The White Mountains of New Hampshire, my home range, are a rocky and wild slice of mountains despite their relative proximity to civilization. Their weather is legendarily unforgiving, and their trails rough. Having a backup plan if things go awry on a hike in the Whites is always a good idea, and that includes a communication strategy. On recent hikes up Mt. Pierce, Mt. Jackson, and Mt. Webster, where the notches and ravines of this area make cell service frequently nonexistent, I enjoyed the confidence of knowing I could stay in touch with the outside world via the Zoleo Satellite Communicator.
Pairing the Zoleo with my iPhone was simple—with both devices powered up, just turn on Bluetooth and open the Zoleo app. This seems like a good time for a confession: I don’t use manuals and quick-start guides usually get a cursory look at best. This device is so user-friendly and intuitive that you could save the reading material for treating your insomnia. The check-in function worked as advertised and delivered an ‘I’m OK’ notification to my designated contacts, along with latitude and longitude coordinates. Delivery was completed within a couple minutes, both sending and receiving. I was also able to check detailed weather forecasts for my location.
The device doesn't have buttons to send messages itself, save for an SOS button, and the app doesn't include maps. But for the price—it costs $199 and has reasonably priced usage plans—there's no reason comms capability and SAR services can't be at your fingertips on every hike. –Brian McElwee