How Does Iridium Satellite Communications Work When Using the Garmin inReach and Zoleo for Communicating With Family and Friends

With the increase in popularity of outdoor activities, Garmin and Zoleo have made it easier to stay connected with friends and family. Satellite communication devices like the Garmin inReach mini and embedded products and Zoleo Satellite communicator can now send text messages, GPS locations, SOS alerts for emergencies, as well as tracking data from these devices back home to those who are concerned about them. However, there is a lot that goes into satellite communications technology before this type of device works properly. This blog post will outline how Iridium satellite communications work when using these types of devices so you can make an educated decision on whether or not they’re right for you!

Iridium Satellite Network

First thing is to know about the Iridium satellite network. The Iridium satellite constellation is a network of 66 low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites. These satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 48 degrees north and south latitude, which means they are able to provide service to two-thirds of the globe. This also includes much of the polar regions where other satellite networks do not have coverage. This means that you can use satellite phone or text devices that use the Iridium network to communicate from anywhere around the globe except for these location:

  • The poles
  • Underwater
  • Inside a building or cave

The Iridium satellite network was designed for use in the most extreme environments and is the only satellite network that has coverage over both the North and South Poles. This also makes it an ideal choice for marine applications as well as other outdoor activities where cell phone service is limited or non-existent.

Obviously when using a satellite communication tool, your device needs a clear line of sight to the sky. Garmin InReach and ZOLO satellite devices both use the Iridium network.

For an emergency it is a great tool to have when you need help. This device allows you also both tracking and navigation even in remote areas, which makes this tools a must for hikers, climbers or mountain bikers that venture into the wilderness alone.

Another interesting feature worth mentioning of these devices is that they can be paired with your smartphone.

What Happens when you trigger a SOS?

Your emergency contacts will receive an email or text message with your GPS coordinates and a link to a tracking page where they can see your location in real-time. They will also be able to communicate with you through the two-way texting capability of the device. And, if help is on the way, they can follow your progress until you are in safety.

GEOS is the main emergency response monitoring service found on both Garmin inReach and ZOLEO. They have a team of highly trained professionals who are available 24/365 to coordinate emergency responders in your area.

If you’re ever lost, injured, or stranded and need assistance from GEOS, just push the SOS button on your device and help will be on the way.

Remember that an activated SOS is not only going to notify your emergency contacts, but GOES will also triage down to the local authorities.

Getting Weather Forecasts From inReach and ZOLEO

Both inReach and ZOLEO offer weather forecasts provided by DarkSky.

DarkSky is a weather forecasting service that provides hyper-localized forecasts for specific locations.

Their entire forecast system operates on an algorithm which calculates the local temperature, humidity levels, wind speeds and direction, pressure readings from multiple sources (including NOAA), cloud coverage percentages throughout the day, precipitation amounts/type over time as well as sun rise and an outlook over 3 to 5 days. DarkSky was purchased by Apple a dew years ago so it remains to be seen if they will continue to provide access to the API.

Sharing your location while hiking

Another feature of these devices is to allow your friends or family to track your progress by viewing your position on a map. This is done by sending an “I’m OK” message from the device which will include your location coordinates. You can also share your location with specific contacts for a period of time, or indefinitely. This can be helpful if you want someone to know where you are in case of an emergency.

Check Out Our Tutorials

Want to know more about inReach or ZOLEO? Just watch our short how-to tutorials.


Garmin Tread Base Edition – How To Tutorials

Originally released in the fall of 2020, Garmin has finally added a lower price option for the PowerSport focused Garmin Tread – Base Edition GPS device. The original offering included the group radio option, but oddly only was available in the US and not in Canada. This was a head scratcher for a device that is geared for ATV’s, Side by Side and Snowmobile users; it ignored the home country of one of the major PowerSport producers and customers.

With the Garmin Tread – Base Edition, we can finally get our hands on this device and see how it operates and compares to other devices such as the Montana 700.

Out of The Box Overview

Physically speaking, the Tread shares the same hardware as the Garmin Zumo XT but unlike being configured for motorcycle touring, the Tread is focused on navigating from the house to the trailhead and off-road riding.

The box contains the mounting equipment necessary to mount on a ATV or Side by Side, USB cable and coloured accent plates in neon green, red & black (blue comes already on the device).

My unit came completely discharged so I could not get the device booted up to get past the initial setup wizard. The unit also came in forced demo mode where you needed to travel a short distance before you can unlock it. While you can add wifi and pair bluetooth in demo mode, you can’t use wifi or update the device. Don’t expect to get this at the last minute, spend 20 min at home getting it setup before you leave. Expect to spend some time to get past this first time power on.

Also the smartphone pairing was the most painful I’ve ever had to do with a Garmin product. For some reason, the Tread emits two different bluetooth devices and if your phone does not find the right one first, then it messed up the process and you don’t fully realize the mistake until it is too late. Because I do tutorial video, I tend to reset a lot so I need to pair the device to my phone several times. It was very noticeable that this was not working well and expect to take several attempts to get it right.

Once you get past the pairing to the Garmin Tread smartphone app, there are some interesting features on the device. Mainly having Garmin Explore built-in. So no longer you need to have the Garmin Explore app on your phone and try to sync collections.

It does not have inReach embedded in the device, so you’ll need to pair to an inReach mini, GPSMAP 66i or a Montana 700i.

The Garmin Tread can only send data to another Tread device via bluetooth as it doesn’t have ANT+. This is a bit of a limitation as we have been very used to sharing items between many handheld devices over the years.

Pre-Loaded Maps and POI’s

The Tread comes with several map products: City Navigator North America, Garmin Topo Active PowerSport North & Central America, US Public Lands and several POI files from iOverlander, Ultimate Campgrounds, TripAdvisor, Power Sports Dealerships and Adventure Points.

Updating the maps via the device and wifi is handy but expect it to take a few hours while plugged into the USB power port.

Smartphone Needed For Extra Data

You’ll need your smartphone data in order for weather, traffic, music and notifications to appear on the Garmin Tread.

Garmin Tread Manual

You can download the Garmin Tread manual as a PDF file here.

Garmin Tread How To Videos

You’ll find below a playlist of short how-to videos on topics you’ll need to be familiar with in order to get the max out of the Garmin Forerunner 55.


How To Use Your Apple Watch And Gaia GPS For Hiking

In this video, I’ll show you how to use the Gaia GPS Apple Watch app to record a hike or outdoor activity. First thing you’ll need to do is to download the GAIA GPS smartphone app on your iPhone and the watch app should automatically download onto your Apple Watch. If it doesn’t simply go into your watch app on your phone and enable the app.

From the watch, you just need to find your Gaia GPS app and open it. From here you will have three main screen: Music controls, settings & notifications and main controls (Record, Navigate).

This video will focus on recording hikes, and not navigating routes, mainly because it doesn’t seem to work on for me just yet. But the track recording works very well is a good alternative when you don’t have a GPS handy.

The main thing to note while recording your track, is that the Gaia GPS needs to be the top app, meaning that you can’t switch apps on your phone this will pause the recording until you switch to Gaia GPS. The best way around this is to lock the app so Gaia GPS is locked on your watch face.

Previous versions of this watch app would. Mirror the smartphone app, meaning that the recording was done on the phone, not on the watch. The version used in October 2021 uses the GPS data from the watch leaving you to use the Gaia GPS app on your phone to lookup maps, create routes and other things.

Once you are done recording your hike the Apple Watch will transfer the track data to your phone pretty much within a few seconds. You can then review the track under the saved tab and edit accordingly.


How To Export Gaia GPS Tracks to Garmin

In this video, I’ll show you how you can export a track saved in Gaia GPS and import it to Garmin Connect or Garmin Explore. Here I’m using iOS so this will work on iPhone and IPad, but will also work in Android and on your desktop. Here I’ve recorded a hike using the Gaia GPS Apple Watch app and have it saved in Gaia GPS along with a few photos.

During this hike, I couldn’t use my Garmin device (batteries were dead) but I want to add this hike into my Garmin Connect history or Garmin Explore library for future use. From Gaia GPS, I should be take to export the track as a GPX file and then import it to either Garmin Connect or Garmin Explore.

Step By Step

  • Go to your SAVED section in Gaia GPS and select a track, route or waypoint you want to export. Click on MORE and EXPORT, select GPX.
  • (Garmin Connect) SAVE your GPX as a FILE.
  • (Garmin Explore) If you have Garmin Explore app installed on your device, you should see the EXPLORE ICON in the share pop-up window and SELECT.
  • (Garmin Connect) log into Garmin Connect via the desktop and click on the Import Data icon
  • (Garmin Explore) the GPX file will be automatically imported into the Garmin Explore Library as a new collection, ready to be sync to a Garmin Device.
  • (Garmin Connect) BROWSE and upload the GPX file you just saved and upload.
  • (Garmin Connect) Once the GPX file has been imported, edit the activity and upload photos as needed.

More Gaia GPS Tutorials Here

Check out my playlist on other topics related to Gaia GPS and Garmin Devices.


What To Consider When Buying A Tilley Hat

I want to talk about the three main areas when considering a Tilley Hat. I’ll be using three styles of hats from my collection to demonstrate Build Quality, Sizing & Maintenance along with a few tips how to clean and wear your Tilley hat.

Hiking Outdoors

Thomas’ Cove Coastal Preserve

(Originally posted june 9 2012) We hiked 8k within this coastal preserve, just before you reach Five Islands, Nova Scotia. You have two loop to choose from: Headlands & Economy.


inReach Mapshare versus ZOLEO Location Share+

In this video, I’ll be doing a deep dive comparison between the inReach Mapshare feature versus the Location Share+ feature on ZOLEO satellite communicator. I’ll be looking at the portal settings for both along with how each of the smartphone apps (Earthmate va ZOLEO) handles this functionality.

Mapshare vs Location Share+

Mapshare was a feature in the early days of inReach, back when it was Delorme, so much has changed since then. ZOLEO launched the location share+ feature in May 2021, leveraging the messaging app. There are a few approaches that Garmin & ZOLEO have made to make this feature work within their ecosystems.

The point of this feature on each device is to share your location while out in remote locations. Contacts can follow your progress based on update interval and able to send messages to you while in the field.

InReach Mapshare is essentially a public URL of the map page from the inReach portal. You can lock things down as per access be enabling a password, select how much of you track history to display and if people with the Mapshare URL can message you or find your location. The point here is that anyone with the URL can view your Mapshare page, so setting things right for you is important before you go.

ZOLEO on the other hand bundles the Location Share+ as an add-on feature that you can add to your monthly service plan when needed and it’s part of the check-in & SOS contacts section. You can specify up to 5 people to send location share+ information and they need to use the ZOLEO messaging app in order to receive the updates.

Both Mapshare & Location Share+ has a feature to not send updates to your location if you have not moved. This is very useful when you are progressing at a slower pace and stopping for lunch or other pauses, the contact viewing your updates can see from the messaging app when was the last time you moved, as compared to Mapshare where it’s not very clear unless you do some math during the time intervals.

Since ZOLEO Location Share+ updates are to specific people with the app, your updates will be seen in the respective message ballon of the app. So the person can send you app to app messages and flip over to see your location updates.

Mapshare URL is generic, so even if you share your Mapshare link with a contact, they will either get a email or SMS which directs you to the Mapshare site and if the options are enabled the person on the other end can send you a sms or email by providing their contact details.

Both use similar intervals as to when to send the updates from 6 min to 4 hours. InReach interval default is 10 min while ZOLEO default is 1 hour, but you can set it to 12 min to get close to inreach.

Social Sharing on your progress either via twitter or Facebook is only possible with Mapshare. I’ll be hones to say that this was a big feature I used a lot when I was using inReach but with ZOLEO and not wanting to share everything about my hike to the public, the social share isn’t as important to me and I don’t miss it on the ZOLEO.


Garmin inReach versus ZOLEO Messaging Types

In this video, I’ll expand on a question I got recently which was if it was possible to send messages from a Garmin inReach to a ZOLEO satellite messenger? The answer is yes, but in this video I’ll expand on this to send messages between both devices and see the differences when sending SMS, email and app to app messages.

I’ll be using the Earthmate app with a Garmin Explorer+ and the ZOLEO messaging app on an iPhone. You’ll be able to do the same using an Android phone.



Both devices uses the iridium satellite network for sending messages. The ZOLEO has the added benefit of being able to send and receive messages when your paired smartphone or tablet has access to cellular or wifi. Meaning that when they are available messages sent doesn’t count against your service plan as opposed to inReach where all messages are sent via the iridium satellites.


This is the most basic type of message that both inReach and ZOLEO supports over the iridium network. Both will send messages up to 160 characters in length. Sending a SMS to your ZOLEO is easy as each activated devices is given a DEDICATED SMS number. inReach recycles SMS numbers, so it is hard to initiate a message to an inReach without having the inReach user send the person a message first and then reply to that message thread.


The next type of message available on both inReach and ZOLEO is sending a message to an email address. inReach agains caps the message length to 160 characters while ZOLEO offers over 200 characters. inReach has this message type hobbled as it directs the email message via a no-reply email address and the receiver of the message cannot reply unless they go to a webpage. ZOLEO on the other hand can send emails to any email address and users can reply back and forth just like any other client because ZOLEO also gives you a DEDICATED EMAIL address for each activated device.


Both inReach and ZOLEO users can send internal messages to themselves. inReach users are given an internal email address which must be shared. Again 160 characters length messages for this type. ZOLEO offers over 1000 characters for internal messages and the ability to send messages to users who don’t own a ZOLEO device. Simply get people to download the ZOLEO messaging app just like any messaging app and you’ll be able to send these extra long messages. ZOLEO knows if a SMS number is also registered using the ZOLEO app and will change the character length on the fly from 160 to over 1000.


An un-official message type is weather forecast, both provided by DARK SKY (purchased by Apple in 2019). inReach can request weather from multiple location, while ZOLEO only has the single location. However ZOLEO can request free weather when cellular & Wifi is available. inReach can only get weather via satellites.


Both inReach and ZOLEO can do Check-in and SOS from the device or the smartphone app. SOS monitoring is performed by GEOS (purchased by Garmin in 2021) for both inReach and ZOLEO.


Long Term Review of DECKED And New Truck Install

I removed the DECKED drawer system that was in my 2016 Ford F-150 and into the 2021 version. I wanted to share my journey to remove and install into the new truck and my overall review of the product after 3 winters in Canada.

I refer to the design change for F150 tie down that DECKED support was able to help me out when I ran into an issue with rust. The new tie down or bracket to j-hook the front is a big improvement and will extend the life of your investment when you change over model years on your truck.

Since the truck bed of the F150 did not change between the 2016 and 2021, I simply had to remove the DECKED as per their video. My only problem occurred with how the front brackets were designed. You see the front tie-down of the 2016 F150 is higher than the back, and DECKED provided hardware where you needed to replace the OEM tie down and replace it with an angle bracket which then screwed under the front ammo cans. The Tacoma also had a similar hardware bracket.

When I was removing the DECKED, one of the bolts that screwed into the bracket had rusted and seized. I ended up snapping the bolt and eventually had to remove the entire DECKED. A quick exchange with DECKED support got me the new updated J-hook and I was back in action.

You really do need some help when handling each side of the DECKED. I ended up using a drill to help speed up the work. I made sure that the clutch setting was low to not overturn the bolts.

The only other areas of rust I noticed was one bolt that attached the rear ammo can and the spring associated with the handle to open a drawer. I sprayed some lubricant on these areas including the bolts to the j-hooks.

One thing you will notice when removing a DECKED after a few years in a truck bed is the amount of foliage that ends up at the head of the truck bed.

Hauling Tall Stuff?

My main recommendation is that if you haul tall items that will tip over, get a headache rack, or back-rack to secure your load. It’s the best low cost, no drill option you can get that looks great on your truck but is actually useful.

The main reason for this is the fact that the DECKED will decrease your truck bed depth by 12 inches, meaning that anything taller than a moving box or bin will be prone to tipping over. I’m thinking water heater, fridge, oven, etc.. In my 2016 F150 my back-rack was a very handy accessory to have. I did not install it on my 2021 as I’ve added a utility trailer to my arsenal.

Loading Heavy Stuff?

For those who work in trades and need to haul heavy items, this may not be the right accessory for you due to the tailgate loading where you have to extend and lift to get onto the deck. It certainly can handle the weight as it can support as much as the truck bed. I’ve had a snow blower, a palette of engineered flooring on it and not a problem.

What I mean is that you are lifting say a compressor or one of those Husky tool boxes from Home Depot and not only do you have to lift the item as high as the tail gate (which is already high), now you have to lift another 12 inches as you reach past the tail gate onto the DECKED. This is a very awkward position, not bad when items are long that you can slide in, but short items is a pain. Short of removing the tail gate, this is the main reason why I see people who work in traded opt not to get a DECKED. However, for the average Joe like me, it satisfies my needs.

I Prefer This Over A Tonneau Cover

After 3 years in Canada this product has worked well and based on average joe usage is a good item to store 300 litres of goods into the our truck bed and not into your cabin.

My main usage has been to use one drawer to store long term items and use the left for ad-hoc storage for camping, recreation etc.. Let me break it down to what I have right now.

Right Side

  • Axe, Shovel
  • Camping Chairs (1 full size, 2 compact ultra light ones)
  • Ammo can (various small items, 12V alternator)
  • Gym Bag (tarp, ropes, solo cooking gear, Jet Boil)
  • Locks for bike rack, trailer tool bag

Left Side

  • Step Ladder
  • Tire inflator
  • Space for backpacks, duffel bag, helmet etc..

Ammo Cans

  • Tie-Down straps
  • Bungee net
  • camping propane canisters (2)
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