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Spot device protocols

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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby rlown » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:53 pm

LMBSGV wrote:
I don't understand why if you change your itinerary you need to send a message that says you changed your itinerary.


Because it tells my wife it is my conscious decision and therefore no need to worry.

As for the other comments, you have your understandings with your family and I have mine. I'll stick with mine.


nice. embracing tech. understood. I still say in my mind no SPOT. We've done this for years.. why the change?



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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby Flux » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:49 am

I can guarantee I will have a SAT phone with me in the backcountry within the next 5 years. The change comes from how technology changes our society. We are all about being tied in and then fear takes over if we become unconnected. Ironically, this is why most of us head to the backcountry. To disconnect and empty the box. So it is definitely quite the conundrum.

The SPOT is a nice device though. Disconnected enough, yet has saved more than a few. Some folks like the novelty of knowing their loved ones and friends can track their adventure. That is not a bad thing. But take the fear out of the device, don't make people depend on it to think you are OK.

Start with the old fashioned "we are going here and coming back on this day".

Add the "if you don't get a SPOT message don't worry until we miss our out date".

Make sure they take silence as a busted device or out of batteries, not a thing to worry about. You want them worried about you while you're out lollygagging around eating peanuts and staring at rocks?? Take the fear out of the device. And don't substitute the SOS button for knowing how to handle a situation. Help can still take time.
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:28 pm

Folks lets stay with the OP's original question, and not whether the device is
carried or needed, but what your protocols are when using the device. Thanks
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby fishmonger » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:03 am

Flux wrote:I can guarantee I will have a SAT phone with me in the backcountry within the next 5 years. The change comes from how technology changes our society..


Recently I have come to the realization that I can afford a sat phone, that it does everything I'd ever need in the backcountry in an emergency. It also is useful when other people I may meet need help. So now my SPOT is on its last subscription cycle and may go on only one or two more trips before it ends up in the old gear bin.

My next trip will be a solo pre-winter hike after everyone else has left the Sierra for the most part. I may just get the sat phone before that trip. The newer models provide basic texting for unimportant chit chat with the folks at home, some even provide GPS coordinates in those messages, and you can batch messages to conserve airtime. The key for me is that with a sat phone I can voice call a doctor when I have non-life threatening situation, or call rescue directly so they know what's happening, or call friends about a detailed weather synopsis while I am stuck in a snow storm, or just call the kids when I miss them.

In the end, I've done 3-4 week backcountry trips in the days before even cell phones were available, nor bear canisters. Gore-Tex was the latest and greatest invention back then, while we still were unaware of things like "tech fabrics" and titanium sporks, and we had a great time while never spending much of a thought about how to stay in touch with the rest of the world. We went there to be out of touch. Things change, but you don't have to buy into all these trends just because somebody is selling something. For example, I refuse to own a "smartphone" because I feel they only add complication to my life, instead of adding much value.

But like you said, society is changing a and if in 2012 I want to leave work for 4 weeks, I really do have to give my boss a way to get in touch with me should everything I am responsible for back home come crashing down. I figure a daily text message check via sat phone would be what I can offer them.

I blow more on gas money to get to the Sierra and home on a single trip than it costs to own a sat phone and a few months of subscription time. So I made the call that this is the year I am moving to that technology. Everything else I've looked at just looks far too complex to have me feel comfortable with it. Anything that requires a smartphone to even work is just a silly solution, ironically adding points of failure to a system you choose to protect against failure.
And since I am not the UL weight weenie type, I don't really care about carrying a somewhat bulky phone and extra batteries.

Here's a pretty good blog I read to keep up with the developments in this track/send technology area http://tracknsend.com/
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby oldranger » Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:43 pm

I think I just figured this out. It is a generational thing. Those of us who grew up before the communication revolution don't feel the need to be connected. We remember the "good old days" when, away at college, we collected quarters and waited in line at the pay phone in the dorm to call our girl/boy friends. If we were going to stay an extra day in the backcountry we would give our phone number to a stranger (who was leaving the backcountry (there was no designated wilderness back then) before us to call our family and let them know we were staying in longer. In the 80s as a backcountry ranger I often went weeks without communicating with my wife and we did just fine. But I guess if you grow up always connected that will be your "norm" and that is probably what you need to be comfortable in what we now call wilderness. Quite a different experience from the old time explorers. So now I understand, I think.

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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby Flux » Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:31 pm

My buddy and I are taking a 9 day trip and I asked if he wanted me to add his wife to our "We are all good" OK message. he said yes but he worried that she might get anxious if one did not come through. Pandora's box right??

So we decided to explain that it's just a tracking device and can get busted or lose charge or be in a strange spot or we might forget. This means do not worry until our out day.

This is no substitute for us leaving our itinerary in detail with maps at home.
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby tim » Sat Aug 25, 2012 10:43 pm

An interesting wrinkle on this topic. What happens if you leave your Spot behind? Would you go back for it? If so how far? After all its not like you left your tent behind - you can survive perfectly well without it. What will your contacts do if they don't get the OK messages (or perhaps worse, see a track which doesn't go anywhere, which might make them think you've been so incapacitated that you can't even send an alert message)?

What if you find a Spot? We saw one that had been left at Wallace Creek this week (12pm on Wednesday). It was still turned on, so obviously had only been there a few hours, and we therefore decided to leave it (someone had apparently already placed it on an obvious rock at the side of the trail). We asked people we overtook (as we headed south) if they had left it but without success. We then reported it to the ranger we saw at Crabtree Meadow, who said he would pick it up when he was headed out there the next day.

However, the next morning (Thursday) we saw it again, left at the Crabtree junction with a note explaining it had been found at 4pm on Wednesday. Picking it up then leaving it somewhere else (as opposed to taking it over to the ranger station) seems an even more bizarre thing to do than leaving it where it was originally. I guess it was someone desperate to get up to Guitar Lake that evening for their Whitney climb the next day, but it would still have only been about 10 minutes more to take it to the ranger station and ask them to inform Spot of the serial number so that the owners' contacts could be informed not to expect any more messages. Otherwise surely the best thing to do is to leave it (perhaps with a dated note so that if its been there 24+ hours, the owner is presumably not going to return and a ranger or other hiker could pick it up).

Definitely another thing to consider, both for Spot owners and for others on the trail as well. What do you think? Is this any different from other items you find on the trail? Do you pick those up/carry them out/leave them alone? Does it depend on the type/weight/value of the item? (Interestingly my daughter dropped her crocs on the first day of our trip, fortunately only half a mile back from where we camped. I knew they weren't far back, because I looked through the photos I had taken during the day and could identify them on the back of her pack, so we figured out they had been lost when she put her jacket in the pack. We went back and got them - they had been placed on a rock by a hiker so they were obvious to passers-by, though the luminous green color makes them hard to miss anyway. However, I don't think I would have gone back for them if they were the other side of Kearsage Pass).
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby oldranger » Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:35 am

How about taking it out. Then taking it to a local ranger station or police department and having them send an "I'm OK message" then the receivers of the message can figure out where it is and contact the pd or ranger station. You could also contact spot and give them the serial # on the device and they could tell you who to contact to return it.

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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby tim » Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:06 pm

oldranger wrote:How about taking it out. Then taking it to a local ranger station or police department and having them send an "I'm OK message" then the receivers of the message can figure out where it is and contact the pd or ranger station. You could also contact spot and give them the serial # on the device and they could tell you who to contact to return it.


I agree on taking it with you if the Spot has been there for long enough that no-one is coming back (say if you camped where it was left overnight). But if you are not going to be out in civilization imminently the lack of messages for several days (or even an OK message from an unexpected place) could be a problem for the owner and their contacts. I would tend to take it to a ranger station (assuming there is one on your route) for that reason so Spot can let people know what is going on.
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby cloudlesssky » Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:23 am

Just before I start hiking for the day: turn on the Spot, select the tracking function, and then send a checkin message.

When I finish hiking at the end of the day: send a checkin message, set up camp, and then turn off the Spot.

A Help message means: I'm in some difficultly but not enough to call out SAR.

No signal/messages means the Spot is broken or out of batteries. Don't assume or do anything until I'm overdue.

I use the tracking function because I read somewhere that the SOS message will be sent regardless of whether the device has an accurate GPS fix, so SAR could use the track to help isolate your position.

As for battery use, I used the tracking function ~12 hours per day for 5 days at a stretch before replacing batteries recently. I replaced the batteries after 5 days even though the batteries indicated good (wouldn't want to need the SOS only to find dead batteries). And I always carry spare LiIon batteries.

I like the idea of using the custom message to indicate a conscious deviation from planned itenerary. Right now I don't use it. Thanks for the good idea.
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby Flux » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:48 am

When I wrote up my itinerary for the wife on the last trip, I simply stated that it's a tracking device and can fail. No news is good news until we don't come out on the planned date.

I hit it once a day and let it run for a half hour minimum. All messages got through in email and one MMS did not make it to my iphone. The wife enjoyed looking at the map and seeing us on Merriam Peak and also seeing that we deviated from our overly-ambitious plan. To me, it was like saying "hi" every day to our families.

I probably should use the custom message to state we are deviating from the itinerary.

It did not give me a false sense of security. I contemplated heading out due to dry nose nosebleeds because they could have been something else. I took my time to carefully assess my situation in that case.
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Re: Spot device protocols

Postby AndyMac321 » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:39 am

I have been using a SPOT for a year now. I enjoy having a gps track of my trip and my my wife enjoys the peace of mind. My protocol for the SPOT are as follows:

I leave the track feature on while I'm hiking with the device tied to the top of my pack.

I send an OK message when I get to camp safely.

The HELP can mean a few things depending on what I have told my wife before leaving. It can mean that we have hit a minor snag and are cutting the trip short and will contact her when we get to the car. Or If a ride is needed my wife will look at where the signal was sent from and use that to know where to pick me up. (She is always left a detailed list of the itinerary and exit points.)

A 911 will only be sent if I am incapable of exiting the wilderness on my own in a true emergency. Not to be used as an "escape" button. I only say this because my uncle is a park ranger and has been sent out on calls because people get scared in a thunder storm or slightly lost at night. (Bodie for those of you wondering)

Loss of contact is to be taken as a lost or broken SPOT and nothing else. Although my wife will worry until I contact her.

My 911 message contains my itinerary, description, names of the members of party (if any), and a link to a website with pictures of me in my backpacking gear.

I really do love downloading the tracks and checking them out on Google Earth. There's something about seeing it after I've done it that I really like.

Overall it's a great device, but shouldn't be a replacement for leaving an itinerary or self reliance.
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