Nature is a remorseless sociopath armed with bears (the cause of 36 human fatalities in the United States since 2000), snakes (144 U.S. deaths since 2000), and Sharknados (countless dead). Still, many of us insist on venturing far from the safety and comfort of civilization to camp out in the great outdoors—for fun.
If you are indeed foolish enough to try your lot out there, then please—please!—take a moment to read through this list of high-tech (and mostly affordable) outdoor gear designed to help you survive a direct confrontation with Mother Nature.
Godspeed, nature lover.
Personal locator beacon (PLB)
What is it? A device that uses a global network of search-and-rescue satellites to notify rescuers and pinpoint your position.
One example is McMurdo's FastFind Ranger Personal Locator Beacon ($277). The device sends out a 406MHz signal to the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) network, which is monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition, the device emits a 121.5MHz homing signal to help rescuers pinpoint your location as they get closer.
How will it keep you alive? When you can't communicate directly, this device will send out a signal continuously for 24 hours to bring help. Good for when you find yourself stuck at sea or in a remote trackless wilderness.
What is it? A mobile phone that communicates directly with low-orbit satellites to connect. Satellite phones don't rely on the terrestrial cell phone network, which can works only if your phone is in close proximity to a cell tower (or if Google has its way, to a strategically positioned high-altitude balloon).
Most satellite phones will set you back a minimum of $1000, but you can rent an Iridium 9555 satellite phone for $50 a week (or $16 a day). For $50, you can purchase a basic "safety" service plan that covers a scant 20 minutes of talk time (additional minutes will cost you $1 per minute); SMS messages are 60 cents a pop. Not cheap, but would you blink at that cost in a life-or-death situation?
How will it keep you alive? If you're far from the help of passers-by, the constabulary, and other sources of assistance, you're probably also far from the nearest cell tower. A satellite phone can put you in touch with help, no matter where you are.
(Thanks to Satellite Phone Store for providing us an Iridium phone for testing.)
What is it? A means to identify your exact location when you're not in close proximity to cell towers or Wi-Fi. The $300 Garmin eTrex 30 can locate you by reading signals from GPS and GLONASS (the Russian version of GPS) systems, in addition to using an internal three-axis compass and barometric altimeter. The device can store preloaded maps on its 1.7GB of internal storage (it also accepts microSD cards), so you won't have to download data as you would with a mobile phone app like Google Maps. All you need is access to the sky.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.