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One of the best gifts to give an outdoor enthusiast

Todd and Kerri Mozinski had just finished Day 5 of their planned 40-day canoe trip through the Northwest Territories, Canada. As advised, since they traveled through bear country, they set up their sleeping, cooking and food storage areas, 100 yards between each location.

They set up camp and had just finished cooking dinner when Todd said, “Grizzly.”

The huge bear approached to within 20 feet and Todd hit it with bear spray. The bear left, and Todd and Kerri retreated to their tent. The bear had already destroyed their tent, ripping huge holes in it and crushing the tent poles.

They grabbed gear and retreated about a half mile. After a brief break, they realized they’d have to go back to get their canoe. When they went to the canoe, a collapsible model, it had also been destroyed. The couple retreated again, going about ¾ of a mile before they arrived at the shores of a lake.

They set up a screen tent and sent an SOS signal, using a Garmin InReach Mini. They received an immediate response that rescuers were on their way, sending a helicopter.

After many sleepless hours, daybreak came, and they ventured to look outside their tent. The bear was back, just 30 feet away. It found the spot where they’d left their food, 100 yards from the tent, and began tearing into the food.

Finally, they heard the sound of the helicopter, which held the pilot, a game warden and a rescue team. With the bear hovering, Todd and Kerri were flown to safety.

Nobody would have been looking for them. They’d told family they’d be out of cell service and gone for 40 days. They both say now that the Garmin InReach Mini saved their lives.

What is it? It’s one of four devices that can send an SOS signal from places where there is no cell service. In addition to sending an SOS, the user can also send and receive texts and download maps. A satellite subscription is required but can be done annually or for one month.

The initial cost of a unit is, of course, the most expensive part, but when weighed against personal safety of yourself, friends and family, it’s tough to grouch about the cost. The costs are InReach Mini ($349), InReach (399), GPS Map 66 Series ($399) and GPS Map 86 ($399). All have a rechargeable lithium battery that will last 90 hours; maps can be downloaded to the InReach models and are preloaded on the GPS models.

The satellite subscriptions have various levels. For a one-month subscription, the enrollment fee is $24.95. Then there are three levels, monthly rates are 14.95, 34.95 and 64.95. Unlimited SOS signals are allowed on all three plans; text allowances are 10, 40 and unlimited.

For an annual plan, the enrollment is $19.95, then monthly rates are 11.95, 29.95 and 49.95.

The SOS triggers help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center, called GEOS. GEOS trained staff will respond to your message, track your device and notify emergency responders in your area.

GEOS will also stay in touch with you and alert the emergency contact you’ve listed for the device.

You can also program all four of the devices to send track points at preselected time intervals.

You can even use a web-based MapShare trip-sharing page, so that followers can see your progress, ping your device to see your GPS location and exchange messages during your trip. The devices also have weather forecast functions.

I can’t help but think that even with the initial expense, one of these models is the perfect gift for the outdoor enthusiast and/or families on your list.

I won't be going off the grid again without one of these units. The owners of Bosebuck Mountain Camps, where I hunted for grouse in Maine, use these every day as their business takes them to remote places for fly fishing, snowmobiling, hiking and hunting. I carried first aid kids for humans and dogs in my vehicle and on my person, but in the case of serious injury - or just becoming lost - these are indispensable. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS