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Thread: Satellite phones or alternative for emergency communication

  1. #1
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    Default Satellite phones or alternative for emergency communication

    Hello,

    I'm planning my first trip to Alaska, here's a bit of background: I'm driving up to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park from Portland, Oregon sometime in late July. I got a bush plane setup to fly us from McCarthy, AK to a back country airstrip in the Park. We'll do some hiking, gold panning etc. and have a scheduled pick up a week or so later.

    Here's my question: I'd like to have some way of communicating with either the flight company (in case we can't make it back to the airstrip as scheduled) or emergency services if something goes wrong, so what are my options? I don't have the budget for a new Sat Phone, but can I rent one somewhere? How about VHF radios? Or a personal locater beacon?

    Thanks for the help.

  2. #2
    Member EagleRiverDee's Avatar
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    Options:

    You can rent a satellite phone in Anchorage, if you'll be passing through both ways.

    A SPOT messenger allows you to send an emergency beacon, a help me (to friends/family but not to SAR) text message, or an "I'm ok" message (to friends family). It's inexpensive up front ($150 I think) but requires an annual subscription in the $100 range. SPOT runs on regular batteries you can change yourself.

    A PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) is somewhat more expensive up front than a SPOT (I bought my McMurdo for $299) but requires no annual subscription. It's good for one thing...signalling for search and rescue to come get you. PLB's run on special batteries and once every 5 years you have to send them in for replacement. You also have to register your unit (free) every two years so that SAR has updated info on you.
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    Thanks for the information, I'd like to stick with renting a satellite phone from the sounds of my other options, but I won't be traveling through Anchorage, but do you know the ballpark rental price there? Here's my route: http://bit.ly/9jFHOS know of anywhere along the way I could get one?

    Thanks again.

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    I have used these folks for several years and have been very happy. Best price I have found, great service.

    http://www.satellitephonesource.com/phone-rentals.html

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    Okay guys, thanks for the information, I've got a few more questions about satellite phones specificly. I just found one on craigslist selling for $200, it's a Globalstar 1600. How's Globalstar service in AK, or near Wrangle National Park? Also, if I were to buy or rent a globalstar phone will I need a monthly phone plan or can I just buy prepaid minutes? I'd like to just purchase an hours worth of minutes before I go and not worry about any kind of signup, is this possible?

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    Well I just called up Globalstsr and found out, no prepaid minutes. I have to sign up for a year contract at $40 a month with a $50 activation fee and there are no other options. And he informed me that I'd be limited to 2 calls per hour and spotty service since apparently their satellites are falling out of the sky. So TwoPaws, I'm gonna go with the company you suggested. Theyhave a iridium phone for $30 a week. Now if I just had a contact along the my route that I could ship the phone to I wouldn't have to pay for it for an extra week on the way up there.

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    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    Try contacting http://www.anchoragesatellitephones.com/ for your needs. These guys have been a great source for me in the past. Even if you don't rent from them, they can be a great resource to get you questions answered. Your problem though is that you won't be driving through Los Anchorage if you are coming from the south. I bet with a valid credit card they would consider shipping you a phone, and you could have it for your whole trip. Since you are taking a plane out, your air carrier might have access to Sat Phones as well...have you asked them? They are wonderful to have around for many reasons. It doesn't cost anything to turn one on...so you can always set a time (like 9 PM to 10PM) where you could turn the phone on in case someone back home has an emergency and wants to contact you. Cheap insurance IMHO
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

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    Iridium is the best phone for Alaska.
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    AkDoug, I've heard the same thing during my research today.

    Roger45, I've asked my Air Carrier about Sat Phone, that's a good idea. I looked into www.anchoragesatellitephones.com but www.satellitephonesource.com/ has got them beat on prices by a long shot. They said they'd rent me a Iridium 9500 for $33 a week. Which I think I might just go for.

    Thanks again everybody.

  10. #10
    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    I have used the Iridium 9500 up here and every time I turned it on I have gotten a signal. They are great. If you only plan on using it for emergencies you will really only need a single battery. If you are going to leave it on for periods of time, get a second battery as you most likely will not have a good way to re charge it where you are going

    If you do a Google search on satellite phone rentals for Alaska you will find a hand full of hits. Before you make a rental contract, try to find out personal stories from folks. I have no good or bad knowledge on your second company, maybe someone else does???
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

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    Default sat phone

    Hi!
    you can rent a satelllite phone, remember that they work everywhere, as long you are outside. You can have one shipped out to your house, before going to Alaska, check out this websites:
    www.phonerentalusa.com
    cellphonrental.net
    good luck!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcbryan View Post
    Hello,

    I'm planning my first trip to Alaska, here's a bit of background: I'm driving up to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park from Portland, Oregon sometime in late July. I got a bush plane setup to fly us from McCarthy, AK to a back country airstrip in the Park. We'll do some hiking, gold panning etc. and have a scheduled pick up a week or so later.

    Here's my question: I'd like to have some way of communicating with either the flight company (in case we can't make it back to the airstrip as scheduled) or emergency services if something goes wrong, so what are my options? I don't have the budget for a new Sat Phone, but can I rent one somewhere? How about VHF radios? Or a personal locater beacon?

    Thanks for the help.
    Hey, I just got back from a trip up to Chicken and Eagle. You can read about it and see some pictures on my blog. http://cloud9doula.wordpress.com/
    Have fun!
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  13. #13
    jwolf
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    I second, no third that.. Iridium! Globalstar isnít half as dependable (been down that road)!

  14. #14
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    Thumbs up 4th

    ...agree with jwolf and all them others.
    Globalstar sat. phones just do not consistently function north of Kodiak.
    But Iridium sat. phones function great even north of the Brooks Range.
    Last year while hunting caribou north of the Brooks Range, my buddy arranged his entire San Antonio Texas youth hokey team roster by using my Iridium Sat phone. During 10 (?) calls he used over 100 minutes and never lost a call! (Which pissed me off so now he does not get to go hunting any more.) The Iridium works.

    dennis

  15. #15
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Surveyors Exchange...

    rents sat phones. Iridium. Long history of excellent service in Alaska and the phones work all over the state. Reasonable. Approx $100 for 10-day float trip last year.

    ASE is also sponsor of the Safety Survival and Emergency Care forum but the other reasons are why I'd call them: http://www.tse-ak.com/

    Good luck.

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