When venturing off the beaten path, communication can mean the difference between smooth sailing and a rough misadventure. The best satellite phone will allow for communication whether you’re hiking in remote areas, sailing, flying or whether you just want to be prepared in case of a natural disaster. While cell phones and smartphones provide connection in major cities and towns, they’re dependent on terrestrial cell phone towers. In case of a natural disaster, cell phone networks can be overloaded or be subject to structural damage. With a sat phone, your connection is dependent on satellites in space, so after a disaster or even if you’re just traveling to the far corners of the Earth, you’ll be able to stay connected.
How the best satellite phones can keep you connected anywhere
Harnessing a connection to a satellite can provide you with communication anywhere on the globe. While satellite phones won’t replace your smartphone for everyday use, they step in and offer communication solutions for use when cell phone service isn’t possible. Sat phones are designed for international travel—but always check the countries’ policies ahead of time—off-the-grid camping and hiking, for use on boats or on recreational aircraft. The best satellite phones are designed with off-the grid use in mind, and should be rugged, waterproof, and durable.
While connections are possible in all remote locations, the ability to receive signals can be hindered by buildings, roofs, and shelters, or heavy tree coverage. Many manufacturers have solved this issue and offer packages that are designed to include antennas to use on the outside of structures or buildings, vehicles, boats, or even in the cockpit of an airplane.
Satellite phones can be used for voice calls, text messaging, and even basic emails to keep in touch. They allow for emergency preparedness by issuing SOS distress signals, GPS locations, directions, and emergency weather alerts. Some sat phone packages come with a satellite-based WiFi hub that will allow for your smartphone to work in locations that don’t have cell phone connections. Some satellite phone packages even allow for broadband access to the internet. To compare phones and figure out which is right for you, we’ve selected some of the best satellite cell phones on the market to keep you safe and connected.
- Best satellite phone bundle: BlueCosmo Iridium 9555
- Best satellite communicator for wilderness adventures: Garmin inReach Mini GPS
- Best satellite messenger: Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger
- Best satellite phone for international travel: Inmarsat Isatphone 2.1 Satellite Phone
- Best budget satellite phone: ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
Looking for a satellite phone and reliable network that offers voice calling and texting options?
The best satellite phone bundle will not only include a reliable, durable, easy-to-use phone, but it should also offer voice calling, text messaging, and email messaging. The best phones include a reliable large global network with 24/7 technical support. Packages should include all you need to use and get going without any additional purchases.
Helpful features to look for include different power adapters that allow for use in locations throughout the world. The best sat phone bundles also give you flexibility. You should be able to choose between a monthly plan or a prepaid SIM card: That way if you only will use the phone a few months out of the year, you’re not stuck with a large monthly payment.
Best satellite phone bundle: BlueCosmo Iridium 9555
This phone is ready to be used with the Iridium global satellite network, which includes 66 operating satellites. Included in the bundle are a prepaid SIM card, rechargeable battery, travel and car chargers, international adapters, antenna, carrier, cables, and earpiece with microphone.
What about for hiking and camping trips?
If you want to stay safe and connected when setting out for off-the-grid outdoor adventures, you need a small, lightweight satellite phone that’s set up to offer all the features you need to stay safe. The best satellite communicator for wilderness adventures will be rugged and waterproof, and allow for easy messaging as well as an SOS distress call in case of emergency.
Choosing a satellite communicator made for outdoor adventures means you’ll also have access to useful extra features. Companies like Garmin offer top-of-the-line GPS support, extra maps, topographic information, and safety advice for all types of rough terrain. Better brands offer excellent customer support as well as handy online resources.
Best satellite communicator for wilderness adventures: Garmin inReach Mini GPS
This handy mini GPS Garmin phone satellite is perfect for packing on your outdoor camping trips. It is compatible with other handheld devices, and through the Garmin Earthmate app, you have unlimited access to maps and aerial images to support your trip safely. A satellite subscription is required for use.
Looking for a basic way to send messages to loved ones while you’re traveling off the grid?
When you travel or go on outside adventures, it may not be necessary to have a fully loaded sat phone. Opting for a more basic satellite communication solution also means saving money. You’ve already got a smartphone—what you need is another layer of communication safety outside the cell phone zone. If you want to keep it simple, consider a satellite GPS messenger. These devices allow you to send messages to family and friends, letting them know you are safe, and also have important extra safety features like GPS location and SOS signals.
Best satellite messenger: Spot 3 Satellite GPS Messenger
Stick to the basics and stay safe with this simple satellite GPS messenger. Connect with friends and stay safe in case of emergency with GPS locators and SOS signals. Be aware that you’ll need to pay for a year of activation in order to use this device.
Looking for the best satellite phone for reliable voice calls while travelling internationally?
Sat phones are a smart solution when travelling outside your home country. (Be sure to check the policies of the country you’re visiting before bringing one: They’re illegal in some places.) The best satellite phone for international travel is easy to set up and comes with a prepaid SIM card: That gives you the peace of mind that you can use the phone quickly no matter where you are without worrying about cell phone carriers or reception. Look for phones that offer reliable voice and call connectivity, as well as emergency signals. International travel often takes you to places where you can’t be sure what to expect, and a sat phone offers safety and protection, along with the security of knowing that you won’t be unreachable.
Best satellite phone for international travel: Inmarsat Isatphone 2.1 Satellite Phone
A good option for international travel, the Isatphone is backed by the Inmarsat satellite network. Additional features include GPS and SOS capabilities. It’s preloaded with 167 minutes of talk time, and comes with chargers, cables, and adapters.
Looking for a model that’s reasonably priced?
If satellite phone cost is a factor, consider a more basic satellite communication device. Fully loaded satellite phones can set you back around $1,000, not to mention the extra cost for SIM cards or monthly service plans. Economical solutions keep the communication basic but also require a monthly subscription for service.
The best budget satellite communicator allows you to text and receive texts, and some even offer apps that allow your phone to access the satellite WiFi network. Always look for added emergency features such as SOS alerts and GPS coordinates.
Best budget satellite phone: ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
Zoleo created a small rugged device with all the essentials for keeping you safe in remote locations. Highly rated by many outdoor editors, this device allows you to use satellite, WiFi, or cellular service, depending on what’s available. A monthly subscription is required with cost-level options, depending upon your needs.
Everything else you want to know about buying the best satellite phone
Are satellite phones illegal?
Satellite phones are not illegal in the United States, but in some countries, like China and Cuba, they are. It’s important to research and contact the government of any country you may be visiting to check their policies for use. Satellite phones have restricted use in some countries (e.g., Russia, India), and you must get permission to use these devices or risk arrest. Legal restrictions are in place to curtail any possible illegal or terrorist activities that depend on signals that can bypass censorship and wiretapping.
How much does it cost to have a satellite phone?
Satellite phones and satellite communication devices range in price from $300 to over $1,000. In addition to phone cost you need a satellite provider to connect the phone for service and can purchase a monthly or prepaid plan from $100 to $5,000. Depending on your provider, voice calls range from $.0.15 to $2.00 a minute. Satellite calls between different satellite networks can be expensive. Review voice calls, text messaging, and incoming call costs with your selected provider.
Can I turn my phone into a satellite phone?
It is possible to use your smartphone as a satellite phone by purchasing a SatSleeve (Satellite Sleeve) and installing the SatSleeve App. The first time you use your SatSleeve, you have to set it up to connect via Bluetooth. Some satellite providers (like Iridium Go!) offer packages that include a satellite phone as well as a satellite phone hotspot that allows you to connect your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to a satellite-backed WiFI hotspot.
A final word on how to find the best satellite phone for you
The best satellite phones will allow you to roam around the globe and stay connected. With rugged, waterproof designs, these phones can follow you on any adventure by land, sea, or air. Connect with a prepaid SIM card, or with a monthly plan to keep safe and communicate no matter where you are. In case of emergency, sat phones will send SOS signals and GPS coordinates to make sure you return home safe. Compare phones, then get shopping!