Newbie Advice - Spot/Sat Phone/HF

Submitted: Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 20:43
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We are in the planning stages of our big trip around oz, yay! And I'm currently looking into communication options.

We'll be travelling with young children so my main concern is to be able to contact RFDS, for emergencies, etc. I'm not fussed about being able to make 'phone calls' (happy to be away from the phone actuallly!) and with small children, I doubt we'll be doing much hiking away from the vehicle so I was leaning more towards the HF, I like the idea of being able to contact whoever is around, hearing the reports, etc.

However, I've also read about these SPOT things and it seems wise to be able to let people know our exact location. Would these two things be doubling up? If we only had a HF, how would they know where to find us in an emergency? (We would be looking at a 2nd hand HF, not a new one with gps).

My understanding of these things is limited to what I've been able to find on this site and googling. I'd love some advice from those with experience in these things, and recommendations on what you would suggest.

Many thanks in advance
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Reply By: blue one - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 21:39

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 21:39
The first thing you need to know is where you are. A simple GPS that can give co-ordinates would suffice, or map reading / knowledge is a must.

I agree with your opinion of HF sets and I would recommend a 2nd hand Codan 9323 & 9350 antenna. Make sure the antenna is a D series or later.

The spot thing will only tell people where you are not that you need help.

So to cut a long story short, I have travelled around Aus with my lovely wife in very remote areas using a HF radio.

As a back up I also have a PLB which is a last resort.

To date after many years out back neither has had to be fired in anger.

It is nice to chat to others on the HF and VKS737 is a great reference, when on the road & you don't have access to the internet then VKS 737 can fill you in on road and weather conditions..

I would recommend that you have a telephone connect on the HF so you can phone ahead to reserve that room in the pub you have always wanted to stay in especially after 7 days in the wet. This is from personal experience as I don't
care,though the Missus needs a break at times like this.


AnswerID: 426549

Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:23

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:23
SPOT is a very capable device that can in fact tell people more than simply where you are. I've elaborated further down.....

Cheers, The Landy
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Follow Up By: blue one - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 17:39

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 17:39
Seems expensive to maintain $430. I will stick with a proven HF & PLB when I go remote.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 17:51

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 17:51
Mis-type $30 for the tracking function.........

Cheers, The Landy
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Reply By: SUPA105 - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 21:39

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 21:39

I have all 3, very happy with SPOT and its capabilities....the OK feature is a great function, we have ours set to advise up to 5 SMS family contact 5 family email address of our status as required, the email is great for family/friend's as they receive a Google maps link of your activation location and you have the "911" and SOS functions. The Satellite has all the obvious phone advantages, providing you also have access to the emergency phone numbers for the area you are travelling. The HF is a favourite toy of mine and always will be however I offer this......HF can be a complicated devise to use in an emergency if you only "practice" with the set take into account that you the user of the HF who has spent all those hours practising how to use the HF is not the person in a position to may an call for assistance ???? You may be the person in need......So based on this quiet possible scenario......Go get a Sat phone.....if you can use a mobile you can use a Sat phone with 30 seconds instruction......p.s get a SPOT $ 250 + $ 99 per year.......and a basic UHF CB setup.


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Follow Up By: Fiona & Paul - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 11:12

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 11:12
I was looking at Spot myself but your reference to 911 posed a couple of questions.

What does the 911 function do?

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Follow Up By: Ayita5 - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 13:39

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 13:39
Hi Paul,

From what I can gather, the 911 (or SOS) function alerts the AMSA of your gps location and sends help. However, the downfall of this seems to me to be that they don't know exactly what your emergency is. Someone will come, but who, and how long will they take? Probably perfect for finding yourself lost and stranded, but not so great if you need medical attention asap.

I don't have one though, this is just from my research, so would love to hear more info from Chris about this also.

Sounds like a great little device for letting family/friends know that you've arrived at your destination ok though.

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Follow Up By: Craig@Pivotel - Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 at 16:39

Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 at 16:39
When the 911 (SPOT 1) or SOS (SPOT 2) button is activated, your co-ordinates are sent as an emergency request to GEOS who immediately send emergency services to your location.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 21:42

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 21:42
Hi Skye

We chose Satellite phone (reasons in thread a few posts below this). Spot would to me be a better choice than an EPIRB as it is slightly more versatile, but fees do apply, and it doesn't enable direct conversations. If someone in your family has a critical medical emergency, you can only send out a help message (like an EPIRB) whereas with a sat phone, you could talk to the RFDS doctor as to what to do until they get to you - which would be quicker with a direct call, than a generic help message.


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Reply By: Joe Grace Doomadgee - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:15

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:15
hi guys, we work and live remote and have done so for 9 years now, have 3 kids, 3,7,9 yrs....... From Pilbara to Kimberlys, Arnhem land to Nyirripi up the Tanimi and now in NWQ.....
Have worked with and used all types, 4 years with HF/phone connected, on a shire council 275,000 sqklms so had to use it a lot for remote road crew operations, have had an EPIRB for the last 5 years and still carry it every ware...
In short to fully cover yourself get the best sat phone you can afford, get an EPIRB and always take your gps, and also helps to fit a UHF for beneral chit chat...
If you hit a decent roo and take out the antennea you are stuffed with a HF, if you roll it you will wipe out the antennea, if your car gets washed away at a crossing, and it happens, there goes your HF, you will get out but what can you do then...
We have the latest Iridium phone and are on a plan with TR Telecom, you can switch it of when not travelling and simply re-connect when going away again, if that suits you, or some Telstra sim cards will slot into it and it will use your existing account at the sat rates (expensive) but only need one sim to swap with 2 phones then....
We never make calls with it and never have had someone ring us, have made test calls and hope never to have to use it but with little kids when we do need it it will be worth a billion dollars if it can save a life...
Cheers Joe
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Follow Up By: Joe Grace Doomadgee - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:28

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:28
I also note your comment about wanting to be able to contact the RFDS, they are as they are named and that is the "Flying Docter" ........
If you for instance have an accident on the Tanimi you would contact the police or simply "000" as they (RFDS) have a plane and cant simply fly out to you anyware and the planes these days are limited on what strips they can land on.....
The ambulance comes out to you and the police and they take you to the nearest nursing post, they then treat you and assess your condition and if needed will call the RFDS and transport you to the nearest strip that it can land on and they are really simply a flying ambulance that can take you to the best care that is required and speaking from experiance they will only fly you out at the very last resort as it is a very expensive and LIMITED service.............

In short if travelling plan every trip and spend a few hours getting the phone numbers of the local police stations from the beginning to the end of the trip, they will be the ones that you will get put through to in the end anyway...
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 09:49

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 09:49
Joe Grace Doomadgee, yes but not exactly right.

The RFDS is a lot more then an air ambulance..... suggest you visit one of their bases and sit down an watch one of their movies.

Your thinking if some one in need of transport to a hospital, but what about is someone is sick and feeling off colour or you come across a accident and have to administer first aid to someone who has head or neck injuries or help is 6 hours away.

The RFDS is not just an air ambulance, They also offer advice via there duty doctors over the telephone or HF radio.

It's reassuring to know you can speak to someone with qualifications quickly if need be.

And I think you would be surprised to know how many air strips are around.
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Follow Up By: Joe Grace Doomadgee - Monday, Aug 09, 2010 at 13:58

Monday, Aug 09, 2010 at 13:58
Thats fair enough but i dont have to go to one of the "bases" to see how they work as i see it and have seen it first hand from living out in the bush where the RFDS go to, if have assisted loading people on to the planes, i have opened and closed the strips due to rain, i have maintained and slashed the strips, have driven up and down for "test" runs to see if the strip will handle the weight before we can ok the plane to land, i do know how many airstrips are around and what strips they can use as they are only allowed to land on a certain grade of strip, the planes are worth MILLIONS and they are restricted where they can go ......... i suppose you get my drift now ???
Yes i do agree they have all of those services and more and offer a fantastic service but if you are at the other end of the stick and know there limitations then the way i explained it is in reality how it ends up, yes they certainally will assist via phone or radio but as i said it is best for you to contact the local police as they then can direct you in what direction to take, you also dont know, they may well be heading out your way and can bring out some medicne if required ......... the nurses out in these places that you will talk to are very well qualifyed and again if you need someting simple they will be willing to see you ....
I by the way i support the RFDS big time, looking at installing 70,000L of fuel here for them to be able to re-fuel to be able to extend there range and services ........ yep i do understand them and what they do .... Cheers Joe
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:40

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:40
Often the issue of a vehicle roll-over, or the like, is put forward as a reason not to have a HF Radio. And they are valid concerns, but you must ask yourself, how great is that risk, and is it worth discounting the substantial benefits that a HF Radio offers because of that risk alone? I mean, if the risk of a rollover was that great then we would all be scrambling to put roll-cages in our vehicles.

And I am not intending to trivialise your point, but simply point out that it needs to be viewed in some sort of context, bearing in mind that the driver of a vehicle has some control over having a vehicle roll-over (drive to the conditions) or wash away at a crossing (cross only if it is safe to do so), and yes, I acknowledge that accidents can and do happen......

HF Radio is more than an emergency contact device, but is too frequently viewed as that alone....

Codan actually have a self-tune antenna now that would most likely survive a roll-over because of its profile and mounting options.

On EPIRBS and GPS; a spot offers both in one unit thus reducing the requirement to carry two items.

But let me say, if you can afford it ideally you would have a HF, Sat-phone, and SPOT. They all have different capabilities.

Cheers, The Landy
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Reply By: Allan B, Sunshine Coast, - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:25

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:25
Hi Skye,

We have both HF and a Satphone.

Started with the HF ($1800 secondhand) and it has been interesting but never needed for assistance. The technology is somewhat ancient, same as the shortwave that I listened to the foreign stations and static 60 years ago. VKS737 can be useful with assistance for spares etc. but does require some skills for an emergency as Chris has said above.

Added the satphone more recently ($850 secondhand) and again has not been used for assistance but has been useful for social reasons several times. It is the latest technology but needs Telstra's Iridium network for reliability. Has the advantage of being as easy to use as any other telephone so simple in an emergency. I understand that RFDS are using satphones for regular communication but still maintaing HF radio. It has the advantage of easy communication to receive medical advice in an emergency. Just bear in mind that calls are about $4 per minute so it is not for long social chats. Lists of emergency numbers and outback services are readily available.

A PLB (Personal Location Beacon, similar to an EPIRB) can be considered the ultimate rescue device as it brings the cavalry when activated, but bear in mind that it can take some time before they actually get to you and even then it may be just the local police when you really needed an ambulance and paramedic.

For ultimate rescue or recovery you also need to be able to determine your location co-ordinates with either a GPS map navigator, PLB or SPOT device or other GPS navigation device that displays co-ordinates.

To sum up, my initial action in a real emergency will be 112 on the satphone. If I am simply bogged or broken down it will be VKS737 on HF radio.

Glad you did not ask about UHF. I think it a waste of time for anything other than talking to travelling companions!


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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:58

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:58
Hi Allan

For Skye's benefit, I beg to differ, and in particular find UHF essential on those narrow roads, where you have to announce approaches to bridges and crests. Likewise when on single lane bitumen roads frequented by road trains. Both parties need to know. It is also a great advantage in being forewarned of hazards ahead.



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Follow Up By: Allan B, Sunshine Coast, - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 23:15

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 23:15
Hi Motherhen, I knew it..... I just knew it that you would chime-in when I wrote that line.

How on earth can you really believe that UHF is "essential on approaches to bridges and crests"? With a bit of luck the other vehicle may just also have a UHF and with a bit more luck may even be listening on your broadcast channel, and with even more luck may even pay you some heed. You have better chance of winning the lottery. However, rest comfortably in your faith. LOL

"Red desert dreaming"? Yep.


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Follow Up By: Joe Grace Doomadgee - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 23:16

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 23:16
Hey mom hen, i will back you on the UHF, we have a lot of road trains carting cattle and gravel up and down the savannah way at the moment and crossing the "Gregory" section, they ALWAYS announce on the UHF that they are coming up to the crossings and narrow bits and say its name, very very handy to know as these sections are tight and with 3 trailers you simply dont fit on, or even off the road with them........
A UHF is a must, even just to listen to..............
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Follow Up By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 03:40

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 03:40
I'm with Motherhen here on this one, we often use our UHF for comms between us and trucks, also any overwidth vehicles on the road. Very handy piece of equipment out on the highways and byways we've found.
BTW we also have a sat phone for those any emergency.



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Follow Up By: Rockape - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 08:58

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 08:58
don't want to be seen as ganging up on you and I am not, I just have a different opinion than yours regarding uhf.

I also use uhf constantly and I will explain why.

1. I can tell the other/others what my intensions are so we all know what is going to happen. Example! is keep her coming and up on the black top big fella, I will get out of your way. Wide loads, I know exactly how wide they are and if the escort would like me to pull over before a narrow section of road or a bridge. Recently had two things happen and was able to help out. Both involved vans with no uhf radios, one hadn't locked the front of his poptop down and the other had his door open, both alerts came from trucks and I was able to round them up and stop the vans being damaged. Accident info is transmitted so you can divert away or offer assistance. You can warn of cattle, push-bikes and people on the road, you maybe surprised that people wander along roads in the middle of nowhere at night in dark clothing.

2. Roadtrains will call the narrow sections on a road, you may say how the hell do I know where X creek or X jumpup is on the road or track, you know they are close by their signal strength and can have time to pull over. Again this happened on my last trip on a logging track, I called a float that I knew was somewhere on the track, he informed me he had broken down and I was able to assist. If I had struck him on many of the sections I would have had to back up as much as 3 K's on a very slippery surface.

3. Repeaters are scattered everywhere throughout Australia.

I am just saying they are very useful and not the be all and end all.

Have a good one

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 09:57

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 09:57
I with you guys on the benefits of UHF, our HF radio is always on when traveling and we might use it for half an hour a week, our Satellite phone is used for about an hour a week (speaking to people who work for us) but the UHF gets used the most for listening to other people or talking.

When doing the Simpson a UHF can be the difference to a safe dune crossing or a head on accident.
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Follow Up By: Cruiser 2091 - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 10:10

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 10:10
I had a bad experience with UHF.

I was towing a van and came up behind a truck. I was waiting for a chance to overtake and had to pull out a bit to get a clear view of the road ahead.

I thought I would let the trucky know on the UHF that I was happy to sit behind until it was safe to pass but if he could advise me when it was clear so I didn't need to keep pulling out.

Anyway a voice replied saying " you can pass now it's all clear" luckilly I just moved out just a little to see for myself because had I went out any further I would have had a head on with a semi.

Who's voice it was that said all clear I don't know but it proves to me not to trust UHF.
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Follow Up By: Andrew & Jen - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 13:06

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 13:06
Cruiser 2091
In marine ops, they have what are called "radar assisted collisions" - that is, you are talking on VHF with another ship to agree about what avoiding action one of you is going to take and you (both) ASSUME it is the one you are looking at on your radar (or have visual) - but it is NOT!
The same applies using UHF in your vehicle - you may care to identify yourself and ask the other vehicle also, or confirm by asking what feature they have just passed - bridge or whatever.
Personally, I NEVER rely only on the other driver's say so - it is but one piece of information.
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:20

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:20
Allan B, you live on the Sunshine Coast but we West Aussies seem to be more familiar with your outback QLD radio procedures than you are.

If you drive from the Undarra Lava Tubes via Georgetown, Croydon to Normanton, as you approach every bridge over a creek there will be a sign with the name of the creek, and the advice: "Broadcast Now".

You announce your vehicle size and the name of the creek and the direction in which you are travelling..... on your UHF.

My call was: "Landcruiser and caravan, 15 metres, approaching Whatitsname Creek westbound" All the road trains were doing it too.

QLD authorities even publish a small leaflet with this advice. A lot of these bridges are single lane with a Give Way sign on one side.

Oh, by the way, condescending, sarcastic comments don't pass for wit.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:46

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:46
I have a UHF and will use it as appropriate. But my main concern about it being used for traffic advisories (and I’m not suggesting it shouldn’t be!) is that we run the risk of being conditioned to an expectation that on outback roads we will always receive this traffic advisory. No advisory – no threat!

Problem is that it is not mandatory to carry a UHF radio, or to announce your intentions, so the only thing I will ever trust (with my life!) is what I see out the windscreen!

All food for thought, The Landy
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Reply By: Ayita5 - Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:57

Saturday, Aug 07, 2010 at 22:57
Thanks so much everyone for your invaluable opinions. Seems there's still benefits to be had from all three devices (if money was no object I'd just get them all and be done with it!). :)

You've given me a bit more to think about anyway. Seems like in a medical emergency I'd probably be glad of the sat phone, but the hf would be handy for day to day info, spare parts, etc. I see the point about the hf being gone in the case of an accident, etc...hadn't really thought of that.

And the SPOT just seems like a handy (but not entirely essential) thing to have!


Thanks again, will keep on thinking with this new info. :)
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Reply By: On Patrol & TONI - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 16:02

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 16:02
Footlose comments on HF

This is a post made some time ago by a former member that has sadly departed this mortal coil, but his words of wisdom remain thank goodness.
HF for me thanks to Footlose.

Cheers Colin.
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Follow Up By: Allan B, Sunshine Coast, - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 17:34

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 17:34
Colin, the original enquiry here from Skye was asking about "Spot/Sat Phone/HF".

Footloose's posting was made over 2 years ago and he was discussing ham radio,CB and HF. He did not touch on satphone and I don't think SPOT was even available then. So I don't think Footloose's post has any bearing on this subject.


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Follow Up By: On Patrol & TONI - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 18:46

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 18:46
When you read the post by Footy you will see that he highlights what one CAN do with HF and if Skye read it in the context it was posted then some good info on HF can be had from the post.

Let the person asking the the question be the judge on its bearing.
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Follow Up By: Ayita5 - Monday, Aug 09, 2010 at 08:52

Monday, Aug 09, 2010 at 08:52
Thank you for taking the time to post the link Colin. Every bit of information helps.

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Reply By: Pete65 - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 20:37

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 20:37
Excuse my ignorance, but what is the Best UHF channel to be on, for listening and contacting road trains, etc, we are planing a trip from Brisbane to Kilcowera Station on the School September Holidays
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Follow Up By: Andrew & Jen - Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 22:23

Sunday, Aug 08, 2010 at 22:23
Generally 40 on the open road
But sometimes in specific areas, for example forests with logging operations, there may well be (crude) signs on the side of the road advising some other channel
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Reply By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 14:43

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 14:43
Im a bit late on this having been away but we had both an HF and a Satfone on our 13 month trip.

We never had any occasion to use either.
I logged on in Alice on the HF just to see if I was using it right.
Sold it in WA to a guy going outback.

Used the Satfone once when we were late one day on the Nullabor.

If you are sticking to marked roads there are few places you will be lonely if folowing the traditional times and directions of travel.

Sometimes its not if, its how many people you see in a day.

As said its easy to damage an aerial so I would go for a satfone as we did for $950 off Ebay and we use our Telstra sim in it.

Call costs were $3.77 a minute both IN AND OUT
A GPS so you can give your location would be a necessity if offroad.

As far as a UHF is concerned it should be mandatory
Lots of wide loads in the west and nothing like knowing about them before you see them.
Can be too late to pull off when you come upon them suddenly.

Also talk to the trucks and let them know what you are doing and NEVER SLOW DOWN in FRONT OF ONE when hes passing you.

Wait till he gets the whole rig on the other side of the road and then back off a bit.

Those who say they are useless have their head in the sand.

We found they were an essential part of the rig and used on channel 40 everywhere except the Pacific Highway which is 29 it helped us immensly to keep on the right side of the truckies.

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Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:27

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:27
We use a HF and find it very satisfactory for all our requirements. We can use it as a phone, send SMS, email, GPS position reporting, and listen to the Radio for news broadcasts and weather reports.

In terms of SPOT, we are recent converts, and they can be configured to tell people you need help.

There are four modes under which you can alert others, the first three require that you pre-populate the message on the SPOT website and it will be sent as an SMS and email that you have previously nominated as contacts, the last is for an emergency.

To summarise the four modes;

1/ I’m ok button. I have this programmed to say ‘arrived at today’s destination – all okay’.

2/ Custom button. You can put any message you like in here.

3/ Need assistance. I have a message that says ‘ I’m okay, but need assistance at current location’.

The first three will send an SMS and/or email to your nominated contacts.

4/ S.O.S. – it is as it implies – need urgent help at current location. Once activated the SPOT tracking people will make appropriate contact with both the authorities within your area, and your emergency contacts.

Another benefit of SPOT is that you can pay around 430 per annum to have live time tracking (have a look at EO Tracking for further information).

For the cost of a unit I think the SPOT tracking device is an invaluable tool for remote area travel. And whilst I do not suggest they will replace a PLB, SPOT has functionality that is not offered in a PLB. You cannot convey the level of ‘emergency’ when activating a PLB.

Good luck with your choice.....

Cheers, The Landy
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 17:52

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 17:52
..........tracking function is $30 pa (not 430)

Cheers, The Landy
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Follow Up By: Ayita5 - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 18:02

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 18:02
Thank goodness for that!

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Reply By: ExplorOz - David & Michelle - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:53

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:53
Hi Skye,
I've actually just written a new article regarding "Staying in touch when travelling" and whilst it does not include Sat Phone and HF (as this is covered in another article, namely "Outback Communications" and we have dedicated articles to each device separately) the new one gives a bit more info about options for keeping intouch with family/friends and although this isn't what you're asking specifically, it does include info on Spot that will clarify some of the bits of misinformation stated here about the Spot.

Just a personal comment - as you currently do not own any of the high value investment items (HF or Satphone) you are in a good position to see the Spot as an ideal solution to your emergency and contact needs - when you compare the functions and cost you'll see it represents good value for money.

David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Follow Up By: ExplorOz - David & Michelle - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:54

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 15:54
Article - Staying in touch when travelling
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Reply By: Ayita5 - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 16:58

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 16:58
Thank you again, to everyone who has contributed their information, opinions, articles, etc. I'm thrilled I found this website - so helpful to be able to speak to those who have been there, done that.

My thinking at present, taking all into account, is this;

I believe I'd feel safest - medical emergency-wise - with a sat phone, so that will be a must. (Apparently Telstra do them on a 24 month contract where you can pay off the phone over the contract, like a normal mobile?? That would certainly help the budget).

SPOT and UHF - both seem like very handy things to have in their own right, and as they're both fairly small outlays I reckon we'd just get them both and be done with it. I understand the use of UHF on a day to day basis would be helpful (though not to rely on it alone, of course, and to remember common sense) and I like the messaging capabilities of SPOT, as well as being able to use it for EOTrackme and a GPS. I don't think I'd feel comfortable it being the only 'sos' device, but with a sat phone as the main one, the sos function of the spot could just be a backup. It's other features make it worthwhile.

HF - Would love to have it, love the features, etc, but it is rather a large investment! (Especially if I want the above three items too, lol). I think I'll have to put the HF on the wishlist and get there eventually.

We have bought an old, empty shell of a caravan, 17ft, and are doing it up from scratch. Super fun but it means that the more we spend on "accessories", the less money we have for the kitchen sink. :)

Big thank yous to all - hope to see some of you on the road someday!

AnswerID: 426962

Follow Up By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 20:01

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 20:01
I wouldnt go near Telstra for Info on a Satfone. Take the advice you have been given here Its more informative and does work.
EG A TELSTRA sim card on a plan with international roaming enabled DOES WORK.

Telstra will tell you it doesnt.

If it doesnt why is my satfone in the middle of the Simpson at present with a friend who has called his wife for the last 6 nights. It only has his sim card from his mobile phone in it.

You can buy a s/hand one much cheaper than Telstra will sell you one for and probably get your money back when you finish with it.

Why pay $30 or more a month for something you may never use.

Thats why I sold my HF. Never used it in anger so as we were staying on normal roads figured it was a waste so sold it and never missed it.
If you are doing up an old van it seems you may not be going bush so you will hardly be out of range of help for lengthly periods.
In the season its how many people you pass not how few, even in remote parts of the country.

FollowupID: 697559

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 00:10

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 00:10
Hi Skye

While a built into vehicle UHF with external antenna is best, even a hand held will be of benefit and can be a cheap option. In flat terrain, you can have reception for a few kilometres with a small hand held.

Regarding the satellite phone used with SIM card - many people are using this to activate their sat phone when needed, but you are paying the 'divert' on incoming as well as outgoing calls. The catch is that international roaming must be activated, and that is not possible with a pre-paid mobile. We pay $30 per month for the sat phone, and you would probably be paying near that for a mobile phone monthly access. It depends if you already have your mobile on a plan.

With UHF and satellite phone (both used for very different reasons) we felt no need for further communication methods such as SPOT, EPIRB or HF radio.

We have a Next G modem for internet use when in Next G reception areas, which was used for regular contact with family members as well as banking and bill paying, mail (we receive no postal mail when travelling), and researching further travels.

I hope your restoration project goes well and that you are soon enjoying it out on the road.


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Follow Up By: Ayita5 - Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 17:26

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 17:26
Hi guys,

I'm a little confused about the sat phone info. (I don't know anything about them to start with so I'm just going on what I've been told here).

So, it's not necessary to have a sat phone on a specific 'sat phone' plan, but you can just have a satellite phone handset sitting around, if you need to use it you just whack in the SIM from your mobile (that you have enabled int. roaming on) and then it works wherever you are in Australia? The catch being that with roaming enabled you pay more for calls, in and out - even when that sim is in your normal mobile phone?

Sorry if that's a stupid question, just wanted to clarify if my understanding is correct.

The other option being getting a sat phone on a specific sat phone plan, in which case it is a completely separate thing to my normal mobile, but I could get this plan for around $30 a month? (And the sat phone has it's own SIM I imagine)

For the record, I have a 3G mobile plan with Telstra now, currently on a $99 cap (as I use it for all my calls, don't use home phone). If you don't mind me asking, Motherhen, how much do you pay for your 3G modem and how much do you get for that?

Thank you! :)
FollowupID: 697638

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 17:58

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 17:58
Hi Skye

As you already have a mobile on a plan, you could use the transferring the SIM trick. If you do a search here you will find reports from those who have done this successfully, and which sat phones need to be used. Some have purchased a sat phone from eBay to do this. We chose to get a sat phone a couple of years ago, and paid full price $2,000. We are now free to go to another provider; still through the same Telstra Iridium satellite network, which enables us to cancel when we are not travelling. Even though we were doing some travelling in remote areas, we did not meet the criteria for a government subsidy.

Our modem is actually our daughter's and she pays for the scheme. There are now a number of options such as the Gateway. I like the little USB modem as it requires no additional power source.BigPond Wireless

It is Next G Broadband wireless internet, not 3G. She also needed to purchase an antenna which we put up on the caravan roof to improve chances of reception. Next G coverage is in most major towns and up to 20 kms or so around depending on terrain.

These maps show the coverage for Next G and 3G. The rest of the country in yellow is sat phone only.Telstra Coverage Maps


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Follow Up By: Ayita5 - Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 18:06

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 18:06
ah, yes. Next G, not 3g, that's what I meant, thank you :) My mobile is next g. Thanks for the extra info, i will do a search on that.

FollowupID: 697644

Follow Up By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 19:52

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 19:52
What some probably dont know is that at the moment you can get a CASUAL PLAN from Telstra for $10 a month over a 12 month contract.
I use this in a burglar alarm in my van as its about 300m from my house and out of sight.
I have a motion detector in it and if it activates it rings my mobile using the GSM network.
The sim card can be used in a Satfone if I wanted to.

Next G multiband phones will revert to GSM if thats the only available.

As far as modems are concerned I had a ZTE Telstra blue USB modem and it was next to useless away from main cities.
The new ones may be better but a better option was a Maxon BP3 old home modem which cost $85 on Ebay and worked anywhere there was a smidgin of reception.
It sat on the wheel arch IN the van and performed wonderfully.
It was so good our friends for whom we are house sitting took it on their trip around the block.

I would in future buy a prepaid data card and top it up as necessary.

One hint if you do, you can pay say $50 the first month and if you dont use all of it top it up BEFORE the 30 days expire and it carries over so you may only need $10 the next month. If you leave it past the 30 days you lose whats left.
Worth keeping up with whats what at times.

FollowupID: 697661

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 20:19

Thursday, Aug 12, 2010 at 20:19
Hi Graham

I bit like my pre paid GSM phone. Every time i went to use it when on the trip last year, credit had expired, so I'd put the minimum of $20 onto it by credit card so i could make a call at less than $2 and next time it was gone again. Happened at least twice. Most of the time we weren't in GSM reception areas, and i preferred to use instant messaging and email on the computer to communicate. When i got home I changed to a 'offer' where i put $60 on to it to get 12 months, but had to put the minimum of $20 as i couldn't change offers with no credit on the phone! So total of $80 which runs out early next year. One bonus was that i thought i couldn't use it in Bali without international roaming (i tried last time) and planned to leave it in the car at the airport, however i chucked it in my bag and then found it worked in Bali - 65 c for SMS messaging.

Thanks for the tip re the $10 plan. I thought $30 was the cheapest you could get now; unless you stayed on the one from when they were $20 per month.

The wireless internet went down from $89.95 to $39.95 per month - but only after a long an difficult process as it was for new contracts. I was alerted to this by members of the caravaners forum.


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Reply By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 19:27

Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010 at 19:27
Skye, just to throw another option into the ring.

If you wanted something purely and simply to let out an emergency distress signal, consider a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

They are only for life and death situations but if someone is dazed, disabled by the accident, or simply doesn't understand how to use more complex devices then it's simply a flick of a switch.

Mrs Bush and I carry a UHF CB, a satphone (I use my Next G SIM) and a PLB (with GPS function).

Don't forget that with a UHF CB, it offers much more than just vehicle to vehicle comms. Get a handheld as well and you can guide your other half while he positions the van etc. We take ours into shopping centres, Bunnings etc and, if we want to look at different things we can call each other when we've finished and make our way back to the checkout. I've sat in the vehicle while parked with the van and Mrs Bush has taken a handheld into the shops; handy if you want to add something to the shopping list.

I'm glad I ain't too scared to be lazy
- Augustus McCrae (Lonesome Dove)

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