Okay, so this data set is limited to just Garmin inReach users so we really can’t draw any concrete conclusions, but still it’s an interesting glimpse into how folks are using satellite SOS devices.
Garmin analyzed 10,000 emergency requests transmitted to Garmin Response over the past 11 years, and found that 39% of the requests came from folks who were hiking or backpacking. Compare that to cycling which appears to involve just 1-2% of requests. Of course none of the existing Garmin inReach devices are designed specifically for cycling, which likely limits their use among that group. Also, overall hiking participation is higher than cycling among the general population. It could be that cyclists are more self-reliant than other groups, or less likely to venture too far into the backcountry, but given limited data we can’t say for sure.
Chief among the reasons Garmin inReach users triggered SOS calls: injuries and medical issues, which accounted for almost half of the calls. A fair number of emergency assistance requests involved a vehicle accident or vehicle issue, though it’s not clear if mechanical issues with a bike would be included here or lumped into ‘others.’
A percentage of folks reported triggering a request for assistance because they were lost, which is ironic given that they presumably had a Garmin GPS unit with them.
Not surprisingly, SOS calls tend to cluster around mountainous regions where the terrain is rugged and cellular and data service is often limited.
Spot satellite messenger and tracking devices seem to be more popular among mountain bikers than inReach, and we’ve reached out to Spot to see if they are able to share similar data. Apple recently added SOS capabilities to their devices which will likely cover even more recreationists of all types and could shed more light on who is requesting help, and why.
Jeff co-founded Singletracks.com with his wife Leah (mudhunny) in 1999. Today he works out of Singletracks World HQ in Decatur, GA as the Editor in Chief.