The last thing you want to say in a backcountry emergency is “Can you hear me now?”
There is nothing quite like horse riding in the backcountry — it’s only you, your horse, and the solace of nature. A trip deep into the wilderness is can be an amazing way to unwind and disconnect from the world, whether for a few hours or a few days.
Along with all the benefits, there are inherent risks that come with horse riding in the backcountry. From twisted ankles to lost travelers, grizzly attacks and bad weather, every adventurer needs to be prepared for an emergency.
A satellite phone is the ultimate way to ensure that you can call for help anytime, anywhere.
The best satellite phones for horse riders include:
- Iridium 9575 Extreme
- Garmin inReach Mini
- Unlocked ISatPhone 2.1
- Garmin InReach Explorer Plus
- Inmarsat Satellite Phone Traveler’s Package
- Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone Bundle
- Bivystick Satellite Communication Device
Note: This article is primarily about riding in the backcountry, but it’s also best practice to have a satellite phone in your truck when hauling horses. You never know when cell service will disappear, and you need to be able to call for help anywhere.
Stay Connected While You Disconnect
Chances are you have a first aid kit, sunscreen, and a bunch of other emergency or health related gear in your saddle bag. But, have you really thought about how important it is to have a lifeline to the outside world?
That is exactly what a satellite phone will give you–the ability to get help if trouble arises.
Satellite phones are expensive. There’s no getting around it. On top of having to pay for the actual device, you then have to pay to use it.
On the other hand, a quality satellite phone will last a lifetime, and you can’t put a price on peace of mind.
So, when you’re ready to make that investment, it’s important to make sure you get the perfect satellite phone for you. That’s why we compiled a list of the 7 best satellite phones for horse riders.
The best part? You can get them all on Amazon. (Because, hello, Prime 2-Day Shipping!)
Note: Satellite phones aren’t only for emergencies. They also allow you to keep friends and family in the loop on your location and status throughout your trip.
Satellite Phones for Horse Riders
1. Iridium 9575 Extreme
In the world of satellite phones, there are basically three networks that US citizens can use.
Iridium is one of them and is the only network that literally works everywhere else in the world.
That’s one reason why the Iridium 9575 Extreme is considered one of the best all around satellite phones, along with the fact that the service is reliable and it is built for emergency contact.
- GPS enabled with location tracking
- SOS button to easily send location to emergency services
- Dust and water resistant
- Battery standby time: Up to 30 hours; Talk time: Up to 4 hours
- Somewhat flimsy charging station
- Only suitable for emergency contact (you’re won’t be texting your friends back home about how great your trip is going)
2. Garmin inReach Mini
First, how cute is this little nugget? Second, this might be one of the best options for backcountry use because of its lightweight and compact design.
In addition, this mini sat-phone from Garmin, one of the most trusted names for GPS products, utilizes the Iridium network.
Therefore, this satellite phone can be used anywhere in the world. Small but mighty, for sure.
- Compact, lightweight design make it ideal for backpacking
- All around best value- high quality for a decent price (you can even get financing on this bad boy)
- Connects with other Garmin devices for inReach messaging
- Requires subscription to satellite network for SOS and text
- No calls; only text messages
3. Unlocked ISatPhone 2.1
If you know your trip is going to involve water–crossing rivers, dealing with rain, etc–the ISatPhone 2.1 might be the sat phone for you.
This phone is known for being highly water resistant and is extremely well rated for its durability.
In addition, this particular product comes with a SIM card that can be loaded with pre-paid minutes or a subscription to satellite service.
- Shock, dust, and water resistant
- 24/7 customer support
- GPS tracking; 2 way calls and text
- A bulkier option (weights 2.36 pound)
- Some customers have difficulty with activation and connection, so make sure you practice using the phone before you head out on your trip
4. Garmin InReach Explorer Plus
If you’re looking for a lightweight sat phone that moonlights as a GPS, this is the option for you.
Similar to its little brother, the Garmin InReach Mini, the Explorer Plus only offers text messaging and an SOS signal.
This option has super user-friendly GPS with topographic maps. (Think of it like the Leatherman of sat phones.)
- GPS programming with topographic maps and digital compass
- Compact and lightweight design
- Pairs with mobile devices to download additional maps
- No phone calls
5. Inmarsat Satellite Phone Traveler’s Package
If you’re a serious backcountry rider who needs a satellite phone and all of the gear to keep it secure and charged on the go, this traveler’s pack from Inmarsat is a great option.
It comes with everything you need to pack your satellite phone along with you and even includes a solar charger.
(Remember to charge it during daylight!)
- Solar charger helps you keep battery life high while you’re on-the-go
- SIM card for loading pre-paid minutes included with purchase
- SOS button to easily send location to emergency services
- This whole package is a little bulky, so it would probably be best for riders that can distribute weight or who aren’t as concerned about extra weight
- Global coverage except for the north and south pole (though you probably aren’t horseback riding there anyway…)
6. Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone Bundle
Iridium is the most popular satellite phone network, and this good ol’ fashioned satellite phone has all the standard features you need in the backcountry.
Purchasing this phone through BlueCosmo on Amazon means you get an 18 month warranty.
(Not too shabby for a phone that costs a pretty penny.)
- 18-month warranty
- Two way text and voice capabilities
- This option is a full kit, which means you have everything you could possibly need to get the most out of this phone
- No GPS functionality
- One of the more expensive models
7. Bivystick Satellite Communication Device
Do you still take your smartphone with you into the backcountry, even if you know you won’t be able to use it? Except, of course, for taking some amazing photos.
If that sounds like you, then this is probably a great option.
Rather than a traditional smartphone, this handy little device acts like a satellite hotspot for your phone.
It is basically a magic wand that turns your smartphone into a sat-phone.
- 2-way SMS text messaging and SOS services
- Location sharing (So your mom or significant other can get almost real-time updates about your location. Annoying or handy, you decide.)
- One of the most affordable options on the market
- No calling
- No on-screen GPS
Frequently Asked Questions
Do satellite phones work everywhere?
In the world of satellite phones, there are 4 networks users can choose from.
Iridium, Inmarsat and Globalstar are the 3 that work in the United States.
The beauty of a satellite network is that whether you are in the Bob Marshall backcountry of Montana or out on the open beaches along the Washington coast, you can stay connected to emergency services. That said, satellite connections can be spotty, so a little research on which network works best in your area is worth it.
Pro tip: If at first you don’t get a signal, just keep moving around. It might take a try or two for you to get in the right position for a good signal.
How much does it cost to have a satellite phone?
Have you clicked on any of the links for our recommended satellite phones yet? If you have, you probably gasped and your blood pressure likely went up.
That’s because, as you probably noticed, satellite phones can cost anywhere from $400-$3,000 — and that’s just for the device.
In order to actually use the phone, you have to either purchase pre-paid minutes, which usually cost around $1-$2 per minute, or you have to buy a subscription to a satellite network.
Generally, if you are only using a sat phone for emergency purposes and don’t go on a ton of backcountry trips, the best option is to pre-pay for minutes.
If you regularly go on backcountry trips and need to make calls to family, in addition to emergency services, a subscription makes more sense.
Are satellite phones illegal?
Certain countries, including India and North Korea (go figure) have banned satellite phone use.
In the United States, most satellite phones, including all seven on our list, are 100% legal.
What about satellite phone rentals?
Renting a satellite phone is a great option for adventurists who only get out a couple times a year. Satellite phone rentals are usually charged by the day, whether you use the phone or not.
Typical prices range from $5-$50 per day.
Here are two great websites to find the perfect satellite phone rental for your trip:
What about GPS for horseback trail riding?
If you like to know where you’re going and where you’ve been, then the Garmin InReach Explorer Plus is probably your best bet for a multipurpose sat-phone and GPS.
The Garmin InReach Explorer Plus allows you to download maps while you’re home so that you can get prepared for that big adventure.
Have Peace of Mind When You’re in a Bind
Satellite phones are amazing tools for staying safe and connected while you’re in the backcountry, hauling horses, or simply riding the roads around your barn.
Just remember to load up on pre-paid minutes before you leave.
Happy travels, and happy trails!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Ultimate Beginners Guide to Horseback Trail Riding at Night
- Happy Trails Gear Guide: What to Wear Horseback Trail Riding
- What to Wear Horseback Trail Riding in Montana
- The Ultimate Horse Trailering & Packing Checklist
- 6 Best Saddle Pads for Trail Riding (And Happy Horses)