Beartooth Wireless Communicator Review
By Mike Durocher
How great would it be to be able to turn your smartphone into a 2-way walkie-talkie with text and GPS location messaging, even when you don’t have any cellular reception? The Beartooth wireless communicator allows you to do just that with your own existing smartphone or device. The thin, wallet sized Beartooth transmitter connects wirelessly to your smartphone or Android/iOS device using Bluetooth. You can easily stash the compact Beartooth transmitter in your pocket, or anywhere near your phone, then just use your own smartphone to talk, text or transmit your GPS location to other Beartooth transmitter-equipped smartphones. Range varies depending on the terrain, and no wires are used to connect the Beartooth to your smartphone or device. The free, easy to use Beartooth Android/iOS app handles the wireless connection between the Beartooth transmitter and your smartphone or device.
Opening the box for the first time, I noticed the simple packaging, which was nicely organized and easily accessible. Thankfully, Beartooth does not use gorilla plastic that you have to cut or tear through as with so many other electronic devices. Unfortunately, the Beartooth transmitters I received for testing needed to be charged before I could test them. That evening while I waited for the units to charge, I downloaded the Beartooth app to my iPhone 7+. The app is clean in design and layout, and very user friendly. Even without having a transmitter connected I was able to navigate to most of the application’s screens and get a good feel for how things work. Later, after charging overnight, syncing the unit with my phone and devices was quick and easy.
My first test was playing around with the two Beartooth transmitters in the neighborhood with my son. I had already connected the first unit wirelessly to my iPhone 7+, and my son (age 10) was then able to easily connect the second Beartooth unit wirelessly to his iPad. We then connected our Beartooth units wirelessly to each other within the Beartooth app. After the connection in the app was established, we tested communicating with each other via text and voice messages. The units worked without any issues within about a quarter mile distance around the neighborhood.
I then tested the Beartooth at the Hoback of the Snake River near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. If you are not familiar with this area, this is rough Rocky Mountain country. The Hoback has deep canyons that are heavily forested with lots of low lying shrubbery and grass, and this rugged terrain was a good test of the Beartooth units.
I paired up the two Beartooth transmitters with my phones again, connecting one with my iPhone, and connecting the second unit with a different iPhone. Because I was hooking up the second Beartooth unit to a new phone, I deleted the old transmitter contact within the app and then added a new contact for the new phone.
During testing, if a general line of sight was maintained between the transmitters, they would work great up to about a half mile away. As we put more distance between us, crossed over a ridge line or were in the deep bends of the trail, connection between transmitters became more difficult. We intentionally found increasingly difficult situations to put the transmitters to the test. I found that when communication dropped or became difficult I could change the direction of the Beartooth transmitter orientation or raise it above my head to get a message through.
After several hours of testing the Beartooth we went down to the river to cool off with some whitewater rafting, where I was blown away with the performance we got. We had almost 1 1/4 miles of winding river between us, yet we were able to send messages without problem. I was able to move about 300 more yards down river before having issues. I attribute the performance gains to the radio waves reflecting off the bare rocky cliffs and river. We ended up using the Beartooth transmitters the rest of the weekend on the river to communicate with base camp and organize shuttles up and down the river.
The best range I got from the Beartooth transmitters in the high mountains was about three miles. This was when we were each at the highest point we could get on a ridgeline and a mountain top. I also saw better range when one person was up on a high point and the other was down lower on the mountain or across the valley.
I intentionally tested the Beartooth transmitters in difficult locations to push the unit’s limits. In deep ravines and in heavily wooded areas the terrain seemed to reduce the effective range down to about ½ mile, as I expected. The Beartooth did much better in the more open country. I’ve been told of instances of nearly 25 miles of clear line of site communication with the Beartooth, however I’ve not been able to test to these extreme distances.
Another great feature of the Beartooth unit is its ability to be used as a backup battery, allowing you to charge your phone or other USB based device. I was able to use my Beartooth transmitter to charge my nearly dead iPhone battery from 1 percent all the way to 77 percent. The Beartooth’s battery has a 3,000 mAh rating and comes with a cable to charge your phone or device.
Location sharing is a fantastic feature of the Beartooth that allows you to transmit your exact location while in the backcountry. I feel like this would be amazing in a hunting scenario, allowing silent communication of your location as you are hunting across a mountain side. Every time your hunting partner sent a text, you would see their GPS location on a map on your phone screen.
The Beartooth app allows you to connect to multiple people simultaneously and create group messages as well. And using multiple transmitters allows text messages to hop from transmitter to transmitter, thus extending your effective range in a mesh network. While I only had two transmitters for testing, using multiple Beartooth transmitters in a group setting for hunting or backwoods recreation communication would be great.
A few cons:
- iOS and Android compatible
- Wireless Bluetooth connection to smartphone
- Can instantly transmit your GPS location
- Long 4 day battery life
- Can be used by groups, which increases the overall range
- Can be used as a powerful 3,000 mAh backup battery to fast charge phones and other devices
• Both units needed to be charged overnight before I could test them
• All cables were included, but no charger was provided
• Sent voice messages didn't always show on the sender’s screen
• The power switch could potentially be turned on accidentally in a backpack or pocket, draining the battery
From a safety or emergency standpoint, the Beartooth transmitter has incredible possibilities. How many times have you heard of someone in the backcountry having an incident where someone gets hurt? The Beartooth transmitter would allow instant communication that an emergency is happening, and allows you to instantly transmit your GPS location to your hunting partners to get emergency assistance to your exact location. This could be the difference between life and death.
For $249 for a pair, I highly recommend you check out a Beartooth at www.beartooth.com