Wander, But Don’t Get Lost.

Backcountry Access BC Link is a winterized radio that connect you to your partners.

 

“Why am I here? What happened?”

I was lying on my back in a narrow 20-ft deep snow hole. My concerned buddy was looking at me from above. I took a few photos and started thinking how to get out of my snow jail without ropes or means of communication with ski patrol. The conditions were tricky, but I was lucky to quickly struggle up and out and still managed to enjoy the rest of the day on Whistler’s magic slopes.

But what if I were alone or out of sight of my ski group? Bad things do happen: medical emergencies, collisions, getting lost. Staying connected could be crucial. We know that some areas, especially in the mountains, have limited or no cell coverage. So, what are the options?

Radios

goTenna device plugs into your phone and allows you to send texts.

Two-way radios still rock in situations when you need to contact other people (who also have radios), including ski patrol, EMS, and police. The coverage depends on the power of a device and terrain conditions. In the mountains covered with trees, the coverage could be 1-3 miles.

  • Midland GTX1000VP4Very affordable, reliable classic radio with NOAA Weather Alert and a range of up to 36 miles in a “line-of-sight”. About $59.00 from Amazon.
  • Backcountry Access BC Link Group Communication System Specially designed for harsh conditions of skiing, not very cheap, but simple, waterproof, and reliable. REI lists for $149.00
  • goTenna Text and Location Communicator.  A very compact and light device (0.11 ounce) lets your SmartPhone text and send your location info to other people even in the zones with no cell coverage. Technically the range is 2-5 miles, depending on conditions. Sold in pairs.  $149.95 from REI.

Satellite GPS 

GPS devices rely on satellite connections. Some devices provide only geolocation info, others let you send and/or receive text messages practically anywhere in the world on cell phones or computers.

  • SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger.  Standalone device which can automatically send messages with your coordinates to your family or emergency responders.  Should work anywhere in USA. Requires subscription. Usually about $149 but might get a Holiday deal with subscription sign up.
  • DeLorme AG-008727-201 InReach Explorer Two Way Satellite Communicator with Navigation.  Send and receive text messages via Iridium satellites. Built in GPS and compass help to navigate around. In case of emergency, you can trigger an SOS message. Working together with your cell phone, DeLorme gives you an access to the maps. Requires subscription. About $390 online.
  •  Suunto Ambit3 Peak Sapphire GPS Multifunction Heart Rate Monitor.  GPS locator and a heart rate monitor in a shape of a wristwatch from a seasoned Finnish manufacturer. Your device will provide navigation info, heart rate, altitude, speed, and more data, which you can download and analyze later. Prices vary online from about $300 up.  Shop around.

No matter what device you use, keep it dry and as warm as possible. Put it in a pocket next to your skin, unless you pull it out very often. Regularly charge or replace the batteries, otherwise it is a useless piece of equipment.

A few companies are making gloves and even insulated gloves and mittens which are touch screen compatible. Now if you need to answer your phone, you don’t need to take off your gloves!  Click here for some examples.

Touch Screen capable gloves may be essential gear in an emergency.

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