Gear & Gifts

Ultimate Guide to GPS and Satellite Communicators

When going outdoors, whether for a hike or for other activities and adventures, it is essential to carry helpful things that will aid in your survival, especially when emergencies happen. Aside from first aid kits, bringing with you a GPS unit and a satellite communicator is also a great idea. Not only will these help you in finding your way, but some of them can also be used in sending signals for help, in case of unexpected events. 

If you want to learn more about these outdoor devices, you’re in the right place. Today, we are going to give you an ultimate guide to GPS and satellite communicators. 

What is GPS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a space-based satellite navigation system that gives location and time information in all weather conditions. This can be anywhere or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. These are well-spaced satellites that make up the system, making it possible to give accurate geo-locations to ground receivers. 

Before, GPS devices were only available for those in the military and in the field of science. But as time passed, it became affordable and was then introduced to anyone who wishes to purchase a GPS receiver. 

GPS works in very simple ways via radio signals. Through the process called trilateration, your receiver will be able to determine your exact location on Earth, wherever you are located on this planet at any given time. It converts the time delay in which it received the signals from at least three of the four satellites. This means that the more satellites your device is capable of receiving, the more accurate it will be able to pinpoint your location. 

Different Types of GPS Systems

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter

Simrad Cruise-7 Chart Plotter with 7-inch Screen and US Coastal Maps Installed

Garmin Forerunner 405CX GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor (Blue)

Garmin Drive 50 USA LM GPS Navigator System with Lifetime Maps

Garmin GPSMAP 496 Aviation GPS Receiver

 

GPS systems also have different kinds, and each of them has specific uses. Here are the different types of GPS systems:

  • Handheld GPS Unit: This is a GPS device that is designed especially for hikers, hunters, campers, and others who love to explore the outdoors. It is like a digital version of a map and compass. This type of GPS system can also provide other vital information, such as topographic data and elevation. There are also some handheld GPS units that come with an SOS feature that you can use to send your location to the search and rescue unit in case of an unexpected event. 
  • Marine GPS System: This type of GPS system comes with moving-map displays and overlays to assist recreational and professional anglers. Aside from that, it also has a safety feature that can provide you with your precise location to authorities in case of an emergency. 
  • Sports and Fitness: This type of GPS system is specifically used in running and cycling in order to record the distance covered. Some models can also detect other information, like calorie burnt, heart rate, and more. 
  • Car GPS Device: GPS for cars are equipped with maps and directions, and as well as traffic alerts that can help the driver in choosing the fastest route to his destination. There are cars today that come with built-in GPS, while other units are mounted separately. 
  • Aviation Unit: This is a bit similar to marine units that come with moving-map views and overlays. But it also includes other features, such as position data page, map page, terrain page, and route page. 

Things to Consider When Buying a GPS Navigation System

If you are looking into buying a GPS navigation system for your upcoming outdoor adventure, here are some of the features that you might want to look for:

  • The size of the screen: The screen size of the GPS will depend on your personal needs and preferences. If you’re on a budget, you can settle for one that has a tiny screen. But a larger screen can be helpful, especially when it comes to viewing maps and direction in a single glance. 
  • Map Updates: In the modern world that we have today, roads are being constructed and changed often. Therefore, it is essential to choose a GPS unit that is capable of updating its maps. It should be able to adapt to changes and errors in dead entries, traffic directions, street names, points of interest, and more. This way, you will be able to use it for a longer period. 
  • Portability: If you are using it for outdoor adventures like hiking and camping, you need to find one that is portable. This will enable you to use it comfortably as you go on with your adventures. 
  • Responsiveness: It is also essential to find a GPS that can provide you with an accurate location, especially if you plan to use it in forests or downtown districts. Therefore, pick one that has a large number of channels. The most common GPS can have about 12 or 32 channels, but it can go up to 66. 
  • Special Features: You can also look for other special features, such as voice recognition, voice control, and more. Choose those that offer essential features that will suit your needs. You can also try finding units that are waterproof, can stay afloat, and as well as show bike and pedestrian routes and give alerts. 

The Best GPS Units You Can Buy Today

To further help you in choosing the perfect GPS unit for your outdoor adventure, here are some of the products we can recommend:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with 3

Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS

Garmin 010-01199-20 GPSMAP 64st Worldwide Handheld GPS

Garmin Montana 680t

 

  • Garmin eTrex 30x Handheld GPS Navigator: This GPS navigator is an upgraded version of a classic GPS receiver. It is a waterproof GPS unit that features a 2.2-inch color display. This GPS unit is small, accurate, and efficient. It can also be connected to Wi-Fi, and it supports geocaching GPX files, as well. 
  • Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS: This GPS has a high-sensitivity receiver that has HotFix for improved performance and reception in deep canyons and heavy tree cover. You can use it to keep track of routes, tracks and waypoints, and as well as monitor your heart rate. Only 2 AAA batteries are required to make this GPS unit work. 
  • Garmin 64st Worldwide Handheld GPS: Among the hiking community, this is probably the most well-loved GPS unit. It has a low-resolution screen and a button interface, but it is accurate, waterproof, reliable, and durable. It also has preloaded maps in either the US or Canada. You can also insert a microSD card to it and add as many maps as you like. 
  • Garmin Montana 680t: This GPS unit is preloaded with 250,000 geocaches worldwide. It also has a 3-axis compass that will enable you to maintain an accurate bearing whether you are standing still, moving, or holding it at an angle. It is a very convenient and reliable GPS unit that you can own. 

What is a Satellite Communicator?

A satellite communicator, also known as satellite messenger, is a messaging device that transmits and receives via a satellite network. By using it, you will be able to send and receive short messages. It also has GPS, meaning you can also send your coordinates if ever you need to be rescued or assisted. A satellite communicator is very helpful for people who love to go on outdoor adventures. But aside from that, it is also useful during emergency situations. 

Satellite communicators or messengers work through a commercial network, such as Globalstar or Iridium. These are the two networks that offer extensive coverage around the world, enabling you to send and receive messages in most locations that offer a view of the sky. In the present time, the latest generation of satellite communicators can do more than just issue SOS. Some can inform you about the weather, and others can also help you get and stay out of trouble. 

Important Terms to Know When Using a Satellite Communicator

If you are planning to use a satellite communicator for the first time on your next outdoor adventure, here are some of the important terms you need to be familiar with to be able to use it accordingly:

  • Networks: As mentioned above, there are two main satellite networks that North American users need to know, which are Iridium and Globalstar. Iridium is the closest one to be truly global. It will not work everywhere, but it is a better choice if you are going to the extreme ends of either pole or parts of Africa, Central Asia, or Northern Alaska. 
  • Mesh: An example of a mesh network is adding a repeater to your home Wi-Fi network that has a limited range. The more repeaters you have, the farther you can extend the network, which can link to existing cell towers to further extend the range. Imagine that there are lots of repeaters dispersed all around a mountain, extending cell service to the backcountry. That is how the mesh works in satellite communicators.
  • Tracking: Satellite communicators can also allow you to send an automated updated GPS waypoint to another device and as well as to an email address. It means that whoever is on the receiving end, whether your family, friends or loved one, will be able to know exactly where in the world you are. 
  • Offline Maps: A satellite communicator also offers bread-crumbing of your travel on an offline map that you can download via your smartphone. It is useful, especially if you do not want to get lost, as it provides enough major geographic features to aid basic navigation. 
  • SOS Button: There are also some satellite communicators that features a dedicated button for sending an SOS to authorities with your coordinates. 
  • Service Contract: Most satellite communicators also have service contracts that require activation fees, just like major telecommunication companies. 
  • Who is Texting Me: You also need to be aware that every one of the satellite communicators sends out messages from another ten-digit phone number. It does not use the number of your own cellphone, even if it pairs to your phone. Therefore, you need to give that number to all your loved ones and people that you want to send help to in case of an emergency. 

The Best Satellite Communicators You Can Buy Today

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

Garmin inReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator with GPS Navigation

Garmin InReach Mini

Garmin inReach SE+, Handheld Satellite Communicator with GPS Navigation

Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger - Orange

Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger

 

If you are looking into buying a satellite communicator that you will bring to your next adventure, then here are some of the best ones we can recommend:

  • Garmin InReach Explorer+ Handheld Satellite Communicator: This satellite communicator has a focus on navigation, and it comes with an enhanced mapping and GPS features. It is a perfect choice for backpackers, climbers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for a messaging product that can also double as a powerful navigational aid when going to distant places.
  • Garmin InReach Mini: This one is a small, rugged, and lightweight satellite communicator that enables two-way text messaging using the 100-percentage global Iridium network. A satellite subscription is required for this device. You can use it to trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center. It also features GPS, weather updates, and added functionality through the Earthmate app. 
  • Garmin inReach SE+ Handheld Satellite Communicator: This satellite communicator has 100% global Iridium satellite coverage, and it also enables two-way text messaging from anywhere. You can also use it to trigger an interactive SOS to the search and rescue monitoring center. You can use this device to track and share your location with your family and friends. It can also pair with mobile devices via the free Earthmate app, so you can access other downloadable maps, color aerial imagery, and more. 
  • Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger: You can use this device to send an emergency SOS message together with your location to geos who facilitate search and rescue. It will enable your contacts to know where you are by sending a pre-programmed message with your GPS location. You can use it to automatically send and save your location and allow your contacts to track your progress using Google Maps, as well. A service agreement is required for this product. 
  • Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger: This device will enable you to exchange messages with any cellphone number or email address from virtually anywhere in the world. You can also use it to send an SOS to the search and rescue center, message them back and forth about the nature of your emergency, and receive confirmation if the rescue team is on their way. Your family and friends will also be able to track you on Google Maps with the use of this satellite messenger. 

A GPS system and a satellite messenger are indeed two very useful devices that you can bring on your outdoor adventures. And aside from that, they are also helpful in times of emergencies, and you need to know where to go safe, to get help, and to send messages to your loved ones, as well. We hope this guide will help you in finding the best GPS and satellite communicator that will suit your needs. 

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