Trackers

Choosing the right tracker

External (magnet/puck) Satphone Antenna

Almost all new satphones have a tracker function built in, but unfortunately they do not excel in this functionality. Most satphones require to have the antenna extended, so unless you make use of the secondary external ‘puck antenna’ (which is provided in the box with a new Irdium phone – however you still need a good place to mount it) or make use of a permanent external antenna, your location won’t be shared non-stop and needs some form of human interference. Both a tracker and a satphone need a direct line of sight to the satellite and cannot be used inside. Dedicated trackers can often be mounted outside permanently – this means your location is shared non-stop!

First thing you should think about when you consider buying a device is the purpose you want to use it for. Trackers excel in tracking. Satphones excel in two-way-speech. Both offer some form of messaging. With satphones messages can be composed through the physical ‘nokia-style’ keyboard or after connecting the phone to your computer. Most trackers do not have a keyboard and require a bluetooth connection with your smartphone. In non-emergency conditions this can be very convenient. With an emergency it depends on the type of situation. In extremely high or extremely low temperatures you might not want to be dependent on the battery and touchscreen of your consumer-grade mobile phone functioning. Every extra ‘link’ could be a potential weakness in that case.

SOS-function

Most newly sold trackers and satphones have a “SOS-button”. This button sends a pre-configured text-message with your GPS-coordinates to any pre-configured contract. Generally this will be the GEOS Search and Rescue centre. After GEOS receives a SOS they will try to get more information from you by calling/texting you. Alternatively they will contact your emergency contact to verify that you are out in the open. If so, they will alarm local authorities and request a search-and-rescue operation. Please understand that it depends on your particular situation if the service provided by GEOS is adequate for you, i.e.:

SituationRecommendedGEOS SAR
Broken leg while hikingGEOSRecommended
Mountaineering accidentGEOS tracker / satphone (depending on conditions)Depending on situation
Mayday / panpan at seaEPIRB + PLB / AIS-beaconOnly (!) secondary
Kitchen accident at sea / in remote areaSatphone (we recommend calling MedJet)No
Flat tire / car breakdownSatphoneNo (± if life threatening)
Terrorist attackMedJet‘s Horizon package covers terrorism (phone only)No (± for location if you stay outside)

A tracker/satphone SOS-button in combination with the GEOS SAR emergency centre is an excellent option if you are traveling to a remote area in a country that has well-equipped search and rescue teams. GEOS will provide the SAR-team with the information they need (your location). When leaving for open water, a SOS-button can be a supplement, but should never replace dedicated emergency equipment as an EPIRB or PLB. For everyday accidents that unfortunately take place at a remote location a comprehensive Medivac insurance would be recommended; often the chance of this happening is relatively underestimated. Medvac insurances often require a phone-connection and there are huge differences in quality between Medvac providers, please have a good look into this. While overlanding or going on a safari, often spoken advice is required during a car-breakdown, so a satphone would be preferred. Finally, very specific situations in political unstable countries require unique and specialised solutions.

To put it simple: a tracker does not replace the full functionality of a satellite phone and vice versa. Sometimes, ideally, you would have both. Cost-wise this might not be attractive, if you are not totally sure about what suits your needs best, please contact us.

Garmin inReach devices

If a tracker is the best option for you, we would highly recommend buying a tracker that makes use of the Iridium network. Iridium is the only satellite network that provides truly global coverage. More important: Iridium based trackers will continue sharing your location in situations where other satellite providers have a hard time getting a connection, i.e. in the mountains, or simply while mounted to/on a moving object such as a car, boat or your body.

With the acquisition of Delorme, a company that had been building Iridium trackers for two decades, Garmin became the biggest manufacturer of high-quality Iridium based trackers in the world. Garmin named the Delorme technology ‘inReach’ and implemented it into a wide range of devices. We can divide these devices into three categories:

  1. Dedicated trackers: the ideal option when your main purpose is to share your location. I.e. the inReach mini or the inReach SE+.
  2. Handheld GPS devices with a tracker built in: if you would need a handheld GPS device anyway, you get the tracker built in as an extra at a very competitive price! I.e. the GPSMAP 86i has the option of installing (water) navigation charts and is an ideal option for in your grab-bag. The GPSMAP 66i is the counterpart of the 86i for land usage and offers the possibility of installing a wide range of hiking maps.
  3. Handheld GPS devices with a tracker built in and a built in keyboard for sending messages: the Montana 700i and Montana 750i are Garmin’s top-tier handheld GPS devices and have a touchscreen keyboard build in similarly to your smartphone.

Garmin inReach subscriptions

Garmin offers three types of (Iridium based) inReach subscriptions:

SmallMediumLarge
Activation feeYesYesYes
Monthly Subscription optionLow priceMedium+ priceHighest price
Yearly Subscription optionLower priceMedium priceHigh price
Tracking points included / extra costsExtra costsUnlimitedUnlimited
SMS included / extra costs10 / extra costs40 / extra costsUnlimited
Pre-configured messagesUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Premium weather updateExtra costsExtra costsExtra costs
WorldSat does not take any responsibility for the above, please check the subscription website yourselves.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Cost-wise a tracker might be more attractive in certain conditions while a satphone might be cheaper in other conditions. This solely depends on your needs: for long-term emergency use a satphone might be cheaper (i.e. the Iridium Africa contract only costs €25,- p.m. with a one year contract), for a single month the costs of a satphone and a tracker can be pretty similar because of the activation fee with a tracker (both ± € 50,-), for a few months a tracker is often cheaper though. Regardless of costs, what would be your best option depends on your needs: if your main purpose is to share your location during your round the world sailing trip a dedicated tracker simply is a better option. As mentioned before: sometimes, ideally you would have both a tracker and a satphone. Cost-wise this might not be attractive, if you are not totally sure about what suits your needs best, please contact us.

What we offer

  1. Dedicated trackers, i.e. the inReach mini, inReach mini with a permanent boat mount (marina pack) or the inReach SE+
  2. Handheld GPS-devices with a mapping function for sea (Garmin GPSMAP 86i) or land (Garmin GPSMAP 66i) with an inReach tracker built in!
  3. Handheld GPS-devices with a mapping function, inReach tracker built in and a touchscreen for easily sending satellite messages, i.e. the Garmin Montana 700i series

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Personal advice?

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