The new Zoleo satellite communication device is an affordable, reliable way to stay in touch with your loved ones no matter where your adventures take you.
This spring I got invited to float the Grand Canyon for 23 days. Of course I said “Yes!” Long, off-the-grid adventures are not new to me, but I have never left so many adult responsibilities (house, dogs, business, etc.) without being able to communicate. I wanted to completely disconnect but still let my family know I was alive and be able to communicate with them in case of a major emergency. This is where the Zoleo global satellite communicator came in. The Grand Canyon was the perfect adventure to put this small, affordable satellite communication device to the test.
What is a Zoleo?
Zoleo is designed to be an affordable satellite communication device for people who want to stay in contact when they leave cell coverage. The Zoleo gives you the ability to send and receive messages no matter where you are in the world. When you purchase a Zoleo you get your own phone number and email address making it easy for loved ones to contact you. On the Grand Canyon I easily texted my parents to tell them I survived an epic rapid day and also received texts that my dogs were happy and healthy. Messaging only took up to 10 minutes to send and worked every time, even deep down in the Grand Canyon.
How does it work?
The device connects to your phone using bluetooth so you can easily text any of your contacts and check messages in the Zoleo app. When I did not feel like digging my cell phone out of the bottom of the dry bag, I could just push the check-in button on the device and let the family know my location and that I was ok. The Zoleo app also makes it easy to simply check-in or to write a paragraph about your adventure that day. By communicating app-to-app, you can send and receive long form (over 900 character) text messages vs. the 160 character limit of a standard text sent to a cell phone number. This saves money by using only one message versus breaking your message into several smaller texts.
How does it work in an emergency?
Zoleo is also an emergency SOS device, meaning you can press the SOS button and it will contact the nearest emergency services unit with your location. The emergency services are then able to communicate with you so you can let them know how bad the problem is and what type of help you need. Example: my car battery died and I need a jump vs. I fell in a crevasse and broke my femur. In an emergency, this feature can save you a lot of money and can save search and rescue a lot of time and manpower.
What else should I know?
To save you money, Zoleo does not have GPS tracking or mapping features, but it does still tell you the weather. The weather feature was extremely helpful in knowing how to dress for the river that day and also how to plan that day’s mileage. It gives you a four day forecast so you know what weather changes to expect in the future. Zoleo also saves you money by using free cellular or Wi-Fi services first, then sending and receiving via satellite if these two options are not available.
How durable is it?
The Zoleo’s simple rugged design is easy to use and extremely durable. I never worried about it getting wet or covered in sand because of the tough exterior and well sealed buttons. The emergency SOS button is very well protected so you cannot accidentally press it.
- Affordable price (Zoleo $200 vs. Garmin Mini $350)
- Easy to use
- Extremely durable
- Long text message option with App-to-App communication
- Uses cellphone or Wi-Fi service to save money/messages
- Weather forecasting
- Comes with a phone number that can easily be shared
- No free preset messaging
- Receiving the weather forecast was finicky
- Maybe too easy for friends or family to send you messages if you want to fully disconnect
- It looks like a pager from the 90’s
Overall, the Zoleo is an affordable, user friendly satellite communication and emergency SOS device for anyone who wants to have reliable communication wherever they are in the world. It gave me peace of mind knowing I could stay in contact with my family and that I could get help if there was an emergency on the river.