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Best Buy Satellite Phone: Choosing a Life-Saving Gadget for Backcountry Use

Best Buy Satellite Phone
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

Imagine you are out in the mountains or in the jungle and there is an emergency- perhaps a tornado or a flood, but your phone fails to pick the network. What would you do? To avoid these kinds of situations you should consider buying a satellite phone. A best buy satellite phone works as a reliable back up when your cell phone fails you.

While the thought of acquiring a satellite phone may never have crossed your mind, learning about its facts and the low cost of acquiring the gadget will have you thinking twice. A satellite phone can work virtually anywhere on earth and is hardly affected by strong and violent storms. Not to worry about their weight as generally satellite phones weigh a few ounces and are of the same size as your ordinary cell phone.

Woman Using Satellite Phone

For a satellite phone to operate, it requires a line of site with the sky to get a signal for service. Voice calls made to a satellite phone will cost a significant international calling surcharge while sending a text is treated as an ordinary SMS. Satellite phones can be hired or bought, depending on the period of usage.

How a Satellite Phone Works

Unlike cell phones, sat phones neither send nor receive signals from cell phone towers. Rather they communicate via a web network of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The network of satellites may also be fixed in a geostationary orbit that is above the equator. The reason as to why the satellite network is never affected by harsh weather conditions is because the satellite network is located about 500- 1000 miles above the surface of the earth.

Our Top Picks

NameWeightDimensionBest usePrice
Iridium 95553.3 pounds5.6 x 2.2 x 1.8 inchesHunting, mountaineering, camping, hikingCheck price on Amazon
Inmarsat IsatPhone 23 pounds10 x 9 x 4 inchesHunting, mountaineering, camping, hikingCheck price on Amazon
Iridium 9575 Extreme3.7 pounds5.5 x 1.1 x 2.4 inchesMilitary, hunting, mountaineering, camping, hikingCheck price on Amazon
BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme Kit3.7 pounds5.51 x 1.06 x 2.36 inchesMilitary, hunting, mountaineering, camping, hikingCheck price on Amazon
Globalstar GSP-17001 pound8 x 8 x 2 inchesHunting, mountaineering, camping, hikingCheck price on Amazon
Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro2.2 pounds6.7 x 2.4 x 1.6 inchesHunting, mountaineering, camping, hikingCheck price on Amazon

What You Should Know About Satellite Phones

  • Unlike ordinary cell phones, satellite phones do not have internal antennas. Their external antennas have to be pulled out for them to work properly in sending and receiving calls. If their antennas are not extended the phone will not work because of the way radio waves are propagated.
  • Calls made to satellite phones are usually very costly when coming from the public networks. It will cost you up to $10 a minute with regards to the tariff plan and the carrier. In case you intend to get calls on your sat phone, it would be best if you choose a carrier that offers over dial capabilities or Direct Inward Dial.
  • The quality of voice may be lower than is the case with cell phones as the bandwidth is limited to minimize power requirements. Latency or delay may be experienced between when you talk and when the party on the other end responds. This often occurs when communicating via a system with satellites located in geostationary orbit.
  • Whereas some satellite phone carriers offer global coverage, this is never 100% certain. There could be some dead spots depending on your location. This normally happens as a result of your surrounding such high buildings, mountain ranges, trees or any other obstructions. This is also dependant on the design of the satellite constellation.
  • Although earlier on we had mentioned that sat phones have almost the same size like that of an ordinary cell phone, there are differences in design such as in terms of soft buttons, options, antennas and displays.

Features to Keep an Eye On When Shopping For a Sat Phone

Simplicity in Usage

If you are a first timer with a satellite phone, then ease of use should be your top most priority. Simplicity and ease of use also plays in because satellite phones are used especially in areas with poor or not cell phone network. I’m certain you do not want to struggle sending a text message or making a call during an emergency.

Easy To Use Satellite Phone

Reliable Network Coverage

The network of satellites of a sat phone should be in a geostationary orbit. One with a network of satellites that is in motion is at times less reliable especially when the satellite you are using shifts out of range. You should ask yourself in which location you will be using your gadget then choose a network that provides you with flexible as well as reliable coverage.

Emergency Help Button

This is an important feature especially for backpackers going to the wilderness with their phone. Satellite phones usually come equipped with onboard GPS to locate you. So all you need to do is press a button and your location will be transmitted right away to emergency workers.

Satellite Phone Sos Button

Regardless of where you are on earth and no matter where the emergency workers are, they will be in a position to locate and rescue you.

Voicemail

This is a standard feature you will not miss in most sat phones. However, you need to know that voicemail features vary from handset to handset. Get to find out how long your message can be, does it allow you to easily navigate through your messages to skip, save, delete or replay as you would want to?

Text and email messaging

Just like your cell phone, a satellite phone cannot only make voice calls but also send and receive text and email messages. While shopping, confirm how much you will be charged to send a text or an email.

Type Sms on a Satellite Phone

Hands- Free operation

I am sure you have once been in a situation where you want to talk on your phone but not use your hands. As you go about shopping for a satellite phone be on the lookout for a hands free feature. This is a lifesaver feature especially when you are out in the wild.

Weather resistance

This is one of the most important features in determining a quality sat phone. This is more so with the environment in which you are going to use the gadget. You definitely do not want your phone damaged in a harsh storm. If anything that is when you need it most.

Using Satellite Phone in Winter

While out mountain climbing, backpacking or out in a remote place, your phone is likely to get exposed to dust, extreme temperatures, rain and snow. If your satellite phone is not all weatherproof, it is certainly not going to offer reliable network connection.

Price

This is a crucial point to ponder. There are different satellite phones in the market with different distinct features and capabilities. Prices will vary depending on the features and accessories that a phone comes with. Apart from knowing what your desired gadget can do, be sure that the price matches the features it comes with. You do not want to purchase an item later on to find out it was a waste of your hard earned money.

Airtime option

You can select the prepaid or postpaid option, depending on how long you are going to be with the phone. SIM cards are normally preloaded with airtime units that are to be activated by the manufacturer or the vendor.

Satellite Phone Airtime Option

It takes about 90 days from the time of activation for the data to expire.

Other capabilities

Apart from the normal features a satellite phone should have such as voice calls and texting, what more can the phone you want to purchase do? Does it give you the ability to get online? Is it Wi-Fi enabled? Does it come with an optional data kit? Get to find out more.

Top Satellite Phones to Go For

Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone

Weight: 3.3 poundsIridium 9555 Satellite Phone

Dimensions: 5.6 x 2.2 x 1.8 inches

Specific features: Two antennas, a soft case, 12 volt charger and a wall charger with adapters for all outlets

Best use: Hunting, mountaineering, camping, hiking

If you have had a terrible experience with other satellite phones before, then you should try out Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone. With its innovative and all new design, this phone is significantly smaller in size than its predecessors 9505 and 9505a. It will give you an easy time using it thanks to its intuitive user interface. It is compact and very light to carry around as you go about hiking or hunting in the wild.

Another excellent thing about the 9555 is that it can work in very cold weather provided you pack it insulated or near your body. Even more interesting is the fact that you can send a text message to this phone via the internet.

It is weather resistant and is specially designed to withstand and perform perfectly in rugged, remote and industrial environments. You can count on it to save you regardless of your location anytime because it has a communications network that provides global coverage. The decision to purchase the 9555 is certainly not going to be a letdown.

PROS:

  • Good battery life
  • Reliable
  • Great coverage
  • Performs well even in extreme weather conditions
 CONS:

  • Pricy
  • Weak antennae

Related: There is also a prepaid SIM card frequently bought together with this product. The 75 minute 30 Day Prepaid SIM Card for Iridium Satellite Phone enables you to keep in touch with your family and friends even when in the wilderness.

Check the price on Amazon

Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Satellite Telephone

Weight: 3 PoundsInmarsat IsatPhone 2

Dimensions: 10 x 9 x 4 inches

Specific features: Lithium Ion Battery, international plug kit, DC charger, Holster, Hands free earpiece, Lanyard, USB cable, quick start guide and SIM card

Best use: Hunting, mountaineering, camping, hiking

If you are the kind of person who travels a lot to very remote locations, this phone will do you good. It is specially designed in such a way that it works with the most reliable satellite communications network on earth. The Inmarsat Isatphone 2 Satellite Telephone can literally withstand anything from monsoon rain to desert sandstorms, icy weather or extreme heat.

It has humidity tolerance of up to 95%. It is also resistant to shock, dust and splash. It has a global coverage apart from the Poles. There are no roaming charges to think about whenever making calls to or from the phone as calls are made through a single global network.

The phone is easy to use and one can communicate via text, email, web message to Isatpone and can make clear and reliable voice calls. During emergencies you can press on the emergency button which is clearly marked on the phone. You can also set it up to send an alert message or email to a group of your preferred recipients.  Incoming calls and texts are not billed.

PROS:

  • Good voice quality
  • Reasonable calling plans
  • Global coverage
 CONS:

  • Battery drains significantly when phone is off for some time.
  • Has a weird quack for incoming messages
  • Does not show ‘@’ in messages

Related: This product is frequently bought together with BlueCosmo Prepaid SIM card. This SIM card has 100 units that can take you up to 90 days.

Check the price on Amazon

Iridium 9575 Extreme Satellite Phone

Weight: 3.7 poundsIridium 9575 Extreme Phone

Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 2.4 inches

Specific features: Iridium SIM card, IP65 rating, customizable GPS, charger

Best use: Military, hunting, mountaineering, camping, hiking

If you are looking for a phone with the latest technology, the this phone is the phone to go for as it is the most advanced satellite phone currently found in the market. It provides international coverage for SMS, voice as well as data services. This is the first ever sat phone to provide fully integrated services of customizable GPS, online tracking and emergency SOS with notification services.

The Iridium 9575 Extreme Satellite Phone is jet water resistant, dust proof and shock resistant thanks to the IP65 rating. This handset is also the first to bring on board military grade 810F durability.

It introduces its users to the Iridium AxcessPoint which enables one to set up his or her sat phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The phone also comes with an Iridium SIM card fully loaded with 200 minutes worth of airtime which is valid for 180 day from the time of activation. You can contact the customer care desk regarding the SIM card activation. If you do have the need to use the SIM right away, it can still be activated at a later date.

PROS:

  • Water proof
  • Durable
  • Global coverage
  • Wi-Fi hotspot
 CONS:

  • Expensive as compared to others in the market
  • Drains power when off for some time

Check the price on Amazon

BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme Satellite Phone Kit

Weight: 3.7 poundsIridium Satellite Phone Kit

Dimensions: 5.51 x 1.06 x 2.36 inches

Specific features: Lithium Ion Battery, AC wall charger, automobile DC charger, hands free earpiece, power and USB adapter, USB cable, data tethering, GPS positioning, online tracking, SOS button, SIM card

Best use: Military, hunting, mountaineering, camping, hiking

This is the most feature-rich sat phone you will find in the market. It has global coverage with no roaming charges when making and receiving voice calls, messages, tracking GPS location and requesting help on SOS anywhere on earth. You can be sure to have quality voice regardless of where you are located.

Do not worry about it toughness as meets the US Military standards for resistance to rain, shock, dust and vibration. This means you can freely transverse the wild without fear of damage by the elements. With BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme Satellite Phone Kit, friends and family can easily locate you thanks to the real time location tracking, geo fencing alerts and scheduled check ins.

It can also help you get access to the internet as it is in position of data tethering to your laptop. However, keep in mind that data rates will apply. If you want to connect via Wi-Fi it is possible by using a mini- USB cable Iridium GO!

PROS:

  • Durable
  • No roaming charges
  • Global coverage
  • Ability to access the internet
 CONS:

  • Costly
  • Setting up takes time due to the many steps to be followed

Check the price on Amazon

Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone

Weight: 1 poundGlobalstar Satellite Phone

Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 2 inches

Specific features: Long life lithium ion battery, lighted keypad, backlit color display

Best use: Hunting, mountaineering, camping, hiking

This phone has been in the market for quite some time now and has gained public confidence all over. It durable and its battery life will take you for 4 hours on talk time and 36 hours on standby mode. It has an ergonomic design and so you can be guaranteed to have it easy carrying it around.

In case of an emergency in the dark, you can comfortably navigate through the keypad as it is lighted. It also has an SOS button that you can quickly press during an emergency and your location will be quickly identified by emergency workers.

The Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone will not be in a position to ring inside a building in ring- while- stowed mode because it needs to be on and have the line of sight to the satellites. However, you can use the mobile kit to run an antenna outside and get calls while the phone is docked.

PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Durable
 CONS:

  • No information regarding how one can make calls when out of the United States
  • Drains battery when off for a long time

Check the price on Amazon

Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro Satellite Phone

Weight: 2.2 poundsInmarsat IsatPhone Pro

Dimensions: 6.7 x 2.4 x 1.6 inches

Specific features: Long life battery, larger keypad, Bluetooth support, intuitive GSM-style support, high visibility color screen

Best use: Hunting, mountaineering, camping, hiking

Think of whatever you may need in a satellite phone and this one will give you just that. It is robust in terms of features and performance as it offers the most reliable communication with high quality voice.

No matter the condition you are in, whether in scotching heat, freezing cold, rain storms or dust storms, you can count on Inmarsat IsatPhone Pro Satellite Phone to have your back. It is dust splash and shock resistant. Its humidity tolerance runs from 0% to 95%.

You will not find a sat phone with the longest battery life as this product because it has up to 8 hours talk time and up to 100 hours of standby time. The phone is easy to use thanks to its intuitive GSM style interface. Another amazing thing about this handset is that it is the only satellite phone in the market with Bluetooth support. You do not have to hold it in your hand to use as it has hands free capability.

PROS:

  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Easy to use
  • Reliable communication
  • Long battery life
 CONS:

  • Speaker phones needs to be louder
  • Rugged design

Related: This item is frequently bought together with IsatPhone Carry Case. It protects the phone from all manner of damages and ruins.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap up

You do not have to wait to be caught in a tight corner to realize that you need a satellite phone. A sat phone is literally a life saver especially if you are the kind of person who loves outdoor activities and exploring the wild. So the next time you pack your stuff for camping, remember to have a satellite phone with you. Your family and friends will need to communicate with you and you certainly do not want to experience network hiccups.

Do you have any comments or questions regarding satellite phones? Why not share with us in the comments section below?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bradley Page
Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!

  • Shawna Lewis

    We go hiking out in some remote areas so we decided to make an investment in a satellite phone. The one we ended up going with is the Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone. It’s worked great and was also easy to set up.

  • Bradley Page

    The 9555 satellite phone is a great investment in safety. I’m glad that you’ve gotten yours today Shawna. It’s a great phone that will keep you connected to your loved ones when you’re out in some remote spots during a trip.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, by the way! 🙂

  • Lucy Marbury

    A good satellite phone is one of those things that you are going to be glad to have with you if you’re ever in an emergency situation. We have the Inmarsat IsatPhone 2. The voice quality on it is great and the service is excellent as well. We’ve been very happy with this phone!

  • Bradley Page

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lucy and leaving us with a good review of the Inmarsat. It’s very simple to use, just make sure you have a reliable network provider so full use of the phone can be certain.

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