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What is Backcountry Camping? An In-Depth Exploration of Wilderness Adventures

back country camping at the top of a mountain

Imagine standing atop a majestic mountain peak, surrounded by untouched wilderness as far as the eye can see. The crisp air fills your lungs, and the serenity of the natural world envelops your senses. This is the allure of backcountry camping—the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature’s untamed beauty and embark on a wilderness adventure unlike any other.

Backcountry camping, also known as wilderness camping or primitive camping, takes outdoor enthusiasts beyond established campgrounds and into remote and secluded areas of nature. It offers an authentic and immersive experience that allows you to reconnect with the earth and find solace in the simplicity of the wild. In this article, we will embark on an in-depth exploration of backcountry camping, unraveling its definition, delving into its benefits, offering practical tips, and highlighting some of the most breathtaking destinations for your own wilderness adventures.

No matter if you’re an experienced camper seeking a new level of challenge or someone yearning to escape the confines of city life and embrace the natural world, backcountry camping opens the door to a world of exploration, self-discovery, and unforgettable moments. So, let’s embark on this journey together as we uncover the essence of backcountry camping and discover why it is an experience truly worth pursuing.

What is backcountry camping?

backcountry camping near lake
Backcountry camping emphasizes self-sufficiency, exploration, and a deeper connection with nature.

Backcountry camping refers to the practice of setting up camp in remote and undeveloped areas of the wilderness, away from established campgrounds and modern amenities. It involves venturing into unspoiled natural environments, often requiring hiking or backpacking to reach these secluded destinations. Unlike traditional camping, backcountry camping emphasizes self-sufficiency, exploration, and a deeper connection with nature.

Backcountry camping stands in contrast to front-country camping (car camping or RV camping), where campers can easily access campsites by vehicle and enjoy amenities such as electricity, running water, and designated campsites. In backcountry camping, you rely on your own physical abilities to access remote areas and must carry your gear and supplies with you.

Overlanding is a form of backcountry camping where specialized 4-wheel drive vehicles are utilized to access backcountry areas and campsites.  While dependent on vehicles, overlanding provides the benefits of car camping with the seclusion and remoteness of backcountry camping.

Backcountry camping has roots in humanity’s primal connection to nature. Throughout history, people have ventured into the wilderness to seek sustenance, spiritual enlightenment, and a respite from civilization. However, modern backcountry camping as a recreational activity gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as people began to appreciate the beauty and serenity of untouched natural landscapes.

Pioneers like John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and other early conservationists were instrumental in advocating for the preservation of wilderness areas and encouraging individuals to venture into the backcountry. Their writings and philosophies helped shape the modern understanding and appreciation of backcountry camping.

Over time, advancements in outdoor gear, navigation technology, and environmental awareness have further refined and expanded the practice of backcountry camping. Today, it has become a beloved activity for adventurers seeking a deeper connection with nature and an escape from the pressures of modern life.

Exploring the Benefits of Back Country Camping

Connecting with nature

alone in the wilderness
Backcountry camping offers the opportunity to slow down, breathe in fresh air, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.

Backcountry camping provides a unique opportunity to disconnect from the noise and distractions of everyday life and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of nature. Surrounded by towering trees, breathtaking landscapes, and the sounds of wildlife, you can experience a deep sense of peace and rejuvenation. The sights, sounds, and smells of the wilderness awaken your senses and offer a profound connection to the natural world.

In a world filled with constant noise and demands, backcountry camping offers a chance to escape the busy urban environment and find respite in the serenity of the wild. The absence of modern conveniences and technology allows you to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the simplicity of life. It’s a chance to slow down, breathe in fresh air, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.

Building self-reliance and resilience

Backcountry camping requires self-reliance and problem-solving skills. As you navigate rugged terrains, face unpredictable weather conditions, and make decisions about water sources and shelter, you develop a heightened sense of self-reliance and adaptability. Overcoming these challenges fosters resilience and a sense of accomplishment, boosting your confidence and ability to handle adversity both on the trail and in everyday life.

Backcountry camping often involves primitive camping techniques, such as building fires, purifying water, and setting up camp with minimal gear. These experiences allow you to hone essential survival skills and embrace your resourcefulness. Learning to make do with limited resources and finding creative solutions to unexpected situations can be empowering and foster a sense of self-sufficiency.

Seeking solitude and serenity

Backcountry camping offers a unique opportunity to experience solitude in its purest form. Far away from crowded campgrounds and popular tourist spots, you can find solitude in the vast expanses of wilderness. The stillness and silence of remote environments provide space for introspection, self-reflection, and a sense of peace that is hard to find in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Stepping away from the distractions of modern life and immersing yourself in nature can have a profound impact on your mental well-being. Backcountry camping allows you to disconnect from screens, obligations, and the pressures of society, giving you the space to find clarity, reduce stress, and gain a fresh perspective. It’s an opportunity to quiet the mind, practice mindfulness, and cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and the natural world.

By embracing the benefits of backcountry camping, you can embark on a transformative journey that reconnects you with nature, strengthens your resilience, and nourishes your soul.

Essential Gear and Preparation

Choosing the right equipment

backpacking in the mountains
Backcountry camping demands that you prioritize lightweight and compact options to minimize the strain on your body.

Selecting lightweight and durable camping gear is crucial for backcountry camping. Look for backpacking tents that are compact, easy to set up, and designed to withstand varying weather conditions. Consider investing in a quality sleeping bag that provides warmth and comfort while being lightweight enough to carry on long hikes. Additionally, research and choose gear appropriate for the specific environment you’ll be camping in, such as a sturdy backpack, hiking boots, and appropriate clothing layers.

Since you’ll be carrying your gear for extended periods, prioritize lightweight and compact options to minimize the strain on your body. Look for backpacking equipment made from lightweight materials without compromising durability. Opt for collapsible or foldable utensils, compact cooking stoves, and portable water filtration systems to keep your gear streamlined.

Backcountry camping requires a commitment to preserving the natural environment. Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace principles, which include practices such as packing out all trash, disposing of waste properly, minimizing campfire impact, respecting wildlife, and staying on designated trails. By adhering to these principles, you can help protect the fragile ecosystems you explore.

Safety considerations

Navigation tools and maps – Carrying a reliable map and compass, and knowing how to use them, is essential for backcountry camping. Familiarize yourself with the area’s topography, landmarks, and potential hazards before embarking on your trip. Consider bringing a GPS device or smartphone app as an additional navigation tool, but always have a backup plan in case of technology failure.

First aid kits and emergency supplies – Be prepared for emergencies by packing a comprehensive first aid kit. Include items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, blister treatments, and any necessary prescription medications. Additionally, carry emergency supplies like a whistle, signal mirror, emergency blanket, and a multi-tool to help you handle unexpected situations.

Planning and permits

Before setting out on your backcountry adventure, research different destinations to find the one that aligns with your skill level, preferences, and desired experience. Consider factors such as terrain difficulty, water sources, wildlife activity, and camping regulations. National park websites, hiking forums, and guidebooks are valuable resources for gathering information.

Many backcountry areas require permits to control visitor numbers and protect the wilderness. Research and apply for any required permits well in advance of your trip. Familiarize yourself with the specific regulations for the area you’ll be camping in, including camping restrictions, fire regulations, and rules regarding food storage and wildlife encounters.

By preparing with the right gear, prioritizing safety, and respecting the environment, you’ll ensure a smoother and more enjoyable backcountry camping experience. Remember, proper planning and preparation enhance your ability to immerse yourself in nature and make the most of your wilderness adventure.

backcountry camping in the mountains

Tips for Backcountry Camping

Tip #1: Choose Your Campsite Wisely

Look for a flat and level area to set up your tent, preferably on durable surfaces like bare soil or rocks, to minimize your impact on the environment. Consider proximity to water sources for convenience but ensure you follow Leave No Trace principles and camp at a safe distance from rivers and lakes. Look for natural features such as trees or boulders that can provide natural windbreaks or shade.

Some backcountry areas have designated camping zones or restrictions to protect sensitive habitats. Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the area you’re visiting and adhere to them. By respecting these guidelines, you contribute to the preservation of the environment and the sustainability of backcountry camping for future adventurers.

Tip #2: Be Smart & Safe with Your Food

When venturing into the backcountry, choose lightweight and nutritious meals. Opt for lightweight, easy-to-pack meals that provide adequate nutrition and energy for your outdoor adventures. Dehydrated meals, trail mixes, energy bars, and dried fruits are convenient options. Plan your meals ahead and portion them into individual servings to minimize waste and save space in your backpack.

Proper food storage is essential to prevent attracting wildlife to your campsite. Use bear-resistant containers or hang food in bear bags away from your sleeping area. Dispose of food waste properly to avoid littering and to minimize environmental impact. Pack out all trash, including food wrappers, to leave the wilderness as pristine as you found it.

Tip #3: Be Prepared for Wildlife Encounters

Before you head out, educate yourself about the local wildlife and their behavior. Respect their space and observe from a safe distance. Avoid approaching or feeding wild animals, as this can disrupt their natural behavior and pose risks to both humans and animals. Familiarize yourself with bear safety protocols, such as storing food properly and making noise to alert bears of your presence.

Use bear-resistant containers to store food and scented items to prevent wildlife from being attracted to your campsite. Be mindful of your actions and avoid leaving behind any food scraps or strong odors that may entice wildlife. By practicing responsible wildlife management, you contribute to the conservation of these magnificent creatures and ensure their safety as well as yours.

Backcountry camping offers unique challenges and rewards. By carefully selecting your campsite, being mindful of food and waste management, and respecting wildlife, you can enhance your safety and enjoyment during your wilderness adventure. Remember, being a responsible backcountry camper ensures the preservation of these pristine natural environments for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.

Some Popular Backcountry Camping Destinations

Yosemite National Park in California
Yosemite National Park in California

Yosemite National Park – California, USA

Yosemite National Park is renowned for its breathtaking granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and ancient sequoia groves. With over 750 miles of trails, it offers a multitude of backcountry camping opportunities for all skill levels. From the iconic Half Dome and Yosemite Valley to the remote and serene Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite’s backcountry promises awe-inspiring adventures amidst its diverse ecosystems.

Notable Yosemite backcountry camping areas:

    • Yosemite Valley: Explore the heart of the park, camp near iconic landmarks like El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, and embark on challenging hikes to the High Sierra camps.
    • Glacier Point: Enjoy stunning panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, camp at the Glacier Point Campground, and set off on scenic hikes to destinations like Sentinel Dome and Taft Point.
    • Tuolumne Meadows: Discover the beauty of Yosemite’s high country, with pristine alpine meadows, sparkling lakes, and granite peaks. Camp at Tuolumne Meadows Campground and explore trails like Cathedral Lakes and Vogelsang High Sierra Camp.
Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada
Banff National Park – in Alberta

Banff National Park – Alberta, Canada

Banff National Park offers an enchanting backcountry camping experience amidst the Canadian Rockies. Its pristine lakes, awe-inspiring glaciers, and rugged mountain peaks create a postcard-perfect setting. With over 1,000 miles of trails, adventurers can immerse themselves in the serenity of the park’s backcountry.

Notable Banff backcountry camping areas:

    • Lake Louise: Set up camp near the iconic turquoise waters of Lake Louise and explore nearby trails like the Plain of Six Glaciers or hike to stunning viewpoints like Big Beehive.
    • Skoki Valley: Experience a true alpine wilderness adventure by camping in Skoki Valley, surrounded by picturesque meadows and peaks. Hike to destinations such as Hidden Lake, Boulder Pass, and Deception Pass.
    • Assiniboine Provincial Park: While technically outside Banff National Park, this neighboring provincial park is a must-visit for backcountry enthusiasts. Camp near the majestic Mount Assiniboine, also known as the “Matterhorn of the Rockies,” and enjoy breathtaking alpine scenery.
Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park – Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park showcases the raw beauty of Patagonia, with its rugged mountains, turquoise lakes, and expansive glaciers. This remote and pristine park offers unparalleled backcountry camping opportunities for those seeking an unforgettable adventure in one of the world’s most breathtaking natural settings.

Notable Torres del Paine backcountry camping areas

    • Base Torres: Camp at the foot of the iconic granite towers and witness the sunrise casting a golden glow on these magnificent peaks. Hike the challenging but rewarding trail to the lookout point for an unforgettable view.
    • Valle del Francés: Set up camp amidst the dramatic landscapes of the French Valley, surrounded by towering granite walls and hanging glaciers. Explore the diverse trails and be rewarded with awe-inspiring vistas.
    • Grey Glacier: Camp near the stunning Grey Glacier and embark on a glacier hike or boat tour to witness the mesmerizing blue ice formations up close.

These popular backcountry camping destinations offer a gateway to extraordinary natural wonders and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re drawn to the granite cliffs of Yosemite, the alpine beauty of Banff, or the untamed wilderness of Torres del Paine, these destinations will immerse you in the wonders of nature and create memories that will last a lifetime.

The Bottom Line

Backcountry camping is a doorway to exploration, self-discovery, and a deeper connection with the natural world. As we have delved into the essence of backcountry camping, explored its benefits, discussed essential gear and preparation, shared tips for a successful experience, and highlighted popular destinations, it becomes evident that this outdoor pursuit offers a unique and transformative experience.

By venturing into the remote and untouched corners of the wilderness, we escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and find solace in the serenity of nature. Backcountry camping allows us to disconnect from technology, reconnect with ourselves, and gain a fresh perspective on what truly matters. The rejuvenating effects of wilderness immersion and the opportunities for self-reliance and resilience contribute to personal growth and a renewed appreciation for the natural world.

However, it is crucial to approach backcountry camping with responsibility and respect. Adhering to Leave No Trace principles, practicing proper wildlife management, and following camping regulations ensure the preservation of these pristine environments for future generations to enjoy. By treading lightly and leaving the wilderness as we found it, we become stewards of the natural world, fostering its conservation and sustainability.

So, whether you choose to embark on a backcountry adventure in Yosemite National Park, explore the alpine wonders of Banff, or experience the untamed beauty of Torres del Paine, embrace the opportunities that backcountry camping provides. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature, challenge yourself physically and mentally, and let the wilderness guide you on a journey of self-discovery and connection.

As you plan your backcountry camping trip, remember to equip yourself with the necessary gear, prioritize safety, and thoroughly research your chosen destination. Preparation is key to ensuring a memorable and enjoyable experience. And above all, cherish the moments spent under the starlit skies, the encounters with wildlife, and the awe-inspiring landscapes that will forever leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Embrace the call of the wild and let backcountry camping be your gateway to extraordinary adventures, personal growth, and a lifelong love affair with the great outdoors.

We’ll See You in the Backcountry!

Looking to explore the backcountry with the benefits of car camping?  Check out our Beginners Guide to Overlanding.

Prefer the ease and access of camping closer to home? Learn all about Front Country Camping here.

Preparing for the Worst: Essential Tips for Surviving in the Wilderness

survival tips for wilderness

When you’re out in the wilderness, anything can happen. A wrong turn, an unexpected storm, or a sudden injury can quickly turn a fun adventure into a life-threatening situation. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared with the right knowledge, skills, and gear for survival. We all could brush up on survival tips for wilderness trips gone wrong.

In this article, we’ll provide essential survival tips for wilderness emergencies. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice camper, these tips will help you be better prepared for the unexpected. We’ll cover everything from basic navigation techniques and essential survival gear to finding food and water and building shelter. We’ll also discuss first aid and emergency response, so you can be ready to handle common wilderness emergencies.

Remember, when it comes to wilderness survival, preparation is key. By taking the time to learn and practice these essential skills, you can increase your chances of staying safe and coming home from your wilderness adventure. So let’s dive in and explore the world of wilderness survival together.

Tip #1: Understand the Environment

The first of our survival tips for wilderness emergency situations is understanding the environment you’ll be navigating. Different types of wilderness environments present unique challenges and hazards that require specific skills and gear.

For example, a desert environment requires special attention to hydration and sun protection, while a mountain environment requires preparation for rapidly changing weather and altitude sickness. Before you head out on your adventure, take the time to research and understand the environment you’ll be navigating. This includes studying maps, reading guidebooks, and checking weather forecasts.

Another important consideration is the time of year. Different seasons present different challenges, such as extreme heat or cold, heavy precipitation, or dangerous wildlife activity. It’s important to plan your trip accordingly and prepare for the specific challenges of the season.

In addition to researching the environment, it’s also important to be aware of your surroundings while you’re out in the wilderness. Pay attention to changes in the weather, terrain, and wildlife activity. This can help you anticipate and avoid potential hazards before they become a problem.

By understanding the environment and being aware of your surroundings, you can better prepare for the challenges of wilderness survival and stay safe on your adventure.

Tip #2: Pack Essential Survival Gear

When it comes to wilderness survival, having the right gear can mean the difference between life and death. Here are some essential items to consider when packing for your wilderness adventure:

  1. survival tips for wilderness
    A good knife is a must-have in your emergency survival kit.

    Knife – A good quality knife is a versatile tool that can be used for everything from cutting rope to preparing food. The Mini Praxis Folding Pocket Knife from CIVIVI is a highly-rated knife that is easy to carry and can be a lifesaver when disaster strikes.

  2. Water filter – Clean drinking water is essential for survival, but it’s not always readily available in the wilderness. A water filter can help remove harmful bacteria and other contaminants from natural water sources. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is the gold standard for small, portable water filters that should be a vital part of your survival gear.
  3. Firestarter – Fire provides warmth, light, and a way to cook food, so it’s essential to have a reliable way to start a fire. Options include matches, lighters, and fire starters. We recommend carrying a Flint Fire Starter as a part of your emergency kit.
  4. Map and compass – Knowing where you are and where you’re going is crucial for wilderness navigation. A map and compass can help you stay on track and avoid getting lost. The Sportneer Survival Compass is a handy piece of kit to have on hand in case of survival situations.
  5. First aid kit – Injuries and accidents can happen in the wilderness, so it’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit. Make sure it includes items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers. We’ve highlighted first aid kits from Adventure Medical Kits in the past at Outward Spaces.  We love their wide selection of activity-based medical kits. We recommend their Explorer Medical Kit to keep you covered for most outdoor activities.
  6. Shelter – Protection from the elements is crucial for survival, so it’s important to have a way to create shelter. Options include tents, tarps, and emergency blankets. When you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you’ll be glad you have a Life Bivy from Go Time Gear on hand. The Life Bivy is an emergency bivy sack that will protect you from the extreme elements in an emergency.

These are just a few examples of essential survival gear. Depending on the environment and the length of your trip, you may need additional items like extra clothing, a water bottle, or a signaling device. Remember to pack only what you need and make sure your gear is high quality and reliable.

Prefer to have a bunch of great survival tools on hand in a complete kit? Check out this highly-rated emergency survival kit that includes 142 pieces of gear that could help save your life.

By having the right gear on hand, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of wilderness survival and increase your chances of making it back home safely.

When considering survival gear, we prefer to carry an item that can avoid survival experiences altogether – a satellite communicator. The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is an affordable device that allows you to contact emergency services (or friends back home) in the case of an outdoors emergency.  It utilizes satellite technology to work even far from cell phone coverage areas.

Tip #3:Become Well-Versed in Navigation Techniques

Getting lost in the wilderness can be a terrifying experience, but with the right navigation techniques, you can stay on course and avoid getting lost. Here are some essential navigation techniques to consider:

  1. Map and compass – As mentioned in the previous section, a map and compass are essential navigation tools. Make sure you know how to read a map and use a compass before heading out on your adventure.
  2. Landmarks – Use natural landmarks like mountains, rivers, and rock formations to orient yourself and stay on track. Take note of these landmarks on your map so you can easily recognize them while navigating.
  3. Sun and stars – If you don’t have a compass, you can still navigate using the sun and stars. Learn how to use them to determine direction and time of day.
  4. GPS – While not a replacement for map and compass skills, a GPS can be a helpful navigation tool. Just be sure to bring extra batteries or a solar charger to keep it powered up. The Garmin GPSMAP 67i is a handheld GPS built for the outdoors and includes Garmin’s inReach satellite technology to stay connected with emergency services when far off-grid.
  5. Leave a trail – As you navigate, leave markers like flagging tape, cairns, or rocks to help you find your way back or to guide rescuers if necessary.

By mastering these navigation techniques, you’ll be better equipped to stay on course and avoid getting lost in the wilderness. Remember to always stay aware of your surroundings and make adjustments to your plan as needed.

Tip #4: Prioritize Finding Food and Water

In the wilderness, finding food and water can be a major challenge. Here are some tips for finding these essential resources:

  1. finding water in a survival situation
    You can find water via natural sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, but be sure to filter or purify the water before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.

    Water – Your body can only survive for a few days without water, so finding a clean water source is a top priority. Look for natural sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, but be sure to filter or purify the water before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.

  2. Food – While it’s possible to survive for weeks without food, finding a source of sustenance can greatly increase your chances of survival. Look for edible plants and berries, fish, small game, and insects. Make sure you’re familiar with the local flora and fauna and avoid any plants or animals that are poisonous or could make you sick.
  3. Fishing and trapping – If you’re near a body of water, fishing can be an excellent way to get protein. Make sure you have the right gear and know the local fishing regulations. Trapping small game can also be an effective way to get food.
  4. Survival skills – Knowing basic survival skills like fire starting, shelter building, and navigation can greatly increase your chances of finding food and water. For example, learning how to identify animal tracks and signs can help you track and hunt game.

Remember to conserve your energy and resources when searching for food and water. Don’t expend more energy than necessary and make sure to rest and hydrate regularly. By following these survival tips for wilderness emergencies, you’ll be better equipped to find the resources you need to survive in the wilderness.

Tip #5: Learn in Advance How to Build A Shelter

Having a shelter can provide protection from the elements, help regulate body temperature, and increase your chances of survival. Here are some tips for building a shelter in the wilderness:

  1. Location – Look for a shelter location that’s protected from the elements, such as under a rock overhang or near a natural windbreak. Avoid areas that are prone to flooding or that are in the path of potential hazards like falling rocks or trees.
  2. Materials – Use natural materials like branches, leaves, and bark to build your shelter. Look for materials that are dry and sturdy, and avoid using anything that’s rotten or diseased.
  3. Type of shelter – There are many types of shelters you can build in the wilderness, depending on your location and resources. Some common types include lean-tos, debris huts, and A-frame shelters. Research and practice building different types of shelters to determine what works best for you.
  4. Insulation – Adding insulation to your shelter can help regulate body temperature and keep you warm at night. Use materials like leaves, grass, or pine needles to create a thick layer of insulation between you and the ground.
  5. Fire – If possible, build your shelter near a source of fuel for a fire. This can provide warmth, light, and a way to cook food.

By following these tips and building a sturdy shelter, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of wilderness survival. Remember to practice building shelters in different environments and weather conditions to increase your skills and confidence.

Tip #6: First Aid and Emergency Response

Accidents can happen even to the most experienced wilderness adventurer. It’s essential to have basic first aid skills and knowledge of emergency response protocols to handle unexpected situations. Here are some tips for first aid and emergency response in the wilderness:

starting a fire - survival tips for wilderness
When in survival situations, it’s essential to have a reliable way to start a fire.
  1. First aid kit – Always bring a well-stocked first aid kit with you. Make sure it includes items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic, pain relievers, and a first aid manual.
  2. Basic first aid skills – Learn basic first aid skills like wound care, splinting, and CPR. Take a wilderness first aid course to learn how to handle common injuries and emergencies.
  3. Emergency signaling – In case of an emergency, you need a way to signal for help. Bring signaling devices like a whistle, signal mirror, or flare gun, and know how to use them.
  4. Emergency response protocol – Have a plan in case of an emergency. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you’re expected to return. If someone gets injured, decide whether to stay put or seek help, and know how to contact emergency services.
  5. Mental preparation – Accidents and emergencies can be stressful and traumatic. Prepare yourself mentally by staying calm, practicing mindfulness, and visualizing potential scenarios.

By being prepared and knowing basic first aid and emergency response protocols, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations in the wilderness. Remember to stay calm, assess the situation, and prioritize your actions to increase your chances of survival.

The Bottom Line

Surviving in the wilderness requires preparation, knowledge, and skills. By understanding the environment, having essential survival gear, knowing navigation techniques, finding food and water sources, building a shelter, and having basic first aid and emergency response skills, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations and increase your chances of survival.

Remember, the wilderness can be both beautiful and dangerous, so always prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. Don’t hesitate to turn back or change your plans if conditions become too difficult or risky.

We hope you’ve found these survival tips for wilderness emergencies helpful. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article and practicing your skills, you can experience the thrill of wilderness adventure while staying safe and prepared for whatever challenges come your way.

Have additional survival tips for wilderness emergencies? We want to hear them, let us know below in the comments.

The Importance of Leave No Trace: Preserving the Beauty of Nature

leave no trace in the forest

The great outdoors is a source of beauty, wonder, and inspiration. Whether we’re hiking through a pristine wilderness, camping under the stars, or simply enjoying a picnic in the park, being in nature can be a deeply rewarding experience. However, with more and more people venturing into natural areas to enjoy the outdoors, it’s becoming increasingly important to consider the impact that our activities have on the environment.

That’s where Leave No Trace comes in. Leave No Trace is a set of principles designed to help people enjoy the outdoors responsibly while minimizing their impact on the environment. By following these principles, we can help preserve the natural beauty of our planet for future generations to enjoy.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of Leave No Trace and why it’s critical for preserving the beauty of nature. From minimizing our impact on the environment and wildlife to ensuring sustainability and promoting responsible outdoor recreation, Leave No Trace is an essential part of any outdoor adventure.

Leave No Trace and the Environment

Human activities, including outdoor recreation, can have a significant impact on natural areas. Without proper care and consideration, our presence in these areas can cause irreversible damage to the environment. Fortunately, Leave No Trace principles provide a framework for minimizing our impact and preserving these precious ecosystems.

Some of the ways that careless outdoor recreation can harm the environment include trampling fragile plants, disturbing soil and sediment, contaminating water sources, and leaving behind trash and litter. These actions can have devastating consequences for both the flora and fauna of an area, leading to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and even habitat destruction.

By following LNT principles, we can help minimize these impacts and protect the natural environment. For example, by staying on designated trails and avoiding fragile ecosystems, we can reduce the risk of damaging delicate plant life. Similarly, by packing out all trash and disposing of waste properly, we can help prevent contamination of water sources and other environmental damage.

Ultimately, by incorporating Leave No Trace principles into our outdoor activities, we can help ensure that these beautiful natural areas remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Leave No Trace and Wildlife

leave no trace ocean
By incorporating Leave No Trace principles into our outdoor activities, we can help protect the wildlife that depends on natural areas for survival.

Outdoor recreation can have a significant impact on the wildlife that calls natural areas home. Careless behavior can disturb and even harm these animals, leading to negative impacts on their populations and ecosystems as a whole. By following Leave No Trace principles, we can help minimize our impact on wildlife and protect their habitat.

Some of the ways that careless outdoor recreation can harm wildlife include disturbing their natural behavior, destroying their habitat, and even causing direct harm, such as accidentally injuring or killing animals. For example, hiking off-trail or disturbing nesting areas can disrupt the behavior of birds and other animals, while leaving food and trash out in the open can attract animals to human areas and make them more vulnerable to harm.

By following Leave No Trace principles, we can help protect wildlife and their habitat. For example, by staying on designated trails and avoiding sensitive areas, we can reduce the risk of disturbing animals in their natural habitat. Similarly, by properly storing food and disposing of waste, we can help reduce the risk of attracting animals to human areas and causing harm.

Ultimately, by incorporating Leave No Trace principles into our outdoor activities, we can help protect the wildlife that depends on natural areas for survival and help ensure that these areas remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Leave No Trace and Future Generations

One of the core principles of Leave No Trace is to leave natural areas better than we found them. By doing so, we can help ensure that these beautiful places remain intact for future generations to enjoy. By incorporating Leave No Trace principles into our outdoor activities, we can help create a sustainable future for ourselves and our children.

The impact of human activities on natural areas is becoming increasingly evident. From climate change to habitat destruction, the negative impacts of our actions are being felt by ecosystems around the world. By following Leave No Trace principles, we can help reduce our impact on the environment and promote responsible outdoor recreation.

One of the ways that LNT helps create a sustainable future is by promoting the responsible use of natural areas. By minimizing our impact on the environment and wildlife, we can help ensure that these areas remain intact for future generations to enjoy. Additionally, by practicing sustainable habits such as packing out all trash and minimizing our use of non-renewable resources, we can help reduce our impact on the environment and promote a more sustainable future.

Ultimately, by incorporating Leave No Trace principles into our outdoor activities, we can help create a better future for ourselves and for future generations. By preserving natural areas, protecting wildlife, and promoting responsible outdoor recreation, we can help ensure that these beautiful places remain intact for generations to come.

Leave No Trace and Responsible Outdoor Recreation

leave no trace sign
Pack it in. Pack it out. By being mindful of our impact, we can help ensure that natural areas remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Outdoor recreation can be a wonderful way to connect with nature and experience the beauty of the natural world. However, it’s important to approach these activities with responsibility and care. Leave No Trace principles provide a framework for responsible outdoor recreation, helping us minimize our impact on the environment and wildlife.

One of the ways that Leave No Trace promotes responsible outdoor recreation is by emphasizing the importance of planning ahead and preparing for our activities. This includes researching the area we plan to visit, understanding the rules and regulations, and being prepared with the necessary equipment and supplies.

Additionally, Leave No Trace encourages us to be mindful of our impact on the environment and wildlife. This includes staying on designated trails, avoiding sensitive areas, properly disposing of waste, and minimizing our use of non-renewable resources. By being mindful of our impact, we can help ensure that these beautiful natural areas remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Finally, Leave No Trace promotes a culture of responsible outdoor recreation. By modeling responsible behavior and encouraging others to do the same, we can help create a community of outdoor enthusiasts who prioritize the health and sustainability of natural areas.

Ultimately, by incorporating Leave No Trace principles into our outdoor activities, we can enjoy the beauty of the natural world while minimizing our impact on the environment and wildlife. By promoting responsible outdoor recreation, we can help ensure that these beautiful places remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Interested in learning about how you can use the bathroom more responsibly while exploring the outdoors? Read “How to Poop Properly…While Camping“.


Leave No Trace is an essential part of responsible outdoor recreation. By following the principles of Leave No Trace, we can help minimize our impact on the environment and wildlife, and ensure that these beautiful natural areas remain intact for future generations to enjoy.

Whether we are hiking, camping, or simply enjoying a day in the park, it’s important to approach these activities with responsibility and care. By planning ahead, being mindful of our impact, and promoting a culture of responsible outdoor recreation, we can help create a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

So next time you head outdoors, remember to practice Leave No Trace principles. Whether you’re packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, or minimizing your use of non-renewable resources, every small action counts. By working together, we can help protect the natural world and create a better future for ourselves and for future generations.

For more information on the principle of Leave No Trace, visit the Leave No Trace website to learn how you can get more involved in the movement.

Odoland Camping Cookware Kit Review

Odoland Camping Cookware Kit
The Odoland Camping Cookware Kit includes a stove, a large pot, a small pot, and a spork – and they all fit in a small nylon carrying bag

Camping is a fantastic way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse yourself in nature. And what’s better than cooking a hot, delicious meal in the great outdoors after a long day of hiking, fishing, or exploring? That’s where the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit comes in.

The Odoland Camping Cookware Kit is a comprehensive set of cooking tools that have been designed specifically for camping enthusiasts. It comes with everything you need to whip up a delicious meal while on the go, including a stove, a large pot, a small pot, and a spork. But is the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit really worth the investment? In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive review of the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit, including an overview of the contents, its performance in the field, and its durability and portability. We’ll also compare it to other camping cookware kits on the market to help you make an informed decision about whether or not it’s the right fit for your next camping adventure. So, let’s dive in and take a closer look at the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit!


The Odoland Camping Cookware Kit is a 6-piece set of cooking tools designed for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. The kit includes a non-stick pot and smaller pot, a butane stove, a spork, a cleaning cloth, and a nylon carrying bag.

One of the standout features of the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit is its compact size and lightweight design, making it easy to carry and pack for any outdoor adventure. The pots are made from high-quality aluminum alloy, which is lightweight yet durable and resistant to wear and tear. The pots also have a non-stick coating, making them easy to clean and preventing food from sticking to the surface.

The kit also includes a butane stove that is perfect for boiling water or making tea or coffee. The spork is made from high-quality stainless steel and folds for easy storage. Finally, the kit includes a cleaning cloth for easy cleanup after meals.

Overall, the Odoland kit is a comprehensive and compact set of cooking tools that is perfect for taking outdoors. Its lightweight and durable design, non-stick coating, and ergonomic utensils make it a great choice for any outdoor enthusiast who wants to cook a hot meal in the wilderness.


Odoland Camping Cookware Kit
The stove’s flame is easily adjustable and boils water quickly.

We had the opportunity to put the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit to the test on a recent trip to the mountains, and we were impressed with its performance. The kit was easy to pack and transport and the carrying bag kept all the pieces organized and secure during travel.

When it came time to cook, the large pot heated up quickly and evenly on the included stove. The non-stick coating worked as advertised, preventing food from sticking to the surface and making cleanup a breeze. We also appreciated the size of the pot and pan – they were just large enough to cook meals for 2-3 people, but not so large that they were bulky or heavy to handle.

The stove was also a standout feature of the kit, as it boiled water quickly and efficiently for our morning coffee and tea. The stove uses a small isobutane canister (not included) that screws onto the stove and serves as a stable base for the stove.  During our first test, we were able to boil 550ml of water to a boil in exactly 6 minutes in chilly 18-degree weather. A second attempt took 3:30 to boil 325ml of water. The pots are rightly sized to store your isobutane canister along with the contents of the cookware kit – making your entire cookware setup packable in the included bag.

The spork works well enough and the cleaning cloth made cleanup easy. The spork did feel a bit flimsy at times and we’d probably recommend upgrading to a more solid titanium spork if you’ll use it often, but the spork included with the kit works in a pinch.

Overall, we were pleased with the performance of the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit. It worked well for our needs and was easy to use and clean. We would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a compact and functional set of cooking tools for their outdoor adventures.

Durability and Portability:

Odoland Camping Cookware Kit
All contents of the kit (and a butane canister) fit snugly in the nylon storage bag

When it comes to camping gear, durability and portability are two critical factors. We were pleased to find that the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit held up well in both categories.

The aluminum alloy construction of the pots felt sturdy and durable, and we didn’t experience any issues with warping or bending during use. The non-stick coating on the pots also held up well, even after several uses, and didn’t show any signs of wear or flaking.  We suspect that with a lot of use, the non-stick ability of the pots will suffer, but that is expected in such an inexpensive set.

The stove folds up quickly and easily for storage and held up well in our testing. The kit includes a small plastic case dedicated to the stove that protects it during transit.

In terms of portability, this kit is a great choice for those who want a compact and lightweight set of cooking tools. The nylon carrying bag kept everything organized and protected during travel, and the entire kit fit easily into our backpack without taking up too much space or adding too much weight.

Overall, we found the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit to be both durable and portable, which are two critical factors for any outdoor gear. We were pleased with how well it held up during our trip and how easy it was to transport from place to place.

Comparison to Other Camping Cookware Kits:

The market for camping cookware kits is vast, with a variety of options available for outdoor enthusiasts. We wanted to compare the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit to other camping cookware kits on the market in the past to see how it stacks up.

Compared to other camping cookware kits, what stands out about the Odoland kit is its great value. As a complete kit for under $30, it stacks up well against similar camping sets costing twice as much. The Odoland Camping Cookware Kit proves that you don’t need to spend a ton on a compact stove and cookware set – saving you money for other outdoor equipment.

In terms of durability, the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit is clearly made of cheaper materials than more expensive camping cookware sets.  If you are looking to use a camping cookware kit like this on 5-10 trips per year, we’d recommend getting splurging on a more durable kit that will hold up to the abuse.  Though for most people venturing outdoors a few times a year, the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit will perfectly fit the bill.

One area where the Odoland Kit excels compared to other kits is portability. The entire kit is lightweight and compact, which makes it easy to pack and transport for camping trips. The nylon carrying bag is also a nice touch, as it keeps everything organized and protected during travel.

Overall, we found the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit to be a great value for its price and a solid choice for those looking for a compact and functional set of cooking tools for camping. While it may not be the most premium option on the market, it certainly holds its own against other camping cookware kits in its price range.

Our Verdict:

Odoland Camping Cookware Kit
When attached to the stove, the isobutane canister serves as a sturdy base to cook on.

After putting the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit to the test, we can confidently say that it’s a great choice for anyone looking for a compact and functional set of cooking tools for camping. The kit includes everything you need for basic cooking needs all packed neatly in a nylon carrying bag.

We were impressed with the performance of the kit, as the pots heated up quickly and evenly, the non-stick coating worked well, and the isobutane stove boiled water efficiently. The spork is just ok but it works in getting food to your mouth effectively.

We were also pleased with the durability and portability of this campware set. The aluminum alloy construction felt sturdy, and the entire kit was lightweight and easy to transport.
Compared to other camping cookware kits in its price range, we found the Odoland kit to be a great value. It’s not the most premium option on the market, but it certainly holds its own against other kits in its price range.

We highly recommend the Odoland Camping Cookware Kit to anyone looking for a reliable and compact set of cooking tools for their outdoor adventures. With its solid performance, durability, and portability, it’s an excellent choice for any camping trip.  We especially think it’s a great pickup for those just starting to venture outdoors with its low price and solid feature set for the money.

Odoland Camping Cookware Set

– Complete Cooking Set
– Lightweight & Packable
– Inexpensive

– Spork is Just OK
– Not as High Quality as More Expensive Sets

Buy at Amazon



We Tried 3 of the Top Freeze-Dried Backpacking Meals on Amazon

Top freeze dried backpacking meals on amazon
We brought freeze-dried backpacking meals along on outdoor trips we’ve taken the past few weeks to see how easy they are to prepare, how they taste, and how filling they are.

We recently ordered freeze-dried meals from the 3 top brands on Amazon and tested them each to see if freeze-dried food can be any good.  On a recent trip to the outdoors, we brought the meals along to see how easy they are to prepare, how they taste, and how filling they are. Here’s how they stacked up.

In our experience, meals just taste better in the outdoors. Cooking over the campfire while camping is always a memorable experience and car camping can provide the ability to bring an entire kitchen to prepare the outdoor meals of your dreams. But even when you are backpacking and short on space, you deserve a quality, hot meal once you settle in for the evening.

Backpackers are experts at balancing the most calories in the smallest amount of space. They burn thousands of calories each day trekking through the wilderness only carrying what will fit in their pack. Out of necessity, backpackers are kings of food creativity.

Luckily, the outdoor gods have provided a great solution for those venturing outdoors with limited space – freeze-dried meals in a bag.

We were curious if freeze-dried meals were any good.  Sure, they are convenient, but do they do justice to their home-prepared versions? We ordered meals from 3 of the top brands to find out. Within minutes of starting our search, we had a Cuban Rice Bowl from Good To-Go, Pad Thai with Chicken from Mountain House, and Beef Stroganoff from Peak Refuel headed our way.

A few days later, thanks to the magic of Amazon Prime, we had our freeze-dried meals in hand.  We also picked up a portable butane stove and a lightweight pot set to make our tests as authentic to the backpacking experience as possible. We already had a trip to the mountains planned, so we brought the meals along to review.

Good To-Go’s Cuban Rice Bowl

We arrived in the mountains just after dark, unpacked our portable stove, and fired it up. The instructions were easy to read on the back of the package and seemed straightforward. We quickly brought 550ml of water to a boil.  We tore open the top of the Cuban Rice Bowl pouch, poured in the hot water, gave it a quick stir and resealed the package. Per the instructions, we waited 12 minutes, stirred it again, and dug in.

Freeze Dried Backpacking Meal - Good To-Go Cuban Rice Bowl after hydrationHow it looked

Chefs often talk about how you “eat with your eyes first”. Most backpackers don’t care what their meals in a pouch look like, but we do.  So, here’s our visual review.

Our now-hydrated Cuban Rice Bowl looked a lot like we would expect a Cuban Rice Bowl to look.  The black beans, plantains, and tomato flakes provided a nice contrast with the rice.  It looked to have plenty of seasoning with the pepper and cilantro being readily visible. It was a bit more watery than we expected, but for a dehydrated meal, we’d rather have a little too much water than not enough.

How it tasted

Our first taste was filled with lime, pepper, and cilantro flavors – some of our favorites. It has a small bit of spice that really adds to the overall taste.  We could have used more, but as this is for a mass audience, a small amount is probably the right call. The garlic comes through – especially lingering behind in the aftertaste.  It’s not overwhelming so you won’t have to avoid speaking directly to your partner after eating this meal. All of the elements were hydrated well without any crunchy or chewy bits.  We were surprised not to find even a random chuck of plantain that was a tad tough.

This meal from Good To-Go has a ton of flavor.  The drawback to so much flavor is that the plantains, beans, and rice are a bit overwhelmed by it.  Every bit tastes exactly the same.  Nevertheless, we’d more than welcome a hot serving of this Cuban Rice Bowl after a long day outdoors.  In fact, the more we ate of it, the more we enjoyed it. This is a really good vegetarian meal with a lot of protein (30g in the pouch).

Mountain House’s Pad Thai with Chicken

We brought this pouch along on day-trip snowboarding.  At lunch, during a break from the slopes, we set our portable stove up on the tailgate of our truck in the ski resort parking lot. This meal called for only 325ml of water with a 10-minute wait time.

How it looked

Mountain House Pad Thai with Chicken - Freeze dried backpacking mealOpening the pouch after 10 minutes, the pad thai waiting inside was full of color. There are a lot of colorful vegetables in this meal – bell peppers, carrots, and green beans. Like the Cuban Rice Bowl, it’s more watery than a typical plate of Pad Thai. The noodles are cut small – probably to aid in the hydration process.  It only generally looks like Pad Thai, but it does look appetizing.

How it tasted

First of all, Mountain House’s offering smelled really good.  Tired from being on the mountain, we were anxious to dig in. The first taste yielded mild flavors, but it definitely tastes like Pad Thai. It has a good amount of chicken which you can taste in each bite. The small-cut noodles have a good texture and, like the Good To-Go meal, everything in this pouch has rehydrated nicely. Like you’d expect in a good Pad Thai recipe, the unique flavor of the fish sauce comes through in this version. It has a really good flavor that isn’t overwhelming.

As we finish the meal, we don’t find any unmixed bits at the bottom of the pouch, a sign that it’s mixed and rehydrated well. This is a surprisingly good meal – especially from a freeze-dried pouch.  We finish it all and are left wanting more.  This turns out to be our only real problem with this Mountain House Pad Thai – there isn’t enough of it.  While it claims to have 2 servings in the pouch, there are only 480 calories and 20g of protein in the entire pouch.  If this was shared between 2 people as it suggests, the 240 calories per serving it provides won’t get you very far.

Peak Refuel’s Beef Stroganoff

Having been pleasantly surprised by how good the first two freeze-dried meals were, we eagerly tore open the pouch of the Peak Refuel Beef Stroganoff.  Checking the instructions on the back, we were surprised to learn that this meal only calls for 178ml (6oz) of water – half of the water the Mountain House Pad Thai required and a third of the water the Good To-Go Cuban Rice Bowl needed. Only requiring 90 seconds or so to heat up this small amount of water,  this is the quickest meal of the 3 to prepare.

How it looked

Peak Refuel Beef Stroganoff Freeze Dried Backpacking MealAfter 10 minutes and stirring multiple times, what was looking back at us when we opened the pouch wasn’t good.  While the other meals were a bit watery, this meal was clumpy and dry-looking. The beef stroganoff was colorless and looked unappetizing. It looked the least exciting of the 3 meals and it wasn’t close. As a single clump, we couldn’t tell where the noodles ended and the beef started. Undeterred, we dug in.

How it tasted

Chefs must know what they talking about.  We were turned off by the appearance of our newly-hydrated beef stroganoff and the pain only continued as we took our first bites.  We do eat with our eyes, but food that isn’t good probably also doesn’t look very good.

In our opinion, Peak Refuel’s Beef Stroganoff wasn’t good. Its texture was dense and mushy seemingly lacking moisture. If we had a second pouch, we would try using more water in a second run.  Even with added water, we’d prefer to let someone else have the second run because the flavors of this meal also aren’t amazing.  The beef chunks are chewy and the salt in this recipe overwhelms everything else in it. The flavors did improve as we worked deeper into the pouch – a sure sign that it needed more water and more stirring. As we finished the pouch, we discovered some unmixed powder at the bottom.  Using such a small amount of water also meant that this meal wasn’t as hot – something that’s important to us after a long day on the trail. It’s edible, but now that we’ve seen how surprisingly good these freeze-dried meals can be, this one underwhelmed us big time.

Our Conclusions

We knew that freeze-dried backpacking meals are convenient. Heating up water and throwing it in a bag doesn’t get any simpler. But now we know that they can be really good too. We were also surprised when scanning the packages that are seemingly pretty good for you – made with simple and good ingredients.

At $13-15 per pouch on Amazon, these meals aren’t exactly cheap. But the combination of convenience, healthy ingredients, and solid flavor can make them a great value.

Our favorite was the Good To-Go Cuban Rice Bowl – at 1070 calories, it had the most calories per pouch of the meals we tested.  It also tasted really good.  We loved the flavors of cilantro, garlic, and pepper that lingered (in a great way) on our tastebuds after the meal. Its 31g of protein is a good amount – especially for a vegetarian meal.

The Mountain House Pad Thai with Chicken also tasted great, but with only 480 calories and a cost of more than $15, it’s the worst value in the bunch.

The Peak Refuel’s Beef Stroganoff‘s flavor didn’t compare well again the others, but with 810 calories and a whopping 41g of protein, those looking for the best price/gram of protein should consider it.



Have a favorite freeze-dried backpacking meal we should try?  Let us know below in the comments.


Garmin inReach Mini 2

Satellite Communicators: How to Stay in Touch While Off the Grid

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator

Everybody’s definition of what is the wild is different.  For some, the wild might be a hike in the hills on the outskirts of town.  For others, the wild is backpacking deep in the mountains far from civilization.

My definition of the wild is somewhere in between. I love exploring spaces off the beaten path, usually right on the edge of cell phone coverage.  On most trips I take into outdoor spaces, I can’t be sure whether I will have a cell signal where I am going or not.  Sure, cellular carriers all have coverage maps, but I find these unuseful for accurately determining whether or not I will be able to make a call in an emergency.

For many, one of the main thrills of exploring the wild is the potential for improvising and displaying self-sufficiency in emergency situations outdoors.  For sure, all explorers of wild spaces should have some basic understanding of how to make it out alive when something goes wrong, but I prefer always having a way to “call home” if things go sideways.

Safety in the outdoors demands an appreciation for redundancy.  Relying on only one way to start a fire or only one source of food can quickly become a mistake when off-grid.  You may be wired differently, but when I’m heading out to enjoy the outdoors, the last thing I am interested in is enacting my own personal survival show.  It’s important to me (and to those who depend on me) to come back safely at the end of my trip.  Exploring wild spaces is one of my favorite things to do, but it’s not worth my life.

The good news is that we no longer have to take unnecessary risks when spending time outside civilization’s bounds.  Cellular coverage in the United States is ever-expanding and you might just find that your favorite spot in the woods has just enough “bars” to get a call out. I’m consistently surprised by where I can manage to find a cell signal these days.

The challenge with relying on cell service is that you never know if you will have it or not when you’re off the beaten path.  You may be able to Facetime your family while camping for a night miles outside of the nearest town, but you may not be able to get a call out over the next hill while hiking the next day. I’ve sailed down the California Coast and been able to answer work emails or stream music without issue.  I’ve also sailed very similar routes and not had cell coverage for most of the day.  The bottom line is that you never know what coverage you will have when you’re exploring remote spaces.  If you’re like me, I want a backup plan when I’m off the grid.

The answer is a satellite communicator – a communications device that utilizes a network of satellites to keep you connected to the outside world, even without cell coverage.  With one of these babies, you’ll never need to worry about being outside of cell range again.  If something goes wrong while you’re off the grid, a satellite communicator will allow you to send a text to family and friends or call emergency services no matter where you find yourself.

Types of Satellite Communicators

Distinct from satellite phones, satellite communicators are primarily designed to communicate via short bursts of data – text messages, location updates, and even weather reports. While there are a number of models of satellite communicators on the market, there are two main types of satellite communicators.

Satellite Communicators that are designed to be used with your cell phone

These devices don’t have an onboard keyboard and thus can’t be used directly to get a message out.  They are meant to be paired with a mobile device with a companion app that handles messaging. These devices are typically cheaper and smaller but do require extra steps to get a message out when far from home.

Devices of this type: Zoleo, Garmin inReach Messenger, ACR Bivy Stick

Satellite Communicators that can be used without a cell phone

These devices can be used on their own to message home but also can connect to a mobile device and companion app for easier messaging. They typically have more features that may include GPS mapping, an altimeter, a compass, and other useful tools.  Some devices of this type include a screen and keyboard (think the old Blackberry format) and others utilize a screen with a number of buttons that can be used to type out a message.

Devices of this type: Garmin inReach Mini 2, Spot X

Garmin inReach Mini 2

Currently Available Satellite Communicators:

Zoleo Satellite Communicator

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is a wallet-sized black and green device that is marketed to extend your messaging capabilities around the globe without coverage gaps.  When paired with its free companion app, the Zoleo uses wifi or a cellular network to send and receive messages when available.  When not in wifi or cellular range, the Zoleo uses the Iridium satellite network to get your messages out. It has a protected SOS button on its front as well as an additional “Check-in” button that allows for sending predetermined check-in messages without using the phone/app. Once activated with a Zoleo plan, the Zoleo includes a dedicated SMS number and email address – a nice feature that makes for easier messaging for friends and family.

Buy Now on Amazon

Garmin inReach Messenger

The Garmin inReach Messenger is an all-black, square device that’s about half the size of a cell phone – though thicker. Much like the Zoleo, the inReach Messenger is meant to be paired with a companion app and it has minimal direct functions on the device. Unlike the Zoleo, the inReach Messenger includes a small, black-and-white, display on the front of the device to allow you to see what’s happening on your device without using your phone. The Messenger also takes advantage of your connected phone’s cellular or wifi connectivity (when available) to send messages without tapping into your satellite service plan allowance. With up to 28 days of battery life and a “safety charging” option – allowing you just enough juice to send a message – the inReach Messenger is a great option for those serious about the outdoors, as well as serious about safety.

Buy Now on Amazon


Garmin inReach Mini 2

The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is Garmin’s fuller-featured satellite communicator. The Mini 2 is a tiny device with a larger display than the Messenger allowing for some advanced routing and tracking features when hiking.  The larger display gives you the ability to scroll through received messages and easily send preset messages.  Fitting easily in your hand, the biggest selling feature of the Mini 2 is its small size.  Like most of these devices, pairing the Mini 2 with its companion app makes the device infinitely more usable. Overall the Mini 2 is a nicely designed device, but it doesn’t give you a whole lot more than the Messenger.

Buy Now on Amazon


ACR Bivy Stick

The ACR Bivy Stick is similar to the Zoleo in that it doesn’t have a display on the device itself. Its rectangular shape includes a large hole through the top of the device to use for hanging.  While most will hang their satellite communicator from a backpack, devices that have easy attachments to hang, like the Bivy Stick, allow you to store it in more places.  Speaking of storing it, the Bivy Stick relies heavily on its companion app to access and complete the typical satellite communicator features: global satellite messaging, weather reports, location sharing and tracking, and check-ins.  Like other similar devices, it does have dedicated check-in and SOS buttons. One plus with the Bivy Stick is that its available service plans do not have activation fees.

Buy Now on Amazon


Spot X

For the messaging addicts out there, the Spot X is a satellite Communicator that has a built-in keyboard. With a similar “Blackberry” designed front, half of the Spot X is a display and the other has a small keyboard. Beyond the keyboard, the Spot Z also has dedicated SOS and tracking buttons. With its own dedicated phone number, the Spot X truly is a stand-alone device.  With most of the industry moving to devices that heavily rely on companion apps, some may love the independence of the Spot X.  While it does have its own companion app, the Spot X is the device most capable of being used without the app.  With only one battery to worry about keeping charged and only a single device to worry about, the Spot X may be perfect for the minimalist outdoorsmen types.

Buy Now on Amazon


Satellite Communicator Coverage Plans

Satellite Communicators rely on a satellite network to send and receive messages outside of cell phone range. Each company has its own service plans for its satellite communicators.  When choosing a plan, first consider the number of messages you’ll need per month as well as the costs involved to suspend your service in months when you won’t make it off-grid.

Zoleo Plans:

Basic In Touch Unlimited
Monthly Fee $20 $35 $50
# of Satellite Messages 25 250 Unlimited
Additional Messages 50¢/ea 50¢/ea Free (unlimited)

Zoleo Plan Notes:

  • $20 activation fee for all plans
  • Location Share can be added to all plans for $6/mo
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 3 months
  • $4/mo to suspend service

Garmin inReach Plans:

Safety Recreation Expedition
Monthly $14.95 $34.95 $64.95
Annual $11.95/mo $24.95/mo $49.95
# of Satellite Messages 10 40 Unlimited
Additional Messages 50¢/ea 50¢/ea N/A

Garmin inReach Plan Notes:

  • $29.95 activation fee for annual plans
  • $34.95 annual program fee for monthly (freedom accounts)
  • Unlimited Check-in (preset) messages are included in all plans
  • Unlimited Tracking/location points are included in the Recreation and Expedition plans. 10¢ each for Safety Plan
  • Free to suspend service after 30 days (must pay annual fee only)

Bivy Plans:

Basic Plus Unlimited Premium
Monthly $19.99 $34.99 $59.99 $69.99
Annual $14.99/mo $29.99/mo $54.99 $64.99
# of Satellite Messages 20 80 Unlimited Unlimited
Additional Messages 75¢/ea 50¢/ea N/A N/A

Bivy Plan Notes:

  • $0 Activation Fees
  • Unlimited Check-In messages (preset) are included with all plans
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 4 months
  • Free to suspend service after 4 months

Spot Plans:

Basic Advanced Unlimited
Monthly $14.95 $29.95 $39.95
Annual $11.95/mo $19.95/mo $29.95
# of Satellite Messages 20 100 Unlimited
Additional Messages 25¢/ea 25¢/ea N/A

Spot Plan Notes:

  • $29.95 Activation Fee for all plans
  • $34.95 Annual Fee for monthly (Flex) plans
  • Unlimited Check-In messages (preset) are included with all plans
  • Once activated, plans can be changed or suspended after 4 months
  • Free to suspend service after 30 days for no fee (annual fee still applies)

Our Pick:

Best Satellite Communicator: Zoleo Satellite Communicator

Most of us really don’t need (or want) to stay in touch with those back home while we’re out in the wild. We don’t need to carry on full text conversations when we’re camping, hiking, fishing, sailing, or doing anything else off the grid.  What we need is the safety of being able to communicate with friends, family, and emergency services IF we need to.  The Zoleo gets the messaging and SOS functions done well.  And if you do choose to send a few more messages while outdoors, the Zoleo and its companion app can do that too. But the price of the Zoleo is what sets it apart.  It’s the cheapest device on our list and its service plans are some of the cheapest and most flexible of the bunch. It’s a great device.  It does everything the others do at a much lower price. If you’re looking for a satellite communicator, save your money for other gear and get the Zoleo.

Looking for other satellite communicator options? Read our review on the Garmin Inreach SE+

Review: Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator

Never have to worry about being out of touch while exploring off-the-grid again. With a satellite communicator, you can send text messages and location data to family and friends using a network of satellites to ensure you remain connected no matter where you are at. Our Garmin inReach review details both the device we use, the Garmin inReach SE+, and the Garmin inReach service plans needed for satellite connectivity.

The Verdict:

We like to travel where cell service is unknown – a bit more off the beaten path. With our inReach SE+, we can head off-grid without worry.  Knowing that you are always just a few button pushes away from help if something happens while in the wild, frees you from the anxiety of “what if something happens”. While the SE+ is an investment, the inexpensive service plans and the ability to pause your plan while you’re stuck at home make the inReach SE+ a more than worthwhile investment when we head outdoors. There are newer satellite communicators on the market that bring the initial purchase cost down and that have more developed features, but we like the ease of use and dependability of our inReach SE+ for hiking, camping, and coastal sailing. The SE+ is now an older device and at $400 is probably more money than you need to spend on a quality satellite communicator in 2022.



The build on the Garmin inReach SE+ feels solid and rugged.  Using the form factor of its line of handheld GPS devices, the SE+ is rubberized and waterproof.  With an IPX7 rating, the SE+ can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s relatively lightweight at 7.5 ounces and feels good in your hand while using.  It has a nicely sized 1.4″ by 1.9″ color display for messaging and for navigating its features. The SE+ has 6 buttons plus a directional pad on its front and a protected SOS button on its side for emergencies. On the back, it’s equipped with a removable belt clip that includes a carabiner attachment for hanging.

Battery Life:

Like any electronic safety device, keeping the batteries charged is a crucial element for a satellite communicator. These devices “ping” the nearest satellite on a regular basis to update your location and to check for any new incoming messages. How frequently you set the device to log your location and check for messages is directly related to how much battery life you can expect.

The SE+ is rated to provide up to 100 hours (approx 4 days) of battery life using the default 10-minute tracking mode. As expected, the rated battery life drops as logging intervals are changed.  Using 1-second logging provides up to 75 hours of battery life. The SE+ also has a 30-minute power save mode where the batteries can last up to 30 days.

In our usage, we kept the device set at the default 10-minute logging interval and found that 3-4 days of battery life is realistic.  If you like to check the device regularly powering up the screen each time, expect less time out of the batteries.  In any case, it’s important to consider your ability to recharge the device depending on the length of your trip.  If you’ll be away from power sources your entire trip, it’s recommended to set the logging interval to a less-often setting to ensure you’ll have connectivity when you need it.


Dimensions: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″
Weight: 7.5 oz
Waterproof Rating: IPX7
Batteries: rechargeable internal lithium-ion
Charging Interface: micro USB


  • Interactive SOS feature
  • Send & Receive Messages vis SMS and Email
  • MapShare compatibility with tracking
  • Virtual keyboard for on-device messaging
  • Send waypoints to MapShare during trip
  • Send route selection to MapShare during trip
  • Connect with the Garmin Earthmate App for messaging, tracking, etc information

Service Plans:

Garmin offers 3 satellite service subscriptions for its inReach devices, all of which can be paid annually at a discounted rate or on a monthly basis (called “Freedom plans”) with an “annual program fee” of $34.95.

Safety Plan ($14.95/monthly or $11.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • 10 Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 10-min + tracking intervals
Recreation Plan ($34.95/monthly or $24.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • 40 Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 10-min + tracking intervals
Expedition Plan ($64.95/monthly or $49.95/month annually):
  • Unlimited SOS messages
  • Unlimited Text messages per month
  • Unlimited Check-in Messages
  • 2-min + tracking intervals

See full feature listings for each plan and compare at the Garmin website.

Since our travels are often sporadic throughout the year, we prefer the monthly “freedom” plans offered by Garmin.  A highlight of these plans is that freedom plans can be suspended at no fee when you won’t be needing service.  While your account is suspended, you won’t be charged a monthly fee, but will still be charged the annual $34.95 fee at the yearly anniversary of your account creation.

Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator for Sailing
Relying on our Garmin inReach SE+ while sailing off the coast of California.

What we like about the SE+:

  1. The ability to message home while far from cell service.  This is why satellite communicators exist.  using a satellite network, you can send messages and contact emergency services from anywhere on the planet.
  2. We love that we can message directly on the device if necessary (ie. our phone battery is dead), but prefer to use the mobile app for normal usage.
  3. We love the unlimited “check-in” messages included on all Garmin service plans.  This allows you to pre-set 3 messages on your Garmin account that can be sent without going against your monthly messaging total.  You can change these often and it makes for the ability to send many more messages back home than your plan typically allows.
  4. We love that we can suspend our Garmin inReach service when we’re not able to get outdoors and can easily be reactivated when we’re headed back out.
  5. We love the MapShare feature which gives us a website to share with friends and family.  Your MapShare page can be password protected for privacy, provides an easy way for loved ones to message you directly through the page, and displays real-time tracking data on your trip progress.
  6. We love the tracking, routing, and waypoint abilities of the SE+.  It’s great to be able to plan trip routes and waypoints ahead of time, sync them to the SE+, and have them in hand while off-grid.
  7. The Earthmate app is really good – giving you the full feature set and data found on the SE+ on your phone.  This allows you to hang the SE+ somewhere with a direct view of the sky and leave it there throughout your trip.
  8. It’s fun to be able to keep those back home updated with the tracking features of the Garmin website.  They know exactly where you are at all times.

What we don’t like about the SE+:

  1. Like other Garmin handheld devices we’ve used in the past, the menu and system interface isn’t great.  It’s clunky to navigate and find the features/data you’re looking for.  After some good usage, you get a feel for how to get around the system, but it’s not super intuitive. using the Earhtmate app for primary usage of this device solves this problem.
  2. The SE+ doesn’t have any maps on the device. Its big brother, the Garmin inReach Explorer+ has mapping capability on the device for an extra $100.  It is awkward to see your tracks and waypoints displayed on a blank screen without map reference behind them, but the EarthMate app allows you to download and use maps to display your data appropriately.  While maps on the device would be nice, we didn’t feel that the extra $100 was worth it – another reason why we prefer to use the EarthMate app with our SE+.


Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator
The design of the Garmin SE+ is solid, rugged, and fits well in hand.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Menu
The SE+ menu isn’t perfect, but with some time, is easy enough.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Tracking without a map
Tracking without a map on the Garmin SE+
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator SOS button
The SOS button can be easily accessed in case of emergencies
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator back
The SE+ has a belt clip and carbiner attachment on the back
Micro USB charging on the Garmin SE+
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator Messaging
Messaging on the SE+ is simple using the virtual keyboard.
Garmin inReach SE+ Satellite Communicator for sailing
Using our SE+ while sailing off the coast of California.