REMOTE area communications for travellers have come a long way over the years. The old HF radios have made way for satellite phones, cell phones cover a lot more areas, and the world truly has become a small place with fewer places where you can escape.
BUYER'S GUIDE: Satellite Messengers
Comms with the outside world are essential when you’re some place where anything could happen and, when it does, you’re a long way from help. Sat-phones are the standard these days, but they can be expensive to buy, hire and use. A cheaper alternative that doesn’t give you the full use that a sat-phone would but still keeps you in touch is a satellite communicator, and we’ve been playing with a unit from Zoleo.
The Zoleo unit links to your smartphone via an app and, when you’re out of cellular range, allows you to message people via the Iridium satellite network.
After initial set-up, sending a message via the Zoleo is just as easy as sending a text message or email from your phone. It’s probably not the thing you’re going to use for long-winded conversations, but it’s ideal for letting people know where you are, that you’ve arrived to where you said you would be, or if you are in trouble.
Worse case, the Zoleo unit has an in-built SOS button that alerts emergency monitoring and response partner, GEOS, with your GPS location. GEOS then works with you and emergency services to get the help you need.
LOST & FOUND: Guide to Satellite Navigation
Our time with the Zoleo came during lockdown, so we weren’t able to use it in remote locations as we had hoped, but we did try it out when we were out of town in the High Country and, most importantly, out of cell-phone reception.
After downloading the free Zoleo app and linking it to my smartphone while at home and testing it there, once out in the bush it was just as easy as sending and receiving a text from your phone using the phone’s keypad as you normally would.
Like a sat-phone, the Zoleo unit needs to have a clear view of the sky to pick up satellites, so up on the dash worked well for us. The unit is small and light, dust-, water- and shock-resistant, and can be mounted anywhere really.
It has a battery life of more than 200 hours, is USB rechargeable so you can charge it from in your car, and has a two-year warranty.
BUYER'S GUIDE: Satellite Phones
The unit costs $345 to purchase and there is a selection of monthly plans to suit your usage that can be switched on and off as required, depending on where you are. It provides affordable peace of mind for both you and your loved ones back at home who like to know you’re safe on your travels.
We’re looking forward to getting out in the bush again as soon as possible and giving the Zoleo some more use, hopefully not for emergency ... but it’s nice to know it’s there just in case.
RRP: $345 (+monthly usage)