Gear Review: Zoleo Satellite Communicator
by: Ben Shaw
What is the Zoleo?
The Zoleo is a two way satellite communication device. It pairs with your smart phone via Bluetooth and an extremely intuitive app available on iOS and Android. The device and app allow for 2-way SMS text messaging, check-in messaging with GPS location and a 3-day weather outlook for your area. It truly is a wonderful, compact device in a 5.3 oz package and at an excellent price point of $199.
The device is powered off a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with over 200 hours of inactive usage time. It charges via a micro-USB and after using it on and off for two weeks on the Pacific Crest Trail it’s only down to a 78% charge. It is water resistant, dust proof, and drop resistant. For any concerned family member or friend it’s also a great gift for an avid hiker.
The SOS feature on the Zoleo is handled by GEOS through the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC). They coordinate with local search and rescue in your area of need to get you the fastest help possible. The agency also messages you through the device to try and get the best understanding of your situation and relays information to your emergency contacts when an SOS is initiated.
The Zoleo operates off the Iridium Satellite network, a constellation of 66 operational satellites providing global coverage for the device. The Iridium Network provides the basis for global satellite communications phones, laptops and other devices. It’s seen as the gold standard in satellite communications.
There are other more expensive devices available with better mapping capabilities (such as the Garmin InReach or DeLorme Earthmate). However, I think that the Zoleo exceeds the overall capabilities of the other products at a better price.
As with all satellite devices the Zoleo does require a monthly subscription when it’s in use but it is extremely easy to turn your subscription on and off when not using the device. The three subscription levels are:
$25 for 25 messages & $.50 per additional message
$35 for 250 messages & $.25 per additional message
$50 for Unlimited messages
All plans include GPS check-in, SOS signaling managed by GEOS and unlimited cellular and Wi-Fi messaging.
We’ve been using the Zoleo for 19 days now on the PCT (two months at the time of this post) and it’s been a wonderful asset in our journey. We love being able to alert loved ones of our location each night and being able to coordinate resupply packages no matter where we are on the trail. My favorite feature has definitely been the SMS messaging along with its ease of transition between cellular LTE and Iridium Satellite signal when both are available. It saves you money and messages on your personal plan. If you were looking to get more security and safety out on your hike, I highly recommend checking the out the Zoleo.