Spot X Review
May 8, 2020 at 3:17 pm #3645842Backpacking LightAdmin
@backpackinglightLocale: Rocky MountainsMay 8, 2020 at 11:26 pm #3645918
Thanks for the Limited Review including a side-by-side field comparison of the Spot X with the inReach mini. The Spot X larger screen and full keyboard has great potential, hobbled by cranky hardware and unreliable messaging.
I’m definitely in the minority now, but I don’t want to take a smartphone into the wilderness. The inReach mini’s annoying interface and tiny screen also helps me stay disconnected. It’s too hard to dash off short custom messages, and I really need to communicate something important to swear through composing a longer message. In a perverse way, that annoyance has become a feature, not a bug.
And the messages almost always go through quickly. And my wife can track my progress easily.
… a device Backpacking Light calls the “‘gold standard’ for lightweight satellite messaging devices.”
— RexMay 9, 2020 at 9:53 am #3645952May 9, 2020 at 2:13 pm #3645998wayne R ClarkBPL Member
be careful where you use the SPOT. the texting wasnt available in australasia last time i checked
i’ve used both in New zealand, the furthr away you get from the equator the worse SPOTs globalstar satellite coverage is..
the inreach iridium satellite coverage is far superior around the globe, i’ve had far better reception with that, as soon as you’re under a forest canopy or in a canyon with the SPOT in australalsia you’re highly likely to loose satellite connectivity, i’ve only ever lost inreach coverage in a narrow canyon hundreds of feet deep with heavy forest cover. pairing the inreach and being able to use it with an app on the phone is a big plus as well.May 9, 2020 at 2:20 pm #3646000Hanz BBPL Member
I too am constantly arguing with myself to leave the phone. But I keep coming back to how high quality the cameras shots are on the phones now a days, even though I don’t mind using the garmin mini without a phone. Alas, I have only taking two extended trips without a phone.May 9, 2020 at 2:52 pm #3646003May 9, 2020 at 2:57 pm #3646004wayne R ClarkBPL Member
lets juset say a certain amount of imagination and creativity went into that map…. iridium satellites travel north south around the globe… globalstars don’t go as far south last time i checkedMay 9, 2020 at 3:41 pm #3646007John “Jay” MennaBPL Member
The thing to note with GlobalStar the satellites are equatorial. At higher or lower latitudes like Patagonia, Greenland, ANWAR Baffin Island. You must have open sky towards the horizon, to get the coverage they show on their map. With a ridge in the way, you get nothing even if you can see sky above.May 9, 2020 at 5:59 pm #3646027Jim BBPL Member
The Iridium satellite system was the primary reason I chose Garmin InReach over every other system. No matter how amazing the gadget itself is, if it’s not going to reliably get a signal to a satellite, it’s basically worthless.May 9, 2020 at 6:44 pm #3646035
In theory, Globalstar can provide service from 70° North to 70° South, using satellites 876 miles (1,414 km) high, in orbits that reach up to 52° north and south latitudes.
In practice – not so much. Globalstar uses a bent-pipe system, which means that a satellite must have simultaneous contact with your device and a ground station for messages to go through. Hence big gaps over oceans and less popular areas like Central Africa. Just not worth it to build more ground stations.
And as pointed out earlier, a satellite needs to be far enough above the horizon to clear hills and large trees from your device. In theory, you should be able to connect to a ground station within about 2,400 miles (4,000 km). But as you get to more extreme latitudes, each satellite spends less time above the apparent horizon, so you have shorter communication windows.
Combine all these factors and … good luck getting SPOT / Globalstar messages through at higher latitudes.
Iridium relays messages between satellites until it reaches a ground station. Their polar-orbiting satellites provide better coverage as you get closer to the poles.
Iridium is far from perfect. But it’s way better than Globalstar in theory and in practice for providing truly global coverage.
Yet SPOT has many happy customers, mostly in mid-latitude countries. It’s also cheaper to buy with less expensive plans. Good to have choices. Imagine what Garmin and Iridium would charge without competition!
More details on satellite systems here:
https://backpackinglight.com/satellite_communications_sotmr_part1/May 10, 2021 at 6:49 pm #3712065Dylan JBPL Member
I know this thread is a bit old, and while the reliability and communication of a device like this should be the paramount consideration for which device you take into the backcountry, I would also like to point out that Spot’s customer service and billing practices are not very transparent and it is very important to read the fine print on the plans you are signing up for.
There are a number of fees to keep in mind, and in my experience you must keep track of when your plan renews, as they only sent an email after the fact (which made cancelling the plan and getting any fees refunded challenging).
From my experiences dealing with Garmin, the billing process has been much better.May 10, 2021 at 10:27 pm #3712118Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
In the time I had a SPOT I found communication unreliable and I had very bad experiences with customer service and being billed incorrectly.
I think the Mini is perfect in that it delivers a capable device with the minimum of bulk and weight, but also allows the message-inclined to use their very good Iphone interface.
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