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Satellite Phones for Backcountry Trips

January 20th, 2010

So you're packing for your next backpacking trip and you are going through your checklist. Tent- check, sleeping bag- check, ramen noodles - check. Do you have any way to call for help in case you are in a bind?  If you have spent any time in the backcountry you know that cell phones won't work for emergency calls. I clearly recall two people getting lost in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix after they thought they could use their cell phone when they got into trouble. It's easy to forget that we need to plan for emergencies in the back country.

Backcountry Hiking - Rent a Satellite Phone

One solution I recommend is to rent a satellite phone. For most people buying a satellite phone is way out of reach but renting a phone, especially if the cost is split among a few people, is pretty reasonable. Depending on the model, the rental fee is anywhere from $10 to $15 a day and if you are just renting for emergency purposes, you don't have to purchase a minute plan. If all goes well, you shouldn't have to use the phone at all so purchasing minutes doesn't make sense anyway. I also recommend going with an Iridium phone. Their signal is reliable, even at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and I've heard negative stuff about Globalstar's coverage so I'd stay away from them for now. There are many companies to chose from but we rent from a place that is local so we save on shipping charges. (shameless plug time). We use World Communication Center in Chandler Arizona for our phone rentals and they've been great to work with. My understanding is they ship anywhere in the country as well so if you can't find a reliable vendor in your area, they could be a resource for you as well. Some of you are probably figuring out how much a rental will cost for week with shipping and wondering if the cost is really worth it. I would just ask you to consider the cost of not having one if you do happen to get into an emergency situation. If you backpack in remote areas where the nearest help is miles away, a satellite phone is an item you should consider adding to your pre-trip checklist.

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