What is that Orange Thing? Why Do I Carry It?

Satellite Communication in the Wilderness

by Mike Ryan , in Writings by Our Customers

Written by David Chao:

One of the things I love most about the places I fly fish is that there is NO cell coverage. For example, in Cheeseman Canyon, here in Colorado, there is no cell coverage.

David Chao
David Chao

I know I won’t have to carry my cell phone because it won’t work. I have a perfect excuse to not be available. While remoteness in general is good and lack of cell coverage is even better for the soul, it does cause some problems if you need assistance or if something goes wrong. A few years back, a friend of mine happened to be fishing in Cheeseman during the wintertime and while walking around the rocks, slipped and badly damaged his ankle. He thought he may have broken his ankle or at least badly sprained it. There was no one around him and he had to walk out from Cheeseman Canyon on a bad leg.

That got me thinking. What if I really needed help? Or I came across my friend and he really needed help?? I also overland, or car camp with my Land Cruiser and I’m often out in the woods without cell coverage as well. I try to text my wife that I’m good at my campsite but if I don’t have cell coverage, I go to the last place I did and will send her a note. I also have my ham radio set up to beacon my location using something called APRS to send my location that she can follow me on a website. Even though I can send out a text from my ham radio, it is not the most reliable. Driving back to the last known cell coverage is not always easy either.

Garmin and Spot Satellite Communicators
Garmin and Spot Satellite Communicators

So, I decided to add a Garmin inReach Mini or a satellite communicator to my fly-fishing gear and I take it on all my fishing adventures and overlanding trips. There are all kinds out there but here are two popular ones. (pictures not to scale)

These satellite communicators are made by companies like Garmin and SPOT. I chose the Garmin Mini because of the size but I really like the keyboard that the SPOT has. I’m not going to write all the details of what they do, because I would deprive you of geeking out with all the research.

The primary function is satellite communication via pre-created messages and a SOS feature that launches a process where people will come and rescue you. My main goal is for you to consider carrying one.

Why carry one? 1). When you are alone and out of cell coverage, you have a device to reach out and get help. 2). Your loved ones can keep track of where you are. 3). Peace of mind – I try to let my wife know where I am out of courtesy to her, but really peace of mind to me knowing that she isn’t worrying where I am.

While I was finishing this post, I saw this article about an Oregon Angler in Field and Stream missing for 17 days. They found him after searching for a while but if he had one of these communicators, he would have saved a lot of people and himself a lot of stress. 

In addition to my Garmin, I also now carry these two items from Outdoor Element: 1). Firebiner Multitool Carabiner and 2). Wombat Whistle/Vial Accessory Kit. The Firebiner I use to carry my Inreach but the cool thing is it has multi-functions including a way to start a fire. The Wombat Whistle has a whistle and a way to carry a little tinder for a fire.

Garmin Satellite Communicator
Garmin Satellite Communicator

It all looks like this all together. The Firebiner is the carabiner that attaches to my InReach. The whistle is the little black tube, and you can unscrew it to get to the fire starter.

So, now I can call for help and make a fire to keep warm while I wait. 

This is the orange thing I carry, and I’m glad I do.

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