A nameless friend whom I love dearly has been lobbying hard for us to take a satellite messenger with us on this trip. Actually, she has been lobbying hard for us to get a satellite messenger ever since we moved to Utah and upped our weekly consumption of potentially deadly activities. If you're not familiar with these devices, they are rather slick. Typical functions include:
Track your journey (default of 10 min. intervals; can be customized as needed)
Send text-based messages to your personal contacts
Create shareable online maps of your adventure so others can follow along in (near) real time
Automatically post updates, including GPS location, to your Facebook or Twitter accounts
In case of a non-life-threatening emergency, alert your personal contacts that you need help
In case of a life-threatening emergency, activate an SOS button (protected against accidental activation in your pack) that directly notifies emergency responders of your distress signal, as well as your GPS coordinates
The main selling point is that you can send an alert from nearly any point on earth should you be in trouble. Although this might sound desirable for many people, I would like to give a few reasons why we are against these devices.
#1. If we wanted you to know where we are at all times, we would not have left the country.
Seriously. I don't even want to know where I am most days for the next two years. If you know where I am then you're probably going to send me emails with warnings about decapitations in areas that we will be passing through soon. (see blog post from May 18, 2018 for my thoughts on this).
B. Your dad didn't bike tour with a Satellite Messenger and he came back alright
Not only that, but he was riding up hill both ways in thunder snow beneath the scorching desert sun. No cell phone, no water filter, no ultralight tent, and most of these countries were actually engaged in all the civil wars and kidnappings back then from which their bad reputations still linger to this day.
I hate to be a bit of tinfoil hat wearing kind of guy, but I just need a break from all the non-ionizing radiation.
D. People are going to see this thing and rob me
If you didn't want me to be a target for flagitious acts you would not be recommending that I carry another device worth several hundred dollars that happens to be bright orange. It's not hunting apparel. It is not going to stop anybody from shooting me because they had too many High Lifes. It simply suggests what everybody in a country who's median per capita income is $2,000 per year already suspects about me: That I am from the future and am carrying things that can communicate with other things in outer space just to let my friends and family know that I had fish tacos for the 9th time this week.
5. Several other things wrapped into a single rant
It weighs too much. What do you want me to leave behind in order to fit this on my already overloaded bike? The 'real' cycle-tourists will make fun of me. I'm cheap. It will probably give us a false sense of security, in which case we will be more likely to engage in risky behavior. You can't push a button to call for help when the cartel cuts your hand off. We'll have scientific evidence that we are riding really really slowly. Contrary to popular belief, all of the countries that we will go through have relatively reliable cell phone coverage, especially in major cities (which are the most likely places for crime to occur). We'll just pick one up if we have a problem somewhere.... It's a capitalist scam, monthly subscriptions are hot these days. Whether it's a box of toys delivered to your door or a desperate cry for help delivered to your parents, everyone is trying to find a way to get that credit card number on a recurring payment plan that you'll probably forget about. And lastly; it's just another thing for me to break.
I am heading out in a few weeks and am taking a satellite messenger of the bright orange variety: my wife, at home, sleeps better when she knows I’m safe. I could probably manage that with a Spot (our kids have them to let us know they are safe when backcountry skiing, helping my wife and I both sleep better). The Garmin InReach Explorer is tempting, providing the ability to send a text and receive one too which is nice to have (I’m travelling alone, will be off the cell-phone grid for days at a time, and get lonely 🙂 ) and it works as a gps that you can load tracks into (which I want for the GDMBR and the Baja Divide, at the very least). I’m not quite sure that Garmin have got everything right with this item – I would like to be able to add storage for more maps, etc – but I’m still researching this.
I’m not sure I’d bother with this if I was travelling with my nearest and dearest, as you two are.