We can rely on our phones for communication almost anywhere these days. But if you’re hiking in a truly remote area, you could end up kilometres from anywhere with signal. Here’s how to prepare.
Don’t rely on your phone
If your phone dies, it’s no longer your flashlight, your map, or your source of first-aid information. Don’t head into the outback without a map, a compass, and the know-how to use them.
Study up on wilderness first aid. Pack a real flashlight with a ton of batteries, and a whistle for low-tech emergency communication. Tell someone where you’re going, when you plan to be back, and what they should do if you don’t return.
A backup battery can help keep your phone turned on, but in the country you may not have any signal. That’s where seemingly old-fashioned tech can become useful: handheld GPS devices can keep track of your location even when your phone isn’t up to the job. Meanwhile, 2-way radios are a way to communicate with hiking buddies who are nearby but not within earshot.
Consider a personal locator beacon (PLB)
If you don’t want a device with subscription fees, a personal locator beacon can be your “just in case” device. According to REI, PLBs’ batteries last for years, and they have a stronger signal than satellite messengers. Cost is around $424, no subscription. They have only one job: to summon a rescue team and let them know where you are.
This is the kind of thing that will sit unused in your backpack until the day you fall off a cliff or get stuck in quicksand — and then you’ll be glad you have it.
Text friends and emergency services with a satellite messenger
A satellite messenger is a device made for hikers that lets you send messages, including your location, to emergency services and often to friends and family for non-emergency purposes as well.
Besides the cost of buying them, these also require a subscription fee in the ballpark of $35/month. To buy the device, prices range from around $212 for a device that’s just a messenger, to $565 or more for something that’s also a GPS with on-board maps.