The first time I heard about goTenna I was super intrigued. I do a lot of trail running and hiking in the mountains where cell service can be weak or nonexistent and having a solution for communicating while in the backcountry could be a life saver. goTenna was gracious enough to send out a test pair and I took some time to see what they could do.
The goTenna units create a network, enabling you to communicate using your smart phone to text and share location between each other. They pair to the phone using Bluetooth-LE and use an app that is available for both iOS and Android.
I don’t know exactly what frequency or technology they use, but I do know they are a lot like a two-way radio. They seem to have about the same range as two-way radios as well. In Urban setting they say up to 1 mile but I was getting closer to .25-.5 miles. I never did try from roof top to another rooftop. They also have a better range in the mountains I found a good rule of thumb is about a .5 mile is a good distance to stay within each other.
The goTenna unit is super easy to use. All you do is download the app, pull the antenna out and then pair it with the phone. For me to pair two units and two phones and to set up accounts only took a matter of minutes.
The units are light, which makes them great for hiking, backpacking or even trail running. They also have a built in rechargeable battery and charge easily using a USB cable. I never did a real test on the battery life, but I never felt like I was running out of juice.
One thing to keep in mind is that the goTenna units do not run off a satellite network, so if you need a way to communicate with someone at home while out in the backcountry you will want to look elsewhere. But one cool feature is that you can do a shout out to any nearby goTenna units, which makes it nice if you needed help and couldn't reach someone in your on party.
I never had a chance to use the units in all the ways that I thought they could be used, but one of the biggest uses I could see is while camping. I could see one unit being at base camp, and the ability to let people know when lunch, dinner or just keeping track of where everyone is at while away from camp.
If you go in the backcountry or other places where Wifi or a cell signal might be a problem, the goTenna might be the solution you are looking for. I wish that the range was a little bigger, but for around camp or even hiking in groups these work well.
Flash memory good for 100’s of messages
24+ hour battery life on standby
Rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
Status indicator lights
Nylon attachment strap
Size: Roughly 5.8 in x 1 in x 0.5 in
Weight: About 1.8 oz