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.


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.


DECKED Storage System For Your Truck

I got the DECKED storage system for my F150 truck as a way to get some storage but keep my truck bed open and not install a tonneau cover or truck cab.

The install process is identical to the videos you see from DECKED with a few exceptions for the F150 or Tacoma where the front OEM tie down need to be replaced with provided hardware from DECKED. The install manual is very dense with information, so take your time and read each page slowly and while you can do certain things out of order, it’s best to do each step in order.


You’ll find the PDF manual for Ford, Dodge, Chevy & GMC, Toyota, Mercedes and Nissan.



Yes. Book a morning or afternoon in order to install this by yourself. Provided you watched the videos and read the manual, you should have no problems.



No, Get a buddy or help when loading in your truck or unloading. The size of the box is too big to handle by yourself. If need be, simply open the box while in the truck and unload each piece individually (like I did).



Yes, some items can be done independent such as the drawers and ammo cans with C channels.



Don’t skip ahead any steps and once you reach the spot where the action is to tighten, then tighten. This is important when adjusting the DECKED.



The cast metal threads for the drawer wheels can be a bit stubborn, so thread them first before the actuall install, it will help as you won’t have a lot of room when putting in those final wheels.



Each drawer for the full size truck is 150 litre in capacity. Each ammo can can fit either an equivalent of a six pack and ice, or a few propane camping canisters and/or webbing. IN short, the ammo cans can fit a lot of stuff you don’t mind getting wet.



The main drawers are water tight but not air tight. Dust or morning dew / humidity will get in.

The ammo cans are not water tight. Drill the drain holes if you don’t want water to collect in the cans.



12 inches tall. on my F150 I got 9 inches left to store items above the deck.



Each drawer can fit 200 lbs of gear and the top deck can support 2000 lbs. As long as you don’t drop anything to pierce steel, the DECKED should support the load.



It is about 200 lbs and you should not see a difference in your fuel economy, but when loaded you will feel a difference when driving. and you have a stable load in your bed.



Buy the dividers. It is something they should add as default but having 2 to 4 dividers will help you organise your gear in each drawer. Other items to consider would be the drawer locks or bed tracks to secure your load.



On top of reading the manual for your truck, these install videos were a great help.



All-In-One Coffee Brewer Kit For Camping – Cafflano Klassic

I wasn’t feeling the love with the various outdoor systems out there and I wanted something nicer that would be more than just for backpacking.

So I found this Cafflano Klassic all-in-one pour over coffee maker at my local hipster coffee shop, but your can find it also at large outdoor stores like Mountain Equipment Co-op, Amazon and other retailers.

You have 4 pieces to this kit: double wall cup, steel mesh coffee filter, coffee mill with ceramic grinder and a water reservoir with spout to pour your water.

The coffee mill is adjustable by simply removing the handle and turning the disc, you will see the ceramic grinder increase or decrease in distance between each other.

The process is easy. Use the cup, filter and grinder and pour coffee beans into the mill. Grind the coffee into the coffee filter. Once done, unscrew the coffee mill and start pouring the water into the filter.

I’ve found that the little spout in the water reservoir is just at the right amount to properly get your coffee grounds to release the goodness. I tried using the kettle and it didn’t do a good job IMO.

Once done filtering your coffee, simply lift the filter and place it into the reservoir and you are ready to drink the coffee. Now the size of cup is more like a restaurant and not a mug of coffee. However, it does not take long to brew a fresh cup provided you have a kettle with plenty of hot water.

Overall, I think this Cafflano Klassic is great for the road, camping, cottage and other excuse to have coffee.



How To Extend Range of DJI Tello With Wifi Repeater

The DJI tello is a great toy drone for 100$ which we’ve covered in previous posts here. But the main drawback I’ve experienced was the poor range and video streaming. If you are doing selfie shots, it works great but try to go beyond the 20 foot range and you get poor video and the dreaded frame drops.

While the march 2018 firmware fixed a lot of the problems, there might be situations where you need a better wifi signal between your phone/tablet and drone.

A quick scan of the Tello facebook group showed that many were using a wifi extender as part of their kit when going out in the field.

What You Will Need

The part list is pretty simple and you probably already some of these items. This repeater is handy as the connection is USB and the battery bank is used to power it.


The Process

The steps are a mashup of other efforts you can find on youtube, but I’ll describe them in more detail. You’ll only need to do this once.

  1. Change the wifi settings on the Tello
  2. Scan the QR code on the Mi WiFi package to download the Mi home app
  3. program the repeater to connect to the tello using Mi Home app
  4. A new wifi access point name will be created, it will have [tello wifi name] + [_plus]
  5. Connect phone/tablet to the new access point


Change wifi Settings On Tello

You may or may not need to do this, but connect the tello to your smartphone/tablet as usual and using the tello app, connect to the drone and go into the settings | wifi area. We will change the wifi name from the default tello_*** to something shorter and setup a password. You may not need to set the password, but just enter a simple one.

Now, with your smartphone, connect to this new wifi access point, you will need network in your list before you use the Mi Home app to program the repeater.


Download the Mi Home App

On the Mi Wifi package, you will see a QR code, use your QR code reader app or Apple Wallet to scan the code, this should open up the app store for the app to download. Create a Mi account and you are ready to program this repeater.

Change the region to Hong Kong so that when you add a device, you will see the Mi Wifi repeater listed. From here you will go through a connect wizard. At this point you may have to switch wifi connection to the drone using the new name and password. What we’re trying to do here is have a connection to the drone and using the app, program the repeater to connect to it automatically using the updated wifi name & password.

You will see a solid blue light on the repeater when successful.


Connect to New Access Point

At this point the repeater will be connected to the drone and will have created a new wifi access point. You simply now need to connect to it using your phone / tablet.




The DJI Tello Drone With SDK Is Great For Young and Old Kids

I’ve always wanted to pick up a drone to take with me while out hiking and other outdoor activities, but I never did commit dropping essentially 1000$ for something that in the end was a pain to carry around. With no-fly zones popping up in both Canada and the US, why bother? Sure leading drone producer DJI have been releasing smaller and smaller drone like the
Mavik or Spark. I just couldn’t pull the trigger.

So I ended up buying a toy drone after Christmas for a 100$, that is essentially my price point. I got this novelty Star Wars X-Wing Drone. Which is great for geek purposes but not the easiest to fly.
Then I was alerted to the DJI Tello. You may have seen it as a product from Ryze, but I think the story goes that DJI just bought them out.

Anyway, we get for 100$ USD a fantastic entry level drone that happens to have some of the technology that made DJI the leading drone manufacturer. I wanted to take a closer look.


What 100$ DJI Tello Drone Gives You

You get a drone, battery, spare propellers and that’s about it. Not even an extra micro USB cable to add to your collection *sarcasm*.  You then use your smartphone and download the Tello app. So far so good. The drone needs about an hour to charge up.

You get 5mp camera which does 720p video at 30 fps. This is just fine for personal usage, you will not use this for professional grade work.

But the real value is getting the DJI sensors and smarts to make this fly like a more expensive drone.


Update The Firmware

After you download the app and sync up the drone via wifi, the first thing you need to do is to update the firmware. If you are looking at videos on youtube of the video quality, you’ll be glad to know that the firmware update improves the video quality…. by a lot.


Too Small For Windy Days

The drone is way below the drone rules you see in the US & Canada, so you can fly this pretty much anywhere, but you won’t have the range like the more expensive drones. The small size almost makes it more difficult to operate once winds are above 20mph.


Photo & Video Quality

I can’t complain about the photo and video quality. It’s totally passable. Think of the camera is like an iPhone 4. You might want to edit the photo to enhance it. Same thing goes for the video. As noted above, the updated firmware (as of March 24 2018) improved the video quality. The reason is that there is no on board storage for photo & video; it’s streamed via wifi to your phone or tablet while flying.


Programming With SDK

A big selling point is the ability to use a SDK or the drone blocks smartphone app to program the drone to do pre-defined steps. This is great for kids to learn coding. You can use a laptop and download the SDK and Scratch programming tools from MIT. Great for classrooms where you can fly the drone in the gym or in a field.

But for adults, I think the drone blocks app is a better venue since you do the programming on the phone or tablet.


It’s Still A 100$ Drone

Note that you don’t get a GPS chip, the DJI sensor is not top of class, the weight makes it difficult to operate in windy weather, the smartphone app is hard to operate unless you get a bluetooth controller and the battery life is short (13 min) and with no spare battery.

Remember that this isn’t a 600$ drone that produces those nice shots you see on blogs or commercials. This is meant for personal use. But compared to other 100$ toy drones, this is a huge step up in quality.



Outdoors Running

Which GPS is Best for Running, Hiking, Hunting and Geocaching in 2017?


2017 Black Friday and Holiday season had some nice buys for those wanting to upgrade a dedicated GPS unit. I’ll mention low, medium and high price options to consider buying. I talk mostly about Garmin as this is what is dominating the sales charts, store availability at my local big box stores and general word of mouth.

If you are sure what you want, buy now. Otherwise wait until January when new models for spring are announced.


My predictions for 2018

I expect to see not much change in the wearable space for runners. Incremental updates, focusing on the round watch face will dominate. For handhelds, I think we are due for a number of updates as we have not seen any major updates in a few years. Hikers wanting the latest and greatest may want to wait, but there are several good models available and at attractive price drops.



Low cost choice – eTrex 30x or map 64s
The 20 used to be my recommendation but price drop on the 30x is worth a look due to additional sensors. Firmware appears to not have been updated in a while as compare to map 64s.

GPS map 64s has a handful more features and winning design for 10+ years. Think about your fingers if you are going to be outdoors in the winter.

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Medium Cost- fenix 3 HR
Fenix 3 is on the way out to being discontinued but still able to find a good buy. For those wanting a watch for hiking but other activities like trail running this is a good option. Firmware updated as of November 2017. May not use latest connect IQ watch faces or widgets.


High Cost – inReach Explorer+
inReach is in a category of it’s own. You have to decide about

  • Which GPS functions do you really use? waypoint / navigation / tracks
  • Garmin maps
  • Buying a Subscription


Low Cost – Forerunner 35
Small form factor, great for all day use. Contains basic running functions for 10k range casual running and offers daily tracking and smartphone notifications.

Medium Cost – Forerunner 235 or Vivoactive 3
FR235 – runner focused watch, very good at what it’s supposed to do.
Vivoactive 3 – multi activity types that want a stylish option with daily tracking and notifications.

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High Cost – Forerunner 935
Most features for running and biking & triathalons. Serious types that uses strava and considering doing iron man type training, this is what you want.


Low Cost – eTrex 20
Medium Cost – Oregon 650t
High Cost – Montana 680

Geocachers I’ve seen over the years like a different set of features for their GPS units. But these features are common with all devices in this section which ends being important.

  • SD card
  • Load Garmin or custom maps
  • Paperless Geocaching

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Chinook Twin Peaks Guide 6 Tent Review

After nine good years as our primary family camping tent, it’s time to retire the
Chinook Twin Peaks Guide 6 tent. At time of recording, the tent is still available on Amazon as such I recommend it as a great budget tent for a young family of four or couple that want a lot of room but like to have one structure at camp.

There are three main requirements that we had when shopping for a new tent, which still holds today.


The tent has an overall footprint of 9.4 x 13.8 where the sleeping area is 8.5 x9.4 and the screen tent or vestibule area is 5.3 x9.4

The tent has 5 poles which you can get either in fiberglass or aluminium.

Peak height is 6.9



We really liked the idea of a single structure where the tent and vestibule could be integrated. This tent does well in this department. An included clip floor allows you to keep a clean tent area. The area is large enough to allow 2 adult camping chairs and either a kids chair, cooler or large dog. You still have room to move around. Also makes for a great change room when you get caught in rain.


As you get older, having high ceilings is just fantastic being able to stand up in the morning to change or move around. Peaks are 6 foot 9. Overall, the tent is great for people just under 6 feet tall.



Unlike many tents you see where the rain fly only covers a portion of the tent, we wanted a full rain fly so that any water could flow away from the tent.



One thing that we had to deal with out of the box was the alignment of the zipper for the tent/vestibule door. You always needed two hands to close it. Extra fabric created pockets where water would pool and drip inside the tent once the tape seams from the rain fly started to fail.

Other minor issues which came about just after long term usage was seeing the stiches in the floor open up, creating gaps. Now you can use duck tape but it’s time to retire this very good budget tent.


Learn more about the tent from Chinook’s web site

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