Introduction

The Spot X (7 oz / 198 g, $199.99) is a rechargeable two-way satellite messenger equipped with an SOS button and a stand-alone mobile number (with purchase of service plan). Other features include a compass, a backlit display, adjustable tracking intervals, a programmable “check-in” tool, and a Google Maps interface for family and friends following along at home. As a standalone device, the Spot X adds integrated two-way messaging functionality not available in Spot’s flagship tracking device, the Spot Gen3.

Heavier and bulkier than one of its smallest competitors, the Garmin inReach Mini, the Spot X attempts to distinguish itself with a more accessible price-point, a large screen, and a full QWERTY keyboard. In theory, this keyboard function allows you to communicate efficiently even if your phone is out of battery, bypassing the inReach’s biggest limitation. However, the Spot X is hampered by sub-par communication reliability, the tendency to freeze, and confusing computer interface during setup and post-hike data collection.

spot x satellite messenger (stock photo)
Photo: Spot

About this Review

This is a Limited Review, based on six days backpacking off-trail in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in September of 2019. Conditions ranged from 65 F (18 C) and sunny to 28 F (-2 C) and cloudy. We encountered high winds, freezing rain, and light snow while on this trek.

While we hiked above the treeline quite a bit, mostly our camps were in wooded or semi-wooded areas (this fact is crucial as we consider the Spot X’s functionality later in the review). Since my testing, Spot has released Bluetooth compatible versions of this device. However, I tested the stand-alone version of the Spot X, which is $50.00 cheaper than the Bluetooth version.

spot x attached to a backpack shoulder strap
Hiking with the Spot X in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. I often found it difficult to unlock the device, especially in the cold. Sometimes this required a hard reboot.

Features and Specifications

  • MSRP
    • non-Bluetooth version: $199.95
    • Bluetooth version: $249.95
  • Weight:
    • Claimed:  7 oz (198 g)
    • Measured: 6.9 oz (198 g)
    • Measured, including charging cord and pack attachment accessories: 8.4 oz (238 g)
  • Dimensions (less antenna): 4.5 in x 3 in x 1 in (11 cm x 8 cm x 3 cm)
  • Satellite network: Globalstar
  • Operating Temperature: -4 F  to 140 F (-20 C to 60 C)
  • Operating Altitude: -328 ft to 21,320 ft (-100 m to 6,500 m)
  • Battery life (claimed): 240 hours in 10-minute tracking mode at 77 F (25 C) with a clear view of the sky
  • Water resistance: IP67 (submersible up to 1m for 30 minutes)
  • Year-round and month-to-month service plans
  • Stand-alone mobile number with purchase of service plan
  • Locked S.O.S. Button
  • Programmable “check-in” feature
  • Compass and programmable waypoints
  • 2.5, 5, 10, 30, or 60-minute tracking intervals
  • Optional Bluetooth version and Spot X app (MSRP: $249.95)
sending a check in message with the spot x
Sending a programmed “check-in” message with the Spot X. In open areas like this, it often took five minutes or more to send a message. In semi-wooded areas, it sometimes took longer, or the message failed altogether.

Performance Analysis

Since this is a Limited Review, a detailed performance analysis based on long-term use will not be presented. Instead, performance observations and issues are noted below.

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