The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

Supplemental Pages

Show number 122: Calling for Help Revisited

Cell Phone Coverage Maps

Please note that these coverage maps are very coarse. The best way to get authoritative information on their coverage is to call your carrier about your specific plans. Most coverage maps are based on zip code. However, it's often difficult to find the zip code of some rural, backcountry location.

The Nextel site has this disclaimer, which resembles those of all other carriers: Coverage shown on the coverage maps is a general prediction of outdoor coverage, and does not guarantee that coverage will be available at all covered geographic areas at all times. Wireless coverage is impacted by, among other things, terrain, weather, antenna location, system modification, foliage and man-made structures (such as buildings), and therefore cannot be predicted precisely at all times.

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
    If you enter the zip code into this page, you can see a more detailed map of that area.
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon
    They also have an interactive coverage map, but you have to start by entering a zip code or a city name on this page.

Satellite Phones

There are two large networks which cover the U.S. Though they'll work where cell phones won't, you need a clear view of a large percentage of the sky to get a reliable connection.

  • Globalstar
    They show coverage on almost all land areas of the northern hemisphere. Their smallest and lightest phone also weighs about a pound. Their airtime rates a low-volume plan are around $1.00/Min.
  • Iridium
    They boast total coverage of the earth. The smallest and lightest phone weighs about 14 ounces. Their airtime rates for a low volume plan are around $1.75/Min.
  • Satellite Phone Rental [Google Search]
    Many companies rent satellite phones on a weekly or monthly basis for around $50/week.

Amateur Radio

Ham radios have the potential to work from very remote locations. But they're a very do-it-yourself proposition that requires a government license to be legal, and then training and informed gear selection to be useful.

Rescue & Locator Beacons

Various beacon-type devices are available to signal distress. Some of them work with satellites, others work both with satellites and by transmitting terrestrial signals. Beacons can be more reliable than some of these other methods, with the drawback that you can't signal your level of distress, nor what your specific needs might be.

    The Equipped To Survive Foundation published this Frequently Asked Questions set of articles about personal locator beacons.
  • ACR Electronics
    A prominent manufacturer of Personal Locator Beacons.
    This is the official web site for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Search And Rescue Satellite program. The official page for the government operation that manages the satellites which receive the PLB signals.

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