If you’ve ever been to Medellin, Colombia, you know it isn’t easy to get around. Especially if you don’t speak Spanish.

Virtually none of the town’s locals speak English (shout out to the locals, though, because all were extremely patient with me), and the city’s street map looks like a handful of spaghetti dropped on a plate. Street names and numbers change around every bend of that pasta—the streets are so convoluted that even local cab drivers rely on GPS.

In short, Medellin is not a great place to be without your cell phone data plan. So on our recent trip there, my wife and I tested out the goTenna off-grid GPS system. The goTenna pairs with a smarthone to provide a topographical map of your location and allows you to create “pins” of destination points. 

The goTenna enables GPS on a smartphone even in areas without service. Photo by Kevin Linderman.
Yes, the goTenna is an extra thing to carry. But the device is comparable in size to a cigarette lighter. Photo by Kevin Linderman.

In Medellin, my wife and I stayed at a hotel, and my father-in-law stayed in an apartment several miles away. Using the GoTenna at the hotel where we had WiFi access, I was able to create a pin for our location, a pin for his apartment, and several additional pins of local places we would revisit or had plans to go to.

The goTenna allowed me to easily mark a pin, name it, and then save it for use at a later time when Wi-Fi/cell service was unavailable. The device’s GPS co-ordinates were spot on, even while we were in transit. This came in handy on one cab ride, when our taxi driver had to reroute due to construction and I was able to use the goTenna to find the quickest route back to the main road. 

The battery charged very quickly (64%-87% within 5 minutes) and lasted all day.

My only complaint about the goTenna is that the device cannot search for a location when off-grid. Users must be somewhere with WiFi in order to find a new location, create a pin, then plan the route. So if you use the device,  try to plan your routes in advance (in a location with WiFi)

So be sure to create your pins before you set out on your adventure, especially if you are going into the backcountry and will have no cellular service.

We sell the goTenna unit in our shop for $149.