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PostPosted: July 13th, 2021, 5:05 pm 
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D.B Cooper wrote:
I wish to ask canoe techies if they know if cell phone coverage is going to expand to back country in near future.


Depends on your definition of "back country"!

Where I mostly paddle I expect cell phone coverage won't be available EVER! When Elon gets his low earth satellites all in place that will be the game changer. When will that happen? Maybe in another 5 years?

The big Telcos will be spending the next few years expanding 5G, I doubt they have any interest in expanding the current cell coverage and keep in mind 5G towers have a smaller range than current systems.

Basically if you are more than about 10km from a population centre or major highway cell coverage probably will never happen.

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PostPosted: July 14th, 2021, 2:56 pm 
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The cellular coverage market is in high population areas.

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PostPosted: July 16th, 2021, 11:38 am 
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There will never be any cell phone coverage in remote areas (unless it's by satellite), too expensive to build roads to bring in equipment to build towers and fly-in is not an option in many areas!
Satellite phones are the only option for full communication with in-reach and similar just for small messaging and such.

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PostPosted: July 16th, 2021, 2:37 pm 
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Reading the Zoleo website, it seems that the device when not paired to a smart phone is similar in capabilities to an early model Spot that I rented in 2010--SOS button, I'm ok button, location tracking. But no 2 way messaging except to cancel SOS call. The one thing that they both lacked/lack is the ability to send a help message that doesn't result in sending in the cavalry, e.g. I need someone to come get me [fill in the non-emergency reason] but I'm neither sick nor injured nor starving. Paired with a smart phone it is a whole different device, but still usable if your phone dies.

Does this seem like a good description?

Also looking at the Garmin Inreach devices. Looks like I need to create a spread sheet to compare products.


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PostPosted: July 18th, 2021, 6:04 pm 
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That's pretty accurate if you're not pairing with a phone Fritz. I carry a powerbank so my phone dying isn't a concern for me. What you can also do is set up a Morse code style system with check-ins. For instance, you could tell someone if I send three consecutive check-ins in short order, that means X.

I made a 4-minute review of the ZOLEO here:
https://youtu.be/_7blZReEnsk
(Coupon code for free activation there too)
Used it a lot this year and I'm very happy with it.

They just introduced a new add-on feature called Location Share+ which allows you unlimited check-ins and map tracking for folks at home, if desired, for an extra CAD$7.50/mo. You need at least the base plan first, but that makes it pretty affordable. Also offers offline map downloads in the app.

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PostPosted: July 18th, 2021, 6:04 pm 
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That's pretty accurate if you're not pairing with a phone Fritz. I carry a powerbank so my phone dying isn't a concern for me. What you can also do is set up a Morse code style system with check-ins. For instance, you could tell someone if I send three consecutive check-ins in short order, that means X.

I made a 4-minute review of the ZOLEO here:
https://youtu.be/_7blZReEnsk
(Coupon code for free activation there too)
Used it a lot this year and I'm very happy with it.

They just introduced a new add-on feature called Location Share+ which allows you unlimited check-ins and map tracking for folks at home, if desired, for an extra CAD$7.50/mo. You need at least the base plan first, but that makes it pretty affordable. Also offers offline map downloads in the app.

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PostPosted: July 26th, 2021, 8:22 pm 
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A question that I haven't seen addressed with satellite communicators is who is responsible for the cost of the rescue. I have a vague 10 year old memory that Spot provided some sort of rescue insurance for an extra fee. I haven't seen any mention of rescue insurance on the Zoleo or InReach websites and haven't gone back to the Spot website to see whether they have such a plan now.

I'm guessing the costs depend on who does the rescuing, what insurance coverage the rescued has, and the government jurisdiction in which the rescue occurs.

Looking forward to folks knowledge on this.


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PostPosted: July 27th, 2021, 3:19 am 
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In Canada it's basically no charge.

I don't know the specifics for the US but my understanding is that in some States you pay.

For rescue insurance reading the fine print is absolutely mandatory as there can be lots of "hidden" exclusions.

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PostPosted: July 27th, 2021, 12:48 pm 
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Excellent thread, thank you for starting this.
I spent all of this past rainy Saturday looking at SOS devices.

History: I asked my wife if she would be comfortable portaging her way out in the event that I 'pass on' during a trip. Her reply was "No! I have no sense of direction, and I will never forgive you if that happens" :-?

So hence the search for an SOS unit. I started with Zoleo, based on Jonathan Kelly's review of the unit, but the monthly cost would add up quick. I don't care about text and weather and email, I get out to escape all that, and take whatever Mother nature throws at me. I just need the emergency call button so my wife doesn't wonder the wilderness indefinitely.

Great to see so many have a unit and different kinds, there will be enough info here to make a sound decision. I did not realize they were so common now. I guess it is something we think of once we hit a certain age for sure.

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PostPosted: August 2nd, 2021, 8:57 pm 
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I decided to buy the Zoleo. Just picked it up from my local REI store. Thanks to all who contributed to this thread and especially to Jon Kelly, Recped, and James (via PM) who answered the questions I posted.

Headed out in about 2 weeks and will see how it works, but based on comments here and in other venues, it looks like it will be a good choice.


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PostPosted: August 3rd, 2021, 9:02 am 
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Good choice. This is my second paddling season with the Zoleo and love it, especially the adaptability of changing the plan at any time. The months of the year I don't head out, I only pay 5 bucks a month and, in my experience, the customer service is excellent.


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PostPosted: August 25th, 2021, 4:59 pm 
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I just spent 6 days on the Manistee River in Michigan with three friends and my new Zoleo. It worked perfectly. I clipped it to the back of my PFD with the top facing the sky. Even though it apparently flipped over often (according to one of my paddling partners) it sent my location every hour to my contacts. It also reliably sent my location whenever I pushed the "OK" button. It seemed to work under moderate tree cover and maybe once inside my tent. Some of the time we were in cell phone range so it might have used that for some of this.

My family was happy with the info they had about where I was and reassured that if necessary I could have used the SOS button to summon help.

All of us were retired, late 60s, early 70s, and my friends agreed that anything that helped us be able to continue to be on the water was a plus.


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PostPosted: August 26th, 2021, 12:29 am 
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if you do not typically opt to carry a cell phone on trips
then i see no advantage of zoleo over inreach, except that it's 100 - 150 cheaper.
but that savings is tongue in cheek: that 150 makes the device a full blown 2 way text communicator, and weather getter, navigation aid, etc.

if you do typically opt to carry a cell phone on trips
then it seems this is where the Zoleo can shine.
because a phone is much better suited for texting, map viewing, etc (than a sat comm device)
the advantage is the $150 saved (by going with Zoleo)
(however, not so if your phone then requires adding solar charger/battery bank).

it seems the Zoleo shines, compared to the Inreach, in only these 3 cases:

A) you strongly prefer to do texting and map reading on a big fluid touch screen (a phone), and so you might as well save $ by going with Zoleo, or

B) you have no interest in having the option of rich communication (full sentences sent by you, and sent to you, questions, etc), weather stuff, navigation stuff, and so you might as well save $ by going with the Zoleo, or

C) you just want to spend the least money, and that brings you to the Zoleo,


Is there anything else that can make the Zoleo shine over the Inreach?


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PostPosted: August 26th, 2021, 8:46 am 
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I carried my cell phone on the trip and a power bank with a 10,050 mAh capacity advertised to be capable of three complete phone charges. I kept my phone off much of the time, turning it on to check messages and the weather. It and the Zoleo were always off at night while I slept. I charged the phone twice over the 6 day period and still had enough power left on the charger to charge the phone at least one more time. The Zoleo had a majority of its charge left at the end of the trip-I've forgotten how much exactly.

I generally texted with my family two or three messages each day and found the messaging interface pretty much the same as my phone messaging interface-so easy and familiar. I did top of my message bundle from Zoleo app when it informed me that I was approaching my 20 message limit-I bought the least expensive subscription. I'll have to go back and count the actual messages I used to consider whether to up my subscription level in the future.

Because I had the tracking set to hourly, the map of our track was not all that useful as the river I was on wound around considerably, lots of doubling back on itself.

I did check with Zoleo customer service to see if it was possible to download my track/waypoints in a format that could be used in a GIS application and was told that it was not possible, but they would consider that as a possible addition to its capabilities for the future. That was a bit disappointing since Spot has had that capability since at least 2010.

I haven't used an InReach device, so don't know what it's capable of, but the $150 greater price was a deal killer for me.

The Zoleo did what I wanted it to-kept my family happy, reassured me that in the case of emergency I could summon the cavalry, and provided a uptodate and local weather report The only disappointment is not being able to download my route to a GIS format.


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PostPosted: August 26th, 2021, 10:06 am 
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Sounds like in your case, the advantage was the $ savings.

The inreach is basically a Zoleo with a screen. It removes the phone from the equation, and then also removes the device for charging the phone. And removes the trouble of pairing devices together to get a message out, or to get other sorts of info, while paddling and while at camp. It's a one package thing that does what your whole system did.

This is why I am curious what attracts people to the zoleo, apart from saving money (at the cost of more bulk and weight, it seems (and possibly buying a bank, etc)).
Or maybe that saving just is the advantage, and there is nothing more to it.

I do have an inreach SE+ (version without mapping), but I did not know about Zoleo when I bought the inreach, so I was not needing to choose.
But I think I would have chosen inreach to avoid the bulk, weight, trouble, of extra devices.

Unless there was something about the Zoleo that I don't know, which makes it ideal.


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