What if my 4WD breaks down in the middle of nowhere?
What if we have a medical emergency?
What if there are no mobile reception when we need it most?
How does everyone keep in touch with me when I am out of mobile coverage and how do I let them know I’m okay too?
These are just some of the questions that come to every 4wders' mind when we venture off the beaten track. No matter if you are in the middle of High Country in Victoria during winter, or at the centre of Simpson Desert with shearing heat, you’ll just never know when things may go wrong.
This is the main reason we need to carry emergency communication devices such as ZOLEO. In the past 18 years of my 4wding experience, safety and good communication is vital, especially when it comes to an emergency. For many recreational drivers, it may not be affordable to buy or constantly hire a Sat phone therefore an affordable emergency device that is supported by the satellite network becomes your best option.
There are some smaller devices, that only has the capability to send an emergency alert using satellite connection, but it lacked the feature to allow users to send/deliver messages in and out of mobile reception. For example, should a spare part be needed, this may become impossible unless we had a device that allows for communication.
4WD Trip had the opportunity to get our hands on ZOLEO Satellite Communicator and put it to the test. This is the latest 2-way global satellite messenger in the market that works whether you are in or out of mobile coverage, that means satellite, mobile or Wi-Fi connection.
Setting up the ZOLEO is a breeze. It doesn’t take too long, and the instructions are very simple and the account setup interface is easy to follow. ZOLEO allows you to add contacts which will be assigned for 2 x SOS contacts and at least 1 x Check-in contact (you can add more). The contact details include both mobile number and email address. I immediately added my wife to be both my SOS and Check-in contact. I have further added my friends who are experienced 4wders to be my SOS and Check-In contacts as well.
The ZOLEO app has the features to allow you to message, share GPS coordinates, check-in, activate SOS and get weather forecast. Simply download the free app from the app store (available on both Apple® and Android®), and install to your phone or tablet. Once the app has been installed, it will search for your ZOLEO device (the number at the bottom of the device will be detected by your phone/tablet) and will connect via Bluetooth®. This will only take less than 5 minutes and once you’re connected, you can start using ZOLEO via the app. The app interface is simple and intuitive enough that even if you are not tech savvy, you will find it easy to use.
With ZOLEO, you will obtain a dedicated Australian mobile number as well as a ZOLEO email address. Make sure to keep a record of it, so you can share this with your family and friends whenever you are traveling. The ZOLEO app can pull out your contact list from your phone so you can easily send messages to your existing contacts, just like you normally would, if you were to send an SMS, but you will do this from the ZOLEO app. Do note that when you activate your ZOLEO, you will need to choose a plan to be connected to the Iridium satellite network, the plans range from as little as $32 a month or you can choose to go unlimited, for $80 per month.On my first 4WD trip, I attached the ZOLEO to my windscreen using the RAM® Mount which is sold separately as part of an accessory kit that is designed for rugged and demanding environments. It is the definition of a well-designed super-strong suction cup, which will probably break your windscreen if you tried to pull it off yourself! No matter how rough and bumpy your drive is, you will NOT be able to get the RAM mount off, once it is secured to your windscreen.
When you get the ZOLEO Universal Mount kit, it comes with all the accessories you need, therefore if you are planning on going away on long trips, you can attach the ZOLEO to the power supply using the USB adapter that comes with it without worrying it will run out of battery. That said, ZOLEO is designed to run up to 200+ hours fully charged, that’s around 8-days without charging, according to their specs.
The ZOLEO design is quite slick and simple, with 4 LED lights to indicate certain operations. It also comes with the button to trigger a "Check-in" or “SOS" if you don't want to use your app to trigger them (e.g. you lost your phone or your phone runs out of battery), the device can still function as a standalone unit.
Our campground had no mobile reception but knowing that I had the ZOLEO gave me peace-of-mind. It was the first time I could send a message from inside my tent, to my family to let them know I am safe and sound. While the ZOLEO was inside the 4WD, ensuring that it’s still connected to the satellite network, how cool is that! .... My first experience using the ZOLEO has been amazing. In the coming months, I will take it to some of the most remote areas in Australia in sub-zero temperatures. It really gives me (and the wife 😊) peace-of-mind especially when I am leading a group of 4wders who may not carry a satellite communication device with them. I hope we will never need to use the SOS button but if we do, I know I can count on ZOLEO.