(HumanEdgeTech) In previous entries we covered mountaineering tech history and reviewed the new IsatHub service offered by Inmarsat. Following is a roundup go-to-guide for mountaineering tech in 2015.
The recommendations are short and hands-on: for in-depth reports check the links section for HET reviews and tech round-table with some of the best mountaineer/tech guys out there.
One thing is certain: it has never been easier, cheaper and more lightweight for an expedition to work the Web.
Making phone calls from Base Camp and Summit
Thuraya XT Rugged $795
The most popular satellite phone in Himalaya. No coverage in North and South America (use an Iridium phone).
Reliable hardware: Following years of carrying the XT, Humanedgetech have yet to see a unit sent back for repair.
Bring two fully charged extra batteries for summit push one of which should be used only for emergency.
Get a prepaid SIM card for $75 (20 units included) and refill 160 units ($178) at a time. Call cost is between $1 and $2 (depending your location).
Mobile phones on Everest? Yes, but only in Base Camp. Network can get jammed during high season. It is not recommended to rely on a mobile phone for the climb.
Updating website, Twitter, Facebook
Iridium GO hotspot $875 with iPhone/Android smartphone.
By far the best and easiest to use hot spot solution on the market. Fire up the GO, connect over wifi, and make calls, emails and SMS from your smartphone direct.
Upload text and images straight to your website with CONTACT software. Iridium GO has very slow data speed. 10 kB takes about 1 minute to transmit so images should be kept small and lower quality.
Prepaid plan 1 year (can be extended) at $730 with 500 minutes voice or 1000 minutes data (voice and data usage is interchangeable). Also available: 6 months at $450 for 200 min voice/400 min data.
Charge from any solar panel 10Watt and up. HET recommend Feather2 12Watt $376.
Himalaya Hot Spot alternative
Thuraya SatSleeve for iPhone or Android is an alternative at $795.
Check the tech roundtable for more views on the unit. We recommend the Go before the SatSleeve because the Go has so far proved to be very user friendly. SatSleeve only allows for some iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models while Go works with any smartphone or pad. Using Iridium satellites the Go is also truly global.
Tracking and avalanche beacons
Personal satellite trackers are gaining ground in Himalaya and elsewhere for safety and fun. Spot is light and cheap while InReach has texting capacity.
Avalanche beacons remain less common in Himalaya but that may change.
Post directly to Twitter and Facebook via the Go or SatSleeve. A more advanced software such a CONTACT $299 lets you do more - such as voice dispatches posted automatically to website and mapping with automatic tracking from devices such as InReach or Spot.
Video and video conferencing - small setup
New iSavi $1345.
Fire it up and connect to wifi from smartphone/pad/laptop or any wifi enabled device. Our team has tested and used a wide variety of high speed terminals: the iSavi is less than half the usual price and very easy to setup. Read the review here.
The unit is light enough to bring to Everest summit for an unreal live video Skype call with the folks back home. Skype video worked fine in our test but the quality is not as good as on your home computer.
HET P50 battery $339 and a 30Watt or 62Watt Feather 2 for power.
iSavi is the first unit out to work on the new Inmarsat IsatHub system.
Video and video conferencing - big setup
Popular with commercial expeditions in later years Thuraya IP+ is a more expensive unit that offers "unlimited" plans. While a small expedition will be fine with a P50 battery and 30Watt panel; large expeditions with high data traffic and multiple laptops will most probably need generators and extensive solar panel arrays.
It's worth noting that the iSavi will work for larger expeditions as well.
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Everest Tech Week 2015: Review IsatHub/iSavi
Everest Tech Week 2015: Do you remember when...
ExWeb Special: 2015 Everest and Himalaya Mountaineers Tech Roundtable
ExWeb Special: 2015 Everest and Himalaya Technology Roundtable, final