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Satellite Phone Rentals in Front Range?


Original Post
Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 280

Does anybody know if satellite phones can be rented locally from any place in the front range? Looking to pick one up for ~5 days and have it available for emergency use, but not sure if rentals are available anywhere. Would appreciate any pointers.

Cor · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 1,460

For use here or elsewhere?

Don’t have any leads.. But what about a PLB? They have no subscription, and if you activate it the signal goes to the AirForce to get things going..  


Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 280

I have a PBL, and I'm not a fan. I'd like two way communication. As for where I intend to use it, depends on your definition of "here". This would be for stuff that I would normally drive to rather than say charter a plane.

Cor · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 1,460

Just curious, why not a fan of the PLB?


FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Jim Urbec · · sevierville, TN · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 31
FrankPS wrote:

I'm going to upgrade from a Spot Becon to the InReach for same reason. just like with cell phones the real $$ is on the data plan.  at the lower level the Inreach and Spot beacon are about same cost wise.  Even if you blow past the monthly # of texts. it's not that much

the other device out there that will also give you some data at dial is the IridiumGo.  the devices are more expensive upfront though. 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Jim Urbec wrote:

I'm going to upgrade from a Spot Becon to the InReach for same reason. just like with cell phones the real $$ is on the data plan.  at the lower level the Inreach and Spot beacon are about same cost wise.  Even if you blow past the monthly # of texts. it's not that much

the other device out there that will also give you some data at dial is the IridiumGo.  the devices are more expensive upfront though. 

Yeah, and I like the idea of the "Freedom" plan. Pay by the month, when you need it, rather than a yearly contract. Plus the yearly "activation fee."

Martin le Roux · · Superior, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 229
FrankPS wrote:

If you don't need navigation features then the older model InReach SE will work just as well. It's been discontinued but you can still find them on sale. These people have them for $240: http://www.gpscity.com/delorme-inreach-se. It has the same satellite messaging features as the newer models. 


Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 280
Cor wrote:

Just curious, why not a fan of the PLB?


Because I want two way communication. I think it would be important in any rescue scenario that potentially involve climbers. Imagine a scenario where you're stuck on a wall and can't easily get off (e.g. partner has a serious head injury) but need to coordinate with rescuers given their resources and abilities (can they short haul you off the wall, or do they need a landing zone?). Alternatively imagine you or your partner breaks an ankle, and can get off the wall just fine, but you're several days crawl from your car in winter, and want an extraction. The sooner the better, so you might call in for help right away, and while it's mobilizing work on getting a good landing zone where you can get a lift. A PBL would just show you on the wall in both cases, which depending on how precise the system is might show you on top of the peak, down in the valley, and either way the place where you call for help may not correspond to the place where you get extracted. Being able to coordinating things like this with two way communication seems very useful.

Nick Andrasik · · Broomfield, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0
FrankPS wrote:

The InReach is the answer. I carry one every day I spend in the backcountry. It is the best package around for what is being asked for in this thread. The two-way communications capabilities are great, the plans are affordable, and it offers way more than just a PLB.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
Nick Andrasik wrote:

The InReach is the answer. I carry one every day I spend in the backcountry. It is the best package around for what is being asked for in this thread. The two-way communications capabilities are great, the plans are affordable, and it offers way more than just a PLB.

Yeah, I've researched it fairly extensively, including speaking to Garmin a couple of times. I'm going to get one. My gripe, so far (without even having had hands on it!) is that to type a message on the keyboard sounds cumbersome, with the directional arrows for each letter. I don't anticipate typing many text messages, though.

Señor Arroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Martin le Roux · · Superior, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 229
FrankPS wrote:

My gripe, so far (without even having had hands on it!) is that to type a message on the keyboard sounds cumbersome, with the directional arrows for each letter.

It's not that bad. It's got a simple predictive typing system which speeds things up, and if you carry a smartphone you can pair it via Bluetooth and use the phone's touchscreen for typing. But with gloves or in rain or snow I find the built-in buttons work better than a phone touchscreen. You can also have up to 10 pre-programmed messages.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Thanks, Martin. I am aware of the abiity to pair my phone to the Explorer for ease-of-use, but I don't want to carry a second device (my phone) into the backcountry.

Cor · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 1,460
Bogdan P wrote:

Because I want two way communication. I think it would be important in any rescue scenario that potentially involve climbers. Imagine a scenario where you're stuck on a wall and can't easily get off (e.g. partner has a serious head injury) but need to coordinate with rescuers given their resources and abilities (can they short haul you off the wall, or do they need a landing zone?). Alternatively imagine you or your partner breaks an ankle, and can get off the wall just fine, but you're several days crawl from your car in winter, and want an extraction. The sooner the better, so you might call in for help right away, and while it's mobilizing work on getting a good landing zone where you can get a lift. A PBL would just show you on the wall in both cases, which depending on how precise the system is might show you on top of the peak, down in the valley, and either way the place where you call for help may not correspond to the place where you get extracted. Being able to coordinating things like this with two way communication seems very useful.

I hear ya man!  I just figure that with the PLB, rescuers would assume the worst...  

A sat phone is big, heavy, costs too much.

For CO, and the states I figure your chances of death because of rescue speed is fairly low (in most circumstances, but that’s rolling the dice a bit..)   Now when I’ve been in Patagonia, that’s a different story entirely!    

Do you have a WFR or similar?  Seems like that would be more useful in the end.

We all have different risk tolerance though!

Cheers.

Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 280
AndrewArroz wrote:

I'm aware of these options, but they make 3-4 day stints of use a bit of a PITA since every company I've looked at (admittedly not many) charge you for not only the days you have the phone, but also the days the phone is in the mail. Easily 2-4 more days each way.

Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 280
Cor wrote:

I hear ya man!  I just figure that with the PLB, rescuers would assume the worst...  

A sat phone is big, heavy, costs too much.

For CO, and the states I figure your chances of death because of rescue speed is fairly low (in most circumstances, but that’s rolling the dice a bit..)   Now when I’ve been in Patagonia, that’s a different story entirely!    

Do you have a WFR or similar?  Seems like that would be more useful in the end.

We all have different risk tolerance though!

Cheers.

Regarding death because of rescue speed, google Jack Roberts. Had all the latest tech, and he died of internal bleeding before help ever reached it to him. Took less than 90 minutes if I recall. Rescue speed can be a big deal. WFR would certainly help, but there's only so much you can do in the field.

Really though I'm not trying to avoid death. I'm trying to avoid the Joe Simpson style crawl. That part of the movie was super boring. 

Had to help a partner out after an ankle injury at the start (thankfully) of a mixed alpine route. 1.5 hours in, 8 hours out. Didn't want a rescue, and in retrospect didn't need one, but imagine if the situation were different, and we had spent a full day on the approach. An optimistic estimate would put you at over 2 days to make it get back out. By that point your family's panicking.

Regarding the the inreach device, I hear y'all. Been deliberating getting one ever since I did some googling after hearing Will Gadd mention them. Don't have the cash at the moment, but it's nice to see how satisfied other people are with it. Makes it an easier decision to make down the road. Doesn't mean I wouldn't rent a sat phone in the meantime if something good were available nearby.

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

I strongly agree with the 2-way communication sentiment others have expressed.  I seriously hurt my leg solo backpacking 18 miles from the nearest road in a very lightly used wilderness area 10 years ago.  I did not have any form of emergency communication so I had the choice of building a crutch and hobbling out or waiting 4-5 days for family to initiate a rescue.  I ended up hobbling out over three days and did not see anyone until I was about a mile from the wilderness boundary.  

That experience led me to decide I needed some form of emergency communication.  Contemplating the nature of the injury and what search and rescue would need to know led me to decide I needed two way communication.  All I needed was a horse to carry me out, something a family member could easily arrange without involving search and rescue at all. 

At the time the options were PLB, Spot, and satellite phones (globalstar and iridium).  Spot and PLB are one way only devices so I ruled them out. Iridium was and still is very expensive but GlobalStar was having issued with its satellite network and offered globalstar phone for $250 with $10/month all you can use minutes.  Eventually Globalstar launched a new satellite constellation and raised the price for the air-time too much for me and I bought an ISatPhone Pro ($600 new or 300-400 on ebay). 

Inmarsat (ISatPhone) offers prepaid plans so I can purchase some minutes when I am going somewhere remote enough to justify taking the satellite phone.  The phone itself is reasonably sized.  

The three satellite phone networks have very different designs which can influence your choice.  

Globalstar uses an LEO orbit with ground stations relaying your phone call or Spot message.  The satellite must be able to see both your phone and the ground station to complete the call.  This architecture severely limits coverage.  Additionally they have license agreements with vendors in every country they support so you have to buy service in the country you are traveling to.  This feature pushed me to buy the ISatPhone because I was unable to overcome the language barrier in Peru.

Inmarsat (ISatPhone) uses geosynchronous orbits and a few ground earth stations to forward your call.  They have worldwide coverage except for the poles.  As with all satellite communications you must have a view of the satellite to communicate.  If you are deep in a valley you might not be able to see the satellite and would have to move to make a call.  (GeoSynchronous orbits mean the satellite is stationary in the sky).  As it turned out in Peru most of the valleys ran towards a satellite so it was never a problem there.  In fact I have rarely had this problem with this phone but it is something to consider if you happen to get injured in a location that does not have visibility you will have to move or have someone take the phone to where they have visibility (similar to a cell phone).  ISatPhones can also send 'text' message but it is painful.

Iridium (InReach) uses a constellation of LEO satellite which relay from satellite to satellite to a downlink in Arizona.  Iridium satellites are in polar orbits so they service the entire world including the poles.  You must have visibility to the satellite to place a call or send a message.  Unlike Inmarsat, Iridium satellites are moving in the sky so you will eventually get visibility but it might take a while.  My expedition in Peru also had an Iridium phone and we had a two hour period without service because the mountains blocked the view to the satellites on the horizon.

Iridium phones are very expensive new but bargains can be found on ebay.  Also Iridium airtime is expensive.

If I were to purchase today I would probably buy an InReach turning service on and off as I need.  If I wanted voice communications I would probably go with Inmarsat Isatphone again, unless I were going to the poles including Alaska and Patagonia in which case I would buy and Iridium phone.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
climber pat wrote:

I strongly agree with the 2-way communication sentiment others have expressed.  I seriously hurt my leg solo backpacking 18 miles from the nearest road in a very lightly used wilderness area 10 years ago.  I did not have any form of emergency communication so I had the choice of building a crutch and hobbling out or waiting 4-5 days for family to initiate a rescue.  I ended up hobbling out over three days and did not see anyone until I was about a mile from the wilderness boundary.  

That experience led me to decide I needed some form of emergency communication.  Contemplating the nature of the injury and what search and rescue would need to know led me to decide I needed two way communication.  All I needed was a horse to carry me out, something a family member could easily arrange without involving search and rescue at all. 

At the time the options were PLB, Spot, and satellite phones (globalstar and iridium).  Spot and PLB are one way only device so I ruled them out. Iridium was and still is very expensive but GlobalStar was having issued with its satellite network and offered globalstar phone for $250 with $10/month all you can use minutes.  Eventually Globalstar launched a new satellite constellation and raised the price for the air-time went up too much for me and I bought an ISatPhone Pro ($600 new or 300-400 on ebay). 

Inmarsat (ISatPhone) offers prepaid plans so I can purchase some minutes when I am going somewhere remote enough to justify taking the satellite phone.  The phone itself is reasonably sized.  

The three satellite phone networks have very different designs which can influence your choice.  

Globalstar uses an LEO orbit with ground stations relaying your phone call or Spot message.  The satellite must be able to see both your phone and the ground station to complete the call.  This architecture severely limits coverage.  Additionally they have license agreements with vendors in every country they support so you have to buy service in the country you are traveling to.  This feature pushed me to buy the ISatPhone because I was unable to overcome the language barrier in Peru.

Inmarsat (ISatPhone) uses geosynchronous orbits and a few ground earth stations to forward your call.  They have worldwide coverage except for the poles.  As with all satellite communications you must have a view of the satellite to communicate.  If you are deep in a valley you might not be able to see the satellite and would have to move to make a call.  (GeoSynchronous orbits mean the satellite is stationary in the sky).  As it turned out in Peru most of the valleys ran towards a satellite so it was never a problem there.  In fact I have rarely had this problem with this phone but it is something to consider if you happen to get injured in a location that does not have visibility you will have to move or have someone take the phone to where they have visibility (similar to a cell phone).  ISatPhones can also send 'text' message but it is painful.

Iridium (InReach) uses a constellation of LEO satellite which relay from satellite to satellite to a downlink in Arizona.  Iridium satellites are in polar orbits so they service the entire world including the poles.  You must have visibility to the satellite to place a call or send a message.  Unlike Inmarsat, Iridium satellites are moving in the sky so you will eventually get visibility but it might take a while.  My expedition in Peru also had an Iridium phone and we had a two hour period without service because the mountains blocked the view to the satellites on the horizon.

Iridium phones are very expensive new but bargains can be found on ebay.  Also Iridium airtime is expensive.

If I were to purchase today I would probably buy an InReach turning on and off service and I need.  If I wanted voice communications I would probably go again with Inmarsat Isatphone unless I were going to the poles including Alaska and Patagonia in which case I would buy and Iridium phone.

Nice write-up. Thanks.

Señor Arroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Bogdan P wrote:

I'm aware of these options, but they make 3-4 day stints of use a bit of a PITA since every company I've looked at (admittedly not many) charge you for not only the days you have the phone, but also the days the phone is in the mail. Easily 2-4 more days each way.

I think mine charged from the time they shipped to me and the time I shipped it back. So once the FedEx was scanned in going back it was done. But you're correct, however, that there's a couple extra days. Even considering that, the price is right compared to any brick and mortar options I could find, though. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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