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Thread: Sat Phone and ACR question

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    Member kahahawai's Avatar
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    Question Sat Phone and ACR question

    I know all of you hunting guides are required to carry a satellite phones when your guiding (I think), Well I purchased one through Iridium, prior to deploying to Iraq and use it regularly to call home. It works well here and voice clarity is excellent, however once in a while I'll lose a satellite signal, maybe because of all the signal jamming (not sure) but I was wondering if you experience the same thing out in the mountain regions? I was wondering if I should get an ACR also, just to be safe, Has anyone used one? (guess I'll look it up on the web)I do alot of solo hunting, and just would like to get a back up, just want to know if its a waste of $700-$800?

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Satellite phones in Alaska

    K,

    Yes, we do occasionally get dropped calls in Alaska, but it's really nothing to worry about. I think your money would be better spent on a good GPS, so you can call your coordinates in to the rescue folks.

    My understanding is that most of the dropped calls you get are not because of intentional jamming, but because of satellite movement, for what it's worth.

    In my view the satphone is arguably the single best tool for emergency communication available.

    Keep your head down over there and come back to us safe.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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    Member kahahawai's Avatar
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    Thanks Mike, for the advice.
    I also have a top of the line Garmin GPS that I use, but here is what I was told and not sure if this is true or not, maybe you can tell me,and set me straight, but when you buy the ACR, you are actually buying the service too, understand its a type of GPS beacon, (like our AF pilots have) you basically hit two buttons simultaneously and it sends a signal to the nearest rescue unit, whether it be coast guard or civilian or Air Guard rescue from Kulis (just using them for example) but that rescue is free of charge, on the other hand If you call for rescue service by phone or other means you will pay thousands of dollars for that service, It happened to a friend of mine back in 1986 stationed at King Salmon went missing for 4 days while moose hunting...Anyway thanks for your input, and yes we are safe, although we get an occasional motor rocket attack,The insurgents don't want none of Us,we have enough fire power to take this country over....K

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    Member BRWNBR's Avatar
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    Default

    i think mikes right, it seems at certian times of the day i'l pick up a signal in one location, the next afternoon or an earlier time it won't be there. tight little draws or valleys it sometimes hard to get a signal, but i've had very few problems with my iridium, i've just got the prepaid mintues, call the wife and kids everynight. the little guys come off the handle when they hear we shot some bears..makes it fun for the family.
    Www.blackriverhunting.com
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    Thumbs up

    i too agree that a sat' phone in a waterproof case is the best comms. next best is a 5 watt submersible marine/aviation survival radio with a garmin 60 c.x.s. to let them know within 10' where you are.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default ACR

    I got an ACR last year for a trip on a lower Noatak trib. Great peace of mind and well worth the money. Not the $800 you mention. Go to Cabelas. It is about $500-600. Get the model with built in GPS. Fantastic product. I saw an ad in Backpacker Magazine this month about the new one. It is about half the size of the original model. Nice! I would recommend this product to anyone. Super product. It will work anywhere in the world. And as mentioned, sat phones dont work in parts of Alaska. The ACR will. That is all I needed to know when making the decision between the two. And you can rent a sat phone pretty cheaply as an adjunct to the ACR. The ACR is very impressive and is out of the way unless you need it. I put mine in a small pelican case. But it is so tough, it probably doesnt need it. It just might keep you from becoming a CNN footnote. $600 vs. your life. Hmmm...

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    Member kahahawai's Avatar
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    Thanks Dan, I'l probabaly get the new ACR to take along with my Iridium (Sat) Phone two back up's are better than one...more weight for the pack......K

  8. #8

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    I agree that if you can afford the cost and weight of both, do so by all means. The beauty of the ACR is that someone is monitoring the other end at all times and it works while you are busy doing something else. For the phone to work, someone has to answer it at the other end. On the other hand, the ACR only lets you call Mr. Wizzard to drag your hiney out, while the phone lets you do lots more, even if someone does have to answer. Medical guidance, plan changes, broken pickup planes.... all sorts of unplanned contingencies can be fixed with the phone, but don't justify using the ACR.

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Default

    K,
    You have the phone...forget about the EPIRB.
    And for what its worth AF pilots don't have a GPS beacon. The survival kit carries a single freq UHF beacon. They also carry a programmable frq, multi channel radio and an off-the-shelf Garmin 12XL

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Take the ACR (and phone)

    The sat phone is not guaranteed to work. I have heard from countless people that it wont work in all of Alaska. And I know what happens when they get wet. They become a 1 lb paperweight. My buddy had that happen last August on a lower Noatak trib when a rubber seal on the Pelican case carrying the sat phone didnt keep watertight (the box was closed with a very slight amount of the rubber seal bent). The phone was useless. Just that fast it was gone. Luckily we didnt need to use it. He had just taken it so his girlfriend could call her kids each day. Point is, I wouldnt trust my life with something that relies on batteries, fails when slightly wet, and doesnt have coverage everywhere. Dont get me wrong. I would love a sat phone. But I wouldnt trust my life on it alone. The ACR would be my choice if I could only have one. Both obviously would be best. As mentioned in earlier post, the sat phone could be used to coordinate with bush pilot and such. Very good idea for that. But when my life is on the line, I would prefer the ACR.

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Default

    I had 2 Iridium phones at work which I was allowed to take to the woods for whatever purpose(the monthly minutes didn't roll over). I've used them on the slope and in the Brooks and AK ranges, including river trips. Never had a problem getting a signal. Kept it in double ziploc bags in my day pack--never got it wet.

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    K, shouldn't you be out fixing a generator somewhere?

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    Default both is better

    I know sat phones work, and I know the new PLBs work well too. (ACR). I know we just sent out over 200 personal locatar beacons (PLBs) with our groundfish observers (bios on commercial fishing boats) because they work.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Acr = Plb?

    You guys were confusing me so I had to do a little research on this, lest I look stupider (is that a word?) than I are...

    The "ACR" unit you are refering to- would this be the Personal Locator Beacon made by "ACR"? If so, the device is not called an "ACR", it is a "PLB". For reference, ACR refers to a company "ACR Electronics, Ltd." that manufactures a variety of electronic signaling tools, ranging from Personal Locator Beacons to flashlights and other tools of that nature. The term "PLB" refers to the Personal Locator Beacon, which is a device designed to send a locator signal to rescuers via satellite. This signal allows aircraft equipped with the proper receiver to locate you with pinpoint accuracy, even after dark. PLBs were first licensed for use in Canada and Russia, were subsequently tested in Alaska under the auspices of Eagle Enterprises in Anchorage (and perhaps others), before finally being licensed by the FCC for use in the state.

    Perhaps someone with more knowledge than I could comment on the reliability of a PLB compared to a satphone, seeing as how both units use satellites to communicate. I realize that they use DIFFERENT satellites, but what is the risk of dropped "calls" with each unit? I'm not sure...

    So... let's get past the history lesson into the practicalities here. For clarification, I did not say satphones didn't have statewide coverage, I said they OCCASIONALLY have dropped calls. Actually dropped calls with an Irridium phone are relatively rare. The exception to that is the Globalstar phone, which does not have statewide coverage (as Irridium does.) Because the phone offers two-way communication, it is my opinion that this is the single best tool for rescue available in Alaska. Two-way communication allows you to arrange an early pickup, talk to the kids, arrange a mid-hunt meat haul, confirm travel arrangements, ask your air charter if they will pick you up on schedule (thereby buying you more hunting time perhaps), and, most importantly, speak directly with a physician to confirm giardia symptoms or obtain a quick diagnosis for relatively minor injuries. More importantly, you can talk directly to a professional for detailed instructions if there is a medical emergency requiring immediate intervention on your part. This could save someone's life. You can't do that with a PLB.

    The PLB only signals the rescue folks. They have no option but to come and get you. This is a nice feature to be sure, but it is only useful for one purpose. I was an initial backer of the devices when they were first being tested in Alaska, however I changed my perspective when satphones became more reliable and available in Alaska (after Irridium was resurrected). For those who ABSOLUTELY MUST have redundant systems, a PLB in addition to a satphone might be the way to go, and of course you can always argue that having all your eggs in one basket is a mistake. But for most of us on a budget, a multi-use device that accomplishes the rescue tasks and others would be the smart choice. Simply put, the satphone is the Swiss Army Knife of emergency tools for Alaska expedition travel.

    Here's an interesting LINK to an article discussing the utility of the PLB. Not a complete discussion, mind you, but interesting anyway.

    Hopefully that makes sense!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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    Mike I tend to agree with your swiss army knife analogy....

    Sat phones and PLB's....

    There is no doubt they each have their place and truth be known we use a combo of the two on our excursions.

    When talking with the ACR rep about the PLB here is how it was explained to me...

    The satphone - Being a phone requires the ability to continually transfer data (speach) to the satellite. This requires a constant connection. Any interruption usually results in a dropped call or the digital confusion sound.

    The PLB - sends a data burst that includes the help signal and gps coordinates. It continually sends out the burst with updated coordinates if applicable. The satellite only has to receive a single burst to initiate the rescue.

    PS... I know this thread was posted a long time ago but I could'nt resist adding the info..

  16. #16

    Thumbs up New Product

    Here is a new product and going for less than the ACR model.

    Go to www.findmespot.com

  17. #17
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Interesting-

    Quote Originally Posted by ltsryd View Post
    Here is a new product and going for less than the ACR model.

    Go to www.findmespot.com
    Thanks for posting this; it's an interesting device. It still doesn't offer two-way voice communication though. Couldn't someone make a phone with these signaling features? You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult, and if they did (assuming they had good satellite coverage), they would probably capture most of the market.

    Thanks again for the link!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Careful what you wish for... Apple could release a new cell/sat phone, GPS, EPIRB, iPod, handheld computer that gets HD sat TV anytime soon. For those savy techie/world-traveler-wannabees that will wait in line for 3 days just to buy the first one at twice the retail price.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  19. #19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    Thanks for posting this; it's an interesting device. It still doesn't offer two-way voice communication though. Couldn't someone make a phone with these signaling features? You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult, and if they did (assuming they had good satellite coverage), they would probably capture most of the market.

    Thanks again for the link!

    -Mike
    http://www.gdc4s.com/documents/D-112G-21-0706.pdf

  20. #20
    Member Toddler's Avatar
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    K
    Donít waist your money on the PLB. You can get them from the weather guys here on Elmendorf. Just check them out! I think you can get them out of Eielson AFB in Fairbanks too.

    Drew

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