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  1. #1
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    Default Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    We are planning a Namibia and Botswana trip of around 2 months starting early in 2022 (yes, I know, it will be extremely hot....). I was researching cell phone coverage in these countries and it appears that both countries are fairly well covered, albeit only GSM and text messages in some areas. As we are not experienced overlanders (although I have travelled Botswana in the early '90s with only a creased, old paper map ), we are not planning extreme off-road excursions, and will mostly stay on the well travelled routes to go explore the well known tourist spots. We will be travelling alone for the most part, unless we hook-up with other travellers along the way from time to time.

    My question is, given the info above....is an emergency SOS device like a SPOT, or Garmin inReach Mini or similar device REALLY necessary?

    Besides the high cost, with current technology, smart phones, GPS devices and abundance of information available online and in books/maps, I can not see us needing an emergency device.

    Your expert advice will be much appreciated.
    Cheers
    A

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by merweandre View Post
    We are planning a Namibia and Botswana trip of around 2 months starting early in 2022 (yes, I know, it will be extremely hot....). I was researching cell phone coverage in these countries and it appears that both countries are fairly well covered, albeit only GSM and text messages in some areas. As we are not experienced overlanders (although I have travelled Botswana in the early '90s with only a creased, old paper map ), we are not planning extreme off-road excursions, and will mostly stay on the well travelled routes to go explore the well known tourist spots. We will be travelling alone for the most part, unless we hook-up with other travellers along the way from time to time.

    My question is, given the info above....is an emergency SOS device like a SPOT, or Garmin inReach Mini or similar device REALLY necessary?

    Besides the high cost, with current technology, smart phones, GPS devices and abundance of information available online and in books/maps, I can not see us needing an emergency device.

    Your expert advice will be much appreciated.
    Cheers
    A
    We normally just rent a SAT phone for that period. It's way cheaper than bying. And yes, we have used the SAT phone in an emergency before.
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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    No you don't need one until you really need it.
    I always carry and have only used it for emergency once in 10 years.
    If you need it you will be really happy you have it

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Depends on your appetite for risk. Are you happy to run the risk of being stranded somewhere remote because you didn't rent a sat phone for a thousand bucks or so?

    I tend to value my life quite highly so would always go with one if travelling off the beaten track.

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  8. #5
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    I believe one can rent the spot trackers these days as well. Get one like the Spot x wich has 2 way communication.
    Renting a Sat phone will probably be better. Nice thing about the Spot is that family at home can follow your journey.

  9. #6
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by merweandre View Post
    we are not planning extreme off-road excursions, and will mostly stay on the well travelled routes to go explore the well known tourist spots.
    Generations of people have traveled through and lived in remote areas without any electronic gadgets. Hence, it is not a necessity.
    Only you can decide whether or not it'll make sense to have a satellite phone or an emergency locator beacon of some kind.
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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Will you have vehicle insurance while on the trip, will you have medical aid and travel insurance?

    You should view this the same as any other type of insurance.
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  12. #8
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    I have had the inreach save considerable time and expense on two separate occasions. Compared to the other costs of “getting out there” it is a bargain.

    Many of Southern Africa’s most amazing places are out of cellular range. Thank god.
    Last edited by heyyahhey; 2021/11/27 at 06:49 PM.

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  14. #9
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by merweandre View Post
    .... we are not planning extreme off-road excursions, and will mostly stay on the well travelled routes to go explore the well known tourist spots.
    If this is your intended itinerary and route, you should not need emergency comms.

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  16. #10
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Searcher View Post
    If this is your intended itinerary and route, you should not need emergency comms.
    I disagree. We tend to forget about a medical emergency.
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  18. #11
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wedwo View Post
    I disagree. We tend to forget about a medical emergency.
    The popular routes do have cell phone coverage. Since it is the OP's intention not to travel into remote areas, but stick to the main tourist attractions, a charged cell phone with sufficient credit will do.
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  20. #12
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    I loved having a Sat phone in Namibia, the signal is not as great as people say. Especially once you leave the tourist spots and head into the northern regions of Namibia.

    Personally I prefer a sat phone to any of these emergency tracking/sms devices.
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  21. #13
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    I can assist with Sat phone rental.

    [email protected]

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  22. #14
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    My 2cents:

    - Since the question was asked, this is a worry for OP.
    - As others have said, you do not need one till you need one.
    - A SAT phone rental is in the region of R 1000, not breaking the bank.
    - Delivery is quick, and returning easy anywhere in RSA.
    - You will sleep better. SWAMBO will admire your foresight and love you heaps if ever the SAT phone is needed.
    - Coverage for sel phones is the normal 50km around the towers, there will be extensive areas not covered or with extremely poor service.


    Further points to consider:
    - It's not difficult to use a SAT phone, but train all the members of your party including the children to use it, so that you do not faf about in a emergency.
    - Print the emergency numbers out and fix it to the phone with a rubber band.
    - Use the "free" minutes provided with the rental to practice out on the trip, and take a selfie to show your coolness..
    - The SAT phone does not always have reception so find a reception point at your long-stay sites. [that has been our experience in Zim]
    - Remember to charege the SAT phone.
    - Remember to provide the SAT phone number to someone if you think someone will need to contact you.
    - This is not to be able to catch up on the Blitzbokke's win over Australia, Argentinia and the USA...

    If you really do not want to rent a SAT phone, do not go onto ROAMING, rather buy a sim card at the first opportunity in each of the countries visited. Cheap and good reception, and you have data to burn.


    Enjoy the trip!

  23. #15
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    SatComms works well for when you suffer a breakdown or get stuck or something similar. You can communicate and they can send help.

    With a medical emergency I believe you might be better of with a good first aid/trauma kit and training/knowledge, plus knowing where the nearest medical facility is. The idea that a helicopter will come flying in 15min after you made contact is wrong.

    Its no use having a SatPhone but you don't have a tourniquet on board. Focus on self-help first and outside help second.

    That said, I am still a believer of "better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it"

    But know the pros and cons of each device and situation.

    Remember that something like an inReach device can also be used as a decent navigation device.

    .
    Last edited by DC Polokwane; 2021/11/29 at 08:10 AM.
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  25. #16
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    If you stick to tarred roads, no. Elsewhere take a device - you night need it!

  26. #17
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    I've asked that question myself, sat phone and the little garmin devices several times! Decided not to use them! I know cellular reception is not available when you need it! I've also traveled to far places before cellular and fancy tracking devices and also not needed them. I also travel solo most of the times and my wife does have sort of an itinerary and I try to email or whatsapp wherever I can with local simcard in one phone and my RSA card in the other but phone is switched off until I might need it. It all depend on your and partner's health condition, if you are fairly healthy had no serious problems the past few months and you are body able, such a condition that you can both assist when stuck in sand, then I will not be worried about those communication devices. In all my travels in Botswana and Namibia within a day or two someone passed me. I had two breakdowns that took me two days each to fix with the help of local people. The trick is to have plenty of drinking water and emergency food supplies and when there is a breakdown you go into sever survival mode, eat only when you are about to starve and drink only small amounts of water and stay in the shade and RELAX! Always stay with your vehicle, especially in Botswana game parks, never never try and walk in search for help, you will never find it and no one will ever find you! Another vehicle will pass you sometime, just wait. Also make sure both people know how to drive your vehicle also how to use the 4x4 gearbox. Wifes hardly ever drive their husbands 4x4 vehicle, now it is a good time to let her drive a day or two with 4x4 engaged for just in case. A medical situation is difficult, know Frist Aid and make sure you have a good first aid bag and maybe a first aid manual with you. Never be in a hurry, take it easy all the time after all you said your journey is two months and there is no rush to get back to the office! When you get to a place where you either can send an email or WhatsApp do it. When you arrive at a campsite ask the caretaker if he/she has a cell number, write the name and number down and inform them that if you are in trouble you might phone them for some help, I do it all the time! Know the basic of your vehicle, have the right tools to work on it and have some good recovery equipment and use common sense. If stuck, relax have a cup of coffee and plan your action. Enjoy your trip.
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  27. #18
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by opsafari View Post
    I've asked that question myself, sat phone and the little garmin devices several times! Decided not to use them! I know cellular reception is not available when you need it! I've also traveled to far places before cellular and fancy tracking devices and also not needed them. I also travel solo most of the times and my wife does have sort of an itinerary and I try to email or whatsapp wherever I can with local simcard in one phone and my RSA card in the other but phone is switched off until I might need it. It all depend on your and partner's health condition, if you are fairly healthy had no serious problems the past few months and you are body able, such a condition that you can both assist when stuck in sand, then I will not be worried about those communication devices. In all my travels in Botswana and Namibia within a day or two someone passed me. I had two breakdowns that took me two days each to fix with the help of local people. The trick is to have plenty of drinking water and emergency food supplies and when there is a breakdown you go into sever survival mode, eat only when you are about to starve and drink only small amounts of water and stay in the shade and RELAX! Always stay with your vehicle, especially in Botswana game parks, never never try and walk in search for help, you will never find it and no one will ever find you! Another vehicle will pass you sometime, just wait. Also make sure both people know how to drive your vehicle also how to use the 4x4 gearbox. Wifes hardly ever drive their husbands 4x4 vehicle, now it is a good time to let her drive a day or two with 4x4 engaged for just in case. A medical situation is difficult, know Frist Aid and make sure you have a good first aid bag and maybe a first aid manual with you. Never be in a hurry, take it easy all the time after all you said your journey is two months and there is no rush to get back to the office! When you get to a place where you either can send an email or WhatsApp do it. When you arrive at a campsite ask the caretaker if he/she has a cell number, write the name and number down and inform them that if you are in trouble you might phone them for some help, I do it all the time! Know the basic of your vehicle, have the right tools to work on it and have some good recovery equipment and use common sense. If stuck, relax have a cup of coffee and plan your action. Enjoy your trip.
    I respect, but do not understand, this sentiment. You carry spare parts for the vehicle, I assume? First aid equipment? Tools?

    Satellite based communication - messenger or sat phone - is just another tool. A precautionary thing for peace of mind, but of potentially massive value in an emergency. The messenger devices have the additional benefit of also being very good navigation devices, some models directly running T4A’s very good mapping product.

    I agree if you’re always going to be in cellular range, it’s not needed. Otherwise, for the relatively small cost, it’s a worthwhile tool along with other tools.
    Last edited by heyyahhey; 2021/11/30 at 06:08 AM.

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  29. #19
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    I support satellite connectivity when in the bundu's, but do manage you expectations.
    Don't expect emergency services to come running towards you in case of an emergency - this is Africa.
    At least you can let your family/friends know you are stranded/poisoned, attacked by a pofadder......

    You did not mention one very important thing - how many vehicles will you be?
    If more than one, you have some contingency.....

  30. #20
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    Default Re: Emergency SOS device - does one REALLY need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chum View Post
    I support satellite connectivity when in the bundu's, but do manage you expectations.
    Don't expect emergency services to come running towards you in case of an emergency - this is Africa.
    At least you can let your family/friends know you are stranded/poisoned, attacked by a pofadder......

    You did not mention one very important thing - how many vehicles will you be?
    If more than one, you have some contingency.....
    “We will be traveling alone” seems to hint at one vehicle, at least that’s how I would interpret it.
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