While planning for a remote, solo backcountry adventure recently, my wife insisted I had some means of communication should I find myself in trouble or injured.  I’m generally very careful when travelling solo (keyword, generally), but, accidents do happen.  It feels like the longer you’re away, and the deeper in backcountry you go, the greater the risk of something going wrong.
So, in addition to meal and route planning, I found myself researching and considering a number of satellite based, personal communication devices.
I selected the Zoleo Global Messenger device with accompanying service plan.  For a modest price, I was able to have two way text messaging and/or email no matter where I was, even without cell service.  Most importantly, emergency services were always available, simply at the press of a button, literally.  This provides unbeatable peace of mind for the important people in your life.
While there are several competing products to chose from these days, the Zoleo offers the best value, in my opinion, especially for occasional users.  It also has some cool features too that set it apart.
First, some basics that appear to be common to all competing products:
- You purchase a small device, approximately the size of a deck of cards.
- As with a cell phone, you sign up for a monthly service plan.  Different products have different service terms; this is a key area to pay attention to!
- The service plan includes a fixed number of satellite messages, with extra charges per message if you exceed the “included” messages in your plan. 
  Again, very similar to smartphone plans.

From the research I did, the Zoleo plans worked best for me.  As of the time of wring, the most basic Zoleo plan was $25 CDN per month, which includes 25 satellite messages.  Extra messages are 70 cents each.  Other plans are available with more messages, at increased cost.  All plans and their prices are detailed on the Zoleo site.
My wife and I used the service as follows: I would send her a message at the end of the day, giving her all my updates, then she would reply back with a message of her own, telling me what was going on back at home.  With each message I sent, the Zoleo also automatically included my GPS coordinates, so my wife could easily follow my progress on a map.
For us, the basic plan worked well.  While there were times I was out of cell range for a week at a stretch, the rest of the time I was in and out of cell coverage on a daily basis.  A plan with more messages simply wouldn’t be good value for us; 25 satellite messages was enough.
Plan details aside, what’s really cool about the Zoleo is that you use your smartphone to compose and receive messages.  The phone connects with the Zoleo device via bluetooth!  The Zoleo is effectively a bluetooth modem which talks to the Satellite network, relaying your messages to and from the people you want to connect with.  Some competing products include a small “chicklet” style keyboard, or use the old “T9” flip phone style text entry method.  Neither appealed to me.
I always have my iPhone with me, so using it in this way provided a seamless experience for me to compose and read my messages.
“Great!” you may be thinking, “but what if I lose my phone, damage it, or when the battery dies?  What good is the Zoleo to me then?!”  That’s what I wondered.  Well, this is where the Zoleo stands out.  
The Zoleo can be used with or WITHOUT a smartphone!  The smartphone is really just a convenience for messaging; you don’t need it for the two key functions of the device:
1) Notifying your loved ones that you’re okay and where you are,
2) Requesting emergency help on site when you need it.
Here’s how it works:  The Zoleo has a “check-in” button that sends a short “I’m okay” message to a set of recipients that you pre-program before your trip.  It also has an “SOS” button (with a special cover over it), that you open and press to contact emergency services if you need them.  No phone is needed for these functions.
 
This was HUGE for me!  I didn’t want to have to rely on my iPhone, but it was nice to have for sending more than just basic “I’m alive” messages.  The way I see it, the Zoleo gives you the best of both worlds: a smartphone connection (via an app) for ease of use and complex messaging; a hardened, standalone device for the core functions.  The Zoleo also has several embedded, multi-colour LEDs to provide you with important information: messaging status, battery status, SOS response status, etc.  Again, this facilitates full use without a smartphone.
I could tell you a lot more about the Zoleo:
- The impact and waterproof rating of the device,
- The number of weeks it can go between charges,
- The detailed weather reports you can receive,
- The fact that you can put your plan on hold for a minimal fee when you’re not off in the bush and don’t need it.  This is a big one!
If you’re interested, I suggest you read the details in full on the Zoleo website.  My aim here was to give you the basics and bring the device to your attention.
The Zoleo is a very consumer friendly product, and one which can help put peoples’ mind at ease if you’re a frequent backcountry traveller; it may also put your own at ease!  You don’t need to pay a fortune anymore for basic, “anywhere in the world”, text messaging capability; it’s now possible for less than the cost of a cellphone and cellphone plan.  Check it out and compare it yourself against all the options; choose what works best for you!
I hope you found this interesting.  Feedback welcome.
While planning for a remote, solo backcountry adventure recently, my wife insisted I had some means of communication should I find myself in trouble or injured.  I’m generally very careful when travelling solo (keyword, generally), but, accidents do happen.  It feels like the longer you’re away, and the deeper in backcountry you go, the greater the risk of something going wrong.
So, in addition to meal and route planning, I found myself researching and considering a number of satellite based, personal communication devices.
I selected the Zoleo Global Messenger device with accompanying service plan.  For a modest price, I was able to have two way text messaging and/or email no matter where I was, even without cell service.  Most importantly, emergency services were always available, simply at the press of a button, literally.  This provides unbeatable peace of mind for the important people in your life.
While there are several competing products to chose from these days, the Zoleo offers the best value, in my opinion, especially for occasional users.  It also has some cool features too that set it apart.
First, some basics that appear to be common to all competing products:
- You purchase a small device, approximately the size of a deck of cards.
- As with a cell phone, you sign up for a monthly service plan.  Different products have different service terms; this is a key area to pay attention to!
- The service plan includes a fixed number of satellite messages, with extra charges per message if you exceed the “included” messages in your plan. 
  Again, very similar to smartphone plans.

From the research I did, the Zoleo plans worked best for me.  As of the time of wring, the most basic Zoleo plan was $25 CDN per month, which includes 25 satellite messages.  Extra messages are 70 cents each.  Other plans are available with more messages, at increased cost.  All plans and their prices are detailed on the Zoleo site, https://www.zoleo.com/en-ca/plans
My wife and I used the service as follows: I would send her a message at the end of the day, giving her all my updates, then she would reply back with a message of her own, telling me what was going on back at home.  With each message I sent, the Zoleo also automatically included my GPS coordinates, so my wife could easily follow my progress on a map.
For us, the basic plan worked well.  While there were times I was out of cell range for a week at a stretch, the rest of the time I was in and out of cell coverage on a daily basis.  A plan with more messages simply wouldn’t be good value for us; 25 satellite messages was enough.
Plan details aside, what’s really cool about the Zoleo is that you use your smartphone to compose and receive messages.  The phone connects with the Zoleo device via bluetooth!  The Zoleo is effectively a bluetooth modem which talks to the Satellite network, relaying your messages to and from the people you want to connect with.  Some competing products include a small “chicklet” style keyboard, or use the old “T9” flip phone style text entry method.  Neither appealed to me.
I always have my iPhone with me, so using it in this way provided a seamless experience for me to compose and read my messages.
“Great!” you may be thinking, “but what if I lose my phone, damage it, or when the battery dies?  What good is the Zoleo to me then?!”  That’s what I wondered.  Well, this is where the Zoleo stands out.  
The Zoleo can be used with or WITHOUT a smartphone!  The smartphone is really just a convenience for messaging; you don’t need it for the two key functions of the device:
1) Notifying your loved ones that you’re okay and where you are,
2) Requesting emergency help on site when you need it.
Here’s how it works:  The Zoleo has a “check-in” button that sends a short “I’m okay” message to a set of recipients that you pre-program.  It also has an “SOS” button (with a special cover over it), that you open and press to contact emergency services if you need them.  No phone is needed for these functions.
 
This was HUGE for me!  I didn’t want to have to rely on my iPhone, but it was nice to have for sending more than just basic “I’m alive” messages.  The way I see it, the Zoleo gives you the best of both worlds: a smartphone connection (via an app) for ease of use and complex messaging; a hardened, standalone device for the core functions.  The Zoleo also has several embeded, multicolour LEDs to provide you with important information: messaging status, battery status, SOS response status, etc.  Again, this facilitates full use without a smartphone.
I could tell you a lot more about the Zoleo:
- The impact and waterproof rating of the device,
- The number of weeks it can go between charges,
- The detailed weather reports you can receive,
- The fact that you can put your plan on hold for a minimal fee when you’re not off in the bush and don’t need it.  This is a big one!
If you’re interested, I suggest you read the details in full on the Zoleo website.  My aim here was to give you the basics and bring the device to your attention.
The Zoleo is a very consumer friendly product, and one which can help put peoples’ mind at ease if you’re a frequent backcountry traveler; it may also put your own at ease!  You don’t need to pay a fortune anymore for basic, “anywhere in the world”, text messaging capability; it’s now possible for less than the cost of a cellphone and cellphone plan.  Check it out and compare it yourself against all the options; choose what works best for you!
I hope you found this interesting.  Feedback welcome.
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