looking for it than you do using it.

For peace of mind to those back home, the Spot Gen3 continuously tracks users while they are out on an excursion. Tracking rates can be customized to be sent every 2.5, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes, depending on what the user prefers. A vibration sensor in the Spot Gen3 tells the unit when movement has stopped. So, when a user stops, it knows to stop sending locations until he begins moving again, which conserves batteries and helps avoid repeatedly sending the same location.

Along with tracking, the Spot Gen3 lets hunters and other users “check in” to let family and friends back home know all is well. The unit makes it simple to send a pre-programmed text message with GPS coordinates or an email with a link to Google Maps with your location to pre-selected contacts with your location. With a push of a button, a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 contacts, and your waypoint is stored in your Spot account for later reference.

The Spot runs on 4 AAA batteries and can send 1,250 check-in and custom messages on a single set of lithium batteries. With an MSRP of $149.99 (plus satellite service), the Spot Gen3 is about as budget-minded as you can get for carrying satellite peace of mind along with you.

Garmin inReach Mini
Garmin inReach Mini

Satellite Communicators

Satellite communicators are a step up from satellite beacons and offer many of the same features plus more advanced ones. Satellite communicators generally allow users to pair them with an app on their cell phone to send and receive text messages when they are in areas where they have no service. Many also offer GPS and web-linked live tracking and an SOS button in case of emergency.

The Garmin inReach Mini has all that and more — and it’s tiny, to boot. At only 3.9x2x1 inches and weighing just 4.3 ounces, it’s the smallest satellite communicator Garmin makes. The mini gives users the ability to send location to friends, and it has two-way messaging capabilities for sending and receiving SMS messages. Paired with a mobile device and the Earthmate app, the Garmin inReach Mini doubles as a quality, easy-to-use mapping GPS with a much faster interface for managing and composing messages.

For safety’s sake, Garmin has added a neat SOS messaging feature. In case of emergency, the user simply triggers an interactive SOS message to GEOS, a professional 24/7 global monitoring and response center. The trained staff there is available to respond to the user’s messages, track the device and notify emergency responders in the area. The response center even stays in touch with users and emergency responders until the situation is resolved.

Other cool features include inReach-to-inReach communication allowing users to communicate directly with others using the device via SMS, including location sharing, and the ability to request weather forecasts for current and planned destinations. It also has integration capabilities that allow it to send and receive messages via other Garmin-enabled devices.

The Mini runs off an internal, chargeable lithium ion battery that the manufacturer says will last up to 50 hours when set at its default setting of 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging. The unit carries an MSRP of $350. That’s quite a bit higher than the aforementioned Spot Gen3, but the Garmin packs many more features into its tiny case.

Iridium GO!
Iridium GO!

Satellite Hotspot

Satellite hotspots take remote communication to another level entirely. Who would have ever thought that you could crank up your laptop or tablet in the middle of the wilderness and order more hunting gear that will be waiting on the porch when you get home! No, you can’t order a pizza for delivery in the boondocks, so don’t try.

That’s right, these ultracool devices enable you to create a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere you have satellite access — like smack dab in the middle of Quetico Provincial Park, dozens of miles away from the nearest WiFi. The Iridium GO! 9560 Satellite Terminal with Wi-Fi Hotspot is a great example.

The Iridium unit isn’t as small as the other devices mentioned. But with measurements of 8x6x4 inches and weighing just 2.2 pounds, it’s still a pretty compact bundle for all of the features it offers.

Of course, the unit’s signature capability is instantly creating a Wi-Fi hotspot from anywhere satellites can be accessed, which can be used to connect within a 100-foot radius of where the GO! is located. Adventurous hunters can easily connect and operate multiple devices within that area using the Iridium GO! app, available in the iTunes Store or via Google Play.

But that’s not all this little marvel has to offer. Compatible with Apple and Android, Iridium GO! extends the use of your smartphone and other devices no matter where you are. Apps are available for you to use it and your smartphone for voice calling, SMS, email, weather monitoring and other functions.

One such app is the Iridium Mail and Web app, a free application for both Apple and Android that accelerates email messaging and web browsing, allowing users to keep in touch by posting updates to social networks, compressing and sending photos to share experience online and accessing up-to-the-minute weather forecasts.

With an MSRP of $799 plus satellite service, the Iridium GO! is certainly not a cheap option for staying connected when off the grid. But for those whose job requires them to be in communication at a backwoods hunting camp, it can certainly make that an attainable reality.


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