Hikers, backpackers make up majority of satellite SOS calls, per company

The majority of 10,000 SOS calls came from hikers and backpackers, according to data released by Garmin, which sells the popular inReach satellite communication devices.

In fact 39% of the 10,000 calls from the past 11 years came from hikers or backpackers. The next largest category was driving at 12%, followed by motorcycling, climbing/mountaineering and boating.

The information, published in late October, is enlightening, particularly a map showing the calls clustered around mountainous regions of the United States and other countries.

“It is interesting to note how conglomerations of incidents indicate mountainous regions, such as the Pacific Crest Trail in western United States, the Alps in Europe and nearly all of New Zealand,” the company noted in a blog post about the data.

The main reason for triggering an SOS call was no surprise, 30% of calls were due to injuries. The company defines an injury as “a variety of problems such as broken bones, lacerations or blunt force trauma from a fall.” The second biggest reason to trigger an SOS, at 17%, was for medical issues. Garmin said medical issues included altitude sickness, heart problems and gastrointestinal issues, among others. That was followed by vehicle accidents, stranded/stuck and vehicle issues.

The timing of the data release is interesting considering that the iPhone 14, released in September, now includes limited emergency satellite communication capabilities. Garmin executives have argued the iPhone will never replace dedicated – and super rugged – satellite devices like the Garmin. Time will tell. 

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