Let us start by saying that we do not endorse any one of these particular products over the other. They all have distinct advantages and disadvantages over each other. That said, we do endorse purchasing a satellite communications device of some sort for your outdoor adventures. The price of these units has become very affordable, and they can make or break a rescue call. That means they can be a critical life-saving tool for you or your family.
If you are interested in buying one, we suggest heading down to your local outdoor gear shop and talking with a sales associate about the pros and cons of each unit, as well as the costs. If you are in Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op is an excellent starting point for researching and purchasing a satellite communications/safety device.
The three units we have had experience with, are the Delorme InReach, the Spot, and the ResQLink.
The Delorme InReach units are an excellent option for those who like to hike where there is no cell coverage (Check out their product info here). They have a slew of both emergency and non-emergency features. Using their web platform, you can track your trip and allow family and friends to monitor it. You can also send text messages via satellite, which can come in handy on longer trips where check-ins are a good idea. Ultimately, when something goes wrong, you can hit SOS and SAR will be dispatched.
A key advantage to these units is that you have the option of two-way communications. This means, if you are able, you can update SAR on your condition, the terrain, etc. You can also set pre-written messages for different types of situations and emergencies. The disadvantage of these units are that they require a subscription plan (although relatively affordable), and batteries can be an issue.
North Shore Rescue currently utilizes the Delorme InReach for our members safety. That said, we do not particularly endorse the Delorme units over any others. What is best for you, will depend on your particular use and budget.
Unlike the other devices, the ResQLink does not allow for two-way communications. It is a dedicated device of last resort. When everything else has failed, and you need rescue, this device will alert SAR crews to your emergency and we will respond.
This device was purchased and used by three hikers who became stranded on the Fools Gold Trail above Pitt Lake. NSR was activated and responded with our locating unit. After some aerial searching, the three subjects were located in tall trees where they were trapped by a confluence of overflowing creeks.
This call was in inhospitable terrain where cell contact was out of the question. In fact, even a satellite phone may not have worked in the tight valley. These subjects were exhausted and stranded. This device, along with having flares, likely saved their lives.
- Internal battery that is good for service life of unit – no dead batteries or changing batteries
- Small and light weight
- No service charges
- Very Reliable
- No two-way communications
- Activation means an emergency – SAR is coming expecting the worst
Similar to the Delorme, the Spot line of products has been on the market for a fairly long-time. The Spot Gen3 units, allow for live tracking, messaging and provides for SOS functions in an emergency.
The Spot Gen3 has a relatively low purchase cost, but also requires a subscription plan. Again, these subscription plans are relatively affordable considering that these devices are here to save your life. Legitimately, what is the cost of your life? The answer is that these devices are a bargain.
That said, these devices take AAA batteries and are subject to the shortcoming of potentially running out of battery power (however, unlikely that is).
What is right for you, will depend on your activity and your budget. We strongly advocate purchasing one of these devices if you are an outdoor enthusiast or if a family member of yours is one. Even if your idea of a backcountry hike is doing the Grouse Grind, if you plan on going backpacking as one off adventure, it is worth considering renting one of these devices for the trip. These devices absolutely do save lives.
That said, none of these devices replace the need for preparation, carrying the 10 essentials, and telling someone responsible where you are going, and when to expect you back. The basics are the best way to stay safe, and stay alive.