Two-way communications is a rapidly evolving space. What was state of the art 6 months ago might be obsolete today, and certainly the right choice 2 years ago seems anarchic now.
Cellular communications continues to improve, but there’s still a many places in the world (and indeed our nation) that you can’t get a signal, or at the very least have to go to the expense and effort to get local service, sim cards, or international service on your domestic phone – assuming it supports the frequencies that the area you are visiting uses.
There are more and more truly international cell phones, and I expect this continue to improve – but a cell phone is not “bet your life” technology for the back of beyond.
When I was in England last year, I bought a sim card for my ipad and used talkatone for VOIP calling to my google voice number. It worked perfectly – and I like this option if you are someplace blanketed by good cell service (like the UK).
We like to go to remote places, and there are plenty of places we’ve been to where we don’t even take the phone out of the truck – just a complete waste of time. Sometimes I’ll take a handheld 2 meter radio with me, in the hopes that I can contact somebody on the national simplex or a local repeater if need be. I’ll also leave a note on the car to alert SAR that I have a ham radio with me in case of misadventure… that way a search party just needs to get within radio range not visual range.
A satellite phone has never been an option I have seriously considered due to cost and platform limitations… and like cell phones there is the “okay” network (Globalstar) and the “good” network (Iridium). Guess which one is cheaper and which is more expensive? 🙂
So what if there were a way to have 2 way communications with friends and family, continuously (well every 10 minutes) update my location, and be able to summon SAR with the touch of a button? What if it also had GPS, and ran on that “good” satellite constellation? What if I could even use it to update twitter, Facebook, and this blog? Crazy talk, right? Up until recently yes, but enter the DeLorme inReach Explorer.