Backpackers.com — Tech geeks and outdoor enthusiasts! This article is for you. Maybe you’ve already heard of goTenna — maybe not. In short, it’s a low profile, low weight, secure messaging system that syncs up with your Android or iPhone. You can send text messages and map locations to anyone that also has a goTenna (they are sold in pairs), within a four mile radius.
Yes, it’s a little niche. But for those that want something less obtrusive than your classic walkie-talkie situation, the goTenna is it. And the team that created it is answering questions on Reddit right now. You can join the discussion all day today — they’ll be around — or read through it later.
Billed as the “high-tech buddy system,” goTenna serves as a communication tool for when you don’t have service. This, of course, appeals highly to backpackers. We never have service way out in the woods. If you’re meeting friends out on the trail, worried about getting lost, or just want to shoot love notes during an extended day-hike, this device will do it.
Of course the device has a handful of non-wilderness uses. Like in a natural disaster, when traditional communication services are cut or overused. Or at a festival when you can’t make a call. Or during a road trip when have no service. There’s a lot of use cases.
A Reddit user asked a pertinent question: “What’s the difference between these and a good pair of walkie-talkies?
Here’s the response, from the founders themselves:
“I’m biased of course, but here’s why I think goTenna is different — and better:
- Integrates with the smartphone you already have on you and is as easy to use
- Texts allow for less miscommunication (and poor timing) than real-time voice
- Delivery confirmation & automatic message retry for 1-to-1 messaging eliminates guesswork on whether someone’s within range or not
- Choose between chatting with specific individuals or groups (and easily create new groups any time), and publicly broadcasting to others nearby
- Don’t worry about switching between channels or having your conversation interrupted by others (our protocols do smart routing for you in the background)
- Share your location and save points of interest on detailed (and free) offline maps
- End-to-end encryption for privacy (if that’s your thing!)
- Small & light — but rugged! — form factor (1.8 oz)
- Upgradeable to include new features via firmware & software updates (we’re working on some really exciting new things!)”
That 1.8 oz weight is a bit ridiculous when you consider the usual weight of a walkie talkie and batteries. Of course, you’ll need a charged smartphone to be able to communicate, but these days most backpackers and campers have one just for pictures.
The goTenna is bought in pairs — it’s pretty useless if you just have one. Nothing to connect to. A pair of goTennas is currently selling for $199.00, which is the company’s “special launch price,” and you can get $10 off per “referral” you make. Normally the pair goes for $299.00. See the manufacturer website for more on this. It’s pretty pricy, even at the discounted rate. But when is tech and ultralight backpacking gear not expensive?
Back when the product debuted in 2014, it won a number of tech awards and a coveted award by Outside Magazine. Since then goTenna has been featured and awarded “Best in Show” by GearJunkie. It’s disrupting things, as they say.
The product is ready to ship and would make a great holiday gift, if you’re willing to drop the cash. And, if you have any questions, check out the Reddit thread (or the more traditional and elaborate FAQ page). Enjoy!
All screenshots courtesy goTenna