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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Satellite communications device takes away safety worries

For the adventurous RVer, the one who really likes to get out and get away, life's highways aren't always paved. In fact, there's an awful lot of dirt roads that some RVers trot down, taking them far away from civilization and cellular phone networks. We enjoy a little bit of backwoods travel, but there's always that niggling little thing in the back of our heads: "What if?" What if some emergency situation came up, what would we do?

Delorme, a company that added GPS to our laptop computer many years ago, long before people had GPS units stuck on their windshields, has something that might banish that niggling little voice. Delorme's inReach SE system is a communicator that works in areas where seemingly nothing else works. Mind you, it's not a satellite phone, but rather more akin to a two-way digital pager with a lot of whistles and bells.

What's the thing do? Imagine you're off boondocking and you'd like to ensure that the folks back home aren't worried about you. Using the InReach SE, you can compose a text message (up to 160 characters) and fire it off. It doesn't matter that you're out of cell range, or that the woods above your head are thick, or that maybe you're down inside a slot canyon. This communicator uses the Iridium satellite system that can spot you in places where other satellite-based systems are blind. Your message wings its way anywhere across the planet, and in a minute or less, BING, your text message has arrived. Your loved ones can text you back from their device or e-mail, and BING, you're in touch. You can also set the system up so that your communicator will transmit your exact location with GPS coordinates.

Get into real trouble – the kind that you can't fix with a shovel or a hot cup of coffee? Slide the safety off, hit the SOS button, and your inReach SE transmits a signal for help to a manned 24/7 emergency response center that will text you to find out what fix you're in, and set up to send appropriate help.

The whistles and bells? You can pair the inReach SE with your smart phone or other device. That device, with downloaded EarthMate maps, gives you a rudimentary GPS mapping system. The inReach SE is a hardy beast, said to be waterproof, dustproof, and "impact resistant," meaning it should hold up better being dropped on the rocks surrounding your fire that your iPhone. Just don't drop it in the fire.

Now what about costs? Suggested retail on the inReach SE is right around $300. Will the subscription kill you? Depends on how hardy you are. Initial account activation sets you back about $20. Then you decide how often you'll use the device. If you'll use it a lot, order up an annual plan; if you just want to use it when you need it, the so-called "Freedom Plan," charges you on a monthly basis.

The bare-bones, unlimited SOS calls, and up to 10 text messages cheapy "safety plan," costs $12 a month on an annual basis, or $15 a month on a "as you need it" basis. If you want to have unlimited text messages, and have the system "ping" your location every two minutes (instead of every 10 with lesser plans), then go for the gusto with the "Extreme Plan" that runs $80 a month annually, or $100 on an as needed basis. There are other plans in between.

For more information, visit Delorme's inReach SE web site.

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