- Nov 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm #1669556Keith SelboSpectator
@herman666Locale: Northern Virginia
A year or more ago I asked the SPOT manufacturer if a coordinate display would be forthcoming. The answer was a terse no! I hope your industry clout brings a better result in this area. A unit that decodes GPS but doesn't display the result! What were they thinking!?Nov 30, 2010 at 8:47 pm #1669580
SPOT has some valid reasons for not putting a LCD display on the unit because a) LCD displays do not work in low temperature environments and the SPOT is intended to work in Arctic and Antarctic environments and the cold of very high summits, b) the LCD is more delicate to being shattered in warm environments—the current SPOT is extremely rugged in terms of impact resistance in comparison to something like a GPS where the display is easily damaged on impact.Nov 30, 2010 at 8:57 pm #1669587
An alternative possibility for the 1 hour:
"[Help] MESSAGE CYCLE
SPOT will send your message and current GPS location every 5 minutes for an hour for redundancy and overall reliability."
So, the SPOT may have still been operational if you could ever locate it. It just stopped sending after an hour as it was designed to do.
I carried a SPOT on a packrafting trip in AK for a week. It did fine on the water, although mine stayed attached to the boat…Nov 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm #1669609Robert RicheyBPL Member
@bobrLocale: San Luis Obispo
Thanks for the thorough review. I really appreciated follow-up comments from Amy quoting the experience of the SAR volunteer and your respective message protocols. I have been interested in this product since the first model came on the market. Enthused after reading the very positive BPL review, I went on to survey the reviews on the REI site. Of these reviews 14 rated the device as reliable while 19 found them unreliable. The accounts appeared to me to be first-person accounts and not recycled myths. The theme of all the reviews was the device is terrific unless it fails, and device failure seems to occur for about half the people writing reviews. Some of the negative reviews were written after the recall of 9/27/10, but obviously the purchases could have taken place earlier. All of the negative reviews emphasized that the Spot customer service was seriously substandard if a problem did arise. It sounds like Alan and Amy had the benefit of having a device that operated properly, but there may be quality control issues that have not been resolved. If all the problems have been taken care of and the bad reviews cease, a Highly Recommended rating may be justified. But with electronics like the Spot and the Steripen, one expert's extremely thorough review may not be a reliable guide to others' experience. For these kinds of devices a broad survey of users may be a more reliable indication of what one might expect.Dec 1, 2010 at 1:20 am #1669633James holdenBPL Member
thanks for the review
now the question is who to believe
– REI reviews
hmmmmmmDec 1, 2010 at 2:20 am #1669642Sabine SchrollBPL Member
I had a Spot 2 with me on my 5 weeks (hiking and packraft) in West Greenland this summer – short version: only about 60% of my messages arrived.
I had to exchange my new device immediately after it came to me because of these technical problems and after around 6 months (!) I received an exchange Spot2 – obviously not new, but a used one.
I sent a mix of OK and custom messages (set up camp, etc.) every evening, interesting points – I am not sure yet if there is a difference between the two, but could be.
Even in a perfect clear sky, sunny, no canyons, no trees, waiting for at least 20 minutes until the light is of – only 60% of the messages came through.
Worst were 4 or 5 days in a row without messages! I didn't use the tracking function – it is obviously more redundancy, sending only 1 or 2 messages per day seems not enough for reliabilty.
Maybe it is because Greenland is on the edge of the served area?
The label and colour on the two buttons for Help and SOS is already disappearing.
I still think it is a good thing and I would recommend it too, but knowing and accepting that it is not perfectly reliable should be part of the deal.Dec 1, 2010 at 3:14 am #1669644Shontelle AdamsMember
@shonkygirlLocale: Central Coast, Aus.
Thanks for the great review of SPOT 2. I have been looking at Personal Locators for the last 6 months and am very tempted with SPOT 2. However I have found something that I think is even more tempting but waiting to see user reviews.
Delorme GPS Earthmate PN-60W with SPOT satellite Communicator
The main advantage is the ability to send custom messages typed in the field.
If anyone has experience with this I would love to hear about it.
I am assuming the SPOT device is SPOT 2 technology so this review is relevant, but have not seen a Delorme Earthmate GPS and wonder how this compares to other GPS units.Dec 1, 2010 at 5:55 am #1669660Philip WernerBPL Member
@earlyliteLocale: New England
I don't use the tracking mode on my spot. However, I do send out an OK message each morning at breakfast and one at dinner. In my experience, both in Scotland and in New England, about 10-15% of these OK messages are never received. My wife and I have come to accept this limitation but I can't say we're happy with it.
Finally, the review seems to suggest that the SPOT web site is usable. NOT. It's the biggest piece of usability crap I've seen in a long time. Trust me. Set up your messages once and avoid trying to use that bloody site. It's awful.Dec 1, 2010 at 6:26 am #1669668Alex P VertikoffSpectator
I lead wilderness high adventure treks for a scout troop. We are out from between 5-14 days. I have used my Spot1 to send ok messages at the end of each day and to warn of problems. We get into some very deep and remote canyons in New Mexico and Arizona. It has worked fine, always. I have no need for it to track our movements throughout the day. I personally know of several lives which were saved with the spot 1 in the Superstition Wilderness though unfortunately I also know of some prank and just plain stupid distress calls (including one for a dog that had a cactus thorn in it's paw). While I will move on to a spot2, being a gadget person, I refute what seems to be a blanket hatred of the spot 1 by some folks.
Thanks and happy trails,Dec 1, 2010 at 6:59 am #1669688Keith SelboSpectator
@herman666Locale: Northern Virginia
"SPOT has some valid reasons for not putting a LCD display on the unit …"
The temperature and fragility of an LCD position display excuses don't wash with me. It's not all that difficult to ruggedize a small display, and if I need to get a fix when it's -40, I'll warm it up under my jacket.Dec 1, 2010 at 7:17 am #1669698
As a test to see if your 'OK' messages are being sent, you can set up your account to text message your own cell phone. My cell phone has rung as little as 20 seconds after the SPOT reports that it has sent out the OK message.
Of course your cell phone will only ring if your in a service area.
darylDec 1, 2010 at 7:41 am #1669712
>As a test to see if your messages are being sent,
Excellent point Daryl! It really makes sense to test all message types (but SOS) pre-trip. Even better done again in the town before you hit trail head if you have a cell phone. Not only does this test the unit, it also familiarizes you with its operation. And it also gets local ephemeris GPS data which will speed operation of the unit when you hit the trail. From the review:
"Pre-trip, the SPOT2 user sends tests for all four types of messages, OK, Tracking, Custom, and Help to all Responsible Parties/Emergency Contacts and makes sure they receive all email and text notifications, and that all messages show up on the Web tracking page."Dec 1, 2010 at 7:57 am #1669724
Concerning Delorme's PN-60w with SPOT. I'm sure its the bomb. I have a PN-40. But if you think you'll ever need it for door to door routing outside the US of A. I'd get a Garmin.
darylDec 1, 2010 at 8:01 am #1669726Pat ComerBPL Member
As an owner/user of an original unit, I have had one delayed message out in several years of using my unit. I always felt if I had the patience to wait on an esbit to boil water I had the patience to wait a bit on startup of my unit. I admit I have never used the track feature on my old unit but I do bread crumb at times through the day. I'm really happy to see the new units improvements and if lots of folks that were unhappy about the workings of the original units like the new units then I am sure I would be overwhelmed at how well the new unit works and the fact it is about half the weight and size of the old units. From an owner that lost a unit, take out the insurance for a lost unit. My replacement was headache free and fast. I'm very happy to see the new gen. units are making folks happy now.Dec 1, 2010 at 8:04 am #1669729Ike MouserMember
I have a black PN60W with Spot. Yes it is the bomb. Used it for a 3.5 day 70 mile trip just recently. My family recieved all my text messages everyday, evertime i sent them. The battery life is amazing. I was at 95% after the trip. I switched it on and off. the only downfall of the delorme units is the software, which you should give yourself AMPLE time to learn several weeks before you intend on using the unit for a trip. Once you learn the software, Its great. Never had to use spot for emergencies(just for texting), but nice to know its there.Dec 1, 2010 at 8:17 am #1669734Jon McConachieBPL Member
@c-137Locale: Sierra Nevada
Regarding playing with the buttons… please do not test the Help button either, it could also initiate a SAR response.
Using tape to help block the hot buttons from being bumped on points to further improvements that the manufacturer could make to the device.Dec 1, 2010 at 9:18 am #1669751Steven ClarkBPL Member
@sclark58Locale: Costa Rica
>The disadvantage of a PLB is that the only thing you can do is request urgent assistance.
Now, there is http://www.406link.com which takes the PLB's self-test and sends an "OK" email to one whomever (Plus service – you get 5 whomevers).
I would like to hear more from adventurers using PLBs. As I understand it, SPOT uses the same (low orbit) comm sats used by sat phones (I've had limited success with sat phones). Whereas, PLBs use the 406 MHz capable of penetrating tree/cloud canopy to SAR sats directly (no 3rd parties).
The ACR 'SarLink View' has a GPS coordinate window too.
Right now, I'm a shopper, not a user (of any of these tech) – so I would appreciate learning more from you guys.
Living the "Pura Vida" in Costa Rica – where tree and cloud canopies are the norm.Dec 1, 2010 at 9:27 am #1669755Steven ClarkBPL Member
@sclark58Locale: Costa Rica
LCD displays can freeze, but LED do not. SPOT III?Dec 1, 2010 at 9:59 am #1669769James holdenBPL Member
some reputable ones use displays … if it was really a huge issue i dont think theyd be using them ,,,Dec 1, 2010 at 10:36 am #1669790Rick DreherBPL Member
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
For anybody who wants to carry both a GPS and a SPOT (or other emergency device) they're a viable option. With Delorme I've only used the older PN20 in the field. It has very good sensitivity and a good feature set, offset by clunky controls and menus, and ponderous response on the go (i.e., slow screen refreshes while moving).
Playing with the newer Delorme models convinces me they've addressed the speed and processing issues, making the PN60 series technically a very good GPS that's the equal of other top handheld models. Of course whether one likes the display, menu system, controls and general shape is a very personal thing–some will prefer Garmin, Magellin, etc.The Delorme maps are pretty good and they offer satellite imaging, which adds a whole other dimension to backcountry navigation uploaded to a GPS (although it cries out for a larger display).
But pairing with SPOT sets the PN60w apart from everything else, significantly enhancing SPOT with the personalized texting. This SPOT unit is much smaller than even the SPOT2 and takes only two AAA cells. It can also be used as a standalone unit, but will only send an SOS by itself.
The pair retails at a high price but I've seen it for as little as $350, which seems attractive to anybody who happens to be in the market for both a GPS and a communicator.
Here's a PN60w review that includes a link to a review of the SPOT unit.
RickDec 1, 2010 at 11:07 am #1669797dallas shewmakerMember
Some good/bad comments from the perspective of someone who owns a lot of both SPOT 1 and 2 models – my company has rented them out since they first came out a few years ago.
These units are valued by those at home much more than those in the field – they are lot more worried about safety than the user is.
We've never had any problem with the web portal setup, although maybe we're just used to it since we apply it so much.
We rarely get complaints about reliability in the field, but when they go out, it's a 100% failure – working fine one minute; dead the next. SPOT 1 was as reliable as SPOT 2 in our experience, but SPOT 2 captures a signal a lot faster.
SPOT customer service has been pretty good and responsive, but there's only so much they can do.
The units are frequently lost by the user – be sure to use a lanyard. The belt clip isn't that secure. Despite worthlessness in the hands of another, they are also occasionally stolen.
Test contact emails and cell phones at home before leaving on a trip. Assume some percentage of OK messages are not received, so send at least 3 or 4 a day to better ensure daily receipt at home. There is no pattern to when they aren't received (open clear sky may not complete; a canyon transmission may complete in 2 minutes). Absolutely tell contacts that absence of a message does not mean anything is wrong.
Leave the SPOT unit on for at least 20 minutes for every message transmission effort.
The HELP button has limited practical value – most users are not in a location where a friend or family contact can actually help them out. We suggest using that button as an alternative message conveyance, with a interpretation protocol established with the contacts before the trip.
The SHARED PAGE function showing the cumulative tracks seems to be preferred by those at home over the periodic message postings.
The button text on the unit wears off quickly.
The contacts you list for the 911 setup should be levelheaded and knowledgeable about your trip – they are going to get a call from the monitoring station first when the 911 rescue button is pressed.
In those rare cases where a renter has placed a 911 request, they were in fact rescued in a reasonable time, so the system does work.Dec 1, 2010 at 11:10 am #1669798Rick DreherBPL Member
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
Wonderful feedback and suggestions Dallas, thanks so much for sharing!
RickDec 1, 2010 at 11:53 am #1669808Kathy A HandysideBPL Member
@earlymusicusLocale: Southeastern Michigan
In three more years, I will retire and plan to move to either Oregon or Washington state. I live in Michigan and going from a flat state to a mountainous state will put me in very new terrain and conditions to learn about. I am also a solo hiker (none of my friends are into the outdoors), and given these two factors, I am very interested in the SPOT2. Thank you for such a good review and for the information on something that I think I should have for my new hiking life out west.Dec 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm #1669874
'Regarding playing with the buttons… please do not test the Help button either, it could also initiate a SAR response.'
It will if you have it configured to do so. I used the 'HELP' as a sort of poor mans tracker before I purchased the 'Track' option. It would drop a 'HELP' flag every 5 minutes along my route. But I always forgot to repress it after 1 hour.
I modified my contacts page so I didn't cause any undue distress for my loved ones.
darylDec 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm #1669909Scott BaileyMember
During a 2 week trip last July on the Sheenjek R. N of Double Mountain Sat Phone signal was spotty. Waited up to 4 min for lower strength signal acquisition-when there was one-on open tundra bench above the river. During a hike up Pk. 5040' N of camp we stopped at a small notch facing S @ the 3500' level. Signal was all bars with minimal wait time.
Not sure how above operation would impact battery life of the SPOT2 in any of the operating modes.
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