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Zoleo Global Satellite Communicator - Idaho BDR Review

Rating: The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator has a 5 star rating.5    
Average Price: $150.00
The Quick Wizz:
The ZOLEO Global Satellite Communication device is an essential piece of equipment on an adventure motorcycle trip. For emergency communication if you have an injury, breakdown, forest fire evacuation and more, the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator is one of the first pieces of equipment you need to purchase.
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  • The ZOLEO is a great value
  • Great service coverage
  • Easy to use
  • Has good battery life between charges
  • You can turn on the ZOLEO and forget about it

  • Needs to come with the buckle kit
  • A little bigger than expected

ZOLEO Global Satellite Communicator - Idaho BDR Review

This is the first in a series of product reviews and accompanying podcasts on my Idaho BDR motorcycle trip. These reviews and podcasts will include the equipment that I took, their performance and will also include my preparation, route and on-trail experiences. If you like off-grid exploration, and seeing this beautiful country from more than just an Interstate Highway, then this type of adventure motorcycle trip may be for you.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator Table of Contents

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator - Podcast Review

Not everyone has time to read a review, so WizzWare has a podcast on the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator and how it performed on the Idaho BDR.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator Review Podcast

ZOLEO is an Essential Tool for Adventure Motorcycle Trips

I wanted to start my Idaho BDR product reviews with an essential piece of equipment, and that is my ZOLEO Global Satellite Communication Device. This is an off-grid communication device that allows you to send SOS messages, TXT messages, and tracks your position at specified times. Having a tool like the ZOLEO can turn a big problem into a manageable situation.

Why Did I Choose the ZOLEO Global Satellite Communication Device

When I initially researched the ZOLEO Global Satellite Communicator, and other satcom devices, they all seemed to have their pluses and minuses, so I focused on capability, size and cost. For this Idaho BDR trip, I was interested in purchasing solid performing equipment, but keeping costs reasonable and not just purchasing a product because it was the most expensive.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator
The ZOLEO is only about 3.5 inches long and does a great job with satellite positioning and text communications when you are off-grid.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator with Belt Clip
The Belt Clip Kit for the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator is about $35 and is necessary if you want to secure it to your jacket.

ZOLEO Belt Clip Options
The Belt Clip Kit gives you 3 options, a clip, a threaded mount, and a belt loop option. The clip worked great and stayed secured to my jacket without any worries.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator Jacket Location
The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator attached to my Joe Rocket jacket with the optional clip kit. Never had to worry about it coming loose.

ZOLEO at the end of the day
At the end of the day, the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator performed very well and I never had to worry about my location or communication when I was off grid.

The ZOLEO Satellite Communication Price

One of the easiest specifications to compare is the price. I have to admit, the ZOLEO had an attractive hardware price, and the communication fee was also comparatively reasonable. The initial unit price for the ZOLEO was $150 (on sale), plus a required 3 month activation fee of $20/mo ($60 total), and I also added the belt clip accessory package that cost $35. This got me a Global Satellite Communicator, a basic communication plan and a way to clip it to my jacket for a total of $245. This was a pretty competitive price, especially when you compared it to a Garmin InReach Mini that was on sale for $300 and then you needed to add communication services on top of the unit price. It would have been nice to have it paired with my Garmin Zumo XT navigation like the Garmin InReach mini, but the ZOLEO offered me a simple flexible plan that I could either suspend or put on maintenance. During my ride on the Idaho BDR I did bump up my service to unlimited and ZOLEO actually pro-rated my full coverage service and it only cost me $10 more for unlimited communication during my trip.

The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator Performance

For the ZOLEO's on trail/off-grid performance. I would say that the ZOLEO performed as expected. Which sounds like it is a negative, but in this case my expectations were high and I wanted a device that would track my movements and allow me solid, real-time communication when I was off-grid. As with all satcom devices, tree cover is a problem, but the ZOLEO was a champ and I was able to track my movements at pre-set intervals (I had mine set on every 15 minutes) even though I was in and out of tree cover all day long. When I was sending texts to my Overwatch, a clear sky was the best, but I could still send in the trees, but texts did take longer, which is to be expected. At no time on the Idaho BDR, did I feel that the ZOLEO lacked service.

The ZOLEO's Size and Weight Specifications

Size and weight are also a performance factor, and although the ZOLEO is small for what it does, it is not tiny. In comparison to the Garmin InReach Mini, the ZOLEO is is bigger measuring 3.58x2.6x1.06 (LxWxH) and 150 grams compared to the Garmin IRM at 2.04x3.9x1.03 and 100 grams. I can honestly say with the location on my jacket, I did not even know the ZOLEO was there, and just turned it on in the morning and set the session on my phone and let it run all day, checked in at night and turned it off.

How Long does the ZOLEO's Battery Last

Battery life depends on several factors like how often you track and volume of text communication. On my Idaho BDR adventure, I had an instance where I could not charge overnight and was very comfortable using the ZOLEO two days in a row. The ZOLEO Satellite Communicator seemed to use about 30% a day so you could get 3ea, 12 hour days off of a charge with normal use and tracking. I had the ZOLEO tracking every 15 minutes and probably about 10+ texts a day.

The ZOLEO Global Satellite Communicator was Easy to Use

Setting up the ZOLEO was easy with the web interface, and I was able to connect friends and family in just a matter of minutes. This would allow all that I invited, to track my movements and know my approximate location at a pre-determined time interval and allow me to two-way text communication with them if I needed support. The ZOLEO did take me just a little time to work out the kinks. It needs to be attached to your jacket where it can have clear view of the sky and attachment was difficult with only a little hook. This is why I added the belt clip accessory cost above, which allowed me to attach it to the Velcro adjustment strap on my jacket, about waist level. This position worked excellent and was out of the way. I also figured out that in addition to turning the ZOLEO on, it needed to have a session started with my phone. In just a few test rides, I had the kinks worked out on placement and starting the tracking sessions, so I would say the learning curve is minimal and you should have placement and session tracking down with minimal head scratching.

An Idaho BDR Trip with the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

The whole purpose of getting the ZOLEO is for emergency communication and logistics, and it did not disappoint. In my case, I found myself rolling into a town much later than anticipated, about 6pm, the gas station was closed, no one was to be found at the local eatery, cell service and wifi was non-existent. I was tired, hungry and a little worried about getting gas, so I texted my Overwatch with ZOLEO. Within just a few minutes, they found me a 24hr do it your self gas pump and a place to grab something to eat. So even though this was not an SOS situation, it took the anxiety out of the situation and let me continue to enjoy my ride.

How does the ZOLEO Compare to Other Global Satellite Communicators

There are other Global Satellite Communicators on the market, like the Garmin Inreach Mini, Mini 2, X Spot, ACR Bivy Stick and the Gen4 Spot. To be honest like most of us, we make our choices and pay our money, and hope that our research was good enough. I can honestly say that at no point was I concerned that I did not have coverage or was confused on how I should use the device. The ZOLEO was out of sight and out of mind and just performed. I would get a ping over my helmet's Cardo system if I got a text, but other than that it just worked, and going back and looking at my daily route, it did a great job of tracking my movements.

What Changes Would I Like to See on the ZOLEO

Well of course there is the obvious, I would like to see it smaller and lighter, but probably the biggest improvement would be including the belt clip accessories with the device. You really do need these accessories to properly place and secure the ZOLEO.

Summing Up My BDR Adventure with the ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

Having a satellite communication device for emergency and logistical communication is highly recommended for an Adventure Motorcycle trip and the ZOLEO is a cost effective option that performs excellent. I could just turn it on in the morning, activate the tracking session on my phone, and let it run all day. My final costs for the ZOLEO (purchased on sale in the Spring), Clip package, 3 months of required service, and full/unlimited coverage on my 7 day trip was $255 +tax, that is a great value. You do not always know if you have made a good purchase until you use a device in the field, but by the end of my test runs and Idaho BDR trip, about 3,000 miles, I considered the ZOLEO a tried and true piece of essential equipment and will not leave home on a road or BDR trip without it.

ZOLEO Review Disclaimer

All the equipment for my Idaho Back Road Discovery Route (BDR) was purchased at retail price, and I am not sponsored by a manufacturer. This review was written with the intent of giving a fair and honest review of the ZOLEO Global Satellite Communicator. All images in this review are WizzWare originals and the product was not touched up or specifically positioned to hide any flaws.