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The Best Satellite Messengers & Personal Locator Beacons

The best choice satellite communicators & PLBs for trail running, hiking, backpacking, camping and off-grid van life

All opinions are our own and never influenced by brands. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here's our process.

If you love trail running, backpacking, or hiking in wild places like we do, you’ll already know that cell service can be non-existent much of the time. So what happens when there’s an emergency or you find yourself lost without the means to contact someone for help – well, you’re in serious trouble unless you have a satellite messenger or SOS personal locator beacon. Adventuring off-grid requires extra forethought, and preparation in order to ensure your safety out on the trails. One easy way to reduce the risk of getting lost, or finding yourself injured with no access to help is to carry a ‘satellite messenger’ and ‘personal locator beacon’ combo.

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Each one of the ‘best satellite messengers’ listed here will work globally which means you can take them around the world with you on your international travels and adventures and all features will work as expected. After Helen experienced a serious ankle injury during a remote ultramarathon race circumnavigating Mount Saint Helens in the Washington wilderness, we now both know the value of carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and Satellite Communicator. Nowadays we never leave the trailhead without one – especially if we know there are areas of our route that drop out of cell service.

PLBs/satellite messengers are very small and lightweight tracking devices, so there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t carry one in your backpacking backpack, hiking daypack, or trail running hydration vest. All these devices require some degree of data subscription, in order to allow you to send messages and/or use their tracking features and these subscriptions can vary wildly in price, so make sure you read the whole list before making your final buying decision.


1. Somewear Global Hotspot | BEST SATELLITE MESSENGER OVERALL

Best satellite messenger - Somewear Global Hotspot - Trail and Kale
Somewear Global Hotspot | Best Satellite Messenger & PLB Overall Winner
  • Functions: Satellite Messenger + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS)
  • Battery Life: 10 Days (10 min. tracking intervals)
  • Weight: 4oz / 113g
  • Messaging capability: 2-Way Messaging
  • Ability to Navigate/ follow routes: NO
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP68
  • Operational Temperature: -4°F to 140°F
  • Weather forecast: YES
  • Does it float: YES
  • Cost: $279.99 at somewearlabs.com (Get 10% Off with code TRAILKALE10)

The Somewear Global Hotspot is a satellite communication device that works anywhere in the world using GPS to track the user’s location – it also allows you to communicate with other people using two-way messaging.

This combined PLB and satellite communicator GPS device is, in our opinion, the best satellite messenger for those who enjoy exploring off-the-grid locations whether that be for backpacking, trail running, or wild camping. Reasons for being our top choice include a 10-day battery life while tracking your location every 10 minutes, an easy to use SOS button (under the blue cap), it’s extremely well protected from adverse weather conditions, well priced when you look at the competition, oh and it floats – a feature that’s overlooked by other similar devices but one that is very important for those who adventure on the open sea, or river raft for example.

You’ll need to have your mobile phone connected to the Somewear device when you want to communicate with people as there’s no screen or keypad on the device itself – this is a reason why the battery life is so good on the Somewear Global Hotspot. For others to keep tabs on your location, the device can just be turned on and left in your hydration vest or backpacking backpack (no connection to your phone is required). I like Somewear’s tiered monthly data plans which offer the flexibility of being paused if you anticipate periods of time without use – which most of us do.

Learn more: Somewear Global Hotspot review.


2. Garmin InReach Mini | RUNNER UP

Garmin InReach Mini Satellite messenger and PLB
Garmin InReach Mini | Best Satellite Messenger & PLB Runner Up
  • Functions: Satellite Messenger + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS) + some navigation features
  • Battery Life: 90 hrs / just under 4 days (10 min. tracking intervals)
  • Weight: 3.5oz / 99g
  • Messaging capability: 2-Way Messaging
  • Ability to Navigate/ follow routes: YES, when connected to your smartphone with the Earthmate App
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IPX7
  • Operational Temperature: -4°F to 140°F
  • Weather forecast: YES
  • Does it float: NO ($10 for a flotation lanyard)
  • Cost: $350 at Garmin / REI / Amazon.com

The Garmin inReach Mini is the smallest and lightest two-way satellite messenger on this list. Weighing in at only 3.5 ounces this PLB and GPS communicator allows you to communicate directly through its screen interface, without the need to connect to a smartphone so long as you have set up your preset messages and synced them to the device before setting out.

If you want to write non-preset messages you’ll need to connect the EarthMate App on your smartphone to the device and use your phone to write the messages.

The battery on this Garmin satellite communicator will last for just under 4 days in total while tracking you at a 10-minute interval which makes it good for a long weekend trip but could be an issue for any adventures longer than this – which may be the case if you were to get lost in the wilderness.

The InReach Mini does have some basic waypoint navigation capabilities when used with the Garmin Earthmate App, this requires a constant connection to your smartphone via Bluetooth, however, which can end up draining your InReach Mini and smartphone batteries quite fast.

You’re better off using a good GPS watch for navigation when on the trails, as the battery life is insanely good on them nowadays and no data subscriptions are required (I’m looking at you Garmin Enduro Solar). Using a GPS Watch for navigation you’ll never have to worry about compromising your smartphone, satellite messenger, or emergency beacon’s battery! Freedom data plans for the InReach Mini only require a 30-day commitment which allows you to suspend the service if you have no adventures planned for the foreseeable, for example.

3. ZOLEO Satellite Communicator | GREAT VALUE

ZOLEO satellite communicator
ZOLEO Satellite Communicator | Best value Satellite Messenger & PLB
  • Functions: Satellite Messenger + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS)
  • Battery Life: 200 hrs / just over 8 days (if checking messages every 12 mins)
  • Weight: 5.3oz / 150g
  • Messaging capability: 2-Way Messaging (read messages with the free ZOLEO App)
  • Ability to Navigate/ follow routes: NO
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IPX8
  • Operational Temperature: -4°F to 131°F
  • Weather forecast: YES
  • Does it float: NO ($10 for a flotation lanyard)
  • Cost: $200 at Backcountry / REI / Amazon.com

The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator is a great value two-way satellite messenger. We love the simplicity of being able to press the “check-in” button, marked with a checkmark. Every time you tap this button a preset message of your choosing is sent to your chosen contacts along with your GPS coordinates.

Like the other devices on the list, there’s also an SOS button (covered to stop you accidentally pressing it) which allows you to quickly send your distress signal to their 24/7 monitoring/dispatch partner (GEOS). You’ll also get a confirmation that your alert was received, and if it was a false alarm you can easily cancel it. To send and receive messages globally you’ll have to connect your ZOLEO device with the free ZOLEO app on your smartphone.

There are plenty of data plans to choose from which allow varying amounts of messages that you can send per month. All plans require a $6 add-on if you want to be able to add your location in a message when you tap that check-in button on the device, and also to be able to share your location to up to 5 contacts in a breadcrumb format.


4. SPOT GEN4 Satellite Messenger | BEST ON A BUDGET

SPOT Gen4 satellite GPS messenger
SPOT GEN4 | Best value Satellite Messenger & PLB
  • Functions: Satellite Messenger (1-way) + Personal Locator Beacon (SOS)
  • Battery Life: 204 hrs / 8.5–17 days (10 min. tracking intervals)
  • Weight: 5oz / 142g
  • Messaging capability: 1-Way Messaging (preloaded custom messages)
  • Ability to Navigate/ follow routes: NO
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP68
  • Operational Temperature: -22°F to 140°F
  • Weather forecast: YES
  • Does it float: NO
  • Cost: $149.99 at findmespot.com / Backcountry / REI / Amazon.com

The SPOT GEN4 is the least expensive satellite messenger in this list but still has plenty of features, which makes it a top choice for those on a budget. You won’t find two-way messaging on the GEN4 but you do can send your own preset messages to those who need to know you’re safe on the trail. The GEN4 also has an incredible battery life with a seriously impressive operating temperature range of -22°F to 140°F.

I like that the device takes 4xAA rechargeable batteries as you can buy replacements at most stores around the world, should you ever find yourself without a means to recharge your device. 4x Lithium AA batteries allow this PLB and GPS communicator to last for many days while tracking your location in the wilderness.

There are plenty of options when it comes to service/data plans too, with the option to use their Flexible plan if you only intend to use it seasonally – it’s a little bit more expensive per month than their annual contracts but of course, you don’t pay for a full year’s worth of subscription. The plans all allow for unlimited ‘Help’, ‘SOS’, and ‘Check in’ use, and offer basic tracking intervals of 5, 10, 30, and 60 minutes.

Unlimited use of the message and SOS features offers peace of mind while adventuring. If you’re on a budget but two-way messaging is important to you (which I know it will be for some), then I’d recommend paying an extra $50 and getting ZOLEO – if money is no object and you want the best, go for the Somewear Global Hotspot.


Always know the risks that exist on the trails, and remember that if you fail to prepare, then you better prepare to fail. If you’re going on an adventure then learn how to plan your route and navigate it properly so that you’re always on a marked trail. Remember to also check in with someone at least once a day if you’re doing a multi-day backpacking or fastpacking adventure so that they know your whereabouts should they need to locate you in an emergency.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to the best satellite messengers and Personal Locator Beacons. If you have any questions about these fantastic GPS trackers and PLBs, let me know in the comments below. See you on the trails!

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