Satellite Messenger Comparison Tables
Here at Treeline Review we’ve culled the S.E.N.D (Satellite Emergency Notification Device) field of more than 26 items down to the 7 best for your adventures. I relied on personal experience, read nine professional comparative reviews, interviewed outdoors people, customer service, and even a CEO of one of these companies, and did some informal surveys among Facebook hiking groups.
For our full Best Satellite Messenger and Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) story here, as well as tips on who pays for rescues, how devices work (and fail), and how to choose which device to use based on your needs.
See the Comparison Tables
The table below summarizes the weight, dimensions, satellite network and coverage, waterproofness, and batteries. IPX7 and IP67 are international standards that rate waterproofness. IPX7 is immersion in water 1 m for up to 30 minutes. IP67 means the item is fully protected from dust and can withstand 1 m of water for up to 30 minutes (similar to an iPhone; for more on waterproofing in outdoor electronics, see our Best iPhones for Outdoors people story).
|DEVICE||WEIGHT (ounces)||DIMENSIONS (inches)||SATELLITE NETWORK||COVERAGE||WATERPROOF||BATTERIES||BATTERY LIFE (reported)|
|3.5||2.04 x 3.90 x 1.03||Iridium||Global||IPX7||Rechargeable lithium ion||Up to 90 hours at 10-minute tracking with 100% clear view of sky|
|7.5||2.7 x 6.5||Iridium||Global||IPX7||Rechargeable lithium ion||Up to 100 hours at 10-minute tracking mode with 100% clear view of sky|
|7||2.9 x 6.5 x 0.9||Globalstar||Near Global||IP67||Rechargeable lithium ion||240 hours of battery life in continuous 10 minute tracking mode with 100% clear view of sky|
|4||2.56 x 3.43 x 1.00||Globalstar||Near Global||1 meter for 30 minutes||4 AAA||408 hours of battery life in continuous 10 minute tracking mode with 100% clear view of sky|
|4.1||3.0 x 2.1 x 1.3||Cospas-Sarsat||Global||yes, to 49 feet||Lithium (not rechareable; replacement due after 7 years)||24 hours at -4˚ F|
|5.4||4.5 x 1.9 x 1.6||Cospas-Sarsat||Global||yes, to 15 feet and floats||Lithium (not rechargeable; replacement due after 6 years)||24 hours at -4˚ F|
With the satellite messengers, data charges apply. Each manufacturer offers many different plans with different features. Keep in mind that the cheapest plans may not have the same coverage between companies. Here we summarize the cheapest plans and the unlimited plans.
|DEVICE||DEVICE COST||CHEAPEST ANNUAL PLAN (annual contract)||DEVICE + ANNUAL COST WITH CHEAPEST PLAN (annual contract)||CHEAPEST MONTHLY PLAN (month to month)||UNLIMITED PLAN (annual contract)||DEVICE + ANNUAL COST WITH UNLIMITED PLAN (annual contract)||UNLIMITED PLAN (month to month)|
|$350||$143.40/year + $19.95 activation fee||$513.35||$14.95/month + $24.95 annual fee||$599.40/year + $19.95 activation fee||$969.35||$64.95/month + $24.95 annual fee|
|$450||$143.40/year + $19.95 activation fee||$613.35||$14.95/month + $24.95 annual fee||$599.40/year + $19.95 activation fee||$1,069.35||$64.95/month + $24.95 annual fee|
|$250||$143.40/year + $19.99 activation fee||$413.34||$14.95/month + $24.99 annual fee||$359.40/year + $19.99 activation fee||$629.34||$39.95/month + $24.99 annual fee|
|$150||$199.99/year + $24.99 annual fee||$374.93||n/a||$299.98/year + $24.99 annual fee||$474.92||n/a|
All of our picks vary in their capabilities: two-way text messaging, weather reports, and more are shown below.
The chart below compares the battery life of our satellite messenger picks. The numbers shown are manufacturer reported battery life using continuous 10-minute intervals with 100% clear view of the sky. Our picks for personal locator beacons only (devices with no messaging capabilities) are not shown here as they are “one and done” devices and are not re-chargeable. (PLBs can last from 5-7 years without needing new batteries or a recharge as long as they are not activated)
Weight conscious? See the chart below for a graphic representation of the weight for each of our top picks. (Y-column is in ounces)
Didn’t Make the Cut
The devices we considered but didn’t make the cut are shown below.