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Satellite Communicators for Bush Mappers


Safety for the mapper, comfort for the family

Just like older orienteers and rogainers, older mappers seem to be much more prevalent these days. And while we may think we are almost as fit and able as ever, the truth is most of us are not. Usually our family knows this and worries when we head off for a day mapping in the bush. Or mountain biking. Or training.

SPOT – no longer spot on

SPOT 2 satellite personal tracker
SPOT 2 satellite personal tracker

So five years ago we bought SPOT 2. For the first couple of years it worked well. Whichever of us was at home could go to the special SPOT website and track the general whereabouts and progress of the bush bound mapper. For long trail mtb rides, runs etc it was also useful. Not useful for route analysis or mapping due to 15 minute waypoint gaps.

Then after 2 years, suddenly SPOT’s performance fell off a log so to speak. Initially I thought it to be a malfunctioning GPS function. I left it in an open field overnight and the next day only 3 or 4 waypoints had been logged. A detailed report to SPOT support met with a resounding silence. A report to our supplier at least got a response but no answers.

However in researching the issue and looking at similar reports I came to the conclusion that the issue was not with the GPS function but with SPOT’s  Globalstar satellite communications.  Globalstar had well documented issues about that time. Maybe they are sorted by now but I won’t front up with another year’s subscription to find out. (If you want to take the risk, or know that SPOT 2 does work well in your area, then make an offer for the SPOT 2 sitting on my desk, Complete with armband case).

InReach SE

InReach SE satellite communicator
InReach SE satellite communicator

Over the last year or so I was on the lookout for similar devices.  Yellow Brick’s YB3  uses the pervasive Iridium satellite communications system. A back country test by Jaakko Heikka showed it performed well Interestingly he carried a SPOT 2 for comparison and the showed that even in wide open spaces, SPOT 2 gave a similar performance to that which we experienced.

Then recently, I discovered Graham Frith, a NZ orienteering acquaintance of ours, is biking around the globe with an InReach SE. The SE model did everything we want, had services to suit various uses and best of all, Graham said it had never missed a beat.

A continuing story

I have ordered an InReach SE. Twice the price of SPOT 3 but more capable and more importantly, it should work. It arrives Monday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Your experience?

If you have used a Satellite communicator for safety during mapping or trips, then let us have your experience. Please include the general location and whether you were in bush or open country.


2 thoughts on “Satellite Communicators for Bush Mappers

  1. Interesting article. I look forward to more on this subject

  2. Hi Ken! And thanks for linking to my blog. Hope my reports were of use.

    Please report how the InReach SE works once you get some use for it. I believe it should work just fine though I remember reading of some problems using it in the Antarctica but I don’t know the details and those might be user errors as well…

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