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Tied in with Outdoor Demo we had the opportunity to field test the new DeLorme PN-60w GPS with built in SPOT communicator. This product pairing consists of two separate units: a SPOT Communicator unit that clips onto the top of your pack or pack shoulder strap where it has good exposure to the sky, and the DeLorme PN-60w handheld mapping GPS. Besides the usual set of icons and menus in the GPS, the unit also enables four types of communications sent out by the SPOT: progress tracking, "I'm OK," emergency/SOS, and text messaging. Its the first GPS that enables type-and-send text messaging via satellite from virtually anywhere in the world to stay connected with family, friends, and emergency services. In the event of an emergency, it allows your group to provide real time information regarding the situation and what your needs are. If you forgot something, if you want to revise your schedule for a re-supply, or if you need repair parts sent in, this device enables you to get in touch with someone on the outside to tell them what you need.

Because messages are conveyed via satellite, and are not dependent on cellular phone coverage, the PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator keeps users reliably connected, even in difficult-access remote locales. Both devices are rugged and water resistant and thus better suited than most cell phones for the rigors of outdoor use.

"Now there's a completely new way for those who travel off the beaten path to navigate with GPS and also send satellite text messages back home via email and popular social networking sites," said DeLorme Vice President Caleb Mason. "It's a thrill to be able to share your excitement when you summit a mountain, kayak through heavy white water, or reach a destination. It's also a big stress reliever if you can keep loved ones apprised in case of delays, receive nonemergency help if you encounter problems, or send SOS messages in case of a serious emergency."

The outbound text messages can be distributed to recipients' cell phones and email addresses, and via social networking sites. In addition, family and friends can track a user's progress via Google's free online maps. A special interface on the PN-60w connects it wirelessly with the SPOT Satellite Communicator, which was designed exclusively for DeLorme. Messages are created on the PN-60w's internal keyboard, then relayed via satellite for delivery using established SPOT technology. The SPOT actually sends tracking messages and "I'm OK" messages three times to ensure they go through; SOS messages are sent continuously.

I found the DeLorme PN-60w to be intuitive and user-friendly; it is a delight to use compared to some GPS units by competitors I have used recently. The display is easy to read in strong sunlight.

The Earthmate PN-60w comes with DeLorme Topo North America GPS maps and desktop software included, for topographic and street coverage of the U.S. and Canada. It also displays DigitalGlobe worldwide high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, official USGS and Natural Resources Canada topo maps, and NOAA nautical charts, all available from DeLorme via low-cost subscriptions.

The text messaging, track progress, and emergency SOS features are all activated via subscriptions available from SPOT. Regular SPOT service is US$100 per year, tracking is $50, type-and-send text messaging comes with five free custom text messages upon activation. To purchase more type-and-send text messaging capability, the rates are

500 messages for US$50, 100 messages for US$30, and the single message rate is US$0.50 per message.

The DeLorme PN-60w (wireless) model, including the specially designed SPOT Communicator, is expected to be available in late August. The SPOT Communicator cannot be purchased separately; it is only available in the paired configuration. If a Personal Locator Device is all you need, then you should look at the next-gen SPOT 2 (US$150). Alan Dixon is currently working on a review update of the SPOT 2 that Backpacking Light will publish soon.

ACR Electronics Introduces the Next Generation of Personal Locator Beacons - Smaller, Lighter, and now with a Strobe Light and Multi-Use GPS Acquisition Testing

Not to be outdone, ACR Electronics has upgraded the SARLink 406 MHz PLB features to include a new strobe light function and multi-use GPS acquisition testing. The SARLink is one of the smallest, lightest 406 GPS PLBs in the world.

When mated with ACR's new ( subscription-based satellite self test service, the SARLink View will also give users the ability to send non-distress messages via text/e-mail to family and friends, letting them know that all is OK.

Housed inside the unit, the Digital Display cannot be touched, bumped, pierced or otherwise damaged by an external force unless the entire PLB is destroyed. The PLB uses an LED type of display to ensure that it is visible when below freezing and in direct sunlight, therefore it does not suffer from the problems associated with LCD displays.

The waterproof SARLink View provides three levels of integrated emergency signal technology - GPS positioning, a powerful 406 MHz satellite detectable signal, and 121.5 MHz homing capability. The SARLink View broadcasts a unique registered distress signal that not only tells rescuers where the sender is, but who they are. An onboard GPS can fix the sender's position to within 100 meters and then utilizes a powerful 406 MHz signal to relay the distress call to orbiting satellites. As local Search and Rescue is deployed, a separate homing signal and integrated LED strobe light guides rescuers to the sender's exact position.

Specifications: size: 2.3 x 5.8 x 1.5 in (6 x 15 x 4 cm), weight: 9.1 oz (261 g) with lanyard, MSPR US$599.


  • DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS with SPOT Communicator Combines GPS Communication with Text Messaging and Emergency Communication via Satellite
    • ACR Products Announces
  • McMurdo Fastfind 210 PLB

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