Zoleo – Providing A Piece Of Mind In The Backcountry!!

There are a lot of things to consider when setting out into the backcountry in order to travel safely and with a piece of mind whether it is solo, with a group of friends, or as a guide/leader for paid participants.

Over the years I have ventured out into the backcountry I have recognized more and more how important it is to have a connection to the outside world.
In the past I have had a Spot one way messaging device where I had one of 2 pre-made messages I could send. Just over a year ago I embarked on a 64 km solo journey where I was dropped off at one end and picked up at the other….this was the device I was using. It was better than nothing but it did create some confusion especially as I could not give more information beyond one of those 2 messages. It was a fall adventure and I was aware snow had fallen at higher elevations…so message #1 - good to go meet you at the other end…..message #! - turning back too much snow. Every 2 hours I was doing a location check in.
This solo adventure made it clear if I was going to continue on these solo adventures that I was going to have to invest in a device that offered 2 way messaging.

Enter ZOLEO!! There are many options on the market….including other versions of Spot and then the ever so popular Garmin InReach. The Zoleo is a cheaper investment for the device but still offers different levels of monthly subscriptions….with the options to upgrade as needed.
*What I have liked about my Zoleo is the option to have messaging within an app that acts just like you are messaging within cell service. When I was on the Vermont Long Trail I was all alone for most of my time on trail which on a completely unfamiliar trail, not in Canada, in some extreme conditions was a little unsettling….but knowing I could connect with the outside world meant the world to me and made me feel not as disconnected as I would have been without.
*I have also relied on it as I do highway travel in high mountain passes with no cell service…it gives me again the piece of mind to travel these highways in the winter and know if there is an emergency situation I can message for help.

*The one limitation I found and now have discovered with all Iridium devices is that in storms or in dense tree cover (as some of the Vermont Long Trail is) that the messages can not be sent or received as well.

Now let’s talk a responsibility as a leader/guide……we have a responsibility to take care of the people we are leading. It is important that we can connect with the outside world as soon as possible in case of an emergency. Due to the amount of calls SARS gets it is important to get that message in as soon as possible. Hiking/running back out is not always time efficient when we are talking a life or death situation.

To be effective you must connect it with your phone before you head into the backcountry….make sure you test it with your contact person….and attach it to the outside of your pack with it facing the sky so it can do it’s job effectively.

When we carry these devices it does give us the ability to access help in a reasonable amount of time when needed but keep in mind as Search and Rescue resources are being tapped out more and more to expect a wait time and pack accordingly for it.
That will be the next blog…..WHAT TO CARRY ON A DAY HIKE OR TRAIL RUN!

Keri Bowzaylo - Be Wild Adventures
IG - be_wild_with_keri
Certified Hiking, Snowshoeing and Backpacking Guide
Outdoor Council of Canada Instructor
RLAG Experience Leader and Educator

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