The ideal time to consider the best communications options for your backcountry trip is not after you’ve arrived at the trailhead, only to discover you can’t get a signal on your smartphone.
Ensuring you have a reliable means of reaching the outside world — especially during a backcountry incident or emergency — is an item on your checklist that should come way before you’ve parked the car, struggled into your backpacks and are a half-mile down the trail.
Cellphones with sketchy service might be acceptable for a quick four-hour hike within a populated area, but what are your choices should you be heading out on a multi-day adventure in a desolate wilderness area or a national park?
Possessing a reliable device when you need to communicate with people outside the immediate group of hikers accompanying you is a must. Because when it becomes necessary to communicate with search and rescue professionals, things probably aren’t going as smoothly as you had hoped.
And that’s when you want the best user-friendly device you can afford. Here at The National Center for Outdoor Adventure & Education (NCOAE), we recommend you become familiar with two or more communications systems you might want to carry with you into the backcountry.
Below are several suggestions from which to choose, keeping in mind that the choices you make — especially in an emergency situation — can make a