Cell Phone Reception- Important!

Discussion in 'Preparedness' started by Wasp, Aug 10, 2017.

  1. Wasp

    Wasp Supreme Knotter Supporter

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    So if you're like me, when you go outdoors you are going as much to get away from everything as anything else. Peace and quiet and no phones ringing or other people texting and on their tablets are part of that in my book. Still, knowing you can contact the outside can not only be important but critical in an emergency or to let people know plans have changed.

    How many of you pay attention to where you do and where you don't have a signal? Usually I know "a spot" where I can make a call if I needed to. Now days I also carry a small lipstick style charger for my phone that takes up little space and is light weight.

    Thoughts--tips?
     
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  2. Terasec

    Terasec Scout

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    whether i use my phone alot or little, signal and charge is important to me,
    if i have a signal, i usually spend some time texting the wife, and such, usually at end of the day,
    when out in the woods have to make sure to turn my phone off, and only turn it on when i need it whether its for text, or to take pics
    if i dont battery dies quickly,
    i also sometimes use phone for map of the area, although i dont rely on that, i do need a signal for that as gps needs cellular signal to download local map
    my phone use is limited by me trying to conserve battery, not some urge to get away from my phone,
    if i had more battery power i would use my phone more
     
  3. doanehead

    doanehead Tracker

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    details on that charger would be good..
    not trying to derail your thread @Wasp
     
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  4. Usingmyrights

    Usingmyrights Supporter Supporter

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    My area seems to be hit and miss, but honestly I think it has more to do with my phone just getting older. I've never been one to keep up with the latest phones and usually only upgrade when mine is on its last legs. I will say that if you're in an area where you know that you don't have reception, you should set you phone on airplane mode to preserve the battery for when needed. It might be for an emergency call later, use as a GPS or simply for taking photos. Otherwise the constant searching for a signal can quickly drain the battery.
     
  5. Tangotag

    Tangotag Field Gear Junkie Supporter Bushclass I

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    I recently replaced the battery in my cell phone. Night to Day difference in how it held up to daily usage of battery power and the battery drain that occurred. If you have an older phone you may want to consider a new battery too.
     
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  6. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    There's no cell service in my area, so I use a couple of alternatives. The one that is potentially the most useful is the SPOT Messenger, but I also carry a small two-way radio.

    With the terrain around here, it's unlikely that I would be able to call for help with it, but if it gets to the point where people are searching for me (and know that I have it per instructions left with my wife), I may be able to connect with them, and help guide them to me when they get close.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. MommaJ

    MommaJ Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Cell service is a big concern for me when I go out.

    I have been know to drive 30 minutes to get into coverage to contact home our pout my phone on speaker with it held over my head bc that spot gives me 1 bar to check in with the house.

    I been tempted to get a satellite phone but it doesn't make sense for the handful of times I am out with my husband and cell phone service isn't around .

    But as an note my kids are often home babysitting Pop or with friends, and I need to be reachable in case something happens with Pop or Emma.
     
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  8. snapper

    snapper Scout

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    The only reason I take my cell phone (an old flip phone) into the woods is the college requires me to have a communication device when we're out on trips. Most of the places we travel it doesn't get enough of a signal but I am surprised at how that's changing. More and more we're finding places where you can get service; I only know that because my students use their phones for everything.

    That being said, when I'm alone or on a family/friend type trip, I leave it in my truck. If I were to begin doing a lot of extended solo hiking or trips I'd look into one of the SPOT type devices as I think that would put my wife's mind at ease.

    That's all for now. Take care and until next time...be well.

    snapper
     
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  9. IzaWildman

    IzaWildman Old Dog Supporter

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    I mostly use mine for the camera, but sometimes like to use it to see where I'm at. I don't let coverage affect my decision where I go or don't go. If I know it's going to be spotty, I will study maps and directions before I go to know where the "boundaries" are and have my compass with me.
     
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  10. Isnalawica

    Isnalawica Supporter Supporter

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    When working in the bush, crew safety is part of my responsibilities so I follow strict procedures: I always find "a spot" with signal and make sure my crew knows about it. I also designate an easy to find place to meet rescue if needed and write all that on a document (with map, directions and GPS coordinates). I add that document to the first aid kit and always remind the crew where the FAK is (+ there's a spare one in each truck). All of our employees get first aid training and I like to teach map reading when I have the time.
    When camping for fun, I check the signal on the way in but will set camp even if I don't find any signal. I've camped long before cell phones and survived so far...
    I also carry one of those power-banks: not only can it be used to charge my phone but the 18650 battery is a spare for my headlamp (in case it stays lit in my pack...).
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
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  11. Wasp

    Wasp Supreme Knotter Supporter

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    I have one like this, but these Anker are top notch.
    https://www.amazon.com/Anker-PowerCore-Lipstick-Sized-Generation-Batteries/dp/B005NF5NTK?th=1&psc=1
    If you have a newer phone it'll charge it more than one full time, older phones will get multiple charges. So if your phone is already charged, then that gives you a lot of power. They can also be used for other things that use USB like flashlights and small lanterns like the Thorefire lanterns. It's about the size of a tube of lipstick (tiny bit bigger).

    They do make bigger ones.
     
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  12. Ranger99

    Ranger99 Tracker

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    mine will run the battery down at the outpost trying to "look" for a signal since there isn't any.
    I just pretend it's 40 years ago and nobody has a cell phone since it won't help me any to
    grieve over it. anyone who might need to get ahold of me in an emergency situation has the
    phone number of the nearest neighbor with a land line phone, and the phone number of
    the county sheriff's department. if it is indeed a true emergency, I can be reached one way
    or another. likely as not, it wouldn't be real dire emergency anyway. if something were in
    the works where I might need to be contacted, I'm not going off to where I can't be reached.
     
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  13. marbleman

    marbleman Supporter Supporter

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    There are hundreds of them. I keep several around always. They don't last forever, you need to charge and use them.
     
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  14. Wasp

    Wasp Supreme Knotter Supporter

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    Great point!!
     
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  15. chndlr04

    chndlr04 Scout

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    My house phone signal is fine, its the data that is spotty.
    In my old camping circles i have been known to climb a tree to get one bar.
    My wife knows where i will be and trusts my abilities after proving her many times it can be handled. When my plan changes, i text her and hope she gets it. If not, she knows my plans. If i dont contact her in 48 hours, to contact rescue. i keep a pill bottle sized charger good for one full charge from dead in my pack.
     
  16. baylis

    baylis Walkin' man Supporter

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    in my home range, I know where to expect good signals and where there are no signals (actually mapped it out in support of an annual cross-country race)

    usually the tops of hills in the home range offer good cell coverage

    the phone is placed in airplane mode unless and until it is needed (not used for GPS function, a handheld GPS is attached to the pack)

    a 10,000 mAH charger is also carried in the pack

    when in a remote area, also carry a DeLorme (now Garmin) InReach satellite communicator so the kids can keep track of me and, if needed, can communicate with me

    https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/

    plus, it's really puts everyone's mind at ease having that SOS button on it..."just in case"

    a buddy's grandson loves to track us in real-time on the web-based topo map when we're in the wilderness

    it may sound like the whole world is carried along with us, but the phone isn't used, the GPS isn't normally used, and the InReach just reports location without interaction, so it doesn't interrupt our peace and quiet
     
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  17. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    I always carry my phone into the backcountry; our cell coverage sucks, but my phones is a working gps w/ Gaiagps software, it's also my camera.

    I have a SPOT that always comes along. Once in a great while up high, I'll take the phone off airplane mode and discover I have some reception

    small tip- you can often get a text message out in poor coverage (not zero coverage) when you can't make a phone call
     
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  18. Twistokane

    Twistokane Tracker

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    Never checked for a signal, only bring the phone because i have about 200 books on it and a few movies. It also charges fast using the sunfurno flintstone charger.
     
  19. beeperboy

    beeperboy Scout

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    The camping/hiking/bushcrafting doesn't even get good in my area until you're an hour away from cell service. I never rely on it.

    I've thought about getting a SPOT. They have lots at work that I can borrow. Never bothered with it.

    I do usually carry my ham radio portable with lots of ham repeater programmed in, as well as the police and forestry channels in the area I'll be travelling in. I even programmed the FRS channels, in case I stumble upon somebody with one of those in the bush. Lots of hunters carry those.

    Edited to add...
    Carrying a radio is like carrying a handgun. You have to practice to stay proficient. Don't expect to buy one, throw it into your backpack and forget about until your first emergency.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  20. marbleman

    marbleman Supporter Supporter

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    If you are needing temporary better signal, try placing your cellphone on the roof of your car, as far as you can. That sort of creates a ground plane. A ground plane is an important part of many antennas. I know that tremendous work goes into making cellphone antennas work as good as they can in freespace. A ground plane never hurt anything. Or a cookie sheet, or any flat piece of metal.

    EDIT: Or aluminum foil.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  21. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    Another good reason to carry a flat folding aluminum Sterno stove.
     
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  22. gila_dog

    gila_dog BCUSA Friend Bushcraft Friend

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    I take my cell phone with me, but it works so poorly in this area that I don't really count on it. What I also have is a 5W VHF handheld radio that I can use in an emergency to call the sheriff's dept. I'm a volunteer firefighter and this radio goes in my truck or my pack just about everywhere I go. There are repeaters on mountain tops all over the county (it's the size of Connecticut), and I can almost always hit one if I need to. This is strictly for emergencies, tho. You don't call the sheriff's dept dispatcher and ask them to tell your wife you're going to be home late for supper. But if I get bit by a rattlesnake, or see a car wreck, or see somebody who's having a heart attack, I can call for help right away, no cell phone coverage needed. I also have a USFS map of the area, and a GPS so I can give directions to the dispatcher.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
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  23. SilverFox

    SilverFox Tracker

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    Cell signals have greatly improved in the last few years. Most places I go has a signal enough to check in at the end of the day. I also carry a VHF handheld radio. I usually use it to get an accurate weather report. But it could be used in an emergency to contact emergency services. It also gets used during bear hunting season to keep in contact with my hunting group. I have two spare power packs/battery chargers. These are store in a waterproof, insulated container. I have had problems in cold weather with the spare battery draining quickly and not giving a good charge to the cell phone.
     
  24. EternalLove

    EternalLove Scout

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    People just assume that I am dead until I tell them otherwise. It works for me.
     
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  25. 66drifter

    66drifter Scout

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    this thread and others similar to it have me puzzled

    the discussion here focuses on a dependency/reliance on TECHNOLOGY which is IMHO incongruent w/ the general premise of the forum

    in the event of... all the technologies referenced above WILL eventually fail leaving the holder/dependent in the lurch

    IMHO the KISS approach remains the most dependable

    SORRY if my words are offensive to the OP and other posters
     
  26. baylis

    baylis Walkin' man Supporter

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    first, no offense is taken at all to your words; a great thing about this forum is that we all learn from each others' successes, failures and opinions

    "incongruent"? not at all

    throughout history, any given person has used the latest technology at their disposal at any given moment to best effect

    just because all of the referenced technologies _may_ fail doesn't mean they shouldn't be used

    cell phone systems fail on a fairly regular basis and there is no coverage in some areas, but I'm very glad to have it 99.9% of the time

    satellite outages occur, but the peace of mind that it gives me, my companions, and all of our families is, to us, worth the cost of admission

    tire gets punctured, gas filter gets clogged, etc.; a reason not to use a vehicle? I think not

    rifle ammo fails; a reason not to use it? I think not

    percussion caps sometimes fail; a reason not to use them? I think not

    flint won't spark every time; a reason not to use it? I think not

    no offense is intended

    plan for the worst, hope for the best, and use every resource that is available to you

    from their posts, most folks here seem to do the same
     
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  27. vdeal

    vdeal Scout

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    I don't really pay attention at all for two reasons. One - much of West Virginia where I hang out is in the National Radio Quiet Zone. You simply won't get a signal almost anywhere in there. Second - I have a Delorme InReach so I can text from nearly anywhere in the world. I got the InReach after an incident where my buddy and I spent all day bushwhacking an abandoned trail in a steep river canyon/ravine in the Monongahela National Forest. Even after we got back to some USFS trails and on a ridge near the state high point there was no service because of the Quiet Zone. Couldn't call the wives to let them know we'd be late and that made us take or nearly take some chances we shouldn't have in the dark. Needless to say, right after that I bought the Delorme.
     
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  28. baylis

    baylis Walkin' man Supporter

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    further, just to be clear, your point is made and taken

    there are many threads here that are unrelated to bushcraft skills

    :dblthumb:
     
  29. Terasec

    Terasec Scout

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    in basic premise, bushcraft is using whats around you
    since most people have phones, using it as a tool and making the most of it is not against the general premise as i understand it
     
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  30. beeperboy

    beeperboy Scout

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    Lithium batteries lose a lot of their capacity in cold weather. It so bad in really cold weather, that I've had to switch some of my commercial radio users from lithium back to Ni-Mh packs for winter use up here.
     
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  31. Wasp

    Wasp Supreme Knotter Supporter

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    Well, I can fix that too. ;)

    [​IMG]

    I also take no offense. However your post suggests we should also not ever use a bic lighter, modern steels, etc in bushcraft. I mentioned right off that I prefer to leave it off or not use it in general, but for emergency it could be critical and is worth noting which was my whole intention as to discussing what/how, and to bring attention for those that may not have considered it.
    Im not suggesting that anyone not leave instructions with family or rangers or completely rely on tech....but it can save your life and reassure those you love.
     
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  32. doulos

    doulos Guide

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    ACR-2881-ResQLink-Plus-A.jpg I never count on my cellular phone and I'm too old to not have a back-up plan!
     
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  33. Capin JRo

    Capin JRo Scout

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    I like not having cell reception it means I am more likely to not see another person. But it scares my wife so I always make sure she know where to have the search and rescue team to search for my body and to give me 24 hours after I should be back in till she notifies anyone.
     
  34. marbleman

    marbleman Supporter Supporter

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    It's not a matter of antiquity, as mentioned, it's doing what you can with the tools that you have.

    The flintlock guys probably sneered at those new-fangled, cap and ball guys, who later probably laughed that those with those fancy pre-made cartridges. All of them could get the job done.

    I don't think there is a certain era that defines bushcraft. Technology has brought some great improvements, all along the line. I agree that depending on a cellphone is not roughing it as much as previous generations. But they are very common now, and not much trouble to bring along. If you are going to depend on it, that opens a whole other can of worms: reception, battery life, etc. It could also be empowering to encourage someone to brush up on their basic map/compass/navigation skills, if they know they have a backup nav method.

    Don't depend on any method of anything, unless you know you can do it/it's reliable.
     
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  35. Eugene

    Eugene Tracker

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    Before you buy one of those battery packs I recommend getting one that does pass through charging. This way you still only need one power supply (usb, wall adapter, car adapter) since you can plug the battery pack into the power source then your phone into the battery pack. Many don't do this so you need two usb ports one to charge the phone and one to charge the battery pack. Pass through makes it easier since you only need one.
     
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  36. Gruxxx

    Gruxxx Guide Bushclass I

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    I'm WELL aware that I don't get cell reception in most of the area I roam. There is (very) spotty cell coverage on the mountain tops, but zero once you are off of them. I keep my phone off or on airplane mode most of the time, and carry an external battery to fully recharge it. If I needed help in an emergency, getting to a mountain top (and luck to get 1 bar) would be my only hope.
     
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  37. Malamute

    Malamute Guide

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    Couple things. First, you dont need a signal to call 911 in some instances. Your home carrier may not have access to every tower that may provide signal, if its not used by your people, you will have no signal, even if in line of sight of a tower. In light of that, if you make a 911 call, you may not show signal, but the call may go through if it can find a signal on any tower available. Ive done it before a couple times. The phone searches for you companies signal, then if that fails, it switches over to try to find any signal on any network.

    In many places, just standing on the bumper, or a rock can give enough signal to make a call. Turning certain directions can affect the signal. Ive dropped calls just from turning slightly. This is at my house. Standing on the porch, I can usually get enough signal to talk, except when I cant. If I step off the porch, I drop the call. Standing on the chopping block gives slightly better signal. I usually cant use the cell phone in the house, I can text in certain parts of it. In the mountains, Ive been able to find a signal way up around 10,000 ft or so elevation. It turned out I was hitting a tower way far away, it showed on my bill.
     
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  38. bigfoot

    bigfoot Tracker

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    If you're really going off-the-grid, an amateur "ham" radio can be worth its weight in gold. Same goes for a PLB*, SPOT messenger, or satellite phone.

    Not too unusual in this neck of the woods to have zero cell signal (and that's even on paved state highways in some rural areas). And once you really get into the wilderness, all bets are off. Definitely worth it to have backup comms. just in case.

    * PLB uses gov't. satellites & coordination center, whereas SPOT uses satellite phone coverage & commercial monitoring service.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
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  39. Seacapt.

    Seacapt. Supporter Supporter

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    If you're in or camped/hiking somewhere near your vehicle in iffy cell coverage areas and don't have a satellite coms unit you will never beat a CB set and mag mount antenna stowed away in your vehicle. Auto battery power most always available and in Northern tier states anyway LEOs, FD stations, border check points, SAR ground/air units, truckers, remote cabin owners, logging ops base camps, State fish/game and warden services and other civilian vehicles will monitor them either 24/7 or break them out in a lost person or other emergency situation. Extensive area coverage via relay even cross county are easy to set up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
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  40. vdeal

    vdeal Scout

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    Here's an article that explains digital handshaking and how phones can leave an electronic breadcrumb trail even if you can't get through. I still doubt that an actual voice call will go through without a cell signal but this info could be handy.
     
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  41. tabasco_joe

    tabasco_joe Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Here is a little tip that may help extend you range with a cell phone: Use a bluetooth headset and place the cell phone away from your body and large metal objects. Preferably as high as you can get. Holding a phone close to your face causes what we call body signal loss. Can be over 50% of the signal energy gets lost. Using a bluetooth headset allows you to use the phone without having it close to your body and thus potential of signal loss.
     
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  42. Malamute

    Malamute Guide

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    That's a good article, it has some good info, though it missed the point I made. You don't have to have ANY signal on YOUR carrier to be able to make a 911 call in some situations. Your carrier does not always use ALL possible towers in your area, only the ones they have service agreements to use. Ive made at least 2 911 calls where I had NO signal on my carrier. I watched my phone, it said "searching network for signal" or something to that effect. After trying for a minute perhaps, and failing to find a signal on MY network, it then changed the screen readout to say "searching ALL networks for signal", at which point the call went through to 911 and I had good talking capability to 911 dispatch.

    This situation may not be universal in all networks or areas, your network may be the best or only signal, but, don't give up just because your phone supposedly doesn't have a signal, there MAY be signals from networks your carrier doesn't have normal calling access to that WILL run a 911 call. Also don't give up immediately if a 911 call doesn't go through, give it a minute or so, and see if it will connect to a different network signal.

    Theres 2 main carrier networks in my area, AT&T and Verizon. Verizon has agreements to use some of AT&Ts towers, but not all. Theres vast areas of poor or zero signal for my carrier (V), but AT&T has signal. My 2 911 calls were in my dead zone, but in an area that AT&T served, but my carrier didn't have working agreements with. a 911 call overrides preferred networks after failing to connect on your primary carrier and seeks any possible signal. Your phone may say ZERO signal, but that's on your carrier. There may be signal through other carriers that will not show up unless making a 911 call and failing to connect on your regular carrier network. So, don't believe your phone if it says theres no signal, its only registering what your carrier uses for normal business. There MAY be a usable signal for a 911 call. :D
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017 at 12:10 PM
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  43. PMSteve

    PMSteve Old Timey Outdoorsman Supporter

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    OMG what did people do before cell phones?

    I remember when phones were tied to the kitchen wall. If someone wanted to call you, they'd better hope you were home or they'd be out of luck! When answering machines came out, they were a game changer.

    I used to go camping just to get away from the phone. Even now, when I go out, I seldom even turn my phone on. I hate cell phones! I've been in stores or in a mall and have kids bump into me because they can't take their nose out of their cell phones. They become oblivious to everything around them.

    I see the usefulness of having a cell in the outback. If you have cell service, fine. Many times if you have zero 'bars', you can still get a text message through. Text messaging doesn't require the full bandwidth that voice transmissions do. (Look at me talking as if I knew something!). Anyway, this is what I've been told.

    Cell phones are evil. If anyone's seen the 'Star Trek - Next Generation' episode where everyone gets hooked on a 'game' that takes over their minds... this is what cell phones are doing to people. Other than a true emergency, nothing is so important that people need to be talking to someone else 24-7. Rant over...

    Steve
     
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  44. Malamute

    Malamute Guide

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    Ive found I can get a text to go through if I hold the phone up high so it gets a better connection with a tower also, or even just side to side if I'm in my house. Its more of an issue if I'm trying to send a picture message. The body loss may be part of the issue, but also just getting as high up as possible helps with regular calls in my experience. As I mentioned before, just standing on the bumper of my vehicle or on a rock can make the difference between a call working or not. The Bluetooth allows the phone to be as physically high as possible, so that may be part of the improvement. Good point.

    I don't care much about talking on a cell when out in the hills, though there have been a few times its been very helpful, such as when I lost a dog waaay the heck out in the middle of nowhere and was able to get a message from the person that found it, and when I had a dog get porcupined badly and I needed to contact the Vet on a Sunday to arrange getting the quills removed. Yes, we all somehow made it through the ages before cells were available, but I am sure glad to have them available for a number of reasons. Like anything, used in moderation and in context, they can be very good tools, lifesaving in many instances.
     
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  45. baylis

    baylis Walkin' man Supporter

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    hahaha! man, this made me laugh because it reminded me so much of myself back in the day!

    I said, many times, "I'll never have one of those things!" [cell phone]

    famous last words!

    and to quote another ST-TNG episode... "resistance is futile; you will be assimilated" haha!
     
  46. mbiraman

    mbiraman Supporter Supporter Bushclass II

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    In my immediate area there is no cell service so i don't have a cell phone, never made a cell phone call. Even ham etc is spotty around here. Being in my sixties most of my friends grew up at a time when cell phones weren't around so you just were on your own, that's life. I understand the rationalisation that if you have cell service and a phone then it might come in handy in an emergency, but it seems for most people it just adds distraction in their life whether they can admit it or not . When and if cell service ever comes here i might get one, but its more about my age alone in the woods, the older you get the less energy you have to get out of a situation. To each their own i guess BUT don't bring one to my camp.
     
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  47. tabasco_joe

    tabasco_joe Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Even thought the phone has antennas design to be fairly omnidirectional it still has a pattern with lobes on it. That means in some directions it will have better reception/transmission.
    It's also possible that the car can act as a ground plane which also could improve signal.

    The up link (radio link from your phone trasmitter to tower receiver) is almost always the weak link in making a connection.
     
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  48. tabasco_joe

    tabasco_joe Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Check out a SPOT or similar device.
     
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