Experienced adventurers know for a fact that satellite phones are the best form of communication when you are in the middle of nowhere. But for the cost, it would be the most common means of exchanging messages in places there is no cell network or in the aftermath of an extreme natural disaster with regular communication networks down.
Chances are, you are here because you need a satellite phone to use for camping, hiking, hunting trip, etc. And you likely need one that can fit into your backpack.
In that case, you are in the right place because we reviewed 5 of the best satellite phones for backpacking just for you. The devices in this guide were the result of careful research to ensure you have in your backpack a reliable device that would not fail when you need it most.
5 Best Satellite Phone for Backpacking: Review
#1. Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1 Satellite Phone by BlueCosmo
When it comes to satellite devices small enough to fit comfortably into a backpack, this Inmarsat device is simply one of the best.
The low price tag combined with premium features makes this device popular among users. But the cost is not the best selling point though it is easy to see how that helped.
The SMS and calling capabilities of this phone are top-notch with worldwide coverage. It supports both prepaid billing using a SIM card and postpaid packages with no hidden charges.
The phone is built is last a long time with dust, water, and shockproof specifications. The IP65 rating ensures that it’d still be very functional if it falls in water.
Another great feature is the amount of juice present in the rechargeable battery. You’d be impressed with how long it lasts.
Included in the pack are vital accessories such as the AC wall charger, car charger, holster with belt clip, earpiece for hands-free operations, USB cable, SIM card, and a user guide.
- 66 GLOBAL TALK MINUTES INCLUDED FROM BLUECOSMO: Get 100 pre-paid units, valid for 90 days. No hidden fees. No activation charges. And it’s simple to add minutes: just go to the BlueCosmo website and purchase additional PrePaid units whenever you need them, from anywhere. Unit values: 1.5 units per voice minute globally, 0.6 units per outgoing SMS (free incoming). Activate within 1 year of purchase.
- GLOBAL COVERAGE: NO ROAMING CHARGES – make and receive voice calls, SMS, track your position with GPS from anywhere on the globe – never pay roaming charges. Your coverage area is EARTH (except the extreme north and south polar regions).
- EVERYTHING YOU NEED WITH 18 MONTH WARRANTY: Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1 satellite phone handset, Lithium-ion battery, International AC wall charger with international plugs, Automobile DC charger, Holster with belt clip, Hands free earpiece, Lanyard, USB cable, USB thumb drive with documentation, Quick start guide, SIM card & 18 MONTH WARRANTY exclusively from BlueCosmo Satellite Communications.
#2. Iridium 9575 Extreme Satellite Phone
A satellite phone that is relatively expensive but still ranks as one of the best-selling devices must have a lot going for it, right? Yes, the Iridium 9575 Extreme is priced on the high side but the features and functions go a long way to offset that price tag.
Apart from being able to make/receive calls and text messages with your prepaid or monthly subscription packages, you can also access the Internet in any part of the world. Also, with the Iridium AxcessPoint the device can be turned into a WiFi hotspot for other members of the team to access the Internet.
It comes with an emergency SOS function and GPS feature that is easily customizable for easy tracking.
The lightweight device is made from military-grade materials, it can withstand the rough and tumble of the outdoors without a loss of functionality. The durability is also enhanced by the fact that it is resistant to shock and extreme weather.
The lithium-ion battery can deliver up to 4 hours of talk time and 1.5 days if left on standby on a full battery. You get the full competent of accessories when you purchase it.
- READY TO ACTIVATE: Pre-Paid and Post-Paid SIM Cards included - Ready to activate!
- WORLDWIDE COVERAGE: Iridium is the world's only truly global mobile satellite communications company, with voice and data solutions covering every inch of the earth's surface. Reaching over oceans, through airways and across the Polar Regions
- TOUGH PHONE FOR A TOUGH WORLD: It’s time to raise expectations of what a satellite phone should be. Iridium Extreme combines location awareness, a fully integrated SOS button with included emergency response service, and market leading toughness — letting you take durability, reliability and versatility with you in hand, all over the world.
3. Globalstar GSP-1600 Satellite Phone by Qualcomm
The Globalstar GSP-1600 satellite phone underlines the fact that you can get an affordable satellite with many great functions. Even some budget smartphones cost more than this device.
The device is a SIM-less affair so you need to register it with Globalstar to get service. Talking about service, you can make and receive calls, send text messages and have access to the Internet at a very decent speed.
Other features screen indicators for battery level, signal/network strength, and voice mail. inside the battery meter so you know how to manage power; and easily accessible call log to check your call history.
The lithium-ion battery can deliver up to 5 hours of juice to power it on a full charge. Standby time is about a day.
- Please Note: All Phones Require a 1 Year Service Agreement with Global Star! You can chose from a number of different plans and Pay either by Month Or by Year!
- INCLUDES: GSP-1600 Handset, Lithium Ion Battery, North American Wall Charger, User Manual
- TALK/STANDBY TIME: In Globalstar satellite mode, the phone will sustain normal operation for 3.75 hours of talk time, 19 hours of standby time
4. Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone
With the short, thick antenna, this satellite is a throwback to when the best mobile phones had antennas like this. You would surely love that the device is built like nothing can damage it with its industrial-grade casing. It can survive a dunk in water or fall from a great height.
Still sticking to phones of the past, the size is small enough even people with relatively small hands carry it around easily just like the best phones of a bygone era.
It comes with a SIM card and either prepaid or monthly subscription. As usual, you would be able to make and receive calls as well as send SMS text messages.
- GLOBAL & RELIABLE SERVICE: BlueCosmo Iridium 9555 Phone Kit with a prepaid SIM card. Powered by a sophisticated global constellation of 66 cross-linked Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, the Iridium network provides high-quality voice and data connections over the planet’s entire surface, including across oceans, airways and polar regions. Iridium is the only truly global satellite phone service.
- INNOVATION: In addition to the features Iridium customers have come to expect from our trusted satellite phones, the Iridium 9555 also incorporates innovations such as an integrated speakerphone, improved SMS and email messaging capabilities
- COMPACT: The Iridium 9555 is one of the smallest phones Iridium has ever made, it's also one of the most powerful. With a significantly reduced footprint from the Iridium 9505A and Iridium 9500, more hand-friendly form factor, and aerodynamic features such as an internally stowed antenna, this sleek handset is designed to easily go wherever you go.
5. Thuraya XT-Lite Satellite Phone
Thuraya’s XT-Lite Satellite Phone is a lightweight device with an ergonomic and stylish design which makes it easy to carry.
The long-lasting rechargeable battery is capable of over 80 hours on standby. On a full charge, you can squeeze up to 6 hours of continuous use out of it.
A cool feature you might like is the dual satellite/GSM function whether on a postpaid subscription or prepaid package. This means you can use the device as a regular cell phone to make and receive calls. You’d have to get a Thuraya SIM for this though.
The international nature of Thuraya is underlined by the 12-language programmability. The easy-to-understand user manual is in 12 languages too.
Other features include the ability to get a notification even when the antenna is stowed; conference calling; speed dialing and much more.
- Dual GSM & satellite voice calling through one SIM card*.
- Long-lasting battery life
- Ease of use
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Satellite Phone for
Durability – The staying power of any satellite phone is one of the prime attributes that would make the device suitable for backpacking.
The relatively high cost of the devices makes it imperative that they should be able to withstand bumps and falls. Even if you have enough money to keep replacing them, it’d be inconvenient to have to do it often.
But what makes the durability very important is linked to the location they are mostly used. Usually, the phones are needed in places that are far from the nearest city or town. The level of frustration you’d feel if it packs up suddenly is normally off the charts for those who have been in that position before.
The features that determine durability include a tough outer shell; sturdy, rugged built; and a display that does not break easily.
Protection from the weather – Again, due to places you might use the phone, protection from extreme weather is important. Users generally find themselves in places where there is no protection against rain, snow or dust storms.
However, the weatherproof design ensures that the phone remains fully functional in spite of such exposure
Size and Portability – Backpacking is all about making the best use of a small space. Because isn’t much space, only the most essential items are packed.
A good backpacking satellite phone must not be too bulky that it takes up too much space. And of course, small and compact means you can carry it for long periods at a time without getting tired.
Coverage – In theory, satellite phones should have network access in every corner of the globe. But the reality is that some of the gadgets don’t work in some regions.
So it’s important that your choice has access to a satellite or satellites wherever you are going.
That said, almost all areas in the US have satellite network access, so you are unlikely to face this problem with any of the satellite phones in this guide.
Outside the US though, you might want to check with the specific manufacturers to find out if they have coverage where you are going.
Battery/power – The power needs of satellite phones is on the high side comparative to normal phones. Usually, anything between 6.and 8 hours of power on a full charge is excellent.
the best way to determine how long the battery can power your device is to look at the battery capacity measured in mAh. Longer talk times are associated with higher capacity. But other factors also come into play when considering how long the battery can power the device.
Another important battery/power-related feature is the charging mode. The smart move is to avoid satellite phones without a USB cable charging option. With this, you shouldn’t face any difficulty finding a power source with a USB port to recharge the battery.
With the USB cable, your charging stations can be computers, laptops, car cigarette port, power banks, etc.
Cost – Very good satellite phones are expensive. Even if you get a low-cost gadget with all the basic features, you still have to spend a lot of money on phone bills.
The bills you incur after buying the phone could be the one thing that makes it a bad investment.
For many people or organizations, they’d rather rent the phones than outrightly buy them especially if they need the devices for a project that is temporary and won’t last a long time.
Satellite Phones Frequently Asked Questions
- Can satellite phones work indoors?
No. You or to be more precise, the antenna, must have an unobstructed view of the sky to get a good signal. Even areas with thick overhead foliage, like forests, can block the antenna from linking to the satellite’s signal
- Is it difficult to make or receive calls with a satellite phone?
Again, the short answer is no.
The process of making/receiving calls is similar to regular phones. Simply input the number proceeded by the country code on the keypad and press the send button. Or press the accept button to receive incoming calls.
- How is the Internet speed on satellite phones?
Due to the distance between the satellites and phones, you shouldn’t expect turbo-level speeds when using them to access the Internet. It is considerably slower than regular Internet speeds.
- Are satellite phones good replacements for regular phones?
Because of the cost (billing and gadget), it might take a while before these phones become a good alternative to cell phones. At the moment, only people who really need and can afford the charges bother to purchase them.
- Are satellite phones traceable?
Many satellite phones have in-built GPS making them easy to track.
Satellite phones are not the primary means of communication by a long shot. But if you are thinking of taking a trip where you might up end in some isolated location, they could be your only and best means of communicating with the wider world.
To ensure reliability, you should consider only the very best satellite phone for backpacking if your trip requires that you travel light. The 5 phones in this guide are good examples of what you need in a satellite phone fit for a trip with only a backpack as your luggage.
Anyone you purchase is guaranteed to deliver the best in terms of network coverage, clear audio, and all-round reliability.