There used to be two good reasons not to carry two-way satellite communicators in the backcountry—the darn things were heavy and expensive. But like all technology, these emergency devices have trimmed weight and price year by year, and they are now hard to ignore.
These devices are handy for keeping in touch with friends and family by text when you’re out of cell range, and they can also signal search and rescue crews in an emergency.
The Somewear Global Hotspot ($350) is the latest contender, a 4.2-ounce iridium satellite device that has an SOS button to contact the GEOS Worldwide emergency response team. The device’s greater functionality comes with its bluetooth connection to a smartphone, allowing users to text, share location coordinates and receive basic weather forecasts anywhere in the world. You just need a relatively unobstructed view of the sky for the device to connect with satellites. The plans start at $15 per month or $100 per year for the basic enrollment.
I tested the device this fall on various backcountry adventures, elk hunting alone in Colorado wilderness areas and climbing multipitch routes outside of cell range in Moab, Utah. It was helpful to have text communication with my family while I was out alone, and also comforting to have the SOS feature in case of an emergency. The Somewear Hotspot is relatively simple to use: just download an app for your smartphone to register and begin using the device.
You can enable the device to automatically track and share your location with someone every 30 minutes —that person just needs to have the Somewear app downloaded on their phone. The device had some bugs with texting and sharing location details during one of my tests, but Somewear says they have fixed that with a recent software update.
One downside to the Somewear’s elegant simplicity is that it requires a smartphone to send and receive texts; the device itself has only the SOS transmitter button. In other words, you need both a phone and the Somewear device to do any kind of messaging, and that pairing can add extra ounces if you don’t usually bring a phone along on climbing routes.
Somewear Global Hotspot
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