SatPaq Satellite gizmo

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gdurkee
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SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by gdurkee » Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:53 pm

Hi All: There's one more addition to the satellite communication devices available. I tested this in beta and will just give a quick intro.
Called the SatPaq, it's a little smaller than a cell phone and communicates directly with one of two geosynchronous orbiting satellites. It pairs with Android (not clear, that might still be in beta) or iPhone using bluetooth.

Cost for the unit is $250. There's no subscription fee (!) but you pay either per text message (~$0.70 (???)/message) or buy in bundles, which can lower message cost to $.29/msg. You can also request weather reports and it'll download to your phone.

I tested it for about 4 months and was pretty happy with it. It does, though, require aiming roughly towards the satellite. There's an app on the phone that graphically represents the location(s) of the satellites and you just move the phone (with satpaq clipped on) to match the satellite location. A pretty cool app in itself. You can angle the satpaq separately on the ground and message back and forth as with a regular cell text connection. The paq also first checks for a cell signal and goes for that by default.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty good, worked well under most conditions, though you might have a little problem under a solid tree canopy. Disadvantage is it's got to be aimed at satellite, so if you're seriously injured and can't aim it, it won't work (unlike, say, an InReach or SPOT where the emergency activation is not direction dependent). I also liked that I could use phone's keyboard vs. rocker on non-paired InReach models. The received message comes with coordinates and link to map of location.

Another thought (I'm currently involved in researching notification in the event of emergency like fast moving fire (Santa Rosa & Paradise). In those fires, cell towers went down very quickly as did land lines and power. This would be independent of those systems in an emergency. I talked to Rob Reis the head of the company and he said he'd give 10% off to referrals from users. So, I guess, mention my name (and, for what it's worth, I get no kickback or anything).

Link: https://satpaq.com/satpaq/








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maverick
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by maverick » Fri Mar 22, 2019 4:18 pm

How's the battery life in the field George, compared to SPOT, InReach, or a Sat phone?

Love the no subscription fee part :nod: , and the other devices have similar problems under forested conditions, but the direct line of site needed in all conditions, especially in emergency conditions, makes this device unappealing for my personal use in the backcountry.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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rlown
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by rlown » Fri Mar 22, 2019 4:35 pm

I'll stick with my InReach device. I never carry my phone. It stays in the car. Heck, I'll start training the dog to hit the SOS button on the screen.

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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by longri » Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:42 pm

Very interesting. Thanks for posting, George.

Low upfront price and pay as you go. And the prepaid messages don't expire either.

I'd like to know more about where it won't work though. Apparently it doesn't function outside of the United States. And the point it at a satellite thing sounds like a red flag to me. If there's an emergency you really want it to work.

On their Fees & Billing page they mention "negative balances" but since you can't send a message (or even an SOS) if your balance is zero how can you end up with a negative balance?

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maverick
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by maverick » Fri Mar 22, 2019 5:58 pm

Heck, I'll start training the dog to hit the SOS button on the screen.
I want to see the video on that Russ! :lol:
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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bobby49
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by bobby49 » Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:36 pm

If you try to do a comparison among the various satellite communicators, you run into a problem. Virtually everything that you see as a positive for one type is seen as a negative by the next person. In other words, there is no standard set of what makes a device good and what makes it bad. In order to make the best selection for yourself, you need to outline your own intended use.

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TurboHike
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by TurboHike » Sat Mar 23, 2019 5:57 am

Here's some info about the SatPaq system. It was approved by the FCC for use in the U.S., but not without some controversy. The article explains why it needs to be "aimed" at a satellite.

https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/tel ... or-takeoff

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grampy
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by grampy » Sat Mar 23, 2019 8:41 pm

Here is a link to an online calculator for determining azimuth and elevation angles for pointing at a geo satellite from an observer at a given latitude and longitude:
http://www.csgnetwork.com/geosatposcalc.html
Using a simplified example:
> observer at the same longitude as the target satellite
> observer at same latitude as Yosemite - approx 38 deg
... calculator yields an elevation of 46 deg from the horizon ; in other words, 44 deg (90 minus 46) tilt downward (and southward) from looking straight “up”.
I have nothing against geosynchronous satellites (designed & built them for 33 years), but you can imagine backcountry locations where a “clear sky” view southward at a 46 deg elevation might not be possible.
Of course, user experience (like G. Durkee’s) means everything, so lots of people will likely find this device really useful. I’m curious if he found lots of “blockage” when located close to the North side of a mountain or canyon wall.

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gdurkee
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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by gdurkee » Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:07 am

Signal blockage: yep, definitely a problem with all satellite comm devices. I didn't have the problem with the satpaq but it's definitely a concern. I've watched friend's tracks with a spot and they disappear going into, for instance, S. Fork of the Kings then reappear partway upslope (south facing side).

We've also been able to get signal from the north side of Yosemite Valley, though I never tried it on the south side (good idea!). Memory is hazy but I think the GeoPro used geosynchronous satellites, whereas SPOT, InReach, Nano all use orbiting of some sort (the latter two Iridium. Can't remember SPOTs choice. Oh. Rob has someone in Alaska using it and getting signal but can't remember latitude. He was pretty happy with that.

Anyway, all come with pluses & minuses. This is just one more in the bin. I like it for the (mostly) one time cost and ability to use the phone's keyboard. The SatPaq itself has long battery life but the phones go down more quickly (though putting in airplane mode, then turning on bluetooth helps. Also you'll need gps.).

Yet another side note. I was/am also worried about needing to aim in the event of a disabling emergency. Thinking back over the years though, I can't remember going to any SARs where person would have been unable to aim to reach a satellite. I'm sure it's happened, just that it's rare. Also, there'll likely be times where SPOT or InReach continuously transmitting emergency signal will, even in a bad place, hit a satellite as it comes into orbit above. Also rare, but a consideration.

I just finished working on the search for Matthew Kraft and want to emphasize how important using any of these things is. Even just checking in twice a day gives searchers an area to look in. This search was between Onion Valley and Twin Lakes, east of north Yosemite. Larger than Rhode Island and other states. No clues, not even a priority area to search. So, especially solo, carry one of these gizmos with you.

Grampy: do you have a t-shirt that says "Why, yes, I am a rocket scientist"? Friend of mine does. Nerd humor.

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Re: SatPaq Satellite gizmo

Post by grampy » Sun Mar 24, 2019 11:47 am

I do have some old “program” T-shirts, including (coincidentally) Intelsat & Galaxy, making me an even bigger nerd :unibrow:. I agree with bobby49 on the “depends on where you are, and when” considerations when comparing different systems, btw. But I think it IS possible to have at least a limited understanding of what those factors are, to aid in choosing which device (and system) to buy into.

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