Saturday, 25 April 2015

Communication: Satellite Based Tracking

Something all teams will be mulling over is how do you communicate when you're in the middle of nowhere? We looked at all manner of options, particularly looking at international SIM cards, trying to find the cheapest. All the time, we were quietly contemplating GPS tracking. If only there was a device that could combine GPS tracking and some form of communication? Luckily there are a few emerging technologies that satisfy this need.

I narrowed down all the options to either a SPOT Gen3 or a DeLorme inReach SE. The SPOT is a well established device that offers frequent tracking and the ability to send pre-composed text messages. The inReach offers the ability to track and send custom messages, but here's the great part, you can receive text messages as well! Below is a table of comparison between four different GPS trackers.

As you can see the inReach SE performs favourably (the Explorer is the more expensive model). Therefore, my mind was made up, get an inReach SE! So over the last few months I've been (almost daily) searching on eBay for a second hand unit (I tried reaching out to DeLorme for sponsorship, but no luck there). Finally a unit came up at a reasonable price, and I didn't even hesitate to purchase. The device is fantastic, robustly built, smart design. I'll update with our live tracking map once that is all set up.

Note: a word on subscription plans. Like all satellite based communication you will need to pay a fair bit to actually use your device. The SPOT device offers year long contracts from around 130 USD. The inReach is more expensive (due to the messaging capabilities) but offers monthly contracts (perfect for short trips). If there are a few people in your team then it is worth going for the DeLorme expedition plan (approx 65 USD a month). This plan offers unlimited text messaging, meaning you can keep your blog updated daily and in detail. You can also message mobile phones and email addresses to let loved ones know you are safe and well, and receive unlimited responses.


  1. Post it when you have the live tracking map. Probably getting the same device and looking to create a custom map on Google maps with the data.

    1. Will do. Just looking into ways to neatly embed the tracking map, need a way to display and update the live kml feed. DeLorme provide a map that you can embed using iframes, but it has ugly side bars that don't sit nicely with the clean design I'm after!

    2. Just found the Explorer on sale for $255 USD here. :-)