Satellite phone technology

With the creation of the SPOT emergency beacon, people have been going deeper into the forest, higher up the mountain, and further out of sight. As emergency rescues and more intense searches are happening with a higher frequency, the need to relay information and not just a "send the cavalry! I NEED HELP!" button is becoming more apparent. With devices such as the DeLorme inReach, you are now able to communicate the actual issue and get updates on ETA's. So, if you break a toe-nail, emergency services won't bill you hundreds of thousands of dollars to get picked up (probably because they will tell you to suck it up and walk out of there). However, if your friend is suffering from hypothermia, they know the tools they need to bring to save their life. 

While detailed information is all well and good, it is difficult to give the proper information over 160 character text message. Thus, satellite phones are becoming increasingly popular -- and more affordable. So which is the best? What service do you use? How much is it really going to cost?

Satellite phone technology is in its infancy in terms of consumer use, accessibility, and affordability. SPOT just released their own satellite phone which is the most affordable option on the market to date. However, their network, Globalstar, may not suit your needs. Providing excellent coverage in the North America, their global coverage is not for the globetrotter.

Iridium is by far and large the most extensive and truly global network. Working on the ocean as well as land (Globalstar only works on land) and in every corner of the globe, Iridium is the provider you need for full world travel. However, Iridium is not the most reliable of providers, and is quite expensive (~$1.50/minute). Each provider offers a monthly or annual plan which gives you a bundle of minutes. Get the bundle. Always. This will save you money and the minutes will inevitably get used.

While Iridum and Globalstar are the two most common providers, researching your area of use is imperative. There are smaller companies which only offer service in part of the world which may be cheaper, and more reliable. For example Thuraya and Inmarsat offer great services for certain areas. The smaller companies typically offer more advanced phones as well (which have access to e-mails, etc.) to try and sway you their way.

Depending on which service provider you are using, and where you are going, the antenna is the key to quality service. Unlike a cell phone, the direction it is pointing actually matters. The antenna needs to be extended and point towards the satellite you are trying to connect to (or at least its general area). While sat phones typically work in the most remote areas in the world, they won't work indoors, or near large structures blocking the signal -- so make sure you have a clear view of the sky.

What it comes down to, as is true with any type of gear acquisition, research is key. Find the right product for you, have a clear view of the sky, and keep that antenna pointed up! Also, always carry an extra battery... even if you don't think you'll need it.

Powered Paragliding...For Good!

A couple years ago adventurer Ben Jordan set the World Powered-Paragliding Distance Record by flying 10,000 km across Canada. And he didn't do it for shits and giggles - proceeds from the resulting film and book go to support summer camp experiences for kids.

Along the way, he stopped at local schools to make fanciful shapes visible from the air.

Hats off to Ben. He's simpatico with what we do here at the Dusty Camel! 

Read more about it here.

One Reason We Do This

Economist Henry Jacoby was interviewed recently on NPR's excellent Planet Money podcast. At one point he said: 

The kind of standard line you have in international discussions is we’re trying to limit the increase to 2 degrees. That’s something that would avoid the really bad outcomes. If you get to 5 degrees, we’re talking about a world that we don’t really understand. It’s deadly serious business. If we could hold it to 2 degrees, which won’t be easy, we could probably survive a lot better. But 5 degrees is effects on ecosystems, agriculture, on sea level rise – is something that we just barely understand. 

We all care about climate change. But it's such a huge issue I often find myself just kind of...forgetting about it for weeks at a time. Then something like this will snap me back and I realize - it's up to us to get outside, enjoy our wild spaces, and think about how to protect them. 

Peace guys. Get it.


Choosing the Best Gear

Whether you’re a family person spending the day outside playing with your kids, the adventurer who wants to accomplish an epic achievement, or simply in search of some solitude – the one constant in any outdoor activity is gear. As researched by the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor industry is a whopping 646 billion dollar industry, with over 120 billion of those dollars coming from gear and equipment. That is a lot of parkas and backpacks, to say the least. With a plethora of gear companies online and in stores, it is difficult to sift through them all. There are even membership stores such as TheClymb which offer you exclusive deals to low priced high quality equipment.

One of the biggest questions we get at The Dusty Camel is how to find the right piece of kit. Whether it is a backpack, footwear, or the right charging device for electronics, there are a few key factors to consider: the brand, the cost, the construction.

The Brand— 

This isn’t Prada or Gucci. The labels make more of a difference than the one on that $5,000 suit. It isn’t a sign of wealth or taste. Instead, the labels on your gear are signs of a commitment to creating and testing great equipment. The brands you’ve heard of you’ve probably heard of for a reason. People who either work in or enjoy the fruits of the outdoor industry profess the achievements (or lack thereof) of their gear full-heartily. The brands which extensively test their products, put care and dedication into the design and manufacturing, and overall just live the lifestyle they create are the companies you want to research. Their products will inherently be five steps ahead of the other brand that makes outdoor equipment on the side to make a few quick bucks and wouldn’t even consider stepping foot on a mountain to really test their products.

The Cost –

You get what you pay for. When it comes to gear, that statement has much more weight to it. The $50 tent from the local megastore is great on the wallet, but if you even attempt to bring it on a mountain, the wind will rip it to shreds in a heartbeat to be left exposed without shelter. Not to mention, it probably weighs 12 pounds. The $500 tent from that specialty company will give you a reliable shelter that will keep you safe and lighten your load. Not to mention the company which offers this type of equipment more than likely has a warranty and customer service department that is there for you no matter what. If you are torn between two items, 9 out of 10 times, the more expensive one will last longer, be more reliable, and if anything should go wrong with it – the company will be more than likely to replace it with ease. 

The Construction –

With a reputable brand and most likely (but not always!) a higher cost comes quality construction. There are a few things to examine though: the stitching, the buckles and the materials. The stitching should be tight together with a double stitch as often as possible. The buckles and webbing should be sturdy with a heavy grade plastic and not flimsy or easily bendable. The materials should be durable but not heavy and depending on the item, a rip stop grid helps increase the durability while maintain a low weight (that is the box grid patter on fabrics).

If you consider these three aspects of gear, you are in the right direction to begin your search for the right piece of equipment. Now the hardest part is finding where to buy it at the lowest cost. While trying things on in person is always a smart idea, I usually suggest buying online. Once you’ve found the right backpack or tent, play with it, set it up, put it on and see how it feels. Then go home, and noodle the Internet for a while. There are companies like TheClymb that you join and have incredible offers and discounts to quality equipment. The prices online and specials you can find will seldom be beat by brick and mortar stores. It does take some preplanning, so make sure you have ample time before your journey you’re gearing up for.

Remember the most important piece of advice I can offer: your gear keeps you alive; make sure it is something you love.

-- Ian