Will a satellite device work for me?

One of the biggest questions we get at Walco is ‘will this satellite device work in X location?’ While we do our best to answer client’s questions, this one is a real challenge.

Satellite Device Basics

Satellite devices do exactly as their name suggests, they connect to satellites. The issue is, connecting to a satellite has many variable factors at play.

Sky Visibility:

A key factor in whether you can connect to a satellite is your visibility of the sky. For example, in the image on the left, you will have a very narrow window to connect and make your call or send your message. In the image on the right, you will have considerably more time, and thus likely more success.

Satellite Coverage:

A second factor is the satellite coverage for your particular area. In some areas (like north western BC) satellite coverage can be quite limited. It may take up to 20 minutes for a satellite to be present over head. Thus, just because you aren’t connecting, doesn’t mean you have a problem with your device. It could be that there is no satellite to connect to.

Successful Handoffs:

Another factor in whether your message gets sent is the successful handoff of your information to the various pieces of the system. For example, much like cell towers, satellites often need to ‘handoff’ the information or the call to another satellite that is closer to your location. Further, the satellite must also send your message to a ground station, which then moves the message onto a standard network.

As Globalstar explains on their website:

” Our satellites transmit customer signals via CDMA technology to antennas at the appropriate terrestrial gateway, then the signals are routed through the local networks. “

As you can see, this is a complicated and multi-step process. Where a cellphone simply needs to connect to a local network, your satellite device has two steps to go through before it even gets to a land based network! This can help explain why messages may take a while to go through, or get lost entirely.

Benefits & Limitations

As with all technology, it is key to understand how it works so you can use best practices. Further, having a realistic idea of what the technology can and cannot do will keep you from feeling frustrated!

Satellite technology allows us to stay connected in some of the most remote places in the world. It is an incredibly valuable safety tool to those who work beyond traditional networks. With proper use and understanding of the device you have chosen, satellite devices can be useful companions in work and recreation.


The highly anticipated Spot X is here! As with all Spot products, this device is economical, minimalist and amazingly functional. The unit looks similar to a blackberry, with a full keyboard and large screen.

Spot states:

SPOT X provides 2-way satellite messaging so you can stay connected to family, friends and colleagues whenever you’re outside of cellular range, including direct communication with Search & Rescue services in case of a life-threatening emergency. SPOT X even provides you with your own Canada-based personal mobile number so others can message you directly from their cell phone or other SMS devices at any time.

This unit is a step up from the Gen3, which was single direction. Now, you can have two-way communications for a much more affordable price than the competitors.



Some awesome features include:

  • 10 day battery (on 10 minute tracking)
  • Full keyboard
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Direct line to Search and Rescue
  • Check in texts (like Gen3)
  • Post to social media
  • 2 way messaging
  • Compass
  • Tracking (sends location to loved ones at set interval).

We know the SpotX will be a welcome addition to any outdoor adventurer’s pack! We are very excited to have this cost effective option for our customers.

2 Way Sat Devices

Things are changing here at Walco Radio! We have new partners, and a line up of new products to better serve our customers! You spoke and we listened.

InReach Two-Way Satellite Devices

We are now carrying InReach Explorer and SE products! These devices offer two-way satellite communications. It’s like texting, via satellite! The Explorer also doubles as a GPS unit!  Want the full rundown? You can get that in the product brochure! Plus InReach devices pair with your smartphone!


Come check out our new products and services today!

Need Power? We’ve got solar!

Things are changing here at Walco Radio! We have new partners, and a line up of new products to better serve our customers! You spoke and we listened.


We know you love getting off the grid, both for work and play. Solar is a natural fit with our other off the grid products. Picking up a cell booster kit? Why not get a solar kit for your RV? Getting a sat phone for fishing? Solar is perfect for that trip too. We’ve partnered with Samlex America and HES PV to bring you a range of products to suit your power product needs.


Come check out our new products and services today!

Globalstar Sat Phone for FREE!

Globalstar has done it again! The GSP-1700 is available for free.

Globalstar is a leader in satellite devices. Determined to make quality products affordable for everyone, Globalstar is once again making the GSP-1700 free. This is an amazing opportunity to obtain a satellite phone.

This device is a consistent favorite among our customers. The GSP-1700 is not only invaluable for business in British Columbia, but it also provides an important security and peace of mind when working in remote locations.

Don’t miss out! Come talk to us today!


The West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail is one of those infamous treks that most BC residents hear about in childhood. The ladders, the bogs, the tree roots; all lasting 75km. Known as the ‘graveyard of the pacific’, this stretch of land saw countless ship wrecks. Indeed on the hike itself evidence of this history is present in rusting anchors, boilers and other pieces of aged debris. Reminders of the Japanese tsunami are also dotted along the trail, consisting primarily of lone shoes and laundry baskets.

The hike is known for its difficulty, and many hikers must be airlifted from the trail. The absence of cellular signal spotonly exacerbates the existing safety concerns.  Thus, on deciding to complete this hike, it was clear a unique communications solution would be required. At Walco, we have sold the Spot Gen3 to many hikers in just such scenarios. Thus, it seemed a perfect answer. Spot was immediately on board with the idea, accommodating my adventure through providing product and assistance.

Getting there:

The trail lies between Bamfield to the north, and Port Renfrew to the south. We accessed both locations from Nanaimo. A shuttle runs between the two points, as well as to various cities. Our group decided to leave vehicles at either end. Thus, the evening before our departure, we drove to Port Renfrew to drop the car. As my ferry was quite late, and the drive is nearly 3 hours, we did not arrive until midnight. In the dark, we had a difficult time navigating Port Renfrew, which has no cellular signal. However, we did manage to find the WCT office. Across the street is a large lot with a house on it. Pay parking is available for 5$ a day. Again, due to the darkness, it took us nearly an hour to discover that payment could be made after dark in a drop box attached to the trailer at the back of the lot.

The next morning, we arose at 5 am for the 3 hour drive to Bamfield from Nanaimo. We chose the route through Port Alberni. Past this point, the road descends into unpaved gravel for 84km. This is a very good logging road, and is mostly devoid of the giant potholes we all remember from childhood. However, it is extremely dusty. If another car is in front of you, it will be nearly impossible to see.

The WCT office is very well marked on this road, and turns into a large (free) parking lot.

Saturday, 11 am -7 pm to travel 22km:

Orientation is mandatory for all hikers, taking place at 10 am and 2 pm. This primarily consists of collection of permits, reviewing a board for cougar and bear sightings and listening to a brief lecture on the nature of the trail and how to use the cable cars (namely, upper body strength).

We began our journey at the north end, near Bamfield BC. Due to orientation, we did not get underway until nearly noon.

Known as the ‘easy end’ it is quite a flat and pleasant affair for the first 10 km leading to the lighthouse. This is a good warm up, and we ended up taking our lunch at this point. There is a nice lawn to rest on, and a hose that can be used for drinking water (upon treatment).


The terrain became slightly more challenging after the lighthouse. The beautiful vistas continued and we saw many animals from the high vantage points.

That evening, we decided to set up camp at the 22km mark. The campsites are located on the beach, although some can be had among the trees. The WCT is known for fog, and the beach does have a particular dampness to the air. Campsites are very well marked with numerous buoys etched with the names of previous hikers.

Sunday, 9 am- 8pm to travel 26km:

The second day we hiked primarily on the beach. This choice was a mixed blessing. The tide was just going out when we began. Thus in many places the sand was quite firm and walking was very comfortable. Many sections were also composed of large boulders, and our task was to navigate stepping from stone to stone. Other sections consisted of solid rock shelves, often covered in seaweed and other slippery lifeforms. Finally, there were sections that were loose beach sand. These were extremely exhausting to walk with a heavy pack in the direct sunshine.

The wildlife on the beach makes everything worthwhile. We were constantly surrounded by sea lions, whales cresting, eagles, countless crabs, sea anemones and other tide pool dwellers.  We also had a chance to meet some of the Guardians, who patrol the aboriginal lands. They were extremely helpful in advising us regarding tide levels and our ability to reach certain destinations.


Personally, I found the beach hiking the most enjoyable. You spend a great deal of time staring at your feet, trying not to fall over the tangled terrain. Thus, when you are on the beach, you can also take in the multitude of rocks, creatures, beach glass and other beautiful objects.

During this stretch there are two restaurants. At Nitinat Narrows, there is a ferry which brings you across the water. On the south side of the narrows there is a small restaurant with crab and fish. They also sell cold beverages. We had heard water was scarce between the 30 and 40 km mark, thus being low on water I stocked up at this point. I would have enjoyed sitting down for crab, but my friends decided to push on. The second restaurant is on the beach and sells burgers. Again, I cannot make a recommendation on this as my friends decided to keep moving.

That evening we camped at the 48 km point.

Monday, 8:30 am to 8 pm to travel 22km:

Unfortunately, due to high tide, we had to take the forest path on the third day. This was by far the most difficult section. Three main factors contributed to this: ladders, steep terrain and irregular terrain.  The ladders, while not overly prolific, tend to be in groups of 3 to 4. This is usually present when going in and out of river beds. Thus, you will take 4 ladders of 30 or so rungs down, only to cross a bridge to 4 ladders of equivalent size.

The upward terrain was also very challenging to navigate due to mud and erosion. Much of the trail was a tangled system of roots that required very careful, and never secure foot placement. This is where the knees and ankles really prove their worth. Many sections I had to use my stick and hold on to higher sections of root to hoist my body and my bag up the steep embankment.

This section also consists of many ‘log bridges’ over streams. At one point, there was a chain of four perpendicular logs supporting each other over a stream. Another point, we had to walk over a 25 ft. drop using only narrow and much repaired log.

The trail would have been far more difficult with the usual degree of dampness common to the WCT. This year has been unusually dry, and the park had not had rain for six weeks. On the trail we were extremely grateful for this environmental abnormality. The mud was ankle deep in sections, rocks were very slippery and often our path was also home to a stream. However, we did not have to use any of the cable cars as the rivers and streams were so low.


Our third night we camped at the 70km mark at Thrasher’s cove. This is one section that has a large series of ladders in and out.

Tuesday, 8 am to 11 am to travel 5 km:

The final day we hiked from Thrasher’s cove to Gordon River. This section, while having fewer ladders, had far steeper sections of trail. Thus, I personally found this section to be the most physically exhausting.

Also, the ferry comes at irregular times. I believe it is roughly 8:45, 10:30, 11:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30. As we knew we had many hours of driving to retrieve the car from Bamfield, we were dead set on catching the 11:30 ferry to Port Renfrew. We managed this with about a 20 minute margin. The boat ride is short and drops you at the WCT Centre, where you leave your permit and pick up your vehicle.

To bring:

In hindsight, there are a few things I brought which made a massive difference in my experience.

First, bring a walking stick, or be sure to acquire one from the first beach. The terrain is extremely irregular, and I cannot express how many times the walking stick was instrumental in maintaining my balance while boulder jumping, navigating bogs, or even just trying to walk down a root laden trail.

Second, bring a tensor bandage. As mentioned, the terrain is never flat. Your knees and ankles will be working overtime trying to maintain some semblance of balance. Thus it is very likely that you or one of your party will suffer some knee or ankle discomfort.

Third, footwear is a challenge. I wore hiking boots, which were a mixed blessing. Walking in the sand with heavy boots was less than enjoyable. However, I was able to walk through the mud, while my friends in runners had to preform incredible feats of acrobatics to attempt to avoid it.

Fourth, bring a Spot device. The trail is extremely uneven and often involves climbing up tree root systems, through mud puddles and using ladders with broken rungs. There were numerous times that I nearly slipped and fell. Having the Gen3 massively alleviated the concern over injury. It would be extremely difficult to procure help in the remote and difficult sections of the trail. There were several stretches where we did not see any other hikers for several hours.

Furthermore, I know the device provided massive peace of mind for my family. We finished the trail in 3 days instead of 5, and as I sent a message every evening, my family used the GPS coordinates to locate our campsite. When I spoke to them from Nanaimo, they had been following our progress and had an idea of our speed and were we should be at what point. Thus, even if I had been injured an unable to send a SOS, my family had an awareness of my regular behavior, and would have noticed a dramatic change.


The WCT is beautiful and challenging, and well worth the effort. However, it is not to be taken lightly. I feel my experience would have been vastly different had we taken 7 days, which is the average. However, even at our quick pace, we had the opportunity to see incredible vistas, countless animals and sea creatures and beautiful stretches of beach. Perhaps even more importantly, now we can boast the feat of having completed the West Coast Trail.

$499 Sat Phone Free!


Globalstar offers the most affordable satellite voice and data solution.

Activate on a qualified service plan at Walco Radio & Electronics Ltd. to receive your FREE Globalstar GSP-1700 Satellite Phone.* Until June 30!

Orbit 40
Orbit 100
Orbit 200
Orbit Unlimited
Minutes Included 40 100 200 UNLIMITED
Phone Cost $499 FREE FREE FREE
Total Cost(12 Monthly Payments + Phone) $979 $780 $1,200 $1,800
Galaxy 480
Galaxy 1200
Galaxy 2400
Galaxy Unlimited
Minutes Included 480 1200 2400 UNLIMITED
Phone Cost $499 FREE FREE FREE
Total Cost(Annual Payment + Phone) $979 $780 $1,200 $1,800

Flyer: Free-Sat-Phone-Globalstar

Terms and conditions apply, see store for details.

Spot News Release:1000 Rescues in Canada

SPOT Satellite Technology Delivers Peace of Mind for Outdoor Enthusiasts with 1,000 Rescues Initiated in Canada – over 3,500 Rescues Worldwide
Proven and essential safety gear, SPOT devices provide affordable and reliable connectivity, S.O.S. notifications, and real-time GPS tracking, completely independent of cellular coverage


  • SPOT satellite devices have been used to initiate 1,000 rescues in Canada since 2007; over 3,500 worldwide.
  • SPOT gained 12,000 new Canadian users in 2014; 55,000 worldwide.
  • B.C., Alberta and Nunavut account for the majority of SPOT rescue incidents to date.

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – March 25, 2015 – Globalstar Canada Satellite Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc. (NYSE MKT: GSAT) and the leader in satellite messaging and emergency notification technologies, announced today that its SPOT products have been used to initiate 1,000 rescues in Canada, many life-saving, since the technology was launched in 2007. British Columbia has reported the greatest number of SPOT rescues with 376 incidents, followed by Alberta at 115 and Nunavut at 111. Another 96 SPOT rescues have been initiated in Ontario and 85 in Quebec. The majority of these rescues were comprised of hiking/mountain sports, boating/water sports and motor vehicle incidents.

With hundreds of thousands of SPOT units in service globally, SPOT delivers peace of mind for outdoor enthusiasts with affordable and reliable connectivity and real-time GPS tracking, when there is unreliable or no cellular coverage. In Canada, SPOT gained 12,000 new users in 2014, adding 55,000 worldwide, a record number of activations in any single year which underscores the fact that Canadians increasingly want to stay connected.

SPOT products offer users worldwide peace of mind, by allowing them to track their assets, use location-based messaging and emergency notification technology and to make calls beyond the reach of mobile signals. Since it was introduced, outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers such as hikers, boaters, campers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts have come to depend on SPOT’s life-saving capabilities.

Emergency Preparedness
The first week of May is Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada, a time when Canadians are encouraged to take a role in being prepared for an emergency. This includes knowing the risks, making a plan and building an emergency kit. Essential and proven safety gear, SPOT satellite devices can be an important part of trip planning for anyone considering outdoor adventures where cellular coverage is unreliable or unavailable.

According to Kevin Callan, SPOT Ambassador and the ‘Happy Camper’:  “SPOT Gen3 is an incredible piece of technology that not only allows for a much safer wilderness trip, but it also provides a sense of ease for friends and family at home. That’s a huge asset. With GPS accuracy, it pin-points my location, lets people at home know where I am, and that I’m safe. It also can send an emergency signal if I ever need it. I’ve used this device for several years now and greatly depend on it.”

SPOT continues to innovate with products and services that deliver peace of mind, reliable connectivity and accurate GPS tracking solutions that are relevant to millions of users around the world, such as:

  • SPOT Gen3™ is a rugged and affordable GPS tracking device providing off-the-grid messaging, emergency alerts, extended battery life, and extreme GPS tracking at 2 ½ minute intervals.
  • SPOT Global Phone is the most affordable satellite phone available in retail, allowing users to make calls virtually anywhere beyond the boundaries of cellular.
  • SPOT Trace™ is a GPS tracking device which uses 100% satellite technology to track anything, anytime, anywhere. SPOT Trace ensures that users never lose sight of their car, boat, motorcycle, ATV or other valuable gear.

The ability to send S.O.S. notifications to GEOS and emergency dispatch services are included in the SPOT Basic Service plan. The GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center is staffed 24/7 with dedicated and highly trained operatives who have access to emergency responders worldwide, to ensure timely and efficient response to each emergency situation.