Jan 22, 2016 at 6:51 pm #3377396Ross LBPL Member
@rossLocale: Beautiful BC
This was a complete waste of resources due to poor communication. This is why I use the two way Inreach SE and don’t send daily check ins.Jan 22, 2016 at 7:03 pm #3377400Brian CurtisBPL Member
The same thing happened to a friend of mine. He was overdue from a day hike and SAR was called. He was fine and had sent an OK message, but he was in a deep valley with extensive brush and tree cover and his message was not successfully sent and he had no idea it had not gone out. Because it has 2-way communication the InReach will tell you if its message is not successfully sent to the server. My friend ditched his Spot and bought an InReach.Jan 22, 2016 at 7:41 pm #3377408Mike In SocalBPL Member
I think I disagree that buying a different device would solve the problem. The problem is in the expectation being set by the users of the technology. I have used a Spot for 4 years but I may buy a Delorme but not because I need to send check-in messages but for 2-way communication during a potential emergency. The instruction I give to my wife is that I will check in if I can but “no news is NO news. period.” Simply buying a device because it has 2 way communication does not solve the problem if you’re a 2 day hike into the middle of nowhere and your check-ins are not sending for whatever reason (did your battery die? did you drop it?). Now what do you do? Do you cancel your trip and turn back or do you continue on? At the end of the day, you have to set the proper expectation with those who might call SAR for you. I pay for the automated tracking but that’s because I want a trail of where I’ve been in case I get knocked on the head and am not able to send out an SOS myself.Jan 22, 2016 at 8:13 pm #3377412Ralph BurgessBPL Member
At the end of the day, you have to set the proper expectation with those who might call SAR on you.
Exactly. Whatever technology is available, there will always be idiots. I’m always careful about who I give my SPOT tracking details to. Only to people who understand the limitations and will not panic, and who are willing to abide by clear instructions about when they should call SAR.
With this in mind, the SPOT device has made my solo hiking dramatically safer.
Of course a 2-way device does more things, but it’s also significantly heavier. There’s a benefit to having something that’s so light that’s it’s always on my pack on any solo trip without a second thought.Jan 23, 2016 at 9:05 am #3377466David SugenoBPL Member
@davesugenoLocale: Central Texas
I ditched my SPOT this past year for a Delorme Inreach SE. The SPOT was a piece of crap from a worthless company with nonexistent customer service. I had this same experience of sending OK messages and learning that as many as 30% of them did not go through. I am not willing to entrust my life to such unreliable technology if a truly life-threatening situation arises. The Delorme lets me know when the message has gotten through, and I have had 100% success in sending and receiving messages. I cannot believe that SPOT is still in business.Jan 23, 2016 at 1:31 pm #3377510Roger CaffinModerator
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
BPL SPOT Review
We had some amusing results at times. They would not have helped SAR.
I was offered the unit for free at the end of our field testing. I declined the offer. Enough said.
CheersJan 23, 2016 at 11:57 pm #3377593Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Well I bought a Gen 3 SPOT beacon this year and have had good results with it in Nevada, both here in the south and up north in the Jarbridge Wilderness Area. Maybe the Gen 3 SPOT is a better unit. One must be aware of their location when sending “OK” signals. I avoided sending messages when indeed timber and/or narrow valleys.
I wish SPOT beacons could tell you how many satellites are in the receiving constellation at any given time at your location.Jan 24, 2016 at 5:46 am #3377614
Seems that the early SPOTs were indeed quite spotty from everything I’ve read.
My experience with the Gen 3 has been spotless. I always have myself on the list of message recipients and have never failed to receive either OK or custom messages.
That so-called “news” story above leaves out so many details, both situational and technical, that it is totally useless. A thorough accounting of the details would probably reveal a laundry list of “what not to do”. Likely something simple such as dead batteries due to cold.Jan 25, 2016 at 10:51 am #3377907Dean F.BPL Member
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
Huh. My gen 2 SPOT has always worked flawlessly, in mountains, in canyons, you name it. But that said, I’m probably going to switch to InReach for the 2-way capability, too. I’m just trying to decide if I should wait for gen 2 to maybe get it lighter.Jan 25, 2016 at 11:32 am #3377915Jake JBPL Member
My wife got me a Gen 3 this year for Christmas. The $149 holiday rebate was nice. I’ve used it a few times on my weekend hikes in the Mountains above LA. The OK messages I have sent for testing purposes have all went through. The 5 min interval track has been sort of spotty (pun intended)
For example, I have been doing a 8.5 mile loop on the weekends and here’s the track of the route I took on Caltopo: http://caltopo.com/m/B8L8
Now here’s the Spot track with it set to send out a tracking point every 5 min with the Unlimited tracking subscription: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0UmPaQA4yC44vHaacEF2P98XLfKLlBDB9
This route took me about 2:15 min to hike, so if every tracking signal got out there should have been around 25 pings, give or take. Only 10 of those pings got out. Now mind you, route is at the bottom of a canyon and under heavy tree cover for a vast majority it, which is the Achilles heel of this device. It needs a clear shot of the sky to get out the tracking / OK / custom message / SOS message. If you are aware of the limitations of this device and make sure that whomever is checking in on you are aware as well then there should be no problem. A lot of people fail to RTFM and understand how their device works, be it spot or delorme.
I didnt sent any OK/check in pings on this route as I was trying to see how much time I could shave off my last time I did this loop. I did make sure when I sent the check in / OK pings previously I was in an area where the device had a clear view of the sky and made sure the device was sitting logo side up for best satellite reception. I also stayed put for about 5-10 min to make sure that the satellites would have time to track over if they weren’t in position when I initially sent the OK..Jan 25, 2016 at 1:48 pm #3377951Eric KBPL Member
I think setting the proper expectations is critical. That being said, I’ve invested in two ACR PLB’s and an Iridium Extreme.
Regardless of the situation, certainly letting others know of your travel plans is crucial but also letting them know the limitations of technology is key too.
EricJan 28, 2016 at 1:42 am #3378610James holdenBPL Member
The combination of slow messages and bad user interface is combined with unrealistic user expectations – often caused by marketing materials that over state the abilities and performance of the device.
The expectations of a quick, easy to use device results in people planning to use it in a manner that is not necessarily how it was designed to be used. The original design was for the device to be used in an emergency – where you would call for help only if you needed it.
However, in the two examples above we can see that people are using it for the “I’m OK” function, and calling for help when that signal is not received. This is a very different use mode where something is assumed to have gone wrong if the reassurance is not sent. It’s also a use that is much more prone to failure.
more at link … the author runs one of the local BC SAR teams
also another story about the SPOT user issues …
Before we left for the trip, we sat down and we planned. We checked the weather, researched as much information as we could find, discussed our plan with other friends who had been in the area, and went over the map. We had our trip route laid out and given to our safety contacts. I checked my SPOT beacon online (an emergency satellite messaging device). Jeff was my email contact. Check. “We are okay” message written and ready to be sent. Check. I confirmed with Jeff which button I was to push if I only need YOU – the “helping hand” button. Check. Of course he thought that I had programmed him into the profile of THAT button, me not realizing that on a separate page of the online SPOT screen was where the contact info for this specific button was…… it was my sister and dad with a message that stated I was in serious need of help. My stomach sinks even just writing this. I had entered this in a year ago when I first bought the device, and had forgotten I had done so.
I thought that I had it all figured out; we had done everything right. We all had our own beacons, and I had double checked that Jeff was my only contact. Unfortunately, I had missed another screen. Just one click. Something so small, yet so vitally important.
What happened next is what I feel completely horrible and mortified about. This is the part which most of you saw on facebook. My sister and dad did everything right. They called the RCMP and SAR to send out a search party and alerted friends on social media to try and help. This is the part which shocked the three of us and made our hearts sink as we were walking down the road to meet Jeff, but instead were greeted by Pemberton Search & Resuce members. This is the part that I am so incredibly sorry for scaring Jeff, my family and friends. I can’t even begin to imagine how awful that message must have been received. I want to thank everyone in our lives who reached out and supported this sequence of events. I am so grateful for the support from my family, our close friends, the Squamish and Lions Gate Community. Thank you. I am extremely sorry for making you worry.
more at link ….
personally i use a mcmurdo PLB … i can see how a delorne would be useful though for 2 way contact and non emergency situations (broken down car), or a sat phoneJan 28, 2016 at 5:53 am #3378615
Again, user error.
I’m not beating up on her because it was a simple mistake by someone who appeared to be doing her best to practice due diligence.
It does. however, highlight the fact that you’d really better have your protocol down pat regarding message content on the part of the user and instructions on what to do to those who would be receiving — or not receiving — your messages.
But this does inspire me to triple-check my messages to make sure nothing has changed with the one associated with that critical “helping hand” button. I’d bet a large bottle of Jack Daniels that’s the one that causes most of the problems with unnecessary SARs.Jan 28, 2016 at 10:40 am #3378671AnonymousInactive
1) On the Spot Gen3 I was pretty sure the manual told users how to interpret the Beeps to confirm if the message had reached a satellite or not. It might just be detecting the presence of a satellite vs actual receipt but It worked okay. I sent 2 check ins a day (morning/evening). Over a week the family only missed 1 of my checkins that I thought the SPOT had confirmed it sent.
2) I thought BPL did a great summary of the technologies a while back and I was under the impression the SPOT used moving satelites that aren’t always present (15-30 minute windows) but do offer different angles so you have better chances of sending if you’re stuck in a canyon. Knowing this I used to spot in good locations where I could place it under a clear sky for a good time period (while I was making/breaking camp). I was under the impression one of their competitors (Maybe the iridium system) used higher orbit geostationary satelites that are better at always being present, but if you’re in a bad spot it’s always going to be a bad spot. With the spot COMPETITOR system you have to be able to relocate to a location with good signal to send.
3) When I was setting up the SPOT contacts I sent okay messages to the family, but only set up the “oh crap” messages to go to a backpacking friend I trusted. The family had his contact information and he was intrusted with interpreting the SPOT results to the family. He had my actual actual Topo Maps with routes marked so if he got a weird signal he compare it to where I was supposed to be. We had discussed under what circumstances I would hit the Help vs emergency help buttons.
4)Somewhat related there was a really enlightening story in the book Denali’s Howl where it discussed misunderstandings between the expedition, the rangers, and the local army base as far as when to ask/send help and the time frames around it. Even the professionals lacked a specific plan, and it really highlighted the importance of planning what actions to take once notified. Not just assuming you can hit a button and help will be available.
5) Great puns Bob. : )Jan 28, 2016 at 11:43 am #3378690James holdenBPL Member
definately user error ..
however the point the first article i posted was making is that these devices are being marketed to joe and jane doe … and that the user interface may not exactly be the most friendly or intuitive, leading to false alarms
not to mention the “IM OK’ feature is being heavily marketed as well
<span class=”Apple-style-span”>Now you can add “peace of mind” to that list without sacrificing your wilderness experience. Out of cell phone reach? Satellite-based Spot lets you assure folks at home that you’re OK as often as you like with a “check in” message. </span>
heres the first story that pops up on one of there pages … they placed it there for a reason …
note that the implication is that every message will get through …
note how they dont tell you that the OK messages may not get through sometimes on their marketing spiel on their site …
<p class=”featureBlurb”><b>Check In: </b>Let family and friends know you’re ok when you’re out of cell phone range. Send a pre-programmed text message with GPS coordinates or an email with a link to Google Maps™ to your contacts with your location. With a push of a button, a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 pre-determined contacts and your waypoint is stored in your SPOT account for later reference. Your stored waypoints can be easily integrated into a SPOT Shared Page or SPOT Adventure account. </p>
HOW IT WORKS:
Once you have activated your SPOT Messenger and set up your account, you can change your contacts and customize your message at any time. When you push the Check-in button, you send one pre-programmed message to your contacts. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.
im not surprised one bit that “regular folks” panic when they OK messages are missed … the expectation is that the SPOT will tell your family that yr OK, and that its absolutely reliable
;)Jan 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm #3378701Cayenne RedmonkBPL Member
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
I see “I’m okay” as something to send when the exit plan has changed, trapped in weather, crawling with injury, walking out an injured person etc. i assume if things go well, I’m okay. It’s really only when I’m changing plans on the fly that I see this feature as useful to let people know I’m okay, despite not making it out on time or whatever the circumstance is.Jan 28, 2016 at 3:24 pm #3378736AnonymousInactive
@Cayenne IMO the “okay” button really isn’t for us. Its for the neurotic family at home. I don’t personally push it thinking “I want people to know where I’m at”. I push it thinking I want the family/gf to sleep easy.
So far the family has adjusted fine to my gradually escalating trips. They’ve only freaked out on one or two trips. This is where borrowing the SPOT has come in handy for calming them down. My dad for example has a heart condition so I try not to stress him too much.Jan 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm #3378749
im not surprised one bit that “regular folks” panic when they OK messages are missed … the expectation is that the SPOT will tell your family that yr OK, and that its absolutely reliable
This is true. I did a bit of googling before purchasing and knew this “going in”. I’m basically a skeptic about these things — having observed many times some of the bizarre things GPS is capable of — and would never believe anything claiming that the technology is bulletproof.
SPOT should immediately follow that up with a big, fat caveat that under certain conditions and in certain locations the messages might not go through, and then provide some details about those conditions and locations. (Hmm… would it work in a snowstorm? I should have tested that.) And it should also include some suggestions about what to tell message recipients, such as the all-important “No news is NOT bad news. It means the signal might not have gotten through. Don’t start worrying unless you miss 3 planned check-ins in a row, and then wait for one more.” (or some such)Jan 28, 2016 at 4:39 pm #3378753
LOL, that’s about it. My wife and stepdaughter are constantly texting and FBing to the extent that the normal person (that’d be me) it does appear to be at least borderline neurosis at times. Getting a couple of check-in messages is bare-bones existence in their world. Personally, I’m glad it only sends and doesn’t receive. :^)
I really miss ye olde dayes when we were out in deep winter for 6-8 days with no contact with anybody.Jan 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm #3378763Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I really miss ye olde dayes when we were out in deep winter for 6-8 days with no contact with anybody
Why change? These thingies cost money, need a subscription, are subject to stray electrons, dead batteries, and are extra weight – not a lightweight mindset, IMO ;-)
I was just looking at our recent cell phone bill. About 90% of the data usage, minutes, and texts are my wife’s, which is okay if that is what she wants to do. I refuse to be tethered to civilization when in the wild.Jan 28, 2016 at 5:50 pm #3378764
See “neurotic family”.
I recall that you and Mags have perfect wives. Alas, I don’t. :^)Jan 28, 2016 at 6:12 pm #3378770Kevin BabioneBPL Member
I don’t have a SPOT but have been the beneficiary of being on a trip with someone who does (thanks Bob). My wife was on the distribution list for the “I’m Okay” messages that were sent out each evening when we were in camp and each morning when we were packing to leave. Most of the time when hiking in PA we sleep down in the hollows near streams – which means no cell phone coverage. When I’m hiking my wife understands that it’s possible that she won’t hear from me until the end of the trip (setting expectations) but she sure does appreciate a quick text or a message from SPOT.Jan 28, 2016 at 9:57 pm #3378802Billy RaySpectator
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
“I really miss ye olde dayes when we were out in deep winter for 6-8 days with no contact with anybody.”
Three step solution:
Step one: get rid of the wife
Step two: get rid of the spot
Step three: go for 6-8 days
BillyJan 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm #3378810Rex SandersBPL Member
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
A few comments on recent posts in this thread:
definately user error ..
Definitely design error. When an experienced user tries very hard to do the right thing, double checks, and still fails badly, it’s the product designer’s fault. We need to stop blaming ourselves for crappy product design, and buy better products. In this market, there are lots of crappy products.
The SPOT Gen 3 lights confirm that your message was transmitted. SPOT is still a one way system, and cannot confirm that your signal was received. From the manual …
MESSAGE SENDING LIGHT – Notifies you whether or not your most recent message was transmitted.
I wrote three BPL articles on satellite communications that covered Globalstar satellites (used by SPOT) and five other systems. Here’s the first one (free to read):
Both Globalstar and Iridium use satellites in comparable low earth orbits, not geostationary orbits.
In my experience with a DeLorme inReach SE using Iridium satellites, over 99% of tracking and text messages reach the recipient. Messages get through even under very challenging conditions, like at the bottom of a canyon filled with towering redwood trees. In theory, SPOT devices using Globalstar satellites should have similar performance. In practice, many people have reported much lower reception rates.
Even with clear instructions, even with two-way messaging, a half-dead pay phone triggered my wife calling park rangers to go find me once. You can’t fix all problems in advance.
— RexJan 29, 2016 at 9:18 pm #3379013Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
I tested a SPOT-3 this summer in a variety of situations and am very satisfied with its performance. It is a big upgrade for me in personal safety for my more remote trips.
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