DeLorme inReach Satellite Communicator vs Sat phone

Submitted: Monday, May 19, 2014 at 04:37
ThreadID: 107838 Views:2188 Replies:6 FollowUps:8
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G'day all,

We recently had a good discussion on the forum regarding the need for sat phones when in remote areas.

I have just come across a DeLorme inReach Satellite Communicator, the EO shop has them.

To me it seems like what I am after, I was wondering if anyone can make comment as to there usefulness over a sat phone.

"For the Rover's life has pleasures, that the townsfolk will never know" - sort of from Banjo Paterson

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Reply By: mikehzz - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 07:24

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 07:24
It looks like a handy device. My comments would be-

You still have to subscribe to some sort of plan so not much saved there.

You have to have a bluetooth smartphone to be able to communicate via text. It's surprising how many people still have old brick phones.

Running bluetooth paired devices requires a fair bit of charging as the batteries seem to drain a lot quicker.

In an emergency, finding both devices, making sure the pairing is working and both are sufficiently charged could cause a few fumbles.

The sos button and tracking are good features not readily available on satphones.

Writing texts on smart phones or tablets is a lot easier than the old style satphone keyboard.

I think they would be well worth considering.
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Follow Up By: Ozhumvee - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 07:59

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 07:59
The ones available in Oz through Exploroz are the first version which we have.
We bought ours in the US and in conjuction with a smartphone/tablet it worked well giving us live mapping with the latest topo maps.
Here in Oz it still has all the features but we don't use the live mapping as our maps via Oziexplorer are better.
The latest versions (there are two later versions) have a screen and are standalone and are possibly cheaper (haven't checked).
But yes the device does give full text messages via the Iridium satellite system as well as live tracking to others, plus the short pre programmed messages that can be sent in an emergency plus the standard PLB features.
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Follow Up By: mikehzz - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 08:20

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 08:20
Another thought is that with a satphone, you can actually cal and speak to emergency services such as police or Flying Doctor. Can you text these services?
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Reply By: olcoolone - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 08:19

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 08:19
A InReach and satellite phone are two very different things used for different situations.

For one I am not a big fan of text or email messaging as it can be very unreliable if the person is out of range, can't check their messages or it gets lost in the world wide phone network for a few hours or days..... we have had text messages final show up anything from a few hours to many hours after it was sent...... if the person is out of credit they can't send back

The same goes for email..... to easy to get blocked by spam filters, wrong address, gets over looked, can't get to a computer or email accessible smart phone.

The other problem I have is it takes 47 text messages back and forth to say what you could in 1 minute on a satellite phone...... and being two way it's so much easier to ask questions and give answers.

For me talking over a phone is much more beneficial and if you need a PLB; buy a dedicated PLB.
AnswerID: 532736

Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 08:23

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 08:23
I think that I see one very important function that is missing. No voice communications. We need voice for emergency assistance for any medical emergencies that I could have. Especially for remote trips like on the Canning. As far as I know, for the CSR there is only medical help available at each end and at Kunawaratcjii in the midele. No other places for the RFDS to get to you. And it was for that reason that my doctor would not approve me going on that trip if we did not have phone capabilities. Hence we have a satellite phone. But please remember we don't want it nor use it for any other reason. Maybe not the normal travellers but that is how we like it.

I don't know about you lot but I would take so long to compose an sms or email that anyone bleeding near me would die from loss of blood. I also can't read the abbreviations they use. And my wife and doctor are the same, and even more so in an emergency.

Remember that anyone coming across you may not have any idea how to use it.

Hvaing said all that and leaving voice needs out of the equation, it's appears as a a quite useful little gizmo to keep in touch if that's all you want it for. As long as it's easy to use.

AnswerID: 532737

Reply By: Steve D1 - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 10:24

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 10:24
I'm wondering why, if it uses bluetooth to connect with a smart phone, and give the phone the ability to send a msg over the sat network, from anywhere, why a call can't be made from the phone, with the communicator as the "arial" link to the Sat network. Seems like an obvious feature to leave out of the operating capabilities. Obviously the Sat charges would be incurred through your mobile provider, but the cost doesn't really matter in life or death, does it!

AnswerID: 532748

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 16:46

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 16:46
With all satellite services your paying for bandwidth and time, an email or text needs very little bandwidth, time and low transmission qualities/speed compared with voice .

There is already a device for Apples iPhone called sat sleeve.

The inReach is designed as a simple inexpensive device for data only.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 22:56

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 22:56
I see Spot Messenger, Inreach and Yellowbrick as tracking devices and slightly more flexible than a PLB.

For the difference in cost, a satellite phone gives you full flexibility to talk to who you choose, be it medical help in an emergency, mechanical assistance, ordering parts if you have a breakdown, checking road conditions, booking campsites (eg Q-Parks campgrounds on the way to the Cape York), letting family know you are delayed by OK (and allowing them to contact you if there is a family emergency back home), or what ever you may use a normal phone for.

Chalk and cheese.


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Follow Up By: Member - Sanantone - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 08:23

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 08:23
I think the Inreach is a little more than just a tracking device, as it allows you to send & receive messages. I don't think SPOT offers this & I don't know about the yellowbrick system.

I see any system that is used (tracking device or sat phone) as an emergency device only, I wouldn't think it would be used to have long discussions with the kids as to why the dog got out back at home, etc. Your normal phone in a receiving area will cover those conversations.

A few have mentioned the fact that you can't have a voice to voice conversation with the Inreach system, while this is true, but what if your emergency did not allow you have a verbal conversation? e.g. Say your accident gave you a broken jaw?

With a Sat Phone, do you know exactly where you are, to direct the emergency service team?

The tracking device systems appear to have one distinct advantage over Sat Phones that I can see, you can send a SOS alert (life threatening emergencies only) to a 24/7/365 monitored office that will instantly have the coordinates of where you are & will start to alert the local response, all this without any other electronic or verbal conversation. On Inreach they will confirm message has been received.

The Inreach system also allows you to send SMS or emails (all messages have your location data attached) to others for this & general non-emergency situations, that would allow a bit more detail.

I am not saying which one is better, as I don't know & I have neither, I am researching for my big trip next year & the (good) trouble is, there are so many options to look at & review.

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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 10:08

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 10:08
Motherhen has summed up all the advantages of a verbal communication device over the alternatives well, should you happen to get a broken jaw you can alway text on the sat phone as well or pay a couple of hundred bucks extra and carry a phone and a PLB style device.

When you need assistance be it an emergency or not, it is great to have the option to get on the phone to the appropriate person / authority to seek advice or help.
The more options you give yourself, the more control you have of a better outcome
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 12:45

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 12:45
We purchased our satellite phone because of a possible medical emergency - it worked - phone not needed that year and medical emergency waited until we were home where it was easy to get medical assistance and the RFDS.

Having the phone when we had a breakdown helped us to think rather than panic, and we did not need to phone for help that time.

The following year when we had a breakdown, we used it to phone for parts, and it was needed daily for two weeks to try and find where the parts had gone, eventually getting a second consignment sent. As we were going to drive 200 kilometres (one way) to collect the consignment, we needed to know when it was there. Nothing but a satellite phone would have helped and it was cheaper than driving 400 kilometres each day.

We were on a $30 per month plan, which allowed $10 of calls; more than enough to call family at home and let them know each time we were delayed or just to let them know we were still alive and not lost.


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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 13:15

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 13:15
Tony on your question of :
'With a Sat Phone, do you know exactly where you are, to direct the emergency service team?'

I have the Inmarsat Sat phone and one of its functions is that it can text your GPS coordinates.
I dont know what navigation gear you use but a lot of the standard street navigators also have a page that displays your GPS coordinates which you could verbal the authorities with as well.

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 17:26

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 17:26
Most people who travel in areas where they need a sat phone usually knows their own location, when ever we are travelling the laptop is running and recording out location.

One other thing..... texting or emailing your location is a waste of time most of the time as the person your texting or emailing has to know what to do with it and then in most cases texting and email is not available....... telling someone your co-ords in most cases is more beneficial.

Plus as I said above you have to make sure they got it.... and how long will they take to receive it after you have sent it....... bit like sending a letter in the post asking for help.

Voice is voice and you know straight away if it's working and they are responding.

The wait for action or a response can some times be worse and more painful then the event your phoning about.

BTW I hate text messages......
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Reply By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 14:11

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 14:11
Hullo Tony

Any device that needs a satellite connection may not be reliable in steep sided valleys, gorges, etc, where there is no direct line of sight between the phone and the satellite.

On a recent trip in the Vic High Country, there were quite a few times when people with sat phones either had to wait until they were out of the valley (as part of the trip) or drive to a high place in order to make an important call before returning to camp. Others on this site, such as Robin Miller, have reported the same thing. [This is one of the reasons I have an HF radio as well as a sat phone.]

BTW, if I am out by myself, or if we are out in remote country, I also use a SPOT to send an "all's well" message at the end of the day when I have set up camp - this includes the coordinates and comes up on my daughter's smartphone on a map marking the location.

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