The GoTenna is a rugged digital radio that ensures you can always stay in touch with your hiking partner, whether or not you have cell service. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and it allows you to chat one-on-one and share your location up to 50 miles away within line-of-sight. That number falls with obstructions, but we had no problems staying in touch within a mile apart from each other with hills between us. This makes the GoTenna ideal for camping, hiking, and road trips where cell service isn’t available, or for crowded areas where cell service is bogged down by traffic.
Initial setup requires you have a cell signal or Wi-Fi before you take it out, so you’ll need to plan ahead and get it working while you’re still in civilization. Download the GoTenna app, follow some short registration steps for each antenna, and once registration is complete for each user, it’s ready to use as needed where there’s no cell service.
The GoTenna feels sturdy thanks to premium, lightweight materials, and we’re confident it could withstand occasional drops or scuffs. It’s also water resistant enough to be used in the rain.
When you and your partner are ready to use GoTenna, just attach the antennas to your body as high as you can. A backpack strap would be ideal, but you can also strap it to your belt, hat, or just carry it by hand if needed. Then you both pull the antennas out and launch the GoTenna apps on your phones, and it will automatically connect. Now you and your partner can text and share locations. If your phone is in sleep mode, you’ll get notifications on your lock screen and a chime when your partner texts you. As long as you keep your antennas deployed and your phones powered on, you’ll be connected.
Maps of each state and country are available for free download, so you can see exactly where your partner is at without having a cell signal. You can send your location or request your partner’s location. Just tap on the icon shaped like a pin in the GoTenna app and the downloaded map will display you or your partner’s location. The map shows regular features such as roads, terrain, and cities, plus camping spots and hiking trails.
We experienced about the same latency as regular texting with a cell signal, so it’s quick. In our tests, we parted around a mile away and maintained strong signal between GoTennas the entire time. The app works no differently than any other messaging app, and was very intuitive to use. We were pleased with just how reliably everything worked. GoTenna’s app also has other features, like the ability to chat openly to anyone else with a GoTenna within range.
GoTenna can be had for $199 for a pair of antennas, and $389 for a set of four. They’re a lot of fun to use, and a smart way to stay in touch with your group, but more importantly, the GoTenna could quickly become essential should anything go wrong. Lots can happen outdoors, and becoming lost or separated can be dangerous when alone. Being able to stay in touch with your partner outdoors ensures that help is only a text message away.