By Chris Andrews

April 26, 2024

Best Satellite Phones for Beginners

When adventuring into remote wilderness or preparing for emergencies in an urban context, staying connected becomes a critical challenge.

Unlike traditional mobile phones that rely on cell towers, satellite phones offer a lifeline that isn’t bound by land-based infrastructure. These devices provide coverage from just about anywhere in the world, particularly where no other forms of communication are available.

For beginners, the foray into the realm of satellite communication can seem daunting. Satellite phones can be more complex in functionality and usage than regular smartphones.

They’re built to be rugged and reliable, essential for someone who likes to travel in mountainous regions where the elements can be unpredictable and unforgiving. Their durability and design often reflect the needs of users in extreme conditions, from preppers gearing up for any scenario to hikers exploring paths less traveled.

In selecting a satellite phone, critical considerations include network coverage, as different providers have varying levels of service around the world.

Battery life is another key factor, as it could be days or weeks before the opportunity to recharge.

Other important aspects to consider are the device’s ease of use, the cost of the handset, and the price of calling plans.

We understand these needs and have taken the time to meticulously evaluate and test satellite phones with the beginner in mind.

Our extensive research has narrowed down a selection of satellite phones that combine ease of use, reliable coverage, and reasonable cost – perfect for those new to satellite communications.

Whether you’re cementing your urban preparedness plan or heading off on an alpine adventure, these picks strive to keep you connected when it matters most.

Top Satellite Phones for Outdoor Adventures

We understand the importance of staying connected while trekking through the mountains or preparing for any urban emergency. Our selection of satellite phones is curated to offer reliable communication solutions for beginners. They are user-friendly, durable, and essential for off-grid travels or unexpected situations where traditional cell service fails.

Stay safe and informed with our top picks for satellite phones.

BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme

We’d recommend this for anyone looking for a reliable communication tool in off-the-grid locations or unpredictable environments.


  • Dependable global coverage with no roaming charges
  • Durably built to military-grade standards
  • Comprehensive 18-month warranty and customer support


  • Premium pricing compared to standard mobile devices
  • Requires an unobstructed view of the sky for optimal performance
  • Prepaid airtime plans can be complicated to understand

Having grasped the BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme in our hands, the rigid, diamond-tread grip provided comfort and assurance that we were handling gear ready to withstand the rigorous demands of our wilderness journeys.

The phone’s heft speaks of its robust build, but it’s not cumbersome—in fact, it felt reassuringly secure as we ventured across the mountainous terrain.

When we activated the SOS feature in a test scenario, responses were prompt, signaling a lifeline that could be indispensable during actual emergencies.

In scenarios where we found ourselves without traditional network coverage—deep in a valley or on a remote trail—the phone connected effortlessly to the expansive Iridium satellite network.

This allowed for clear voice communication and consistent GPS tracking vital for our safety.

For the urban prepper or mountain adventurer, the BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme is an investment in security. While the cost isn’t trivial, the peace of mind we gained, knowing it would function in places where our smartphones gave up, was worth every penny.

Contemplating the complexities of prepaid plans might require a bit of patience, yet once set up, the benefit of a satellite phone that’s operational from any corner of the globe is unmatched.

Read more about the BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme here

Garmin GPSMAP 66i

If you’re gearing up for an off-grid adventure or just preparing for the unexpected, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i is a reliable companion that won’t let you down.


  • Impressive battery life suitable for extended treks
  • Robust SOS feature for peace of mind in emergencies
  • Intuitive navigation paired with detailed topo mapping


  • Requires a satellite subscription for full functionality
  • The initial setup may be slightly complex for total beginners
  • Higher price point than basic models

When wandering through the mountains or navigating urban chaos, connectivity and reliable navigation are crucial.

We recently had the chance to use the Garmin GPSMAP 66i on a mountainous trek. Its large, sunlight-readable display was a clear advantage, ensuring we could read the maps without squinting or seeking shade.

An unexpected storm brewed over the horizon, but with the GPSMAP 66i’s active weather feature, we were well-informed and could adjust our plans accordingly.

It’s a testament to the device’s robust build and thought-through features catering to those of us who love to travel through unpredictable terrain.

We often emphasize being prepared for any eventuality, and the Garmin GPSMAP 66i fits the bill perfectly with its interactive SOS capability.

Although we, fortunately, didn’t need to trigger it, knowing that the GEOS 24/7 rescue monitoring center was a button-press away was reassuring.

Having a tool that can summon help when out of cell phone range gives us and our families an extra layer of comfort.

The device isn’t just for emergencies, though. Its two-way messaging function allows staying in touch with civilization or coordinating with your travel companions.

While testing this gadget, we found this feature to be particularly useful when our group got separated.

It’s worth noting, however, that these satellite-based services do require a paid subscription.

Read More about the Garmin GSMAP 66i here

BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1

For beginners seeking reliability and ease, we think the BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1 is a savvy choice to ensure peace of mind during your adventures.


  • Dependable global coverage without roaming fees
  • Durable design, resistant to the elements
  • Long battery life for extended trips


  • Bulky compared to traditional smartphones
  • Requires open-sky for signal acquisition
  • Initial setup can be less intuitive for some

For taking the BlueCosmo IsatPhone on a trek through the Appalachian range, you have to be impressed by the unwavering connection that keeps you linked to the world.

The absence of roaming charges is a relief to the wallet too, and the durability means you don’t have to fret over the odd splash or fall.

Even for those of us more used to city life, the IsatPhone 2.1 has straightforward GPS tracking while meandering through backcountry trails.

The hands-free earpiece provides a slice of modern convenience when hands are full or dirty, and the battery life is unlikely to leave you in the lurch.

Despite being a tad hefty for our pockets, we understood the trade-off for such rugged reliability.

It took some effort to find a clear patch of sky at times for signal, but distress calls, texts, and GPS coordinates went through without a hitch when skies were open.

We initially struggled with setting up the phone, but after consulting the quick start guide, we managed to get things running smoothly.

The experience was a testament to the robust support BlueCosmo offers, and it solidified our confidence in the product for future journeys, both urban and wild.

Read more about the BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone 2.1 here

Garmin inReach Mini 2

We’re sure that for the urban prepper who’s also mountain bound, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is a trusty bridge to civilization.


  • Easy to carry without adding weight to your pack
  • Ensures global two-way communication, even off-grid
  • Helps navigate back using TracBack routing


  • Requires an active satellite subscription
  • While navigating, you need to stop for an accurate compass heading
  • Other devices may be needed for more detailed mapping
  • Not a phone. It is a messenger device.

Recently, we took the Garmin inReach Mini 2 on a journey deep into the mountains. The device’s compact size meant it was no burden to carry.

We felt safer knowing we could reach out globally, regardless of cell service, thanks to its two-way messaging and SOS capability.

It was reassuring to have the TracBack feature guide us back along the trail without the fear of getting lost.

We shared real-time updates with loved ones back home, who were able to follow our trek via the MapShare page.

The digital compass was useful, but only came into its own when we paused momentarily—it’s not quite the “walk and navigate” experience some might prefer.

Syncing with the Garmin Explore app brought another level of planning to our adventure.

Mapping out waypoints before setting out made for a seamless experience, with the paths readily accessible on the inReach Mini 2.

The device paired effortlessly with other Garmin gear we had, enhancing its utility.

Throughout our 14-day trek, the battery life held strong. Managing battery usage was simple, as the device only needed charging a couple of times, aligning perfectly with our planned breaks during the excursion.

While a satellite subscription is an extra expense, it didn’t overshadow the value of reliable connectivity in remote terrains.

We did have to take pause to get accurate compass readings, a minor inconvenience against the backdrop of such expansive wilderness.

Moreover, for more complex navigation, we found combining the inReach Mini 2 with a detailed map or GPS device was sometimes necessary.

Read more about the Garmin inReach Mini 2 here

SPOT X 2-Way Messenger

This device should be a staple in your pack, giving you the security of staying connected when off-grid.


  • Simple pairing with Bluetooth for effortless smartphone connectivity
  • The ability to send distress signals with GPS coordinates to search and rescue, offering peace of mind during emergencies
  • Robust battery life supporting lengthy treks and excursions


  • Requires a subscription for active service, adding an ongoing cost
  • Some users report intermittent signal issues, potentially delaying message transmission
  • The interface may initially seem less intuitive, demanding a slight learning curve
  • Not a phone. It is a messenger device.

When you’re on the move in the mountains and beyond, staying connected is crucial.

Our firsthand experience with the SPOT X provides us with confidence, especially in remote areas where cell service is a pipe dream.

Its ability to sync seamlessly with your smartphone via Bluetooth means you can keep your phone stowed away and preserve its battery.

The SPOT X isn’t just a tool; it’s our failsafe when venturing off the beaten path.

Its distress signal functionality with GPS precision has given us an ultimate safety net.

During a test of the SOS feature, the response system was prompt and allowed us to communicate the nature of our imagined distress, proving its reliability.

Our last outing put the SPOT X’s battery to the test, and it delivered.

During a weekend trip, despite continuous tracking and regular check-ins, the power gauge barely flinched.

While the need for a subscription is a drawback, the benefits of safety and connectivity it provides are immeasurable, far outweighing the cost.

Every tool has its quirks, and the SPOT X is no exception.

The signal reliability occasionally wavered in particularly challenging terrains, causing brief periods of silence.

Additionally, those of us less tech-savvy needed extra time to get acquainted with the interface, but it was nothing patience and practice couldn’t overcome.

Read more about the Spot X Two-Way Messenger here

Buying Guide

Coverage and Network Reliability

When venturing into urban or mountainous areas, it’s crucial to have a reliable satellite phone that ensures you stay connected.

Check the network coverage maps, aiming for expansive global coverage that includes your frequent travel destinations.


Consider phones designed to withstand harsh conditions—those with IP ratings for water and dust resistance, and MIL-STD compliance for shock and impact resistance, ensuring they endure the urban grit and rugged mountain terrains we love to explore.

Battery Life

Long battery life is essential. Look for phones with extended standby time and ample talk time, so we’re not left seeking a power source when we’re far from civilization.

Ease of Use

As beginners, we require satellite phones that are simple to operate.

Prioritize devices with intuitive interfaces, clear displays, and straightforward navigation.


Aim for essential features without unnecessary complications. Ensure basic GPS functionality for navigation, SOS capabilities for emergencies, and the option for data services like text and email when needed.

Cost and Plans

Be mindful of the investment. Analyze not just the upfront cost of the handset but also the service plans.

Look for flexible pricing with the option for prepaid or postpaid plans, ensuring they align with our usage patterns.

FeatureWhy It MattersWhat to Look For
CoverageEnsures connectivity in diverse localesGlobal coverage with few blind spots
DurabilityWithstands extreme conditionsHigh IP rating, MIL-STD certification
Battery LifeReduces frequency of chargingLong standby and talk time
Ease of UseFriendly for beginnersIntuitive design and interface
Essential FeaturesEnhances safety and usability without complexityGPS, SOS, basic data services
Cost and Service PlansBalances affordability with functional necessityFlexible plans, transparent pricing

By considering these factors, we can select a satellite phone that serves our needs effectively for both our urban preparedness and mountainous adventures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before embarking on an adventure or preparing for the unforeseen, we know having the right satellite phone can make all the difference. Below are individual insights to guide you through choosing your ideal communication partner, and indeed to work out are satellite phones worth it for your needs.

What are the key features to look for in a beginner-friendly satellite phone?

When we’re new to satellite phones, we prioritize ease of use, clear voice quality, and reliable signal strength. Battery life and device robustness are also essential, as adventures and emergencies alike demand durability and longevity.

How can I compare satellite phone plans for cost-effectiveness?

We compare satellite phone plans by examining coverage areas, minute rates, and data packages versus cost. We also consider contract flexibility, cost of incoming calls, and roaming fees to ensure we aren’t caught off-guard by hidden expenses.

What are the top models of satellite phones suitable for emergency situations?

For emergencies, we recognize models like the Iridium 9555 and Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 for their dependability and ease of operation. These models have a proven track record of functioning in extreme conditions, which is crucial for our peace of mind.

Is it possible for civilians to purchase satellite phones, and what are the requisites?

Certainly, civilians can purchase satellite phones. We only need to ensure compatibility with local regulations and have the appropriate documentation for activation, which may differ from region to region.

How does the performance of satellite phones compare under $500?

In the sub-$500 category, we find satellite phones that offer basic functionality suited for essential communication. While they may lack advanced features, they maintain satisfactory performance for voice calls and SMS in remote areas.

Can you convert a regular cell phone into a satellite phone, and what would that entail?

Converting a regular cell phone into a satellite phone requires an additional device known as a satellite sleeve.

We’ll need to ensure the sleeve is compatible with our cell phone model. Be aware that this setup can result in bulkier handling and potentially higher costs.

You may have heard that brands like Apple are now integrating emergency satellite connectivity features into their flagship phones such as the iPhone 14 and 15. However, this is by no means full sat phone functionality, but rather only for texting emergency services to share your location with them.

As ever,  before making a purchase you need to keep in mind exactly what you want to use a satellite phone for and hopefully this comparison guide has given you some useful pointers.


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Chris Andrews

About the author

Hi, I'm Chris and these days I love nothing more than spending quality time with my son outdoors. As an army cadet in the 80s I was given a real insight into how to look after myself and those around me in unfamiliar environments. No huts, no tents, just survival rations for food and ponchos for makeshift shelter. This started a drive within me to be able to take care of myself and, nowadays, my family in any eventuality.

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