I have now been using the Globalstar GSP 1700 satphone for about 6 months in different regions. (mainly in Sweden and Iceland now). I think this is a solid performer in most conditions. Lightweight and one charge will last plenty long for most trips. What follows is my full review including video
What is it?
The Globalstar GSP 1700 is a satellite telephone that uses the globalstar satellite network (spot connect). This will basically allow you to make very clear calls from around the world. I chose a satphone over a spot or inreach because I wanted the two way communication capabilities. I like to be able to call home. On top of that both the spot and inreach require yearlong subscriptions.. seems pointless in my book. The Satphone allows me to buy just the minutes I need what I need them.
My Globalstar satphone with battery weighs just 202grams. Not too much to complain about here as far as weight is concerned
According to the Globalstar info site, the talk time is estimated at around 4 hours and standby 36 hours. I think these are fairly good estimates. I usually just turn the phone off in between calls inorder to save battery, allowing me to have it along for a few weeks without worrying about charging.
I find the Globalstar to work very well in most conditions. Though the connection is affected by clouds, rain and trees.. so it’s usually best to not fall into a rocky hole on a cloudy day if you want to survive. I found that the satphone works great even in most parts of Sweden. Though connection can sometimes be slow to connect, I have been able to have long conversations of up to 20 minutes without the connection breaking. Here is a coverage map of the globalstar network as provided by globalstar:
For full coverage map and info go to the Globalstar website here
Minutes or subscription:
As I don’t go out every weekend in different parts around the world where a cell phone does not work, I find subscriptions to be rather pointless for my needs. So this is where the pay to use pre-paid calling cards work wonders for me. The one complaint I have with regards to the pre-paid cards is that they are only valid for 120days – meaning when you buy the minimum of 75 minutes (roughly 105 USD). They disappear after just 120 days, and if you want to top up, forget about it. 75 minutes is 75 minutes. 75 + 75 does not equal 150. It equals 75 minutes. You cannot purchase several cards and stack them.
For a comprehensive list of plans and so on, again go to globalstars website here
Again, I have never used any of the subscription plans or anything other than the 75minute minimum as I rarely need anything more than that. I often find myself with lots of minutes over towards the end of a trip and call everybody I can inorder to just not “donate my minutes” to the Globalstar gods.
This is where the Globalstar really brings me back to the late 90’s in phone menu technology.. I love the Nokia 3300 look and feel of the menu system. At first this run down memory lane is rather disturbing, atleast for me that is used to the Iphone menu system now. However, once I erase my programmed knowledge on how a menu system should work, the simple black text on green screen, one item per line, using the number pads to move up and down gets rather pleasing to use. Something about the old tech in the outdoors that just works. I almost wish the battery life lasted just 5 minutes and I had to hand crank the charge like the old emergency radios.
Unless you will be doing the majority of your hiking if in Africa or the north pole, there is no reason not to buy the Globalstar GSP 1700. (unless of course you prefer to just have a spot or inreach) For me, the GSP 1700 is a perfect companion to have on my outings. It is always reliable, the network almost always works without a problem, and I love to talk with my wife instead of sending one way text messages. With the pre-paid calling cards it was as if Globalstar had me on their mind when the released this phone. So, no matter where I hike the Globalstar will always be with me. I like the comfort and security of being able to make calls when I need and want to.
Full video review:
It just goes to show how different we all are. One of the attractions of hiking through wild country for me is the absence of ‘two-way communication’! The umbilical cord afforded you by your SatPhone isn’t for me I’m afraid.
From a lightweighting perspective I find this difficult too. The ‘Big Three’ have in fact, for many hikers, become the ‘Big Four’, the fourth being the combined electricals carried.
Each to their own of course, but isn’t it just a bit bonkers to be shaving every last gram from base weight only to load it all back and more in the shape of a small branch of a High Street’s electrical shop? Cameras, Phones, SatNavs, Torches, Backup Torches, Tent Lanterns, Kindles, Music Players, Drones, Power Packs to charge it all, Cabling to join it all, Cases to contain/protect it all, God knows what else…
Sorry for the rant, but I’d like to see more of our ‘backpacking gurus’ taking a much sterner line on this kind of shit! We used to manage our hikes perfectly well without most of it, and we still can.
Sure.. but I think the big four as you call it is something that all hikers have, not just ul hikers. On top of that I don’t really see the issue of people bringing phones that have maps, music and camera on. For me, I find the sat phone to be a source of freedom rather than umbilical cord – it gives me the freedom to get out for longer periods of time and still call home to check in with my wife and kids. I’m not running from anything, my life is pretty well sorted out. I have a wife I love, kids I enjoy and a business that gives me freedom.
As far as saving weight, I don’t see an issue there as well.. technology has afforded people possibilities that simply never existed before. If technology allows me to carry 5 kilos less, (technology in gear advancements towards lighter weight) than of course I should do it.
But then I don’t necessarily concern myself with what other people are carrying and why. If someone wants to carry 40 kilos on their back due to lack of knowledge or just plain stubbornness – then go for it!