Satellite Messengers | Hiking

Satellite Messengers or Emergency Satellite Messengers (ESMs) have taken the emergency locator beacon industry in a completely new direction.

Not only do they offer the outstanding S.O.S. function, but they’re also adding things like 2-way messaging, navigation, tracking and weather forecasting.

Satellite Messenger

You have the primary ESMs that most people know about, such as Garmin and SPOT but you have other manufacturers breaking into the market and pushing the envelope on additional things people want in this high tech age. Some of these devices include Somewear Global Hotspot, Bivystick and GoTenna Mesh.

It’s exciting to see the power that these new ESMs are bringing forward and it will be interesting to watch what happens in the near future.

Let’s take a look at each of the top Emergency Satellite Messengers (ESMs) and see what makes them unique, what they do well and what they may be missing out on.

The “Big 3” Personal Locator Beacons

I have listed top ESMs as the following three for 2 primary reasons. They offer…

  • 2-way Satellite Messiging
  • Standalone Devices (Do Not Need to be Synced to Your Cell Phone)

Feel free to argue the point but I’m not a fan of devices that have to be synced to your smartphone in order to work. Take a look at the Big 3 below.

Garmin inReach Explorer+

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is the most well-rounded ESM due to its worldwide satellite coverage, 2-way messaging, navigation and additional services such as providing weather forecasting. Here is a list of what the Explorer+ Offers:

  • Satellite CommunicatorGarmin inReach Explorer+
  • Built-In Navigation
  • Includes Topo Maps & Downloads
  • 2-Way Messaging
  • 100% Global Iridium Satellite Network (Pole to Pole Coverage)
  • S.O.S. Distress Call to 24/7 Rescue Monitoring Center
  • Track and Share Your Location
  • Pair with Compatible Mobile Devices
  • Use Earthmate App to Download Additional Topo Maps
  • Comes with Pre-Loaded DeLorme Topo Maps
  • On Screen GPS Routing
  • Built-In Digital Compass, Barometric Altimeter and Accelerometer
  • Optional inReach Weather Forecasts Available

Honestly, this is my number one pick and one I will be adding to my pack soon. It hits the top of my list due to the 2-way messaging, Global Satellite Coverage and the Built-In Navigation. No one else offers all of this in one package, without being synced to a smartphone.

Garmin inReach Mini

The Garmin inReach Mini is my 2nd choice, again due to the Global Satellite Coverage and 2-way messaging. You actually can get most all the features the Garmin inReach Explorer+ offers but you have to be synced in order to get some of the same features. Here is a list of what it offers:

  • Lightweight and CompactGarmin inReach Mini
  • 2-Way Messaging
  • Global Satellite Coverage with the Iridium Satellite Network (Pole to Pole Coverage)
  • S.O.S. Distress Call Answered by 24/7 Rescue Monitoring Center
  • Access Downloadable Maps Using the Garmin Earthmate App
  • Track and Share Your Location
  • Optional inReach Weather Forecasts Available
  • Internal, Rechargeable Lithium Battery with 90 Hours of Battery Life
  • Pairs with Select Garmin Devices
  • Syncs with Smartphones

This small and compact device is not much bigger then a small wallet and can function as a stand-alone device or, pair it with your smartphone and make it nearly as capable as the Garmin inReach Explorer+.

SPOT X

The SPOT X 2-way satellite messenger that has a built-In Keyboard. This may not seem like a big deal but when you are cold and maybe injured and wanting to send a message for help, your fingers will operate better using the keyboard then moving the buttons around to select the letters, one at a time, in order to type out a unique message.

See the list below for its features:

  • S.O.S. Distress CallSPOT X
  • 2-Way Satellite Messenger
  • Built-In Keyboard
  • Connect with Your Smartphone to Have Access to All Your Contacts
  • Comes with a Unique U.S. Cell Phone Number
  • Communicate Easily with Search and Rescue Teams
  • Can be Used as a Standalone Communication Device
  • Track and Share your Location with Friends and Family
  • Adjustable Tracking Intervals
  • Built-In Compass with Programmable Way Points

Note: SPOT does not have worldwide, pole to pole coverage. They cover most of the world but you need to look at their coverage map to see if you can get service in the area you will be traveling to.

Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
-
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
-
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger

Additional Top Contenders

Here are 4 additional contenders that will be perfect for many outdoor enthusiasts. Take a look and see how unique some of these are.

SPOT Gen3

The SPOT Gen3 One-Way Satellite Messenger is the size of a small wallet and is a powerful ESM that can save your life or let family and friends know that everything is okay. I have the SPOT Gen3 on my pack right now and I love it because it is extremely easy to use and is so small that I don’t even notice I have it on me.

See the list below for what it offers:

  • Lightweight and CompactSPOT Gen3
  • 1-Way Satellite Messenger
  • S.O.S. Distress Call
  • HELP/S.O.V. (Call for Auto Service or Help from Family and/or Friends)
  • Customizable Messages
  • Tracking & Sharing with Family and Friends
  • Customize your tracking rates to conserve battery life
  • Motion Activated Tracking (Conserves Battery)
  • Add up to 10 Contacts to Your List Before You Leave Home to Share Your Trip With
  • Standalone Device
  • Flexible Service Plans

Note: SPOT does not have worldwide, pole to pole coverage. They cover most of the world but you need to look at their coverage map to see if you can get service in the area you will be traveling to.

Somewear Global Hotspot

The Somewear Global Hotspot gives any smartphone the global satellite coverage you’ve always wanted. No matter where you are in the world, you can have service.

  • Global Satellite Coverage with the Iridium Satellite NetworkSomewear Global Hotspot
  • Ultra-Lightweight and Compact
  • Text Communication
  • Location Tracking
  • Weather Forecasts
  • 24/7 S.O.S. Monitoring Center
  • Gives Your Smartphone Global Coverage

Note: The Global Hotspot must be synced with your smartphone in order to have the use of the functions it offers.

Bivystick

The Bivystick is an affordable and simple satellite communicator that will give your smartphone global coverage. See the functions below that the Bivystick offers:

  • 2-Way Satellite MessengerBivystick
  • Satellite Connection Anywhere in The World
  • Tracking and Location Sharing
  • No Contract or Annual Fees
  • S.O.S. Emergency Services Using the 24/7 GEOS Response Center
  • Detailed 3 and 7 Day Weather Forecasts
  • Access Downloadable Offline Maps
  • 5200 mAh Backup Battery to Charge Your Phone up to 2 Times
  • Affordable Monthly Plan with No Commitment or Contract

Note: The Bivystick must be synced with your smartphone in order to have the use of the functions it offers.

GoTenna Mesh

Here is a cutting edge device, sleek and lightweight that syncs with your smartphone and can keep your group connected. The GoTenna Mesh is best used where cell service is available but may be overloaded, such as a large festival, sporting event or concert. Maybe you are traveling to a new city and the cell service is not reliable but the GoTenna Mesh can help. Here are a list of what it can provide:

  • Send texts and GPS locations without wifiGoTenna Mesh
  • Works with any smartphone
  • Service up to 4 Miles Apart
  • Great for Camping & Other Outdoor Activities When You Have Some Service
  • Perfect for International Travel
  • Helps in an Emergency
  • Drop Pins for Your Group to Meet Up at or Let Them Know Where You Are

Note: The Bivystick must be synced with your smartphone in order to have the use of the functions it offers.

Differences Between ESMs

Emergency Satellite Messengers (ESMs) all offer an S.O.S. distress call but also add things like 2-way and 1-way messaging, tracking and sharing, navigation and weather forecasting. They are all different so do your homework and find out which one is right for you.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the first four ESMs I listed can all standalone without needing to be synced to your smartphone. This may or may not be important to you. Being able to standalone without my smartphone going dead is important to me. These standalone devices are:

The Somewear Global Hotspot, Bivystick and the GoTenna Mesh must be synced to your smartphone but one of these may absolutely be the right device for you. Evaluate how you and your family or friends use these devices and pick what fits your life.

You can research more on the emergency locator beacons here at Emergency Radio Reviews.

The Bottom Line

These are all great devices that can make your adventure more enjoyable and even help save your life or someone you come into contact with.

Helicopter Rescue

There is no perfect ESM for everyone. We all have different needs and desires so you have to do your research to help determine which one is right for you. I have built this site to help with exactly that so please leave a comment below, ask a question or send me an email and I will respond quickly.

Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger - Orange
Bivystick Satellite Communication Device.
goTenna Mesh | Two Off-Grid SMS & GPS Devices that pair with any phone | Chat, Send Texts & Location Information Without Cell Service or Wi-Fi | 24-Hour Battery | Works with Android & iOS | Blue/Green
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger - Orange
Bivystick Satellite Communication Device.
goTenna Mesh | Two Off-Grid SMS & GPS Devices that pair with any phone | Chat, Send Texts & Location Information Without Cell Service or Wi-Fi | 24-Hour Battery | Works with Android & iOS | Blue/Green
-
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
Garmin inReach Explorer+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with TOPO Maps and GPS Navigation
-
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Garmin InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite Communicator, Orange
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger - Orange
Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger - Orange
Bivystick Satellite Communication Device.
Bivystick Satellite Communication Device.
goTenna Mesh | Two Off-Grid SMS & GPS Devices that pair with any phone | Chat, Send Texts & Location Information Without Cell Service or Wi-Fi | 24-Hour Battery | Works with Android & iOS | Blue/Green
goTenna Mesh | Two Off-Grid SMS & GPS Devices that pair with any phone | Chat, Send Texts & Location Information Without Cell Service or Wi-Fi | 24-Hour Battery | Works with Android & iOS | Blue/Green

Note 1: The primary reason I don’t recommend the Go Tenna Mesh is that is primarily designed for groups at large events and not in remote areas of the world.

Note 2: The Somewear Global Hotspot is not shown as the product is not available on Amazon.

You can Email me by selecting the email link on my Contact Page or leave a Comment Below.

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21 thoughts on “Satellite Messengers | Hiking”

  1. The global coverage, pole to pole is also a bid deal for me. I’m not currently traveling to areas outside of SPOT’s coverage so it’s not currently an issue.

    I am working my way toward purchasing the Garmin inReach Mini and then the Garmin inReach Explorer+. I want to leave the best for last…or at least what I believe is the best.

    I have the SPOT Gen3 already and really like it but the SPOT X actually arrived in my mail today, so I’m thinking the Gen 3 will be getting some rest. It will be great to have the Gen3 around for someone else in my hiking group though.

    Rick

    Reply

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