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Thread: Satellite Phone

  1. #1
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    Satellite Phone

    Does anyone carry a Sat Phone for emergency purposes? If so, which model and plan. Seems they are getting cheap enough to justify the expense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    Does anyone carry a Sat Phone for emergency purposes? If so, which model and plan. Seems they are getting cheap enough to justify the expense.
    I recently (about a year ago) bought a PLB for this purpose.

    A few things to think about,

    SPOT and InReach use the Iridium Satellite network, this is primarily for things like sat-phones. If you are using it for emergency purposes, it requires a 3rd party to contact the regional Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).

    If you want to be able to send messages, you definitely want the SPOT or InReach, but in addition to the issue of the 3rd party involvement with S&R, they put out a lot less watts than an 406mhz PLB. The SPOT is 0.4 watts, the InReach is 1.4 watts. The SPOT doesn't work quite as well at some of the higher latitudes, although most seen to use it around here ok (in AK).

    If you just want to have one for emergency purposes, I'd recommend a 406mhz PLB, they usually also transmit on 121.5 and the 406mhz blasts 5 watts to a NOAA satellite, your signal is registered with NOAA and your unit will transmit your GPS location, directly to the RCC, making S&R mainly just "R". These are small enough that they are about the size of a multi-tool. I bought one for around $300 and there was $50 rebate at the time, so it ended up being $250. These do not require any plan/subscription and I've seen them in action quite a few times up here in Alaska. There is a way to check that it is operational and NOAA will send you an email that lets you know. These are also largely international. Again, has taken the "S" out of S&R every time I've seen it in use.

    Again, if you want to be able to send texts, do things like tracking, the other systems are definitely what you want, but if you only want it for emergencies, where you think you need to get someone or yourself out of danger and there is no way to do that without help, the 406 is my recommendation.

    I also use actual Iridium Sat-phones at work. The ones we have work, but they are a bit finicky, hopefully newer versions work a bit better. As I work for the Gov, we don't get the best equipment though and ours are many years old, our PLBs are about 3x bigger than the personal one I bought, for the same performance, just due to being older.

    I bought it after this ride when I realized there was really nothing and nobody for miles

    Satellite Phone-01e364eb5e289034ae0c22bd230c62c1d8e597fca4.jpg

    Satellite Phone-01d3bdfbff9e8a9721a6929cb27c9baef2a3e38f72.jpg
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    I frequently use an Iridium phone at work. Not sure how much it costs, but it works pretty well just about everywhere. I think we have an unlimited plan, but it gets used pretty frequently.

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    One thing that bothered me about the PLBs Is that you're hauling around a GPS, but that GPS won't tell you where you are, You can only use it to tell rescuers where you are. Also no help in more minor emergencies (e.g. I'm OK, my bike isn't).
    The inReach can do a lot more.
    Text messaging from anywhere in the world.
    Mapping GPS.
    Tracking.
    We spend quite a bit of time out of cell coverage and this also helps family, etc. reach us in an emergency.

    Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by andytiedye View Post
    One thing that bothered me about the PLBs Is that you're hauling around a GPS, but that GPS won't tell you where you are, You can only use it to tell rescuers where you are. Also no help in more minor emergencies (e.g. I'm OK, my bike isn't).
    The inReach can do a lot more.
    Text messaging from anywhere in the world.
    Mapping GPS.
    Tracking.
    We spend quite a bit of time out of cell coverage and this also helps family, etc. reach us in an emergency.

    Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk
    Well, you can always look at the gps on your phone to see where you are at. It also depends on what you consider an emergency and to what extent you are ok with self-rescue. If I can get out under my own power and I donít need a helicopter, even if it takes me into the night, itís not an emergency.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    Quote Originally Posted by andytiedye View Post
    One thing that bothered me about the PLBs Is that you're hauling around a GPS, but that GPS won't tell you where you are, You can only use it to tell rescuers where you are. Also no help in more minor emergencies (e.g. I'm OK, my bike isn't).
    The inReach can do a lot more.
    Text messaging from anywhere in the world.
    Mapping GPS.
    Tracking.
    We spend quite a bit of time out of cell coverage and this also helps family, etc. reach us in an emergency.

    Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk
    If you're like 99% of Americans, you aren't leaving your cell phone at home or in the car when you depart for a ride, no matter how remote the planned trip.

    So, if you're prepared, you simply turn your cell phone on (in airplane mode), open up your mapping app, and it will show your location on a map as well as your coordinates in any format of your choice.

    Unless you need two-way communication, this is a non-issue for the vast majority of people.

    Death from Below.

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    I'm not sure if other brands do this, but the InReach device has a smartphone app

    It links to your phone via BT and gives the user the ability to text normally with numbers that you have pre entered when you establish your account. Texting directly from the device is a huge PITA.

    This proved invaluable last year when my wife was thru-hiking the PCT and we were able to communicate and coordinate resupply's etc - In real time

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post

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    Have the same one, don't take it every time, depends on the mission. Having a cell phone is great if you have coverage otherwise it's pretty much useless.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    If you're like 99% of Americans, you aren't leaving your cell phone at home or in the car when you depart for a ride, no matter how remote the planned trip.

    So, if you're prepared, you simply turn your cell phone on (in airplane mode), open up your mapping app, and it will show your location on a map as well as your coordinates in any format of your choice.

    Unless you need two-way communication, this is a non-issue for the vast majority of people.

    99% of Americans rarely go out of cell coverage. I do it every time I ride.
    My phone is big and fragile.

    Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk

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    if i ever get the chance to hit the deep wilderness..like raft down thru the Brooks range shooting arrows at big hooved creatures..

    i am renting a sat phone. i'll never buy one for my day to day stuff.
    Santa Cruz 5010 C
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    My research led me to conclude that the reliability of messages getting through for things like the InReach and SPOT was not close enough to 100% to be depended on. In fact having someone * think * that they have this way to communicate with you that works anywhere when actually sometimes it doesn't could be pretty lame.

    I went with the ResQLink too. Basically an extremely reliable big red button that says: "I'm totally fubar, please come and get me". Everything else I'll deal with on my own.

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    I have a Delorme inReach Explorer and it's a pretty big piece of crap. The thing turns itself on extremely easily, which drains the battery and ends up leaving me with a dead device 90% of the time. Incredibly frustrating. There's a newer version out now, the Garmin inReach Explorer+, but I can't bring myself to spend another $450.

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    Inreach here. Nightly message to my wife during solo missions. She likes that and it forces me to remember how to use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by O5-KR View Post
    Inreach here. Nightly message to my wife during solo missions. She likes that and it forces me to remember how to use.
    Which model?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    If you're like 99% of Americans, you aren't leaving your cell phone at home or in the car when you depart for a ride, no matter how remote the planned trip.

    So, if you're prepared, you simply turn your cell phone on (in airplane mode), open up your mapping app, and it will show your location on a map as well as your coordinates in any format of your choice.

    Unless you need two-way communication, this is a non-issue for the vast majority of people.

    What mapping software is this? Avenza Maps?

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    Quote Originally Posted by andytiedye View Post
    99% of Americans rarely go out of cell coverage. I do it every time I ride.
    My phone is big and fragile.

    Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk
    Also for Iphone users, the built in compass app will automatically show your Longitude and Latitude as well as elevation.

    A handy way to be able to quickly identify where you are to ems or leo if you don't have a PLB but can get a phone call out.

    I think this year I will get some kind of a PLB tho for when I do longer solo rides or when traveling. Having an oh shit come get me I might die button sounds pretty appealing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    What mapping software is this?
    Avenza Maps.

    You can download free, geo-referenced USGS maps for the entire US with any wifi or cellular connection.

    It will use the GPS in your phone to tell you how far off you are from every map you have. It will also display your coordinates and plot your location relatively accurately after a couple seconds.

    Here's an example of my distance AND bearing from some maps I have. Note that I'm in airplane mode. I've gone a week in the desert outside of Moab without needing to charge it.


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    I have Delorme inreach as well (the generation before the current Garmin) and love it. Being able to text, send a free preset message to SO that everything is OK when solo, get a weather forecast, etc. I originally considered plb but then decided I wanted to be able to communicate in situations that are not emergency. I don't regret my buying decision one bit. Use the inreach biking, hiking, ski touring...

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    OP, Inreach SE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Avenza Maps.

    You can download free, geo-referenced USGS maps for the entire US with any wifi or cellular connection.

    It will use the GPS in your phone to tell you how far off you are from every map you have. It will also display your coordinates and plot your location relatively accurately after a couple seconds.

    Here's an example of my distance AND bearing from some maps I have. Note that I'm in airplane mode. I've gone a week in the desert outside of Moab without needing to charge it.


    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    I have Avenza Maps for MidPen stuff. I didn't realize how powerful the full app is. Pretty incredible.

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    I like the SPOT. Only issue is that the basic annual subscription has moved from $125 to $200 per year. Extra features like tracking are another $100/year So I'm thinking of changing.

    DeLorme has be purchased by Garmin. The new annual pricing for inReach can be found here:
    https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/#subscriptions
    The lowest "Safety" plan is $11.95/month for an annual subscription.
    But a "Freedom" option allows activation from month to month at $14.95/month.
    If you want unlimited tracking the next "Recreation" plan is $25/month, or $35/month if going "Freedom" month to month.

    So the lowest annual plan with DeLorm inReach is $144/year. Not that much better than SPOT. But the one advantage is the month to month option. Unfortunately, I ride in remote areas randomly throughout the year.

    I was thinking that with improved technology and competition, the prices would go gradually down over the years. Not so!! I might just go back to my old school method: give my wife a map of my route (don't deviate), estimated time, and the sheriff's number.

    I'm also wondering how a Satellite Phone would compare to the increased high costs of the SPOT and InReach. Maybe it's becoming an option at these prices. I've heard there's a plan where you don't pay unless you use Sat Phone, is that right?
    It's not slow, it's doing more MTB time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Avenza Maps.

    You can download free, geo-referenced USGS maps for the entire US with any wifi or cellular connection.

    It will use the GPS in your phone to tell you how far off you are from every map you have. It will also display your coordinates and plot your location relatively accurately after a couple seconds.

    Here's an example of my distance AND bearing from some maps I have. Note that I'm in airplane mode. I've gone a week in the desert outside of Moab without needing to charge it.


    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    BTW, I noticed your 10th Mtn Ranger avatar. Google: 10th Mtn Ranger Tahoe. The ski areas of Tahoe were basically built by former members of 10th Mtn Ranger after WW2.

    The 10th Mountain Division: WWII's High-Altitude Heroes - Tahoe Quarterly

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    I have Avenza Maps for MidPen stuff. I didn't realize how powerful the full app is. Pretty incredible.
    Yeah. You can set the filter to "Free" so that it chops out the Nat Geo and other $$$ maps.

    I think I'm relatively experienced at land navigation. While I always keep a paper map and compass with me if REALLY out in the sticks, Avenza is my go-to (provided I've downloaded the maps I need). I still do cross section and resection with map and compass from time to time to stay current, though. Phones die, get lost, drown.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    BTW, I noticed your 10th Mtn Ranger avatar. Google: 10th Mtn Ranger Tahoe. The ski areas of Tahoe were basically built by former members of 10th Mtn Ranger after WW2.
    Technically the two are different things. I'm a Ranger-qualified (graduate of Ranger School) former 10th MTN infantry officer. I wore both on my uniform for that reason.

    If you're interested in history, read this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Mountain_Division


    Pretty cool stuff. Only all-volunteer unit during WWII. Recruited by...wait for it...the US Ski Patrol. 10th MTN vets founded or managed most of the ski resorts in the US. As well as a few ski and mountaineering companies. And Nike. My wife and I visit the former, pre-WWII training grounds of the 10th each summer, between Vail and Leadville.

    It's on a map segment called Pando. Hence the nickname, Pando Commandos.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Technically the two are different things. I'm a Ranger-qualified (graduate of Ranger School) former 10th MTN infantry officer. I wore both on my uniform for that reason.

    If you're interested in history, read this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Mountain_Division


    Pretty cool stuff. Only all-volunteer unit during WWII. 10th MTN vets founded or managed most of the ski resorts in the US. As well as a few ski and mountaineering companies. And Nike. My wife and I visit the former, pre-WWII training grounds of the 10th each summer, between Vail and Leadville.

    It's on a map segment called Pando. Hence the nickname, Pando Commandos.



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    Awesome stuff! Thanks!!!!

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    Btw, the inreach can send/ receive and gives you delivery confirmation. The basic plan I have gives you the insurance for the chopper, but pretty few messages, which don't roll over to the next period. The insurance has lots of small letter, but since is too much for me to read, it gives me peace of mind !

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    Quote Originally Posted by TahoeBC View Post
    Have the same one, don't take it every time, depends on the mission. Having a cell phone is great if you have coverage otherwise it's pretty much useless.
    Kind of, I have a friend that decided to "try" calling 911 when out in a pretty rural area here in Alaska, not for an emergency, but to "see if it worked", and it connected him with Rocky Mountain RCC, which is where his cell-number is based. Supposedly 911 activates an emergency feature that can hop on any network, significantly increasing your chances...but yeah, I don't bet on this.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jukas View Post
    Also for Iphone users, the built in compass app will automatically show your Longitude and Latitude as well as elevation.

    A handy way to be able to quickly identify where you are to ems or leo if you don't have a PLB but can get a phone call out.

    I think this year I will get some kind of a PLB tho for when I do longer solo rides or when traveling. Having an oh shit come get me I might die button sounds pretty appealing.
    Theodolite is also really good and fairly inexpensive for position and azimuth data. Also good if you travel through avalanche terrain or work accident scenes.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    I think I'm relatively experienced at land navigation. While I always keep a paper map and compass with me if REALLY out in the sticks, Avenza is my go-to (provided I've downloaded the maps I need). I still do cross section and resection with map and compass from time to time to stay current, though. Phones die, get lost, drown.

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    That **** was pounded into my head by the US Army. Even though I was rocket artillery, we basically lived on maps and practice land-nav all the time. I remember doing my PLDC or something and going to a land-nav objective by cutting through several training areas in a straight line, where I had a pretty good idea I was going to get ambushed if I did the stupid "follow roads in the roundabout way". The instructors said something about "you can't go in a straight line!", I said, "watch me!". lol
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Theodolite is also really good and fairly inexpensive for position and azimuth data. Also good if you travel through avalanche terrain or work accident scenes.
    Dioptra is another one.

    I use it for quickly shooting terrain features on the fly out in the mountains. It has current location, bearing/azimuth, angle, and takes a picture. I then see what it is using Google Earth Pro.



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    I have the Explorer +
    Seems to be able to hit a satellite from anywhere I have tried it. Indoors and / or under dense tree cover takes a few minutes but gets the message out.


    Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
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    I have the same one and I'm happy. I attached it securely to the outside of my camelbak so I can reach it without taking off the backpack and just leave it there so I won't forget it. Everything I read about Spot and In reach said they didn't work well under tree cover, where I spend a lot of time. I rode with a few guys with Spot and they said it was "spotty" about getting their non-emergency messages out. I also don't like the idea of an annual subscription. With the PLB it's $250 once and the battery is guarunteed for 5 years.

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    My son broke both arms up at Skeggs a few months ago. He's tough and was able to walk out with me. Luckily, just small fractures that healed quickly. We didn't pass anyone on our 1.5 hour walk out, and it was starting to get dark! Got me thinking, what if I or someone I'm riding with was injured to the point they couldn't walk, with no cell signal. With three or more people, no problem, one goes for help. Alone or with two people is more problematic. I like the idea of having a Sat phone and just calling for help. Locationally, I usually know where I am, and could give good directions to rescue team.

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    I have a Globalstar sat phone.


    Got a great deal - bought it from a friend for $100.
    The cost for 100 minutes/month is $85.

    Love it. Very useful. Always able to call out anywhere.
    Have used it for rescuing myself out of a broken down vehicle situation out in the middle of nowhere.

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    Ideally you should have four people. One to stay with the injured party and two to get help. That said, I often ride alone.

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    I bought a SPOT at 1/2 price two years ago (Christmas sale), it was $75 plus the yearly subscription of around $120. It gave me the illusion of extra safety on those areas where cell coverage is not available - incredible how you can be 10 miles from Google and Facebook HQ and have zero coverage! I say illusion because I normally activate the 10min tracking and it is very spotty (hence the product name?), works 80 to 100% of the time on open areas, 30-80% of the time under tree cover. You just have to hope your exposed femur crash happens without tree cover.

    They now just hiked the prices, this is where I get off the bus - doing my part in a free market economy. If you call to make sure they don't "auto-renew" they will offer you a $85 'discount' to keep you.

    Garmin bought Delorme (InReach bidirectional satellite device), but so far nothing new from them, other than slight redesigns, yearly pricing still beyond my threshold, a $450 equipment cost plus lots of contract fine print.

    I found a great product on Amazon - $35 one time fee, global coverage, wearable.
    https://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=B01725K5UK
    Never limited by common sense...

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKXC View Post
    I have a Delorme inReach Explorer and it's a pretty big piece of crap. The thing turns itself on extremely easily, which drains the battery and ends up leaving me with a dead device 90% of the time. Incredibly frustrating. There's a newer version out now, the Garmin inReach Explorer+, but I can't bring myself to spend another $450.
    I read a review of the Spot satellite phone. The guy was complaining that he couldn't see the display in the bright sun and that it kept turning itself on.
    My Globalstar is the exact same phone. Both problems are not an issue.
    The display is back lit, which turns itself off after a few seconds.
    Simply hit the 'clr' button to turn the backlight back on.
    Globalstar doesn't make a case for it's phone - I found an old sunglass case that fits the phone perfectly. It's a firm, stiff case that keeps the buttons on the phone from being pressed while carrying it.
    I never go backcountry skiing without it.
    I never head into the backcountry with my bike without it.

  38. #38
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    About to pull the trigger on this one. Voice plan at $30/month for first 15 minutes free per month and 99cents/minute thereafter, one year contract.

    https://www.bluecosmo.com/inmarsat-i...ite-phone.html

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    I have Garmin inReach Explorer - two way messaging with SOS capability. Uses Iridium network.

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    I have a Garmin InReach SE. It's great for loading up maps via BT to my Android phone. On my motorcycle I've got it linked to a 7" Nexus tablet. Basic plan includes 40 text messages a month. As a few people pointed out it's a great way to keep in touch with the family when you're out in the back country alone. I pay about $36 a month and suspend the service during the two or three months I'm not going out in the winter. I also pay for helicopter insurance through a local hospital. Well worth the $90 a year. A thirty minute evacuation could set you back $10K.

  41. #41
    Log off and go ride!
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    Didn't anyone ride a bike before cell phones, sat phones, or GPS were invented?
    So many trails... so little time...

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by dave54 View Post
    Didn't anyone ride a bike before cell phones, sat phones, or GPS were invented?
    I'm pretty sure they did.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xylx View Post
    I have a Garmin InReach SE. It's great for loading up maps via BT to my Android phone. On my motorcycle I've got it linked to a 7" Nexus tablet. Basic plan includes 40 text messages a month. As a few people pointed out it's a great way to keep in touch with the family when you're out in the back country alone. I pay about $36 a month and suspend the service during the two or three months I'm not going out in the winter. I also pay for helicopter insurance through a local hospital. Well worth the $90 a year. A thirty minute evacuation could set you back $10K.
    AirMedCare is $65 for family plan. Also check if your health insurance covers it (some do).

  44. #44
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    I never knew anything about these Air Medical plans, and my wife is an ER doc!! What's the best service provider(s) for NorCal in general?

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    I never knew anything about these Air Medical plans, and my wife is an ER doc!! What's the best service provider(s) for NorCal in general?
    Used to be CALSTAR, but now they are part of the same network.

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