Jul 1, 2014 at 10:35 am #1318539
Hi all, I will be heading out to finish the last section of the PCT–made it from Mexico to Washington last year and am gonna try and finish it out this year. While I have the option of having a partner, this is something that I would really like to do solo as so many other female hikers have done. But of course, safety is key and I'm wondering if I should purchase a Spot? My route is from Trout Lake to Manning and I know Northern Washington can be unpredictable and you just never know. Just wanted to get some insight–Jul 1, 2014 at 10:45 am #2116423
"…But of course, safety is key…"
It's up to you be be safe, but sometimes things do go wrong.
What scenarios are you considering?
What kind of response time do you expect?
What do you think SPOT could do for you?
Do you want someone to regularly know you are OK, or is this for S&R only?
Will you rely on a SO or friend to coordinate rescue communications, or rely on County S&R?
…just to get started.Jul 1, 2014 at 11:21 am #2116437
If any portion of my trip is out of cell reception, I take my Spot device. Even on day hikes. It is totally worth it (IMO) for the piece of mind offerd by 4oz.
There are lots of threads about this on BPL if you search for them, btw.Jul 1, 2014 at 11:26 am #2116439
I'm considering the fact that I'll be alone in a remote section that still has quite a bit of snow….I'm really looking for advice from people that have done this section or have solo'ed before and how they feel/what their experience has been. And yes, there are family and friends that would like to know where I am…this will be the first time I've soloing, so perhaps I've answered my own question and will spring for the Spot.Jul 1, 2014 at 11:36 am #2116446
A couple of things to figure out …
If you use tracking, know how often to "ping" and still have battery life left for an emergency.
If you are going to send an OK in the morning and evening, consider sending Two, in case one doesn't make it. Or maybe add one at lunch, or …
Discuss with friends and family what it means and what to do (or not do) when an OK doesn't show up.
Practice at home to learn how it works, so you and F&F know what to expect. User error/understanding is probably the biggest issue with SPOT.
Have fun.Jul 1, 2014 at 11:48 am #2116454
The alternative to a Spot would be a two-way satellite communicator. With it, if you send an important message, you can get a reply. Hell, I even get replies when I told people not to reply.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2014 at 1:16 pm #2116488
@rinconLocale: Desert Southwest
I would suggest you look at the DeLorme Inreach as an alternative to the Spot. I bought one early this year and have been giving it a tryout in preparation for a JMT hike. It weighs six ounces, not too bad, but can both send and receive messages. You have the option of preset messages or 160 character text messages. It also has a 911-type panic button to summon help. The thing I like about it so far is that it is reliable and you know when a message has been sent, there are visual and audio signals displayed when the message goes out. I'm told that this is not the case with the Spot. Also, you don't need to sign up for a years service with the Inreach. There is an annual service fee but the actual service is sold by the month. Before I got the Inreach, I used a McMurdo Fastfind. A good PLB but no satellite communication, just a distress signal.
Also, you can pair the Inreach with a smart phone via Bluetooth. When this is done, you can use the phone keyboard instead of using the Inreach keyboard. This may sound trivial but it is actually a huge advantage.Jul 1, 2014 at 1:55 pm #2116499
"The thing I like about it so far is that it is reliable and you know when a message has been sent, there are visual and audio signals displayed when the message goes out."
I have the inReach SE. It is reliable in getting the message sent, but you still don't know for certain that the message gets received on the other end.
Earlier this month I came upon a stranger in trouble, so I sent a message off to the local county sheriff's dispatcher. Then, nothing. A few hours later, the dispatcher was contacted by cell phone and claimed that they had no earlier message. Go figure.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2014 at 3:36 pm #2116531
@rinconLocale: Desert Southwest
Yeah, I have had messages delivered as much as 6 hours after I sent it out. Never had a non-delivery though.Jul 1, 2014 at 4:16 pm #2116545
I know InReach is a closed private system.
When you "send a message" via InReach is it voice, text, email, proprietary, or … ?
Then what is supposed to happen? For non-emergency messaging is there human intervention, or is it all (supposedly) automated?
Where do these messages get lost, or delayed?Jul 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm #2116547
Greg, I'm not sure what you mean by a closed private system.
With inReach, you can send and receive messages to/from any email address, or any phone capable of SMS text messages. You cannot sent or receive voice.
I suspect that a message might get lost if it was sent to a phone number that cannot accept SMS text messages. With come phone numbers, you don't really know.
I have this nice, black, rotary dial phone made by Western Electric about forty years ago. It doesn't like SMS text messages.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm #2116551
@jephotoLocale: New Zealand
Good inreach review and spot comparison here.Jul 1, 2014 at 5:30 pm #2116574
Email and SMS text.Jul 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm #2116576
Yes, I recommend that you send a test text message to any phone number that you intend to use during a trip, just to confirm that it accepts SMS text.
With inReach SE, any type of message that you send gets the GPS position embedded into it. Then, for any friends that you have given a special password, they can go to the Delorme web site with your name and the password, and they can see on a topo map where the message was sent from. Plus, it can be a topo map, or it can be a satellite view aerial map.
A couple of weeks ago, I set up camp and sent out the "A-OK" preset message to a list of recipients. Five minutes later, I got one reply that said that it looked like I had chosen an excellent campsite by the lake.
I think that this is a Brave New World that we have entered.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm #2116642
Two things about inReach (I just switched from a SPOT to an inReach this year.) Someone can't just send you a message from any device. They have to reply to a message you sent. This is a PITA and something I didn't know when I bought it. From what I've read it's to prevent SPAM. SPAM prevention itself is a good thing. Because messages coming in count against your allotment. I've had to tell my friends who receive them, not to reply to them unless it's important. It doesn't say anything like "Replies may incur a fee to the inReach user" next to the reply button I'm on the Safety plan so I'd like to save the 10 custom messages for myself.
BTW, if someone has more recent information on sending a message directly to an inReach, I'd love to hear it. My understanding is that only another inReach can send a direct message.
Here's the link to their webpage on sending messages to one:Jul 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm #2116650
@mntnflyr4funLocale: North of Eugene, South of Portland
If you're not addicted to being able to keep your twitter itch scratched, you are much better off purchasing a "real" emergency locator beacon.
The ACR ResQlink and similar units are directly linked to US NOAA rescue command and control centers so you aren't relying on some doofus to stop playing video games long enough to call the appropriate rescue agencies. And there are no/zero/nada fees to pay for the service as your tax dollars are already picking up the tab.
Now you may not be able to keep everyone on your contacts list apprised of your every move, but if the feces hits the fan in the backcountry, you will have the power of NOAA/CoastGuard/State Police etc. looking for you as fast as if you were in a downed airplane….that's what I'm looking for.Jul 1, 2014 at 10:25 pm #2116682
"If you're not addicted to being able to keep your twitter itch scratched, you are much better off purchasing a "real" emergency locator beacon."
Great start to a condescending post.
"The ACR ResQlink and similar units are directly linked to US NOAA rescue command and control centers so you aren't relying on some doofus to stop playing video games long enough to call the appropriate rescue agencies."
NOAA doesn't operate rescue command and control centers. The Air Force and Coast Guard do. In the case of inland incidents the Air Force RCC notifies the appropriate rescue agencies. I can't say if you are more likely to get a doofus playing video games in the public or the private sector. (No offense to the Air Force RCC intended.) But the local authorities have to be notified either way.
"Now you may not be able to keep everyone on your contacts list apprised of your every move, but if the feces hits the fan in the backcountry, you will have the power of NOAA/CoastGuard/State Police etc. looking for you as fast as if you were in a downed airplane….that's what I'm looking for."
Than you should keep looking. When the feces hit the fan here in the Rockies, I hope that SAR is the one looking for me since that's who actually does rescues. Good luck with the Coast Guard though.
(Once again NOAA isn't involved except that they run SARSAT. I have no idea when the state police would be used.)
I'm not saying anything negative about PLBs, they are an excellent choice for those looking for that functionality. But for others, SPOT and inReach are better for the functionality they are looking for. In my case, it sure ain't twitter.Jul 1, 2014 at 11:38 pm #2116695
"notifies the appropriate rescue agencies"
That is the tricky part. Based on the GPS position sent in the SOS message, somebody has to look at a map and figure out who to contact. Inside a national park, they have to contact the national park dispatcher. Then somebody else has to look at a map and figure out whether to call out SAR or somebody else. That is where the value of a two-way satellite communicator really shines. The dispatcher can contact the victim directly to try to better assess the emergency:
"What do you mean you have a broken leg?" and "Can you wait twelve hours for helicopter evacuation?"
Outside the national parks, it is often a county sheriff that has responsibility, so the sheriff's dispatcher gets the call. Again, somebody has to look at a map and figure out what to do. Then in other jurisdictions, it might be some other authorities. Only those legal authorities then contact SAR, if that is appropriate. It would be indeed rare that SAR goes on a rescue on their own.
I recall the emergency that happened around Mount Whitney back around 1991. Mount Whitney is right on the edge of a National Park and a National Forest. Backpackers entered the summit hut to avoid a storm. Lightning hit the hut, and one person was killed outright. Others were severely burned. They had no help at all, so one strong backpacker ran down the trail to the 12,000 foot level where a bunch of backpackers were camped, and he was screaming for help. There were some Boy Scouts there, and one guy had an amateur radio. Once he understood the emergency, he flipped the radio over to the aircraft distress frequency and started transmitting a Mayday. An airliner was passing overhead right then on its way to LAX. The pilot got the message and relayed that to LAX. There at LAX, they looked at a map, then called the Inyo County Sheriff's office even though technically it might have gone to Sequoia National Park. The sheriff's office could not do anything immediately, so they called the Air National Guard. They flew a small helicopter up to the summit and plucked off only the two severely injured people. It could not lift anymore than that. The two injured were rushed directly to the hospital, and then a large helicopter was flown up to the summit early the next day to get the rest of the backpackers and the one deceased. The moral is that all of this rescue coordination stuff is not as simple as it might appear on paper. So, think twice before you hit that SOS button.
–B.G.–Jul 2, 2014 at 6:20 am #2116723
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
I got an ACR PLB. I spent five years volunteering for SAR.
i also operate a hiking group with many event hosts. I received a text from the InReach carried by the host of a hike, that a group member was lost. She had already informed the county sheriff office (which runs the search operations outside the park boundaries). Not 20 minutes after that text the group found him coming back up the side trail he'd wandered down for three hours while everyone else wandered around in disorganized panic. I didn't get that message for another five hours, leaving me sitting in fear that a friend would turn up dead as so many other search subject have.
On another occasion the adult daughter, not a backpacker, of a man hiking the High Sierra Trail frantically posted over in a backpacking forum I lurk in. Her father's SPOT went silent for a few days, then she started getting messages clearly meant for someone other than her – people do not understand it's not going to call just anyone they like, apparently. Advice was given to wait til dad was supposed to be off the trail and in contact again. A couple days later, maybe just a day, don't remember exactly, he started messaging again — someone had found it on a rock and somehow dad found the person and regained the device. Don't know the real story, because she thanked the forum and left.
I will not induce that kind of panic in anyone I care about. The members of my party get a lecture in how to operate the PLB in the event it must be triggered on my behalf, and the instruction on when to do so — we go backpacking and don't worry about it. People at home know the itinerary. That should be true no matter what you take since electronic devices fail and malfunction with startling frequency – read the pdf Sequoia / KIngs Canyon has on wilderness safety and they will tell you the same thing.Jul 2, 2014 at 8:50 am #2116769
"BTW, if someone has more recent information on sending a message directly to an inReach, I'd love to hear it. "
Randy, if you send them the link to your MapShare and they select "User List", an icon will appear named "Message". Select this icon in order to send a message to the InReach device. There is another icon named "Locate" that allows someone to ping the location of the InReach device.Jul 2, 2014 at 8:57 am #2116771
I'm of the belief that you can simply tell someone what your inReach message address is, and they can send you messages whenever.Jul 2, 2014 at 9:12 am #2116776
What happened with your In Reach when it appeared to your brother that you were in the same spot for a day or two? I ask without snark, was this due to operator error or an issue with the device?Jul 2, 2014 at 9:29 am #2116787
James, I meant just like you would send a text message or email.
Doug, This is from the link I sent in my first post:
The inReach address will only work for inReach-to-inReach communication, e-mails sent to the inReach address will not be delivered.
So it's kind of a pain to send one. My contacts know how it works but it would be nice if the could just have the address in their phones/email, etc. In case something happens on their end that they need reach me for.Jul 2, 2014 at 9:35 am #2116793
"What happened with your In Reach when it appeared to your brother that you were in the same spot for a day or two? I ask without snark, was this due to operator error or an issue with the device?"
Completely operator error – I didn't turn on sharing before I left. It actually did a very good job of tracking us, i was able to see the track after I got back.Jul 2, 2014 at 9:37 am #2116795
Perfect and thanks.
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