Anyone using Zoleo? How do you like it?

cougarmeat

Paddler
Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
854
Location
Bend OR USA
Ah, another foray into the world of “keeping in touch while away.” I stumbled on this device as a ad while watching a camping YouTube video. I’ve seen a few comparison videos and it might be just the ticket for me. I don’t need built-in maps on my device. And though real time tracking is nice, it’s not a necessity either. Just telling “the folks back home” where I am each night and things are okay, or I’ll be late or off my float plan, is enough.

It does seem like you need a cell phone to use it - unless you communicate via an “app” on your smart device. I have an iPad mini without the cell feature but I do have a Skype phone number if I have WiFi.

One nice feature that Zoleo has, missing on my Spot or InReach SE+, is real time weather forecasts by Dark Sky forecasting. That is, other apps have that feature IF you have a Cell Phone device and are within cell service.

So what’s the skinny on the Zoleo? Has it been reliable? Is their payment plan less expensive, and easier to pause during the off season, than the other guys?
 

JohnAbercrombie

Paddler
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
3,054
Location
Victoria, BC
I have a Zoleo but haven't used it on a trip - just a few tests around the back yard after I got it- sending and receiving a few messages.
So not much real testing at all.

The main thing that attracted me to it was the fact that it is much easier for folks from home to 'dial in' to me when I am away from cell coverage (compared to InReach, for example). Each Zoleo (account) has a 'regular phone number' and the caller can just text to that number (fromtheir smart phone) to send you a message. No need for the caller to install an app in their phone or use a special website or service. So if 'folks at home' are not very tech-savvy, that's a big advantage, IMO.
Like the SPOT, I can send the 'I'm OK' message (or the SOS) without using the phone - there are buttons on the Zoleo unit.
For messaging, I'll need to carry my phone and power it up so it can link to the Zoleo.
I don't need tracking, which it doesn't offer.
I haven't explored the WX forecast options.
Payment plan- I had to pay 3 months of subscription fees ($50 USD/mo ??) before I was allowed to 'suspend' my account. Then it's just a few ($4?) dollars a month to keep the account. It can be re-activated at any time, suspended, etc. as I understand it.

I carry a PLB for real emergencies, so the Zoleo (or SPOT) SOS isn't a top priority either.

Cancelling my SPOT account is on the ToDo list.
 

eriktheviking

Paddler
Joined
Jul 4, 2009
Messages
203
Location
Prince George, BC
I don't have a Zoleo.

I am using the Delorme InReach SE (now Garmin) so it does have tracking which the Zoleo doesn't. The Inreach does allow grabbing local weather forecasts- including marine specific ones, but i don't know how they compare in quality to the Zoleo ones. Mine is usually paired with my iPad Mini so texting, weather and mapping is simpler, though sending simple messages from the device keypad is possible.

Not sure about the subscriptions in the USA- in Canada the "Delorme" Inreach units use a provider called "roadpost.com", but the newer Garmin units go through Garmin directly. Roadpost seems to be handling the Zoleo in Canada- they have been sending promo emails as the Delorme units fade away.

Both the InReach and Zoleo use the Iridium satellite system, so seem on equal footing there (and seem better than the Spot that uses GlobalStar).

I have not yet really figured out the Zoleo advantage- it does not appear significantly cheaper, lacks the tracking, but does have messaging via a dedicated cell number, so seems easier to get family and friends to understand how to send messages than the InReach system. I like the tracking- I tell the family that I have the tracking on when out on the water, and also after the trip can use the tracks to figure out photo locations, since I keep my camera GPS off to save battery power.

The folks doing field work from the University here are mostly using Inreach unless they need to carry a sat phone. That seems enough to satisfy the safety office people.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

Paddler
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
3,054
Location
Victoria, BC
I have not yet really figured out the Zoleo advantage- it does not appear significantly cheaper,
Like many 'tech' devices (computer printers, phones, etc) the 'ongoing' costs overshadow the intial purchase price pretty quickly.
However the Zoleo is $275 CAD, the inReach Mini and InReach SE are $450 CAD.
After a bad experience years ago with InReach those dropped off my list forever. A number of very experienced paddlers I know use the InReach and like it a lot, so I am an oddity. :)
 
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