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I am old enough to plan ahead on fall detection, but vigorous and stable enough not to need it in everyday life now. However, I no longer feel comfortable hiking alone, and would like a gadget that would detect a fall and report it, preferably where there is no cell signal; this may be too much to ask for but it is vital to know if it can or can't.

I originally thought about the Apple watch, but it can't be the only such gadget -- or can it? (The pendants one wears around one's neck are too hideous for any word but UGH!) I am not interested in any function except fall detection and reporting. I don't hike to be in touch with the world. I have a beautiful watch for time-keeping. So, techies, please don't regale me about all the neat stuff such a gadget can do. Thanks! (To clarify: I don't mind paying for a function that tells me the hourly temperature in Madagasgar; I just want never to be aware of it.)

One other point: I have a narrow wrist, and even something the size of the small Apple watch looks clunky and out-of-place on my wrist. I would like to wear the Gadget about halfway between my wrist and elbow, so it will be decently concealed by long sleeves. Vital technical requirement: The gadget should work reliably in this position.

Please Note: I am not asking about price. I don't care if something better is coming down the pike. I am asking about what is available with the above specs now. So, all the rationales about shopping questions do not apply. I am asking for pure technical information that will inform a near-term decision.

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    Re the pendants one wears around one's neck are too hideous, and I have a narrow wrist. Why can't you keep it in a pocket, where it is out of sight? Sep 2 at 22:38
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    as a side note, the apple watch cannot report where there is no cell signal, in case that was not obvious
    – njzk2
    Sep 3 at 10:42
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    Terrible idea. First, it would have to be a satellite phone to work outside of cell coverage, and second it would have to have a way of cancelling false alarms. And what happens when you unknowingly drop it 20 miles into the wilderness and it sets off an alarm? The SAR team that shows up hours later after an expensive, dangerous rescue effort to find nothing is not going to be happy. You should expect a huge bill for that service and deservedly so. Sep 3 at 14:39
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    Your device can fall out of a pocket. Does such a thing ever happen unnoticed? Of course it does. You know that 'stuff happens' or you would not want to carry it in the first place. Sep 4 at 8:15
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    There's no reason for hostility. I just think the device you want is a bad idea and I explained why. Sep 5 at 15:02

2 Answers 2

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I'd recommend a 406 MHz PLB (Personal locator beacon) which uses the COSPAS-SARSAT system. Details are here. In short: A PLB (or EPIRB, or ELT, they're all technically equivalent) is a small device that sends an alert with a position using a satellite network. It works worldwide (even at the poles, or far offshore) as long as there's clear view to the sky.

PLBs are the smallest devices of this group, about the size of an old Nokia cell phone. They are activated simply by the push of a button. Downside is that they don't allow sending any information about the nature of the distress. On the Pro side is that they do not require any subscription (only a registration, but that is - in most countries at least - free) and that they do not require any user servicing. The battery is built-in and lasts for at least 5 years, after which it needs to be replaced by the vendor.

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    Devices such as Garmin InReach do support two-way text message communication via satellite (requires a monthly subscription). And the newly released iPhone 14 also supports emergency communication via satellite. Sep 9 at 16:04
  • @BrunoRijsman I haven't heard of that. If you can source it, maybe write an answer?
    – PMF
    Sep 9 at 19:39
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    InReach is technically a "satellite messenger", an entirely different technology that allows messaging but requires a subscription. Sep 10 at 19:33
  • The iPhone 14 is interesting, but note that the announcement seems to be that the first 2 years of sat comm will be free. Leaving entirely open what, if anything, it will cost past that. I also would not confuse a PLBs extreme robustness, battery longevity and suitability for its only job with being 110% sure my cell phone would replace it when my life depended on it. But it is something to consider on the iPhone lineup, for sure. Sep 11 at 23:06
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    You should clarify that your answer refers to a genuine 406 MHz ELT/PLB, which uses the global satellite system made specifically for emergency location. This is the gold standard for aircraft and serious ships e.g. tankers and container ships. The emergency beacons on naval ships that pop off when they sink, those use 406. Not a SPoT. Not an iPhone. Sep 24 at 19:29
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The PLB that PMF is referring to is a good answer. I will also mention the inReach units, though--while they likewise do not have fall detection they can be set to periodically transmit your location to the satellites. If you're hurt badly enough that you can't activate it it still is very likely to be able to lead search and rescue right to you when you're reported overdue.

I do not know if SPOT and the other similar devices have this capability or not.

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