Best Satellite Phones 2022: Garmin inReach, Zoleo, Bivy, and More Satellite Communicators

Best overall
garmin-inreach
Garmin InReach® Mini 2
Equipment price
$399.99
Subscription
Starting at $14.95/mo.
Signal coverage
100% global satellite coverage via Iridium® satellite network
Emergency messaging
Interactive SOS alerts
Best for value
Zoleo
Equipment price
$199.00
Subscription
Starting at $20.00/mo.
Signal coverage
100% global satellite coverage via Iridium® satellite network
Emergency messaging
SOS alert button
Best for ultralight travels
acr-bivy-stick
ACR Bivy Stick
Equipment price
$249.95
Subscription
Starting at $19.99/mo.
Signal coverage
100% global satellite coverage via Iridium® satellite network
Emergency messaging
SOS alerts and customizable check-in messages
Best for voice calling
Iridium Go!®
Equipment price
$795.00
Subscription
Pricing depends on dealer; Starting at $52.95/mo.
Signal coverage
100% global satellite coverage via Iridium® satellite network
Emergency messaging
SOS alerts with position tracking
Best for flexible plans
Spot X
Equipment price
$249.99
Subscription
Starting at $11.95
Signal coverage
Good coverage in North America, Europe, Australia-New Zealand, and most of South America
Emergency messaging
Unlimited SOS messages

Ben Gran
Researcher & Writer
Read More
November 09, 2022

If you’re going on an outdoor expedition or visiting remote areas where cell coverage is limited or non-existent, you might need a satellite phone. But do you know how to find the best satellite phones for your needs? Some satellite phones have a wide range of features and heavy-duty hardware, but not everyone needs a full-featured military-grade satellite phone. For many hikers, climbers, and explorers, a simpler satellite communicator device will be the best choice.

Some satellite communicators can connect to your cell phone to enable satellite coverage, effectively turning your cell phone into a satellite phone. If you want satellite connectivity at a lower cost, satellite communicators offer convenience, lifesaving emergency connectivity, and affordable pricing.

Best sat phones and satellite communicators

After testing their satellite network coverage in the Alaskan wilderness for two weeks, and trying the real-life user experience, we can confidently say we’ve rounded up the top five best satellite communicators in the industry. We’d recommend Garmin InReach® as the best satellite communicator overall—and the best satellite messenger available. 

Satellite communicators like Zoleo and the ACR Bivy Stick scored highly in our research and testing for their ability to turn your smartphone into a satellite messaging device—and for priceless features like a weather app and map GPS that kept our team safe while on their adventure. Meanwhile, Iridium GO! can give you satellite voice calling as well as satellite text messaging.

If you want a standalone device that gives you great satellite coverage throughout most of North America and many other parts of the world, the Spot X satellite communicator is another good option. It doesn’t have as many features as the others, but it’ll let your loved ones know you’re alright—and let emergency teams know if you’re not.

If you’re interested in more details like subscriptions, signal coverage, and whether satellite communicator rentals are worth it, read on.

Best overall: Garmin InReach® Mini 2 (40K) satellite phone

Price
Service plans
Features
Satellite coverage
Buy it
$399.99Safety: Starting at $14.95/ mo., includes 10 text messages per mo.
Recreation: $34.95/mo. for 40 text messages
Expedition: $64.95/mo. for unlimited text messages.
✓ Two-way messaging
✓ Interactive SOS to communicate with a 24-hour assistance team
✓ Easy location sharing and Weather Forecasts
✓ 14–30 days of battery life on one charge
Communications are sent and received via the Iridium® satellite network, which uses Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide 100% global coverage.

Why we chose it: The Garmin InReach satellite messaging device gets high marks for its compact but sturdy design, easy-to-use communications features, versatile user experience, and its worldwide connectivity to the Iridium satellite network. This is a powerful little device that gives you convenience and emergency communications all over the planet, while also offering a variety of price points with flexible subscription options.

Whether you’re a first-time satellite phone shopper or a long-time intrepid outdoors adventurer, the Garmin InReach Mini 2 is an excellent choice for a satellite communicator. You can take this device all over the Earth and into a wide range of extreme conditions.

Garmin InReach® Messenger

Want to get access to some of the same features as the Garmin InReach Mini 2 but at a lower price point? The Garmin InReach Messenger  is another option. Priced at $299, this helps you save money compared to the Garmin InReach Mini 2—although the service plans and prices  are the same.

The Garmin InReach Messenger connects to your smartphone, giving you the ability to send and receive satellite messages via text or email. Many of the other features from the Garmin InReach Mini 2 are also available for the Messenger, such as interactive SOS and location sharing. The Messenger’s battery life is up to 28 days, and it also offers emergency safety charging for your smartphone battery.

If you want global connectivity through the Iridium satellite network, plus many of the same great features as the Garmin InReach Mini 2, but with a device that connects your smartphone to satellite messaging capabilities, the Garmin InReach Messenger might be the right choice for you.

Best for value: Zoleo

Price
Service plans
Features
Satellite Coverage
Buy it
$199.00Basic: $20.00/mo. for 25 satellite messages
In Touch: $35.00/mo. for 250 satellite messages
Unlimited: $50.00/mo. for unlimited satellite messages
Activation fee: $20 plus a minimum of 3 mos. before you can cancel or change your plan.
✓ Turns your smartphone into a satellite messaging device
✓ SOS and Checkin buttons to share location if something goes wrong
✓ 200+ hours of battery life on a single charge
✓ Shock-resistant, dust-resistant, and water-resistant
Iridium® satellite network with 100% global coverage.

Why we chose it: Only $199 for a durable, well-designed satellite communicator device that gives you truly global satellite messaging capabilities? In the satellite phone space, that’s a bargain. Zoleo works with your smartphone to let you keep in touch while exploring the most remote places on the planet, and also includes built-in emergency alert buttons.

If you’re just getting started with satellite communicator technology or if you’re going on your first big wilderness adventure, Zoleo gives you what you need even without the bells and whistles. And with access to the 100% global Iridium network of satellites, Zoleo makes a great choice for budget-minded shoppers, especially since all plans include unlimited SOS messaging. For Basic and In Touch plans, additional messages beyond your monthly limit cost $0.50 each.

All plans also give you the option to pay an extra $6.00 a month for Location Share+, which makes it easier to share your exact location with up to five check-in contacts of your choice.

Best for Ultralight Travels: ACR Bivy Stick

Price
Service Plans
Features
Satellite Coverage
Buy it
$249.95Basic: $19.99/mo. for 20 credits
Plus: $34.99/mo. for 80 credits
Unlimited: $59.99/mo. for unlimited credits
Premium: $69.99/mo. for unlimited credits, plus advanced GroupTrackTM features
✓ Two-way messaging
✓ Built-in SOS button connects you to 24/7 emergency support
✓ Updated weather forecasts
✓ 100–120 hours of battery life
100% global coverage via the Iridium global satellite network

Why we chose it: The Bivy Stick packs powerful capabilities into its tiny size. If you want to travel ultralight on a hike, climb, or expedition where every ounce of extra baggage counts, the Bivy Stick easily attaches to your backpack or handlebars lightly and easily.

But don’t let the small size fool you: this satellite communicator device’s features are extensive. This tiny stick turns your smartphone into a satellite messaging device, with 100% global coverage. There are also options for weather forecasting, location tracking, and other versatile features to help make your next trip safer and more successful.

When you sign up as a new customer of Bivy Stick, you must commit to a 4-month initiation period; you cannot change or cancel your plan during these first 4 months. The Basic plan is only available after the four month initiation period. To access satellite services you need credits. One credit equals one message sent or received or one basic weather report.

Best for voice calling: Iridium Go!® satellite phone

Price
Service Plans
Features
Satellite Coverage
Buy it
$795.005 Voice/Data Minutes: $52.95 per month; includes 5 SMS/text messages. 75 Voice/Data Minutes: $79.95 per month; includes 75 SMS/text messages 150 Voice/Data Minutes: $109.95 per month; includes unlimited SMS/text messages Unlimited Data Minutes: $134.95 per month; includes 150 voice minutes, unlimited data minutes, unlimited SMS/text messages Prepaid SIM cards also available for Iridium GO! starting at $349 for 3,000 text messages ✓ Voice calls
✓ Turns your smartphone into a satellite phone
✓ Jet-water resistant, dustproof, and shock-resistant.
✓ Connect multiple devices on one Iridium GO! connection—allows for up to 5 devices
✓ Programmable one-touch SOS alerts for emergency situations
Iridium GO! uses the Iridium satellite network, providing truly global connectivity. Anywhere you are on the planet, you can use Iridium’s satellite communicator device.

Why we chose it: This is the only satellite phone on this list that actually works as a phone. Iridium GO! connects to your existing smartphone to give you voice and data connectivity worldwide, along with text messages and emergency SOS service. If you want to actually be able to talk to people from your phone while adventuring in the wilderness or sailing the seas, Iridium GO! might be your best choice for a satellite communicator.

Iridium GO! is also built with an exceptional level of toughness: cover it in dust, drop it off a rock, or submerge it in gushing jets of water and it will likely keep working. If you want a heavy-duty satellite communicator device for the harshest environments, Iridium GO! can survive almost anything you throw at it. 

Service plans for Iridium GO! depend on the dealer where you purchase your device. The prices in our table above reflect those offered by BlueCosmo.

Best for flexible plans: Spot X

Price
Service Plans
Features
Satellite Coverage
Buy it
$249.99Basic: $11.95/mo.*; includes 20 custom messages, unlimited SOS, check-ins, and predefined messages
Advanced: $19.95/mo.*; includes 100 custom messages, unlimited SOS, check-ins, predefined messages, and advanced movement tracking
Unlimited: $29.95/mo. for unlimited custom messages, unlimited SOS, check-ins, predefined messages, and more frequent location tracking.
Activation fee: $29.95
✓ Two-way communication
✓ Built-in SOS button for emergency help 24/7
✓ Operates at -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, impact-resistant, dust-resistant, water-resistant,submersible up to 1 meter of water for 30 min.
✓ Precise location tracking with built-in compass and programmable waypoints
✓ 240 hours or 10 days of battery life
Adequate coverage in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia, but not Central Africa and Southeast Asia.

*With 12-month term agreement.

Why we chose it: Satellite communicator device plans and pricing can be complicated and confusing; you might not want to commit to a full year contract with a satellite phone. Spot X gives good flexibility with its Flex Plans: for just a few dollars more per month, plus a Flex Charge, you can have a one-month commitment and have the freedom to take a break from your service at any time. If you only need to travel to remote areas once or twice per year, Spot X can be a good choice for a flexible satellite communicator plan.

Choosing your satellite communicator

Choosing the right satellite communicator device depends on your communication style and preferences. Ask yourself:

  • What is your top priority in case of emergency while out in the wilderness or a remote area?
  • Do you like to send a lot of texts?
  • Do you prefer to talk on the phone?
  • Do you want people to be able to reach you while you’re on an expedition or do you want the communication to mostly come from you?
  • How frequently do you want to check in and share your location with your contacts?
  • How risky or uncertain is the terrain where you will be traveling? Do you need constant updates with your location, or can you choose a less-frequent interval?

There is no one “right answer” for the best satellite phones. But think carefully about how you intend to use the satellite communicator device, what kinds of situations you might encounter, and how often you’ll want to communicate with people back home.

Emergency messaging

A good satellite communicator should offer unlimited SOS alerts and emergency messaging. Along with a built-in SOS button that shares your location with the emergency response team, consider if you want the ability to send custom SOS messages.

Signal coverage and satellite networks

Check the coverage maps for each satellite communicator device to see where you would have signal coverage. Not every satellite phone has the same global reach; any satellite communicator devices that have the Iridium satellite network will have 100% global coverage, but some other satellite messaging devices use the Globalsat network, which does not cover the entire planet.

The Globalsat devices (like Spot X) have excellent coverage for most people’s needs, but if you are going to travel by sea or to a remote area outside the Globalsat coverage map, you might want to reconsider your choice of device.

How much does a good satellite phone cost?

Pricing for satellite phones ranges from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 dollars, depending on the design and features. Our top-rated satellite communicator device in this review is the Garmin InReach Mini 2, which only costs $399. Or you could save $100 and get the Garmin InReach Messenger for $299. Other top-rated satellite communicator devices are at even lower price points.

Don’t assume that you have to spend the most money on all the high-end, military-grade sat phone features. Depending on your travel plans, you can get solid emergency protection and everyday travel communication covered by a lower-cost satellite communicator device.

Which satellite network is best: Iridium or Globalsat?

If you want truly global satellite coverage for every point on the planet, the Iridium satellite network is the best choice. The Iridium constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites provides comprehensive global coverage in a way that no other satellite network (for now) can beat.

However, depending on where you travel, the Globalsat satellite coverage will also be excellent and will keep you protected and connected. Be sure to check the coverage maps for any satellite communicator device so you understand where your service will reach—and where it might not.

The satellite phone takeaway

We chose the Garmin InReach Mini 2 as the best satellite communicator of 2022, because of its sturdy design, its advanced features, and its versatile user experience with global satellite coverage. This satellite phone fits a lot of powerful features into an easily portable package.

But depending on your communication style and travel preferences, you might also have a great experience with several other satellite phones and communicators:

  • The Iridium GO! sat phone is the only device on this list that enables voice calls, along with text messages.
  • The Zoleo satellite communicator device offers great value for money, enabling your phone to send satellite messages for just $199.
  • The Bivy Stick can easily fit in your pocket while connecting you to a planet-wide satellite network.
  • The Spot X satellite phone gives you flexible pricing plans with a rugged design for harsh conditions.

Methodology

We researched for eight hours and cross-referenced five satellite communicator devices to narrow down and select these best-of designations, along with real-world field testing of the Bivy and Spot devices in the Alaskan wilderness for two weeks.

Satellite phone FAQ

What is the best satellite phone out there?

We rated the Garmin InReach Mini 2 as the best satellite phone of 2022 because it offers an affordable price with powerful features, a versatile design, and global connectivity. If you want voice call capabilities from your satellite phone, the Iridium GO! device might also be a good choice.

There is no one right answer for what is the best satellite phone. Depending on how you like to travel and communicate, several satellite communicator devices could help keep you connected and even save your life in case of emergency.  

Are satellite phones worth it?

Every year, people go hiking, climbing, sailing, or skiing, and tragically get into dangerous situations that cause them to be seriously injured or even lose their lives. A satellite phone can help you avoid some of the worst-case scenarios of exploring the outdoors or traveling to remote regions of the Earth.

It’s not possible to put a dollar value on a person’s life and health. But if you think about the catastrophic costs of getting injured or ill while in the wilderness, or needing an emergency evacuation from a remote area, a satellite phone is definitely worth it. 

What is the downside to a satellite phone?

Satellite phones are not cheap. Depending on your service plan, you might only have 20 text messages or 5 minutes of voice calls that you can use each month. But if you use satellite phones correctly as an emergency communication device, they can be a valuable addition to your travel plans—and might even save your life.

Can I turn my cell phone into a satellite phone?

There are several satellite communicator devices that connect to your existing smartphone via app and Bluetooth, effectively turning your smartphone into a satellite phone. These include: Iridium GO!, Garmin InReach Messenger, Zoleo, and Bivy Stick. 

Can anyone own a satellite phone?

In the US and in most countries around the world, anyone is allowed to own a satellite phone. However, in some countries, satellite phones are not legal. Make sure you understand the local laws in other countries before you travel there with your satellite communicator device.

Are satellite phones better than cell phones?

For everyday use, cell phones are more convenient and lower-cost than satellite phones. But if you are traveling in the wilderness or in remote parts of the world where cell coverage does not reach, satellite phones can be the best option for communicating. If your work or travels take you to sea, to the mountains, to the desert, or to other remote areas, you might want to get a satellite phone or satellite communicator device to keep in touch even when your cell phone doesn’t work anymore. 

Ben Gran
Written by
Ben Gran