GearProduct Reviews

ZOLEO satellite communicator review

THE best fishing spots are usually a long way from home. Maybe you’re offshore chasing gamefish, up a Top End creek targeting barra, or deep in a coastal valley searching for bass.
The distance from major towns and cities, and the difficulty to reach these spots, often means there’s quality fishing on offer.

However, fishing remote locations has its challenges and hidden dangers. Even a small incident could be a major problem in a remote area.

Then there’s the problem of communication. We live in an instant world and, like it or not, there’s an expectation to always “be in touch”. Some people see this as a negative and that’s understandable. Sometimes getting “off the grid” away from devices and the stresses of home or work is better than the fishing itself!

But there’s another way to look at it. If you have a family and work commitments, having some way of communicating with the outside world in these remote fishing spots is essential. For some of us, it’s really the only way we can get away while holding down a job and managing our personal lives.

Thankfully, technology has enabled us to do this at an affordable price.

ZOLEO offers optional belt, camera and strap mounts.

In the past, costly and cumbersome satellite phones were the only option for reaching home or making emergency contact. We also had EPIRBS for boats and PLBs for land. These emergency beacons are still mandatory on offshore vessels and very useful for hiking or remote locations. If you have a life threatening situation, you activate the EPIRB or PLB and your location is sent to emergency services via satellite and GPS. Typically, a helicopter or vehicle will be sent to rescue you.

However, while these devices are still very important, most of them don’t offer two-way communication and there’s no way of telling if emergency services even received the distress call.

Another problem is these devices are strictly for life threatening emergencies. What about minor injuries or times when you don’t need a full blown (and expensive) rescue?

This is where a device such as ZOLEO is so valuable. ZOLEO is one of a number of devices to hit the market over recent years that offer an emergency SOS function, similar to a PLB, yet also offer two-way messenging. ZOLEO uses the Iridium satellite network to allow two-way communication and emergency responses.

In a worse case scenario, you could be communicating via text to rescuers or for medical help. You can let the authorities know exact locations and the reason for your emergency. They can respond with specific instructions that could save your life. It’s worth noting, ZOLEO uses a private company, the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), whereas a PLB or EPIRB uses a government agency. That means you will pay a subscription fee with ZOLEO. It varies depending on how much you intend to use it. Don’t be deterred by the fact that the emergency response is coming from a private company. They have a proven track record or facilitating rescues and working with local emergency services to save lives.

Another factor worth noting when comparing PLBs/EPIRBs and the ZOLEO is battery life. The former don’t need recharging and typically have a 10 year battery life. That’s the big advantage of the traditional PLB or EPIRB. That said, ZOLEO’s battery can last up to 200 hours and I found during the test period my device lasted much longer than I expected. Battery technology is getting better and better and you can be assured a fully charged ZOLEO will last for a good length of time. It can be recharged easily with a battery pack or solar if needed.

The RAM dash mount for car or ATV.

What about the “lesser” emergencies. These are common. You may have twisted an ankle or are just stranded overnight on the wrong side of a river. You don’t need a rescue, but you may need the assistance of a friend or even just the ability to send a message home and let loved ones know you’re okay.

Another use for the ZOLEO is simply contacting friends and family. During the test and when using similar products in the past, most of my messages have been pretty trivial. I might message a friend to brag how good the fishing is or I might message home asking how the kids have been. I’ve also made work-related texts when using the ZOLEO. Having this direct contact with the outside world means I can afford to take this time away and still get things done. It’s also a way of ensuring future trips into remote locations will get the green light from family and my employer.

The ZOLEO has plenty of features that sets it apart. For starters, it’s more affordable than similar products. It’s small, light and water resistant. That’s important!

To operate, you must first download the ZOLEO app and register. Then it’s simply a matter of switching it on and connecting it via bluetooth. You can use a button on the device itself to “check-in” with a pre-set contact and you can also use the device to set of the SOS function. Other than that, most of the features (including the above) are operated via the app. The app is easy to use and navigate.

Once it’s connected, just text or email your contacts. The contact can also receive your location. This is important if you did need help.

You can also contact other ZOLEO users. This would be very handy for larger fishing groups who are fishing out of a central camp or mothership and going to separate locations each day. They can stay in touch and communicate for safety. Even a family trip away to a remote location could take several units to ensure everyone is easily tracked and safe.

The ZOLEO app is simple to use.

Another handy feature is the personalised number and email address. Once you register, that’s your number and email address. Hand it out to your friends and family and they can contact you when you’re away. Some of the other brands don’t offer this and have a changing number depending on location and timeframe.

Another useful feature is the weather updates available via the app. ZOLEO also offers accessories such as mounting systems for the car and a case for attaching to your bag.

If you enjoy fishing remote locations and getting away from the crowds, you would be crazy to go without some sort of emergency device. There’s the risk of snake bites, injuries, bad weather and more.

More than anything, the ability to communicate with your family and friends makes visiting these places so much easier.

Check out the ZOLEO website for pricing and details on subscription plans.

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