Years ago, long before I bought my ACR, I did a lot of research on the reliability of distress call signals between the ACR models and SPOT available at the time (those were the choices). Bottom line: the ACR Aquafix worked in virtually all environments, almost globally if registered in the region, all the time, and the SPOT didn't. The negative reviews from people that had actually pressed the SOS button on the SPOT were overwhelming, hands down. I now own a newer model ACR ResQlink+.
longri wrote: But it had a weird side effect. I felt like someone unseen was watching me. I found I hated that feeling and wondered if it might influence my choices. I'd rather be unseen, I think.
That's an interesting point. On one hand, I get loved ones worrying and wanting to stay in touch constantly. One the other hand, I don't get that at all. There are times when it's nice to be free from being constantly "connected". I suppose it's nice to be able to send and receive a text, but I own and carry my unit in order to have the best chance of summoning help for rescue in an emergency, and chatting with home is way, way down the list of my priorities. With the ACR, I buy it once, register it with the NOAA, test it before every trip, re-register it once every two years, and beyond the initial purchase, I do it all for free with the best device I can possibly have to save my life or get me out of trouble. With the SPOT, you're basically paying all that money annually for a texting device, and the rescue part of it is secondary to the task/cost of messaging: A glorified phone provider that knows they've got a pretty good lock on the market for the service they provide, and whose device just happens to have a marginally reliable rescue component built into it for good measure. I'm sure there are plenty of testimonials from people that have been saved because of their SPOT, but personally, I resent the hell out of paying for a service that keeps me trackable and never out of the loop. If I wanted to do that, might as well go to Vegas, hike the Strip, and never fall below 5 bars.
For loved ones that might worry, I leave a detailed itinerary with daily route expectations, potential bail out locations, and return ETA +/-, tell them I love them and I'll call when I get back in range, and that if they don't get a call from me or a SAR agency, I'm fine and having a good time.