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Spot GPS

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Re: Spot GPS

Postby Chris B » Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:40 pm

Bill,

I have been looking at these for Solo Hiking and also for Scout trips. The pairing issue is secondary, you need a system that works. I have had experience of satellite phones which is relevant as the SPOT and InReach use the same satellite networks;

SPOT uses Globalstar and this to me is a problem, the coverage is not good and they have been plagued with technical issues since launch, they have launched new Satellites but coverage is still not that reliable and with SPOT only being one way comms you have no way of knowing if your message got through.

InReach uses Iridium which does have truly global coverage and in my experience offers very good coverage in the US even under tree coverage. The other thing to consider is that the Iridium network is effectively funded by the US government, The CIA, FBI and US Armed forces are the biggest customer so it is not going to be allowed to die.

Onto pairing - I have seen on other forums that users did report pairing issues with the early InReach units but this appears to have been fixed by the later software update.

Finally price - I can remember the exact details but SPOT was about $100 a year. InReach is $10 a month for a very basic service, no tracking and pay for each message, the next step up is $25 where you get unlimited tracking messages and 40 messages a month which is expensive when you consider you have to sign up for a year. The good news is this subscription includes access to good quality digital maps that can be downloaded to your phone so they work even without cell coverage.

Personally I am probably going to buy the InReach because of the two way messaging and superior coverage. No point in saving a few bucks if it fails in your hour of need.

If you do go for the InReach be aware there are two versions, the Android / IOS version uses a Bluetooth connection whereas the version for use with the GPS unit uses a proprietary radio connection so will not pair with phones



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Re: Spot GPS

Postby Mike McGuire » Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:44 am

I have used a SPOT on a couple of solo trips in different years, renting it on both occasions, most recently from Lower Gear--(no personal or financial interest). It worked fine on both occasions, taking note of the limitations in the instructions, and giving it enough time to make contact. I have recently considered buying one, but I read through the 100+ reviews on the REI web site, and have concluded that with my level of usage versus the problems noted, renting makes the most sense. If it's been used a time or two by previous renters, then the infant mortality problem is past on the particular unit. Lower Gear is pretty responsive compared to what I read about the SPOT people in the REI comments. Also the Lower Gear rental includes the tracking feature which you have to pay extra for if you own it.

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Re: Spot GPS

Postby tim » Fri Jul 06, 2012 9:16 am

Chris B wrote:SPOT uses Globalstar and this to me is a problem, the coverage is not good and they have been plagued with technical issues since launch, they have launched new Satellites but coverage is still not that reliable and with SPOT only being one way comms you have no way of knowing if your message got through.


Definitely can be a concern that you don't know if the message is received. However, don't confuse the SPOT simplex service with Globalstar's two-way service problems. SPOT was devised because the satellite downlinks (i.e. the return channels back from the satellites to your device) were failing - it only uses the uplinks which are fine on both the old and new satellites (so there are no gaps in SPOT service, unlike voice coverage where the Globalstar constellation doesn't have enough satellites yet).

Concerns about SPOT messages not being received are due to a completely different issue, namely that there isn't much power to overcome obstructions between you and the satellite, even something like leaves. So it won't work well in tree cover, and if you are in a canyon and the satellite you are trying to reach (note the satellites are constantly moving across the sky) happens to be behind a mountain when the SPOT sends its message, it won't go through. These same factors apply to InReach (although being two-way of course both the device and you know if the message went through, so if not it can be resent).

In summary, I'd say you get what you pay for: SPOT is fine for what it does, as a fairly basic one-way device, InReach is better but more expensive. Because of this I think they will likely both find a market for the foreseeable future.
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Re: Spot GPS

Postby whrdafamI? » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:30 am

Actually I decided not to bother with getting one and used my REI gift cards for more food. I looked at as something else to have to carry that I haven't really needed. May regret this someday but I doubt it. My thanks to all who responded.
Better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it!

Get busy living or get busy dying.
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Re: Spot GPS

Postby Flux » Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:35 am

I just looked into renting SAT Phones, and while it is a bit pricey, having two way talk is pretty cool.

But I will default to my SPOT, which I keep on me whenever hiking just because it weighs nothing and I like to send myself text messages.
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Re: Spot GPS

Postby fishmonger » Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:31 pm

Flux wrote:I just looked into renting SAT Phones, and while it is a bit pricey, having two way talk is pretty cool.

But I will default to my SPOT, which I keep on me whenever hiking just because it weighs nothing and I like to send myself text messages.


I just got nailed by another annual auto renewal of my SPOT subscription, even though they had an outdated credit card on file. Intersting shop, since there's no place on their web interface to actually cancel any service. All you can do is add features, or call/email customer support.

So I got it for another year, but I am very close to pulling the trigger on a sat phone even before my next trip, as I am really not that interested in just having a yes/no 911 button option for $100 a year. When I should need a communication tool out there, I will probably want to talk to my doc about my meniscus pain while I am limping somewhere deep in the middle of Kings Canyon NP, and not call in the rescue posse with the SPOT. Texting certainly is an option with sat phones if that is what rocks your boat, although it's really not my cup of tea. It does save batteries for the regular chatter back and forth with home and is cheaper than voice air time.
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Re: Spot GPS

Postby kpeter » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:44 pm

I have used one of the original SPOT devices for several (4?) years to support my solo hiking. I have never had to use the 911 function.

It is important to install the correct batteries--it will fail if you do not use Lithium. I ALWAYS also carry a spare pair of new batteries just in case.

I do not use the tracking function--that seems to drain the power and costs extra. Instead, I keep the device turned off but turn it on and use the "OK" function as I pass each major landmark. I typically give it only about 5 minutes to send as I am snacking and resting and as far as I know it has never failed. The directions say to give it 25 minutes since the device repeats a signal three times to make sure it gets through. I only give it the full 25 minutes when I am pitching my tent, and I attempt to make sure that the last signal of the day is from my campsite.

This device enabled my infirm father to follow me along on some long treks, watching my progress on Google maps and remembering covering some of the same territory with me decades ago.

I do spend a lot of time before each trip writing out instructions for my wife as to how to interpret the signals. My waypoint method means that if something should happen to me along the way such that I could not signal, at least my family and friends would know precisely my last check in point from which to begin the search.

The situations which I think about the most is what would happen if I had heart issues, fell seriously ill to accute mountain sickness, or had a rattlesnake bite days away from help. Those are the sorts of situations I imagine the SPOT gizmo could prove valuable. Those are probably more likely than a Mike Turner situation--though his story is truly touching and scary. (Turner was from my small hometown and died in 1998. He is sort of the opposite situation to Aaron Ralston, who was similarly trapped and cut off his hand to survive in 2002. I doubt that the SPOT would have worked from deep in the slot canyon that Ralston was in, but it certainly would have saved Turner had it been available then.) http://www.backpacker.com/june_2002_fea ... icles/4585

Leaving aside those famous cases, Spot has been good at reassuring (and entertaining) my family and serving as emergency insurance without destroying the feeling of wilderness solitude.
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Re: Spot GPS

Postby Flux » Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:59 am

Having lived in Colorado, I follow the 14ers.com website just to keep a taste of the place. There was a lost hiker a couple years back on a pretty heavily traveled loop in the Holy Cross Wilderness. When he first went missing, they posted a picture of him. He was loaded to the teeth with all the nice gear and even had a GPS. I could relate as it looked like he lived a bit vicariously through his gear, more money than time type of guy and this was his big annual hike. Solo with a 14er thrown in.

Well he went missing and they found him two springs later. He was last seen not that far in acting a bit strangely and then he vanished. His camp was finally found next to a 4x4 road up to Holy Cross City. He was heading down and his journal suggested altitude sickness. All that gear and time and effort and a 100 dollar 6oz thingy the size of a cigarette pack with a 100 dollar annual subscription would have alerted a world class SAR unit who would have been on him within hours. I felt for the guy because the picture of him at the trailhead looked like a lot of mine. Just happy as hell to be there and ready to suffer for the good graces of the backcountry.

I remember me and a buddy posting on the internet from my iPhone from right above Minaret Lake. I kind of said offhandedly that maybe this violates some wilderness thing. He said "Nah, it's f'ing cool as hell!!" In retrospect I agree. With a wife, 2 kids, twins on the way, and a whole lot on my plate I am pretty glad that this little thingy only costs me about the same as one monthly utility bill to have around. When SAT phones drop in price I will definitely pick one up. I am not all that crazy about linking a cell phone to receiver, but it probably works fine. I think "I'm here and I am OK' and " COME GET ME THE F OUT OF HERE" is pretty good communication for now.
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Re: Spot GPS

Postby cloudlesssky » Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:57 pm

I started using one of the Spot 2 devices this year primarily for my wife's peace of mind (her peace of mind has positive outcomes for my ability to go hiking). Having the SOS function available is a nice plus, but I mostly stick to the trails so I have a hard time thinking of scenarios where I'd use it (although after having almost stepped on a rattlesnake last weekend, that scenario crossed my mind).

I typically use the tracking function while hiking and then the checkin function at the end of each day (then turn it off while in camp). It does miss some tracking updates, but I've fine tuned where I place it on my pack and this has gotten better. I read somewhere that under some conditions the SOS signal may be transmitted without a GPS coordinate, in which case the use of the tracking function would allow rescuers to extrapolate your position. I don't know if this is true, but it certainly encouraged me to use the tracking function.

I did find my Spot 2 much cheaper new on eBay - I bought the grey colored model which is all but cosmetically the same as the orange one (for some reason people are willing to pay more for orange).
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