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Losing phone signal when hiking.


Karen Williams
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Karen Williams

Hi Everyone, 

First time on the forum! I had a look for this topic on the forum and didn't notice it. I was hiking in Western Australia, not too far out of the city. I got a little lost - nothing scary I could see the city! I decided to phone my husband to ask his advice and I had no signal, no big deal as I wasn't really lost. The signal loss was intermittent, it would be lost then five minutes later it was back.

I did start thinking about what would happen if I was really lost and relying on my phone.

I wondered if there was anyway of boosting a signal when out hiking and came across a few suggestions. Does anyone have experience with this - Is there a relatively cheap way to boost a signal when out hiking?

Is this a problem others have encountered - Do you use Sat phones, 

Thanks

Karen

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Welcome to the forum! I never assume my cell phone will have a signal. One area I hike I very seldom have a signal. If I go in another direction I nearly always get a signal but I don't depend on it. I started hiking before there were cell phones. I depended on a map and compass. I now carry a GPS receiver most of the time. If I go to new area I still carry both a map and compass - in addition to the cell phone and GPS. 

Sometimes just getting up higher I can get a signal. I usually try to call my wife each night when backpacking. I have often climbed the highest hill around to make a call. sometimes that still doesn't work.

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Sat phones are great, but pricey and kinda heavy - I've used sat phones on loan from the US Forest Service on volunteer trips. Currently many people carry a DeLorme inReach that sends & receives text messages via satellite and can notify authorities of your location in an emergency. It will sync with your phone so you can text with your phone. It's about the lightest, most convenient, and most affordable option for 2-way communication when you are out of phone signal range.

This question always makes me smile because I'm an old guy who started backpacking to get away from ringing phones and other forms of slavery encountered in civilized life. I recently bought a Spot transponder so I can call for a rescue and let people know where I am. But I'm hiking into the woods to get away from everybody. I'll be back in touch when I'm ready.

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Is an InReach available where you are?  They rely on sattelites, and they allow for two way communication via text, unlike the Spot, which only allows you to send message out.  I solo hike, and keep in touch with my boyfriend this way--I send a message to him when I set out, when I get to camp, when I leave camp, and when I'm back to the car.  It can be difficult to get a signal deep in a river valley, with lots of tree cover, but still works well.  There is an SOS button for when you are really in trouble.  It also will bluetooth to a smart phone, which I prefer because it has an easier interface than the InReach.

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Aaron Zagrodnick

I also like the InReach (review of the SE) - satellite service so works anywhere with a clear view of the sky. Was very convenient on one occasion during a group trip when one member suffered a knee injury that ended up making us several days late getting out, but was not serious enough to be a true emergency...thus we were able to communicate the new plan back home. Or, it's great for asking what the latest weather forecast looks like, etc., as well. :)

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Karen Williams

Hi Everyone, 

Thank you all for the advice. I am just starting to trek off the beaten path so its good to get the views of you guys who have real experience. Yes, I have been looking at sat phones, and they are very pricey. I haven't looked a the InReach yet but it sounds like exaclty what I have been looking for. 

It's great that this is such an active forum!!

Will have lots more questions soon!

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  • 2 months later...

Don't rely only on a phone to not get lost everywhere you go. Expand your abilities beyond being tethered to the phone for all the critical aspects of  your outdoor activities.  

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  • 11 months later...

Normally in the western US, if you are in a good place finding a phone signal is a challenge.   Never count on one. 

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