Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mobile phones in the back country. Starting to look into the issues, and solutions...

While available time has me unable to dig into the chuck box project with all the gusto I would like to, I am giving some thought to cell phone use in the back country.

Our mobile devices, particularly smart phones, have available an array of valuable tools, not the least of which is the ability to make calls, and provide GPS locations in case of emergency. But due to the lack of cellular repeaters in many areas, relying on smart phone voice or data connections could be a lethal mistake.

While things are coming along admirably with cellular technology, the fact remains that many parts of the planet, in particular many of the parts of this planet that my intended audience likes to spend time, are simply not covered by cell signals due to physical obstruction (mountains, trees, whatever...) or just plain old distance to the tower.

I can't offer any good solutions for insuring your phone works everywhere you want to go, but I can offer some ideas to make the best of the situation, so your trail GPS app, or phone call for help has a better chance of actually working...


  1. First and foremost, keep your phone charged up. A dead battery means even if you have full signal, it won't matter. There are many different cell phone chargers that do not require 110V AC power to do the trick. If you are travelling by vehicle, perhaps tying into the 12V power port will give your phone the boost it needs. There are also hand crank generators, and of course solar chargers. Wildersport's own Outdoor Dave was given a Micro USB solar charger by a family member that, well bought an Iphone, so we will in the near future be testing that charger against my Samsung Galaxy S4.
  2. Get your phone up in the air as much as possible. The idea here is, even if you can't see the tower, you want an unobstructed view to wherever it may be. Try to get a line of sight between your phone, and, well whatever ridges, tall buildings, and yes, radio / cellular towers might be off in the distance. 
  3. Avoid containment. It might be warmer to carry on that conversation with your wife at home from inside the truck at deer camp, but chances are you'll pull a stronger signal sitting, or better yet, standing in the bed of that same truck. Unless you have gobs of signal, the deer blind or bunk house pretty much are a bad idea too!
  4. If you have signal issues at a permanent location that you frequent, such as deer camp, ranch, or cabin, seriously consider getting and installing a signal booster from your carrier. Many carriers are more than happy to extend their networks onto your roof for little to no additional cost to you. So what if the guys at the next deer lease over get a free boost too? You can make your calls, and get that all important hourly weather forecast to better plan your day!
  5. Consider switching carriers to one that has better coverage where you want to be. Your friends, relatives, and fellow sportsmen / women you go out in the wild with will be able to tell you if their phone network is up to par where you are going!
I know not perfect solutions, and we will be out there looking for more, and better ideas for you. Of course feel free to chime in and let us know what you think!

Armed with that little bit more information, you can now just a bit more comfortably...

get out there, and find your own, road less travelled.